3 Ways to Support Gestalt Language Processors in the School Setting

May 01, 2024

We’ve teamed up with Meaningful Speech team member and school speech-language pathologist, Katelyn (@the_communication_classroom) to bring you three ways you can support gestalt language processors in the classroom. We want to assure you that you can use strategies meant for gestalt language processors, like naturalistic language modeling and child-led therapy, in the schools. In an ideal world, all gestalt language processors would be supported in an individual setting. However, that is not possible for many school speech-language pathologists due to large caseloads, scheduling, etc. Here are our top three tips and tricks. 

Support them in groups

Groups are one of the most common ways to see kids within the school setting. For our gestalt language processors, we recommend trying to create groups based on the stages that the students are in, the communicative intents that are being modeled, by special interests, and/or by needed sensory motor supports!

We can continue to keep things interesting and child-led by incorporating music, movement, sensory activities, or high interest books and games.

Some examples of how this might look: 

  • By Stage: Pair students based on the stage they’re communicating in the most. You might pair students in the early stages (Stages 1 & 2) together, and students in the later stages (Stages 3+) together. 
  • Communicative Intents: If you have a group of students with similar communicative intent goals, consider grouping them together so you can more intentionally model potential gestalts. For example, if you gave multiple students who have goals for self-advocacy in stage 1, you might group them together.  
  • Special Interests: Group children together based on similar interests. This will allow more natural opportunities for language models, shared joy, and child-led therapy. Examples: Lego club, animal group, train team, problem solvers (math group), etc. 
  • Sensory Supports: Pair students with similar sensory profiles together. You might pair students who need a lot of vestibular input together and bring them to the playground during their session to swing (if you can get access to it).

Push-in to the classroom 

This is a great way to model strategies and language for the teachers and support staff in the classroom. We can utilize natural opportunities for self-advocacy, regulation, socializing, and more! Pushing into the classroom can look like a variety of methods. 

For example, you might plan a whole class group activity on a particular communicative function like “protesting”. You might read a book about protesting, and model potential gestalts while reading. See our post on book reading with gestalt language processors.

Another option is to push into the classroom during regular activities and support language real-time. This is a great way to model strategies for the teacher and support staff. In a preschool setting, you might push in during centers and model strategies (for adults) and potential gestalts (for the students) while they are engaging in the various center activities.

Individual session

A one-on-one session is a great way to incorporate special interests, follow a child’s lead, and model potential gestalts. If possible, support the gestalt language processors on your caseload in an individual session. Ideally, gestalt language processors would have a large space to move around to regulate and access language. In the school setting, most have limited space. Make the most of the space you do have. Some ideas for small spaces include: 

  • Incorporate their interests. We always give a loose guideline of making 2-3 items you know are of interest to the child available and 1 new item that the child may or may not choose to engage with. If they don’t, that’s okay! Don’t force it. Think of it as a suggestion but not a requirement. For example, let’s say a child loves trains. You might take some familiar items out which include a Thomas the Train set and some train stickers with some paper and crayons. You might also take a new book about transportation out. You know they engage with and enjoy the first two items, but the third (book) is new! Follow their lead. 
  • Incorporate music. Gestalt language processors are often very musical and are attracted to the intonation and high emotion songs often have. Songs are many gestalt language processors first gestalts. You might use instruments, sing, and/or listen to music. 
  • Crawling through a tunnel (if you don’t have access to a tunnel, make a “fort” a child can crawl through with therapy room furniture). Creating it yourselves may be a great way to incorporate some heavy work from moving the furniture too. 
  • Obstacle courses with supplies you have at hand. For example, you might use computer paper to draw the obstacles. 
  • Jump and crash (if you have a crash pad, great! If not, you can use blankets or cushions). 
  • Heavy work to provide calming input (You can do this with everyday objects such as grocery bags, filled backpacks, books, sensory equipment, having the child clean up/put away larger toys, etc. and have the child carry/push/pull these items.)
  • Tactile sensory activities like sensory bins, spiky balls, putty, stress balls, hair scrunchies, pipe cleaners, etc. 

Want to learn more in-depth information about how to support gestalt language processors?

  1. There are many free podcasts, webinars and articles to get you started. A comprehensive list of resources can also be found on our website. We just released a new FREE masterclass on echolalia and child-led therapy that is perfect for anyone starting their learning journey or on the fence about purchasing our courses! 
  2. Consider taking the Meaningful Speech course to learn more about how your child or client processes language, how you can help support them from echolalia to self-generated (original flexible) language, child-led therapy, and neurodiversity-affirming practices. Looking for something shorter? We have a 1-hour introductory course perfect for extended family, daycare or school staff.
  3. Consider taking our AAC + Gestalt Language Processing course. It will teach you how to identify, evaluate and support gestalt language processors who use AAC or who you think might benefit from AAC.
  4. Look for a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who "gets it" and can help you in supporting your child's language development. Check out our registry for SLPs who understand gestalt language processing and child-led therapy.
  5. Are you a school-based or private practice clinician looking for intake forms for new clients/students or creative visual reminder posters for your space? Check out the Meaningful Speech Marketplace.
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