Winter Literacy

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(photo credit)

I love following bloggers and using their lesson plans that are paired with children’s books!  They have inspired me to create some of my own plans for my elementary aged clients.  Over the winter break, I pulled out some of my seasonal books and created simple, functional lessons to pair with the stories.  I also purchased and printed some great winter literacy plans from a couple other sites.

The first book, Tracks in the Snow by Wong Herbert Yee, is a nice read for my 1st and 2nd grade clients.  This year, much of my caseload is working on irregular past tense verbs, so I decided to use this short and sweet winter story to target verbs.  I decided to create a list using sentences with present tense verbs from the story.  Children will take turns changing the target verb into the past tense and earn an animal track card or tokens for correct responses.  The person with the most tracks or tokens wins! You can grab your list here for Tracks in the Snow.

My next book, The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg is a funny story about a little girl who retraces her steps outside in search of a missing mitten.  I found this book by Scholastic for a quarter at my local library sale!  I needed a lesson for some 3rd graders that focused on simple comprehension questions following a short reading and this book fit the bill!  If you can find this book at your local library or bookstore, then you can use these comprehension questions!

Another score at the library sale was, In the Snow: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George.  I highly recommend borrowing or purchasing this book because each page gives clues about a winter animal that has crossed the trail in the woods just prior to the children’s walk.  Great for vocabulary building and answering who/what questions!!

If you have not seen the FREE templates at www.makelearningfun.com that go along with the stories, The Mitten and The Hat both by Jan Brett, then you should follow this link to take a look!

Finally, I recently found some great worksheets for the award winning story,Owl Moon by Jane Yolen at this blogger’s TpT site.

I hope that you have found these resources to be helpful!  If you have, then please take a moment to follow [my] blog and/or like my Facebook page, speech2me.  I would LOVE to hear about some of your favorite winter literacy units, so feel free to comment below!  Happy New Year!!

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This post originally appeared on The Next Chapter in my Speech World.

Nanette Cote, MA, CCC-SLP works contractually for Staffing Options and Solutions and has her own practice, Naperville Therapediatrics.  She is a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist in Naperville, Illinois who was recently certified in Interactive Metronome Therapy.   Her blog, speech2me, was named one of the top Speech-Language blogs for 2012.  For more information about this practitioner, please visit the blog at www.speech2me.blogspot.com or the Facebook page.

Therapy Fun with Ready Made Fall and Halloween Bingo

 

There are many fun therapy activities you can do with your preschool and school aged clients in the fall. One of my personal favorites is bingo. Boggles World, an online ESL teacher resource actually has a number of ready made materials, flashcards, and worksheets which can be adapted for speech language therapy purposes. For example, their Fall and Halloween Bingo comes with both call out cards and a 3×3 and a 4×4 (as well as 3×3) card generator/boards. Clicking the refresh button will generate as many cards as you need, so the supply is endless! You can copy and paste the entire bingo board into a word document resize it and then print it out on reinforced paper or just laminate it.

Fall vocabulary words include: corn, crops, farmer, scarecrow, apples, acorns, oak leaf, maple leaves, ginkgo leaves, grapes, mushrooms, salmon, geese, squirrel, jacket, turkey, Jack-O’-Lantern, rake, pumpkins, harvest moon, hay, chestnuts, crow, and sparrow

Halloween vocabulary words include: witch, ghost, skeleton, skull, spider, owl, Jack-O’-Lantern, devil, cobweb, graveyard, clown, pirate, robot, superhero, mummy, vampire, bat, black cat, trick or treaters, alien, werewolf

Now the fun begins!

Some suggested activities:

Phonological Awareness:

  • Practice Rhyming words (you can do discrimination and production activities): cat/bat/ trick/leaf/ rake/moon
  • Practice Syllable and Phoneme Segmentation  (I am going to say a word (e.g., ghost, spider, alien, etc) and I want you to clap one time for each syllable or sound I say)
  • Practice Isolation of initial, medial, and final phonemes in words ( e.g., What is the beginning/final  sound in mummy, vampire, robot, etc?) What is the middle sound in bat/cat/geese/rake etc?
  • Practice Initial and Final Syllable and Phoneme Deletion in Words  (Say spider! Now say it without the der, what do you have left? Say trick, now say it without the /t/ what is left; say corn, now say it without the /n/, what is left?)

Articulation/Fluency:

  • Practice production of select sounds/consonant clusters that you are working on or just production at word or sentence levels with those clients who just need a little bit more work in therapy increasing their intelligibility or sentence fluency.

Language:

  • Practice Categorization skills via convergent and divergent naming activities: Name Fall words, Name Halloween Words, How many trees  whose leaves change color can you name?, how many vegetables and fruits do we harvest in the fall? etc.
  • Practice naming Associations: what goes with a witch (broom), what goes with a squirrel (acorn), etc.
  • Practice providing Attributes via naming category, function, location, parts, size, shape, color, composition, as well as accessory/necessity.  For example, (I see a pumpkin. It’s a fruit/vegetable that you can plant, grow and eat. You find it on a farm. It’s round and orange and is the size of a ball. Inside the pumpkin are seeds. You can carve it and make a jack o lantern out of it).
  • Practice providing Definitions: Tell me what a skeleton is. Tell me what a scarecrow is.
  • Practice naming Similarities and Differences among semantically related items: How are pumpkin and apple alike? How are they different?
  • Practice explaining Multiple Meaning words:   What are some meanings of the word bat, witch, clown, etc?
  • Practice Complex Sentence Formulation: make up a sentence with the words crops and unless, make up a sentence with the words skeleton and however, etc.
  • Or you can just make up your own receptive, expressive and social  pragmatic language activities to go along with these games.

So join in the fun and start playing!

(This post originally appeared on the Smart Speech Therapy LLC blog)

 

Tatyana Elleseff MA CCC-SLP, is a bilingual speech language pathologist with a full-time hospital affiliation (UMDNJ) and a private practice (Smart Speech Therapy LLC) in Central, NJ. She received her MA from NYU and her Bilingual Extension Certification from Columbia University. She specializes in working with bilingual, multicultural, internationally and domestically adopted at risk children with complex medical, developmental, neurogenic, psychogenic, and acquired communication disorders.

Making the Most of Summer Fun: Language-Based Activities for Children & Their Families

With summer just around the corner, many parents and teachers are already making plans for summer fun. Do you need ideas for speech-language activities during the summer break? Read on!  Here are my top suggestions for fun, language-based activities that target communication skills in memorable ways.

Take a walk – A walk that incorporates language skills can be as simple as a stroll around the block, or as complex as an afternoon hike to a scenic destination. As you walk, encourage conversation by asking open-ended questions or observations like, “I wonder what this is!”  Take note (out loud) of things that you see, hear, discover and enjoy, encouraging your child to do the same. You could also create a game or scavenger hunt for your walk, prompting your child to search for and label objects using a picture checklist:

Plan Day Trips – Take trips to local beaches, parks, museums or amusement parks. These excursions are not only fun, but they give your child the gift of developing background knowledge, or schema – an important database of personal experiences that become essential for reading comprehension. Providing your child with a variety of life experiences gives them a broader vocabulary base and fosters personal connections to text and stories. These connections will prepare children for higher level skills as they are introduced to new reading material and participate in group discussions. Day trips are also good practice for language formulation, planning and organization skills, and they offer many opportunities to reinforce conversational behaviors, language use and comprehension. Here are some select visuals that target these skills:

Take a Road Trip – If you are planning a vacation this summer, take advantage of the many built-in opportunities to develop communication skills. Trapped in the car for hours? Resist the urge to “autoplay” your ride with DVDs or handheld electronic devices. Why not target speech-language skills with games that kids love and will very likely remember for years? “I Spy,” license plate games or find-the-alphabet contests all target verbal skills and a variety of language concepts. You could also create a Seek-and-Find activity for your trip, like this downloadable version:

 Make a Treat – What activity is more rewarding than one that ends in a fun treat to eat? Simple recipes can target a variety of language skills and are a favorite with kids. Practice following directions, using descriptive concepts, sequential vocabulary and more with real tools and materials.  Here is a super easy treat I’ve made with my own children and students, with visual directions that allow for review after you are done:Go to the Movies – ‘The movies’ are not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about fostering communication skills. How can sitting passively in a dark theater target speech-language goals? But let’s face it – many parents can become desperate to find an enjoyable activity for the kids on those stifling hot, lazy days of summer. Enjoying an air-conditioned theater for a two hour respite can be just what you and your child need. (For children with sensory issues that make trips to movie theaters a challenge, look for sensory-friendly movie times, like those offered in AMC theaters.) In addition to creating motivating content for future discussions and activities, movies also generate opportunities for language before and after your excursion. Decide with your child what you will seewhere and when you will see it. After the show, review with your child the movie plot, characters and sequential events. Ask questions like, “What was your favorite part? Why?” to help your child formulate and support their opinions. Offer your own opinion, too! Encourage critical thinking skills by asking “why”  “how” and “what if” questions. Some families I know even keep a log of movies they see throughout the year, giving each movie a rating after a family movie discussion.

Schedule Playdates – Effective speech-language therapy often includes group sessions to promote socials skills and to create opportunities that reinforce generalization of skills. Foster peer interaction, interactive play, functional communication and other skills by arranging a short playdate. Around two hours is a good length of time for a get-together, allowing ample opportunities for play, exploration and a small snack. Offer a few summer activities (bubbles, balls, sand toys, etc) and encourage conversation/interaction, but do resist the urge to organize their activities. Children need time to develop play with each other and discover what is motivating or fun in the moment.

Read, Read, Read – Reading with your child is one of the best activities you can do to promote language and literacy skills. Studies show that time spent reading with your child is the best predictor of overall academic success. The AmericanAssociation of School Librarians reported a study, (Wells, 1988) where researchers found that “the amount of experience that five-year-old children had with books was directly related to their reading comprehension at seven and eleven years old. Wells stated that of all the activities considered possibly helpful for the acquisition of literacy, only one—listening to stories—was significantly associated with later test scores.” Read more.

Not sure how to incorporate language into reading? The U.S. Department of Education outlines things you can do to help your child develop language and literacy skills. Read more.

Whatever your plans this summer, do take time to engage with your child in real ways using everyday activities. For more ideas/activities that target communication skills, please visit my speech-language blog at LiveSpeakLove.

(This post originally appeared on LiveSpeakLove)

 

Lisa Geary, MS,CCC-SLP, is an SLP working in the Baltimore County Public Schools in Baltimore, MD. She also recently establishing her own private practice to supplement her school-based position. Lisa enjoys a diverse student caseload, servicing preschool and elementary school students in general and special education settings. Lisa especially enjoys working with students on the Autism spectrum and with students using low-tech communication supports and/or AAC/AT devices. With personal interests in the application of technology and in the creation of speech-language resources, Lisa maintains a blog highlighting these efforts.

Making the Most of Summer Fun: Language-Based Activities for Children & Their Families

With summer just around the corner, many parents and teachers are already making plans for summer fun. Do you need ideas for speech-language activities during the summer break? Read on!  Here are my top suggestions for fun, language-based activities that target communication skills in memorable ways.

Take a walk – A walk that incorporates language skills can be as simple as a stroll around the block, or as complex as an afternoon hike to a scenic destination. As you walk, encourage conversation by asking open-ended questions or observations like, “I wonder what this is!”  Take note (out loud) of things that you see, hear, discover and enjoy, encouraging your child to do the same. You could also create a game or scavenger hunt for your walk, prompting your child to search for and label objects using a picture checklist:

Plan Day Trips – Take trips to local beaches, parks, museums or amusement parks. These excursions are not only fun, but they give your child the gift of developing background knowledge, or schema – an important database of personal experiences that become essential for reading comprehension. Providing your child with a variety of life experiences gives them a broader vocabulary base and fosters personal connections to text and stories. These connections will prepare children for higher level skills as they are introduced to new reading material and participate in group discussions. Day trips are also good practice for language formulation, planning and organization skills, and they offer many opportunities to reinforce conversational behaviors, language use and comprehension. Here are some select visuals that target these skills:

Take a Road Trip – If you are planning a vacation this summer, take advantage of the many built-in opportunities to develop communication skills. Trapped in the car for hours? Resist the urge to “autoplay” your ride with DVDs or handheld electronic devices. Why not target speech-language skills with games that kids love and will very likely remember for years? “I Spy,” license plate games or find-the-alphabet contests all target verbal skills and a variety of language concepts. You could also create a Seek-and-Find activity for your trip, like this downloadable version:

 Make a Treat – What activity is more rewarding than one that ends in a fun treat to eat? Simple recipes can target a variety of language skills and are a favorite with kids. Practice following directions, using descriptive concepts, sequential vocabulary and more with real tools and materials.  Here is a super easy treat I’ve made with my own children and students, with visual directions that allow for review after you are done:Go to the Movies – ‘The movies’ are not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about fostering communication skills. How can sitting passively in a dark theater target speech-language goals? But let’s face it – many parents can become desperate to find an enjoyable activity for the kids on those stifling hot, lazy days of summer. Enjoying an air-conditioned theater for a two hour respite can be just what you and your child need. (For children with sensory issues that make trips to movie theaters a challenge, look for sensory-friendly movie times, like those offered in AMC theaters.) In addition to creating motivating content for future discussions and activities, movies also generate opportunities for language before and after your excursion. Decide with your child what you will seewhere and when you will see it. After the show, review with your child the movie plot, characters and sequential events. Ask questions like, “What was your favorite part? Why?” to help your child formulate and support their opinions. Offer your own opinion, too! Encourage critical thinking skills by asking “why”  “how” and “what if” questions. Some families I know even keep a log of movies they see throughout the year, giving each movie a rating after a family movie discussion.

Schedule Playdates – Effective speech-language therapy often includes group sessions to promote socials skills and to create opportunities that reinforce generalization of skills. Foster peer interaction, interactive play, functional communication and other skills by arranging a short playdate. Around two hours is a good length of time for a get-together, allowing ample opportunities for play, exploration and a small snack. Offer a few summer activities (bubbles, balls, sand toys, etc) and encourage conversation/interaction, but do resist the urge to organize their activities. Children need time to develop play with each other and discover what is motivating or fun in the moment.

Read, Read, Read – Reading with your child is one of the best activities you can do to promote language and literacy skills. Studies show that time spent reading with your child is the best predictor of overall academic success. The AmericanAssociation of School Librarians reported a study, (Wells, 1988) where researchers found that “the amount of experience that five-year-old children had with books was directly related to their reading comprehension at seven and eleven years old. Wells stated that of all the activities considered possibly helpful for the acquisition of literacy, only one—listening to stories—was significantly associated with later test scores.” Read more.

Not sure how to incorporate language into reading? The U.S. Department of Education outlines things you can do to help your child develop language and literacy skills. Read more.

Whatever your plans this summer, do take time to engage with your child in real ways using everyday activities. For more ideas/activities that target communication skills, please visit my speech-language blog at LiveSpeakLove.

(This post originally appeared on LiveSpeakLove)

 

Lisa Geary, MS,CCC-SLP, is an SLP working in the Baltimore County Public Schools in Baltimore, MD. She also recently establishing her own private practice to supplement her school-based position. Lisa enjoys a diverse student caseload, servicing preschool and elementary school students in general and special education settings. Lisa especially enjoys working with students on the Autism spectrum and with students using low-tech communication supports and/or AAC/AT devices. With personal interests in the application of technology and in the creation of speech-language resources, Lisa maintains a blog highlighting these efforts.

Spring Flowers: An Arts and Crafts Activity for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Spring has sprung! And, so have many beautiful flowers. Here’s an easy but fun arts and crafts activity to facilitate your child’s speech and language. I have included some tips and strategies to help stimulate vocabulary development.

Coloring Flowers with Bingo Markers

Materials:

Bingo markers

Regular markers

Paper

Procedure:

Draw a flower. Include its pedals, stem, and leaves. Keep it simple and make the parts easy to identify. This is especially good for children who need help in identifying parts from a whole. As you are drawing the flower, narrate what you are drawing (TIP # 1). For instance, “I’m drawing a flower. Now, I’m drawing the leaves…the pedals…stems….etc.” This may seem obvious, but it’s amazing at how quiet some parents are when they are playing with their children. If you’re expecting a child to verbally communicate, it’s important to use language during these intimate experiences because it teaches them that communicating is fun and exciting! Be animated and add inflection to your voice (TIP #2) – especially when introducing new vocabulary. For instance, if you are drawing the stem, stress the new word to alert your child’s attention to it (e.g. “I’m drawing the stem”. Repetition is also important. Children need multiple repetitions (TIP #3) and various contexts (TIP #4) to fully understand the meaning of a new word. Enriching, hands-on experiences and multiple yet different interactions really help the child to fully understand. I’m not a huge fan of using flashcards for younger children, like toddlers, because they are one-dimensional and can be easily misunderstood. So, repeat new vocabulary many times during the activity (“I drew the stem.” “The stem is green”. “The stem is long.”). Then, after the activity, take the child on a stroll through your backyard or neighborhood and point out flowers and name their various parts. Lastly, avoid asking the child too many test-like questions (TIP #5) – “What’s this?” or “What’s that?” Children are usually pretty aware that you are “testing” them and it takes the joy out of learning new things.  Once you have drawn a flower (or two or three or more flowers) let the child “color” them with the bingo markers! It can look something like this:

Some Possible Target Words:

 

Summary of Tips:

1: Narrate your actions (Feel free to narrate your child’s actions too!)

2. Be animated and add inflection to your voice

3. Provide multiple repetitions

4. Expose the new word in various settings and contexts (see extension activities for examples)

5. Avoid asking too many “test-like questions”. Two words: NOT FUN!

Extension Activities:

Go on a nature walk

Arrange some flowers in a vase

Plant a flower in the yard or grow some seeds in a styrofoam cup

Kimberly Scanlon, M.A. CCC-SLP, is a speech language pathologist practicing in Bergen County, NJ. She provides home based speech therapy for children and adults through her private practice Scanlon Speech Therapy, LLC.  To learn more about Kimberly visit www.scanlonspeech.com.

 

 

Shooting for Good Speech!

This activity is one I pull out from time to time as a special treat and is a particular hit with the boys.  A year or so ago, my son and his grandfather put together a fabulous catapult.  The lid/target combos are the perfect ammo for launching.  (See my post, “Lots of Pros” from April 10, 2012 for instructions on making articulation target lids).

We run through our first set of words which I’ve inserted into the lids.  Then, I have them say the target a couple more times before we launch it from the catapult.  Sometimes we see which word goes the furthest, sometimes we set up a basket and see if we can get any in it.

Click to Play

The building instructions for my catapult came from “The Art of the Catapult” by Gurstelle.  I did a quick search online and there are several kits for catapults that would probably work, as well as instructions for a plastic spoon/popsicle stick version that goes together fairly easily (I’ve seen these put together….many times!).

Give it a try and launch something new!

(This post originally appeared on Activity Tailor)

 

Kim Lewis M.Ed, CCC-SLP has a private practice for pediatrics in Greensboro, NC. She is the blogger at www.activitytailor.com, providing creative ideas for speech therapy, and the author of the Artic Attack workbook series.

Turning Pinterest Boards Into A Therapy Activity!

If you follow me on Pinterest, you might notice I use it A LOT. A few weeks ago PediaStaff started creating boards with pictures to be used in therapy. They made boards with action pictures, pronouns, problem solving, inferencing and concepts. As soon as Heidi emailed me and told me about them, I knew I could adapt them for speech therapy on the iPad. I figured it would be way more entertaining than printing them all out! About the same time, I won an app called TapikeoHD. After playing with it for a while I realized it was perfect for the PediaStaff Pinterest boards. Let me show you what I came up with!

The app I used is called Tapikeo and available at this time for $2.99 in the app store. Tapikeo allows you create your own audio-enabled picture books, storyboards, audio flashcards, and more using a versatile grid style layout. Check it out for yourself in the itunes store here.

First I opened Pinterest on my iPad and decided I would make an activity working on labeling verbs. I opened their board for actions words.

Then I saved the pictures to my ipad by holding down on them to save.

Next you will head on over to the app and start a new grid. When you click on the empty grid square you will get a screen like this. If you want text to accompany your photo/audio (and I did because I want to support literacy skills!)  you can type that in at the top. I type ” The boy is ___.” Then select ‘browse’ to add the photos you just saved to the iPad. Then select record. For my grid I saved my voice reading “The boy is.” When I use it with younger students, all they need to do is name the verb. For older students working on full sentence generation – I can turn the sound off and they are responsible for developing the whole sentence.

Once I finished adding all my cards (it took me about 5 or 10 minutes) the board looks like this.

When the student clicks on one of the pictures, it expands to fill the screen and the audio/visual joins the picture. This is when my students identified the verb or created a new sentence!

There is also an ‘e-book’ setting where the app transfers your pictures into more of a slideshow like setting. I kept mine on the grid formation so I could work on receptive language skills at the same time. I had the students pick their picture a few different ways: by following directions with spatial concepts, by answering WH questions, or by listening to clues and making basic inferences.

These boards are easy to make in the app and PediaStaff has done most of the work finding all these great images. What other topic boards would you like to see PediaStaff create?

(This post originally appeared on Speech Room News)

 

Jenna Rayburn, M.A., CCC-SLP is a school based speech language pathologist from central Ohio. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University. Jenna is the blogger at SpeechRoomNews.blogspot.com, sharing fun treatment ideas and technology tips. Visit SpeechRoomNews on Facebook.

Figuring Out Speech


Do you ever feel like you’re slogging through another therapy session?  Especially if you are working with a long-term child who has been with you awhile and is likely to stay with you a good deal longer?  Sometimes adding a new person to your group with the identical deficits can be just what the party needs.

And what if this new client required no paperwork?  Does it sound too good to be true or have you figured it out? What I’m suggesting is the inclusion of an action figure to the circle.  I have one kiddo that really improves his articulation productions when he’s speaking for the action figure.  The fact that he slows his speech rate certainly helps, but the authoritative tone that superheroes apparently require is a big part of it too.

I’m kind of partial to Thor myself, but you could have a variety of action figures for the kids to choose from or have them bring one from home (or have them check their pockets, the male version of Mary Poppin’s bag).  Using action figures is also a great way to break the ice with a quiet child who might be more willing to speak for someone other than himself.  And while eye contact is ideal, the honest truth is that eye contact can be sensory overload for some kids.  Providing an object for joint attention, can be a happy compromise.

(This post originally appeared on Activity Tailor)

 

Kim Lewis M.Ed, CCC-SLP has a private practice for pediatrics in Greensboro, NC. She is the blogger at www.activitytailor.com, providing creative ideas for speech therapy, and the author of the Artic Attack workbook series.

Is the Toy Industry Listening to Kids With Special Needs?

Enchanted Cupcake Party by Wonder Forge

Earning bling for my princess tiara, landing at the secret rangers headquarters, shooting mini-marshmallows, cuddling up in a wearable puppet, guessing, rhyming, plinking and popping, I was captivated by every minute of the 2012 New York International Toy Fair. The air was alive with excitement as I talked to inventors, tried out products, and listened to manufacturers about the play potential of the best new products to benefit our kids with special needs. For the first time in my 6 years of attending the show, I saw an increased interest from the toy industry in learning how their products can be helpful. Companies were hearing from retailers that parents had successfully used their products to strengthen specific skills related to disabilities.

More than one-fifth of US households with children have at least one child with special needs. About 5.8 million of the nation’s schoolchildren, ages 6 to 21,  are receiving special education services (about 61 percent percent of those students have specific learning disabilities or speech or language impairments) and that doesn’t include preschoolers who are targeted for early intervention.  Several national organizations and popular blogs are getting the word out about effective diagnosis, treatment and recommended techniques and products to build delayed skills.  People are getting it–this is a population that wants, needs and deserves to be taught with the best, most innovative and most importantly, FUN toys to advance their development. Parents of children with special needs want their kids to enjoy the same play experience as their peers and siblings. Their child’s days are often filled with hours of specialized therapy that can and should be augmented with great play using mainstream toys.

Here are some of the companies that are interested, listening, learning and responding:

Roll & Play by ThinkFun

Charlotte Fixler, Communication Manager and Education Specialist at ThinkFun, said “I’ve heard from more speech therapists this year than ever before about how they effectively use our games for speech therapy. Speech therapists are an incredibly creative group.” Once again, ThinkFun has several new games that would adapt well to speech therapy including their first toddler game, “Roll & Play” which includes a large soft block with primary colors on each side. Toss the plush cube and match the color to a card and perform that activity, “Make a happy face” or “Moo like a cow.” Check out ThinkFun’s blog, SmartPlay for inspiration on how games can help those struggling to learn due to disabilities or accidents. Recently a woman wrote, “I want to thank you for creating a game that children love, and one that helps heal a brain that has been so badly damaged.”

Rory O’Connor, inventor Rory’s Story Cubes

Rory O’Connor, the inventor of Gamewright’s “Rory’s Story Cubes,” has heard from so many parents and education professionals working with children and adults to develop language and communication skills, confidence and self-expression and he is still listening. ”When we designed the original Rory’s Story Cubes®, we made them compact enough to fit in a bag or pocket. This was so that your set of Rory’s Story Cubes® would always be to hand when needed. Since launching in 2009, we have been regularly asked by parents and professionals working in the area of special needs, if we would consider making a version of Rory’s Story Cubes® using bigger dice. The main reasons why they want this larger set are:

  • Supporting reduced motor skills. For some players with reduced motor skills it is difficult to pick up small objects.
  • Supporting reduced vision acuity. Some players find small images difficult to read.
  • Avoiding accidental choking hazards. We have learned that for some players it is important that the dice are made bigger to avoid choking.
  • Group Training. Trainers and facilitators working in larger groups would also like bigger cubes to aid group storytelling.

It is important to us that Rory’s Story Cubes can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. One of the most rewarding things for us is hearing feedback from parents and teachers who tell us how Rory’s Story Cubes is allowing self-expression among children and adults who would normally find it difficult to do so.” The result of their feedback is the design of “Rory’s Story Cubes: MAX,”  larger cubes for easier manipulation and recognition. You can weigh in on the subject on Rory’s website here.

Annika Harper introduces new games at Blue Orange

Blue Orange Games contacted me to assess the therapeutic value of their games from a speech and language perspective. I have been blogging about their great games for years with specific tips on how to use them in speech therapy. This year I found an even greater array of games loaded with language learning potential: “Shrimp Cocktail,” “Chef Cuckoo” and “On the Road,” all round card games in a take-along tin (great for the itinerant therapist) which involve vocabulary, description, selling your dish concocted by the chef, and calling out what you see on a road trip! Again, my observations from 15,000 hours of kid work have been born out–great language flows from excellent toys and games. It can’t be contained.

Infantino Right Angle Tummy Triangle

Step2/Infantino has launched the initiative “Everybody Plays,” according to Colette Cosky, Senior Brand Manager at Infantino. “We are committed to diversity in our brand communications. The Everybody Plays campaign encourages all kids together, including children with special needs, because everybody plays. As a company we feel it is our responsibility to show diversity on all levels of our visual communications.  The more we do our part, the greater potential that society as a whole will see inclusiveness as the norm.” At the Toy Fair, I was introduced to specific products that are great for typically developing children but have also served kids with special needs in advancing their development such as “Right Angle Tummy Triangle”, developed with pediatric occupational therapists, to build upper body strength and balance, which contributes to early speech development.

Hape’s language nutrition

Hape Toys knows that language is an important ingredient in learning. Their bright, durable wooden toys are rich in open-ended language play. The recent re-branding of the Educo line reflects their emphasis on educating kids through creative play– “Learning is at the Heart of Our Toys.” In talking to Robin Lehnert, Hape’s Marketing Manager of Hape North America, it is obvious that they look closely at their products that are designed to grow all kids but might have the criteria to help build specific skills for kids with disabilities. Their “Eggspressions,” a set of wooden eggs with different facial expressions on them, is a helpful tool to get kids talking about and naming their emotions while building social language.

The Wonder Forge consistently produces fun preschool board games embedded with language learning and preschool skills. I am in touch with their inventors, president and marketing team, pointing out the developmental learning in their games. Their games cultivate language from “Richard Scarry’s  Busytown Eye Found It! Game” which is a great vocabulary builder to their new products, “Enchanted Cupcake Party” and “Dazzling Princess’ which encourage sequencing, while baking princess cupcakes, earning jewels for answering princess questions, or role play. Kimberley Pierce, WonderForge’s VP of Marketing Communications, shared, “We’ve heard from a number of parents over the years who tell us that our Wonder Forge games have helped their children with special needs develop important skills. We intentionally build in age-appropriate learning in our games. We try to engage kids physically, socially, and creatively, so there are many different ways for children to connect with the content and enjoy the fun.”

Jumbo Bananagrams

Judee Cohen, Public Relations Consultant at Bananagrams, was very interested in hearing about any success stories I had in using their games with kids with special needs. We discussed how many kids on the autism spectrum are hyperlexic,  exhibiting an intense interest in letters, so Bananagrams’ letter games would capitalize on that for learning. This year, their introduction of a larger “Jumbo Bananagrams” and “Zip-It” allows for more active play outside and certainly easier manipulation for kids with special needs.

HABA’s Henri Haba Knight Costume

HABA USA‘s president, Lea Culliton hit on why their products are effective with kids with special needs–durability, multi-levels of play, and the fun factor that joins them with their siblings. “HABA is continuing to learn just how much our products are being embraced by the community of parents with children of special needs.  I’ve been told that the durability of our wooden blocks, game boards, boxes and game pieces and the various levels of play that the HABA assortment offers these families is very strong.  Families comment on how their children with no challenges can easily interact and not get ‘bored’ playing our games with their siblings with special needs.   What may seem as a simple color sorting or stacking game can provide hours of fun just interacting with the pieces of the products themselves.  HABA USA will continue to take that feedback back to Germany to our designers to continue to provide the extended value of play within our assortment.” Some of HABA’s new products that I liked for language learning were their pirate and knight costumes, “Henry Haba” and “Captain Charlie,” as well as their preschool playsets with just enough direction for play but open-ended for the child to lead–”Large Playset on the Farm,” and “Out and About With Tom,” which includes a train and add-on road or track. Several “First Games” for 18 months and up promote early learning too.

I see a powerful synergy growing in the toy industry–between manufacturers and retailers who value specific learning features in their products, parents of kids with special needs pursuing skill-building products and creative educators and therapists sharing what toys work best to advance skills.

As therapists, educators and parents we should collaborate with and support these companies, not only by using their products but providing them with feedback on how their toys and games have been helpful to our kids, so more children can benefit. Send a detailed lesson plan, a success story or a picture to encourage manufacturers to keep our kids in mind when developing and marketing their products to help all kids. After all, isn’t that one of the first concepts we learned as educators, to reinforce behavior we want to continue?

(This post originally appeared on Play on Words)

 

Sherry Artemenko M.S.CCC-SLP, a speech language pathologist for over 35 years, has  a private practice, Play on Words LLC, popular blog, www.playonwords.com, and is the founder of the PAL Awards (Play Advances Language) which distinguish the best new toys, games and books that have the DNA to build language skills in children.

Low-Tech Speech Therapy

Here are some of my go-to (super cheap) activities (when I’m not feeling all creative, Speech Lady Liz- like).

Bags
paper bag activity

I get white, paper lunch sacks and the kids decorate their own.  I put cards in the bag that target each child’s articulation goal.  The student rolls the dice and they have to say the word that many times.  Such an easy game that often gets requested by the kids.

I also use this for my language kids.  I put in verb cards and they have to put the word in a sentence, tell me the past, present, future tense or whatever their particular goal is.

Wh-dice
dice activity

This is a good activity to use after a holiday or weekend.  The student draws a picture of what they want to talk about and then depending on level they:

  1. Tell me all about the picture and then we roll the dice and their classmates have to answer the who, what, where, when questions or…
  2. I roll the dice and the student answers the who, what, where, when questions.  I write the answers on the board and then we figure out how to put all the information in 1-2 sentences so it’s cohesive and listeners can understand what they are talking about.

 

Dobbers
dobber activity

Each child gets a dobber and a month themed page.  We practice sounds and depending on how many they get, they get to either color in or use the dobber to mark off how many they produced correctly.

Beans
beans activity

That’s right, beans.  For this activity you need two cups and a bag of dried beans.  One cup is for “good” sounds and the other is for “not quite there” sounds.  It’s a good activity for those visual learners.

I hope this post goes to show that one does not need all the fancy, expensive products to facilitate appropriate and successful speech therapy strategies.  That being said, anyone want to donate an IPad to this speech lady?

(This post originally appeared on Speech Lady Liz)

Elizabeth Gretz, M.S. CCC-SLP is currently working as a school-based SLP, clinical SLP and an avid SLP blogger in Austin, TX. She is the creator of www.speechladyliz.blogspot.com , a blog dedicated to providing other SLPs and parents easy, adaptable, fun and functional therapy ideas to use in any setting.