Making Up Stories With A Shadow Light Show

Crayola FX projectorOne of my favorite showrooms at the Toy Fair this year was Crayola. Maybe because of the artist in me, my love for markers of all kinds, or the many creative products I’ve used to help kids learn language and tell a story. For many kids, physically drawing can draw out a story and reinforce it visually. As I moved from one product demonstration to another, I was invited into a dimly lit room showcasing their new Shadow FX Color Projector. As they drew on the clear panel with special gel FX markers (doesn’t that name just make them cool?) and the drawing became life-size on the wall, I knew this would be such fun in speech therapy.

So I packed the projector in my bag and took off to see several kids working on articulation and language goals. As I emptied the box of the few simple props—a clear drawing panel with markers, a shadow shapes sheet of props like an astronaut, alien and a lightning rod and the colored light projector–kids got really excited. They immediately started to draw faces, aliens, trees, and jets to project on the wall. We dimmed the lights, turned on the colored LED light pods and I heard a few gasps. Red, blue, green and multi-colored light options expanded and varied the lines but we till needed our cut-out props to animate our story. The alien was most popular as he sat down, flew through the sky and stopped off for a bite to eat during a lightning storm. This story-telling venue is so much fun that kids are excited to work on their oral development of setting, characters, problem, actions for a solution and conclusion as they add on to their shadow and light show. Now that they know how to use the projector, I think it would also be a great tool for taking time to plan a story, ensuring all parts are included. One little guy was so excited he invited his mom down to the basement wall which was our big screen to hear his creation.


The above opinions are solely those of the author. The Shadow FX Color Projector was provided for review for the PAL Award by Crayola.



Posted in 6-8 year-olds, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment Announces Our Summer 2014 PAL Award Winners

Congratulations to all our outstanding PAL winners:

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 8.55.50 PM

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Volvo of Westport is Special to All Kids

Volvo with James

Rob, James and Lee

It’s summer and time to take speech therapy on the road. One of my favorite companions for our “outings” is James. We have been planning and talking about our outings for several weeks and I decided to start at the top of his list for visits, Volvo of Westport. We had had such a great visit last year that James wanted to return to see Lee.

We were treated so kindly as Lee showed James the new cars and Rob (General Manger) gave James a bag, a Volvo t-shirt, just like the mechanics were wearing, a hat and water bottle. James had a chance to talk to Lee and Rob about how much he wants to work there and they told him he should come back Volvo garage with Jameswhen he is older. They do employ a young man right now with special needs as part of his work-study program.

As we were talking, Kyle the service manager,  appeared and asked if we wanted to see the shop. We were excited to peek at what goes on behind closed doors, so to speak. As we opened the door, James stopped and Kyle picked up on the fact that James didn’t like the loud noise level so he kindly asked each mechanic for “no noise” so we could continue our tour.

James did a great job of communicating a problem I was having with my car, asking about future employment and sharing about his outing with our pictures after we got home. Kids learn best when they are interested in the subject. James was at the top of his game.

Thanks to the staff at Volvo of Westport for being so welcoming, attentive, and sensitive to ALL kids.

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30 Year-old Legos Excite Speech Therapy Kids

Lego ship-Bill's
As you know, I find myself with several 5-8 year-old boys on my caseload and they are wild about legos. My little friend ran upstairs this morning to pour over his lego catalogue with me, showing me that the picture had the same “Chima” stick as I had in my pile of 30 year-old legos from my boys. After hearing all the details of the Lego Movie (I don’t even have to go, I know so much), I picked up the easy reader books which are also a staple in my therapy bag. But the real hit is a zip lock bag of legos I’ve grabbed from a huge tub my kids played with 30 years ago. It didn’t occur to me that they were so special until several boys asked me if these were “old” legos. “How can you tell?” “On, my dad lets us play with his and he has some of these same pieces.”

lego space-Bill's legosLately they are the toy of choice in my therapy bag for reinforcement as kids practice their sounds and work on fluency. We have discovered that “old” legos can fit right into the current Chima theme, although I had to fish out all the clear green pieces for chi, and several pieces like the long grey arm and white flat piece that opens in three sections are exciting to kids because they aren’t in their repertoire of new legos.

Effective therapy is so much about making sessions fun and having rewards for kids that are meaningful. AND I am always changing up what is in my bag and learning something new from my little clients.

Who would have known that I would be an expert on Chima and Ninjago legos?

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

NBC CT Interview, “Summer Play To Keep Language Skills Sharp”

IMG_6869Here’s the live interview clip from my interview at NBC CT TV last Thursday with Kerri-Lee Mayland. It is always fascinating and fun to watch their hour long morning show being produced from Bob Maxton, the weatherman who does his sweeping gestures in front of a completely blank green screen (which looks like a map to us) to a couple of guys getting interviewed on how to make good summer drinks.

I shared some of my favorite PAL Winners:





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Toys to Keep Language and Literacy Sharp Over Summer, NBC CT Interview

TV NBC CT 6-14It was fun to share some of the latest PAL Award winning toys and games today at NBC CT in a live interview with Kerry-Lee. Summer is all about fun but we can also provide some great toys for our kids to spark fun, and keep language and literacy skills sharp over the summer–including reading and writing. Don’t forget, toys can teach too!

Letter Slide by SimplyFun (7 years and up, $30 )

  • kids choose water slide game board
  • draw a word card with 2 letters missing at the beginning or end of the word, turn over the timer and race to make as many words as they can, from letter lagoon
  • po__ became poke or poem
  • learn spelling, reading, letter-sound association and sound sequencing as kids, sound out possible words
  • earn letters on their game board for completed words
  • full review and where to purchase, click here

Play Park by Plan Toys (3 and up, $80)

  • encourage oral story telling
  • take a ride down cable car, Kids rode their bikes, raced down the ramp, climbed the rope ladder and took off on the glider from the launch area.
  • fun scenario to encourage pretend play and stories
  • full review and where to purchase, click here

Counting Animals by Ravensburger ( 3 and up, $15)

  • preschoolers love their super sized puzzles
  • friend got into the counting as he randomly called out the next number he needed to complete the puzzle
  • goofy animals: 1 cycling giraffe, 4 happy hippos playing tennis
  • lots of buzz as kids describe the pieces they need and what they’ve assembled
  • full review and where to purchase, click here

Speedy’s Magical Shell by BKids (1 year and up, $15.00)

  • indeed magical with all the learning options, favorite toy of 1 year-olds and up
  • pull toy, shape sorter push colored balls, open and shut shell, shell becomes a drum (antennae/sticks)
  • make a little music
  • full review and where to purchase, click here

My Super Life Journal…By Me by PomTree (6 and up, $13.00)

  • I would have loved this when I was a kid
  • inspires girls to celebrate and document the special things in life with color, over 200 stickers, cut outs, art work, words and adornments.
  • favorites, places to visit, their town, doodles, trips, super special pockets to hold notes
  • vinyl storage zip bag and pockets hold little pieces in process
  • full review and where to purchase, click here

XL Graffiti Black White Board by Janod (3-8 years, $90)

  • accommodate author and illustrator on each side
  • pull down paper and write story or paint
  • pretend play:  Menu at restaurant, store prop,, write message to mom or day to see before work
  • adjustable height for table top
  • full review and where to purchase, click here

DIY  Dream House by Hape (3 and up, $200)

  • dream come true for little decorators
  • all wall accessories are magnetic–(shower,  sink or clock) transformed and reinvented for play over and over again
  • fill empty frames with personalized drawings or photographs–personal touch
  • favorite feature is the elevator–that’s a pulley-engineering lesson
  • “I want to live in a house like’s modern,” kids say.
  • full review and where to purchase, click here













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Taking a Summer Break From Speech Therapy

Ben jumping in sandThis is the last week of school for public schools and there is freedom in the air! I remember the feeling when I worked in the public schools as we wound down, took down the bulletin boards and said goodbye for the summer. There is a natural break for many of the students although some qualify for summer school services.

In private practice we keep chugging along. I personally have started to take several weeks off because I think it is healthy for me as well as my students. Over the years, I find that kids are participating in more structured activities in the summer and it is even harder to schedule therapy in the summer than during the school year! I was faced with several kids going to camp until 5:00 and then I could schedule their therapy. I can’t imagine engaging little guys after a full sweaty day of camp fun:)

When parents asked me if it was “okay” to take a break, I said, “Yes.” I am going to give them several suggestions for practice related to their goals for articulation, language and word-finding to keep skills sharp over the summer.

So…Happy Summer!

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Armond Goes To A Party, Social Story for Asperger’s

imgres-6It’s not often that a picture book is co-written by an author and child but in “Armond Goes to a Party, A Book About Asperger’s and Friendship,” Armond weighs in on what it feels like to be asked to a birthday party and attend, even if it is a good buddy like Felicia. Armond has Asperger’s Syndrome and what is fun for his typical peers can be daunting for him, since “…parties are disorganized,” might have surprise smells, noises like the pop of a balloon, or require you to socialize which is hard. This new book clearly looks at anticipating a birthday party from the perspective of a child with Asperger’s and is a wonderful tool to use as a social story for friends like him as well as his typical peers to see things from Armond’s view. How can he go to the party? It’s not in his normal Saturday routine? What if something stinks? What if I have to think of something to say to the kids? What if a balloon pops? What if no one wants to talk about dinosaurs, my favorite topic? The party was all that and more, so Armond asked Felicia’s mom for a break. She knew just what he needed, a quiet room with favorite toys and books. When he rejoined the party, he gave Felicia her gift and helped organize her gifts. He admitted to Mom that the party was hard but he was proud of himself for going.

Reading the story, I’m proud of Armond too. AND thankful that he told his story to the author so other parents and kids who like “Armonds” and want to invite them for playdates or parties can have a little homework assignment of reading a book like this to to learn how to be a better friend.

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, Autism | Leave a comment

“Never Ever” and “Splat” New Picture Books for Early Readers Over Summer

imgresWith two of my grandchildren discovering the joy of reading in this kindergarten year, I am especially tuned in to fun, new picture books with simple repetitive lines that can reinforce reading over the summer break . Here are a few of my favorites that I grabbed from the “New Books” section of our public library, one of my frequent hangouts.

“Never Ever” by Jo Empson: A cute, pigtailed little girl and her beloved stuffed bunny takes us through this story of the imagination as she begins with the declaration, “Nothing exciting ever happens to me! Never, ever! Humph…” Passing through the apple orchard, grasslands, wheat fields, and river she is oblivious to a flying pig following her, gorilla beneath her feet, lion among the grass, and turtles as her stepping stones. The repetitive phrases “never, ever, ever, ever” provide a wonderful opportunity for kids to repeat and “read” this story with an adult. Roar! Yuck and MMMmmmm…yum add some punch to each encounter with an animal.

imgres-4“Splat! Starring the Vole Brothers” by Roslyn Schwartz: These loveable rodents  set out for their stroll when a pigeon flies overhead and “SPLAT,” drops a white mess on one of the mole’s head. “Tee hee, ha ha, ho ho” ensues as the other brother finds this hilarious. The pigeon’s droppings continue to be slug to others with a “Who-hoo” and a high-five until the two have a mishap with a banana peel but realize it is the best protection from future droppings!

It’s not easy to write a fun, silly, and engaging book with few words but both of these books are on the mark for making summer reading a favorite activity.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Books | Leave a comment

How to Keep Kids Writing During the Summer Break

journal invented spelling 1

“Salty, sugary, good rice with soy sauce!”

Parents are conflicted right now. They are excited for the end of the year and all the deadlines, homework to be completed, projects to oversee and conferences to end. But, if you’re honest, you also worry a little that you should be encouraging reading and writing over the summer so your child doesn’t regress in these important skills.

When my boys were younger I had them keep journals (which lasted only a short time) of activities and outings over the summer. I often get great ideas at homes where I do speech therapy and just last week two kids shared their “journals” with me that I wanted to share.

A first grader wanted to “read” his whole journal to me. It is always so fascinating to see the invented spelling and see a child decipher it so easily when I am still struggling to see what he wrote. This little friend was using “My Journal” by Really Good Stuff which had the top half of the page for an illustration and the bottom half with lines to describe his picture. Really Good Stuff’s website has journals appropriate for kids by grade level, giving them the space for their drawing and the number of lines to write that are typical for their grade.

Pomgtree journalI’ve shared a PAL Award winner that I think is fantastic for girls 6 years old and up, “My Super Life Journal…By Me” by Pom Tree. Opportunities to write are intermingled with photographs, places to draw and sticker and felt pieces to adorn your book. Parents report that little girls get lost in it for hours as they make their DIY book about how fantastic their life is!

Fun opportunities for language growth through writing can be as simple as setting up a pretend store with a pad of paper where kids have to write down their order to receive it, or add a pad of paper to the pretend doctor’s office where the doctor writes down the diagnosis. I’ve see the latter suggestion at work in free play in a preschool and it was so funny to read the doctor’s orders–and YES the handwriting was hard to read, just like in real life!

No matter what, make it fun and learning happens.


Posted in Strategies to Encourange Language Development, writing | Leave a comment