11 Speech Therapy Rewards that Don’t Involve Sweets or Candy
Finding rewards for speech therapy students can be difficult. The most popular and easiest option for many SLPs is a candy jar or other sweet treat mired in sugar. But is that the best option? Absolutely not! Sweets and candy are not only unhealthy options which can lead to bad eating habits later but they’re also only good in the short term. Studies have shown time and again that extrinsic rewards for meeting goals or good behavior eventually lose the attention of children and rarely work for long-term goals like speech therapy.
Though some speech therapists also swear by treasure boxes, those too can be seen as short-term reinforcements. For one, treasure boxes can become pricey to restock, often coming out of your own pocket. They also aren’t suitable for all age groups. A sixth-grade student won’t enjoy the same treasure box prize that a first-grade student will.
Tips for Using Non-Food Speech Therapy Goals
It can be challenging for therapists to go from offering one type of incentive or reward to a completely different kind. Some of your students may balk at the idea of losing treats or candy, but you can turn that negativity around by framing the change as something positive. Where in the past you only offered candy or dollar store prizes, you can now offer rewards that will fit every age group you work with. You might be surprised at what the students get fired up the most about.
When you’re offering rewards, the guidelines as to what needs to be accomplished should be clear for students to understand. For instance, “you may choose a reward once we complete 3 worksheets and 2 articulation targets.” Setting clear goals for the students is for everyone’s benefit.
Look at your caseload and figure out what motivates them. For younger students one type of reward may work, while older students or students with more severe speech needs may require a couple of different rewards to choose from, or work towards achieving. Don’t be afraid to go to your students’ other teachers or parents to get insight. It’s all about balancing the needs of your caseload with the outcomes you desire.
Consider going beyond tangible rewards and incorporate special privileges. We’ve gathered some fun, creative, out of the box ideas for your speech therapy reward systems that you can offer to your students:
- Listen to music while working
- Teach the therapy session
- Sit in the teacher’s chair
- Hold therapy session outside
- Play a computer game
- Watch a video clip
- Eat snack or lunch with a teacher or principal
- Play a favorite game or puzzle
- DIY bookmarks
- Reward Certificate for completing a goal
- Coupons for activities
Be persistent yet flexible in creating a new reward system. For some children, the only thing that will work is candy or other sweets. And remember that children’s likes and dislikes change over time so remember to update and rotate different reward incentives over time.
Have any other suggestions for rewards for progress that are not food-related? Please share with us in the comments section below.
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