The importance of child-led therapy


Child-led therapy is essentially what it says, therapy sessions that are directed by your child. You may think how can my child’s Speech and Language Therapist focus on goals if sessions are led by my child.

Let us explain…

Your child will be more receptive and motivated to take part in therapy if they have some form of input. E.g., they can choose what toys they want to play with, or how they want to play with the resources available. If sessions are child-centred then they are much more likely to engage and reach their goals, making intervention valuable. They will also be able to regulate their emotions, and use movement to support their need for regulation. E.g., some children like to jump whilst others like to run. As Speech and Language Therapists we need to use what is meaningful to your child to get the most out of intervention. By focusing on child-led therapy, we can build trust, which will allow us, in time, to use new techniques and activities that your child may enjoy. We want children to be themselves, to show their true personality. Therapy is about enhancing their skills in their own individualised way and child-led therapy allows for this.

This way of working may seem daunting to some, but it doesn’t have to feel this way. Parents often feel if they are prepared then activities may go smoother. It might be the case, but perhaps it doesn’t give your child the opportunity for spontaneity. We’d like to suggest something that may lead to some surprises. Put out an activity that is your child’s favourite and then a completely new activity. Remember these activities don’t have to be complicated. Often, the simpler the better!

So, no need to plan, just place two activities out and see what happens! Look out for anything which surprises you, which activity did they prefer? Do they have any sensory preferences? The freedom of choice is a wonderful thing to explore. So, just go with the flow!

The kind of activities that are useful for child-led play can include:

  • Hide and seek
  • Cooking or baking
  • An Exercise ball
  • Small world play
  • Pretend play
  • Musical instruments (you could even have a go at making your own)

Child-led therapy is a very useful resource. We have it at our fingertips. We don’t need special resources. You just need yourselves and your child! Sometimes, child-led therapy can be tricky to put in place. It sounds easy but is much harder in reality. So, make sure you give it time and reflect on your experiences. Ask yourselves ‘what went well’, and ‘what could be improved’. E.g., perhaps you gave your child time to lead to begin with, but you didn’t give them enough time to think about their options during the activity.

How can parents become more child-led in the home environment?

  • Pause and use silence. This gives your child the opportunity to lead.
  • It’s perfectly natural to want to talk. Afterall, this is how adults maintain conversations. If you find yourself talking too much, count to ten! This will allow your child time to respond or initiate in the conversation or interaction.
  • Move down to your child’s level. It’s much easier to see what’s going on if you’re at the same height.
  • Videoing you and your child can really help you to see where your strengths lie. You’ll also be able to make minor tweaks to improve your communication during child-led play.

Contact Sonja for more advice on speech, language and communication during child-led play.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.


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