Mistakes SLPs Make When Working with Older Speech Students


We try our best. We want to be the best SLPs we can be. Sometimes we make mistakes. We are human. We are SLPs.

Mistakes SLPs Make When Working with Older Speech Students

We don’t want to make mistakes. It happens. Working with older students comes with different challenges than working with the younger bunch. They have different needs. They demonstrate different behaviors. They have been receiving speech for years and we need to keep them motivated.   I have made so many mistakes when it comes to working with this population.   I am hoping that you can learn from my mistakes and what I have learned from them. Whether you are switching to working with the older ones for the first time, a brand new SLP, or just need some inspiration…this blog post is for you if you work with the older speech students!

Mistake 1: You think your older speech students are too old for games

They are not. They love it. It doesn’t need to be Candyland (although they love that too) but it is OK to have fun with them. Learning is hard and they need motivation. They need to feel safe and comfortable to take risks. Make your room warm and inviting. Let it be a different experience than they get all day. Competition is motivating for them too. Just because they aren’t playing games in their academic classrooms and every other teacher they have are very serious and worksheets only, doesn’t mean you have to as well! CLICK HERE to learn about my favorite games for older students.

keep older students motivated and play games in speech

Mistake 2: You assume you should use grade-level material

You don’t have to use grade-level material. Use materials appropriate to the levels of your students. If they can handle grade-level materials…they wouldn’t you! Yes, we want to make sure it isn’t “too cute” and appropriate for their age, but you can modify and find texts at their independent reading level. Our students might be weak or reluctant readers. They have a weak vocabulary. They need materials that are appropriate and at their level. That is why I love using NewsELA because you can easily differentiate for the needs of your student and it is age-appropriate topics. CLICK HERE to read more about how I use NewsELA in my speech room.

Fun Ways To Use NewsELA in Speech and Language Therapy

Mistake 3: You assume your speech students have seen it before

They must have learned about categorization. They must have worked on context clues. No. Don’t assume! It might have been presented to them but it doesn’t mean it stuck and they remember. If they did and can recall and use it independently…they wouldn’t need you! Present information and strategies like it was the very first time! Trust me…you will be disappointed less if you plan as if it was brand new (even if it was YOU that presented it in the past…even last week!).


Mistake 4: You are too serious

Yes. You want students to take you seriously. You want appropriate behavior in your speech room. You want respect. You have rules you want your students to follow. That is OK! But you also want to be approachable. You want students to feel comfortable to say “I don’t know” and “I need help.” You want them to be willing to take risks and participate in difficult tasks. Students won’t want to work when things get tough (or you are making them read or write..AH) when you are too serious and firm. You can be respected and also fun. Set the routine in the beginning.   Be clear with your students your expectations and that if you receive respect, they can have fun. That they can have fun as long as the work gets done. Stick with that plan. Show them you mean business but that you are also fulfilling your part and having fun. Make time for small talk with your students when they come into your speech room. Don’t be in a rush to get the lesson started. Ask them about their weekend. Learn about their interests. You can use these facts later when planning those fun lessons.


Mistake 5: You don’t tap into their strengths and interests

If you have students into sports…use it. You have students that are artistic, dancers, singers, anything…use it! Don’t feel you have to just do worksheets or drill and kill. Use projects and another hands-on way to utilize their strengths and interests. Let them make song lyrics about a story you read or that incorporate vocabulary words. Let them make a dance routine that reflects the emotion/mood of a story you read. Let them use technology and create their own versions of stories of concepts. Give them legos and let them build something to represent a vocabulary concept being taught. Let them make their own comics to represent the social skills being taught. Let them make origami to represent a new concept or articulation sound. Bring in sports statistics to practice the language of math. Think outside of the box. How can you utilize their interests and strengths? Your students will surprise you. Your students will love that you are letting them be creative. They will be more willing to work hard for you. Ask them what they are interested in. Don’t be afraid to ask! You will be surprised who has interests that you never thought of!


Have you made other mistakes than the ones I mentioned? What did you learn? Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know!!   We can always learn from each other!

And whether you are switching to working with the older ones for the first time, a brand new SLP, or just need some inspiration, you should definitely check out SLP Elevate! SLP Elevate is the first membership designed specifically for older students in grades 4+. After many of the mistakes I've made and learned from along the way, I wanted to create a resource that would help other SLP's plan with ease and confidence! That's why I created SLP Elevate which provides monthly themed resources for your older students that are both engaging and age-appropriate!

Wondering what is included in SLP Elevate?

💜Monthly high-interest thematic bundles that contain fiction and nonfiction articles and supplemental materials to target the various speech and language goals common for our older speech students. Previous themes have been Lego, Social Media, and Anime just to name a few!
💜Baseline tools to help you determine what goals to work on and how your students are progressing.
💜Digital Data Tool so you can easily collect data in groups, monitor progress, and see how your students are doing.
💜Interest finder so you can determine what your students are into (great for icebreakers for back to school)
💜Caseload tracker to stay organized.
💜An exclusive Facebook community so you don’t feel alone.
💜Bonus resources and training.
And more!
Check it out at www.slpelevate.com