Using Picture Books to Accompany Developmental Therapy

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If you’re a parent of a child with special needs, you might be used to the many benefits of therapies like occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, hippotherapy, group developmental therapy, and more. A good therapist will also give you various strategies and activities to use at home to further your child’s practice.

My son (who has special needs) loves books. He loves to read them, “talk” about them, re-enact them, and learn from them. He doesn’t always love to practice some of his speech sounds. So, I’ll often grab a book and get him to read certain words to me to practice those sounds. He’s often more motivated when we combine the visual aspect of reading with his verbal speech practice.

As my son has increased his pretend play, we’re able to incorporate more gross motor and fine motor practice through re-enacting books, too.

*Note: If you have typical-developing children, these activities are great for preschoolers to practice budding gross motor and speech skills!

Using Picture Books to Accompany Developmental Therapy {}

Using Picture Books to Accompany Therapy

As an example, I’ll be using Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson, Illustrated by Laura Rankin (Greenwillow Books, 2013), a super cute recent library find for us.Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Fogleson Gibson, Illustrated by Laura Rankin - Using Picture Books to Accompany Developmental Therapy {}

You can use any book where the characters move around a lot, interact with the reader, or incorporate multiple senses or movements. Repetition also helps.

Tiptoe Joe starts off with immediate movement (“Tiptoe fast, tiptoe slow”). My kids already love switching back and forth between fast and slow movements, so they create a game almost immediately. Having your child practice moving on tiptoes engages muscles differently, requires balance, and increases coordination practice.

Using Picture Books to Accompany Developmental Therapy {}

My girl acts out the first page as soon as she reads it. Every time.

This book also includes verbal practice in interactive phrases (“Say hello to Tiptoe Joe”) and animals sounds (“thump, thump”). These sounds also utilize a variety of initial and closing sounds, voiced and silent.

The repetition of sentence structure throughout the book helps kids recognize patterns and increase anticipation of upcoming events.

Tiptoe Joe‘s actions incorporate directional movements (fast/slow, quiet, underneath, soft) that readers can act out. Acting out the movements engages gross motor skills and transference of context.

Using Picture Books to Accompany Developmental Therapy {}

Plus, the ending of this book is just adorableTiptoe Joe has great reread value, so kids will hopefully want to practice the movements and sounds again and again.

What to Look For in A Book for Therapy

As Tiptoe Joe exemplifies, I often look for books that incorporate multiple sounds, movements, concepts, and personalities.

Particularly for speech or physical therapy, look for books that include some (or all) of the following:

  • oppositional movements (fast/slow, quiet/loud, up/down),
  • a variety of initial and ending sounds (both voiced and silent),
  • interactive components (either in talking directly to the reader or in between characters that your kids can then act out),
  • a short or moderate length (to allow for easier re-reads and more practice),
  • repetition or predictability.

A few of our other favorites to accompany therapies:

Does your child interact with books? What books are your favorites to incorporate therapy practice?

About Caroline Flory

Caroline is a wife, homeschooling momma to two undeserved blessings (one of whom has special needs), writer, picture book fanatic, decaf coffee drinker, former public school teacher, and major library advocate. In addition to writing posts on special needs here at The Library Adventure, she blogs about family, faith, and books at Under God’s Mighty Hand. (including free printables!), contributes monthly to a couple of other sites, and loves to connect on Twitter.


  1. […] Join me at The Library Adventure today to read about a few of the ways we use picture books to accompany my son’s therapies. Today, I’m sharing an example of how we use a picture book to practice therapy skills, plus a few aspects to look for within a book. […]

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