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Bring Children's Lit into Therapy with "Pirate, Viking and Scientist"

Pirate, Viking, and Scientist by Jared Chapman is an engaging book about a scientist who is friends with a pirate and a Viking, but the pirate and the Viking are not friends.  Follow the scientist as he tries to help the Viking and the pirate become friends. It is a favourite for boys, especially those who are hard to engage.  This book also provides excellent opportunities to work on speech and language goals with children from the first grade through second grade and onto the first half of third grade. 

Social language goals.  The story is about making friends, so it lends itself to talking about the different ways the scientist tries to help the pirate and the Viking become friends.  It is an excellent opportunity to talk about what worked and what did not.   As well, you can discuss why you think the pirate and the Viking were not friends at the beginning of the story? What other ways could the scientist have tried to help pirate and Viking become friends?  Finally, the two become friends when they discouver how much they have common.  Again, you could talk about questions to ask others when getting to know someone. As well, talk about proper behaviour at a birthday party.  What is wrong with the pirate eating cake with his hands?  Should the Viking have pushed the cake onto the pirate?  What could they have done instead?

Similarities and differences.  Pirates and Vikings have a lot in common.  Use a Venn diagram to talk about what is the same and different.  Another fun activity is to have the children dress up like a pirate or a Viking and have them describe what they are wearing. 

Tier two vocabulary.  The scientist uses a slew of scientific words such as hypothesis, experiments, and calculations.  Other tier two words in the story include pillaging, plundering, fuming, seething, and foes.  This can also be a great book to talk about synonyms. 

Articulation: multisyllabic words.  Many of the tier two words are two and three-syllable words.  

Articulation /s/. This book contains many /s/ words in all positions including scientist, seething, instinct, smooth, and answer.

Articulation /v/.  The word Viking is frequently repeated throughout this story.

Articulation /r/.  This story contains many /r/ terms such as friends, pirate, Saturday, mornings, favourite, experiment, observe, and laughter. 

It is a great addition to a pirate theme, and at the same time, it works on more functional science vocabulary. It has been a hit in my therapy room so if you are looking for a fun book to read during treatment, this would be an excellent candidate!  (As usual, this post does not contain affiliate links.)

SLP Report Writing 101

At this time of year, my work life consists of writing report, after report, after report. Paperwork is definitely not my favourite. Writing reports is hard and some do it better than others.   What I talk about here is not new or earth shattering but writing good reports are crucial, and these are areas where I struggle/have struggled. They are also areas that  I see other Speech-Language Pathologists struggle.

1. Who is your audience?

An essential aspect of report writing is to know who is going to read it. Just as important, is identify ing or anticipating the background knowledge of the people who are going to read the report.  For me, most of my reports are not read by other SLPs.  They are read by parents.  For many, English is not their first language. Most don't have the background or haven't yet been immersed in all the jargon us SLPs love to use. My reports are also read by doctors, who may or may not be as well versed in speech and language development as we would like.  Finally, reports are often read by people who determine the types of funding and services a child will receive.  In my case, these people are typically not SLPs.  Knowing when to include technical jargon and when to back off relies heavily on who is reading your report(s).

2. Why are you writing this report?

 This is closely tied to the question, "Who is your audience?" What is the purpose of the report?  Is this to make a referral to a clinic (e.g. get a swallow study done)?  Is it to help the family receive additional services?  Is it to re-qualify for services?  Each type of report can sound very different. What I include in a report for children who will definitely qualify for services next year can look very different from a child who may not qualify or from a child who is moving on to his neighbourhood school.  The vocabulary I use can be very different.  What I include and don't include can also be very different.

3. What kind of vocabulary are you going to use?

This is a big one for me.  It always amazes me, but really it shouldn't, that what language we SLPs use and consider basic really isn't.  In one of my first years as an SLP, I had a parent come up to me and asked me to "decode" and "translate" her son's speech and language report from another agency.  At that point, her son had had speech services for about four years.  She was struggling to understand some "basic" terminology such as receptive language.  I have also had some very highly educated parents ask me what a preposition was, and what are visuals?

Move away from the jargon as much as you can.  If you are going to use more technical language then back it up with definitions and examples.  This will help those non-SLPs reading the report understand what we are trying to say.  So include more words such as comprehension along with receptive language and pictures along with visuals. This can be challenging, using technical vocabulary can feel like a warm blanket in the winter, warm and comforting. It can also sometimes be challenging describing terms that are clear and easily understood by people with little or no background.

4. Did you include the necessary information or sentences that are required for this type of report?

There are certain sentences or phrases that I need to include in a report in order to have a child qualify for services.  I have to talk about how a child's deficits will negatively impact their education.   If I don't include this part, it could affect whether they get approved or not. If I'm writing this report to help a family get more comprehensive home services, I need to talk about how the parents and child are struggling in the home. When I write letters recommending a Video Fluoroscopy Swallow Study (VFSS) for a little one, I have to write out Video Fluoroscopy Swallow Study.  If I'm not explicit they might not get their VFSS, or it may not be deemed a priority, and they are put further down the waitlist. Lastly, what are your licensing body, school or program requirements? It can be a lot to remember. When I first started my job, I had a checklist on what I needed to have in each report.  That way I knew I had all necessary information.

I am not a master report writer by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, when I first started my career, my reports were atrocious.  I worked very hard at improving them, and these are the parts of report writing that I am very conscious about and are areas that I often see as needing to improve in others reports. Happy report writing!

Using Balls in Therapy

Balls are a great therapy tool for early intervention up through to children of elementary school.  You can play quick games which allow for a high number of repetition in artic therapy, and because the activities can be short, it can keep the attention of young children.    They can also be used one on one but also in small groups. Here are some ways I have used balls in therapy.

1. Communication temptations:  We will take turns rolling/throwing the ball.  I will wait until the child reaches to/points to/says ball then I will roll/throw the ball back.

2. Requesting: This goes with communication temptations. I wait until they ask for the ball before sending it back.

3. Making Choices:  I will often have more than one ball with me.  I have the child choose which ball they would like use. If choosing which ball to play with is too complicated,  I will often give them a choice to play with it and something they don't want to play with (e.g. a sock).  

4. Taking Turns: Roll or throw a ball back and forth. Rolling usually works better for young children. This allows children to interact with others and they get the idea that conversations are two-way.  I will also use a ball like a talking stick, whoever has the ball get to talk.  When you are done with what you want to say you give it to another, and then that person responds. 

5. Increasing Sentence Length/Describing:  I will often have more than one ball with me.  The balls are usually different in size, and colour and sometimes in patterns.  We will pass the ball back and forth for a couple of turns and then I will ask which ball they want and have them use phrases such as "big ball" or "green ball" or "I want the big yellow ball." As you can see, I also use this to work on describing skills.

6. Increasing understanding or use of verbs:   When working on comprehension of verbs, I will tell them how to get the ball back to me.  You can use words such as roll, throw, kick, bounce, dribble,  walk, hand (me),  hold, jump, run, skip, march, etc...  When working on having the child use the verbs, they get to tell me how to get the ball back to them.  This is usually a huge hit as what child doesn't like to "boss" an adult around.

7. Following directions/increase understanding of longer sentences:  There are many different ways to work on following directions.   They can be used for single-step all the way up to multi-step directions. Here is a couple.  Have some balls out.  Tell the child which ball to use, how to get it there and/or where the ball needs to go.  Have pictures out/draw pictures.  Tell the child to throw the ball at the different pictures on the wall. If you are in the gym or at a playground, you can use the equipment available and tell the child(ren) where to roll their balls.  This is also an excellent way to work on prepositions. 

8. Asking and answering where questions.  Roll/throw/kick a ball and have a child say where the ball landed.  E.g. "The ball is under the slide." or "The ball is in the ball pit."  You can do this with pictures on the wall.  Have the child say which picture they hit with their ball. 

Another fun but ultimately messy activity is to paint with balls.  I have used this as a reward or on days where I know that focusing is going to be difficult (e.g. near Christmas).  Draw a picture on a sheet or paper.  I usually use old bed sheets. Put the large sheet on the wall and a couple of sheets on the floor.  Get balls that are different sizes, and textures.  As well, get out different buckets full of paint.  Have the child(ren) throw balls covered in paint at the sheet on the wall and tell you where their ball hit the sheet.  You can do this over a number of sessions/groups.  It can make some very interesting pictures. 

9.  Artic therapy:  I will use balls during artic therapy frequently.  You can throw balls back and forth as the child(ren) are practicing their sounds.  As well, you can dribble/bounce a ball off a wall as you are saying the words/phrases/sentences etc...  I have also played a version of HORSE with older children.  Each letter is randomly assigned a number.  Before you shoot, the child has to say their words X number of times.  If they miss, they have to say addition words based on the number associated with the letter.  

I'm sure there are more ways to use balls in speech therapy, but these are how I have used them.  For more ideas on doing speech therapy in the gym or playground check this post out.  Do you use balls in therapy?

Using Objects to help with Transitions in the Classroom

Using visuals in a Special Education classroom and really in any classroom, home, or treatment room is very valuable.  It helps children know what they need to do or what their schedule will look like (go here for more info).   Visuals are also critical to help a child move from one activity to another (aka transitions), especially if this is hard for them. In a special education preschool, this can mean moving from centre time to circle time, snack, gym, etc.. 

Some children respond really well to pictures or symbols, and those can be used to help children transition.  I tend to have a variety of sizes of visuals as some respond to smaller visuals and some respond to full page size visuals. The child typically carries it from one activity to another and puts it away when the new activity starts. For some kids, 2D visuals just aren't as compelling. For many of these children, I have found that using objects to represent different parts of their day have worked.

Some objects work better than others.  Here are some of my guidelines.  

  1. The object has to be related to the activity the child is going to do.  For example, using a ball to represent gym/recess. 
  2. You use the same object for the same transition. 
  3. The object is only used as a transition object.  Once the activity or the transition is over, it goes back to its proper place.  It is NOT a toy to be played with.  
  4. It can't be too enticing meaning that it is more attractive than the activity.  For example, I don't use a jar of bubbles because then most children would want to blow bubbles instead of participating in the next activity.   
  5. It has to be light enough for the children to carry.  
  6. It has to be 3D.  

Some objects that I use

Implimenting this has been very helpful.  While transitions can still be difficult, using objects has  helped to reduce the stress and anxiety that transitions can evoke. 

Speech Material Organization

I will be honest with you, I like and have a lot of treatment material. It's partly because I can become bored when using the same materials all the time. I also used to do some private speech therapy and worked with a broad range of ages that needed different materials. 

As happens with many SLPs, storage became a big problem.  How was I to store my materials? How could I make it, so I had quick access?  Here is my solution. I'm also going to show you some of the materials I use later on in this post.

I wanted to store all my speech materials for each sound in the same location.  This would (and did) make it easier for accessing my materials, and it would be simpler to put my materials away.  I confess this can sometimes be a challenge.  I also wanted to have something that could be repurposed.  I haven't had the best of luck with plastic carts, so they were off the list.

My solution was to buy metal drawer unit  (Helmer) from Ikea. 

Pros:  The drawers were big enough to hold all my materials.  I could use magnetic tape on the back of the labels so I wouldn't ruin the finish of the unit, a pet peeve of mine. It would make it easier to re-organize material and repurpose the units later if need be. They were easy to assemble and are sturdy. They also fit well into the area in my house that I am storing my materials.

Cons:  The units were more expensive than other options (i.e. plastic carts).

Overall, I'm very happy with the results.  Now, lets take a look at what is inside my /s/ drawer.

As you can see, there is a lot of materials in there.  Here is what's inside:

1. Articulation Blocks from Panda Speech.

2. Packing /S/ Articulation Game from Alberta Speechie

3. Dough n' Go from TLC Talk Shop

4. Flip Book /s/ from The Dabbling Speechie

5. Artic /S/ Dominoes from Alberta Speechie

6. Popping Pirate Speech from Peachie Speechie.

Have you found a great way to store your speech materials?

Visual Impairments and Language Development

In the last few years, I have had more and more children on my caseload with significant vision issues.  They have some unique challenges when learning to communicate, and the research that I was able to find was scarce.  Here is some information on speech and language development from what I could find:

1. Imitation Skills: Much of how children learn language is through initiation.  Sighted babies will look at their parents and start imitating facial features.  Growing up, children will watch their parents and then re-enact it through play.  Children who are blind or have significant vision loss, don't have the same opportunities. And while children who are blind may imitate sounds earlier than others, they take longer to attach meaning to the sounds and later words because they are unable to see what their words are referencing.  As a result, many children who are blind become echolalic. They also require more direct teaching around vocabulary than their sighted peers.

2. Classification: Classification other than size, shape, and texture can be difficult to learn and often need to be explicitly taught. 

3.  Vocabulary: Children with visual impairments need to be taught that objects with different forms still are called one word.  For example, a fried egg, an egg in its shell and an egg that is broken are all eggs.

4. Multiple Meaning Words: These can be very challenging to learn and to generalize.

5. Non-Verbal Communication and Social Language Skills: Not being able to see how a person's behaviour effects others makes it challenging to learn social cues. They will not have access or adequate access to see or read facial expressions, and body language.  Incidental social learning does not happen as often as with children who do not have vision deficits. Skills such as how far away to be when talking, orienting your head and body towards a person you are talking with will need to be explicitly taught. 

5. Articulation delays:  Due to the lack or limited visual input, there is a higher probability that children with visual impairments will have articulation delays as compared to typically developing peers. 

While this isn't a lot of information,  it does and has provided a basis to start to provide therapy.  If you have any useful information, articles, etc... on this topic, I would love to hear from you.

Brouwer, Kyle et al.,  (2013) SLP Services with Visual Impairments: A Qualitative Report of Practitioner Practices.  Presented at ASHA Convention. Found on ASHA's website.
Brouwer, Kyle et al., (2015) Speech Sound–Production Deficits in Children With Visual Impairment: A Preliminary Investigation of the Nature and Prevalence of Coexisting Conditions. Contemporary Issues In CommunicatIon Science and Disorders, Volume 42 (33-46).

Bringing children's lit into the therapy room for Earth Day

As you can tell, I LOVE to use books during speech and language therapy.  This week I thought I would talk about a couple of great books to use for Earth Day. As usual, this post does not contain affiliate links.  I just really like these books.  

1.  Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel.  A superhero called Michael Recycle come to a town and gets everyone in the town to start recycling. This book talks about why you should recycle and what you should recycle.  It is highly engaging and the kids seem to really enjoy it. Some of the children get thrown by the fact that Michael has eyelashes in the illustrations.  They are unsure if he is a boy or a girl.  It is a good opportunity to talk about who has eyelashes and I have children chart who does and doesn't have eyelashes. This book has lots of rhyming pairs, e.g. "glitter" and "litter."  It is also great for building vocabulary by using words such as "hazy," "rotten," and "colander" and contains a variety of verbs. It is also great for all sorts of categorization activities.  As well,  Michael Recycle uses lots of "L" and "R" blends for speech therapy. Michael Recycle meets Litterbug Doug is another fun book in the series.

2. Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland. This one has a slightly different focus but still fits nicely in an "Earth Day" theme. A big bear in the forest loves to give hugs, especially to trees, but what happens when the bear meets a logger looking to chop down some of the old trees? I have used this book to work on problem-solving and predicting.  What would the children do if they saw a logger going to chop down a tree that they loved?  The children and I talk about what is made from wood and ideas of conservation.  This again leads into a recycling discussion. 

In honour of Earth Day here is a little freebie. What are some of your favourite Earth Day books?

Using Songs in Therapy: "Ducks Like Rain"

When I'm in a preschool class, I sing ALL. THE. TIME.  The running joke is that we are professional singers even though we are not great singers by any means.  To name a few, we sing to teach new concepts, we sing during transitions, and we sing to help children calm down.  For more information on how I use music in therapy check out this older blog post. 

A teacher who I used to work with taught me one of my favourite songs, "Ducks Like Rain." It is perfect for spring or farm themes.  It's ideal for preschoolers, but kindergarten children also like it.  It works well one-on-one and in groups.  Children who are hard to engage frequently respond to this song.   As well, it's perfect for children who are just starting to talk, are using PECS,  or using other types of visual communication systems.

The only props you need for this song is a spray bottle full of water and any communication systems you may be using.  Click here for a copy of the lyrics.  How I use this is that I will sing most of the song and then pause when we get to the "quacks." I then wait until the child(ren) responds with "quack" and then I spray them with water.  Some kids don't like to get sprayed.  I then teach them to respond with a phrase such as "don't spray" which I then honor.  Here I am singing it for you.

If the children want to hear it again, then I wait for "sing again," or "more ducks" or some such response.  One reason I like this is that it doesn't take long to sing.  Many children sing or do the actions during the song, so they become active participants.  

Let me know how it goes if you try it out!

Why Children Thrive on Routines

I had a friend say the other day, "Why do you talk so much about routines and being consistent?" We had been brainstorming ideas how to help her little one be more successful in preschool.  I'm a big advocate of consistency and routine regardless of whether they have a speech and language delay or not. Here are some of my beliefs.

1.  Children thrive on predicability.  Really who doesn't?  My day always run more smoothly when I know what is going to happen that day.  When I get to work, and everything has changed, and I have to react, I tend to become grouchy. 

2. Routines allow children to focus less or stress less about what is coming next.  Consistency allows them to concentrate on learning, playing, building language, or improving their speech.   

3. For children working on developing their language skills, routines allow children to hear and or practice vocabulary,  concepts,  frequently enough that it will help active their goals and help with generalization.

4. Routines, structure, and predictability allow children to test boundaries in safe ways.  All children test boundaries; it is a part of growing up and becoming more independent. BUT we want them to be relatively safe when doing so. We want the consequences of their tries to be successful.  Meaning that they will have pushed a boundary out and have gained more independence or they will learn that that boundary is firmly in place.  

5. Establishing routines, structure, and consistency at a young age helps children as they grow.  In school, children need to function in a classroom. They are in a group of many other children with only one or two adults in the room.  They need to be able to follow someone else's agenda and not have meltdowns because they are no longer in charge or have rarely heard the word, "No" and do not know how to handle it. In therapy, it means that they have to know that they are are going to follow the directions of the Speech-Language Pathologist and are not going to be upset when you are playing a different game today or worse yet, not playing a game at all.

So what can we do to help children establish routines?  

1. It is important to be consistent which can be tough if the routine you are introducing is unpopular.  It sometimes helps to have a game plan and write down what the new routines are going to look like and how you are going to react if the child(ren) you are with are not happy with the changes.

2. Use visuals.  They really do work, and I'm probably preaching to the choir.  Here is a blog post I wrote about why you should use visuals.

3. Keep in mind who and why you are creating the new routine.  Especially a the beginning try to use activities, games, rewards (if you use them) that the children enjoy.  They will be willing to participate if it is fun, or they are getting something out of it. 

Establishing routines can be hard, but the effort is well worth it and will help everyone function better in the classroom, therapy room or home much better.

Using the Game "Tummy Ache" in Therapy

As you have seen, I love using Orchard Toys in therapy.  They have great, educational games that children seem to love playing (as usual, no affiliate links).  This time I thought I would talk about the game that boys (aged 4-8) request the most, Tummy Ache.  The idea is to gather a full dinner by picking up different cards.  Some of the cards have the usual foods you would see at dinner (e.g. rice) and some cards have food but they are covered in creepy crawlies (e.g. maggots on a pizza).  If you play the game as it is supposed to be played, the first person with a complete meal wins.  I never play it this way.  I continue to play it until everyone has a full meal. Here are how I use it in therapy.

1. Building Vocabulary:  This game contains a wide variety of foods from steak to chicken, from rice to beans and juice to smoothies.  If the children are not familiar with some of the food, I will sometimes bring them it for them to taste test.  The game also includes a wide variety of bugs that I have used to build up vocabulary. 

2.  Categorization: I have used this game to sort food or the creepy crawlies.   I have also had children name the category of the food that they have picked up.  

3.  Describing:  The children have to describe the food and/or creature that they have picked up. 

4. Expanding sentences and pronoun use:  It is great for practicing longer sentences such as, "I have _________."  "I like __________." "I don't like _________." "You have _____."  "Yuck, I have _____." or "The _________ goes in the garbage." 

5. Commenting:  This is a great game for teaching social language skills.  Often conversations are started around what food they like and don't like.  It is a great way to talk about appropriately responding to comments when you agree or disagree what the other person has said. It is also a great way to ask why a person likes/dislikes a particular kind of food.

6. Learning about others:  Everyone has food they like or dislike.  This game naturally brings about discussion regarding favourite kinds of foods.  It is a great way to work on initiating a conversation.  

7. Teach about trading, sharing and negotiation:  I will often play the game that if they don't like the food they have picked up, they could ask another person to trade with them.  This can sometimes get a little heated as some foods are more desirable then others.  Some children will say yes or no right away but others will start negotiating by offering to trade another food or will want another piece of food thrown into the deal.  This is also a great way of having children work on asking questions.

8. Lastly we work on some play skills as we pretend to eat the food when everyone has a full plate.  

This is a game that children request again and again. It is a great motivator and reward for the children's hard work.  If you are interested in some of the other Orchard Toys I use, check out this blog post.  Do you use this game in therapy?

5 Benefits of Incorporating Movement into Speech and Language Therapy

Speech Language Pathologists sometimes find themselves doing therapy or assessments in all sorts of different places. One of my favourite places outside of class or a therapy room is in the gym.  It is a great place to incorporate movement into therapy.  If not in the gym, I still build in movement as much as possible.  Why?

1. There is a growing body of research that says improving a child's fitness can help learning.  So why not incorporate some movement activities into therapy if it will help learning instead of more sedentary activities.

2. Children are moving less and less these days.  Some schools, districts or countries are sacrificing gym and/or recess to focus more on academics. Even in preschool, children are expected to sit longer, do table work and pay attention longer.  This can be a struggle for many children who have a hard time keeping their bodies still and pay attention.  With those children, I find those children have better focus and work harder when I get them to move.

3. Gym activities and games are a great way for children to functionally build their knowledge and use of verbs and prepositions.  Children need to physically experience different prepositions and verbs to better understand their meaning.

4. Gym activities are also a great way to functionally work on following directions. Children are given many directions during gym class. Work on activities that support what they are doing in gym class.  

5. Many movement activities can be quickly done (e.g. run to the wall and back).  This allows for many opportunities to practice their speech and language skills. These activities are typically easy to prep. If you are curious about the activities I use, check out this blog post. 

Overall this has been very successful and just as importantly the children have fun.

Bring Children's Lit into Therapy with "The Hockey Sweater"

I have been feeling a little nostalgic of late and in honour of Canada's 150th birthday, I thought I would talk about using the book, "The Hockey Sweater" in therapy (no affiliate links).  It is a classic Canadian children's book.  It is about a boy growing up in Quebec in 1946. All he wants is a new Maurice Richard Montreal Canadiens jersey.  What he gets instead is a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. Needless to say, he was devastated. This is a great book for early elementary students, especially sports crazy boys.  

"The Hockey Sweater" lends itself perfectly for social language groups.  One of the reasons is that this really happened to the author, Roch Carrier. Here are some ideas:

1. Identifying emotions:  Roch goes from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.  Students can identify how he is feeling and why he feels the way he does.  

2. Problem solving:  There are many opportunities to talk about solving problems.  What would you do if you were given the wrong jersey? What would you say to your mom? Would you have worn the jersey? How would you have dealt with the hockey coach or all the other children who tease him? What would you have done if you got a penalty? What would you have said if your friend showed up with the "enemies" jersey?

3. Getting to know about another:  This provides a great opportunity to work on conversation skills. What is your favourite sport, team, player?  Why?  What should the children do if they don't like another child's favourite team?  This also makes a great writing exercise.

Here is a great National Film Board video retelling the story.  If you are thinking about showing it to your students, just know that there is a little French at the start and the narrator has a Quebecois accent. 

Along with social language, it is great for targeting hockey related vocabulary, verbs and I have also had the children work on describing different hockey jerseys.  In addition, I have had the children design their own jersey (homework) then describe it the next time in therapy.  How would you use this book in therapy?

10 Ways to Use the Post Box Game in Therapy

With Valentine's Day approaching, many SLPs are looking for theme related ideas.  One game that I bring out often, is Orchard Toys Post Box Game.  Children as young as three can play it and children as old as five and six still like to play it.  Here are some way I use it.  The general preface for the game is to pick up a letter and put it on the right mailbox.  The letters are colour coded and are addressed to different animal characters.  

1. Building vocabulary.  For younger children, it's great for learning colours and animals.  Most of the animals are common (e.g. pig, rabbit, dog, rhino) and great for teaching colours. 

2. Expanding Sentences.  Because the letters are four different colours (red, green, blue, yellow) you can start to use those colours to increase the length of sentences (E.g. "I have a red letter.")  

3. Prepositions.  This is great for teaching in for those younger children.  It can also be used to teach in front and behind (the cards fall behind the mailbox).  I will ask where a certain card and have the children answer.  A version of this is to hide the letters in various places in your therapy room. Either tell the children where they could find a letter or have the children tell you where they found the letter. 

4. Following directions.  This can be work on one-step directions (e.g. "Put a red letter in the mailbox." or "Put the duck's and the cat's letters in the mailboxes.").  You can also work on two-step directions (e.g. "First put a red letter in the mailbox, then put a green letter in." or "Before you put the rhino's letter in, put the duck's letter in.")

5. Pronouns.  I will put out pictures (a boy, a girl and a group) and divide the letters among them.  The children will pick out a letter from one of the piles and have the children say who is mailing the letter. I will also put out pictures of the different animals.  The children then deliver the letters that were mailed.  They can then say, "She/he/they get a letter." or "Here is your letter." or "You get a letter" etc...  

6.  Possessive Nouns.  The children pick a letter and look at the animal on the letter.  The child then would say, "It's the ________'s letter." 

7. Articulation.  The obvious sound to target is "L" by saying letter. I frequently incorporate the possessive noun activities into therapy which is great if you are working with mixed group.   I will also take smaller artic cards I have and use removable glue dots to put them on the letter.    Then have the child choose a card and then say the word.  As well sometimes I will just have the children put artic cards in the mailboxes.  

8. Categorization.  One activity, is to flip the letters colour side up.  Then name a category and have a child pick out that animal's letter.  (E.g. Find an animal that lives on a farm) or I will ask for the all the animals in that category.  Another version is for the child to pick a letter then say the animal's category (e.g. A child picks up a letter with a rhino.  The child says, "The rhino is a zoo animal.").  I will sometimes ask them to name another animal in the group.

9.  Describing.  Have the children play clue by either describing the animal or guessing what animal is being described.  This is a great activity for small groups.

10. Similarities and Differences.  Take two letters and say how the animals are the same or different.

Lastly, I have the children help me set up the game.  This is another way of targeting following directions.  It is also great for working on sequencing as you have to set up the game in specific way.  It can also work on some problem solving skills because the triangle supports that keep the mailbox  up must be in a specific direction or the mailboxes are very  wobbly and tend to fall over.  As always this post does not contain affiliate links.  If you are interested in other Orchard Toys that I use in therapy check out this post. Overall the children really enjoy playing this game and I'm able to target a wide variety of goals which is  a win for all.

Doing Therapy Outside in the Snow

Everyone has had the experience where you have planned a great therapy session only to have to "throw it out" at the last minute. That was me a couple of days ago. I was unexpectedly going spend the day playing outside in the snow. Of course I was thinking about different activities I could do to work on goals. Turns out there was lots we could and did do.  Here are a few.

1. Asking for help.  Many young children needed help forming snowballs, putting their mitts and toques back on, help standing up and, every once in a while, and help putting their boots back on (it can be hard to do and not get your socks wet!). This fit very naturally into the day.

2. Sequencing.  Many children needed help forming snowballs and making snowmen.  We showed some children how to make snowballs and then we had those children teach other children how to do it. The snow was perfect for making snowmen, the children made snowballs and then I pretended not to know to put it together.  The kids laughed and giggled as I had the balls in all combinations but the right one.  They liked telling me how to put the balls in the right order.

3. Concepts: big, little, heavy, light, lots, little, high, low, on, top, middle, bottom, tall, short, cold, and wet.  There are more concepts you can target but these were the ones I used.  The kids loved to make snowballs and this is where you could talk about the weight, size and feel of the snowballs.  The children were only allowed to throw snowballs at one wall.  So as they threw snowballs, I targeted location concepts by talking about where their ball landed (the snow stuck to the wall so it was easy to tell where it went) or by telling them where to throw the snowball (e.g. "throw it under Suzie's ball").  We also worked on comparing snowballs and how high the snowball hit the wall. 

4. Articulation.  S-blends are a natural and easy target with snow.  We practiced the words: snow, snowman, snowball, slippery, slide, and splat.  We also made penguin nests by digging a hole in the snow and then made snowballs for eggs.  Here I was able to target some other sounds, /n/: nest  /p/: penguins, up /g/: dig and eggs.  

5. Asking and answering where questions.  When the children went hunting for good snowball snow, they would sometimes forget where the nest was.  We then worked on asking "Where is the nest?" As well, sometimes the eggs would "disappear" and the children would ask, "Where did the eggs go?"  When they found the eggs they would then answer questions like "Where did you find the eggs?"  This also gave them practice using different location words, e.g. "Beside the tree."

6. Increasing the use of/understanding of  verbs. We used throw, roll, make, dig, sink/sank (some kids sank down in the snow drifts), lift, carry, run, slide, and slip.  

Overall while it wasn't my plan going into the day, I would say it was very successful. The children were able to work on their goals and have an amazing time too!

9 Tips for Reading to Children

In a previous post,  I wrote about why you should be reading to children.  This week I thought I would talk about some tips to help increase the value of reading.

1. Have children pick out the books to read.  They will be more interested in the book.   Take them to the library to choose some different books.  Many libraries have free memberships for young children. 

2. Don't worry if you have read the same book "hundreds of times."   It's important to read a book more than once.  They will get a better understanding of the story, learn more vocabulary and pick up on small details that they might of missed the first few times they  heard it. If a child gets "stuck" on a book (i.e. the only book they will listen too and you really have read it hundreds of times), then try first/then statements.  For example, "First we will read book X, then we will read your favourite book."

3. Pick out a variety of fiction and non-fiction stories.  If they are like Thomas the Train, then also have a variety of books about real trains available too.  

4. When picking out a story book, pick ones with good "story structure." Let it have a beginning, a middle and an end. You can then ask questions like, "Who is Thomas?" or "What do think is going to happen?" or "What else could Thomas do?" or "Why was Thomas in the forest?"

5. Don't hurry through the book.  Read slowly and pause at the end of a page.  This is like talking, you need to let children have time to understand what they have heard and they need time to come up with comments or questions.

6. Think about the children's language levels when picking out a book.  You may not want to read a book with lots of text if your child is understanding and/or talking in short phrases.  If you have a book that you feel has too much text, it's okay to edit.  You don't have to read every word.  Shorten the story as much as you can or just look and talk about the pictures.

7. Highlight new vocabulary.  Books often use words children may not hear everyday.  Talk about what that unfamiliar word means. For example, "Gloomy is another word for sad." If you can, act out the word (e.g. pretend you are sad when you read the word "gloomy.")

8.  For teachers and daycare staff, read in small groups (i.e. three-five children in a group).  This will allow you to gage whether the children are understanding the story.  Also it will allow the children to talk about the book.  Let them interrupt you.  Teach them to put up their hand and then respond when they do.  This shows they are interested in the book and are learning.  I will fully admit that it is a pet peeve of mine when adults shush children  when the children have questions or comments because the adult is reading.  Children get more out of the book when their questions/statements are being acknowledged and answered.  

9. Lastly have fun and enjoy this time. Don't be scared to be a little goofy.  Get animated.  When you show that you are excited, then children will be excited. This is not just about helping them do well in school.  This is a great time to bond and have fun.