Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas three weeks before Christmas and I was looking for resources to use with some older "language" clients, when what to my searching eyes appeared on old classic poem and an abundance of online links...

I have been archiving a list of links for this Christmas classic.  This week I have used the following link with a couple of middle school clients with language impairments. 

Powerpoint for paraphrasing the poem -  (I downloaded the powerpoint onto my computer and then printed the slides 2 per page front and back so the client could write in the sentences, but it can be done on the computer also).
  1. Inference / Understanding Figurative Language:  It then requires the client to be able to paraphase the ideas into their own words.  This task was very difficult for my clients and required assistance in defining words (or supplying synonyms) and helping them decode the figurative language by making connections: "The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave  luster of mid-day to objects below."  The moon's reflection off the snow made it easy to see everything outside. Another way to simplify this task would be to pair the activity with the actual picture book (rather than just the powerpoint) so the client could use the pictures as visual reinforcement.
  2. Grammar, Syntax, Verbal/Written Expression: Depending on the client's needs, each of these can be targeted in the paraphrasing task. To further address syntax, some sentences can be segmented and the client can be asked to rearrange the words/phrases into their logical order. (This was a goal with one of my clients).
  3. Vocabulary: Use synonyms and context clues to figure out meaning of unfamiliar words.
  4. Perspective Taking: As an extension activity it might be fun to view the scenes through the various perspectives of each character.  How did the dad feel about the situation? (Frightened that some disaster was happening outside, pleased that Santa was bringing gifts for the kids, concern about the mess from the soot, wonder at seeing Santa at long last...) How did Santa feel? (Tired after all the travel, jolly because that's how he rolls...) What about the reindeer? (Hungry because they forgot to leave carrots, cold on the roof, ready to fly some more...).
For the younger clients:

  • DLTK mini book - Who doesn't love DLTK.  Here is a mini book and of course this site has all kinds of related craft ideas.
  • Lapbook ideas -  Happy Hollow Homeschool - lapbooks involve file folders with all kinds of activities added such as mini books, vocabulary cards, etc.  for the child to study, learn, and engage with.
  • Items on TPT - A listing of items on TPT 
  • Toddler book - teaching-tiny-tots.com ideas for toddlers 
  • Youtube video - animated mixed version with story told in narrative and song

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Curse of the SLP

~ This is not a horror story... Just a slight confessional~

Blogging has not been in my "blood" lately. I'm not sure if I have just run out of ideas and energy or... could it be the stress... Yes, definitely the stress of dealing with the introduction of the Medicaid HMO to the East Texas area. (But I will spare you the ranting of a frustrated private practice SLP).

In my last blog article, a long long long time ago, I mentioned I was going on a trip to Ireland. I did and it was a wonderful trip: cooler weather, unusually dry for the time of year (yay!), lots of wonderful sights of green countryside, castles, monasteries, ruins, pubs, interesting people... There were so many things to love about Ireland. The people are authentic, down to earth, and quite witty. The time away from work was refreshing while it lasted.

If you want to see more of my Ireland photos click here: Ireland 2012

So what's the "curse of the SLP" as stated in the title of this blog? It doesn't occur with a full moon nor does it have anything to do with blood sucking beings (those are actually called "insurance companies").  Our curse would be noticing the "way" everyone speaks, often to the point of distraction. The Irish have an accent in case you never noticed. After several days of being ever so enchanted with the cadence of the Irish brogue, I began to notice something a bit less enchanting; eventually it seemed to be a bit irritating to me. When I mentioned this phenomenon to my husband, he responded that he had not noticed it at all.

What had I noticed? Most of the Irish I spoke to did not pronounce the "th" sound! They do what so many of our young clients do. They substitute a /t/ or a /d/ sound for the voiceless and voiced "th". I first became fully aware to this when someone suggested we visit "Howt" (or did they say "Hoat"?). When I looked it up on my map it was spelled "Howth". When I asked the cab driver to take us to "Howth", he replied, "Oh, Hoat? Okay." Once I became fully cognizant of this dialectical trait, every "th", or substitution thereof, was like a sounding gong: ledder / leather, dat / that, tank you / thank you... The funniest episode of this was with a cab driver. As my husband was in the Dublin area for work, I had to sightsee on my own most of the time. So I booked several bus tours to see the countryside. We were staying outside of Dublin closer to his job. Most of the tours left from the center of Dublin. This tour required a 6:00 a.m. trip into the city to catch the tour bus. Since the train system did not run that early, I went in by taxi. It was the second week of our stay and I was getting tired. Needless to say, I was not operating at "full speed" this particular morning due to fatigue and being deprived of my life sustaining coffee fix. I chatted with the driver during the 20 minute trip into Dublin and when we arrived he stated the fare in his thick Irish brogue, slightly mumbled, which I didn't hear all that clearly..."Dat'll be tuhty Euros." So I hand him 20 Euros. He repeats "tuhty". So I hand him another 20 (40 Euros). He says it one more time with more clarity, "Tirty", and my brain finally clicked in to the /t/ for "th" substitution and I say, "Oh, Thirty!" and hand him the corrected fare.  I made a mental note to pay more attention next time. 


30 Euros

So, this is the curse. As SLPs we often find ourselves listening to "the way" others are speaking rather than being fully focused on "what" they are actually saying.

Don't get me wrong... SLPs are not lingual snobs who mock or scorn these "mispronounced" words (well, there may be a few out there who are as I recall some derisive comments about George W's speech skills at an ASHA conference years ago... but that was likely more politically motivated... but since he is a native Texan like myself, I did not fully appreciate it... but I digress). Rather than snobbery, it is a by-product of our training and our honed craft. We do not deride the differences; we simply notice them, to the point of distraction. This curse has been particularly troublesome during church services when a guest preacher has a subtle lisp and I find myself focused on his /s/ sound rather than the content of his sermon. Or when our preacher produces the "eel" sound as "ill": Someone was hilled/healed, we can fill/feel an emotion.... I invariably get irritated with myself for picturing in my mind an actual "hill" or someone "filling" something, even though I know fully well what was intended in the comment.  I am also cursed with a graphic mind; I make lots of pictures in my brain. There was also the time when a new weatherman had difficulty with his /r/ sound and I could not focus on what the forecast was because I was so focused on each and every /r/ sound that came out of his mouth, comparing them to see in what context he said a better /r/.  I immediately called my co-worker and asked if he was one of our former clients, which he was not. (Happily, he must have had some speech therapy recently because he sounds so much better and I now can actually listen to the forecast and end up knowing whether or not rain is expected tomorrow).

I recall when this was not a problem for me. Prior to going to college and getting my training, I had a much more "East Texas" accent than I do now. My phonetics and phonology teacher made it abundantly clear that people in Michigan would never allow us to teach speech to their kids if we could not distinguish between the words "pen, pan, pin" in our own speech. I recall being amazed that those words actually were supposed to sound different from one another. What a novel concept to me!  Even people from Dallas, 2 hours northwest of us, were known to make fun of our accents. Although I believe people in West Texas have thicker accents; just my humble opinion.  It is probably more a rural versus city kind of difference.

Also, I grew up with a mother who has a thick accent from Belgium. I had noticed the accent during my growing up years but I was acclimated to it. I knew she could not say her "th" sound but it never really bothered me or distracted me from the message. I recall a time when I had brought a new friend over to my home. After meeting my mom she asked me why my mother wanted to know if she had some butter at home. I paused for a moment, a bit confused, and then started laughing when I realized my mother had asked her if she had any "brothers" at home. Of course having grown up listening to her, I understood everything she said. I was often amazed at how others did not understand so much of what she said. I also realized that people often don't try very hard to understand others with speech differences. Maybe that is one of the reasons I ended up in this field. On a side note, growing up with a foreign born mom was quite fun.  She good naturedly put up with our laughing at her mispronunciations: tree trees / three trees, foe-toe-graffy / photography, moss-kit-oh / mosquito, and comments like "I am so disgusting / I am so disgusted",  I also picked up on few of her pronunciations and recall not feeling so good natured when I was laughed at by my friends when I pronounced the name of the store "Sears" as "Searis" (I think I also was known to say "foe-toe-graffy" once or twice). 

I suppose every profession has such pitfalls.  Whatever it is that we spend our time doing, will invariably carryover into other parts of  our lives. So, instead of a curse maybe it is just the natural progression of the skills that make us great SLPs. We are what we are.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Figurative Language.... in East Texas

I am sitting here thinking it is  time I put something on my blog since I haven't in 4 weeks.  (I have been preoccupied with travel plans thanks to a very unexpected opportunity to go to Ireland for 2 weeks... Yes, I am excited!) As I try to dredge up anything creative or clever, all I hear is a resounding echo of empty space. Then my thoughts turn to the movie I just watched, Bernie. 

For those of you who have not seen or heard of it, it is a movie set in rural East Texas about 45 minutes from where I live, 20 minutes from where I grew up, and a couple of the characters are actually from my home town (including Bernie at one time).  Jack Black plays Bernie, the title character who was a beloved small town mortician who befriended an unpopular widow, played by Shirley MacLaine, and eventually murdered her (this is a true story by the way; I recall hearing about it on the news back in the day and being appalled that such a thing could happen around here). Matthew McConaughey (also a local boy) plays the D.A.  Although it is a tragic story, the peculiar events and small East Texas town charisma made it well-suited for a dark comedy.  I have to say, I found it entertaining, feeling a bit guilty all the way through about laughing under such circumstances (it is after-all a horrible and tragic event) . In my own defense, the humor for me was in the portrayal of my fellow East Texans (it is filmed as a docudrama and features actual East Texans portraying townspeople and being interviewed about the incident and characters).  Although it comes across as somewhat of a caricature, I "recognized" so many of the characters and personalities I have grown up knowing. 

It made me realize how the "outside world" must perceive us... then I smiled because there is really no such thing as the "outside world" anymore.  Admit it, whoever you may be, your world of people have their own quirks and odditities as well.

I think what struck me the most was the sheer amount of figurative language we in East Texas tend to use.  Having spent my entire life in Texas, I am not sure if other areas speak this way also.  (Let me know if you do).  Then I thought of my poor language impaired kids and those on the Autism Spectrum who have so much difficulty understanding figurative language.  How difficult it must be for them living in the midst of a figurative language mecca! 

On that note, I thought it would be fun to run through a few of the sayings from the movie (at least the ones that are suitable for repetition; many East Texans are fond of colorful language):

Expression: Explanation
  • Fixin to: We are about to do something
  • Our donkey is in the ditch: We are in trouble - Donkeys are stubborn animals and not as graceful as horses, so if one were to fall into a ditch, you would have a very hard time getting it back out.
  • Mean as a rattlesnake: Really mean, deadly - no explanation needed
  • That dog don't hunt: something is not true, or no one really cares, or an idea that will not work.
  • (Okay... this is all remember at the moment from the movie... I will have to watch it again with pen and paper in hand and then come back and update this post).
Here is a nice article in Texas Monthly offering up a bevy of slang terms often heard in Texas. http://www.texasmonthly.com/1000-01-01/webextra35.php

Here a few I like from the article:
  • So dusty the rabbits are digging holes six feet in the air
  • She could talk a coon right out of a tree.
  • Scared as a cat at the dogpound
  • She’s a couple sandwiches shy of a picnic.
  • He thinks the sun came up just to hear him crow.
Truth be told, it seems like an "anything goes" proposition for figurative language in Texas; many sayings seem to be made up on the spot.  I guess that means we are pretty proficient at analogous thinking, outside of the box, in humorous and colorful ways...

Well, it is time for the chickens to roost so I need to be blowing out the candles and hitting the hay to get some shut eye.  Don't let the screen door hit you on the backside.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Another favorite book at The Speech House is Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.  I admit that I only discovered this book series about 4 years ago.  Harold is a young boy who draws everything with his purple crayon.  As he draws his pictures, he interacts with them: walking down the purple sidewalk, into the purple forest, and riding in the purple hot air balloon. The stories are cute, humorous, and imaginative.  Harold draws a dragon to guard the apples on his tree but his own drawing scares him and his shaking hand draws an ocean. 

The thing I like the most about this book is its use in working on creativity, imagination, pretend, and problem solving.  These are goals I often work on with students having ASD.

  • Discuss the idea of pretend and imagination. Some kids may have trouble with the idea of Harold interacting with his drawings.  This can also spark a discussion of "daydreaming" as a creative and enjoyable process.
  • Harold usually encounters problems on his adventures.  Before turning the page, have the student give multiple ideas on what Harold could do Rolls of butcher paper work well for this activity so that the child can draw out their complete adventure, roll it up, take it home, and practice retelling the story.  For older kids or to take this to a smaller scale, I have used adding machine rolls of paper.
  • Cooperative activity: Group works by taking turns adding to the picture story.
  • Art Activities: Purple paint (make your own purples with red & blue), shades of purple in cut out shapes, purple yarn art...
  • Sensory: Grape koolaide for painting or in playdoh. Shaving cream play with food coloring to combine colors.
  • Printables: Finish the story, Coloring page, or simply photocopy images from the book.  A good following directions activity is coloring according to verbal directives, "Color the moon yellow".  Make it a verbal expressive task by having the child give you coloring directions. 
  • Snacks: blueberries, grapes, PB&J, purple fruit chews/roll-ups, jello, purple cow (milk and grape juice drink)...
  • Game:  There is a commercially produced game but it may be hard to find.  It consists of a whiteboard and purple marker and a set of story cards.  The kids pick cards and have to draw the element on the board creating a story to go along with it.  The next child picks another card to add the board and adds to the story. I like to have the kids repeat the story from the beginning each time they add to it; this works on story telling, sequencing, and memory skills, not to mention creativity and flexibility to accept and add to others ideas. (Ebay is often a good place to find older games).
  • Movie on Youtube:

Other Links:
Enchantment Theater Guide to Harold: This site has a study guide to go along with their theatrical performance.  It has some nice resources about theater and some good question and review worksheets.
Purple Theme:  Lots of fun activities around the color of Purple.
Purple Books & Printouts at Enchanted Learning
Delightful Learning blog of activities she did with her kids using this book.
Pamela's Bookclub has activities a fun Mad Lib activity.
HBO Family online Harold draw, stamp, paint activity.
Speech Lady Liz has some fun ideas for Speech Therapy activities. Be sure to click on her yellow links to find some great materials she created and shared to go with her activities. 
Muhlenberg edu pdf booklet for ages 7 & up; for ages 7 & under.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Asperger Perfectionism (sigh)

A trait that we often see in our kiddos who have Asperger's, High Functioning Autism, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the need to control everything going on around them.  You know the kids I am talking about.  Here a few examples of things they might do...
  • The teacher (you) or other student is reading a book and mispronounces a word, skips a word, or doesn't pause long enough at a punctuation mark (or whatever the child is currently being instructed to do at school).  This child will blurt out with authority, "You skipped a word..."
  • Another child does something such as getting out of his seat, talking out, etc.  This child is the self appointed 'rules police'.  He will immediately call attention to the faux pas. (But he usually misses his own behavior lapses and will argue to the death about why he was not in the wrong - in his own mind he would never break a rule so he likely has some legitimate 'rationalization' to excuse such an unthinkable indiscretion).
  • The assignment is to quickly sketch a picture of ....  This is the child who continually erases his picture, asks for a new sheet of paper so he can start over, or takes 3X as long to finish because he has to insert every minutia of detail into his 'quick sketch'.
  • Unfortunately this can also be the child who is so overwhelmed at a task, because in his mind making it perfectly requires herculean effort, that he will often quit before he even tries to begin.
As I typed that last example, I recognized a bit of myself in that one... does anyone else reading this have some of these traits of perfectionist?  Of course we all share some traits with our kids on the spectrum.  We and they are both cut from the same human cloth.  The difference between neurotypicals and those with ASD is the degree to which these traits affect their lives.  We can recognize the problems in ourselves, most of the time, and then we can exert self-control, employ self-talk, put the issue back into the proper perspective, and go forward to do what needs to be done. Individuals with ASD have a much more difficult time navigating this process.

How do we deal with this issue? 

I have not conquered this at all but I will list some of the tools and resources I have employed or am planning on employing to help the children I see with the issue of perfectionism.

Social Thinking Curriculum:  There are many pieces of this curriculum that are ideal in helping the child understand how constantly correcting others is perceived or received:
  • Unexpected Behaviors: It is unexpected behavior to correct the teacher or parent over minor issues. It is also unexpected behavior to correct classmates; that is the teacher's job, not your job.
  • Problem Scale:  How big of a problem is it that the teacher skipped a word?  If it is a #1 or #2 sized problem then you do not need to call attention to it, just ignore it because it does not really make any difference to the outcome.  If the omission will result in a bigger problem (i.e. doing the wrong homework, etc.) then it is okay to point it out in the correct way.
  • Thinking of Others: This is a perspective-taking task. How would you feel if someone pointed out every small mistake you made?  Would it make you feel sad or angry or embarrassed?  Then it probably does the same thing to others.  It also interrupts the lesson or distracts others. 
  • Social Behavior Map: Construct this map to show the sequence of consequences and the negative outcome of constantly correcting versus the more positive outcome of overlooking minor mistakes.
Children's Books:


Beautiful OOPS! is a book about turning mistakes into positives.  A small tear, a drop of paint, a crumple all become an interesting part of the creation.         

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes: Beatrice never makes mistakes...never ever... until one day when she makes a very public mistake and learns that mistakes are okay.
Amelia Bedelia Books:  Amelia constantly makesmistakes but in the end everyone laughs and still loves her!

A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue: Picture book about tattling and the negative aspects associated with this behavior.  Again, picture books serve as excellent pre-packaged social stories.  A social story typically only describes the desired outcomes.  Whereas a picture book usually adds a moral or lesson learned.

Visual Supports & Social Stories:

Other Resources & Links:

This is a great tool to help learn to gauge size of emotional responses.  It works along with the problem scale.  Rate size of problem then rate size of reaction or emotion.  Try to teach children that making a small mistake is a #1 or less size problem and we need to learn to overlook those things. 
Autism Teaching Strategies by Joel Shaul:http://autismteachingstrategies.com/autism-strategies/flexibility-rigidity-cards-and-panels-downloads-page/ Cards to print and cut out for teaching about being more flexible.  Though these cards deal more with being rigid in routines, they address the core problem of being inflexible in thoughts, ideas, and activities.  This website has many great resources for those who work with individuals with ASD.
 Joel Shaul Resources 
Another resource by Joel Shaul: Correcting others and tattling too much: Social skills activities to teach kids with autism who have these problems

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cool Ali

Cool Ali, by Nancy Poydar,  is a story set in the city in the heat of the summer.  A girl who loves to draw goes outside to escape the heat in her apartment building.  There she begins to draw with her chalk on the sidewalk. She draws pictures that serve to distract the attention of all the neighbors from the heat of the day.  As she draws scenes of cooler seasons, everyone suddenly feels refreshed. 

It is a cute and clever story well suited to our current hot summer.  This book is fun for all of my speech therapy clients.  Here are some of my therapy ideas for this book:

Articulation:  Pull targets from the story and create carrier phrases. 
/k/ initial - Cool
/l/ medial - Ali
/l/ initial - "likes to draw"
/r/ blend - draw
"ch" - chalk
Any sound can be addressed as you and the client "draw" your own "chalk" (crayon, marker, map pencils) targets on cards or paper.  It would also be a fun activity to go outside and make chalk drawings on the sidewalk, if it is not too hot. Here in East Texas it is usually too hot.

Language & Processing: 
  • Sentence Structure:  N-V-Obj: Ali draws an umbrella; cut apart sentences either word by word or in chunks (for lower functioning children) and have them reorganize the sentences.  For higher functioning clients, throw in some sentences that can be reordered in two ways; this way you can work out their mental flexibility skills as well.
  • Verb tense: Ali is drawing... / Ali drew / Ali will draw / Ali has drawn; for younger clients you may only pick one tense to work on or the tense they have as a target; for the older kids you could have them work on changing sentences to reflect all of the tenses.
  • Pronouns: She is drawing... Can also work on referent pronoun understanding: Ali drew an umbrella.  She colored it yellow and white. She=Ali / it= umbrella
  • synonyms: hot, heat, sweltering; see how many words you can generate to replace a target word or ways to reword a sentence to convey the same idea.
  • antonyms: hot / cold; Ali draws cool pics in the summer heat but she draws sunny pictures while it is raining.  This could lead to an "opposite day"...
  • Predictions:  What will she draw?  How will it make the person fell? What do you think the person will do?
  • Reasoning: Why did they feel cooler?  Were they really cooler? Were they pretending? Did they feel better in some way after Ali drew her pictures? Why/How?
  • Figurative Language: mop their brow, chilled to the bone...
One of the applications that I really like about this book involves helping children with ASD or abstract reasoning problems process the ideas in the story.  It requires them to think beyond the surface structure of the pictures and words to realize that the "coolness" the people are feeling is a state of mind contrary to the reality of the heat.  Also, at the end of the story it begins to rain and Ali's wonderful pictures are washed away.  This event can serve as a model for helping the ASD child to process change and disappointment without becoming emotionally upset. At first Ali appears concerned about her drawings but then she enjoys the rainbow of colors streaming down the pavement and contentedly takes up her drawing on paper in her apartment while the rain cools off the heat of the summer; now she draws sunny pictures.

I have found several nice resources online:

The Teacher's Guide lists lots of online games, links, printouts to address vocabulary, matching, spelling, word searches, etc.

Harcourt for Second Grade Teachers  scroll down until you find Cool Ali

Julian Beever's 3-D Chalk Art - Truly amazing art that will "blow your mind".  Great for discussing perspective and illusion (helping kids to understand things are not always what they seem).  What is real in each picture?  How does the artist make the pics look 3-D? What are the people doing that add to the realism in the drawings?...

Great video that shows the artist at work creating his 3-D chalk art.

This video shows the ways spectators interact with the drawing after it is completed.

Extension activities to chalk art:  3-Dimensions, perspective in drawing.

Other extensions to the story itself:  temperature, weather, drawing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Alternative Approach to Teaching Sound-Symbol Correspondence

Over the years I have worked with a number of children with cognitive challenges.  Learning their ABCs is a difficult task and learning the sound associations for the letters can be even  more difficult.  In addition to working with this population I was also simultaneously working with children who had Apraxia, a motor speech disorder, and children with various delays or disorders in speech production.  I observed that almost all of the children, even some of the ones with Apraxia could imitate environmental sounds such as animal noises, car sounds, etc. I had been using a purchased product called Easy Does It for Apraxia.  In this program each speech sound is assigned an environmental sound in order to help the pre-literate child learn their target sound. ("K" is the dinosaur sound since dinosaurs were so large that they crashed "k-k-k" when they walked).  This is not a novel idea since Speech Pathologists have always used this method (I learned it 30 years ago as an undergraduate).   But since I was working with this specific program I adopted most of the sounds they used (even though some of them were less than ideal).  This is when I realized I had at least three clients in my caseload with varying degrees of cognitive impairments and all of their mothers were asking me about literacy skills for their children. All of these children had already spent several years in school trying to learn by traditional methods.  These methods were not working for them.  Most schools use the correspondence of the intial sound of a word to teach the phonic sound of the alphabet: A-apple, B-banana...  As an SLP working with speech sounds, I understood how difficult it can be for some neurotypical children to understand word and sound segmentation and that children with cognitive impairments would also struggle with this task. 

The SLP neurons started firing and I tried to devise another method for my clients.  Most of these clients were able to learn the basic sound symbol associations using this devised strategy.  Those with milder impairments eventually understood enough of the basic skills and then went on into learning literacy skills by more traditional methods.  The children with greater cognitive issues all learned the sound symbol correspondences but did not really go on to be literate.  However, they did learn enough to be able to use prediction settings on various devices since they could identify initial sounds and basic vowels in order to key in word portions.  In this way they did develop rudimentary phonics skills.  I understand that most cognitively impaired children are taught primarily by sight word methods, however I still feel there is a benefit to having some basic phonics skills.

My disclaimer in presenting this idea here is:  Always attempt traditional methods for literacy development, but if those methods fail over time, this is an alternative method that could be tried to teach the basic skills.  This method is to serve as a bridge to understanding sound-symbol correspondence and then pick up more traditional methods when possible.  One more important note:  The limited time in speech therapy sessions is not adequate for learning this, copies of all must be sent home with the parent to work with their child at home.

Step 1:  Learn to say the alphabet:  I first observed that most of these children learn to say the alphabet (or sing it).  So the first step I undertook was to teach them one to one correspondence and to touch each letter of the alphabet as they slowly sang the song. 
Step 2: Learn to order the alphabet: Once they demonstrated this skill, we worked on laying out the alphabet in order. First I traced ABC cut outs and made an alphabet line to match letters. For lower cognitive clients, I broke the line into groups of 5-6 letters for practice. Clients did not have to master ordering before we worked on sound symbol correspondence.

Step 3: Sound symbol correspondence: This skill does not have to be addressed in any specific order. If the child was working on speech sounds, I chose those targets first since the children were already familiar with the corresponding environmental sounds (e.g. /l/ singing sound, /s/ snake sound... Although I used a lot of the sounds from the program, I substituted some with sounds I felt more appropriate or easier to be identified). Most of the time I presented the sounds in alphabetical order since it was easier to keep track of the presentations. Depending on the cognitive skills of the client I presented groups of letters and sounds 2-5 at a time. We played with toys that correspond to the sounds (/s/ rubber snakes which we slithered around the room while saying "s-s-s-s:).  The short vowel sounds were introduced initially since most traditional methods do this and since those are encountered first in the phonemic awareness step. I also made letters for several sounds that incorporated the symbol in some way: either the sound was pictured on the letter or the letter was morphed into the object associated with the sound. As we played the sounds games, we matched the items to the letters. Most of the children learned them fairly quickly.

Step 4:  Practice with the sound symbol correspondence:  We then played a variety of games such as returning to the ABC sequencing activity and placing the letters on the alphabet line when their sound was produced by the therapist or placing the corresponding sound card (singing face) on the letter (L).  Once the child was proficient in the sound symbol correspondence we launched into phonemic awareness.

Step 5: Phonemic Awareness - Sounds in words:  At this point I had a magnetic board with magnetic squares of the alphabet.  I wrote the alphabet on the board with a Sharpie and arranged the letters in alphabetic order (So that they could return the letters to their proper places in the sequence, making them easier to locate when needed and to further reinforce alphabetical order).  We then began working on c-v and v-c combinations (real and nonsense words).  I would say /æ/ ("a") and the child would place the A, then /t/ and the child would place the T.  Then we would run our finger smoothly under the word to blend the letters into "at".  I worked on blending immediately to avoid the child segmenting the sounds during production. (It always drives me crazy when a child has not learned to blend sounds smoothly.)    Once two sound combinations were mastered we proceeded to c-v-c words: "h-a-t".  I worked in word families to increase success: at, hat, bat, cat, mat,... 

Step 6:  Phonemic Awareness - Initial sound changes in words:  Once that skill was mastered we worked on word changes.  At first I only worked on intitial sound changes.  "Spell the word "at"; add a sound to make it say "hat"; change "hat" to "bat"."  Word changes required some help initially with lots of verbal cues (added emphasis, reps of initial sounds...) but once they understood to listen to the first sound and segment it back out of the word then replace it with another letter they were hearing, they were able to be independent. 

Step 7:  Phonemic Awareness - Final sound changes:  Same as above but at the end of the words.  Once again they learned that sound changes can occur at beginning and ends of words. Then I would mix up the two positions: "Make the word 'in'. Now make it say 'pin'. Change 'pin' to 'pit'. Change 'pit' to 'hit'."

Step 8:  Phonemic Awareness - Medial sound/vowel changes:  Now they understoond that any sound in the word could change and their ears were able to listen and hear what those sounds were.  We then mixed it up and played with changes everywhere in the word:  Spell "hat"; change it to "bat"; now "cat", now "cap", "tap", "top" "tip".....

Step 9: Phonemic Awareness - Blends:  ccvc words (plot), ccv words (try), cvcc (desk), etc.

Step 10:  Hooked on Phonics:  At this point the child is ready for more traditional methods and the program I had on hand was the Hooked on Phonics program.  This program pulled in diphthongs, sight words, and other spellings.

The only part of this program that is really different is the method of learning the sound-symbol correspondences.  I admit I have only used it a handful of times but I was surprised how children that I did not think could learn this skill were able to do so.

Phonemic awareness methods are invaluable for all children in their literacy skills and I have used them often in therapy.  I especially spend time teaching this with my clients who have both significant speech disorders and language impairments because these children are at risk for literacy problems also.  These skills fit well with practicing our articulation, phonology, and auditory processing skills. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth is a fun book to use with older kids.  I typically pull this out for a middle school to high school aged student with language difficulties.  This book is chock full of vocabulary and figurative language.  It can be quite humorous.  It also usually requires a good deal of discussion and explanation for the language disordered student to grasp many of the ideas. 

The main character, Milo, a very bored little boy,goes on a journey via a magic tollbooth.  He encounters a number of strange characters in the Lands Beyond.  He returns from the journey a very imaginative boy.

When working with a long book I generally do the following:
  • Take turns reading aloud.  I will read and have the client follow along.  This allows him to see the words, hear the proper pronunciations, and improve his own reading fluency skills.  When it is his turn to read, he can practice words he has heard and I can assess his reading mechanic skills, helping him sound out or figure out difficult words.
  • Pick out new vocabulary.  As we encounter words that may be unfamiliar, we can discuss what they mean.  I also like to work on learning to interpret contex clues by pointing out clues to the meaning already in the passage.  We can then discuss synonyms that are more familiar to the client.
  • Sometimes we create vocabulary cards.
  • I will find or create supporting worksheets that target specific areas the student is needing to address such as chapter questions, vocabulary reviews, plot diagrams, character analysis, etc.
  • At the end of each chapter, the student must summarize what occurred in the chapter.  This serves the purpose of working on written expression skills and providing a quick synopsis that we can use to review the events each week and at the end of the book.  The student can also take these summaries and use them to write a review of the entire story.
Some good objectives for this book:
  1. Vocabulary Development: lots of new words to look up, define, or use with context clues.
  2. Figurative Language: lots of terms to examine such as "time flies".
  3. Multiple meaning words, homonyms, heteronyms such as "whether man"
  4. Synonyms in dictionopolis
  5. (I will add more as I progress through the book with a current client... it's been awhile since the last time I used this book).
Here is a list of mined resources on the web:

Figurative Language Chart and Answer key
     *  Flashcards vocabulary
     * Idioms

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

Link to my Facebook page where I have posted links to activities and resources related to this fun children's book, Pete the Cate I Love My White Shoes. 

This is a cute and simple book that can be used with preschoolers.  There are two prominent goals I have pulled from this book:
1. Teaching colors and associations of colors to specific    
2. Teaching children not to get upset about little problems.

So tomorrow in the preschool group we will read this book in circle time.  There is an audio cd with my book that plays the song or the song can be downloaded from the Harper Collins link.  Youtube video.

The boys have come a long with sitting in circle time.  Participation is another issue but I hope such a fun song will get them singing along and perhaps stomping their feet as we sing.  I have found loads of games and printables online as well (see links).

During circle time we will use the flannel board cutouts to keep the little ones engaged.  The cutouts are a set of colored shoes to add at the appropriate times during the reading of the story (matching the items that Pete the Cat steps in changing the color of his shoes).  Then we will sing the song.

While still in circle time, we will introduce the concept of seasons and will discuss what Pete might wear on his feet each season: Winter = Warm Boots / Spring = Rain Boots / Summer = Sandals / Fall = Sneakers.

We will break to Art time where we will assemble a mini book of the story and color the shoes on each page the color associated with the items in the picture (strawberries = red).  This will exercise their association of colors to constant objects and their matching and naming skills.  The children can take this mini book home in order to practice the story with parents and reinforce the concepts as well as just having fun reading time.

Play time will include a game of "pin the shoe on Pete". 

Links to these games and more can be found here (look in the comments boxes for specific links).

I have discovered some other Pete books that I plan on adding to my library:

6-6-12 Update

We repeated this book today with the pre-k group.  Our most reluctant child readily engaged in dancing and singing the song.  It was a success.

Today's art activity involved using pre-cut blue construction paper shapes to assemble into Pete the Cat and glue onto a yellow sheet of paper.  Of course, they then chose the color shoes they wanted for their Pete the cat.  The project required:
  • 1 large oval = Pete's body
  • 1 medium circle = head
  • 2 small triangles = ears
  • 4 small rectangles = legs
  • 1 long curled piece = tail
  • 4 shoes

Rocking in My School Shoes:  Youtube Reading

Four Groovy Buttons:  Youtube preview clip

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood

In Audrey Wood's book Quick as a Cricket, a boy uses similes comparing himself to a variety of animals.  This is a fun book well suited for working on similes, word associations, opposites, adjectives, and figurative language.  Each animal is paired with a descriptive word: Quick as a cricket, busy as a bee, gentle as a lamb.  Nicely enough, many of these are also common idioms or figures of speech.  Here is a list of the adjectives and the animals in the book:
Small / large                               Sad / happy                         Nice / mean
Cold / hot                                   Weak / strong                      Loud / quiet
Tough / gentle                             Brave / shy                         Wild / tame
Lazy / busy                                 Quick / slow

Lizard / bee / monkey / poodle / tiger / lamb / shrimp / rhino / clam / lion / buffalo
cat / fox / frog / shark / bunny / lark / basset / whale / ant / cricket / snail

Watch a Youtube video of this book.

1.  Read through the book discussing the vocabulary as needed. Classify types of animals: pets, wild, tame, ocean, bugs, etc.  (It is always fun to print photos for sorting.  I will try to upload my boardmaker pages that go with this story later.)
2.  Print the printables found at this link to kidzclub.com.  Discuss which adjective goes with each animal and why.  This will help the student begin to understand word associations and how to interpret figurative language.
3.  Brainstorm other animals or adjectives that might go together and why.
4.  Act out some of the words: Dramatic play / experiential learning.
5.  Cut out the word boxes found in the printable link at kidsclub.com and match opposites.
6.  Think of new associations: "What could we say about a snake? A porcupine?..." or "What other animal is quick?"
7.  Have the students make up a book that illustrates some of their own qualities.

More Resources:

Saturday, April 28, 2012


My youngest son is graduating from high school on May 18.  Of course, this elicits many emotions in my heart: joy, hope, sadness, peace, anxiety...

I sit here this Saturday morning making plans for his graduation day and I realized I need to decide on a gift (since we are only 3 weeks from the event).  I plan on gifting him something useful and pricey, but I also need another small meaningful gift.  As I browsed on the computer for suitable ideas, I came across a picture book, DREAM by Susan V. Bosak.  At first I dismissed it, then I decided to look closer at it.  I found screen shots of the book and was impresssed with the illustrations.  Then I found a link in which the book was read.

I like what I found. But it also opened up another floodgate of thoughts on my own life, especially since I am in the latter half of the story. 
This book is about our dreams (hopes) throughout our lifespan moving from infancy, childhood, teens, young adults, fully adult, middle life, and aged.  It suggests that though dreams change they remain.


I have not purchased it yet, but plan on doing so (hope he doesn't read my blog... think I am safe on that one).  I think it will be a very appropriate gift on this occassion. He has his whole life ahead of him and so many dreams to dream...

Of course, the idea of DREAMS (and the links on youtube) reminded me of Susan Boyle.  What a special moment she had when her dreams began to be realized! I never tire of watching this video:

Susan Boyle is a great example of the DREAM in so many ways.  Even at the age of 47 she continued to hold onto what seemed an improbable dream and she went onto the show Britain's Got Talent.  She faced the sarcasm and ridicule. And didn't she pick a fabulous song!  She had the courage to reach out one more time and grasp for her dream, and this time it happened for her.  Most of us have heard the problems that followed.  She had a nervous breakdown; dreams do not come without a price in many cases.  But she worked through her difficulties and emerged on the other side.  In that first appearance she says she wants to be like Elaine Page.  So here is a further fulfillment of her dream:

All of this makes me step back and look at my dreams.  Some have been forgotten or broken.  Others have been fulfilled. Yet others have been tweaked and realigned.  Maybe it is time for some to be rediscovered...