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!



This week our CORE alphabet word of the week is YOU!

YOU is an important word, especially for students who have autism. Many students get confused about personal pronouns, “I” vs “you, who is doing what, and how to referential pronouns work? We use YOU to tell students what to do (“You do it!”), to ask students questions (“What do you want?”) and to reference who has done what (“You went to PE today!”).


Our book this week is “From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle. I love this book because it targets body parts, animals, following directions, AND the pronouns “I” and “you”! 4-for-1! It’s also very fun to go through all of the different actions, and incorporate those movements during a session.

How are YOU going to practice “you” this week?


HAHAHA, get it?


X is a difficult letter to match with a CORE or important fringe word. But NEXT is a good one! NEXT is used a lot at school to talk about time and turn-taking. Understanding NEXT can help students to know what to expect, and help them use better social skills when playing games or taking turns.



“What’s next?” is a perpetual refrain in the intensive support classrooms I serve. Students need support to learn their schedule and routines. The question “What’s next?” helps to highlight the next activity or task happening. It helps students to anticipate transitions, and look forward to their favorite parts of the day. Use the schedules you already have at home or school to model “What’s next?” multiple times per day. The pictures help students to translate the abstract concept of “next” into something concrete and understandable.



Playing board games (or any game with turn-taking) gives many changes to ask “Who is next?” If students are playing a game with only a few other people, they will get many chances to realize that the NEXT person is them!



No one loves to stand in line. But ask the question “Who is next?” and a line turns into a teaching opportunity. “Who is next?” helps students understand the sequential nature of “next” in a practical way. And students love it when THEY are next in line!



I am a fan of “old-fashioned” books, with pages that turn. There is a place for e-books, though. Especially when we are working on NEXT. Since e-books don’t have physical pages, the cue to move forward is usually “NEXT page”, instead of “turn the page.” What a great way to explore technology, and practice our CORE word of the week!

We’ll be back NEXT week, with our NEXT letter!


Our letter this week is W, and our word is WANT! I WANT all of our students to understand this word!


Requesting is one of the fundamental functions of language that children learn first (other fundamental functions include protesting and labeling). “I want __________” is a very common early sentence frame that students are taught, to help them request things or actions. Asking for what they want can help students to manage their frustration, and prevent behavior problems, as well as helping students to feel happy and heard.


There are many, many times to practice WANT at home and at school. Any situation where the student does not have something that they need or want is an opportunity to ask them “What do you want?” Students can respond with “want ______”. If 2 word combos are tricky, have the word “want” already filled in, so the student only needs to chose the item or activity.

  • Snack time: Which snack do you want?
  • Art time: Which color crayon do you want? Which art supply do you want?
  • Play time: Which toy do you want?
  • Breakfast: Which cereal do you want?
  • Bedtime: Which book do you want?
  • Getting dressed: Which shirt do you want?

Students can also respond to a “What do you want?” question by pointing or looking. Any response that answers the question is a good answer!


American Sign Language – “want”

Our book this week is What Do You Want? by Lars Klinting. The book is a series of characters (a rooster, and old man, a baby, and old woman, etc) who each want something. The thing or person they want “matches” them in some way (a man wants a hat, a chicken wants her chick, a chair wants a table…). The words are simple, and the word WANT is on every page! I WANT to read it again!




Our CORE alphabet word this week is UNDER! This is an important word for describing where things are, and for following/understanding directions. UNDER is a conceptual word that is very useful. It typically comes after IN and ON as students are learning prepositions.


UNDER the covers!

UNDER is a fun word to practice. Here are some ideas:

  • Play hiding games, either with objects, or with the student themselves. “Where is the teddy bear? Is it UNDER the table? Is it UNDER the bed?” “Where is Kim? Is she UNDER the blanket?”
  • Bedtime routines are also a recurring time to practice UNDER. You get UNDER the covers every night!
  • Counting bears are a staple in many classrooms. These small, indestructible plastic bears are great for practicing many concepts. Combined with a cup, you can practice putting them IN the cup, ON the cup (upside-down), or UNDER the cup (also upside-down).


Our main book this week is Underground, by Denise Fleming. Each page shows a different animal or plant underground, working or growing. It is fun to imagine all of the interesting things happening UNDER the ground!


Two other fun books for students with higher language skills are Over and Under the Pond, and Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner. These two books have more complicated language on each page, and more words. The illustrations are enchanting, and both books show the things that go on under the surface, where we cannot always see what is happening.

I hope we all UNDERstand how to work on UNDER!


This week’s letter is T, and the CORE word is TURN!

TURN is an interesting CORE word, because it has multiple meanings. This just means that there are more opportunities to practice it!

  1. You can TURN the lights on or TURN the lights off!
  2. You can TURN around in a circle.
  3. Take a TURN while playing a game, or wait for your TURN to do something fun! (“My turn/Your turn”)
  4. TURN the page on a book!

Turn the page!

We are practicing all of these ways in class this week, since all of them are directions that students hear many times while they are at school.

Because all books have pages that we can “turn”, we don’t have a specific book that uses the word “turn” for this week. Instead, we are practicing using the word “turn” while reading every book!


Our CORE word this week is STOP! Stop is an important word for so many real world situations.


  • Our students need to understand STOP as a safety word. STOP because a car is coming. STOP a dangerous behavior. STOP and listen to the directions. STOP!


  • Our students need to be able to express STOP for their own safety and well-being. STOP doing something I don’t like. STOP touching me. STOP and give me time to think. STOP! Students have the right to express their opinions, and to tell others to stop. Rejecting is one of the basic functions of language, and the right to reject actions, objects, or situations is a human right.

STOP is an important word to know in different modalities. STOP needs to be available on communication devices, but sometimes communication devices aren’t available, or the battery dies, or STOP needs to be expressed very quickly and there simply isn’t time. We need to teach STOP using AAC, using manual sign, using oral language, and any other effective communication modality. STOP is too important to miss because one modality or another is not available.


American Sign Language – “stop”


Our book this week is “Bus Stop, Bus Go!” by Daniel Kirk. Students are on a bus, going to different places, and STOPPING and GOING every few pages. You can check it out from the library, find it on www.BetterWorldBooks.com, or watch it on YouTube.

Our letter this week is R, and the important fringe word is READ!


READ is a very important academic word, which is why we teach it at school. All students, including preverbal students and students who are emerging communicators, deserve instruction and access to literacy skills. Many of our students will become readers. All of our students can increase their ability to respond to and use text in their communities. Reading is important for everyone.

Multi ethnic group of pre school students in classroom

But how do we teach the *word* “read”?


Yes, it’s true. The best way to teach children about reading is by reading. Who knew?


Read It, Don’t Eat It! by Ian Schoenherr is a great book to use, since every page has a picture of an animal interacting with the book. It is also great for working on negation, because every page except the first is showing what *not* to do with a book!


You Can Read by Helaine Becker and Mark Hoffman is another great book to read, to talk about reading. The word “read” is on every page, and the book goes through all of the different places you can read a book! Also nice for working on “where” questions.

Or… just read! Any book you want! Kids learn to read by watching adults read, and by reading fun books with adults, and by exploring books on their own. Any interaction with a book is a good interaction.

Head to your local library, and get reading!


QUIET is another fringe vocabulary word that is very useful for students, particularly at school.


The Quiet Book by Renata Liwska and Deborah Underwood is a gem that I discovered as I was searching for books using the word “quiet”. Every page describes a different kind of “quiet” – right before a surprise quiet, sleepy in bed quiet, best friends don’t need to talk quiet – and has beautiful illustrations as well. I like that every page has the word “quiet” on it, and none of the pages have too many words, making it a good book for emerging communicators and minimally verbal students.

It is tempting to practice “quiet” only by telling students to be quiet – in the library, when teacher is talking, when parents are giving directions. It is true that adults do often tell children to be quiet, but that is not the only important use of that word.


Many children who are emerging communicators have difficulty with loud noises. They may experience pain, fear, discomfort, or disorientation when loud noises are present. Loud noises often happen at school, and students need ways to tell adults and peers what they need. Teaching QUIET is a way to help students advocate for themselves in noisy situations that may be scary or overwhelming.

This week we are learning the word PUSH in Teacher Norma’s classroom. (We learned the word ON last week, which I will catch up with in another post. Last week got away from me!)


PUSH is not quite as common as other CORE words, but it is a very useful word for children, as it is a frequently used word during play.

Activities to practice PUSH:

  • Swings – PUSH on the swings. PUSH more! PUSH again! PUSH up! PUSH can be combined with other CORE words to make some great 2-word combinations.
  • Playing – PUSH a toy car! PUSH a ball! PUSH a button on a toy! There are tons of opportunities to use the word PUSH during play.
  • Behavior – less fun, but we can work on PUSH in situations where students are being inappropriately physical with peers or family members. Pair PUSH with a negation CORE word (no, stop, not) to teach appropriate behaviors, and help students to understand what behaviors are inappropriate.

“push” in American Sign Language

You can, and probably should, use the word PUSH in more than one modality. Using spoken words (verbal) is the easiest for most parents and teachers, but pairing the word with the ASL sign, or with an AAC icon, makes the teaching more powerful. Use whatever modalities your child responds to the best!


Our book this week is Don’t Push The Button! by Bill Cotter. Larry the monster tells the readers “Don’t push the button!”, and then of course the button gets pushed, and the monster cycles through different silly skin colors until finally he gets back to his original purple skin. Fun! There are lots of chances to pair PUSH with other CORE words (“not push” “push more” “push again”) as well as using PUSH with yes/no questions (Should we push the button?).

Keep PUSHing on with CORE words, and I’ll be back next week!


Our CORE word this week in Teacher Norma’s classroom is the word “NO”.

You may wonder why we are teaching students to say “no.” Isn’t that word something we wish students would say less often? Why should we encourage students to use such a negative word?

There are many reasons to teach the word “no.” One of the big reasons is because every person, including students who have significant disabilities, or who are using AAC, have the right to say “no” to actions, objects, or activities which they do not want. In the Communication Bill of Rights, developed by the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities in 2016, the right to say “no” is the third item on the list of rights. It is a basic human right.


Another reason to teach students how to say “no” is because when students do not know how to say “no”, they will use behavior to tell us “no” in other ways. Tantrums, aggression, throwing, biting, hitting, shutting down, passive resistance, and crying are only some of the ways that students will tell us “no” without words. Students deserve to be taught socially appropriate ways to say “no” using words, so that they do not need to resort to the anti-social behavioral ways to communicate their rejection.


How do you teach students to say “no”? “No” often does not make sense without the option to say “yes” as well. One of my most-used apps is the Yes/No app by I Can Do Apps. It is a very simple app with only one screen – a large “yes” button, and a large “no” button. The app has voice-output, so it says “yes” or “no” when each button is touched. The app is FREE.


One of the easiest questions to start with for yes/no is the question “Do you want _______?”. Asking students about their personal preferences is more concrete than other kinds of yes/no questions, and gives them the ability to make a choice, and to reject things they don’t want. Start with one thing you know your child likes (food items, toys, etc), and one thing you know they do not want (undesirable foods, toys). Offer one, and then the other. If your child pushes away the thing they don’t want, you can model using their communication mode to reject. You could say “Oh! It looks like you mean “no” [touch the AAC, use the “no” sign, say the word]”. If it is appropriate, help your child to indicate “no” by touching/signing/saying “no”, and then immediately remove the thing they don’t like. When you offer the thing they do want, repeat the same prompts for the word “yes.”

Another way to teach the word “no” is using books! There are several which are particularly good.


The book “Where’s Spot?” is a classic lift-the-flap book, where a mother dog looks for her puppy. Is Spot under the rug? No! Is Spot inside the clock? No! Is Spot in the basket? Yes!

“No, David!” is another classic, written by David Shannon as an autobiographical children’s book. In the book, David does naughty thing after naughty thing, and every page he is told “NO, David!”. By the end of the book David is in tears, but his mother reassures him that yes, she still loves him. I love this book for the many opportunities to practice saying “no”!

One more book that gives many chances to use “no” is the book “Is Your Mama a Llama?” On each page, Lloyd the Llama asks one of his friends if their mama is a llama. Every page until the last one, his friends say “no”. So many chances to practice!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 124 other followers

Spring break!

Spring break!March 30th, 2018
spring break!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 124 other followers