Sherry, thank you so much for working with my girls for so long. Your kindness, thoughtfulness, insight and professionalism made our experience so meaningful. My husband and I appreciate all you have done for them. Let’s keep in touch. Thanks again.Mother of 3 and 5 year-old girlsGreenwich, CT
Thank you Sherry! You are a BIG help and Max adores you.Maria, mother of a 5 year-old boyFairfield, CT
Sherry, thanks for giving us back our son. We are so grateful for everything you did for Ben and our family. Not seeing you every week makes me feel that something is missing… but we look forward to a summertime walk! We miss you,Nicole, mother of 2 year-old boy who was dismissed from therapyWestport, CT
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:
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 Gamegets 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.
Every year I feel like a kid in the candy store as I span the New York International Toy Fair’s nearly half million square feet encountering a talking dinosaur, life-size lego R2D2, Worry Eater, flying helicopters and minion mobs. I’m pumped up seeing all the innovation, creativity, and energy as I search for new products with fantastically fun learning potential. Now that I can take a breath, put my feet up and digest all the new products from over 100 companies we saw, here are the trends I see:
1. Dinosaursare hot in anticipation of the June release of the movie sequel, Jurassic World. But honestly, just take a walk through preschool and kindergarden classes and you’ll know that kids are fascinated with these prehistoric animals with or without a new movie coming out. Peaceable Kingdom’s new game, Dinosaur Escape, is one of their creative cooperative games that preschoolers love, as you race the board to get your dinosaur safely home before the volcano is constructed and erupts. HABA’s Sand Glove Dinosaurallows kids to slip on a life size digger for pretend play, while Galt Toys added a sibling to their highly popular playnest family with Playnest Dino, whose large smiling head invites conversation with little ones. Wonder Forge commands preschool games with another Eye Found It! game, where players have to spot objects in any of the 4 time periods from prehistoric (dinosaurs) to the present, learning a little history along the way.
2. Creative Design/ Customization became an extension of last year’s STEM and STEAM trends. I am seeing more depth in the science, engineering kits to allow for more open ended learning and play (reinforcing language) with what kids construct. Thinkfun’s Maker Studio puts the pieces of learning in the hands of kids as they take off making it their own. Learn the concepts of friction, torque and propulsion while making your own car out of a Wheat Thins box, becoming the centerpiece of later pretend play. Love that Tegu has added magnetic blocks with a hint of a face to bring up the language level of pretend play in their Stunt Team and Future series. Goldieblox continues to intersect engineering, language and creative play with their new Movie Machine, allowing kids to create their own movies. One of my favorite new companies, Build and Imagine has 3 sets in the aquatic theme with magnetic story walls to construct and many magnetic props to add to the wall as kids invent and re-invent the story.
3. Open Ended Play thankfully is a recognized toy trend this year by the Toy Industry Association. I wish it were on the list every year, because that’s how kids learn through play, with fewer directions and less prescribed instruction. One of my favorite new products this year is Haywire’s Worry Eater which has been wildly popular in Europe and I expect the same in the US. Kids simply write down their worries, unzip their fuzzy friend’s mouth, tuck their slip of paper in and whoosh, the worry is gone. It can bring on a chat about feelings, naming emotions and problem-solving while building language skills. Doll play is wonderful for open-ended imaginative play, especially with a few well-thought through props. Corolle’s new Mon Premier Bebe Bath Fresh Riviera has a new retro clothing design and is ready for the beach or tub play with the Bath Accessories Kit. Plan Toys’ modular Creative Playhouse uses so many interchangeable pieces to change up the function and story. Flip over a solar panel and you have a garden or tennis court. Janod’s Princess Palace cleverly uses the box to become the palace with wooden figures to attend the feast.
4. Real Talk With Dolls and Characters. Okay I am tip-toeing through this category because the “less is more” speech therapist in me has always wanted less talk by the toy and more by the child. I’ve seen how too many automated responses in a toy can actually inhibit talking in your kids as they are stopped mid-talk, get distracted and lose their focus and attention, But now I hear that Mattel has found that the number one request from girls is to have a Barbie that talks back and forth with them and these new conversational toys have come a long way from my favorite doll, Chatty Cathy, whose pull string activated several recorded responses. My own research causes me to take note–when I showed a girl a doll this week she said, “Does she talk?” I stand open to trying these new toys and will let you know what I think and see when reviewing them with kids. Mattel was showcasing both a talking Hello Barbie, connected to the cloud, with many branches of conversations based on a child’s response and preschool character, Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo,who has lots of recorded educational content but also records your message and turns it into a song–mine was “I love New York!” Talk to Cognitoy’s GreenDino (ages 4-7, available in November) and it feels a bit like conversing with Siri, although the voice thankfully has a more child-friendly feel. They’ve partnered with IBM tapping into Watson, the supercomputer.
5. Tweens’ Crafts are everywhere, sometimes taking over a booth that had much more variety last year. How many pieces of jewelry can a girl make? Apparently a lot! One of my favorites is Wooky Entertainments’ Charmazing kits where tech meets arts and crafts as girls customize their do-it-yourself charm bracelets that name their attributes. The free app gets the conversation going with other fashionistas and encourages trading charms.
6. Several big names in infant/baby lines are featuring a Toned Down Infant Palette when it comes to baby equipment and toys. I’ve seen the move to “grey” nurseries in the homes I’m in each week, and get that parents are the ones buying the products and desire something more serene to fit into their home decor. But, let’s not forget that babies and kids love and are attracted to bright contrasting colors. Who knows, maybe they sleep better without all the high impact jungle, forest and circus themes. I will say Hape’sKruse, the beautifully re-branded line from German doll maker Kathe Kruse has added their signature “K” organic fabric stuffed animals, nickibabies, and blanket babies in Tiffany-quality boxes with silver K charms to other colorful collections. I was delighted to see Yookidoo again as each of their baby and preschool toys have a special learning edge AND they still believe in bright colors. Their GymotionActivity Playland (I declared, “Finally something new in baby toys!”) sports a motion track buggy over the top that can come to ground level too to transport any of the soft characters and move those that baby wants to swat.
This year I had fun shooting about 21 short videos of the learning edge I saw in new products. Stay tuned as I will start posting those next week. Here’s a sneak peek: