I hope everyone had a wonder Easter and Passover this past weekend! We were excited to have one of our sons and his wife and twin 2 year-olds and 4 month-old to help us celebrate. As I was up early to dye Easter eggs all alone, shrink wrap (with the use of my hair dryer) some eggs and bake a bunny cake, I thought “Only for my grandkids!!” AND that was besides making the meal.
It was all worth it to go on a hunt through the front yard. My favorite hiding spot was under a small branch of leaves every few feet. The hiders were quite clever this year. The bunny cake took on a new look with the two spatulas and jar of icing we left in the kids’ hands. He actually looked furry with the upturn of frosting all over him. Then we chose our pig, cow, or chick sprinkles to finish him off. By the way, the eggs with fish and cheese crackers were much more popular than the real hard-boiled eggs. It was fun to see them “shake” them all.
Over the years I have gathered several plush book characters to introduce when reading some of my favorite picture books with kids. They naturally extend the language lesson as kids become endeared with The Pout Pout Fish, Max and Ruby, Fancy Nancy or Maisy. The simplest step past the book is to re-tell and enact the story using the plush character. Kids can take on the role of their character and “talk” for her, practicing dialogue and conversation within the plot that has now become familiar.
I love when kids take off in a new story direction with their plush as the leading character. After setting out a Lego Duplo grocery store set, I watched my two little friends take on their Max and Ruby characters and suddenly one said, “Phone call,” to which Ruby put her Play-Doh phone up to her ear, and Max used a rounded brick for his. What creativity! We were working on talking for our character so they had a chance to practice their conversation. Max arrived at the grocery store manned by Ruby and made some selections before being jammed into the Lego car to drive home. Eventually he just rode on top which was much easier to manage!
Finally, Max headed home to get a good night’s sleep. The flat green Lego piece had been a
“bumpy road” but now became his bed softened by his Play-Doh pillow and blanket. These beloved characters have literally cracked the language of a little boy I have been working with who is on the autism spectrum. He loved the books, especially “Max Cleans Up” and “Max’s Chocolate Chicken” as well as the short videos which have just enough plot, lots of silliness, and the right mix of Max getting in trouble to make them appealing. He has taken off in his story re-telling and generation of new plots with the books’ characters–just what we want him to do as he builds his language skills and enjoys typical play with his peers.
Speaking of snow, I had a great time yesterday working with a 4 year-old child on the autism spectrum on generating novel descriptions and dialogue in pretend play. We had our Fisher Price little people out with a slide, some beds, a table and chairs and car. We started out going to the “playground” and he asked for a coat and gloves for his hands. I got out the Playdoh and he wrapped it around their shoulders and pinched a little bit on each hand. We added some hats and were ready to go outside and stay warm.
I simply added some props (a table and chairs) and suggested they come inside for a snack. He repeated some of my dialogue but entered in with “Let’s go inside,” as he took off their coats, hats and mittens. Now the green Playdoh was available for rolling hot dogs and making hamburgers. I set down some plastic cups and he offered his figure a drink of lemonade. After we finished our snack the bus arrived to take the kids home. We shortened our day as I set out 2 beds and the boy and girl got ready for bed, pulling up a blanket of… you guessed it, Playdoh.
Once again, I started my therapy session and it took off in a new direction. I had been to the grocery story before work and passed a grocery cart full of St. Patrick’s Day cling ons for free. I grabbed a few, hoping my afternoon clients had some Irish in them. Lucky me, the first house was spot on. My little friend had such fun decorating the window as we named the objects, big and little, placed them high and low, and identified their colors. Then we closed the shutters to surprise older brother when he got home! Mom was a good sport as we put our fingerprints all over the window, decorating to our delight.
I was very excited to learn that one of my former students has qualified for participation in a study at Haskins Laboratories at Yale, offering free ultrasound visual feedback lessons for children ages 10-14, with speech articulation problems with the /r/ sound. I assume these will be kids with persistent difficulty in producing /r/ and carrying it over. They will receive up to 16 speech therapy sessions using ultrasound to provide a video image of the tongue as the child talks. The child places the ultrasound beneath the chin. This generates a “real-time movie” of the tongue which can be used to help the child understand what is happening in the mouth when producing speech sounds. These images are used to cue the child to move the tongue to different positions and to make different tongue shapes to achieve a correct /r/.
I’ll keep you posted. I’m hoping to be able to watch a session. I think it has great promise for older kids that are “tired” of traditional therapy and need addition feedback. We’ll see.
I have stacks of great games, as you can imagine, but as kids get older, I need some for 8 and up to challenge my students and keep them interested. I have an 8 year-old who is working on carrying over his /s/ sound so we are at the stage of playing a distracting game to see if he can still maintain his correct productions. I pulled out Peaceable Kingdom’s Noodle Speedoodle, where you choose a wiggly noodle, rectangles, triangles, swirls, zigzags, and curly cues and figure out how to use the noodle in your drawing of a banana, dinosaur, Eiffel Tower or airport.
There is actually a lot of talking on both turns for the drawer and guesser because I needed so many clues to guess the drawing done by my friend. Okay, take a look at the picture. He was sure this was easy as he put down his noodle rectangle and started to put black flecks on it. Then he said, “This will help” as he drew a beach umbrella on the right. Finally he drew a hump with layers under it and gave me the clue, “Ham.” Have you guessed it yet? It was a french fry with salt sprinkled on it, available at the snack shop at the beach with hamburgers!
Thankfully, the ice cream cone on the right was easier to guess.
As I look back at my week, I had several “firsts” as I went from home to home doing speech therapy. Yesterday, a 6 year-old I saw for the first time had a cell phone and received a text during our session. (Note to self, make sure the phone is on mute during our next session). I thought it was only my 30 something kids that liked to interrupt me with their important texts and calls!
Then I walked into my second home of 3 boys (gosh I feel at home with the sound of a basketball being bounced INSIDE) and I saw my first basketball hoop attached to the oven door. Anything to keep the kids active inside during the long winter. Mom said it was part of a monthly subscription to Kiwi Crate, that sends a project for 4-8 year-olds, once a month that has been fun for her family.
And last, I headed to one of my clients’ homes on our first 60 degree day and decided to spend the first half of our articulation lesson shooting baskets and throwing football passes following his practice sentences. Oddly enough, his percentage of correct productions was higher than when we sat at his dining room table. He clearly needed to move.
This winter just never seems to end (we’re home AGAIN with schools closed and this beautiful fluffy stuff coming down all day), so the opportunity is ripe for a story about snow! I love Splat the Cat books because they have a simple but relevant story line and lots of humor–poor Splat.
“Splat the Cat and the Snowy Day Surprise” had Splat and Seymour getting ready for a snowy adventure, making a snow cat. After getting on all their snow gear ( good vocabulary lesson for the season), they decide to sled down the hill to a spot for making their snow cat. Spike has another agenda as he pounded the two opponents with snow balls. As Spike tried to hurl one back at him, it missed and started to gain size as it rolled down the hill. All is well at the end as they have a ready-made snow cat. This book is great for:
- answering wh-questions, who, what, where?
- answering yes-no questions
- naming snow clothes
- describing simple actions: pulling, throwing, getting dressed
- story re-tell
At the end, we made our own snow cat out of playdoh, pipe cleaners and wiggle eyes.
I got a “Wow,” and “Can I keep that?” just by taking the YOXObot Orig out of my therapy bag. My friend is working on his articulation goals and we set up the session that he had to say a few productions and then take a turn building (much the way I use games). YOXO has a limited number of pieces–Y, O and X with tubes to connect pieces also. Our robot was finished off with a chest plate, face and stickers for his many eyes, according to my creator.
Bringing block sets, simple construction sets or magnetic pieces to therapy can liven things up as kids get motivated to keep practicing their sounds or language structures and takes some of the repetition out of the activity as the construction project takes shape. In this case we ended our hour with an 18″ robot for pretend play!
I’ve already tried out some new products that I got at the Toy Fair last week. Nothing like spicing up therapy sessions with some new games in my bag! The kids loved both new games I got from Educational Insights:
Koala Capers Game is like last year’s Raccoon Rumpus with each player “dressing” his koala whose 3D head anchors the cut-out outfit cards. Roll the dice to find what card to collect, shirt or pants, zig zags, checks or flowers. Of course the funniest part of the game is when your die lands on the underwear and you have to dump all your outfits so your koala is down to–you guessed it–his underwear. That always gets kids giggling and engaged. Dressing your koala involves pattern recognition and memory but once the outfit is on, we can talk about where your koala has traveled, describing the background which can include snakes, pyramids, kangaroos, a magnifying glass and shovel or an iceberg and penguin. My kids looked at the surfer and said an island, saw the penguin and said North Pole while the bat and lantern elicited “cave.”
I used this game for goals on:
- Fluency. Use a cloze phrase like, “My koala is wearing_______” or for a harder task of answering a question, “Where is your koala?” He’s on an island, in the desert or in Egypt.
- Articulation. Again you can use the cards on many levels, whether repeating a model phrase like, “a shirt with flowers,” or sentences, “I need a shirt with flowers.” Pick a carrier phrase according to the child’s target sound and they love to add the rest.
- Word-finding. Talking about vocabulary within a category of location.
Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game gets kids filling orders from Frankie’s truck full of foodtastic shapes–circle, square, triangle, rectangle, heart, oval, heart, star and moon. Spin to see what shaped food you can select to fill your five-course meal. If the spinner lands on the fly in your soup, return a dish to the box, while the hand grabbing a dish allows you to steal a card from another player. Kids love to chat while they are deciding what goodie to take for their shape. Usually, they asked me what I liked and then they grabbed it! I had a hard time holding on to my pink frosted donut. Here are some ways I’ve used the game to meet goals:
- Fluency. Again using a cloze phrase like, “I got a ________(shape)” or “I want_____” If you are at the level of generating a phrase or sentence they might tell about their choice, “I love watermelon” or “I don’t eat chocolate.” (true response–are they crazy??)
- Articulation. Repeating a carrier phrase with their sound like, “I can see______” or “I pick_____”
- Nasality. I used this game in the same leveled way for a child working on oral emission instead of nasal emission where appropriate.
The above is solely the opinion of the author. The games were provided by Educational Insights.