Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Simple BTS Games-No Materials Needed!


So it's that time again.  August has rolled around and here we are, ready to face another school year.  First off, where did the summer go?  I always wonder.  If you are like me, some years the beginning of school seems to come upon me much faster than I every expect and before I'm even prepared, it's time for my first day of therapy.  Some years in the past my caseload was so high, I didn't have enough time to fully unpack and get organized before the first day.  So I've had to improvise.  If you too are one who needs to improvise this year, and looking for a little help, here are a few quick easy therapy activities/games you can do with your kiddos the first week of therapy with minimal or not materials.

1.  Getting to Know You: 
Materials:  None are necessary, but paper/chalkboard/dry erase board are optional.
Purpose:  Simple game to use as an ice breaker returning from the summer time.  You can use this game also as a means of dynamic assessment for your students communication skills.
How to play:  Ask your students 10 simple questions about themselves. Examples, "What is your favorite color/food/song?", "What did you do over the summer?", "Do you have pet(s)? If so, names, types of animals?, "Tell me about your favorite book"., etc.  You can write their answers on the board if you have one. Have your students begin on one end of your tx room/hallway, and with each question answered correctly they can take a step forward (as big as they can).  The goal being they need to reach you/the other side of the room/end of hallway by the time they answer the 10th question.  Easy peasy!

2.  Summer Artwork:
Materials:  One piece of paper for each child, crayons/markers/colored pencils, file folder.
Purpose:  Simple directions game with goal to determine your students' ability to give adequate directions and follow directions.  Students will be directing other students on how to draw a picture that represents their summer fun.
How to play:  Each student receives a blank piece of paper.  Place file folders between students so they cannot see each other's papers. Have students take turns giving another student directions of items to draw.  Have them include the object name, color of object, and location on the paper to draw item.  By the end of the exercise, students should have drawn a picture that represented other student's summer fun!  Perfecto!

3.  "I'm thinking of...":
Materials: None are necessary, if you have objects/pictures present you can use those for support.
Purpose:  This is a type of 20 questions game.  The goal is for the students to accurately describe objects and other students to give logical suggestions based on those descriptions.  You can assess your students ability to define objects based on their function, size, color, material, location, etc. (assessing use of attributes).  You can also assess auditory comprehension skills of other students by listening to descriptions and making logical guesses.
How to play:  It's played exactly the way you are thinking.  Each student thinks of an object and describes it.  The other student(s) take turns guessing the item being described.  You can add to this game by choosing a category from which the students much choose their object or giving a limit to the number of guesses or the number of descriptions provided.  Just have fun with it!

4.  Sing it!:
Materials:  None are necessary
Purpose:  Language fun in music.  You can also assess some articulation skills dynamically.
How to Play:  Give the students a word or (if working on articulation, an initial or final sound) and let them take turns signing songs with that word (or a word with that chosen sound stated first) in it.  The student who can come up with the most songs wins.  

Ok so these are simple basic games you can do quickly and with minimal or no materials.  It's an easy way to get back into the swing of things, get come great dynamic assessment information regarding your students' skills after a summer off from therapy, and just have fun!

Have a great new year!


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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"How to get my infant to talk" Series Posts


In case you missed any, here are the links to all the posts in this series:




If you are looking for more parent friendly language facilitation techniques, please check out Language Facilitation Strategies: Parent Handouts. 

Enjoy and happy talking!


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How to get my infant to talk: Tip #8!


It's Tip Tuesday and since I receive questions about facilitating and eliciting language in very young children often from parents all over the world I thought I'd do a series offering tips and techniques I have done (and still do) with my own kiddos to get them talking!  You will notice there will be very few speech pathology terms used here as the goal of this series is to speak directly to parents.  However this information can be used by SLPs, early interventionists, or early childhood educators as well.  These tips are targeted for children 0-3 yrs (or cognitive equivalent).

Here is my final tip in this series!  If you missed any previous tips, you can find them all posted here!

Tip #8:

Use pictures or baby signs.  I know, you have been wondering when I was going to bring this up weren't you?  Well there are a number of studies that have been done which support the use of basic early signs to facilitate language development in young children.  

I will tell you that my oldest was very adept at making gross motor approximations to a number of basic common signs ("more, done, help", etc.) which supported his speech productions for these basic words.  My second child is not interested in looking at, imitating or attending to my models of signs. The reason I share this with you is because as SLPs, we advocate early use of sign often, but as a mother, I also understand that some children will benefit from the use of sign and some babies are just "not that into it" or do not have the motor skills for sign use.  You know your child best and sign may or may not be the way to go.

Pictures:  Another option is the use of pictures to support communication.  Simply take real pictures of objects, foods, etc. your child enjoys and provide him/her with two choices.  First, introduce the pictures with the real items.  Verbally label the objects as you match up the object with its picture.  Present the pictures with real objects several times until you feel your baby understands that the object is represented by the picture.

I know what you are thinking.  Can a baby understand that a picture represents an object? Of course they can.  Think about the simple words books you have have at home full of photographs of common objects you read to your baby.  This is how your baby learns what words mean (we SLPs like to be fancy and call words "object labels").

Once you feel your baby associates the photo with the object you can begin to use these pictures as a means to have your baby make requests.  If your child has use of both the left and right hands you can place one picture to the left and one to the right and see which picture your child chooses.  I have seen very young children make their preferences known via eye gaze (looking at the picture of the object they want), reaching, slapping on the side of the table that holds the picture of his/her choice and also taking pictures of choice out of parents hands.  I'm sure there are other ways a child could make his/her preferences known.  Follow your baby's lead and respond to whatever means of communication (verbal or nonverbal) your baby uses.  Remember to immediately respond with rewarding your child with the chosen object.

How does it work?  How will signs or pictures encourage my baby's speech production?  You always pair the word with the sign/picture.  Over time when your child is making requests you will expect them to pair a vocalization with sign/picture.  This way you are encouraging vocabulary development as well as speech production.

Well this concludes our "How to get my infant to talk" series.  If you are looking for more parent friendly language facilitation techniques, please check out Language Facilitation Strategies: Parent Handouts.  

Thank you for sticking with this summer series.  

Enjoy your babies and remember to just have fun!  Happy talking!!!!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to get my infant to talk: Tip #7!


It's Tip Tuesday and since I receive questions about facilitating and eliciting language in very young children often from parents all over the world I thought I'd do a series offering tips and techniques I have done (and still do) with my own kiddos to get them talking!  You will notice there will be very few speech pathology terms used here as the goal of this series is to speak directly to parents.  However this information can be used by SLPs, early interventionists, or early childhood educators as well.  These tips are targeted for children 0-3 yrs (or cognitive equivalent).

Tip #7 (here's Tip #6):

Use Music.  Music can be a GREAT way to introduce new vocabulary as well as keep your child entertained.  So what do I do, just play children's CDs?  Well children CDs are great and I recommend playing them for your children, but I also recommend taking the time to sing these familiar children's songs to your child for a number of reasons.  Firstly, you can sing as fast or as slowly as your child requires to aid in his/her understanding of the language.  Secondly, you can repeat favorite songs or songs your child does not seem to understand often in order to improve his/her comprehension of various language concepts.  Thirdly, you can use hand motions or props to aid your child's understanding.

Dancing is just fun and adds some great gross motor input to the activity.  Some children (my oldest is like this) improve attention, memory and retention skills simply involving another part of the brain (i.e. motor cortex).  Simply by adding some dance moves (carrying baby and dancing with him/her or if your baby can stand, having him/her bounce up and down) and/or finger plays along with music, your child's attention and motivation to participate in music play may improve.

Rhythm play is simply finding ways you can clap, bang on drums, shake rattles, tambourines, or rainsticks etc. to the beat of the music when you sing or play the CDs.  Rhythm play is a great way to incorporate development of prosody to your child's play.

How can music help my baby talk?  Well, singing is a great way to encourage various pitch and sound productions.  Simply singing parts of "Old MacDonald" your baby will be encouraged to produce long vowels "E, I, O" as well as animal sounds.  By reciting the Alphabet song, your child will be developing his/her ability to recall letters.  By singing "Apples and Bananas" your child can begin to play with various vowels within the same surrounding consonant combinations as speech develops.

Tip:  When using music, I recommend paying attention to the songs your baby seems to enjoy the most and be sure to repeatedly sing them over for days and even weeks.  As long as your baby is still enjoying the song, keep signing it.  If your baby is not attempting to hum, vocalize or imitate sounds while you sing, try slowing down and singing at a much slower pace.  You may just be singing too quickly for your baby to keep up.  You can also use the delayed response technique, where you sing the first line and second line of a familiar song without singing the last word, then wait expectantly to let your baby know it's time for him/her to vocalize for you to continue singing.

Why does it work?  Not all children learn the same way so adding music, dancing, and even some rhythm play can have positive effects on language development, speech production and prosody.

Check out Tip #8 here!

Happy taking and singing!
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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to get my infant to talk: Tip #6!


It's Tip Tuesday and since I receive questions about facilitating and eliciting language in very young children often from parents all over the world I thought I'd do a series offering tips and techniques I have done (and still do) with my own kiddos to get them talking!  You will notice there will be very few speech pathology terms used here as the goal of this series is to speak directly to parents.  However this information can be used by SLPs, early interventionists, or early childhood educators as well.  These tips are targeted for children 0-3 yrs (or cognitive equivalent).

Here's Tip #6 (you can find Tip #5 here):

Create play routines.  This naturally flows when you are being your child's plaything.  You can do this with fun songs, finger plays or favorite activities of baby.  Play routines are simply predictable play exchanges.  These are things you are doing over and over and over again in the same manner to allow your baby to begin to predict and anticipate your next action based on previous exchanges. I know what your thinking.  Can I create a play routine with a baby?  Yes, you can do this with very young babies as well as children of any age as long as you being by following baby's lead and performing actions that are highly motivating and repeated in a predictable manner.  Examples might be:  giving "high fives", playing peek-a-book, pat-a-cake, hide and seek, "How big is baby?...So big!", etc.

Tip:  With babies, keeping play routines simple with few or no other toys can aid in improving the baby's attention to you as his/her communication partner in this play.  Also keeping play routines vocally simply by adding only one or two words repeatedly helps baby to focus on routine specific vocabulary.

Side note: Do you need more ideas for play routines?  Check out the book My Toddler Talks, by Kimberly Scanlon.  It is chock full of great ideas for play routines.

So how does a play routine help my infant to talk?  Well play routines can 1) improve understanding (we SLPs call this "receptive vocabulary") for simple words you repeatedly use in play, 2) encourage spontaneous vocalizations from your baby during play (I'll explain how to do this below), and 3) encourage imitations or close approximations of simple words used.

Tip: I encourage spontaneous vocalizations during play routines with these three simple steps: 1) find and participate in a play routine your baby enjoys, 2) use no more than 2 words repeatedly (e.g. "peek-a-boo" I use only "boo", Up/down on lap I use "uuuUUUUP" and "DDDdddooowwn"), 3) after you notice your baby is anticipating your next action, begin to pause until baby makes a sound, then immediately reinforce that sound by performing that action.  Over time the spontaneous vocalizations will become structured and repeated and shaped more closely to the sounds in the words you are using for your play routine.

Why does it work?  Creating these simple but predictable play routines, provides a structured exchange for your baby.  This exchange, although done in a playful manner, imitates a conversational exchange, and can easily facilitate vocalizations and speech production as explained above.  Remember, children learn first through play so make it fun!

Check out Tip #7 here!

Happy talking and playing!
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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How to get my infant to talk: Tip #5!


It's Tip Tuesday and since I receive questions about facilitating and eliciting language in very young children often from parents all over the world I thought I'd do a series offering tips and techniques I have done (and still do) with my own kiddos to get them talking!  You will notice there will be very few speech pathology terms used here as the goal of this series is to speak directly to parents.  However this information can be used by SLPs, early interventionists, or early childhood educators as well.  These tips are targeted for children 0-3 yrs (or cognitive equivalent).

Tip #5 (you can find Tip #4 here):

Be your child's first toy!  Um, what?  Ok this sounds more difficult than it really is.  All you need to do is follow your baby, see what interests him/her and play with those objects or perform those actions to engage your child.  If your baby smiles and shows enjoyment, continue to do this over and over and over again.  You may see your baby laugh and you may even begin to see your baby anticipate your action.  Some good examples of this might be:  blowing raspberries on baby's belly, flying baby, laying baby "down" then bringing baby back "up" while sitting on your lap, shaking rattles or clapping hands when baby vocalizes, tickling baby, etc.

I know it can be difficult to think of ways in which you can become your child's plaything so, in addition to the above examples, allow me to share a few ways in which I have been my children's toy in the past.  My oldest used to cover me up and uncover me with pillows, covers, socks, (whatever he had at the time) to "find" me when he was a toddler.  My body has also been used as a racetrack, a limbo stick, a bridge, a jungle gym, and a basketball net. My legs have been ramps for rolling balls or racing trucks/cars.  My hands have been used as a canvas when my son decided to paint them rather than his paper.  My head has fashioned a number of wonderful stylish objects such as empty boxes, mega blocks, cars, bibs, and books.  I've been dressed up as Iron man, Captain America, Bumblebee, and Optimus Prime (usually only with the helmets as I can't fit in the actual costumes).  I am the builder when my sons want to knock down stacking blocks, the jumperroo when my baby wants to strengthen his legs on my thighs, a doggie, a monkey, a snake, a shark and a number of other animals when my boys want me to chase/capture them.

What is my point to all this?  No matter how ridiculous, tiresome or tedious it seems, if your child is into it, it's worth doing with him/her.  But your child will only continue to participate in this play as long as you make it fun and exciting.  You cannot just sit there and let your child play around you.  You must become PART of the play.  So remember to be over the top with huge facial experiences, varied pitches, and don't forget to laugh.  Laugh loudly and laugh often.

You can become your child's plaything in any place and at any time (in play, at bath time, at meal time, when doing household chores, when shopping, etc.), simply remember to follow your child's lead and do what interests and motivate him/her.

Why does it work?  You are not only showing baby you are his/her communication partner, but you are showing baby that you can take into account baby's likes and dislikes and can create fun play with that in mind.  Also, by being your child's toy, you will be making social connections with your baby that you may not have made in the past.  Be exciting.  Be animated.  Be fun!!!!  You are continuing to encourage joint attention as well as encouraging social interaction.

Check out Tip #6 here!

Happy talking and playing!
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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How to get my infant to talk: Tip #4!


It's Tip Tuesday and since I receive questions about facilitating and eliciting language in very young children often from parents all over the world I thought I'd do a series offering tips and techniques I have done (and still do) with my own kiddos to get them talking!  You will notice there will be very few speech pathology terms used here as the goal of this series is to speak directly to parents.  However this information can be used by SLPs, early interventionists, or early childhood educators as well.  These tips are targeted for children 0-3 yrs (or cognitive equivalent).

Tip #4 (you can find Tip #3 here):

Imitate your baby.  What does that mean?  When your baby begins to move his mouth, make raspberries, hums, growls, or begins to babble (with open vowels--"ah", "oh", "e"--or early developing sounds, "b, m, d, t", etc.), you want to take those opportunities to model your baby.  By modeling your baby's movements or vocalizations, you are showing him/her that what he/she is doing and/or saying is important.

When modeling baby, you want to be silly and just have fun with it.  You want to become a play thing for your child!  The more enjoyable your imitations are to your baby, the more he/she will continue participating in this game.  As your baby's participation in imitation games increases and lengthens in duration, the more repeated practice with oral motor movements and already developing sounds your child will receive.  In addition, it will increase the chances your baby will produce variations of the same sound or different and new sounds.

Why it works?  You are simply creating a reciprocal communicative exchange by imitating your baby.  Very quickly your baby will begin to "take turns" with you during this play which models how we take turns in conversations with others.  Additionally, as the old adage goes "practice makes perfect", and this is no exception.  The more your baby practices oral motor movements and sounds, the better he/she will become at producing them with volitional rather than spontaneously.

Check out Tip #5 here!

Happy imitating and talking!
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