Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!

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Easy Gingerbread Houses for Speech Therapy Activities

kid gingerbread houseOkay, that might be a misnomer–gingerbread house, since the first one I want to tell you about is made from cardboard!

I was raised making gingerbread houses from scratch until I realized you could buy them already made and still have the fun part–decorating them. I’ve read the story of the gingerbread man, acted it out, made a little man out of play-doh and ran him through the town. We made little houses by frosting small milk cartons and placing graham crackers on for siding. But I have to admit, I was fascinated by the “gingerbread” house (minus the gingerbread) that I encountered at a child’s house last week. It was too easy to resist telling you about.

Mom got the idea from Easy cut outs from cardboard save the hassle of baking the forms and waiting for the next steps. This mom cleverly added her child’s picture peeking out of the front door! Luckily her frosting stayed a bit soft so her son can sample the goodies whenever he wants!

gingerbread house kitJust in case you want to do a lot more work and bring out a little Martha Stewart in you, I will share my traditional way of making one from scratch. I use a Gingerbread House Bake Kit that includes large cookie cutters for the walls and roof. Four batches of icing later, it is together and the fun begins. I only decorated half of it in anticipation of 3 year-old Will helping me put the candy on.

So have some fun and reinforce the story with some gingerbread gingerbread house bake kitpeople and a house for them to go home to!

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

Christian Books for Preschoolers as Christmas Gifts

God is With me through the dayAs a speech pathologist, I am always interested in what others in my profession are producing besides doing therapy. I came across these delightful books called, God is with me Through the Day, and God is with me Through the Night that are authored by speech pathologist, Julie Cantrell. Perfect for toddlers and up, God Is With Me Through the Day, takes a child through the apprehensions of their day and night, as they leave the safety of family laughter and mom’s kisses and run out into the world, alone.

Pairing a simple sentence, “I start to feel alone,” with a matching picture of an animal seemingly feeling the same emotion–a lonely raccoon peeking out from behind a bush–each page builds on reassuring spiritual concepts of “God is always with me,” and “Just like when God kept Jonah safe inside the whale.” Cheers of “God loves me,”  “I am safe!” and “In God’s hands I am strong!” give little ones something to say in the face of fear, relying on God.

Just enough language for a toddler or preschooler to master, each short statement comforts a child, leading up to the final Bible verse, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

God is with Me Through the Night is a perfect sequel, taking your child from the comfort of evening family fun, goodnight kisses and snuggles, to feelings of loneliness and fear. Encouraging your child to declare God’s comfort and assurance, the animals encourage, “I say out loud, ‘I am loved!’ or “I roar like a tiger, ‘I am safe!'”

These books are adored by children and would make a great Christmas present.

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

Encouraging Parents of Children with Speech Delay

One of my favorite things about writing a blog, is the people I meet through my posts. Last week I blogged about some artists I met through our local Art Trail, a tour of artist’s studios. One of the artists I met, learned that I was a speech pathologist, and wrote me the following:

Hi Sherry,

What a wonderful website!  Interestingly, my middle child (who is now 15) was speech delayed.  His motor skills and spacial awareness was very developed though at an early age.  I was able to take advantage of Birth to Three’s services, which were very helpful.  I am sure that the info on your site proves to be a great resource with parents faced with these issues.  (fast forward 13 years:  My son Ryan is a straight A student…..and is in the high school math club with a boy who shared  speech pathologist sessions with him…..This boy was the national scrabble champion when he was a middle schooler!)

Sometimes it’s good to hear about what happens on the other side of therapy. Does anyone else have some encouraging words to share with parents who are just starting the process of speech and language therapy with their child?

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Progress in Play with Autistic Kids

play sharksI try to share my challenges and successes in therapy so others can learn from them. As we know, as parents and therapists we have good days and bad days. A good day for me is when a child I am working with shows wonderful progress on his or her goals.

Yesterday I was working with a 4 year-old boy on the Autism spectrum. He is suddenly blossoming in his creative play. Just last summer he was starting to use a little representational person and talk for it following much modeling. During our session yesterday he took his shark (he loves sharks) and took it though nine scenarios, using props to illustrate his story. Our sharks got up and had breakfast (oatmeal and chocolate milk), went to the museum, the beach where we skipped stones in the water (threw Play-doh balls on the floor and counted our skips), piled into a bus and went to Taekwondo (that was a first for me—taking a busload of sharks to exercise!), took a bath, watched a big TV and went to bed in their sleeping bags and Play-doh blankets. Play-doh and simple wooden blocks were our props. As this little boy advances in his play skills, I pick up a block and say, “What is this?” and he incorporates it into play.

play sharks travelI am collaborating with his other therapists and with what goes on at his preschool. When the kids at school are using the block center for pirates, then we reinforce that play theme during therapy, expanding and giving him more ideas to relate at class.

What play ideas have you found helpful when working with higher level kids on the autism spectrum? Share in the comments below.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Autism, Language, play, Preschool, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Teach Diversity, Lesson Plans for Running the Road to ABC

If you are teaching a lesson on diversity or just want to expose your child to different cultures and traditions, Running the Road to ABC is a delightful story with many opportunities to teach language concepts, vocabulary and inference. I just used it with a third grade student with language processing difficulties.

  • Have your student compare their school experience with that of the children in the book (how they get to school, importance, their lunch, backpacks, clothes, food,  physical structure). Even the children’s names are different.
  • What does it mean that the roosters are still dreaming when moms wake their children up for school?
  • Look at the foods they eat for breakfast–are any familiar to you? Look up the others and see what they are.
  • What does it mean, “their feet remember the way in the dark” to school?
  • Why are the kids running to school?
  • What does it mean, “Their legs take cold showers of morning dew on the weeds along the narrow  trails?”
  • What happens to the bugs sleeping on the road?
  • Why do local folks step aside when the kids approach?
  • What do the children see and hear on their road to school? What do you see and hear on the way to school in the morning?
  • How is their running over the sweet-potato mounds “like fish dancing with sea waves?”
  • What do you dash across, leap over and climb?
  • Why do the children check to see if “the sun is still asleep?” What does this tell them? Why are they happy about that?
  • Why do they hurry if the sky becomes “the color of honey?”
  • Why are sunlight and shade their only clocks?
  • What makes you up in the morning and gets you to school on time?
  • What evidence is there that the town is waking up too? What do they see?
  • Why are the horse tamers the only ones to keep up with them?
  • Why don’t the kids complain about the long run to school over rocky, rough terrain?
  • Why don’t they stop when they get injured?
  • What do they do if they are injured?
  • What does it mean to run on the shadow of another child? Draw a picture to illustrate this.
  • What do the children think about as they run?
  • What motivated the children to come to school?
  • Where did the author get the ideas for his story? Where did he grow up and go to school?
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Westport’s Holiday Art Trail

Karen Ford, artistOne of my favorite events of the season in Westport’s Holiday Art Trail, where local artists open their studios and invite visitors in to view their work and hear their stories. This is the third year of the Art Trail where finding the studios is like an adventure hunt. Some are tucked away next to streams, situated in an old  barn behind a house, or down a windy road in the woods. Each of the artists are a delight to visit with as you experience their creativity.

I wish I had seen more children on the Art Trail, being exposed to art and the creative process. I’ve written before about how language is linked to art as kids create and talk through their masterpieces. Sometimes a child’s favorite part about writing a story is illustrating it. They come up with new ideas as they express themselves visually.

I was pleasantly surprised to see artist Karen Ford at the first studio stop. I had been impressed with Karen’s ceramics since I was introduced to her at this summer’s SoNo Arts Celebration in South Norwalk, Connecticut. She describes her work as “functional porcelain with melted glass inlay thrown in a Japanese, contemporary style.” Translated, that is a beautiful combination of peaceful, aesthetic pieces to use or just enjoy looking at.

Elise Black, artistThe next stop was Elise Black’s studio. This gracious multi-media artist encouraged us to wander through her home, taking in her impressive collection of works. From the custom glass backsplash in her kitchen to this vibrant collection of found objects, (one canvas included a bicycle wheel), you are visually entertained. After reading Elise’s bio, with a background in fashion illustration and textile design, it made sense that her studio had bags of fabric scraps and canvases using suede and other fabrics.

Keep your eye out for special programs during the holiday season to expose your kids to the arts. Don’t limit yourself to seemingly adult programs, just like you wouldn’t skip The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ask your child to choose a favorite piece of art and ask them why? You might just learn something.

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Listen to Your Child’s Language Through Art

toddler paintingI love art and have hopefully instilled that love in my three boys, one of whom is in an art related field. I’ve written before encouraging parents to listen for the language in art with their children.

Recently, I sat out in the garage next to the easel and paints as a three-year-old  painted one picture after another. He narrated them for me which was so interesting. The story changed as colors mixed and lines ran into each other. Listening to this picture’s production, I was told that the orange was a giraffe, the green was a T-Rex and the blue was a big wave coming. Here are some ways to get language from art:

Set out the art supplies and watch your child create. Encourage her to tell you about what she is making or has finished

  • Display the “picture” so there can be a continued dialogue about what she made
  • have her illustrate a story after dictating it to you or writing it herself, encourage detail
  • sit with her while she is painting or drawing and have her “tell the story” as she creates
  • just sit and listen and you will be treated to her creativity
Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Language, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Teachers Getting Paid for Lesson Plans Online

The New York TImes ran an interesting article on the front page called, “Selling Lesson Plans Online, Teachers Raise Cash and Questions.” They discussed the new market for teachers to sell their lesson plans online and the philisophical question of whether this is ethical or whether the school districts should get a share of the profits if their resources were used.

Frankly, in most cases, where teachers have worked long hours outside of school to prepare great plans for a unit or lesson, I think they should be able to share those with other professionals and make a profit. In this era of documenting children’s progress and more meetings eating up a teacher’s time, we are all looking for ideas that would be beneficial to the students without reinventing the wheel. Isn’t it their “intellectual property” if they have developed these materials on their own time?

The article mentioned two websites that sell teachers’ lesson plans:Teachers Pay Teachers andWe Are Teachers, If you are a teacher or therapist, you might want to check these out for help in planning your next unit. I didn’t see much from speech therapists so maybe we need our own site!

Let me know what you think about teachers selling their lesson plans online in the comments below.

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The Importance of Play in Preschool

pretend play horsesI’ve always  been a proponent of play in preschool settings. Based on research, we know that play develops communication skills and social and emotional development.

A recent article in the Washington Post “The Playtime’s the Thing,” supports the importance of play with preschoolers. The author describes a delightful scenario of 5 year-olds playing pretend hair salon using a plastic fork as a hairbrush, taking appointments by phone and curling a client’s hair with an egg beater! In this pretend play, there is more being learned than just taking on creative play roles.

The article goes on to say that “Research has shown that by 23, people who attended play-based preschools were eight times less likely to need treatment for emotional disturbances than those who went to preschools where direct instruction prevailed. Graduates of the play-based preschools were three times less likely to be arrested for committing a felony.”

Play is developing language and social skills as well. More recent research showed that certain kieds of fantasy play helps children learn to control their impulses, which is more closely correlated with academic success in kindergarten than intelligence is.

So why are we decreasing play time in an effort to push academic preparation? Children can learn academic skills through play and it is much more meaningful.

Keep this in mind when chosing a preschool for your child, and looking for a balance in how their day is spent.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment