Expressive Language with Animal-Assisted Intervention

This treat puzzle is one of my favorite ways to work on expressive language.

I met my first therapy dog when I was volunteering at the New Mexico Preschool for the Deaf – the dog was named Jackson and he belonged to one of the audiologists at the preschool. This started my interest in using a therapy dog in my future treatment.

To learn the basics about therapy dogs and animal-assisted intervention in speech-language pathology visit my original post here.

Once you have the basics you can start thinking about using AAI for expressive langauge skills.

This is the easiest way to implement AAI. You simply have the animal do things (or wait until they do things) then use common techniques such as communication temptations to get the child to talk or language stimulation to increase the use of target structures.

Like many naturalistic interventions, I usually have to “go with the flow” with this one. I can use the commands Zooey knows (sit, stay, lay down, shake, etc.), but most of the kids are more excited by the things Zooey does spontaneously, like sleeping and snoring. My favorite way to work on expressive langauge with Zooey is to give her this treat puzzle. Then she can “have at it” while I target phrases (“She got it“), irregular past-tense verbs (“She ate it”), bound morphemes (“She opened it”), asking questions (“Did she eat all of them?”), and answering questions (“What’s she doing?”). My favorite way to work on prepositions is to hold Zooey’s collar and cover her eyes while I tell kids where to hide treats (“On her bed,” “Under the table,” or even “In the green chair”).

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