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?



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 ply 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. 





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.

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.  
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 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.

So, grab it, and Keep on Talking.




Sunday, December 11, 2016

AAC From A to Z: P is for Planning



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.




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!