This blog is intended as a resource for parents and teachers of the students I serve. Take a look around!
Answering yes/no questions is a very important skill, especially for children with limited verbal skills. If a child can answer yes/no questions, it expands how much they can tell an adult or caregiver almost exponentially. Yes and No are so powerful!
Yes/No are also ideal target words because they can be expressed simply, with or without verbal words. Children can nod, vocalize, or look happy to express “yes.” They can shake their head, look unhappy, or push away to express “no.” Yes/no questions can apply across many different settings, from snack time (do you want a cracker?) to recess (do you want the ball?) to bedtime (do you want your red pajamas?). They allow parents and caregivers to offer choices, and children to have more control over their lives by expressing opinions. Being able to answer yes/no questions can reduce frustration for both children and parents, especially for children with communication difficulties.
Using gestures or facial expressions is often how children start expressing their preferences. Sometimes making a face is enough, but sometimes the rejection can be pushing or throwing, which we don’t want! Starting with what we know the child wants to tell us, we can build those preferences into more conventional ways to indicate yes/no. If a child is using a push-away to express rejection, we can pair that with a sign or word to help them learn more socially acceptable ways to get their message across. Adults modeling yes/no in situations that children are currently in is very important for emerging communicators to learn how to use yes/no themselves.
There are different kinds of yes/no questions, also. Yes/no questions that are preference-based (example: Do you want a cookie?) are easier than fact-based yes/no questions (example: Is this a cookie?). Students typically master preference-based yes/no questions before they can answer fact-based yes/no questions.
Using visual supports is essential for students who have difficulty with yes/no. The graphic above is one I use every day. I have two cards – one with “yes” and one with “no.” When I ask a student a question, I hold up the cards so they can see their options for answering. It helps cue students who may not remember the words independently, but can point to the answer they mean with the visual support. This can reduce the amount of echolalia that students may use (repeating the question instead of answering it). A student can say Yes/No, point to the word they want, or even look at the word that they mean.
This month we are reading Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman during circle time. Each time the baby bird meets a new creature, I ask the question “Is the [cat/dog/cow/boat] his mother?” The board gives visual supports, along with pictures for the “yes” and “no” for modeling and pointing.
Other books ideal for working on yes/no:
Lastly, here is a video with a catchy song about yes/no, made by an SLP working on a kickstarter project. There are words that pop on the screen about their project, which is a bit annoying, but the song is pretty fun and could be engaging for a student who doesn’t mind the words, but enjoys music and puppets.
EET stands for Expanding Expression Tool. It is a kit which helps students to use stronger, more descriptive oral and written language. From the EET website: “The Expanding Expression Tool provides students with a hands-on approach to describing and defining. As a mnemonic device, it provides visual and tactile information which facilitates improved language organization. The kit itself is designed to allow you to follow a hierarchical approach taking student’s expression from words to paragraphs to reports. Therefore, it can be used by a variety of ages.”
Confession: I saw the EET craze a while back, and ignored it. I saw all of the blogs of other SLPs talking about EET, how they were using EET in therapy, how great EET is… and I never looked it up. Then one day I did look it up, and discovered that it costs a lot of money to purchase the EET kit, but that it actually looked very handy. So I did what any self-respecting, thrifty crafter does – I bought materials at the fabric store and made my own describing beads.
My describing beads are not the same as the original. It is made with wooden beads, which I painted and then embellished with a sharpie. It is strung differently on the cord than the EET, and has a ring at the top so I can clip it on my carabiner. However, it can work as a visual aid in the same way as the EET, and I can use it with all of the fabulous (and often FREE) Teachers Pay Teachers EET products. There are describing worksheets, graphic organizers, visuals to help remember what each bead stands for, and tons more.
The EET beads are a physical reminder for how to describe something. Each bead stands for a different aspect of describing, as you can see above. When describing something, you start with the green bead, and work through each bead until you get to the end. What group is it? What does it do? What does it look like? What parts does it have? My current go-to for practicing wits describing beads is while playing the game Hedbanz. Each student gets a card, and then use the describing beads to prompt their questions to figure out what they have. The better their questions, the faster they can guess what is on their head.
What could you describe using the EET?
Today I am sharing a video I found this week on a stuttering forum on Facebook. It was made by a young woman who stutters, imagining what if the covert stuttering “voice” in her head were a real person, pressuring her to hide her stuttering to avoid negative interactions or feelings.
I am so impressed both by the concepts the filmmaker is exploring, and also by the technical production by someone so young. I sometimes have difficulty taking a photo with my phone, but she can film in split screen, and edit the dialogue between her two selves!
This is a fantastic conversation-starter for older students, who may be grappling with the same issues around hiding their stutter vs. letting people know that they stutter. I am adding it to my growing playlist of stuttering videos on YouTube. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
One of my favorite times in Teacher Norma’s classroom is when I lead circle once a week. We have a routine of songs, books, calendar time and listening activities which we do each week. The content changes, but the goals are constant and so important. Circle time is a fantastic time to address social language use, listening skills, answering questions, emerging literacy, and so much more! Today I’m going to focus on the beginning and end of the circle time routine: greeting and leave-taking.
What’s so important about hello and goodbye?
There are several important communication skills embedded within a greeting. One of the first is imitation, which is foundational to learning language. During normal development, children begin to imitate waving hi/bye around 9-10 months old. Waving hi/bye has been linked with overall development. When children master this skill, it shows that they are able to recognize that another person is there, and that they can interact with that person. Saying hi and bye is a great way to practice joint attention.
Another purpose of a hi/bye routines is that they signal a transition. We begin every circle with Hello Friends, and end every circle with the Goodbye Song. These routine-based cues help children to anticipate what is happening next.
Nonverbal ways to greet
There are more ways than words to say hello and goodbye, which is another reason they are popular early goals for emerging communicators. A child can use words, wave, fist-bump, hi-5, use PECs or AAC pictures, shake hands, or make eye contact and smile – all of these “count” as saying hello! I use hi-5s a lot with younger students, who enjoy the feeling of slapping hands, the motor skill of aiming their hand to match mine, and the excitement of the social routine. Some students are not yet able to hi-5, but they will reach out a hand to be squeezed, like a child-version of a handshake. Nonverbal greetings usually develop before verbal greetings, so these are great steps towards the ultimate goal of a more conventional word, sign, or AAC greeting.
Thanks for reading! Goodbye!
I love this book/song for how versatile it is. Students at many different levels can interact with the book in different ways.
Emerging language: Students in the beginning stages of language can practice using “more” to continue the song, or to turn the page. Some students are working on the sign for “more”, while others are using switches or words. This works well for students who are motivated by music or interaction with adults. Pause the song in the middle or end of a verse, and wait expectantly for the student to request “more.” If they are still learning “more,” they may need you to model using it (“Let’s do MORE”, accompanied by helping with the sign, or pushing the switch with the child) and then continue.
Imitation: The repeating refrain “E-I-E-I-O” is great for imitation of speech sounds. I have a few students who are in the babbling/imitation stage of learning language, and they love to sing along and practice different sounds.
Labeling: Students who are beginning to use words can label the different animals in the song or book. Farm animals are fun to label, especially when paired with their funny sounds. I sing the song, and pause when we get to the animal to let the student fill-in the animal themselves. If the student does not know the word yet, I point to it, label it, and then look at them to see if they will label it with me.
Answering questions: Students who are using longer word combinations can start to answer questions about the pictures in the book. Questions starting with “what,” “where,” or “who” are the easiest ones to start with. Talk about what is on each page, and ask questions starting with wh-words to engage more advanced students.
Long-time readers of this blog may remember waaaaaaaay back in 2012 I started a pilot program in my district doing what we called FIT therapy. A group of SLPs in the district wanted to try to implement the new model of short, frequent, intense therapy sessions to see how it would work for our articulation students.
The pilot year went very well, and the following year we kept data on our rate of students graduating from speech therapy. The data was impressive, and I’ve been doing FIT therapy with my articulation students ever since. I have also expanded to use it with students working on vocabulary as well.
This past October I presented the method, along with our district’s pilot program and data, at the Washington Speech Language Hearing Association’s annual convention in Tacoma. My presentation was well-received, which was a relief to me because I was very nervous about it! Several other SLPs have since asked for my slides, in order to present the method to their colleagues and spread the information further.
I am thrilled that others are interested in implementing FIT therapy (also known as QuickDrill, 5-minute therapy, or 5-minute kids) with their clients. I have put my presentation on Google Slides, which is available for viewing for anyone who is interested. The handout is also on Google Drive, free to download (see below).
I would love to know if anyone else uses this service delivery model, or if you are inspired to try it!
This month we have been talking about shapes in Teacher Norma’s classroom! Some students are at the level of exploring physical shapes with their hands, and other students have begun to label shapes verbally. There are many, many ways to play with shapes that can be done at home.
The book we have been reading together in class is called Shape Capers. You can get it at the library, or on BetterWorldBooks.com. The book introduces shapes – circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, and semi-circles, and then uses the shapes to create fun pictures of different objects (a race car, a rocket, a dinosaur…). The students enjoyed touching each shape, and matching the shape they were holding to the picture in the book.
I made puffy fabric shapes that velcro onto a display board, which we used as we read the book. Each student got a shape to hold and explore, and when their shape came up in the book, they added their shape to the board. It gave students a chance to learn new words, as well as listen for their shape to be called. And the students enjoyed the texture and squishability of the fabric shapes!
At home, playing with Play-Doh can be one way to learn more about shapes. You can download Play-Doh shape mats here, which you can use while playing with Play-Doh to create and reinforce different shapes.
Flash cards and sorting is another way to learn about shapes. Here is a shape activity with cards of objects that are naturally circles, triangles, squares, etc. Cut them out, and have students label the shapes they see, or sort them into groups based on shape. If your student is not able to label yet, then you can do it with them and model the words as you look at the cards.
Happy Holidays everyone! Stay safe and warm, and I’ll see you in January 2016!
In October I presented at the Washington Speech Language Hearing Association’s annual conference. I spoke about QuickDrill Therapy, and had a great response to my session.
While I was at the convention I had the privilege of hearing Elyse Lambeth from Children’s Hospital in Seattle present about tools for stuttering therapy. One of the tools she shared was the concept of “fluency lanes.” I loved her graphic, and have adapted it into a handout that I use with my students.
The handout is a drawing of a freeway, with the goal of “say what you want to say” at the top. The goal for every student who stutters is that they are able to say what they want to say, when they want to say it. We work on speech strategies as a way to help students towards that goal, but they have other options also. The real goal is not that a student use X strategy. The goal is that each student will chose whatever option works best for them in each situation, even if that option is stuttering openly. Sometimes saying what you want is more important than using a strategy.
The graphic helps students to visualize their options. The box at the side of the road is a parking space. A student is “parked” if they decide not to talk at all. Will it get them to their goal? No. But it is an option they have the power to chose. In therapy we talk about this option, and the consequences of choosing it. Will people know what you think if you stop talking? How will you let your friends know what you like or what you want to do with them? I rarely have a student chose to park instead of drive, but it is still an important option to point out.
The bumpy shoulder on the side of the road is for when students avoide words to prevent stuttering (circumlocution). If a student continues talking, but is avoiding words to keep themselves from stuttering, it will take them more time to go around the tricky words. They might not say exactly what they want. They are still talking, but it is a slow and bumpy road.
The lanes on the road are for different ways to say what they want. One of the lanes is to continue talking and allow the stuttering to happen. Easy stuttering is always an option for communication, and sometimes it is the fastest option! A student can always feel okay choosing to stutter if that will get them to their goal. Working on stuttering acceptance, easy stuttering, and voluntary stuttering are good ways to practice communication in this lane.
The other two lanes are for changing the way you talk (fluency shaping) or using a strategy to alter a stutter (stuttering modification). I don’t differentiate between these two approaches much with elementary-age students, but the difference may be significant in some situations. A student can chose to use their tools to speak more fluently, which will get them to their goal of saying what they want. A student may chose to travel in these lanes if it is important to them that they not stutter while they talk, such as during a class presentation, or talking with a particular person or in a particular situation.
The freedom to chose how to communicate is a fundamental human right. I love this handout because it helps children who stutter to express themselves however they want!
I love books.
I love books to read at home. I love reading books at school. I love using books with my students to introduce language concepts. And I LOVE using the same books repeatedly, especially with my students who need many repetitions to learn a new idea or concept.
Over the summer I was assigned to a new school, with students at different levels than I worked with last year. This has given me an opportunity to develop MORE book activities!
In teacher Norma’s room we are reading the book “In the Small, Small Pond” by Denise Flemming during circle time in November. It’s a fun book featuring many different pond animals. Students with higher vocabulary skills are exposed to many fun animals in the book – there are water beetles, herons, swallows, minnows, tadpoles, and muskrats! – and other students are working on the word “in”. My book poster (see below) has each animal OUT of the pond, and on their turn, each student puts an animal IN the pond.
This is another re-blog from several years ago, because I want to highlight ways to keep LEARNING over the summer!
“Shared book reading” is the term for reading a book with your child. It can be any book, so long as it is an interesting book for your child. Picture books, comic books, newspaper advertisements, Lego catalogs… ANYTHING.
It is a *wonderful* way to support developing language skills during the summer.
Shared book reading
- exposes children to emergent literacy;
- fosters vocabulary growth;
- aids in the development of narrative skills (important for reading comprehension and writing);
- helps engagement in social participation;
- supports entry into later true literacy skills.
Here are my tips for reading a book together with your child:
- Pick an interesting book. Think about your child’s interests (robots, cars, food, television characters…) and pick something engaging. Librarians are a great resource to help you pick good books for your child.
- Ask at least one question per page, and give time for your child to think and answer. It can be as simple as “What do you see on this page?”, or a more complicated question like “Why did Sally feel sad?” Encourage your child to think of her own questions about the book, too!
- Make comments on each page. Point out interesting things you see, or comment about how something is similar or different to your own life. “That car looks like ours!” “Curious George sure is a naughty monkey, isn’t he?” “I see blueberry pancakes. I love eating pancakes!” Encourage your child to make his own observations.
- Wait for 5 seconds at the end of each page, to give your child time to think of their own comments or questions. 5 seconds can feel like a long time, but you don’t need to rush. Kids sometimes need the extra thinking time!
- Pick a time of the day that is free from distractions so that you can read every day. Bedtime works great for many families, but pick whatever time works best for you!
Here is a link to a great summer plan for reading that has a different focus for each week. There are so many opportunities for fun learning in the summer!