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Using Balls in Therapy

Balls are a great therapy tool for early intervention up through to children of elementary school.  You can play quick games which allow for a high number of repetition in artic therapy, and because the activities can be short, it can keep the attention of young children.    They can also be used one on one but also in small groups. Here are some ways I have used balls in therapy.

1. Communication temptations:  We will take turns rolling/throwing the ball.  I will wait until the child reaches to/points to/says ball then I will roll/throw the ball back.

2. Requesting: This goes with communication temptations. I wait until they ask for the ball before sending it back.

3. Making Choices:  I will often have more than one ball with me.  I have the child choose which ball they would like use. If choosing which ball to play with is too complicated,  I will often give them a choice to play with it and something they don't want to play with (e.g. a sock).  

4. Taking Turns: Roll or throw a ball back and forth. Rolling usually works better for young children. This allows children to interact with others and they get the idea that conversations are two-way.  I will also use a ball like a talking stick, whoever has the ball get to talk.  When you are done with what you want to say you give it to another, and then that person responds. 

5. Increasing Sentence Length/Describing:  I will often have more than one ball with me.  The balls are usually different in size, and colour and sometimes in patterns.  We will pass the ball back and forth for a couple of turns and then I will ask which ball they want and have them use phrases such as "big ball" or "green ball" or "I want the big yellow ball." As you can see, I also use this to work on describing skills.

6. Increasing understanding or use of verbs:   When working on comprehension of verbs, I will tell them how to get the ball back to me.  You can use words such as roll, throw, kick, bounce, dribble,  walk, hand (me),  hold, jump, run, skip, march, etc...  When working on having the child use the verbs, they get to tell me how to get the ball back to them.  This is usually a huge hit as what child doesn't like to "boss" an adult around.

7. Following directions/increase understanding of longer sentences:  There are many different ways to work on following directions.   They can be used for single-step all the way up to multi-step directions. Here is a couple.  Have some balls out.  Tell the child which ball to use, how to get it there and/or where the ball needs to go.  Have pictures out/draw pictures.  Tell the child to throw the ball at the different pictures on the wall. If you are in the gym or at a playground, you can use the equipment available and tell the child(ren) where to roll their balls.  This is also an excellent way to work on prepositions. 

8. Asking and answering where questions.  Roll/throw/kick a ball and have a child say where the ball landed.  E.g. "The ball is under the slide." or "The ball is in the ball pit."  You can do this with pictures on the wall.  Have the child say which picture they hit with their ball. 

Another fun but ultimately messy activity is to paint with balls.  I have used this as a reward or on days where I know that focusing is going to be difficult (e.g. near Christmas).  Draw a picture on a sheet or paper.  I usually use old bed sheets. Put the large sheet on the wall and a couple of sheets on the floor.  Get balls that are different sizes, and textures.  As well, get out different buckets full of paint.  Have the child(ren) throw balls covered in paint at the sheet on the wall and tell you where their ball hit the sheet.  You can do this over a number of sessions/groups.  It can make some very interesting pictures. 

9.  Artic therapy:  I will use balls during artic therapy frequently.  You can throw balls back and forth as the child(ren) are practicing their sounds.  As well, you can dribble/bounce a ball off a wall as you are saying the words/phrases/sentences etc...  I have also played a version of HORSE with older children.  Each letter is randomly assigned a number.  Before you shoot, the child has to say their words X number of times.  If they miss, they have to say addition words based on the number associated with the letter.  

I'm sure there are more ways to use balls in speech therapy, but these are how I have used them.  For more ideas on doing speech therapy in the gym or playground check this post out.  Do you use balls in therapy?