Therapy Activities When Working with Older Teens!

by | Aug 26, 2021 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

I am really excited for this blog! Many of you who have interacted with me, or have seen some of the cognitive-linguistic intervention materials I have made, know that I love providing meaningful intervention to teenagers. One of my favorite things about working with the older teenage population is being a part of the transition from a focus on academics to a focus on functional life skills (which often includes academics still).

With that said, buy-in can be difficult with teenagers and finding ways to keep engagement high while addressing functional skills can be a challenge.

Here are some of my favorite activities to use with older teens that can be modified regardless of target areas so you can obtain data while still providing meaningful intervention.

Plan a Meal and Grocery Shop Online (Even With a Budget)

I thoroughly believe that online grocery shopping will be the modality the majority of our teen student and clients use for shopping. I enjoy setting up meal ideas consistent with a theme (e.g. camping), creating a menu, and then filling an online cart while adhering to a budget with my client. I use this activity when working on planning, sequencing, fluency, conversational speech, and pragmatics. There are many different modifications you can make to this activity to make it applicable for designated goals.

If you're a TSN member, our Cognitive-Linguistic Section of our Therapist Support Network Material Center has some fun grocery store maps that can be utilize for planning and visual scanning in conjunction with this activity.

Discuss the News (-ish)

I absolutely love to discuss the news (-ish) with my teenage clients/students. Obviously, this does require some filtering, hence the -ish. However, I have found that articles on weather changes, eclipse happenings, sports news, and vacation destinations make for a great conversational topic, attention activity, visual scanning activity, or stimulus for voice/fluency intervention.

Complete a Job Interview

This is another functional activity that I enjoy completing with my older teenage clients. I have used this activity in many different ways: from self-advocacy with my students to planning and answering questions in an organized manner. I also have found that practicing for job interviews is something we all could benefit from as it helps decrease the nerves!


This activity can be used to address planning, sequencing, organization, fine motor skills, and comprehension of written directions. I put this in quotes because many of us in schools don't have a kitchen to get creative in. However, there are trail mix recipes out there that can be utilized without any equipment. If you have the luxury of a kitchen, puppy chow (I feel like there's a more professional word for this that I don't know), popcorn on the stove, etc can be made with relatively little equipment.

Have some extra time? Combine a grocery store/budget activity with this cooking activity.

Plan an Age-Appropriate Trip and Make a Suitcase List

I have gone all kinds of places with my older students and clients. This activity can be utilized to address organization, planning, and other executive functioning skills. For my clients that are preparing for college, I often have them utilize an app such as "Notes" or the free app called "To Do" to make packing lists and make this activity more functional.

Calendar Activities and Setting Phone Reminders

If your client is getting ready to graduate for college or the workforce, there is so much significance in knowing how to utilize a calendar to assist with organization, recall, and planning. If you have a client that is leaving for college, he or she will have to know the best way for him or her to remember when tests or other projects are due. You can utilize your intervention time to assist with use of calendars/reminder apps/etc while also addressing your short and long term goals.

In the Therapist Support Network Material Center, we do have some calendar activities. However, I prefer to utilize digital calendars in many cases with my teenage clients as most colleges and/or work force environments utilize an e-calendar system.

Map Reading and Bus Route Navigation

By map reading, I definitely don't mean using a map to get from one city to another--I believe we all have digitized this skill. However, many downtown areas, malls, universities, and hospitals still utilize maps to show where offices, stores, and restaurants are. This can be very daunting for someone who struggles with visual scanning, attention, recall, and executive functioning skills.

Personally, for my clients that are off to college soon, I like to get the university bus route and discuss navigation from building to building, how much time to prepare for the bus, and pair that with alarm setting. I then take data on whatever skill I'm wanting to see independence in whether it's recall of the bus information, ability to sequence, etc.

ABOVE ALL, you can find functional activities often by talking to your client and/or their caregiver. What does your client love? Fortnight? Awesome! They communicate with other players on there and voice activities can be pulled from there.

The fundamental piece to note while providing functional intervention to this age range is that you need to mold your intervention to mimic times in your client's life where he or she needs to use whatever goal you're working on. This is one of my favorite things to do as a provider and truly makes my job satisfaction higher because I see a direct correlation between what I'm doing and improvement in my client's daily living.

Happy treating!


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