Saturday, November 5, 2011

Simple Homemade Therapy Reinforcer

Ava has an expressive speech delay (definitely a strong motor speech component and a significant phonological processing component). She sees an early intervention therapist weekly and we also see a local apraxia expert a little less often (once or twice a month on average).

(I'm getting to the therapy reinforcer, I promise.)

Even though I'm a certified speech therapist myself we don't do enough therapy at home. The therapist/client dynamic is hard between mother and daughter and I find her difficult to positively reinforce. Ava does respond well to froot loops. Froot loops aren't great for therapy rhythm though. It seems to take forever to chew one and she can't talk while chewing. Kind of counterproductive don't you think?

Then I had a great idea. It just popped into my head. The brilliant idea came as I was lying in bed. Working out the details in my mind stole at least half an hour of sleep, but it was worth it. So, the next day I made this:

I call it the Froot Loop Therapy Reinforcer. :-)

I pull a random froot loop from a bag after several repetitions (5-10 on an easy item, 1-2 on a harder one). She threads the froot loop on the matching color pipe cleaner. When she gets three of any one color she gets to eat them. It worked beautifully. It only takes a moment to pull one out of the bag and thread it but she likes that part so it is motivating. Then, every so often she ends up with three and gets to eat them (very motivating) and I can use those moments to mentally review what I want to do next or take a few notes.

It also has the benefit of working on color identification, color matching, and fine motor skills.

An alternative to froot loops would be threading color coordinated pony beads onto the pipe cleaners, but you just wouldn't eat them when the pipe cleaner was full. You'd need some other higher level reward (perhaps you could then thread three at a time onto yarn to make a bracelet for them to take with them at the end of the session).

Another advantage is that it is lightweight and can be folded flat for storage so if you travel for private practice or early intervention therapy, you could take it with you in a bag easily.

Here's how I made it.
  1. Gather materials.
    • Piece of cardboard.
    • Piece of cardstock.
    • Glue.
    • Colored duct tape (optional).
    • Pipe cleaners (red, yellow, blue, orange, green, purple).
    • Tool to poke small holes in cardboard (I used a sewing pin).
  2. Poke holes about one inch apart in a line across cardboard.
  3. Cut pipe cleaners to about 2-3 inches long and feed them halfway through holes in cardboard.
  4. Twist them together on bottom to hold them to the right length.
  5. Cut cardstock to the same size as cardboard and glue cardstock to bottom of cardboard to hide the pipecleaners.
  6. (Optional) Put colored duct tape along sides to make a pretty border and help prevent your edges from separating.


  1. I am in awe over you. I don't know if you are still working as an SLP, but you have a true gift.

  2. Thanks! I'm not working at the moment. I'm focusing on my little ones here at home exercising my professional skills a little with Ava and the blog. I'm hoping to start seeing some private practice clients in the next year or two, but setting up a private practice seems a bit intimidating. One step at a time.


Web Analytics