Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Seriously Silly Speech Therapy with Silly Bandz: Guest Post By Janelle Albrecht, SLP

I am coming to think of SpeechTechie as a blog not solely about technology, but about innovation in materials, therapy and interventions. The power of context is profound, and providing activities that are meaningful and engaging to our students obviously extends beyond websites, laptops and iPads to anything we can do as clinicians to get our students in that "Zone" where they are stretching their speech and language development. I was really excited recently to "overhear" a tweet from Janelle Albrecht (@albrechtjn) a proud founding #SLPeep on Twitter, about using Silly Bandz in her therapy session. 

This is the type of creative idea that I feel deserves much more than a 140-character tweet, so I asked her if she'd consider writing a guest post. She graciously accepted, so here we are. I know that after reading her excellent analysis of this material (and let's remember that paper and toothpaste were once considered technology, too), I will be putting in my order for some Silly Bandz theme packs! Thanks, Janelle!

Do you have an unlimited budget for SLP therapy materials? You do?? Okay, then feel free to skip past this post! For the remaining 99.999% of us, Silly Bandz ( are an extremely inexpensive resource that will both capture children’s interest and can be used as the material that you are using to promote speech & language growth.

Silly Bandz are rubber bands made of silicone rubber that is formed into a shape. They are typically worn as a bracelet, and they revert back to their original shape when removed.

They come in thousands of different shapes and colours, and are sold in packages of 12, 24, or 36; the price point is $2-7 US, depending on the size of the pack and where you buy them.  What is ideal for the SLP is that they are organized by theme: pets, zoo animals, sea creatures, dinosaurs, Western, princess, Spring, holiday...almost anything you can think of!

Western and Animal Silly Bandz Theme Packs

Silly Bandz can be used as a motivator/reward for good participation in therapy, but they can also be goal-specific.  In articulation-focused therapy, the alphabet pack can be used by giving the child not only the visual but also a tactile experience with the goal phoneme, allowing them to stretch it & manipulate it while saying the target.  For those children who can read or write, you can spell out words starting with the target phoneme and have the child say it.  Silly Bandz are inexpensive enough to give out a particular letter to a child to wear as an external cue to aid in generalization of the speech skill to conversation—the parent or teacher may quietly cue the child by tapping the wrist as a reminder of the speech sound, and no one need know of the cuing except for the child.  For the enterprising SLP, custom orders of 5000 minimum are available, but count me in as one of the SLPs who would purchase a pack of /r/ word-initial bandz from you!

Alphabet Silly Bandz
In language-focused therapy, Silly Bandz can be used for vocabulary development.  You can work on simple vocabulary building by naming the items.  You can increase descriptive skills by describing visual attributes such as colour, shape (e.g., the seahorse has a curved tail and it’s belly is round) and relating them to their real-world counterparts by either looking at pictures or guessing what they might look like in reality (e.g., the Silly Bandz penguin is purple, but in real life it’s black & white) and what materials or texture it really is (e.g., a trumpet is made out of metal, is hard & shiny).  Word relationships are also easily worked on, by working on the name of each category, mixing a few packages and sorting by category, naming more items in a category, naming the function of an object (e.g., the microphone makes your voice louder), comparing and contrasting (e.g., you blow both a trumpet & a saxophone, but hold them differently; you blow in a trumpet but strum a guitar & both make music).

Musical Instruments, Marine Animals and Rock Bandz Theme Packs

Make scenes with your Silly Bandz—I recently used the Beach pack & the Sea Animals pack and had a client put them on a background picture that she had drawn sand & water on.
You also can trace them & have your client colour them in (they are rubber bands, though, so you probably won’t get the best tracing unless you use a light hand).

There are a few caveats for their use, though.  As with all things, use your best judgement in allowing young or cognitively delayed children to play with them—we don’t want them getting into mouths or being snapped at skin or eyes.  Silly Bandz are banned at some schools due to the distraction of trading, and wearing too many that they risk cutting off circulation.  You may want to give the Silly Bandz in a sealed envelope for the child to take home.  Also, as many knock-offs are available, be careful of the tendency of the knock-offs to break more easily.

That being said, if you see a display of Silly Bandz by the cash register at a store one day, pick up a pack and let your imagination (and that of your clients) have fun with them!

Janelle Albrecht is a Speech-Language Pathologist who works in a school board and private practice in Ontario, Canada.  Follow her on twitter: @albrechtjn 

1 comment:

  1. THIS is an awesome idea!!!! My budget went from $400 to $0 this year (yeah budget cuts!). But my kids have some sillybandz lying around the house. Great use!