Speech Therapy News, New Autism Rates

Oil painting of beachI thought it would be fun to talk about what was in the news this past week that relates to us SLP’s. Probably the most fascinating, disturbing, confusing news was the new autism statistics: the condition is thought to affect one in every 68 8 year-olds, up from just 88 two years earlier. What is driving that huge increase, up 30% between 2008 and 2010 and more than doubled since the turn of the century, according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?

Many experts believe the increase is largely due to better awareness and diagnosis. As a practicing clinician I would agree with that to some extent. It is in the back of  many new parents’ minds when they are asking about their child’s development. When I spoke to the new mothers’ groups at Greenwich Hospital (babies were about 3-12 weeks old), I could always count on a mother raising the question of how to look for autism. Parents also often call me to request an evaluation, hesitant to tell me why they REALLY called, until it comes out that they have some fears that their child might be on the spectrum.

Experts agree that we just don’t know the answer–aging parents, environmental factors–as to why there is this rise in children with autism.

What can we do about it? Ramp up research and pour ourselves into early identification and remediation which we DO know works!


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Kickstarter Campaign for “Crack the Books” Begins Today

crack-the-books-itextbooksMany of you know and use the fantastic apps for language learning by Mobile Education Store. I have reviewed several of them and they are a mainstay in my therapy tool bag! I’ve reviewed them on my blog and even told you a little about the founder, Kyle Tompson. Speaking to professionals and developers in the world of educational apps, I know how hard it is to stay afloat with all the requirements to do updates for free etc. We SLP’s appreciate great apps and I know support those who develop them. Here is an opportunity to support Kyle and his newest venture, “Crack the Books,” interactive non-fiction science books with adjustable reading levels. Let’s give him our support:

Mobile Education Store, a company dedicated to providing parents of elementary students with cost-effective educational tools is launching a Kickstarter campaign today to help fund its latest product, “Crack the Books,” a fully interactive, state-of-the-art series of non-fiction science books. The product is the first digital book with adjustable reading levels from a first to eighth grade. Parents and teachers can select any of five reading levels with a touch of a button.

“Crack the Books” fosters a lifelong desire for reading by featuring rich, audio-visual elements and interactive activities to help students understand difficult concepts. The series is designed to help students of all reading capabilities, from those with special needs to those with academic gifts, become better and more confident readers.

Please visit Mobile Education Store’s Kickstarter campaign and view its goals to fund the next generation of digital books. There is a short video right at the top of the campaign page that I encourage you to watch.  It will give you a great sense of what these e-books are all about. Your support will ensure “Crack the Books” will be available to reach and inspire all students.




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Best New Games for Speech Therapy

Peaceable kingdom Say the Word


Wow I realized I was a little quiet in the blogging area last week as I was buried in reviewing new toys and games for the PAL Award. It was great fun putting new products in the hands of kids and watch them take off. I always learn so much from them. So here is the first in a series of blogs to share our new PAL Award winners that are the best products to build language and of course, to liven up a speech therapy session turning work to play:

“Say The Word” by Peaceable Kingdom is a terrific game for language learning. Players choose a “Character Card” to start the story and then take turns pulling one of 3 cards from their hand to add on to the plot. The catch is they have to repeat the story from the beginning to add on their phrase or sentence. We found that the more outrageous our add-on was, the easier it was to remember. A Zombie with a marshmallow brain or a robot wearing bunny slippers seemed to stick with us! Peaceable Kingdom gets kids and has a bank of funny, age-appropriate words in this cooperative game. Possible speech and language goals to address through play:

  •  Syntax goals to include verbs, articles, especially  conjunctions etc.
  • Association skills to choose an add-on concept that flows with the story
  • Vocabulary
  • Word finding
  • Articulation carryover
  • Auditory memory

01054_1Kids loved fast-paced “Junior Alias” by Tactic Games requiring players to explain picture cards while others guess, getting a point for each answer until the sand timer runs out.  Some are easier than others–rooster (animal that wakes up the farm), ghost (wears a white sheet on Halloween) or hot dog while others made us work at it–fencer, ant hill, and ice hockey player. Explainers are penalized a point if they use any part of the word or pass on a card that is too hard. Kids loved both sides of the fun, explaining and guessing and we had lots of laughs at some of the responses and explanations like an onion whose clue was “a crying machine.” “Family Alias” includes words that are aged up to adult so you can use it with older students. I used this game effectively for:

  • Description, adding detail
  • Word finding
  • Building vocabulary within a category
  • Deductive reasoning as players learn to give the most helpful clue to narrow down the answer and hone their describing skills.

LastL-1525-LoResSpill“Last Letter” by ThinkFun is just what you listen for in this fast-paced classic word game of calling out a word that begins with the last letter of the word just named. Here’s the twist. Each player is drawing from the word bank pictured in the five cards he has just drawn to begin the game. Each of the 61 cards illustrate an edgy scene with perfectly offbeat scenarios that fascinated kids–a man deserted on an island with an entire mermaid castle depicted underwater below him, an animated cheesy moon watching an astronaut leave his space module and chop away on his surface, a boxing match between robots attended by excited patrons waving money, or kids turning a city street into a swimming pool after opening up the fire hydrant. A great vocabulary builder, We did find some letters easier than others, as I heard a little groan (was that me?) when we got “e” again. Finally a friend yelled “edge” and we were off and running again! “Last Letter” forces players to think outside the box. Honestly, the picture cards are fascinating and could be used as a set to work on just about any goal:

  • Processing a picture to gather words that describe it
  • Coming up with nouns, verbs, adjectives, emotions, and category words.
  • Phonological skills, focusing on first letters and sounds
  • Articulation carryover



Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Games, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Dance and Groove with Your Toddler for First Game Fun

MoveA-1830-LoResSpillThinkFun has just introduced its second toddler game, “Move and Groove” that gets kids moving with categories of instructions and builds listening and language skills. Toddlers can’t sit still in a therapy session so why not make moving fun? Here is my full review:

Get out those dancin’ shoes and move and groove with the toddler set! Roll the multi-colored cube and flip over a matching colored card. 48 pictured instruction cards call out movements in 6 color-coded categories: Let’s Pretend, Movement, Classics, Body Parts, Silliness, and Workout. My little friend rolled green for “movement” and immediately followed the direction to “Skip around the room.” Favorites in the “body parts” category were “Snap your fingers” (which is pretty funny when a 2 year-old does it since they never touch) and “Wiggle your bottom.” I got laughs for my attempts at the “Hula,”  while “Do a fist pump” and “Do the funky chicken” quickly drew in older siblings to the game. Learning beginning game play rules like taking turns and waiting for a player to finish a turn are complemented with building language skills as children have to listen, follow directions, know basic vocabulary of body parts, actions, animals, and objects, and process how you would “Walk like and elephant” or “Dance like a robot.” This game is fun, funny and perfect for including your littlest family member in game time.

Available at Thinkfun: Click here

Posted in Games, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler, Toys | Leave a comment

Inviting a Friend to Speech Therapy

Sophia First Tea TimeI am always trying to make therapy more fun for kids as I discover what they like as far as toys, games or arts and crafts. Some kids will work on speech goals easily if I provide some pretend play activity while others need to draw and create or love to work with a great picture book.

Yesterday I was playing “Sophia the First Magical Tea Time Game” by Wonder Forge with a 5 year-old while working on her sounds. When I arrived she was playing with a little kush ball animal and she asked if he could play the game too! So we got out a plate and teacup for her dog who took the third turn in the game and practiced his sounds (I got double the responses) when it was his turn. At one point she said, “I was doin’ the sounds for the doggie because he’s pretend.”

Once again, therapy activities were shaped by the student:)

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

Seashores to Sea Floors Giveaway Winner!

photoCongratulations to Grace, the winner of our Seashores to Sea Floors Giveaway!

I can’t wait to hear how you use this wonderful e-book all about the ocean.

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“Too Much Glue” by Lefebvre Provides Language Lessons in Speech Therapy

TMGcover4h-264x264As a speech therapist I find that just about any activity involving glue is fun for kids! The same apparently holds true for a book about “Too Much Glue.” Matty gets instructions from his art teacher to hold back on the glue–stick to “Glue raindrops, not puddles!” But that bottle of gloppy gloop is just too tempting. After emptying two bottles on his art project he adds the perfect decoration, belly flopping into his creation. The rest of the story revolves around extracting him from the “blucky stucky mess.” Each new attempt to free Matty involving lassoes, tow trucks and fans is described with an additional phrase as he becomes a “melted mummy, clicky bricky, clingy stringy, blucky stucky mess!” Luckily Matty’s dad is carpooling that day and rescues his son, to take him home in his suit of glue. The last page is a favorite with kids as Matty moves on to his next art experiment. This story has so much to offer for a language lesson, predicting, describing the cartoon illustrations and very animated faces, telling how different characters feel on each page, and inferring from the story. Kids loved this book, probably because they have gotten stuck, so to speak, at different times in their world of experience.


Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Books, Elementary School Age, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

My Friend Huggles Dolls Start the Conversation About Values

Huggles group shotOne of the best parts about going to the Toy Fair in New York City is finding fun surprises–by which I mean new companies with a story to tell.

My Friend Huggles are life-size rag dolls each assigned and wearing a tag with one of eight core social values: fairness, gratefulness, honesty, cheerfulness, generosity, courage, kindness and confidence. Their label explains the trait for those who don’t know what it means. I found that kids loved talking about what it means to be generous or kind and how that looked in their everyday experiences of sharing a snack, letting someone go first in a game or appreciating your toy even if you like someone else’s better. I found this to be a great social language lesson every time I introduced a doll and kids had to apply the value to their daily experiences. These dolls are a great tool for therapists and teachers to get the conversation going and build character. Here is my full review of this latest PAL Award winner:

When I was first introduced to Huggles, I think I had the same reaction as a little girl did today–she gasped in excitement and then giggled, “She’s so big,” she said. I also couldn’t help but sneak a hug with these life size dolls as they reminded me of a large rag doll I had growing up with elastic loops on the bottom of her feet so we could dance together! Classically timeless, these dolls have a relevant message. Each doll serves as a character building tool, representing one of eight core values. As an educator who works with children in their homes, I can say that we can all benefit from a discussion about fairness, gratefulness, honesty, cheerfulness, generosity, courage, kindness and confidence. These pretend dress-up dolls can spark a conversation more easily than parents. My little friend was fascinated by Rubi’s characteristic of  being “grateful.” When I asked her if she knew what that meant she said, “Even if somebody’s thing is better, you should at least be grateful you even have one.” She went on to teach me about being “fresh” and “that’s not nice!” Our mini-lesson spilled over into our game time as she was visibly trying to show more generosity in letting me go first. Thanks, Rubi, for leading us in a wonderful social language lesson today as we applied admirable values to our activities.

Available at My Friend Huggles





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

Crack the Books “Seashores to Sea Floors” Review and Free Giveaway

Crack Books photoMobile Education Store has been a treasure chest of great apps for learning language from Conversation Builder and Rainbow Sentences to Tense Builder and Story Builder, that engage kids with clever cartoons and break down language learning into kid-sized bites.

When they sent me their new app, “Crack The Books Seashores to Sea Floors” I was excited to enter this new world of ebooks and see how I might use them in speech therapy. Adaptable to 5 reading levels (first to eighth grade), these books provide the flexibility to be used with several children of different reading abilities simultaneously as they learn core science curriculum. Since I work with kids one-on-one, I will be seeing this new learning venue from the perspective Crack books periscopeof working with one child at a time but having the flexibility to put my iPad in my therapy bag and customize this book for different language levels. These interactive science books “are the first standards based, core curriculum aligned digital book series that includes both interactive enhancements and universal design accessibility features.” according to Mobile Education Store’s website. They are designed with all students in mind, including those with special needs.

So far my students and I have spent the most time on chapters 1 through 3 of the five chapters: Marine Ecosystems, Open Ocean, The Deep Sea, Coastal Waters and Threats. Kids are tech saavy with tablets so they alternate between reading the text on the left side of the screen and scrolling down to change the corresponding image on the right side of the screen. Tap on a red highlighted word, phytoplankton or scavenger, and you hear the correct pronunciation, see it broken into syllables and get a quick definition. Kids loved Crack books testthis feature, especially hearing how to pronounce multisyllabic words. Tap on “Fun Fact” and learn about the deepest fish ever found in the Puerto Rico Trench. Videos, animations, globes and charts are found on the right side of the screen to support the text. When a new concept is introduced the students love to tap on “argonauta” (type of octopus), learn some fun facts about it and view a photograph alongside.

I used this e-book for my students working on language goals, word-finding and articulation carryover. Since kids were fascinated with the content, we would learn a few facts together about a fish, animal or parts of the ocean and then I would ask them to re-tell with their goals in mind.  In the Open Ocean chapter we watched the video of the majestic albatross soaring through the air, and then used the content to work on producing grammatically correct sentences, elaborating adding detail and extending the length of our sentences. Polar bears and beluga whales were also favorite subjects in this chapter.

At the end of each chapter is the opportunity to take a test on the content of that chapter. Each question is complemented by an associated image. I never got to take such visually beautiful tests when I was in elementary and middle school! Educators can track progress to assess mastery of concepts and reading comprehension skills.

Chapter 3 was a favorite as kids loved looking through and operating the periscope. Hold the joystick down and slowly explore the ocean depth to 10,000 meters. Of course you have to switch on the light as you get deeper toward the ocean floor. Different sea animals are pictured according to the depth gauge. Kids liked learning about the turtle, swordfish and bluefin tuna but were most engaged with the more exotic fish like the anglerfish and fangtooth fish whose teeth are so large that when its jaw is closed the teeth slide into special pockets near its brain. One little boy chose that fish to describe for his mom at the end of our session, following his language goals. Did I say these were boys I was working with??

There are many more features to these multi-sensory e-books, listed on their website. I highly recommend “Sea Shores to Sea Floors” for its beautiful imagery, multi-sensory delivery and fascinating content. Since speech language pathologists are a clever and creative bunch, let me know how you use these ebooks with your kids!

Mobile Education Store has provided me with a free copy of “Seashores to Sea Floors” for one lucky reader!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The opinions expressesd above are solely those of the author. “Seashores to Sea Floors” was provided for review by Mobile Education Store.


Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Apps, Books, Language, Speech and Language Delay | Leave a comment

Articulation Carryover Techniques

Articulation carryover chipsI wanted to report on another articulation carryover technique I mentioned in an earlier blog. I have some favorite little foam shapes that I use as chips when kids are working on sounds. One of Pam Marshalla’s games for carryover was to give each child a pile of chips and when they use their sound correctly they get another chip and if they don’t you take a chip away.

At first I was squeamish about the negative part of that game, taking away a chip if they forget to use their sound but I found this to be very effective. Most of the kids I work with are innately competitive and really don’t like to lose a chip. It was quite motivating. It caused them to listen to themselves more closely and I think I got a better outcome!

I find that few kids can talk very long about their day. Something happens between the end of school and walking in the door at home that causes their memory to fade! So I ask them about what they are reading. This little boy loves his books and used it as a prop to give me a recap of the plot. By the way this sounds like a great series for kids, The Genius Files.

Let me know what you find effective to get kids to carryover their articulation goals.

Posted in Articulation, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 1 Comment