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Thursday, August 25, 2022

How I Use a Mini-Visual Schedule for Push-In Speech Therapy

Push-in speech therapy in the preschool classroom can be a little scary at first. After all, you are walking into someone else's classroom twice a week and teaching a lesson in their classroom.  I admit, working with three and four year old students can be exhausting and rewarding at the same time. These little ones make me smile and laugh everyday. They really do feed my soul. As speech-language pathologists, we know that preschoolers learn through playing, singing, moving, creating, and exploring the world around them. By asking questions, and building relationships with others, they develop the skills necessary to be successful in  school and at home. When I push into the classroom for preschool therapy, I am able to see how they function in their real life. Sometimes, I like to walk in a little early or stay after my lesson just so I can observe my speech students in their natural environment.

In this post, I want to share how I create and use a mini-visual schedule to structure my speech therapy sessions in an inclusive preschool classroom. The visual schedule provides my students with a routine and clear expectations. The speech schedule provides the support they need to know what is happening, what's coming next, and a means to stay engaged in activities. 

If you are wondering how to make a visual schedule and what clip art or icons to use, I recommend Smarty Symbols. I have had my subscription to Smarty Symbols since 2018 and their products continue to expand and improve. I've created numerous products with Smarty Symbols which you can check out in my TPT Store. I also create visuals for classroom teachers and parents, and various activities for therapy. When my son was younger, I used Smarty Symbols to create a social emotional checklist to help him identify his feelings and problem-solve for self-regulation. Smarty Symbols has been my go-to resource for years. 

Preschool push-in speech therapy can look different based on your district preferences, classroom teacher needs, the size of the class, and the needs of the students. My preschool classroom is an inclusion preschool class. It is made up of 15 general education preschool students and 8 special education preschool students (students with an IEP). Students range in age from 3 to 5 years old. The class has one general education teacher, one special education teacher, and two assistants. Speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and counselors all push into the classroom for services. Because of the size of the class, I generally push in during center time, so that I am one of the center rotations. Students rotate around to their centers, and those students who receive speech therapy, rotate to my station (either my table or my carpet area). I typically provide therapy in a small group of 3-4 students for 20 minutes at a time, then rotate another group to me. Within that 20 minute session, I may do anywhere from 3-5 different activities. I use the mini-visual schedule to help my students focus, physically stay in the group, attend to tasks, and remain engaged.

The first thing I did was brainstorm as many activities that I could think of that might need to be represented on my visual schedule. My sessions generally follow a familiar sequence: greeting, song, story, game/activity, sticker, good-bye. However, I differentiate my sessions based on student needs. Realistically, I could not possibly have a visual for every activity, so I chose picture symbols for my mini-visual schedule that could represent different activities. I then created a 2.5 inch square in PowerPoint and duplicated 6 on a page. I searched Smarty Symbols for the pictures I thought best represented my speech therapy session. Some of the symbols I created included: hello song, story time, music, playdough, iPad, sensory bin, beads, peg board, wind up toys, blocks, puzzle, puppets, animals, toy food, Potato Head, coloring, sticker, and good-bye song.  The 2.5 inch squares include both the symbol and text in order to promote print awareness. The symbols you choose for your mini-visual schedule will depend on your students and your therapy activities. I've included an example of a few of the picture symbols I use on my mini-schedule below.

After creating the visuals, I printed them in color, laminated and cut them out, and added a Velcro dot to the back. I use a large paint stick (the 5 gallon size stick) with Velcro dots to hold my picture schedule. That way I can add the pictures to the stick, students can "read" their schedule left-to-right as I hold it up, and they can take turns pulling off the pictures as we complete each activity. It's also easy to reassemble the schedule for the next group and differentiate as needed. The schedule for one group my hold 5 pictures, but for another group it may just hold 2 pictures and we follow a first/next schedule. You can also include both preferred and non-preferred activities on your schedule. You'll have to play with it and do what is best for your student or  small group of students,

As a preschool SLP, I highly recommend using a mini-visual schedule. Whether you push in or pull out for therapy, having a mini-visual schedule will make a world of difference in your sessions by building familiar routines and expectations. Students benefit from the structure and visual supports, they come to rely on it, and they get so excited when they can pull off a picture and tell their peers what the next activity is. 

If you do not have a subscription to Smarty Symbols, you can save 10% off a yearly subscription today and tomorrow (August 26th -27th, 2022) using my code ERWIN10. If you want to create materials to sell, you can purchase a commercial license and still save 10%. Visit to save TODAY and TOMORROW only!

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