Valentine’s Day Books Celebrating Love and Friendship To Build Language

imgres-1I love using great picture books in speech therapy or simply reading a fun book to kids. Here are some of my new favorite books celebrating love and friendship for Valentine’s Day and beyond:

I Love You More by Laura Duksta and Karen Keesler.This clever book celebrates the love between a mother and her child as they each claim half of the flip-sided book to compare their love to touching comparisons in rhyme, “I love you higher than the highest bird ever flew, I love you taller than the tallest tree ever grew.” The little boy counters with experiences of his own, “I love you bigger than the biggest bubble ever blown. I love you freer than the freest kite ever flown.” Use the story as a springboard to a lesson on comparisons, poetry or adjectives.

The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring and Alys Paterson. Let’s go through a child’s day seeing the world as shapes from beginning to end. From the shape of our mouths to what we might eat, “the shapes that pass us by…on a noisy busy street.” But, our journey through the day brings us right back to “the shape I love you with…my heart.” The bright, simple graphics engage kids and provide opportunities to learn vocabulary within categories of food, body parts, transportation etc.

Love You When by Linda Kranz. “Do you think of me during the day?” you ask. The answer is “Yes,” as the author recounts all the simple but beautiful reminders of her loved one in the first rays of sun to cheerful little birds or shooting stars. The unique photographs include painted illustrations on rocks that describe each event. Rich vocabulary abounds in this little book, “I love you when a brilliant rainbow peeks out through the clouds after a drenching rainstorm has cooled off a sizzling summer day.” What a great opportunity to teach description and vocabulary to enliven a word picture–“gentle breeze,” “distinctive songs,” or “crisp fall air.” So many of the kids we work with can benefit from elaboration and precision in their language.



Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Books, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Teen with Autism Invites Ellen DeGeneres to Prom

I came across this story yesterday and was so touched.

17 year-old high school senior, Esteban Barriga from Maynard, Massachusetts originally didn’t want to go to prom because he thought he had no friends. That all changed as word got around that he wanted to ask Ellen DeGeneres. He enlisted kids from his school, family, police officers, firemen, local business people and those in his circle of helpers from his preschool teacher to the woman who drives him to school. His invitation became this video with the repeated message, “Ellen, say yes to Esteban!”

The video invitation to Ellen DeGeneres was so cute and clever, but as a speech therapist it was also an amazing lesson plan for developing social skills as Esteban prepared a list of reasons she should say yes and asked whole classes to help him invite Ellen to the prom! It was a persuasive piece too.

One of the most touching parts was viewing Esteban getting a haircut with his barber, as he shaves the name “Ellen” on the back of his head. It is explained that when Esteban was younger, he couldn’t tolerate a haircut. That is progress, as many children with autism spectrum disorder have some sensory processing issues and it is very uncomfortable to get a haircut.

His mom told the Boston Globe, “It’s been an unbelievable experience because here’s this kid who thought he had no friends at high school, who thought he was on his own — now he’s suddenly the most popular kid in school.”

What a refreshing story to hear about a child with special needs getting such warm support from not only his high school but whole community and hearing what we all like to hear, “You’re not alone.”

Come on, Ellen, say yes to Esteban!




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GoldieBlox Commercial Airs on the Super Bowl Last Night

Goldyblox toy fairHow exciting to watch a startup company get their national ad shown on the Super Bowl last night! Kudos to Intuit for choosing GoldieBlox over the more than 15,000 small business entries in their contest for a free Super Bowl ad.

I first met founder and CEO, Debbie Sterling at her small booth tucked away at the International Toy Fair in New York last year. The buzz was already picking up surrounding her “Toys for future innovators,” based on books and projects to promote girls’ interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Sterling, armed with a degree in Mechanical Engineering/ Product Design from Stanford University, became obsessed with “disrupting the pink aisle” and went on to develop a toy “that would introduce girls to the joy of engineering at a young age,” according to their website.

GoldieBlox’s story+construction sets tap into girls’ strong verbal skills, leading them into projects that strengthen spatial skills and “tools they need to build and create amazing things.” Sterling is determined to introduce engineering to young girls and get them excited about subjects that have been traditionally dominated by boys.

GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine, Parade Float, and Dunk Tank come with a story book and related construction project. Their debut product, “GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine” is for girls 4-9 and includes a belt drive, 5 animal figures, a pegboard, 5 wheels, 10 axles, 5  blocks, 5 washers, 1 crank and 1 ribbon.

Here’s the ad that ran last night during the Super Bowl–a refreshing change from all the car ads! “So come on, get your toys–girls make some noise….”



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Funny Speech Therapy Moments Teaching Word-Finding Cues

Somebody likes the polar vortex

Somebody likes the polar vortex

We have to keep a smile on our faces when we work with kids. Most of the time it is easy, in spite of some challenging kids and disabilities that we work with. That being said, it is enormously powerful to share some of the zany things that happen in our sessions. I’ve blogged many times about my starting point in a carefully planned therapy session and where a child took the session with their creative play and imaginative mind.

Well, I have to share this story from a colleague this week who was working with a group of kids with word-finding difficulties:

“I think I told you I was teaching a cue for “polar vortex” to some of my speech kids:  I was teaching it to my 3rd grade boys  yesterday.  I had one of the boys standing on top of my table, acting as the polar bear to reach down ‘into Texas’ to touch his buddy (I also had a visual of a polar bear reaching down into a map of Texas).  “Polar for Tex”.  So who knocks on my door?   The superintendent!  Ha!   So I just had them teach the supt how to use a word finding cue to remember “polar vortex.”  I don’t think either the boys or my boss will forget it!”

Who else has a funny story? We need a laugh when it’s this cold outside:)

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Word Finding | Leave a comment

Getting Ready for Toy Fair 2014 in New York City

Toy Fair 2013 PlaymobilAccording to the official Toy Fair site the countdown says 19 days until the Toy Fair! Everyone is excited to see all the new products revealed at the largest toy trade event ever held in North America. Toy Fair is the size of 7 football fields (no wonder my feet hurt at the end of the day) with exhibitors showing over 150,000 innovative toys, games and youth entertainment products. I can’t wait.

I’ve  had a sneak preview from some of my favorite companies on Facebook and through press releases. I’m excited to meet Folkmanis puppets’ “Perched Eagle Puppet.” He looks Folkmanis eagle puppetso real I may need one of those special falconer’s gloves. We’ve got some exciting appointments set up to see old friends and meet new companies. Science kits, cooperative games, wooden toys, and laser pegs are on the schedule so stay tuned for my round-up of current toys trends and “Look Who’s Listening to Children with Special Needs.” In the several years that I have been attending the fair, I see an increased awareness by companies to reach out and market and label their products with the learning embedded by skill. Let’s hope that trend continues to grow!

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“Squirrels on Skis” Delights Kids in Speech Therapy

imgres-1I want to share a delightful new book, “Squirrels on Skis” by J. Hamilton Ray and Pascal Lemaitre. In this season of continuous snow storms on the east coast, it is a timely topic–of  snow that is! Kids just love the story of squirrels on skis invading a little town as they gleefully create havoc knocking down snowmen and taking over the town en masse. I’ve used this delightful story for articulation carryover (terrific for kids working on /s/) as well as with kids with word-finding difficulties as they re-tell this tale using the fun cartoon illustrations to elaborate and build vocabulary. There is plenty to talk about in a lesson on inference as a certain little rabbit has an illegal business going while happy skiers must go without lunch. Here is my full review:

Kids jump right into Squirrels on Skis, delighting in the zany story of a town overrun by squirrels swishing and swooping  among their houses, churches and shops. It’s no wonder this book is a Cat in the Hat Beginner Book with short rhythmic rhymes packed with energetic fun in the tradition of Dr. Seuss. Whether being read to or reading independently, kids couldn’t wait to turn the page to see what happened next. Overcome by this nuisance, the townspeople meet to get a plan to curb the enthusiastic skiers. “Mr. Powers stood up- to make his proposal: ‘There are many good ways to do squirrel disposal.'” Reporter Sally Sue Breeze needs to investigate fast to come up with a plan to save the squirrels from Mr. Powers’ proposed vacuum device.  With a deeper plot than many easy readers, this book provides plenty to talk about to expand and build language–predicting throughout, explaining why? and discussing feelings. Descriptive, onomatopoetic words fascinate readers, “With a swish and a swoop ad a crackle and crunch, they had so much fun skiing, they forgot to eat lunch,” building vocabulary and  comprehension skills, while Lemaitre’s delightful cartoon illustrations enhance the story providing detail for re-tell activities and inferential thinking.

Available at Amazon: Click here


Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Books, Elementary School Age, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Word-finding Activities for Speech Therapy

Ben playing on boatKids with word-finding difficulties are fascinating to me. Sometimes I feel like I get a peek into their retrieval process as I try to decipher what they mean when they use a word that is associated to the one they intended. This week I was listening to a little boy re-tell a story when he said, “She’s gonna ‘verse’ him.” Usually, his words are close enough to the intended word that I have no problem understanding he meaning of his discourse. But this time I had to ask him to explain. He simple said, “She is versus him,” in the context of she was going to “race” him! He inspires me to keep finding great evidence-based activities to help in with accurate word retrieval.

On that note, this week I was talking to a good friend, Jan Schwanke, who happens to be a speech-language pathologist specializing in Word-finding (WF) therapy. She has worked closely with Diane German, doing research and presenting at ASHA. I was asking her for new ideas for therapy to build word retrieval in fun and effective ways.

I wanted to share her new, growing website which is a great resource for Word-finding therapy. The authors of this website aim to provide a place where SLP’s can share their ideas for therapy including a growing list of phonemic or mnemonic cues. Helpful charts contain common vocabulary, divided by school age groups–Pre-Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8), and High School–listed alphabetically. The idea is to check this list before re-inventing the wheel, and if your target word isn’t listed, add it with your ideas to share for the next SLP!

Does your student have trouble coming up with “diverse” in science class? Try the cue, “divers” with a picture of two synchronized divers going into a pool. Studying Appalachia in a social studies land form unit? Try giving your student a visual and auditory cue of “apple on a plate.”

The site includes ideas gathered from therapists under “I Need a Cue” and instructions on “How to Add Information” as well. According to the website, “On our ‘How to Add Information’ page, we offer a step-by-step tutorial to help you add your ideas. This same page explains how to use Dr. Diane German’s phonemic or mnemonic cues. Research supports the efficacy of using these cues for children and adults with word-finding difficulties.”

So make use of this budding resource and add your tips to the list so we can all benefit.

Any other therapy sources for word-finding therapy that you find beneficial?

Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 14 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Word Finding | 4 Comments

Story Builder App Review for Speech Therapy

Story Builder appI like Mobile Education Store’s apps so much that I have them grouped together on my iPad. If you read my reviews, you know that I use them beyond their intended use because they are so flexible and have great cartoons to engage kids in putting the pieces together for a good sentence, story or conversation.

Story Builder is designed to meet the following goals according to its developers:

  • improve paragraph formulation
  • improve integration of ideas
  • improve higher level abstractions by inference

The app includes 50 distinct story lines for creating narratives from a western scene, a child scared at night, a tornado in progress, a robot helping a man change his tire, to kids Story Builder app 2playing hide and seek in the woods, or waiting with pets at the vet. Each picture’s subject is abstract enough to invite inference. The question prompts (this app includes over 500 audio clips) lead the student through a narrative related to the picture as they record each segment and build on the story. Finally, the student can listen to his story of the component parts he has recorded. In the picture of the man in the water with his polo stick stuck in the lake bottom and a horse laughing behind a hedge, the following is the sequence of question prompts:

What was the man doing before he fell? What happened? Why is the horse laughing? How does the man feel about it? Why does he feel that way? Where will he get dry clothes? What will he do next?

Story Builder3Each question prompt is followed by a written phrase to start the child’s response to record such as “The man was…” or “But then…” At the end of the series of questions and recorded responses, students can play back their narrative. They love this feature as it is so reinforcing for them that they have created their own little story!

You have the option to “save” a story under the name of the student. My students enjoyed this feature so we could show off and play if for mom after the session. It would be helpful to be able to email the story as you can with other apps so SLP’s in a school setting could give some nice feedback to parents too.

Settings provide 3 level of play, variations in question, color code and story introduction reinforcement, giving flexibility to use with different students.

I find this app so helpful with storytelling and working on word-finding. Kids with word-finding difficulties often need help describing and elaborating, especially if they are aware of their inability to come up with words at times or have had some negative feedback. This app helps give them confidence as they can elaborate and make up a story as involved as they want!

Story Builder was provided for review by Mobile Education Store. All opinions expressed in this review are those solely of the author.



Posted in 10 and up, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Apps, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Word Finding | Leave a comment

Martin Luther King Day celebrated in Speech Therapy

I always try to use great books, stories and materials that are relevant to the season when I work with kids. Right now I look for books around the theme of snow, winter, Martin Luther King Day and Valentines Day.

I wanted to share the  2011 Coretta Scott King Award Winners for books that you might want to share with your kids or use in therapy while working on language goals:

  • Dave the Potter, Artist, Post, Slave is most interesting to me because it is geared at the kindergarden- Grade 4 age. According to the School Library Journal, this is a story of a 19th century South Carolina slave whose skilled pottery was enhanced by his addition of his original poetry on the pots. “A lengthy author’s note fleshes out what is known of the man’s life story and reproduces several of his two-line poems. A photograph of some of Dave’s surviving works cements the book’s link to the present and lists of print and online resources encourage further exploration.” Sounds like a great resource for launching projects to learn more and link the past to the present–learning language in the process!
Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up | Leave a comment

Speech Box™ For Speech Therapy App Review

speechbox appI have been enjoying using the “Speech Box™” app by The Jonah Bonah Learning Company in my therapy sessions lately. As I explained to a speech pathology student shadowing me today, when you are in private practice, the percentage of certain types of cases ebbs and flows. Last year I had two students in middle school and this year I have one while the next oldest student is 7 years old. The mix changes so that I have many 4 and 5 year-old boys with articulation delays right now. Since there is much practice and dare I say “drill” involved with learning and making a new production a habit, we need lots of exciting ways to change up a similar lesson plan each week.

speechbox 2I use Articulation Station often with my students to “warm up” at the beginning of the session and for reference as we play games or do crafts as we practice our sounds. I was glad to receive a free copy of “Speech Box™” from Jonah Bonah Learning Company  because the 700 available photographs of mainly one-syllable words are different and applicable to a little older audience. Each sound box  contains pictures of the target sound in the initial, medial and final position of the word. They are as if thrown in a box, lying on top speechbox3of each other. That is part of the fun–kids have to move the pictures about, or tap them to expand to full screen where the audio repeats the target word. We had fun today, tapping on a little corner of sky, dirt, or a hat peeking out from the pile of photographs and guessing what the word was before it was revealed. The best part is swiping the finished word off the screen. My little guy yesterday sent his word “Up to heaven” and “Outside” as he engaged in a little pretend play with the direction he swiped the photos.

Helpful features:

  • 700 photographs of mainly one-syllable words to choose from
  • Easy, quick setup and loading of pictures
  • Flexible use for clients with apraxia, autism, Down’s Syndrome, language difficulties
  • Customizable–add your own boxes by child or category to be worked on
  • Share boxes with parents for practice

speechbox4Aside from having a great bank of pictures for practice, I like the customizable feature best. Kids LOVE to create their own box and fill it with photographs. I spent a whole session photographing lego models that my little client proudly held up for the camera as he enjoyed recording a name for his picture. When I was still on the learning curve, I accidentally put James’ pictures in Holden’s box but the kids had such fun with this. They didn’t know each other but enjoyed listening to another child emphasizing his target sounds.

I have only used this app for articulation therapy but plan to use the other category boxes for “family,” “foods,” “farm animals” etc. for language learning activities. The Box Store has specialized boxes for purchase such as “emotions,” “fairy tales” or “Christmas.”


Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Apps, Apraxia, Articulation, Elementary School Age, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment