Read a Book, Leave a Book at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Book exchange-ElkhartWhen we were vacationing at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin this summer, we came upon this clever “Wendy’s Free Library” at the train depot in the center of town. It was the smallest library I have ever come upon but how effective to put a favorite paperback in the door and take one out to read.

I may be old fashioned but I still like to hold a book in my hands and be able to go back to pages easily for reference. I know I’m not alone on this as several friends have shared the same opinion.

Anyway, thanks to Wendy for a great idea that gives back to the community!

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Drawing Your Articulation Lesson

Crayola doodle mat-ArticulationI like to draw and kids like to draw too, so we are a perfect match! Actually, I find that a fun drawing activity is perfect for articulation therapy as kids can draw objects with their sound in them.

One of my favorite new therapy tools (because kids love it) is Crayola’s Doodle Magic Color Mat which comes with 4 colored markers and a special wet erase wand. Today we  were working on /r/ in all positions of the word in sentences. My little friend asked to draw on the mat and started to make a house. I had her describe what she was drawing as she got into great detail with the garage. Soon she was thinking of all the things in the garage that had /r/: grass seed, deer spray, watering can, ladder, cars, recycling bin, and gardening gloves as she illustrated her items. Thank goodness she was there to identify her illustrations but she was very proud of her drawing while getting in great practice on her sound.

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

Best Games to Enhance Word-Finding Speech Therapy Sessions

Word-finding Last Word gameWe all know that the more fun a speech therapy session is, the more engaged our little clients are. Some times we have to just plain work hard but the trick is to have the kids forget that they are working because they are having so much fun.

You know I love to use great board games for language and articulation therapy. This week one of my students (second grader) finally figured out that I required him to say 3 words with his sound for his turn as well as MY turn. Usually I don’t get questioned on this procedure but he called me on it, “How come I have to say words on YOUR turn??” If you want the truth…you get to say twice as many words and learn your sound faster.

Well, as I’ve said, I will be blogging more about word-finding this fall, as I think there is less information that is practical and fun out there than for some other speech and language diagnoses.

Yesterday I introduced FAVOR-C, the acronym for “Do yourself a FAVOR and SEE these strategies in your mind.” We worked on the first strategy of Filling in the blank as we brainstormed words that were appropriate in short phrases about what we “wash,” “climb,” “drink” or “I stand in_____” using the app, “Word Retrieval” by Virtual Speech Center, Inc.

On to the board games. My little client loved “Last Word” by Buffalo Games. Designed for 8 years and up, this game is easily adaptable for younger kids, just select easier category cards. Choose a Subject Card (ranging from musical instruments, things in the garden, things that scare people, to things that are loud or snack foods.) A timer is provided but that puts added pressure on some kids, especially those with word-retrieval problems. Ironically, my little friend enjoyed the timer. Snap down a Subject Card and all players start calling out things in that category. The person who names something last before the buzzer, advances his marker on the game board. It’s a wonderful way to expand vocabulary within a category and build word association.

What games have you found fun while working on word-finding?

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Word Finding | 2 Comments

The Pout-Pout Fish and a Sunflower Can Ease Back to School Challenges

imgres-11So many picture books are aimed at first school experiences like “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten,” “Kindergarten Rocks,” or “Countdown to Kindergarten.” But two recent PAL Award winners offer some depth to the story of starting school or maybe just meeting the challenges of the next grade:

“The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School” by Deborah Diesen with pictures by Dan Hanna has Mr. Fish swimming off to his first day with a backpack looped around his front fins as he searches for his classroom. After three false starts, he is plenty frustrated with his flub-flub frowns making “blub-blub bubbles” as he tries to keep up with classmates writing their name, drawing shapes, and figuring math problems. After each attempt he repeats his mantra, “I’m not smart…I’ll never get it…I don’t belong…Forget it!” Attempting tasks over his head can be tough on a little guy until the soft voice of Miss Hewitt led him to her classroom for “Brand-New Fish.” Kids and parents can relate to the anxiety provoked by lessons over your head. Getting in the right reading group or even receiving some special help can help build self-esteem and make school fun. A more positive message resounds in his new classroom for Brand New Kids, “We are smart…We can get it…We belong…We won’t forget it!”

Ironically, I received this book for review when I was in the middle of working with a 5 year-old who was struggling with reading. In the process, he moved out of kindergarten back to a private setting where he was diagnosed with dyslexia and began to thrive with the additional specialized help that he needed. I watched his attitude change from “I don’t get it” to “I am smart” as he slowly began to identify letters in his favorite Pout-Pout Fish book.

imgres-12“Rooting For You” by Susan Hood, illustrated by Matthew Cordell sends a special message to break out, grow up, sprout, go toward the light and bloom. This delightful flap book is multi-layered with meaning as a little sunflower seed declares he’s not coming out of his dark, soil of comfort.  With the help of his cast of new friends–worms, ants, beetles and spiders–this seed is making progress toward the light. So with some encouragement and self-talk, “I can do it,” he kept “whirling…unfurling…going…and growing” into a beautiful flower. This book is full of prompts to start the dialogue about how it feels to start something new or difficult, who encourages us and maybe even what WE can do to help someone who is challenged. This insightful book can be used to  encourage a child who has bumped up against his first “rock” on the ascent to new learning.


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

Reading “The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School” to Grandkids on Facetime

Pout-Pout Fish FacetimeI’ve shared how much fun it is to read to our grandkids on Facetime and we had yet a new experience the other night!

The 3 boys ages 3, 6 and 8 lie on the bottom bunk and put the iPad in the slats under the upper mattress so we can chat. After some typical brother wrestling, they settled in and asked us to read a book. They requested the “new” Pout-Pout Fish book, “The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School.” Mr. Fish is sent off to his first day of school with a smooch from his parents as he swam into S.S Rock Bottom Elementary School trying out various classrooms in search of just the right fit. He landed in classrooms doing a writing lesson,  drawing shapes and completing math problems, feeling quite out of place as he struggled to write, draw and divide. He recited his four-part troubles: “I’m not smart…I’ll never get it…I don’t belong…so forget it!” Just when he decided that school was say too tough, he was rescued by “a soft, kind voice who said, ‘Don’t you fret! You don’t have to know things you haven’t learned yet!'” Miss Hewitt escorted him to just the right classroom for Brand-New Fish where he joined the octopus, jelly fish, and swordfish with toys, blocks and crayons just his size. His new mantra, “We are smart…We can get it…We belong…we don’t forget it!”

After we finished, Ben said, “Hey his friends are all younger animals from the first book!” He disappeared and brought back the “Pout-Pout Fish ” book that introduced us to our beloved Mr. Fish. Then 3 year-old Sam appeared with the “Pout-Pout Fish in the Big Big Dark” and asked us to read it next. He held up the book, flipping the pages slowly! Unfortunately, we couldn’t read the pages very well, so older brother, Will stepped right in and read the whole book.

I guess you could say we are Pout Pout Fish fans!

“The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School” was provided for review from author, Debra Diesen. 

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

Word-Finding Strategies For Kids in Speech Therapy

joke-coffeeI find that one of the areas lacking in practical therapy ideas for SLP’s is word-finding. I usually have at least one child on my caseload with word-finding difficulties so I am always looking for new and effective ideas.

I blogged about spending some time this summer with Jan Schwanke who has presented at ASHA on word-finding and is full of great, practical therapy ideas to help kids with word-retrieval. She spends a lot of time teaching her kids strategies to retrieve words and has some clever ways to remember what they are:

“Do Yourself a Favor and See” these word-finding strategies in your mind, reminds kids of the acronym, FAVOR-C which stands for:

Fill in the blank: this cloze activity involves giving the child a phrase (then move to sentences) where he has to use the information in the previous words to come up with the word to fill the blank. “I sat down to read and opened my____” Use this strategy with curriculum vocabulary provided by the teacher.

Association: Name words that are associated with a give word. “Bath: tub, washcloth, soap, towel, clean, etc

Visualize: visualize the word by “seeing” it in your mind as it is written

Opposites: Name opposites of a given word: up/down, high/low, sad/happy

Reflective Pause: pause for a few seconds to take time to retrieve the word

Categories: Name words in a category: multiplication, ocean, writing a story etc.

I will be sharing apps and other sites that I am finding valuable for practical therapy ideas

Here’s one, Speech Therapy on Video,  that also covers phonemic and semantic cues, that seems to be geared toward adults but has activities for many of these strategies that can be used with children.


Posted in Word Finding | 2 Comments

Goodbye Summer, Back to School!

Duke sunsetIt has been a unique and fun summer as I took an extra few weeks off for the first time. The break was refreshing but I am excited to see my little kids and start working this week!

Highlights of our stay at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin were Duke’s 15th birthday celebrated with his friend, Murphy and Dairy Queen cups, many bike rides through the Kettle Moraine hills, special times with friends and family and a visit from our twin grandchildren.

One of the biggest challenges I had when working in the schools was scheduling and I can’t say it is any easier in private practice. I had everyone in a slot, confirmed it with parents and now someone wants to change times. I just have to remember that “flexible” word!

10612878_10152233695746786_3761129741593550508_nI enjoyed a visit from my fellow SLP friend, Jan Schwanke and her husband, Scott. Between eating out, going to the farmer’s market and biking we had a chance to talk shop. She is an expert in word-finding, having worked with and presented with Diane Germain so I could pick her brain about practical activities to help kids with word-finding. I will be blogging about those ideas over the next few weeks. And, by the way, Jan is going to be presenting at the Poster Sessions at the ASHA Convention in November so be sure to stop by if you are going to the convention.

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New Spot it! Games by Blue Orange Games Teach Numbers and Shapes

spotitdoc_sideWant to help your preschooler become quick with the vocabulary of preschool? Grab one of Blue Orange Games new Spot it! games that feature images of the characters in Doc McStuffins as well as Jake and the Neverland Pirates, alongside shapes and numbers. True to the Spot it! format, three game options involve flipping over your card and being the first to name the matching symbol on a second card. There is only one match and believe me at times you think they forgot to have a matched card! Kids have no problem earning cards while I am still looking for a match. The themed vocabulary added to the fun as kids called out clinic, bandage, scissors or syringe, while learning circle, rectangle or 8 and 9 or harmonica, telescope or guitar related to pirate adventures. Learning vocabulary within a category like going to the doctor, builds language. Tips for advanced play after a match is made, take the learning deeper as kids are asked to count forward or backward from a number, say the shape’s number of sides or find an object that contains the shape.

Available at Blue Orange Games: Click here

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Cooking With Kids With Special Needs

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 10.56.02 AMWhen I visited extended family in Wisconsin this summer, my cousin showed me a video of her 4 year-old, assisting in a cooking lesson with his neighbor, Sarah, who has Downs Syndrome. Charlie is such a cute addition to the video lesson on making Garlic Cheese Bread on “Sarah’s Great Day.” Sarah’s mom prompts the conversation between Sarah and her neighbor buddy, Charlie, as they make the bread.

Have a great day watching this video!

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Making Easy Readers to Communicate with Grandchildren

Roeck's BakeryAfter visits from two of my clans of grandchildren, and listening to them “practice” their new reading skills over the summer, I decided to email them short one page Easy Readers about what I was doing many miles away. I made sure I had lots of pictures and made the type font large and kept the note short.

The first one was about the birthday party I threw for Duke, our golden retriever who turned 15. I shared pictures of our boat ride with his friend, Murphy, and the Dairy Queen cups that the dogs shared. The next one was about my favorite bakery and Thursday’s “cruller” day, a little frog that

Frog at Elkhart

was attached to the house when we returned at night and the big thunderstorms we get in Wisconsin in the summer.

Parents are trying to find fun ways to get their kids to practice reading over the summer so why not include a note from “Sheshe” or “Pop pop?”

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