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Children Need to be Taught More Beyond "More"

Often in preschool or in early intervention, you will have a little one on your caseload who is not talking or communicating in any meaningful way.  What do you do?  The first inclination of many Speech-Language Pathologists and educators is to teach the sign or picture for the word "more."  Why? Well, it starts to teach the child to request.  It is an easy sign for children to do.  Most educators and SLPs know the sign. There are many opportunities throughout the day to practice it in a more natural environment. So, what's the problem?   Here are three reasons people need to work on other words beyond "more." 

1. It only teaches the child to request.  While requesting is important, we need to be focusing on the other pragmatic functions as well.  You can't get far in life if you are only asking for things.  What if they can't have more of what they want?  How do they express their frustration, disappointment or anger?  How do most children protest?  They cry, scream and maybe resort to trying to harm themselves or others.   This is no fun for anyone.

2.  Children overgeneralize "more" to mean any request.  The children we teach "more" to typically learn that when you put your hands together, you get something not that you more of what you have already had.  As a result, you will see children move towards an object and sign "more" to say "I want something."  For example, I had a little guy that had been taught more at home and to a certain extent at school.  He would walk up to the classroom door and sign "more." Now he did not want more doors. What he wanted was the door to open so that he could go and play in the gym.  At that point, "more" was not any more functional than him taking my hand and pulling me to the door.  

3.  We are not teaching children vocabulary.  When we teach "more" we are only teaching one word.  As stated above, this is not always functional.  What if they walked up to a toy box of toys and wants one specific toy and signs "more?"  Odds are you would know that child well enough to guess what toy he wants but what if he changes his mind and wants a different toy that day?  How is he going to tell us what toy he wants other than loudly protesting and getting upset? You may be teaching other words in addition to "more" but why not make those words a priority?

So what should we do instead of starting with "more"?  Teach the words of objects/activities that they would be requesting.

Find out what activities/toys/objects that the child loves to do and start working on requesting using their names.  For example, the little guy who signed "more" to the door we taught him the words "out" and "gym" so that when he needed a break, he was able to tell us what he wanted when he wanted it.  When he wanted to a spin on the dizzy disk, we taught him the word "spin" instead of standing at the toybox signing "more."  

Not only are you teaching words of objects/activities that he likes, which is highly motivating, they typically learn them fairly quickly. As well, you are showing him the building blocks for putting sentences together.  This also allows you to start to work on building their use in other pragmatic functions.    

How would you teach children to use these words?  I typically use a core board base system.  I will use some sign, but, as you can see here, I'm very selective of who I teach to sign.  I'm also not a massive fan of PECS, so I tend to also be very particular who I use PECS with.  The adults in the classroom, usually have the AAC system with them and I had them scattered throughout the school so that they were readily available.  
So do I ever teach children "more?"  Yes but not until much later.  The children are usually already combining words into phrases before I actively work on it.  By this time, they are most likely using it as it is a high-frequency word in English.

Bringing Therapy Outside the Therapy: Part One Why?

Speech and language therapy can happen just about anywhere, and in some cases unfortunately does. We have all either heard or experienced having to do therapy in closets, in the hall or some other challenging part of a school.  Given all that,  I'm a big fan of switching up therapy and taking it out of the therapy room or the classroom.  Some people may be reading this and thinking, I can't do that.  It can sometimes take more planning.  It can make working on goals harder.  What if what you are targeting you can't find while out of the class/therapy room?  How do you take data?  Are you allowed to leave the building?  What about confidentiality?  I will admit that these can be challenges but with some problem solving, it can be a fantastic experience for you and your students.

Why do I like mixing up where I do therapy?  There are a few answers.  

1. Generalization

You probably have had a student that can perform a skill when they are with you, and in the therapy room, but the minute you change something up, it's like they have never done it before.  It like taking a test, if you take an exam in the room that you learned the material, you are statistically likely to do better than if you took the test in another place.  Changing up therapy will allow children to work on skills in other environments with supports and hopefully lessen the effects of the therapy room. 

2. Makes the Activities More Difficult

Aside from generalization, it will make the activity harder.  Odds are the places you may go for therapy may provide more visual or auditory stimulation.  This makes the task even ones the children are very familiar with more challenging.  

3. Boredom

I will admit that I sometimes get bored working in the same room all the time and to be honest sometimes my students do too.  

4.  Therapy can look different when you are outside the therapy room

You may be moving around or don't have access to your therapy materials.  When I mix it up, I'm working on functional skills in more real-world situations. 

5. It can provide some form of exercise

Depending on what you are doing, it can provide some form of exercise.  I am a big fan of being outside when you can.  Taking nature walks or walks around the neighbourhood, also allow children to get some exercise and move around which helps some children concentrate not only during your session but when they go back to class.

Next blog post will be about how to do therapy outside the therapy room, and the next one will be about where you do therapy.

Bring Children's Lit into Therapy with "The Apple Pie Tree"

Zoe Hall's book, "The Apple Pie Tree" is a story that talks about what happens to and around an apple tree throughout the year and ends with the children baking an apple pie.  It is also a great book to work on a variety of speech and language skills.  Here are some ideas to use it in therapy.


1. /p/ sound:  pie, petals, papa, peel, picked, pan, pile, apple(s), open, top

2. /b/ sound: bare, bee, but, building, buds, baby, birds,  big, bend, basket, Robin(s),

3. Blends: grow, brown, spring, branch, tree, flower, break, blossoms, breeze, blow, ground, fly, strong, small, brim, sprinkle, smells, taste,


1. Plurals: There are many opportunities to work on plurals. E.g., Robin/Robins  Looking at the illustrations and talking about the pictures to work on plurals.  

2. Verbs and verb tenses: grow, watch, build, chirp, guard, open, break, cover, blow, fall, teach, fly, rain, visit, bend, cover, pick, help, cut, pile, sprinkle, cook, eat, smell, and taste. Ask what is happening in the story or have the children act it out in play to build understanding and use of verbs. 

3. Describing the illustrations:  Many of the pictures include items/ideas that are not talked about explicitly in the text.  For example, they talk about summer and show children playing in a sprinkler.   This would also be great to start to work on inferencing.

4. Sequencing: There are many great opportunities to describe sequences.  The book talks about the change in seasons.  It talks about the life cycle of Robins.  It talks about the life cycle of an apple, and it also shares a recipe for how to make apple pie.  Additionally, the back of the book has a section where they talk about how bees pollinate flowers. 

Supplemental Activities

1. Sensory Bins:  Make a sensory bin out of oats, flour, apple pie spice, cinnamon sticks,  and real/fake/counting apples.  Add in measuring cups, measuring spoons, muffins tins, and spoons.  Have children pretend to make apple pie.  Use some of the vocabulary from the book.  Note: if you have students that are gluten-free or are allergic to any ingredients from the sensory bin, please do not add them. 

2. Make Apple Pie: There is an apple pie recipe at the back of the book that you can make with the students.  You can also use tart shells so that everyone's dietary restrictions can be accommodated.  Talk about the steps you need to do to make the pie.  Focus on verbs, use many that are in the story.  When the pies are done, talk about the pie's smell and the pie's taste. 

3. Make a large apple tree out of paper:  Hang it up on a wall and add apples for the children to pick.  Add different colour and size apples for children to work on following directions. Alternatively, go through the year with the tree starting with snow, then flowers, then leaves, then apples, then leaves falling.  

4. Have children sort objects by seasons.  Sort a variety of objects by when you see them/use them during the different seasons.  For a season sorting file folder and class activity visit here.

5. Watch videos with time-lapsed video of a life cycle of an apple tree. Talk about what the children see.  Have the children answer questions about the video.

6. Have children plant apple seeds in a clear cup.  Have the take of their plants.  Have them make observations on regular intervals.

These are some of my ideas.  How would you use this book?