As summer rolls in, and we are thinking about the beach, kids in speech therapy gain vocabulary and learn concepts from clever picture books about summer and the beach.

Melanie Watt’s “Scaredy Squirrel  at the Beach” was such a hit with my kids that I incurred overdue fines to hold on to it, even when the library placed a hold on the book! Scaredy Squirrel NEVER goes to the beach because he doesn’t like crowds–flocks of seagulls, tribes of jellyfish or herds of sea monsters are not this thing. So he decided to set up his own private beach, under his acorn tree with just the right beach substitutes. An inflatable pool stands in for the ocean, hand-drawn beach scenery for the coconut trees, a flashlight for the sun and even kitty litter for the sand. But, something is missing–the sound of the ocean. The solution is to travel to the real beach to collect a shell that he can hold up to his ear and hear the waves. Scaredy’s beachwear for the adventure includes a getup that will repel any of his fears such as a helmet to deflect falling coconuts or a french fry to distract the seagulls. Kids love the map he draws of his plans to capture the shell and make a fast getaway. However, things get complicated when he gets dropped off at the beach.

Ideas for therapy:

  • Compare Scaredy’s pretend beach items with the real beach items and describe how they are alike and different
  • Answer wh-questions related to the story. Why doesn’t Scaredy like the beach? What is missing from his beach?
  • Predict next steps along the story
  • Explain why Scaredy needs each piece of his protective beachwear
  • Discuss what happened at the beginning of the story, middle and end.
  • Why did Scaredy change his attitude toward the beach?
  • Have your child generate a why? question about the story and then draw a picture to illustrate the answer.

When I work with my kids on the autism spectrum, I start by asking a Why? question for them to answer and over time ask them to generate one. They love to draw their answer and some are beginning to write their answer out too.