Happy Thanksgiving!

turkeyHappy Thanksgiving to you all!

I am certainly thankful for all of you, my readers, that keep me blogging and inspire me to keep sharing.

This will be a special thanksgiving for our family as a new grandson was born 2 days ago and we are invited for our first sleep-over with him. Hope someone gets some sleep!

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Slip on a Puppet for a Great Christmas Gift for Kids

mn1_000369Kids are fascinated with puppets as they come alive when slipped on your fingers. Folkmanis makes some of my favorites as they often allow for movement in several places–the mouth, wings, shark’s tail or beaks. The ostrich puppet that we featured on NBC CT TV announcing our Top 10 PAL winners is such a favorite around our house, that my husband asked if we could just keep it on the couch in the family room! The puppet has a large  moveable mouth for talking and five digits at the end of his wings to slip your fingers in for some realistic action.

Over the years I have used puppets to get shy kids talking as they take on the persona of the puppet. Pretend play with puppets builds language skills as kids practice dialogue, story telling and gain confidence in front of an audience of any size (sometimes just the dog!).

I like the Facts of Interest that are attached to each puppet, which tell some unusual tidbits about the character that can serve as a story starter or influence the content created for the puppet show! The NBC CT interviewer had a good laugh when she learned that the ostrich has about 4 pounds of rocks in his gut to help digest food–who knew? Folkmanis also has a list available of story books and poetry about the different animals in their collection. If you  select the sea turtle puppet, why not check out “How Turtles’ Back Was Cracked” or “Turtle Spring.” Bringing in literature to enhance a toy, provides lots of learning opportunities as children can discuss what is the same and different between the lead animal characters or get ideas for their own story.

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

Do Our Kids Know What They Are Working On?

Sam writing at deskEvery now and then I have to remind myself of some basics in delivering speech therapy to kids. In articulation therapy, I hear the voice and sage advice of Pam Marshalla that carryover starts in the early sessions of therapy which includes making sure the child you’re working with knows their goals. Seems simple, doesn’t it? Try asking all the kids on your caseload today if they know what they are working on! It is surprising.

Yesterday I was working with a second grader on articulation. We had worked last year on /s/ so are doing some carryover but have been focusing on /l/ and /th/the past few weeks. He even gets speech therapy in the schools so you would think he was well aware of what sounds he is working on. I asked him and he struggled to get beyond the /s/. That will be my first question as we start our therapy sessions from now on.

How can a child be aware and practice his error sounds outside of the speech session if he isn’t thinking about what to correct?

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

Having Some Fun with Ripples, Pre-teaching Classroom Vocabulary in Word-finding Therapy

Ripples in sandIt is so important to have a good relationship with a client’s classroom teacher, especially if they have word-finding difficulties. The classroom curriculum vocabulary words are his world during the school day and we need to make sure the child is familiar with them and can easily call them up when needed.

I have worked with a range of classroom teachers, most of whom have been incredibly helpful. Recently a first grade teacher gave imagesme a wonderful hand written list of words in their language arts curriculum for me to pre-teach. I so appreciate this and know that it takes extra time on her part. As we were going through the words, defining them, talking about them in context, and making up sentences with them we came to “ripple.” This is where our lesson plan took off in a new direction! As I was trying to define “ripple” for him, I searched the word on my iPhone and hit “images.” We started looking at varied but beautiful images of ripples in water as different numbers of rocks were thrown in the water, with different lighting, stages of the process and different settings. After we defined the word, we described the photographs and then compared how the current picture was different from the last. All of these activities were strengthening his vocabulary, descriptive and comparative skills and confidence in using language. It was such fun to watch his mind work as he got excited about seeing the next image, “He had a leaf and dipped it in the water,” or “That one’s my favorite because it looks like another dimension in the water!” Phew, that was quite a sentence from a guy who used to have some difficulty describing things. “That looks like a sculpture, just painted blue.” You get the idea, he was enjoying being a little abstract all because we happened upon some beautiful photographs of “ripples!”

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Tips For Preschool Speech Evaluation for Hypernasality

Duke's noseI recently had a preschool child referred to me for articulation and possible hypernasality issues. Mom was actually spot on in our initial phone conversation, telling me what sounds were misarticulated and of those, which ones were compromised by nasal emission. I was preparing for the evaluation and came upon a very helpful outline for my testing, “Resonance Disorders and Nasal Emissions, Evaluation and Treatment Using ‘Low Tech’ and ‘No Tech’ Treatments,” in ASHA LEADER magazine. I printed out the content on evaluation and used it to record the child’s responses.

I quickly learned that his hypernasality was not due to velopharyngeal incompetence (VPI) or insufficiency (since he produced high pressure consonants and vowels with no nasality) but was rather “velopharyngeal mislearning when there is hypernasality or nasal emission due to faulty articulation. This can occur due to pharyngeal or nasal articulation of certain sounds. Abnormal articulation can cause phoneme-specific nasal emission, usually on sibilant sounds.” He matched that as he made his /s, f, th/ with nasal emission. I had brought straws and a mirror to detect any nasal emission but they weren’t needed as he repeated an /s/ in isolation, closed his lips tight and blew air out his nose.

The article for ASHA LEADER is also good for taking quotes to give to parents to explain their child’s resonance pattern and the why behind it.

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In My Heart, A Book of Feelings for Language Lessons

Thijpegs lovely book celebrates all shapes and sizes of feelings–full of giggles and wiggles like a magical hat, bright and shiny like a big yellow star or lazy and slow like a floating balloon. Each page opens to a smaller cut-out heart inside the clever illustration demonstrating silly, happy or calm. What a wonderful reference for kids and parents to use to explain feelings associated with the day’s experiences. “On harder days, mean words hurt my feelings,and my heart feels hurt too. It’s fragile and delicate…” When kids are upset, they have trouble expressing themselves at the language level they are capable of. A book like this will help bridge that gap and get an important conversation started. For kids with language delay, this book can help give them the visual tools to describe and talk about situations and their corresponding feelings of the heart. Yesterday I was with a terrific first grade teacher who uses great picture books like this to read to her class and then she pulls out a topic from the story–bullying, should you be a friend with someone that isn’t liked by another friend? and pairs off the kids to “debate” the subject. I love that concept. You can do the same with a lively discussion with your child at home.


Available at Amazon: Click here

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Kids Love a Counter in Articulation Speech Therapy

lego booksI have enjoyed  using the free counting app, TxTools, in articulation therapy this week. It is especially effective with 5-8 year-old boys, HA! A little competitive I guess. We are at the reading level with a second grader working on /s/ so I got out my lego books and he started to read. I would tap the “right” and “wrong” buttons for each /s/ he produced. He would read a few lines and then check to see if his percentage went up or down. It
TxTools counterwas very motivating and he enjoyed it for almost an hour. Whenever we can get an activity that kids love to do, while working on their goals, we have a hit.

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

Thanksgiving Homework that Works

Turkey foxAs an itinerant therapist, I work in homes and often arrive after school so I see what comes home in the backpack. I’m amazed at the amount of homework young kids are expected to do–math, writing, reading, whew! That’s why I was excited to hear about this “assignment” for a first grader.

Kids were asked to “disguise a turkey.” My little friend and her dad discussed what she wanted to do and went off to Michaels to get some foam board in three colors. He stepped back (as parents should do) and she went to work at her art table. She was having so much fun covering up her turkey with a fox’s coat, pointy ears and a speech bubble that when her brother said, “Sister is doing her homework” she replied, “No, this is fun.” Her teacher got it right.

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

Playonwords.com Announces Top 10 PAL Award Picks for 2014

Here’s our Top 10 PAL Award Picks for 2014,Holiday Gift Guide:

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Build and Imagine Combines Engineering and Language Learning with Tons of Fun

Build and Imagine Malia's beachI’m getting lots of inquiries lately about what to get kids and grandkids for the holidays. After this week’s interview on NBC CT, I am getting calls about where to get those products too. I wanted to share a brand new product that I am really excited about, Build and Imagine’s magnetic building sets that inspire storytelling. They just came out with three sets that can be combined or played with individually, “Malia’s Beach House,” “Marine Rescue Center” and “Day at the Beach.” Yesterday I played for a full hour with a 4 year-old designing and modifying her house and story while adding the 40 magnetic accessories to the two dolls and 16 StoryWall panels.

Build and Imagine Malia's alone

Malia’s Beach House always evolving

Kids can easily snap the panels together and quickly learned to brace the panel as they pressed the accessories onto them. Our story took the two figures, Malia and Skyler, to the beach, pool, school, garden and bed as we adorned many of the StoryWalls. We loaded up the dolls with the camera, cell phone, and backpack to go off to school and then grabbed the beach bag, sunglasses, hat and dog to visit the beach. The story continued to evolve and change as the house and accessories did. What fun to watch a child’s imagination and creativity be displayed through construction. “This is where my school things go,” my friend declared as she attached the magnetic backpack, flowers (I guess they were for the teacher), microphone and cell phone to a panel. Sounds like a lively class!

This toy does just what we want it to–be flexible enough to generate different directions of play and storytelling but let the child lead the play to gain the most learning. A perfect intersection of engineering and language learning, Build and Imagine builds skills while constructing.

For my full review click here.

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