Break Out of Your Treatment Rut with New Ways to Approach Language Goals

By Inna Itskovich, Megan Meyer, and Miriam Shaffer
May 22, 2023

Stuck? Looking for new ways to approach language goals?

The field of speech-language pathology is so vast that it is impossible to be an all-around expert, even if you are well-versed in all of the domains of this specialty and the underlying difficulties of the clients on your caseload. Research articles are a great starting point, but they may not offer concrete techniques or rehearsed strategies to easily implement during your sessions, or how to further adapt them to meet the needs of your unique and individual clients. Passed down anecdotal knowledge or ready-made books and materials accessible in stores or online may work for many students, but are not applicable to all clients. As speech-language pathologists (SLPs), whether just starting out in the field or needing a new perspective, we are constantly met with new challenges and these are much easier faced when we have some help or guidance.

Who are we, and what led us to write this book?

Early in our career, and fresh out of grad school, we found ourselves working together in an elementary school with students whose language skills varied from profoundly delayed to somewhat age-appropriate. We were lucky to be in an environment with supportive colleagues and an administration who encouraged continuing education and growth. We discussed our students all of the time, brainstorming ideas to move them forward along the language continuum. In the early years of our practice, we relied heavily upon anecdotal evidence and ideas from our colleagues as well as our personal experiences. Over time, however, we began attending more trainings, reading research-based articles, and applying them to our practice. That’s when we noted that our students were making even more progress, and we recognized the power of combining what we knew was effective in our daily therapy with evidence-based practice.

We created a very organized speech room, labeling every surface possible. All the material was carefully categorized, including worksheets, toys, and books to read with students organized by level. We also made use of resource books on articulation, grammar, word associations, idioms, narrative skills, and, of course, standardized and criterion-based assessments. Because our school supported only students with special needs, most of our goals were related to expanding language and vocabulary. We found most of the resource books already in print to be lacking in specific guidance, or were written with a focus on students with minimal to moderate needs. Some of our students demonstrated profound language delays. While some activities could be used as described in those books, many needed to be broken down and then reinforced with added support. Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, if we could have just one book that guided us as we worked with our students, at least in the earlier stages of language development when it is more difficult to find and adapt material? That’s how the Treatment Companion came into being. We wanted to offer all SLPs, or those studying to enter the field, what we had—colleagues who they can talk to and brainstorm with about their students, especially the students with more complex needs at the early language levels. We made sure to include our experiential knowledge as based and supported by current research to provide a friendly yet informative resource to help you every day.

The solution.

Meet the Treatment Companion: A Speech-Language Pathologist’s Intervention Guide for Students With Developmental Delays and Disorders. It's a book, yes, but reading it feels like a conversation you would have with an experienced and thoughtful colleague who weaves together their experience and expertise with research-backed science. It's somewhere to turn to when you are new to a school setting, have limited experience working with students who have moderate to severe delays and disorders in communication, or when you simply don't have that colleague to turn to for support.

This Companion guides you through the process of addressing your students’ goals, beginning with students who do not yet have or are very limited in their expressive language abilities, and ranging all the way to students working on higher language concepts such as narrative formulation or problem solving. It can feel intimidating and overwhelming to work with students when their needs appear to be so great or you are entirely uncertain about their abilities. The Companion provides step-by-step instructions on introducing language using various modalities and levels of support. It gives you specific ideas for activities supported by visuals, direct examples of target questions and answers, as well as suggestions for readily available materials or those that can be easily created.

The Companion holds your hand through expanding a student’s mean length of utterance, building their vocabulary, targeting certain grammatical structures, answering questions, or helping them to think critically. Our main focus is also using the students' strengths, building them up, and meeting them wherever they are developmentally. Everyone is capable of progress and improvement given the right intervention for them!

Let us be your friend. Use our experience as your guide.

Inna, Megan, and Miri