Word-finding Activities for Speech Therapy

Ben playing on boatKids with word-finding difficulties are fascinating to me. Sometimes I feel like I get a peek into their retrieval process as I try to decipher what they mean when they use a word that is associated to the one they intended. This week I was listening to a little boy re-tell a story when he said, “She’s gonna ‘verse’ him.” Usually, his words are close enough to the intended word that I have no problem understanding he meaning of his discourse. But this time I had to ask him to explain. He simple said, “She is versus him,” in the context of she was going to “race” him! He inspires me to keep finding great evidence-based activities to help in with accurate word retrieval.

On that note, this week I was talking to a good friend, Jan Schwanke, who happens to be a speech-language pathologist specializing in Word-finding (WF) therapy. She has worked closely with Diane German, doing research and presenting at ASHA. I was asking her for new ideas for therapy to build word retrieval in fun and effective ways.

I wanted to share her new, growing website which is a great resource for Word-finding therapy. The authors of this website aim to provide a place where SLP’s can share their ideas for therapy including a growing list of phonemic or mnemonic cues. Helpful charts contain common vocabulary, divided by school age groups–Pre-Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8), and High School–listed alphabetically. The idea is to check this list before re-inventing the wheel, and if your target word isn’t listed, add it with your ideas to share for the next SLP!

Does your student have trouble coming up with “diverse” in science class? Try the cue, “divers” with a picture of two synchronized divers going into a pool. Studying Appalachia in a social studies land form unit? Try giving your student a visual and auditory cue of “apple on a plate.”

The site includes ideas gathered from therapists under “I Need a Cue” and instructions on “How to Add Information” as well. According to the website, “On our ‘How to Add Information’ page, we offer a step-by-step tutorial to help you add your ideas. This same page explains how to use Dr. Diane German’s phonemic or mnemonic cues. Research supports the efficacy of using these cues for children and adults with word-finding difficulties.”

So make use of this budding resource and add your tips to the list so we can all benefit.

Any other therapy sources for word-finding therapy that you find beneficial?

Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 14 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Word Finding | 4 Comments

Story Builder App Review for Speech Therapy

Story Builder appI like Mobile Education Store’s apps so much that I have them grouped together on my iPad. If you read my reviews, you know that I use them beyond their intended use because they are so flexible and have great cartoons to engage kids in putting the pieces together for a good sentence, story or conversation.

Story Builder is designed to meet the following goals according to its developers:

  • improve paragraph formulation
  • improve integration of ideas
  • improve higher level abstractions by inference

The app includes 50 distinct story lines for creating narratives from a western scene, a child scared at night, a tornado in progress, a robot helping a man change his tire, to kids Story Builder app 2playing hide and seek in the woods, or waiting with pets at the vet. Each picture’s subject is abstract enough to invite inference. The question prompts (this app includes over 500 audio clips) lead the student through a narrative related to the picture as they record each segment and build on the story. Finally, the student can listen to his story of the component parts he has recorded. In the picture of the man in the water with his polo stick stuck in the lake bottom and a horse laughing behind a hedge, the following is the sequence of question prompts:

What was the man doing before he fell? What happened? Why is the horse laughing? How does the man feel about it? Why does he feel that way? Where will he get dry clothes? What will he do next?

Story Builder3Each question prompt is followed by a written phrase to start the child’s response to record such as “The man was…” or “But then…” At the end of the series of questions and recorded responses, students can play back their narrative. They love this feature as it is so reinforcing for them that they have created their own little story!

You have the option to “save” a story under the name of the student. My students enjoyed this feature so we could show off and play if for mom after the session. It would be helpful to be able to email the story as you can with other apps so SLP’s in a school setting could give some nice feedback to parents too.

Settings provide 3 level of play, variations in question, color code and story introduction reinforcement, giving flexibility to use with different students.

I find this app so helpful with storytelling and working on word-finding. Kids with word-finding difficulties often need help describing and elaborating, especially if they are aware of their inability to come up with words at times or have had some negative feedback. This app helps give them confidence as they can elaborate and make up a story as involved as they want!

Story Builder was provided for review by Mobile Education Store. All opinions expressed in this review are those solely of the author.



Posted in 10 and up, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Apps, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Word Finding | Leave a comment

Martin Luther King Day celebrated in Speech Therapy

I always try to use great books, stories and materials that are relevant to the season when I work with kids. Right now I look for books around the theme of snow, winter, Martin Luther King Day and Valentines Day.

I wanted to share the  2011 Coretta Scott King Award Winners for books that you might want to share with your kids or use in therapy while working on language goals:

  • Dave the Potter, Artist, Post, Slave is most interesting to me because it is geared at the kindergarden- Grade 4 age. According to the School Library Journal, this is a story of a 19th century South Carolina slave whose skilled pottery was enhanced by his addition of his original poetry on the pots. “A lengthy author’s note fleshes out what is known of the man’s life story and reproduces several of his two-line poems. A photograph of some of Dave’s surviving works cements the book’s link to the present and lists of print and online resources encourage further exploration.” Sounds like a great resource for launching projects to learn more and link the past to the present–learning language in the process!
Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up | Leave a comment

Speech Box™ For Speech Therapy App Review

speechbox appI have been enjoying using the “Speech Box™” app by The Jonah Bonah Learning Company in my therapy sessions lately. As I explained to a speech pathology student shadowing me today, when you are in private practice, the percentage of certain types of cases ebbs and flows. Last year I had two students in middle school and this year I have one while the next oldest student is 7 years old. The mix changes so that I have many 4 and 5 year-old boys with articulation delays right now. Since there is much practice and dare I say “drill” involved with learning and making a new production a habit, we need lots of exciting ways to change up a similar lesson plan each week.

speechbox 2I use Articulation Station often with my students to “warm up” at the beginning of the session and for reference as we play games or do crafts as we practice our sounds. I was glad to receive a free copy of “Speech Box™” from Jonah Bonah Learning Company  because the 700 available photographs of mainly one-syllable words are different and applicable to a little older audience. Each sound box  contains pictures of the target sound in the initial, medial and final position of the word. They are as if thrown in a box, lying on top speechbox3of each other. That is part of the fun–kids have to move the pictures about, or tap them to expand to full screen where the audio repeats the target word. We had fun today, tapping on a little corner of sky, dirt, or a hat peeking out from the pile of photographs and guessing what the word was before it was revealed. The best part is swiping the finished word off the screen. My little guy yesterday sent his word “Up to heaven” and “Outside” as he engaged in a little pretend play with the direction he swiped the photos.

Helpful features:

  • 700 photographs of mainly one-syllable words to choose from
  • Easy, quick setup and loading of pictures
  • Flexible use for clients with apraxia, autism, Down’s Syndrome, language difficulties
  • Customizable–add your own boxes by child or category to be worked on
  • Share boxes with parents for practice

speechbox4Aside from having a great bank of pictures for practice, I like the customizable feature best. Kids LOVE to create their own box and fill it with photographs. I spent a whole session photographing lego models that my little client proudly held up for the camera as he enjoyed recording a name for his picture. When I was still on the learning curve, I accidentally put James’ pictures in Holden’s box but the kids had such fun with this. They didn’t know each other but enjoyed listening to another child emphasizing his target sounds.

I have only used this app for articulation therapy but plan to use the other category boxes for “family,” “foods,” “farm animals” etc. for language learning activities. The Box Store has specialized boxes for purchase such as “emotions,” “fairy tales” or “Christmas.”


Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Apps, Apraxia, Articulation, Elementary School Age, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

How to Curb Rude Toddler Talk, Parents Magazine

Parents Magazine, Bossy TalkThe February issue of Parents Magazine just came out and Tamekia Reece wrote an excellent article addressing the topic of a toddler’s “Bossy Talk.” It is a well-rounded article describing a toddler’s increased verbal skills that as they take off can exhibit demanding, negative or rude remarks. The article looks at answers from several perspectives from experts in parenting, behavior, and speech and language. I was quoted as saying, “They (toddlers) don’t understand the subtleties of these phrases.” The article offers “a plan to promote politeness.” I have to insert here that some of the points can apply to preschoolers too, who could use a correction on their tone or words said to an adult.

  • “Keep your cool.” Kids can blurt out hurtful comments as they express themselves using language that they know or have heard. According to Erik Fisher, Ph.D., kids this age haven’t fully developed empathy so they don’t realize the impact of their words.
  • “Offer better alternatives.” It is important to give language models for your toddler to repeat that are appropriate in words and tone. This is where I continue to model for kids even as they are preschoolers and beyond such as I’d rather not do that, Sherry, instead of I’m not doing that! I’ve really found, Sure, Sherry to be helpful, too!
  • “Make her feel empowered.” Because toddlers love to be independent they might talk back or refuse to comply to assert themselves. Here is where a choice question is helpful. When they initially refuse to do something like go to bed or eat their dinner, offer a choice so they can be a bit in charge. I find that little ones get distracted by thinking about which option they will choose and therefore temporarily forget to be contrary!
  • “Watch your words and reactions.” Toddlers are learning their language by imitating things adults say in their world. They mimic some of the negative tones and phrases parents say as well as the positive reactions.  Remember who is listening!
  • “Accentuate the positive.” Why do we always need to be reminded that when we reinforce the good behavior we will see more of it? Telling your toddler that they did a nice job of using their words can go a long way.

Quotes are from the article mentioned above.

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

Carryover Techniques in Articulation And Phonological Therapy, Review

coAs I have mentioned before, I  have several 3-5 year-olds on my caseload right now who are working on articulation goals and mastering sounds as they move toward carryover. Because every child is different–some learn their sounds and easily carry them over into conversation and others find it a hard process–I thought I would look for some resources for new ideas and methods to help.

I purchased Pam Marshalla’s book, “Carryover Techniques in Articulation and Phonological Therapy” which claims, “Hundreds of ideas from research and practical experience.” I had attended Pam’s workshop and found it to be excellent so I thought I would share some ideas I find helpful from her book and points I agree with after doing therapy for 35 years.

Even though I keep up relationships with other SLP’s, being in private practice can be isolating at times, as I miss the sharing of ideas and collaboration I had with other professionals when working in the schools for many years. That’s why reading Pam’s book was fun to feel reinforced in what I do and observe through years of articulation therapy. Here are some of her points that resonated with me:

  • Carryover of articulation or phonological skills can be compared to acting–kids must use their new skills in their everyday life
  • Overgeneralization can be “a beneficial skill because it signals a clumsy beginning to the generalization or carryover process.” How many times do we cringe when our kids working on/sh/ start using their new production for every /s/ too? I guess we can calm down.
  • Many research studies regarding carryover are included in Pam’s book which are helpful including one that had SLP’s rank the most effective carryover techniques, naming self-monitoring the most effective. I love to play games right away where my little clients give me a thumbs up or down according to their productions and mine (of course they love when I mess up!).
  • Carryover is part of a balance achieved in a therapy session, that of drill-like rehearsal and play. I agree with this point and start my sessions with “warm-up” time where I often use “Articulation Station” or “Speech Box” apps to go through a child’s target phonemes in the word position and level they are working on. Then we move to a board game, craft, or book for re-tell to practice their sounds.
  • Carryover begins the first day of therapy! This is a great point emphasizing that from the first day, kids should know what sound they are working on so they can focus on and listen for it “as he will be connecting his speech work into his life.”
  • Parents are busy so choose carryover requests wisely. I agree with this and learned this the hard way. Parents won’t practice unless it is simple and easy to add to their routine. I agree with Pam that “using key words works best.” Before Christmas I gathered a busy mom and dad of a boy working on /sh/around the Christmas tree and played a game of “Guess where an ornament is?” using the carrier phrase, “You should find______” It was such a simple activity that they couldn’t forget it.
  • Patience is critical to achieving carryover. Okay that’s not my best attribute so thanks for the reminder! I get so excited that my little client is producing a correct sound that I want him to say it all the time. Pam shares that she reminds herself of how hard it is to change the way we have been doing something by writing her name with her non-dominant hand several times to feel how difficult it is to change.
Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Articulation, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 4 Comments

Best Speech Therapy Apps for Early Intervention: “Cookie Doodle”

screen568x568When I asked several early intervention therapists for their favorite apps for speech therapy, many included “Cookie Doodle” by  ”Shoe The Goose.” I agree! Kids love baking cookies and we therapists appreciate decorating them without the sticky frosting fingers and sprinkles everywhere! Be sure you have a sturdy case around your iPad before starting since the kids will be turning it to pour dry and wet ingredients. Select your recipe and start in dragging baking soda and chocolate chips into the bowl. Rotate a handle to sift flour, cut sticks of butter and tilt the iPad to pour the vanilla. This sequence makes the app adaptable to taking turns and pausing to add language models. Kids love to stir the ingredients with their fingers. Roll out the dough, press in a cookie cutter and start decorating with frosting and sprinkles. Of course the eating is the best with sound effects. Any good therapist would want to transfer all this fun to the real thing with a can of ready made frosting and some decorations to slap on a cookie, right? The fun of apps is that they bring a different dimension to our sessions but can be linked to the 3 dimensional life experience to reinforce the language lesson.


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

What Toys Have Repeat Play? Christmas Presents Unwrapped

IMG_2169Christmas and the holidays are over and we have a chance to see what toys have “lasted” past the initial excitement and are really offering some creative play.

We had a great time hosting several of our grandchildren, including 5 year-old Ben who is our recent reader. He unzipped “Jumbo Bananagrams” and I found him spelling words on the floor. After he went home, his dad sent me this picture of his latest word. I tried to decipher his amazing invented spelling but needed a hint to come up with “electricity!” He apparently needed spy glasses to read it. Speaking of spy glasses, they are a prop in “Disney Jake and the Neverland Pirates Shipwreck Beach Treasure Hunt Game” where kids take turns turning over two gold tokens to find a match, using Jake’s spyglass to decode secret clues. Finding a match, they flip over the timer and race to grab the same stand-up treasure–a bell, tiki, hat, sack of gold, or urn–snagging them with the foam sword. As much fun as the game is, it is equally thrilling for preschoolers to use the props in imaginary play. I found the spyglass in the car, under the tree, in the kids’ beds and at the breakfast table as well as the foam sword. Game play continued after a winner was declared.

It was fun to see PAL Award winners live up to their name as they provide lasting “smart play!”

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

Best Speech Therapy Apps for Early Intervention: “Speech With Milo: Verbs”

screen480x480Although I use many apps designed for  typically developing kids, I also like to recommend apps that have been designed for children with special needs.  Speech with Milo by Doonan Speech Therapy, currently offers nine apps to build language skills. All are created by Poorani Doonan, a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist. Each app offers instructions for speech therapists as well as parents. I’ve used and enjoyed “Speech With Milo-Sequencing” for older kids so I thought I would try “Speech With Milo-Verbs” for early intervention. Milo demonstrates 100 verbs, with the word named and written below the cartoon. Tap “Phrase” and hear, “Milo is pouring tea.”or “Milo is walking at the beach,” describing the scene.  Therapists can choose from the extensive verb list what words they want to target. I appreciate the Therapist Instructions, listing goals to address in developmental order. Those appropriate for 2-4 year-olds:

  • Teach action words
  • Present progressive verbs
  • Personal pronouns
  • Past tense verbs

Give Milo a break and feed him some cheese after several scenes to keep kids motivated!

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

Happy Holidays from your PAL Family

Family picture with grandchildre 2013I hope you are all enjoying family time and maybe a few extra quiet moments reading a book or playing a game with your children or grandchildren. I am looking forward to 3 little boys arriving in 2 days and have just cleared the table for construction, art projects, and board games! I think rather than decorate Christmas cookies we will be getting gummy sharks at the candy store and generously lopping on frosting to hold our gummy octopus and sea animals. I’ll show a picture later:)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment