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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Can You Describe It? Building Skills Around Gift-Giving Season

The commercial aspect of the Winter holidays is well under way.  Even before Halloween was over, ads began for sale prices and get-'em-now deals.  Is it no wonder all kids can talk about it what they want from Santa or their parents?

define and describe about gifts and toys

Many kids spend some time this season writing letters to Santa or sharing their hopes for THE gift of the year with friends.  But for some kids with language disorders these discussions can be difficult.  They might not be able to remember the name of the desired toy if they have word finding problems. 
They might not be able to tell about the cool things it can do if they lack vocabulary or sentence formulation skills.

Last year I made a fun game for students based on an activity I used to do in therapy.  It focuses on describing and defining skills.  Students provide descriptions of what they want (based on cards or game board spaces) and the rest of the group has to guess what he or she is talking about.

After the holiday break is over, play the game based on what they "received" (again, based on pictures in the game, but don't be afraid to have them use what they really got!).
Students seem to enjoy the game, and sometimes the guesses get goofy, but that's part of the language fun.  When the guesses get too "wild," I have students stop and think about why that isn't a logical guess.

There are several different ways to play the game, all provided in the description.  When you, the adult, provide the descriptions, students are focused on listening and processing skills, as well as the mental shuffling of vocabulary based on the clues.

When students provide the descriptions, they are focused on finding sufficient, concise vocabulary and formulating the phrases and sentences that make sense.

Have fun with your own groups of students.  You can find my version of the game here in my TPT store.  Or, if you prefer, tear apart all of those annoying catalogues that have your postman groaning and make your own picture cards to use.

Happy holidays, and Keep on Talking!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Your Top Teaching Strategy for Answering Wh-Questions

It's gift-giving season again, and tech-related gifts are still high on everyone's wish-list.  For many students with special needs - particularly those with Autism - iPad apps continue to be great gifts that keep on giving throughout the year. 

answering wh questions

Apps addressing various speech and language skills are plentiful, and parents are sometimes at a loss to figure out just which skills are important, what is developmentally appropriate for their child, and which apps introduce or teach the targeted skills in a way in which their child can learn.
One of the most difficult skills I have found to teach students with ASD in my almost 40 years as a SLP is how to answer Wh Questions.  And that is exactly why I developed a program to teach kids how to answer different types of Wh- questions.

Question It is the app for answering Wh Questions

Research has shown that students with language delays actually learn how to answer Wh-questions in about the same order as typical kids.  They just learn them later.

Typical children do develop more successful strategies for formulating acceptable responses to Wh-questions.  And, as we might expect, the ability to understand and respond with the general category of information required by the type of question develops a while before the ability to provide the correct answer.  
Question It - the app for answering Wh Questions

There are studies that have shown that children - both delayed and typical - from 3-7 are significantly less successful in figuring out what category of information is needed, and providing the answer requested; especially when the question refers to something not immediately in front of them. 

Question It and Question It ED are for the iPad only, and provide 4 sequential activities; all with faded color cues, use of errorless learning, and reinforcement for every 5 correct responses.  Students work their way from sorting words by which type of question they answer, through answering questions about simple sentences, then more complex sentences, and, finally, through answering questions about 3 related sentences in a paragraph.

Question It app

Question It app

Question It is free for a limited number of questions in each activity, then asks users to make an in-app purchase.  Question It ED offers a single pricing for school districts who can't make in-app purchases.

Best of all?!  Question It ED is on sale for the gift giving season, through the end of December 2016 for 9.99

If you're not into technology, and want a paper-based version of the activity, try A Program to Teach Wh-Questions in my store.

A Wh question Program on TPT

So, grab it, and Keep on Talking.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

AAC From A to Z: P is for Planning

AAC from A-Z free explainer videos

Last week, I told you about the all-important first step for teaching a student to use an AAC system - any AAC system.  Providing Aided Language Stimulation or Aided Input is important.  Students need models of the language system they are going to use.  We know that it is important to immerse them in an environment rich with their mode of communication.  

Emerging AAC users need continuous Aided Language Stimulation and opportunities to see, hear, and practice core words.  More experienced AAC users need Aided Input and scaffolding to support learning new vocabulary and more complex syntax.

For new communication partners this can seem a little bit daunting as tasks go; simultaneously using speech and using the AAC system to highlight key words.  I always tell partners to begin with just one activity.  Find one that is familiar and with which you are comfortable; routines work well, as the language used in them follows a predictable sequence and vocabulary is predictable and repeated.

I suggest that partners start by planning their interactions in advance, in order to get a good grasp of what words they are going to need to use within the activity, and what word(s) they want to target.
Think about the core words - verbs, pronouns, and adjectives in particular - that are a part of interactions within that activity.  Also think about what fringe words - mostly nouns - you need, as well.

Thinking about where your AAC user is linguistically, plan out 1, 2, or 3 word phrases - or longer sentences - you want to include.  Remember, we want to model at about 1 level above where your user is currently communicating.
Think about what communication functions the user is also already using.  Requesting is often what we develop first, but may not be the most functional.  Think about comfort, emotional states, wanting to be left alone, or needing to tell when something is wrong.

The link to watch the video, as well as download the handout, is right here.
Have fun communicating.  Keep on Talking !!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

AAC From A to Z: A is for Aided Language Stimulation

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I talk a lot about AAC implementation and best practices for getting your aac users to communicate.

AAC A-Z free explainer videos

This week, I'm posting a link to a quick video in which I explain aided language stimulation - yes, again!  It is so important that it bears repeating and repeating.  It is sometimes difficult for staff or parents to wrap their heads around doing this crucial step of modeling the AAC system use.

So, enjoy the video and find a single activity in which to practice this skill.  It's easy once you get the hang of it, and it will make a world of difference to your aac user.

Keep on Talking!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Be a Winner!

Tomorrow, Monday, November 28 (2016) starts the 2-day Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Sale!  Not only will you be able to find great resources for your therapy room, classroom, home, or other facility, but now you can win one of many $10 Gift Cards from TPT!

The great folks at TPT have been giving away $10 Gift Cards to sellers at random, so that we can pass them along to you, our faithful customers!  What could be better?

Some of us have joined up in a blog hop, so that you can hop along (wait, it's not Easter yet, is it?) and enter to win more than once.

I've uploaded a gift-giving guide in my TPT store, to help you search for just the right resource for someone on your list - or for yourself!  After all, you deserve something special, too, don't you?

I have some favorites for winter, like a book companion for "The Snowy Day" or my Following Directions in Winter, which includes several different activities with a winter theme and a focus on following directions.

I've been trying to bundle some of my resources together for bigger savings on some of my most popular items.  I just uploaded a bundle of all 5 of my sets of interactive books for teaching core vocabulary to AAC (augmentative communication) users.  These books are really popular, and now you can get all 5 sets at a fabulous price - especially with the sale!

I've also just uploaded two interactive books about Christmas and Hanukkah holidays, so you can get to work practicing holiday vocabulary.

So, leave a comment here or on my FB fan page, telling me which of my resources you most wish for.  I'll pick a lucky winner at random from all of the entries, and announce who it is at 10 am Monday, Pacific Time, on my FB page.

Head on over to Sommer's Lion Pride to finish the loop.
Have a great holiday, catch some great bargains, and above all else ---- Keep on Talking!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

My SLP Story: How the Heck Did I Get Here?

I am joining up with the Frenzied SLPs for a blog linky this week.  We are all sharing the stories of our journey to becoming SLPs.  How did we get to here?

I knew some SLPs in graduate school who had known in college that this is what they wanted to do.  They started out as Communication Disorders majors, and went straight to graduate school.

how I became a SLP

My journey was a little bit different, and far from the straight path.  I became interested in Autism before I even got to high school, after seeing a special on t.v. about kids with the disorder.  This was way back when Autism was still considered Childhood Schizophrenia.

So, in college, I became a psychology major, and got to do some work with kids with autism throughout college by way of some special education classes.  
And I actually thought I had a chance at a job after school.

But then PL94-142 passed.  Just as I was finishing my undergraduate degree and the local public schools took over the students I had been working with and.... POOF!  End of job prospects.

I searched for a job for a while, but I was young (19) and nobody really wanted to hire me.
I worked as a special ed substitute teacher for a little while, but it was tough bouncing from one special education class to another every other day.
So I applied for graduate school.  Thing was, there were only 5 graduate programs in the whole country way back then that offered a specialty in Autism.

I can communicate with AAC

To make a really long story short, I ended up in New Orleans in a special ed Master's program that was terrible.  So, I looked at Tulane to see what they had to offer, and found the speech pathology program.  
I had been working with teaching signs to the kids I worked with in college, so I was basically teaching communication skills already.  So, I knocked on the door and they took me in.

teaching signs to people with autism

I have now been a SLP for 38 years.  It has been a varied, interesting, and sometimes wild ride.  But it has never been dull.  And I have never been unemployed.

For the past 19 1/2 years I have been running my own private practice, providing independent evaluations and AAC implementation consulting and training.
And what's next, you ask?  Retirement is around the corner and I can't wait.  I have other fun things planned for my retirement, and I'd love to get to them.  My art studio is beckoning daily.

In the meantime, I'm still passionate about what I do and why I do it.  Every child deserves to have a voice!
So, Keep on Talking!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

What Goes with Fall? Apples. And Apple Pies!

We’re in what should be the crisp, cool days of Fall.  Well, some of you are enjoying the cool.  I was recently in Boston and it was beautiful.  The leaves had turned, and the days were cool without being cold.  

But now I’m back in San Diego and it’s in the 80’s.  Is that crazy, or what?  Everyone knows you need cold snap nights to make good apples.  And who can resist a good apple pie?

apple pie sequencing freebie

There is a fun book by Marjorie Priceman called “How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.”  It takes kids around the world to find all the best ingredients for an apple pie; giving them the chance to see where the produce, spices, and other ingredients come from (other than the grocery store, that is).
Best of all, for a speech-language pathologist, it offers some great opportunities for working on sequencing skills.
Just follow the link and it will take you to the sequencing freebie.

I have a complete book companion resource in my TPT store, but am offering you 2 versions of a sequencing activity for free.  So, have your students sequence how to make an apple pie, and maybe even make one with or for them to try.

The full resource includes shared reading activities for a week,  and there are a variety of activities, including sequencing before and after activities, making a shopping list, filling in a passport with countries and ingredients, matching countries with how you got there and what you got there and the order in which you got there, a map activity, sequencing pie making, and sequencing sentence strips to retell.  
There are also 46 vocabulary cards and picture matching cards for lots of vocabulary building fun.

Either way, have fun and enjoy an apple for me.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and……..Keep on Talking.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

7 Tips and 1 Communication Board for Halloween

It's almost here - the spookiest time of the year.  For kids with disabilities, Halloween isn't always so much fun.  Costumes can be difficult to get into, uncomfortable, or have too many parts to keep track of.  Trick or treating may not be fun if you can't eat most Halloween candy.  And all the hype in class isn't much fun if you can't join in the discussion.

halloween communication board

Enabling Devices has a great post on their blog about making the day accessible for everyone; including advice to think outside the box, incorporate a wheelchair, make the costume comfortable, incorporate the child's interests, prepare the child for what will happen, prepare for dietary restrictions, and incorporate a service animal.
You can read their post with all the tips here.

And, if you missed it last year, here is my Halloween communication board, to supplement your student's AAC system, or to use for the holiday if the child does not have his/her own system.
Just right click and download.

Keep safe, don't eat too much candy, and.... Keep on Talking!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

5 Easy Ways to Implement AAC in Daily Routines

Are you unsure of how to create daily opportunities for AAC implementation? Afraid you need fancy tools or expensive resources?  
making aac routine

Here is how to do it without needing to change what you are already doing throughout the day: routines.

using AAC in daily routines

Typically developing children first learn a lot of early language based on the routines and familiar activities within their environment.  Routines by definition are predictable; they use predictable vocabulary, predictable sequences, and occur frequently.  They create a structure onto which children can build language; especially vocabulary words.

planning core words in routines

Choice making is also an early language opportunity that is already, or can be easily, built into daily activities and routines.  Offering students choices of what is done, where and when it is done, and/or with whom can provide students with opportunities to exert control over their environment and learn about the usefulness of communicating.

By taking a look at how the classroom day unfolds, we can create simple scripts for routines that help build communication by providing communication partners with the vocabulary needed for each step within the routine for a variety of communication functions.

Every classroom day begins with students arriving or, in a more structured activity, specific greetings and acknowledgement during circle time or morning meeting.  This is an opportunity for students to learn greetings exchanges, make comments, express feelings, and learn names.

Every student’s day has at least 1 mealtime, and often students also have breakfast and/or snack at school.  Again, this is a daily routine with specific actions and opportunities.  
Students can express choices, make requests, protest, comment, express opinions, ask for help.  

Students who purchase lunch have more natural opportunities for communication than students who bring their meal, but either way staff can provide opportunities for talking about not just the meal, but how the student feels about it, what he likes or doesn’t, and what he is going to do at the break time that typically comes after lunch.

Additionally, students typically wash their hands before lunch and often after it, as well.  Staff can provide input in the form of directions and can sabotage the process by moving the soap or towels out of reach; so that students need to ask for help.  Describing words, like clean and dirty, can be modeled, as well as the vocabulary for each step in the sequence.

So, to recap, it is easy to implement AAC in the classroom by
  1. offering choices as often as possible
  2. using consistent vocabulary and sequences within frequently repeated classroom routines
  3. sabotaging the environment during a routine task so that students need to communicate
  4. utilize simple scripts within routines so that staff are consistently modeling the same vocabulary and sentence types
  5. make sure to model vocabulary used during routines that goes beyond requesting; to include commenting, providing information, asking questions, and other communication functions

AAC implementation does not need to take a significant amount of planning time or equipment.  Just think about the language you use routinely.
Keep on talking!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

3 Ways for AAC Users to Get their Game Face On

Speech-language pathologists are known to often play games in their therapy practice.  There is some debate about the effectiveness of  games in intervention, but generally speaking, if you can combine best practices with fun and engaging format, why not go for it?

But then the hapless SLP suddenly gets an AAC user on his/her caseload.  Many SLPs are unprepared for AAC users.  Augmentative - Alternative Communication is not a required course for getting a degree or license.  Most schools do not offer such a course, and there are simply not enough qualified professors in this area to fill all of the positions that such a requirement would create.

describe, define, compare, contrast in speech therapy

So, what's a clinician to do?  Don't panic!  Just keep on doing what you have ben doing.  Simply change the mode of response.  
If, for example, you have a group of 4 students, all working on building vocabulary for describing and defining, and one of them is an early AAC user who knows basic verbs and nouns, but not many describing words, it's No Problem!  
Use the same activities you're already using.  But instead of trying to retrieve the words needed from memory, your AAC user needs to retrieve them from his AAC system.

1. What can we describe? Anything.  Take a look around the group.  Can the students describe each other?  Start off easily with shirt colors and designs.  

2.  Once you have some descriptions, start to compare and contrast them.  I have a red t-shirt.  Bobby has a blue t-shirt.  They are different colors.  That is one way they are different.  They both have short sleeves.  That's one way they are the same.
How can your AAC user participate?  Find the "describing words" folder or page in his AAC system. You'll find red and blue, and you should also find size words; like big and small, long and short, stripes and dots.

3.  Turn it into an "I Spy" type of game.  "I see something that is red, that is made from fabric, that you wear. What is it?"

Looking for a more formalized activity; one that provides you to with specific questions to ask and a variety of types of responses?  Try my "Define, Describe, Contrast" resource.  There are 10 different scenes, each with 2 versions.  Students can describe a single scene, or compare and contrast two similar scenes.
There are multiple opportunities to expand descriptive language, whether you are simply looking to build up single adjective use, or want a student to expand sentences with rich descriptive vocabulary.

Some scenes have "silly" elements and I try to see if students can tell me why they are silly or out of place.  I also use the pictures as starting points for stories.  The resource has several graphic organizers and visual cues to use.

Have fun with your AAC users and, as always, Keep on Talking. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Spooky Scary Spectacular Speech for the Season

October is almost here.  Can Halloween be far behind?  It seems to me that Fall has become one hurried-through round of holiday celebrations after another.  Last year, I got the impression that stores went straight from Halloween to Christmas without even taking a breath for Thanksgiving.  

spooky speech therapy  for halloween

There are tons of fun ways to work on language around Halloween.  With costumes and characters and monsters galore the opportunities for stirring up stimulating adjectives abounds. 
One of my favorite therapy activities has always been barrier games.  There are so many speech and language targets you can work on, and kids tend to love the almost competitive aspect of the games. 
Barrier games tend, historically, to focus on giving and following directions and using good, concise descriptors.  But you can also use them to target speech sound production; just make the images to be placed in the scenes all use the target sound in the target location. Can you put happy pigs in the pen with the sheep?

barrier game for fall

barrier  game for halloween

I have barrier games in my store for both Fall and Halloween, and last week’s blog post talked about how to turn simple stock photos into barrier game opportunities.
Last year I also wrote a post on how to create and set up your own barrier games.  You can read it here if you missed it.

I’ve also found that most kids love to play “Memory” or “Concentration”-type games; even kids whose short term memories are pretty……well, short.  I have a free set of pumpkin describing cards for playing this type of game; with a variety of funny and frightening pumpkins to describe.  While not strictly Halloween-themed, this pumpkin card game can last through the Fall season from now until Thanksgiving.  Grab it for free here.

describing pumpkins free card game

If you’re old enough to remember the old Highlights kids’ magazine (do they still publish it?), you’ll remember that one standard feature of every issue was a compare and contrast activity.  There were 2 scenes that were pretty complex, and the trick was to find all the ways that they were different.  Often one scene was missing elements of the other.

I love to do compare and contrast activities like that and, again, I’ve found that most kids love the challenge of finding the differences.  In that vein, here is my latest free resource, just for readers of my blog: a set of compare/contrast cards using monsters from Krista Walden at Creative Clips.  Pick up your free copy here

free compare contrast game

And just in case you were thinking that your AAC users couldn’t participate in these activities, take a look at their AAC systems.  Do they have colors, shapes, sizes, and other adjectives in their systems?  
They should be able to say “red, not blue” or “stripes, not spots,” in response to monster cards.  Or “2 eyes, no teeth,” in response to the pumpkin cards.  
Just another reminder that AAC intervention doesn’t have to be different or require different materials, and that AAC users don’t need to be seen alone - communication is a social act. Have fun with it.
And, keep on talking.