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A ‘who’ question is asking about a person. I usually work on ‘who’ questions after students become good at answering ‘what’ questions. Giving an answer that is a person is still very concrete, and students can learn that when the question begins with “who?”, the answer must be a person.

Students in my intensive support classrooms often need visual supports to be successful answering questions, so having picture choices for answers helps them both to figure out how to answer, and to show us what they know.

I made a Boardmaker Online WHO question activity with visual answers, similar to the one I made for WHAT questions, which has been getting lots of use in the intensive support classrooms this month. To access this activity for free, you will need a Boardmaker Online subscription. You can search for it in the community activities, or find it in the Ms Petersen SLP group.

If you do not have a Boardmaker Online subscription, you can find a printable version of the WHO questions with visual answers on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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(Note: I have no financial connection to Boardmaker Online, or Mayer-Johnson. I did not receive any compensation from them in exchange for my opinions about Boardmaker Online. I am simply using it myself, and finding it very helpful).

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A ‘what’ question is asking about a thing or an action. Typically developing children learn to answer simple ‘what’ questions by around age 3 (example: “What is your name?”). However, students with language disorders can struggle with answering questions. For students who are “emerging communicators” (just beginning to use words or pictures to communicate), learning to answer questions can be very, very difficult!

I have several students this year who are ready to work on answering WHAT questions, and who are just learning to use words (verbal or pictured) to communicate. For these students, the typical WH-question materials that I have used in the past are too complicated, and do not give them enough support. I needed to make more materials, which could give my students more clues to help them learn to answer questions.

Boardmaker Online is a resource I have been learning to use. I finally got my district to pay for a subscription this year, and have been loving it! It replaces the old Boardmaker disks that I have been using (last updated in 2006!). The most useful feature is that when you create interactive activities, they can be played on a FREE iPad app, so that students can use the activities over and over!

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My first activity was for WHAT questions, with visual answers that students can chose from. This allows them to show me if they know the answer, and also supports students who are learning to answer these questions, because there are only 3 options to chose from. If they chose the wrong answer the app tells them that it was wrong, and gives them another chance to find the right answer. It has been working FABULOUSLY for many of my students who love using iPads.

Another neat thing about Boardmaker Online is that you can search for activities that other people have made, and save them for your own use. I made the WHAT interactive activity public, and put it in a Ms Petersen SLP group to make it easy to find. If you have a Boardmaker Online subscription, you can add it to your activities and use it for free!

Some of my students do better with low-tech paper materials instead of using the iPad, so I also made a printable version of the same questions, which I laminated and bound into a book for the teachers of those students. I wanted to give away the book as a freebie, but one of the restrictions of using Boardmaker Online is that I am not supposed to give away PDF versions of materials that I create using the Boardmaker symbols, because of the copyright laws. However, I am allowed to sell materials, so long as I credit Mayer-Johnson as the source of the graphics.

In order to respect the law 🙂 and also share what I’ve made, I have two versions of the printable WHAT questions. If you have a subscription to Boardmaker Online, you can download the printable version for free off of the Boardmaker Online website. When you logon, search for “Ms Petersen SLP” in the groups, and when you join, you will find all of the activities I’ve made so far to share.

If you do not have a subscription to Boardmaker Online, you can still get the printable version of WHAT questions with visual answers for emerging communicators from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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Further reading:

(Note: I have no financial connection to Boardmaker Online, or Mayer-Johnson. I did not receive any compensation from them in exchange for my opinions about Boardmaker Online. I am simply using it myself, and finding it very useful).

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.”

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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.

EET 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.

 

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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? 91rja0ebmol-_sy355_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?

 

highway-road

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.

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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!

Last weekend I attended a 2-day SIOP professional development class, focusing on vocabulary and language comprehension strategies. SIOP stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, and is a method of providing instruction for students learning English. SIOP focuses 30 “features” spread across 8 different areas of instruction – things like defining language and content objectives, providing rich supplemental materials, and explicitly teaching learning strategies. The class was focused on teaching, but I was able to glean some good ideas for language therapy. After all, my students are also struggling with understanding language, though for different reasons than a student who is learning another language. And some of my students are struggling both with learning a new language, AND with a language disability! I am glad I went.

The main book that we used for the day we spent learning about strategies was “99 Ideas and Activities for Teaching English Learners with The SIOP Model“. Again, the book is focused on general education classroom instruction, but the chapter on strategies contained some true gems for me. I realized that, while I am continually working on language comprehension from text with my students, I have not been giving them enough instruction on how to become independent in comprehending, even when they still struggle to understand. SIOP reminded me that students need to be explicitly taught language comprehension strategies, and given practice in using them independently.

Learning strategy vs. Teaching technique

SIOP is very clear about the difference between a strategy and a technique. A strategy is something a learner uses to enhance their own learning. A technique is something the teacher does to support student learning. I use techniques constantly to support my students. I scaffold, provide cloze-sentences, give word-finding clues, provide context, use visuals, explain new vocabulary, and break longer passages down into small chunks.

A strategy is something a student does to help themselves learn. Using a graphic organizer, identifying unfamiliar words, using wh-questions, different ways to summarize… these are all student-based strategies. I realized during the class that I usually just do these things for my students (teaching technique), rather than teaching them how to do it themselves (learning strategy).

My take-home from the class was to teach strategies more explicitly and intentionally. The first thing I needed to do was to figure out which strategies to target. The 99 Ideas book has an entire chapter listing different learning strategies, so I went through and found the ones most focused on language comprehension. I also wrote down additional language comprehension strategies that were not in the book, but that I have used with students before.

Language Comprehension Strategies

To transfer accountability to students to use the strategies, I made an anchor chart for each strategy. Last week in each of my language groups I introduced one of the strategies. The strategy I taught depended on which grade-level text I was using with the group. We first talked about the strategy, and then practiced using it to organize/understand the passage of the day. For example, I used a Comic Book Summary with my 6th grade group. We were using a historical passage about the invention of the Eskimo Pie, so the drawing element fit great! After creating our comic book summary, my students were able to retell the story using just the visuals, with no cues from me. Success!

I have uploaded the anchor charts up on Teachers Pay Teachers (FREE DOWNLOAD), if you would like to use them in your language therapy, or with your child at home. Enjoy!

This month in room 10 we have been working on narratives. Narrative skills are a child’s ability to tell and understand stories. Stories have characters, setting, and things that happen. They are generally organized into a beginning, middle, and end format. You can read more about narrative skills here. We worked on narrative skills in room 10 this month.

Characters

A character is a person, animal, or thing that has a name in a story. Many children who have language impairments will leave out character names when they are telling a story, or not pay attention to the different characters when they are listening to a story.

We read the book Chicken Little by Steven Kellogg to think about characters. The book is ideal for targeting characters, as each character is added one by one, and has a funny, rhyming name. We read the story together our first session, and then reviewed the book the next session in small groups by filling out a Chicken Little Character Chart I made (FREE download!). It took some practice to get all the students used to naming the characters (they all wanted to say “him!” or “her!” instead of giving the names), but we got there in the end.

Setting

Setting is the place that story events happen. Just as many of my students leave out character names when telling or listening to stories, many of them also leave out the place that the story is happening.

The book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was perfect to talk about setting. The settings in the book change throughout, and are so funny! Again, we read the book all together first, talking about the setting on each page. Some pages had as many as 4 settings! The tricky part of talking about setting is that my students often wanted to talk about what was happening (raining soup!) rather than WHERE the action was occurring (on a baseball field). But because it was such a fun book, they stayed engaged until the end, and we were able to all talk about setting by the end.

Beginning, Middle, End (BME)

In addition to characters and setting, most stories share a similar structure. Stories have a beginning, things that happen (middle), and an conclusion (ending). In my shorthand notes, I call this BME. Understanding BME structure is very important, both so students can understand stories they hear, and so they can tell stories that make sense.

We used George and Martha stories to practice retelling the beginning, middle, and end of stories. These stories are great because they are SHORT, funny, and almost all of them have a clear beginning/middle/end structure.

Another great book we used was Ivan the Terrier, which I found last week in our school library. The book is about a cute-but-naughty little dog named Ivan. The book has a narrator telling a story, and Ivan being naughty (beginning). Ivan interrupts each of the stories the narrator tries to tell (middle), and the book ends with Ivan going to his bed and falling asleep (ending). Using the BME format helped my students to summarize the story, which is a skill many of them need help with.

To tie everything together, we played the Tell Me A Story game at the end of the unit. This is a noncompetitive game that has students create stories, Madlibs-style, by manipulating the characters, setting, and events. We played as a whole class where we made one story all together, and each student re-told it as the story changed. The next day we played where students each made their own story, and got to “steal” story elements from each other in order to change their stories. The game is always a hit, and is such great practice of using characters, setting, and BME story structure.

The story mat

That’s what we did this month in room 10! Spring break is around the corner. Next month we will be working on absurdities. Stay tuned!

Stuttering therapy is something that many SLPs have a hard time with. Only 1% of the population stutters, so it is one of the less common disorders we treat. It is one of the disorders we cannot cure, which also makes it tricky to work on in therapy – how do you work on something that will never go away? It is highly variable, which means that what worked for one student may not work at all for the next. And the success of stuttering therapy depends as much on the motivation of the student as it does on the skill of the therapist.

I think that is why SLPs focus so much on teaching fluency strategies. We want to measure things, and we want to target specific skills. We see a motor pattern (blocks, prolongations, repetitions), and we think “I can fix that!” So, we spend hours and hours focusing on motor patterns, but in the end our students are burned out from the drill-n-kill approach, they still feel weird about their stuttering (which of course is still happening), and maybe they don’t even like the strategies we taught them. No wonder stuttering therapy is hard!

Part of the difficulty is the over-focus on speech strategies. They seem the most “concrete”, so they are the easiest to target, but they are only a part (and sometimes a small part) of the whole picture. Stuttering is multifactorial, which means that it is influenced by multiple factors.

The graphic above was developed by Dr. Charles Healey, who is a person who stutters and a professor at the University of Nebraska. He has identified 5 main factors which impact stuttering: Cognitive, Affective, Linguistic, Motor, and Social. He calls this the CALMS model of stuttering.

  • Cognitive: what a person knows about stuttering
  • Affective: how a person feels about their stuttering
  • Linguistic: how language demands impact stuttering
  • Motor: prolongations, blocks, repetitions
  • Social: how stuttering impacts a person socially

As I said above, we SLPs tend to focus on the motor component of stuttering by teaching speech strategies to increase/establish fluent speech. Sometimes we have “stuttering facts” activities which teach kids about stuttering, and we’re pretty good at providing language therapy to address linguistic demands.

The two most challenging of the 5 factors to address are affective and social – how a person feels, and how stuttering impacts them socially. Talking about feelings is tricky, as anyone with a significant other already knows! On top of that, we need to address self-advocacy, how to manage social situations, stuttering acceptance, and feelings of anxiety, particularly for middle and high school age students. It sometimes feels like I should have a counseling degree on top of my CCC-SLP.

How do we target feelings and social impact in stuttering therapy?

Since emotions, stuttering desensitiztation and stuttering advocacy are so important, how can we target them in therapy? Using voluntary stuttering is one way. Using YouTube videos of people who stutter is another. I’ve done lots of activities over the past few years, used tons of topics and videos (many from current events), and had quality conversations with my students about accepting their stuttering. I finally decided to consolidate my ideas into one spot, to make sure that I can hit important topics and could always have ideas ready to spark important conversations.

Stuttering Chat Pack is a collection of 36 questions, topics and scenarios centered on the experience of stuttering. Students have the opportunity to think about their stuttering, figure out how to advocate for themselves in different situations, and explore how they feel about stuttering. The only way to normalize talking about stuttering is to talk about stuttering! I have used it several times in the past week, and am so glad to have all my ideas down in one place. Since it is a powerpoint presentation I don’t have to print it – I can bring up the topic for the day on my laptop without using any paper! I like to let my students pick a number (1-36) for the “question of the day”, but you could just as easily do it chronologically. Here is an example of one of the pages:

I use one page per week, as an icebreaker before we begin to work on strategies. I notice that my students have become much more confident talking about stuttering, and more comfortable about their own stuttering, since I started incorporating these kind of conversations. My ultimate goal for every student who stutters is for them to have easy communication, and to like the way they talk. Talking about stuttering helps!

I’ve created a brochure to share with parents and teachers when a child is first diagnosed with a speech sound disorder, similar to my brochure about fluency disorders. Many parents have questions, and it can be hard to remember all of the things we talk about at an evaluation or IEP meeting. I designed a brochure to summarize current research on what we know about speech sound disorders, and why speech therapy is important.

CLICK HERE to download the brochure from my TPT store.

Here is the text from the brochure:

What is a speech sound disorder?
Speech sound disorder (SSD) is an umbrella term referring to any combination of difficulties with perception, motor production, and/or the phonological representation of speech sounds and speech segments (including phonotactic rules that govern syllable shape, structure, and stress, as well as prosody) that impact speech intelligibility. (ASHA)

What causes SSD?
Speech sound disorders may be motor based (dysarthria, apraxia), structural (cleft palate, short frenum), caused by syndromes (eg: Down Syndrome) or by a hearing impairment, or may have an unknown cause. They tend to run in families, but also appear in families with no history of SSD.

SSDs are NOT caused by learning another language, bad habits, “baby talk”, or parenting style.

Is there a cure?
Speech therapy is used to treat SSDs. Most children who receive speech therapy for SSDs will master their goals and eventually be able to speak with clear sounds. Speech therapy can help reduce frustration, and increase your child’s ability to be understood.

A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) is trained to provide speech therapy for speech sound disorders.

What can I do at home?
There are many things parents and caregivers can do to help children develop clear speech sounds.

  • Practice at home: if your child receives speech therapy, ask your SLP for home practice pages to review at home in between sessions. Short, daily practice is best! Aim for 2-3 minutes per day.
  • Model clear speech: Children learn by listening. Show how to use clear sounds by example!
  • Read books: Reading together helps all areas of speech and language development. Choose high interest books on topics that will interest your child. Point out words that have your child’s sounds in them (eg: Find all the L words, or all the S words). Talk about the story, ask questions, and encourage your child to ask questions or retell the story to you.
  • Play with letters: Use sidewalk chalk to draw letters on the ground. Make playdough letters, or have fun with letter magnets on the fridge. Draw letters in the steam on the bathroom mirror. Talk about the sounds each letter makes.

Does my child need speech therapy?
Children develop at different rates, but there is a range for normal development. If your child is significantly below these guidelines (see below), please talk to an SLP about speech therapy.

If your child is frustrated by not being understood, that is also a sign that she/he may need speech therapy. You can talk to your doctor for a referral to a hospital-based or community SLP, or contact your local school district for a free communication evaluation.

  • 2 years old: 50% intelligible
    Many speech sound errors
  • 3 years old: 75% intelligible
    P,B,M,N,H,Y are consistent
    D,T,K,G,F,S,Y are emerging
  • 4 years old: 90% intelligible
    B,D,T,F,K,G,Y are consistent
  • 5 years old: 90-100% intelligible
    May not have TH, R or S/L-blends
  • 6 years old:
    S/L-blends and R start to develop
  • 7 years old:
    TH begins to develop
    R sound and S/L-blends may still be emerging.

What should I expect from speech therapy?
Speech therapy is the treatment for SSDs. An SLP will do some testing with your child to determine exactly where they are in their speech sound development, and then set some goals to work on in therapy.

If you receive speech therapy through public schools, your child will have an Individual Education Program (IEP) developed for him/her, which will include their speech goals, and how much time each week they will work with the SLP.

Your health insurance may also cover speech therapy through hospitals or community providers. Contact your insurance provider for more details.

Resources

American Speech Hearing Association

Mommy Speech Therapy

If you feel your child has a speech sound disorder, you can receive a communication evaluation and, if necessary, speech therapy through your public school.

Contact your local public school for more information about speech therapy for your child.

I know, I know. It’s been ages since I’ve posted. I can only say, that’s because I’ve been very busy doing therapy! Also, I’ve been busy updating the Fluency Homework for the Whole Year packet, which is up on TPT. I added 10 new stuttering missions, so there are now 4 per month (3 in December and June).

I have a lovely graduate student intern coming on board this month, so hopefully that will give me some breathing room to post more frequently.

Happy February!

 

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I’ve been working this month on creating a brochure to share with parents and teachers when a child is first diagnosed with stuttering. Many parents have questions, and it can be hard to remember all of the things we talk about at an evaluation or IEP meeting. I designed a brochure to summarize current research on what we know about stuttering, and why speech therapy is important.

CLICK HERE to download the brochure from my TPT store.

Here is the text from the brochure:

What is stuttering?
Stuttering is the disruption of fluent speech. People who stutter may “get stuck” on words, phrases or sounds. They may repeat these words or sounds multiple times. They may “block” and not be able to say anything at all. Stuttering is involuntary; the person who is stuttering does not have the ability to stop stuttering. It is not a choice, or something caused by bad habits.

What causes stuttering? Did I cause my child to stutter? 
Stuttering is a multifactorial disorder, which means it is influenced by many different things. It has genetic causes, which we know because stuttering tends to run in families. Stuttering can be triggered by emotions, stress, or particular situations, but it is NOT caused by these things. Stuttering is not caused by parenting style, bad habits, or anything you or your child chose to do. It is neurological, and involuntary.

Is there a cure?
There is no cure for stuttering. Children who begin stuttering after age 4, or who continue stuttering beyond preschool, are classified as having a persistent stutter and will not grow out of stuttering. Speech therapy can help a child or adult speak more easily, but cannot cure the underlying condition. Persistent stuttering is permanent.

Does stuttering stay the same over a person’s lifetime?
Stuttering is unpredictable, and impacted by many factors. It can be triggered by strong emotions (feeling excited, nervous, or scared), by particular people, by specific words or sounds, by life changes (moving, new baby in the family) or even by growth spurts or puberty.

Stuttering severity is often cyclical, so stuttering might be mild for a time, then increase and be moderate or severe, then come back down to mild or even imperceptible. These cycles are normal, and can happen at any time during a person’s life.

Speech therapy can help get stuttering under control, and support a person who stutters as they manage their stuttering.

What can I do to help my child?
The biggest thing you can do to help your child who stutters is to remain supportive and listen to what they say rather than how they say it. Here are some tips:

  • Listen attentively to what your child says.
    Don’t interrupt or say words for your child.
  • Avoid competition among family members when speaking.
    Make sure everyone has lots of time to express their thoughts.
  • Model a slow, relaxed speaking style
    with short phrases and pauses in between thoughts. This helps reduce pressure on your child to speak quickly.
  • Be honest.
    It is okay to acknowledge that your child is struggling with his/her speech. Talking about stuttering openly can help reduce anxiety or other negative feelings about stuttering.
  • Be positive!
    Make sure your child knows that it is okay to stutter, and that you love hearing what she/he has to say.

What should I expect from speech therapy? 
Speech therapy will not cure stuttering. A few people who stutter will be able to achieve 100% fluency using speech strategies, but most will still have occasional disfluencies in their speech.

The purpose of speech therapy for stuttering is to make talking easier, and to give the person who stutters control over their speech. Learning speech strategies helps a person who stutters control their fluency when it is important to them, and makes talking easier when they are expressing their ideas. Learning about stuttering is also important to help a person avoid feelings of guilt or frustration, and to reduce anxiety about stuttering.

Speech therapy can make stuttering less severe, and support a person who stutters in finding (or keeping!) their own voice.

Resources

If you feel your child is stuttering, you can receive a free communication evaluation and, if your child qualfies, speech therapy through your public school.

Contact your local public school for more information about stuttering therapy for your child.