I am a speech language pathologist (SLP) in the Edmonds School District. I work at Maplewood Parent Coop.

This blog is intended as a resource for parents and teachers of the students I serve. Take a look around!


ASL sign for “in”

The word IN is a very important preposition. It is one of the basic concept words I often work on with students, and a word I have written about before. It is one of my top-10 CORE words, because it is so functional, and combines with so many other words.


Where is the boy? IN bed!

IN is a CORE word because it is multi-functional. At home, you can model IN by talking about what is IN a box, IN your fridge, IN your purse, or IN a backpack. Students can get IN a car, IN the bathtub, or IN bed. Food goes IN your tummy, and clothes belong IN the closet. Use whatever communication your student uses to practice the word IN all over the house!


My main book this week is “Better Move On, Frog!”, which is an oldie-but-goodie by Ron Maris. In the book, the frog wants to go IN a hole. He goes around the yard, but finds out that all the holes already have animals IN them! He finally finds a pond where he can go IN and live, so the story has a happy ending.


A new favorite for me is the book “IN” by Nikki McClure. Her illustrations are fascinating, and the entire book is talking about things IN other things on every page. It is a bit busy for students who are easily visually distracted, but I just love it.

How will you practice IN this week?


HELP in American Sign Language

HELP is another CORE word that is highly functional and important. We are focusing on HELP this week in Teacher Norma’s classroom.

There are many ways to practice “help” in everyday life. Students may need help during their normal routines – help getting dressed, help eating, help opening, help getting something out of reach – the possibilities are almost endless. Our students will need help for lots of activities. When they need help, we need to HELP them to learn to ask for it by having their AAC available (on the table, in our hands, on the floor next to them). We need to know where the HELP symbol is located, so we can quickly model it. If our students are using signs, we need to model the sign “help” right at the moment when they need the help.


But students aren’t always the ones who need help. Kids can participate in family life by helping their parents or siblings with chores or activities around the house. If adults learn to ask “help me”, they can model how to ask for help for themselves, and allow their children to learn how to participate and feel proud of their contributions to the family. Kids could help:

  • Preparing meals
  • Setting the table
  • Cleaning up toys
  • Feeding the pet
  • Putting dishes in the dishwasher
  • Putting away clothes
  • Carrying groceries to/from the car
  • And much more!

The book “I Can Help” by David Hyde Costello has many opportunities for students to see/use the word HELP. Every page has an animal in trouble, and another animal helping them out.

For slightly older students, the book “The Berenstain Bears Lend a Helping Hand” is a nice read-along book. It talks about helping, and how to participate in a family. You can watch it on YouTube here:

This week is parent/teacher conference week, so we have half-days all week. But that does not stop the CORE alphabet in Teacher Norma’s room. This week, G is for GO!


“go” in American Sign Language

The word “go” is a CORE word that has many different uses. It can be used to talk about going places – we go to school, go home, go to lunch, go to recess. During play it can be used to talk about anything that moves – balls, children, trucks, cars, dogs… So many people and things can GO!


This is one of my new favorite books. The big, green monster slowly appears as you turn the pages to reveal new body parts. Once he is all there, you tell each body part to “go away!” and he slowly disappears again.

I made a Boardmaker Online talking book, using the phrase “Let’s Go to the _________” on every page. If you are a Boardmaker Online subscriber, you can access the book here.

CORE alphabet GO

Go learn some CORE words! Go, go, go!


Okay, “fun” is not a CORE word. But it is an important fringe word, and something that students may want to request! It is also a “category” word, signifying a group of things (toys, activities) that are all “fun”. Learning categories is important, and this category is super relevant for everyone!


“Fun” in American Sign Language

What activities are fun for your student? It’s good to think intentionally about how to include fun in our routines, both as adults and for our students. We all need breaks, and time to relax and recharge. Having a list of quick, easy, fun activities for breaks is essential both at home and at school. Your student may have “traditional” fun activities, or they may enjoy more atypical toys and activities.

  • Toy fun: toy cars, baby dolls, Shopkins, legos, spinner fidgets, playdoh
  • Gross motor fun: swimming, running, swinging, trampoline, outdoor play
  • Screen time fun: YouTube, iPad apps
  • Fine motor fun: sensory bins, bubble wrap popping, craft activities
  • Quiet time fun: quiet music, reading a book, snuggles with stuffed toys


Also think about what times of day you could build in some fun time. Before dinner? After dinner? Before or after a hard task or chore? As a reward for following a routine? If you use a visual schedule, having a “fun” icon can be used to indicate a free choice time, when a student gets to chose their own fun activity. It helps students to know that something enjoyable is coming up, to keep them on track and engaged in activities that may be harder for them.

Lastly, our book this week is “Is Everyone Ready For Fun?” by Jan Thomas. It has lots of fun verbs to act out, and the word “fun” is prominently featured. Let’s jump! Let’s dance! Let’s wiggle! Let’s have fun!

The CORE Alphabet word this week is EAT!


“EAT” in American Sign Language

Actually, “eat” is not a CORE word. It is a fringe vocabulary word, because it is not in the most frequent words that we use in our everyday conversation. BUT… it is a very important fringe word nonetheless. Students need to be able to tell us they want to eat, and we need to be able to tell students to “Eat your _____”. Words relating to basic body needs are high priority.

There are tons of opportunities in everyday life to model the word “eat”.

  • Before snack or mealtimes: “It’s time to eat!”
  • When you know a student is hungry: “What do you want to do?” (offer AAC with EAT prominently visible)
  • While eating: “I am eating.”
  • While student is eating: “You are eating.” “Eat your _________” “Do you want to eat __________?”

Puppet games, where students give items (food or non-food) to a puppet to “eat” can be riotously fun. 🙂


I also made a Boardmaker activity with the question “What do we eat?” and a food/non-food option. Students choose on every page which thing they can eat. It is in the Ms Petersen SLP Boardmaker group.

CORE alphabet EAT

And then there’s YouTube, with all of the eating-related videos, like Cookie Monster EATING cookies!

Here’s a playlist of Cookie Monster eating cookies, and babies eating cake!


Our CORE word this week is Different, for the letter D! Different is an important word because it can be used to let adults know if a student doesn’t like the toy/food/activity they are doing, and they want to have/do something else. Different is also useful to let students know when there is a change in the schedule, or when things are not going to happen as they expect. It is also useful to comment on whether objects are the same, or different, which is an important cognitive skill.


“different” in American Sign Language

There are lots of ways to practice the word different. One way is with objects, such as counting bears. One of these bears is different. Which one is it?

counting bears different

Sesame Street has a recurring song about thing being different. Here is one clip from YouTube. There are many more if you search for them!

Here is a YouTube playlist of read-aloud books, and other clips, using the word DIFFERENT.

There are also tons of worksheets that focus on finding the thing that is different, like this one:


Our letter this week is “C”, and our word is COME.


“Come” is an important word for following directions. Students need to be able to follow directions to come with me, come to the circle, come to the bathroom, come here, come to the car… the directions that use “come” are endless! It is an important safety word.


We should also allow our students to use “come” expressively, for the word to have power for them. If students think a word is only for adults, why should they be interested in it? But if a student could tell US to come, and we did it? That’s a word worth learning.

We should also make sure that the consequences of following a “come” direction are positive as much as possible. If we use the word “come” to mean “come here because I’m mad at you”, why would students listen to us? Make sure that when learning the word “come”, that students are receiving positive rewards when they listen. Hugs, stickers, treats, kind words, high-fives or whatever else your student finds motivating. Once they know the word it can be okay to call them over for a problem, but try to avoid using the word “come” in negative situations, especially when students are learning what it means. If they learn that “come” means “I’m in trouble”, you may end up with a student who runs the other way when they hear it!


This week Teacher Norma is teaching the letter B. We have TWO words to focus on that start with B: Bye and Big!


Bye is a powerful social word. Many children learn “bye-bye” as one of their first 50 words. Every time someone leaves, it is a chance to practice using “bye.” Students can orally say “bye”, wave bye-bye, or use AAC picture symbols or devices to say “bye.” Adults should model using “bye” whenever appropriate! It is a helpful transition word, both for saying goodbye to people, and saying goodbye to things. “Bye bye toys! Bye bye book! Bye bye snack!”


Our other word this week is BIG. This is an important describing word, used a lot in elementary school curriculum and classrooms.


Adding a describing word onto another noun is a way to help students make longer utterances. Instead of “dog”, it can be a “big dog.” Instead of “cookie” it can be “BIG cookie”! Who wouldn’t want a big cookie?


Bye bye!

We are learning a new CORE word each week in Teacher Norma’s classroom this year. The CORE words (and a few fringe words) will follow the alphabet letters that students are learning. For a refresher on CORE vocabulary, check out this post.

all done

A is for ALL DONE! Some students in other programs learn the CORE word “finish” instead. Either way, this is a very important concept. Note: “all done” counts as one “word” because it is a phrase that expresses one idea. 

All done is important for students to learn to help them transition from one activity to another. It lets them know that what they are currently doing is over, so they need to change gears into the next activity. Teachers and staff can use “all done” to help prepare students for these transitions.


All done is also important for students to use, to tell teachers and parents when they want to be done with an activity. Students need a way to appropriately “protest”; to tell other people “no” in a pro-social way. When students don’t have protest vocabulary, they may end up throwing, hitting, or screaming instead. We need to honor their right to tell us when they are tired of something by providing vocabulary for students to express these feelings and desires.


Any mode of communication (word/sign/picture symbol) is an acceptable way to communicate “all done.” Students learning CORE words often need multiple avenues for learning, and may do better with one more or another. Using *any* form of communication increases a student’s future potential to use communication of all kinds, so encourage students to use whatever mode of communication works best for them!


“All done” in American Sign Language

You can work on “all done” at home using any activity that has multiple steps. Cooking, coloring, or craft projects all have steps that you “finish” before moving on to the next step. Any activity, actually, will have an end-time, and using “finish” to signify the end of activities is a great way to model the word.

You can also work on “all done” by anticipating times that your child may want to be done with an activity, and providing an icon or model of the word, so they can use it to get out of something they don’t like. 🙂  Make sure to provide “all done” at an authentic time, and also at a time when the activity *can* end the moment the child wants it to end (so not while walking across the street, for example). Also be sure to honor the child’s request to end *immediately*, not when you feel it should end. When teaching “all done,” we need to make sure to give the word full power, and let students tell us when they are done. Once they know the word, then it is okay to have them wait if it’s not the “right” time to be done with an activity. When teaching a new word, honor it immediately whenever possible.

I’m all done!

We have reached the last week of in-class therapy for Teacher Norma’s classroom! This week we are doing one of my favorite books, The Napping House by Audrey Wood

The Napping House is about a grandma who falls asleep in a cozy bed, followed by a boy, and a dog, and a cat, a mouse, and finally a flea who wakes everyone up! It is a patterned book, with every page adding the next character, and ending with the line “…in a napping house, where everyone is sleeping.”


  • Prepositions – ON: Each character lays down ON the character before, with the grandma ON the bed, the boy ON the grandma, the dog ON the boy, etc.
  • Verbs – SLEEP: While not a CORE word, the verb “sleep” is an important word for daily routines. Find the word “sleep” on your child’s AAC system, or look up the ASL sign (some families use “sleep”, and some use the sign for “bed”).

American Sign Language: “sleep”

  • Predicting: What’s next? is a great question to ask during a story like this. Stories with a predictable structure can help students predict the next words or actions, and use language to describe the story. After reading the story a few times, start asking “What’s next?” and see what your student says!

We are using this interactive book I made, asking “Who is sleeping?” on each page.

You can find The Napping House at your local library, or watch the read-aloud YouTube video here:

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winter break!

winter break!December 21st, 2018
36 days to go.

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