How You Can Use Disney to Encourage Communication
Disney is a childhood favorite almost universally. Many children who are unable to speak on their own are able to effortlessly script the lines from a favorite Disney movie. Companies such as Animated Language Learning are developing resources for children using their love of Disney as an opportunity to reach these children. Movies like Life Animated show how the process worked for one family. While these are great resources, many speech therapists need a wider range of tools and resources for parents that are free. There are numerous ways to incorporate Disney into speech therapy exercises, which can also be incorporated in teletherapy sessions.
This is an easy one to tailor to children’s individual preferences. Ask the child or their parents which Disney movies are their favorite. Then use movie clips from the selected movie(s) to facilitate discussion. For example, if the child enjoys Beauty and the Beast, you could play the scene where they are dancing. Teletherapists can share their screen and pull up the scene on YouTube or select the scene from the DVD if you have it. Then ask what the characters are doing, who is dancing, what color Belle is wearing, and whether the music is fast or slow. Numerous questions can be cultivated from virtually any movie clip.
Any Disney themed book with pictures will work for this exercise. Begin by letting the child look through the book at their own pace for a few minutes. Then turn to the first page and ask them where a character or object is and have them point to it. Then point to a different item and ask who or what it is. This is a great opportunity for W/H questions and to encourage verbal exchange. If you’re doing this via teletherapy, check with the teacher or parent beforehand to make sure the student has the book to follow along, or access the e-book if available and share your screen during the session.
Music from the movies can be used to build a child’s vocabulary and fluency. Play or sing part of a favorite Disney song and stop to let the child fill in words he or she knows. Gradually extend the practice so they are singing more of the words independently. This is usually done with nursery rhymes and children’s songs, but incorporating songs from a favorite movie can make the process more appealing to children.
Character pictures or action figures can be used to help the child tell the story. They can imagine a scene and have the characters act it out while describing the actions. Alternatively, the therapist can place the characters into scenes and then ask the child to describe what they see happening. This can also be used as an opportunity to ask W/H questions.
Using familiar practices with Disney movies makes the process more specific for the child and more fun. It also gives parents a way to make the characters and movies their child loves into opportunities to improve their speech and language capabilities.