More Games for Teaching Preschoolers on the Autism Spectrum

91koIV+d10L._SX425_Okay, here are some more of my favorite games to play with kids on the autism spectrum, teaching social language as well as language concepts to preschoolers:

Sunny Day Pond by Peaceable Kingdom. Again, this is a very simple first game for kids where they work cooperatively to assemble the 3 animal puzzles, an orange duck, purple fish and green frog before collecting the 6 raindrops. Match the solid colored-back of the puzzle pieces to the color you spin and start assembling the puzzles. There is lots to talk about as you select the duck’s beak, the fish’s tail or frog’s eye.

imgres-2Don’t Wake Daddy by Hasbro. This one is new to me but we had a lot of fun with it yesterday. It is a bit more complex with spinning to see what number of spaces you advance and then depending on if you have a drawing of something noisy in the house on your space, you are safe or not. If you have a picture card that matches the one on your space, you are safe. If not, you have to push the button on the alarm clock the number of times indicated on the space. Kids love anticipating waking up Daddy. If you wake up Daddy he pops up in bed! Winners get to the refrigerator first for a snack. There is a surprise element to the game which could be tough for some kids so you have to assess if this would work for you little client. This game can be easily simplified, by disregarding the matching cards and just using the numbers to pump up the alarm clock which is fun for everyone, especially if you don’t play by the rules and get sent back to bed!

What games do find to be the most engaging and educational for your preschoolers on the autism spectrum? Let’s share.

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Best Games for Teaching Preschoolers on the Autism Spectrum

The more I play games with kids, the more I am a fan for using them to teach so many aspects of communication and language. I just started working with a 4 year-old on the autism spectrum and we have had such fun playing games to teach concepts (colors, shapes, matching, counting, one left, one more, etc) and social language of taking turns, commenting and giving directions. Attention is required to stay with the game and make the best move. I have started my list with simple games for 3 years and up. This will be a series of blogs on games and simple books to begin therapy with kids on the autism spectrum. Here are some of my favorites that I have revived and new games to add to the list:

imgresBarnyard Bingo by Fisher Price. This game has been around a long time but is great because it has a fun “barn” that is set up and kids pull down the lever to “boing” as a chip slides down a chute and appears illustrated with a sheep, cow or hen. Kids learn colors, animal names, animal sounds, beginning, middle end, next to and so on as they match their chip to their fence card. It has 3 levels of play but certainly has a beginner, easy first level for kids playing a game for the first time.

Candy Land Castle Game by Hasbro. This is a similarly imgres-1simple game for first time players as the castle holds all the colored shapes to match to your gingerbread boy or girl. This time you pull down the candy cane lever to release a shape through the chute and down through the castle entrance. The lever in both games provides enough interest for kids and the disks give therapists or parents the opportunity to build vocabulary within categories of shapes and colors.

Today we moved on to a little higher level of difficulty, 81RnyxTmGgL._SL1500_playing Feed the Woozle, by Peaceable Kingdom. This is a favorite with kids and so wacky that it feeds right into a child’s sense of humor. Drop the die, read the number and gather that many zany snacks onto your oversized spoon. Then spin to see if you have to carry your treats the Woozle’s mouth while marching, going crazy, doing the hula, spinning or hopping like a bunny. Kids catch on really fast that my least favorite is spinning. After we invited a mom to join our play, she spun the hula option and declared, “I haven’t done the hula for years!” Counting, recognizing numbers, following directions, and processing silly food combinations (fuzzy donuts etc.) are some of the concepts learned.



Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Autism, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Taking A Fresh Look at Kids After the Break

Will with puppet showBreaks from speech therapy are good. Obviously I get refreshed and the kids seem to have a new vigor as they start up again. It’s fun to take a closer look at their progress, goals and abilities and do a little adjustment. Often I am pleasantly surprised that they have continued to make progress in my absence (whoa, does that mean they don’t need me or are they REALLY practicing as they say they are??) Anyway, it is all good.

This week I have had some little epiphanies I wanted to share. I use Articulation Station with most of my articulation students to “warm up” at the beginning of the session, and then depending on what level of therapy they are at, I still use the word pictures for drill during a game or activity. At the end of a long day of therapy, I found I was tired of giving the model and started to tap the screen to have the app provide it. Believe it or not, the child perked up and listened more intently to the voice as a little change from our routine. Good all the way around.

Today I continued working with a 5 year-old on nasality issues. He nasalizes /f, s, sh/ and very predictably switches back and forth with nasal and oral emission. He’s been a quick learner but one of the best methods to teach him the difference was a little trick I think I learned in graduate school. I get out my bag of colored feathers, he chooses a color and I place it on a piece of cardboard below his nose. The visual feedback is great as he sees the feather fly across the surface if he is producing the sound with nasal emission and sits still if not. Sounds simple, but it really works. Now he is able to quickly correct himself as he knows the difference physically, auditorily and visually.


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New Research Shows Preschoolers with Special Needs Benefit from Typical Peers’ Strong Language

Sheshe reading to Sam's classI’m always interested in current research to back our therapy and planning for kids with special needs. As a pediatric speech language pathologist, I am often highly involved in putting together a balanced and comprehensive plan for therapies for kids that are identified in their preschool years. Last year it was a 5 year-old who moved in from out of town and was struggling in kindergarten, and then switched to a private program in a preschool. After identifying the best professionals to test him and collaborating on results, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and a schedule of therapies was adopted across several disciplines. Often when I start working with a preschooler just diagnosed on the autism spectrum, after revuewing test results and recommendations from the neuropsychologist, speech pathologist and OT, we look at the best program to help that child. One of the tough steps can be for the parents to juggle how much time to spend with the different therapist and whether to move to a “school” setting type of preschool in lieu of their typical preschool. I know it sounds like a lot of hours of school for a little one, but I usually recommend they stay in their preschool program and add the special education program in their school district. Recent research supports this.

Research done at Ohio State University and reported this summer showed that typical peers can have an impact on the language abilities of a child with disabilities in the classroom, but beyond that, the language level of the peers is critical. According to an article in Association for Psychological Science, “While peers with strong language skills can help boost their classmates’ abilities, being surrounded by peers with weak skills may hinder kids’ language development.” There was a clear difference in the impact of typical peers’ language abilities on those with disabilities, based on the if the peers were less or highly-skilled in language. “In general, preschoolers whose peers had relatively high language skills showed more improvement in their own language skills over the course of the school year than did children whose peers’ skills were not as strong.” So integration is important as well as maximizing the language skill level of typical peers as you look for the best program for your student with disabilities or guide parents in choosing the best program for their child.




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Back to Work, Hello 2015

Sheshe reading to grandkidsTaking a break is wonderfully refreshing and essential, I might add, when you are working with kids. I’ve enjoyed my 2 weeks off for the holidays and hope you all have too but I am ready to get back at it! Over “vacation” I wrote letters of recommendation for two undergraduate students I have been mentoring and encouraging as they are headed to graduate school to pursue a career in speech-language pathology. I’m excited for them both as they are excellent candidates and passionate about pursuing a career to help those with disabilities be able to better communicate. It was interesting to see the credentials that colleges were interested in as they select their graduate students–creativity, leadership, writing and oral language proficiency, problem solving, research potential, and so on.

Toy Fair 2015I also just registered for the 2015 Toy Fair in New York City in February so everyone is gearing up to present their new products at that 4 day extravaganza. I’m getting my jogging shoes ready.

The best part about vacation was our tour of kids and grandkids, seeing everyone in their homes and playing lots of games, cooking up some meals at the play kitchen, reading books, visiting a gingerbread village, riding bikes (we had to go south for that!) and eating lots of Christmas cookies.

I hope you had a great break and are full of excitement and energy to work with kids or work for kids in creating great products to promote language development. Keep the ideas coming and Happy New Year.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

IMG_8726 - Version 3I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, filled with fun and laughter and family.

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Is Elf On the Shelf Causing You Stress?

71uz+99EQsL._SL1500_I have to laugh at the buzz around Elf on the Shelf in the last few days. I feel like every family I work with invites me in and immediately has me look for the elf or the kids take me by the hand and show me. Some love it and some are scared of the little figure. One little girl didn’t want to go downstairs to play unless I stood in front of the elf (who was sitting on the railing) as she passed by. Mom sighed that the elf was too much extra work as she had to wake up her husband that morning at 4 AM because they forgot to move the elf.  Another mom said to me, “It’s too much work!” Sounds to me like the responsibility of having the Tooth Fairy come every night. I was bad at remembering to put the money under the pillow and it didn’t happen every day–I would have been lousy at remembering this.

Don’t worry, I’m a fan of fun toys, and don’t want to be a scrooge but parents and more recently a professor, have been weighing in on this.

One of the funnier (and honest) posts on “Why I Hate The Elf on the Shelf” on Blogher makes a point that I have always maintained which is “Isn’t Santa enough? to keep track of who is naughty and nice, AND you don’t have to remember to move him every night and clean up his messes (that you have to create). I like to simplify so this wouldn’t be in my routine.

Yesterday, The Washington Post’s blog was titled, “The Elf on the Shelf is Preparing your Child to Live in Future Police State, Professor Warns.” Sounds rather dramatic but the digital technology professor, Laura Pinto, is serious about her claims that the Elf on the Shelf is “teaching young people to blindly accept panoptic surveillance ” and goes on to use lots of big words I can’t pronounce. She does address some of the “creepiness” that parents have expressed as their kids are scared of the doll as well as “I don’t think the elf is a conspiracy and I realize we’re talking about a toy,” Pinto told The Post. “It sounds humorous, but we argue that if a kid is okay with this bureaucratic elf spying on them in their home, it normalizes the idea of surveillance and in the future restrictions on our privacy might be more easily accepted.”

As usual, the adults are getting all agitated about this little elf and by and large the kids love him (or her).

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Speech Therapy Practice in the Bathtub!

61jMZrkR5dL._SL1049_Parents are a great source for topics for my blogs. As you know, I love it when they partner with me and practice at home between sessions. I always see the fruit of their labor and enjoy the faster progress (as they do too!).

I just started working with a little guy who has been nasalizing certain consonants which affects his intelligibility. He is the cutest, happiest child, but sort of hard to understand when he switches back and forth between the oral and nasal cavity emission. He has made some nice progress in just a few sessions, partly due to Mom who has been practicing in the tub! They have letters on the wall, so she forms words, starting with his target sounds, and he loves to say them. It began with my first success in getting an /s/ emitted orally, by moving from /sh/ to /s/ so she picked right up on that and practiced it in the tub.

The only downside is that when I demonstrated how to use feathers on a piece of paper and hold it under his nose to get feedback for nasal emission, she reminded me that feathers wouldn’t work in the tub!

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Great Books for Speech Therapy /s/ Carryover

Seven Chinese SistersIt’s such fun when a parent shares a perfect  speech therapy activity with you. First it means she is practicing with her child and second it means she “gets” what you are trying to do. Today a mom went to get this book , “The Seven Chinese Sisters” by Kathy Tucker, as I started working with her son. She said there were so many /s/ sounds in it and they read it each night for practice. My little friend loved the book and started right in. Wow, she was right! There were so many /s/ sounds AND each page talked about the first through seventh sisters. Talk about a lot of /s/- /th/ contrasts to build accuracy for your /s/. This child is in the last stages of therapy and we are working on carryover with reading and playing games.

His other favorite book was “Cinderella: A Wheel-y Silly Fairy Tale” (Little Simon Sillies). Don’t rule out little kids books because this boy is in second grade and we had more laughs about the silly options for Cinderella to change her pumpkin into or what happened to her glass slipper. Tons of /s/ words provide lots of practice

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Being a Speech Therapist is More Than Delivering Therapy

Word flower collageIt occurred to me this week that there are many extra tasks associated with being a speech language pathologist besides delivering speech therapy. As I look at my week and tuck in extra calls, blogs, reports and parent conferences, I realize the extra time I need to set aside for activities that enrich my practice. Many therapists are blogging and providing us with terrific, practical therapy ideas in articulation, word-finding, language, autism and technology. It has been fun to watch different therapists in our profession begin to specialize in an area and be the go-to blog for fresh ideas. I encourage any of you to try it, just start talking about what you did today with kids, obviously protecting their privacy, but share ideas, activities or articles that are helpful to you.

In the last few days, I went to the library to search the “new” picture books to use with several of my kids with language difficulties, word-finding and autism. Some days it’s a goldmine and some it isn’t. I scoured the New York Times’ “Notable Children’s Books of 2014.” I find this far more valuable than the NYT Best Seller List for picture books as the same authors dominate on that list, and they aren’t always the best language rich books for our students.

Today I had a conference call with a Neuropsychologist who tested one of my students who I just began working with, finished writing up an evaluation, wrote two blogs, bought Christmas presents for my students, sent a scheduling letter out to my parents and saw several kids. Phew, maybe I’ll get off the computer now:)

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