Pragmatics with Elephant and Piggie

piggie

Are you working on social skills and building appropriate conversation with children ages 4 and older? Are you looking for more playful and fun ways to teach pragmatic skills and engage a child’s attention during therapy sessions?

Mo Willems is one of my favorite children’s book authors. Some favorite titles of mine are Knuffle Bunny and That is Not A Good Idea, and of course the infamous Elephant and Piggie books, which include A Big Guy Took My Ball, Should I Share My Ice Cream? My Friend Is Sad and many more. Mo Willem’s collection of Elephant and Piggie’s books expand to more than 20 books.

The Elephant and Piggie books are witty, silly and excellent for teaching some important social skills to children with delays or deficits with their pragmatic language skills.  These books are also ideal to read in a classroom or with a small social skills group because they are naturally engaging and can facilitate language.

Elephant and Piggie are best friends and treat each other with love and respect, which is an excellent friendship model for any child. I’ve used Elephant and Piggie books to help teach the following pragmatic skills:

  1. Turn Taking in Conversation: Elephant and Piggie have simple and animated conversation with each other and in certain stories, other characters. The conversation flows naturally between the characters and is related to a specific topic (great for practicing maintaining conversation). Role play after reading the book! A role playing activity can be a fun activity in a social skills group.
  2. Interpreting Body Language: Elephant and Piggie are extremely animated and express themselves well through body language. When reading an Elephant and Piggie book, discuss how the character’s body language shows how he is feeling (e.g. Elephant is jumping up a down, he must be excited!, Piggie is crying, he must be sad)  This is an ideal opportunity to ask questions and model language.
  3. When and why to use intonation in conversation: Mo Willems uses many explanation points, bold and italic wording to express the emotions and feelings of Elephant and Piggie. For example, in the book, “We Are In A Book,” Elephant jumps up and down and says “THAT IS SO COOL!” Ask your client, “Is Elephant whispering or shouting? How do you know?” Discuss when and where it is appropriate to use a soft or loud voice. When you are reading the book, make sure to use appropriate intonation as related to the text. I recently wrote an article about using intonation when reading to a child. Another great carryover book to teach punctuation and facilitate language would be with the picture book, “Exclamation Mark” by Amy Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld.
  4. Discussing Emotions:  Elephant and Piggie have intensive feelings and emotions in this series which makes it really conducive to discussion within a group. Ask your client how the characters are feeling and why. In Should I Share My Ice Cream? Elephant is confused about whether he wants to share his ice cream with Piggie. Discuss what “confusion” means and relate to an experience you or your client has had recently.
  5. Expanding and maintaining a topic within a conversation: Elephant and Piggie have extensive conversation in each of their books. Discuss how the characters extend conversation, maintain a topic and keep the dialog going. Determine if it’s by question, comment, etc. This can be a great exercise that can easily be carried over to other conversations with peers.

Other goals can include answering “wh” questions, building literacy skills, expanding vocabulary, describing, commenting, improving narrative skills and recalling information. This series of Elephant and Piggie books are also available at most libraries, which make them accessible.

More information about the Elephant and Piggie series is available online. If you have any comments, please comment below!

Rebecca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her website www.gravitybread.com to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience . She discusses the benefits of reading to young children during mealtime, shares recipes with language tips and carryover activities, reviews children’s books for typical children and those with special needs as well as educational apps. She has worked for many years with both children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. She can be reached at becca@gravitybread.com, or you can follow her on Facebook; on Twitter; or on Pinterest.

Top Ten Apps for Adolescents and Adults with Developmental Disabilities

10 apps

Have you ever downloaded apps that you weren’t satisfied with? Here’s some help  if you work with older adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities.

Within the past 15 years, I have worked with a variety of populations, including adults with developmental disabilities.  In the past, I have used predominately workbooks, adapted books, social stories, and age appropriate therapy materials during my sessions. Within the past five years, the use of the iPad has changed my therapy sessions dramatically.

Within the past couple of years, I have found excellent age appropriate apps that are motivating for my clients and help meet their goals with regard to their social skills, literacy, life skills, language, and increasing independence in the community. I use these apps listed below on a regular basis and find them functional and useful during my therapy sessions. I have received promo codes for a couple of apps listed below but all of my recommendations are solely based on my own personal experience as a speech language pathologist and do not reflect the views of anyone else.

These apps are best used when combined with other therapy materials and real life situations. For example, if I am working with a client who is going to be visiting the library, I would work on that specific topic using Community Success by Attainment Company. I also like that many of these apps can be trialed before purchasing them.

Apps Adults DD 2

Please comment if you have any app recommendations of your own!

Rebecca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her website www.gravitybread.com to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience . She discusses the benefits of reading to young children during mealtime, shares recipes with language tips and carryover activities, reviews children’s books for typical children and those with special needs as well as educational apps. She has worked for many years with both children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. She can be reached at becca@gravitybread.com, or you can follow her on Facebook; on Twitter; or on Pinterest.

 

Five Ways to Empower Your Client

empower

For the past two years, I have shared an article with my graduate AAC class that a close colleague gave me. The article, titled Empowering Nonvocal Populations: An Emerging Concept was written by Sandy Damico in 1994. Although this article is now almost 20 years old, there are certain concepts that are timeless and empowerment is one of them. According to Ashcroft (1987), an “empowered individual is one who believes in her or his ability to act, accomplish some objective, or control his or her situation.”

Each time I read this article, it empowers me to do a better job as a speech-language pathologist and continue to empower the people around me. It also always gives me perspective on why certain clients are more successful than others. It also helps me reflect on how to empower not just my clients, but my own children. At a recent lunch with a friend who has two children with special needs, we started discussing goals for our children. She shared with me that she does not have high hopes for her children because they have special needs.  I talked to her about empowering her own children because if she didn’t believe in their ability, how can she expect them to believe in themselves?

Here are five ways that you can empower your clients:

  1. Complete a comprehensive assessment to create goals that are appropriate and attainable. If a proper assessment is not done, then the goals may not be appropriate. For example, we need to think about “What are my client’s strengths?”, “What goals will be most functional for him/her?” On the other hand, focusing on goals that have already been attained previously will not empower a person.  If a child or adult feels that a person doesn’t expect anything from them, then why try? We need to challenge our clients but in a way that is attainable with appropriate and functional goals.
  2. Tell your client, “You can do it,” and believe it yourself. This is a simple tip but has worked for me time and time again. There are two parts to this statement. Saying “You can do it,” and not believing it in yourself will not empower your client. We need to tell your client this statement, but in our hearts know they can do it. There have been many evaluation and therapy sessions where others have told me “He can’t do anything,” “He is very low functioning and doesn’t communicate,” etc. I strongly believe that everyone communicates in their own way and it’s our job to find that way and expand on it.
  3. Empower your client’s family. This is a very important tip. Some families may feel defeated or have given up on your client’s ability to communicate. They may have been told time and time again that their child can’t do this, can’t do that, etc. After awhile, a person can start believing it. Empowering families and giving them positive feedback and suggestions about their loved ones is key.
  4. Teach your client a new skill that will change their life (e.g. cooking, etc). Teaching a child or adult a new skill that can positively affect their life can be extremely empowering. I currently see a client who is independent in many aspects of his life as far as hygiene, transportation, etc. However, one skill he was lacking was his ability to prepare food for himself. He was limited to microwaving unhealthy foods because he did not know how to cook simple dishes.  To empower him, we decided to use cooking as an activity to meet his speech and language goals. I am a true believer in increasing independence because with independence comes empowerment.
  5. Don’t give up. Reach out to supervisors, colleagues, etc. It is important to reach out to others if you feel that your strategies and/or techniques are not working for an individual. If you feel defeated with a client, he or she will sense that and in turn feel disempowered. It may just take one or two sessions with some help from a supervisor or colleague to change your entire perspective of your client. If you still feel that you cannot meet their needs, it may be appropriate to refer your client.  Also, use outside resources. I find many excellent posts written on one of my favorite websites (written by Carol Zangari and Robin Parker).

 

Rebecca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her website www.gravitybread.com to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience . She discusses the benefits of reading to young children during mealtime, shares recipes with language tips and carryover activities, reviews children’s books for typical children and those with special needs as well as educational apps. She has worked for many years with both children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. She can be reached at becca@gravitybread.com, or you can follow her on Facebook; on Twitter; or on Pinterest.

How to Use The Language of Baking

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Do you want to spice up your therapy sessions? Try this no fail recipe for pumpkin brownies. They are moist, full of chocolate flavor and absolutely delicious. You will not miss the additional oil or eggs in this recipe. There are only two ingredients, which make it easy to make and fit into a therapy session.  Whenever I bake during a therapy session, I try to focus on very simple recipes so that more time could be spent on speech and language goals. When you try to create a recipe that is too complicated, you can get lost in the activity and lose sight of your speech and language goals.

From my perspective, language and baking naturally occur together. Children really enjoy baking because it can be a stimulating sensory activity as well as language rich activity. When baking in a group, pragmatic language goals can be easily targeted (topic maintenance, turn taking, appropriate topics, etc).

The ingredients in this recipe do not need to be refrigerated and are easily found at any supermarket. They are also very affordable and yield about a dozen brownies! With no added fat, they are much healthier than the normal brownie. Also, the brownies do not contain any additional eggs or oil.

Ingredients:

1 can of pureed pumpkin (15 oz can of pureed pumpkin, not pie filling)

1 box of brownie mix (I used chocolate fudge brownies, 19.5 box)

Sprinkles or topping of your choice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Wash hands.
  3. Grease 8 X 8 inch square pan.
  4. Open brownie box and pumpkin can.
  5. Combine pumpkin and brownie mix in a bowl.
  6. Stir until smooth.
  7. Pour batter into greased pan.
  8. Sprinkle batter with topping of your choice (I used 3-4 tablespoons of sprinkles).
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes or until done (till toothpick comes out clean).

10. Cut and let cool.

11. Eat and enjoy!

pumpkin brownies

Ten  speech and language goals that can targeted during baking time:

 

  1. Sequencing. Work on “first, then” and have the child retell the steps to the recipe in the correct order.
  2. Following Directions. Work on one- to two-step directions (e.g. “open the box and pour in the brownie mix”).
  3. Asking For Help: Create situations that a child needs to ask for help such as opening the box of brownies or opening the can of pumpkin.
  4. Expanding vocabulary. You can expand the child’s vocabulary by focusing on new vocabulary such as cooking utensils, ingredients, appliances, etc.
  5. Turn taking. This recipe is excellent to do in a group. Each child can take a turn pouring the ingredients into the bowl, stirring the mixture together and pouring it into the pan. Use a turn card when baking so that each child knows when it’s their turn.
  6. Describing. Have your client describe the ingredients focusing on what they look, smell and feel like. Have the child taste the pumpkin and describe the flavors. Discuss the colors of the ingredients and toppings (if you are using). Does the pumpkin look smooth? What does the brownie mix feel like? What does it smell like?
  7. Actions: Focus on actions such as, “wash,” “open,” “pour,” “combine,” “stir,” “bake,” “cut,” “sprinkle,” “eat,” etc.
  8. Choice making: Baking time is an excellent opportunity to improve choice making such as choosing what step they would like to do, what topping they want, etc. Although the recipe seems very simple, there are a lot of opportunities for making choices.
  9. Recalling information/narratives: Ask the child questions such as “What did we do first?” etc. Ask the child to tell you a story about “making pumpkin brownies.” When you are baking, take some photos with your phone or camera (if you have written permission) and use the photos to recall information and create a narrative. There are many wonderful apps out there that are ideal for creating stories with photographs. Don’t have an electronic device? Have the child draw a story about the pumpkin brownie activity.
  10. Pragmatic language goals: When baking together, pragmatic goals can be worked on. Discuss appropriate and inappropriate language and behavior when baking. If you are baking in a small group, help facilitate conversation between peers and encourage maintaining appropriate topics of discussion.

If your client is nonverbal or minimally verbal, create a communication board so they can communicate during the activity.

Carryover Books: Try reading some of these books after making the brownies together. These books can help carryover the concept of pumpkins and baking.

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? By Margaret McNamara

Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin Pie by Jill Esbaum

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan

It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! By Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond

Carryover Activities: Bring in a small pumpkin and decorate it during a therapy session. Each child can take home a small pumpkin that they decorated themselves.

Becca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her website www.gravitybread.com to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience . She discusses the benefits of reading to young children during mealtime, shares recipes with language tips and carryover activities, reviews children’s books for typical children and those with special needs as well as educational apps. She has worked for many years with both children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. She can be reached at becca@gravitybread.com, or you can follow her on Facebook; on Twitter; or on Pinterest.