Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Expressive Vocabulary Repertoire: Basis for Qualification?

I recently had a discussion with a colleague regarding qualification of speech therapy based solely on the number of expressive vocabulary words a child uses.

When working with very young children (under age 5), we understand the range of "typical development" can be very large.  So when I assess these children, I do want to have an accurate picture of the number of expressive vocabulary words a child uses. However I also want to take into account other things that will give me a holistic view of the child's expressive language skills.  So I ask myself (and the parents/guardians as necessary) these questions:

  1. Does the child use language for a variety of social purposes (labeling, requesting objects, requesting actions, requesting assistance, greeting others, initiating/terminating activities, protesting, etc.)?
  2. Does the child use various types of words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, greetings, negatives, etc.)?
  3. Does the child combine words together into 2-3+ word phrases and create novel word combinations?
  4. Does the child exhibit periods of time (3+ months) where he/she ceases to learn new words?
  5. Does the child cease to use previously known and used words?
If I can answer "yes" to questions 1-3, than I am fairly confident this child is developing language naturally yet he/she may simply be on the low average end of the "typical range" when looking at expressive vocabulary repertoire.

However, if I answer "yes" to questions 4-5 than I cannot ignore that there may be some underlying issues affecting language development and will either recommend further assessment or suggest treatment if determined appropriate.

So, how much stock should we take in expressive vocabulary inventory?  We certainly should take some stock in it as it does give us a guide and starting point into understanding a child's expressive language skills.  However it alone is not adequate to determine the existence of a delay or disorder.  Therefore we must continue to take a holistic approach to assessment and we most certainly should be asking ourselves the above questions when analyzing our results and determining if further services are needed.

Happy talking!

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Middle School: Materials and Motivators Linky Party

Click on this picture to go to the first blog post in this link up!

The Frenzied SLPs FB page has been at it this summer, updating the way we are able to provide some educational and professional information by sharing tips, tricks, techniques, ideas and materials via bimonthly linky parties.  Now that things are beginning to settle down this fall, I'm finally participating in my first one.

Today I'm going to share with you some of my previously offered materials that could be used for middle schoolers.  Keep in mind, these materials are for students of varying cognitive and communication levels.  Don't miss out on these, most of these are freebies!  Click on the title of each material and it will take you to the blog link for that material.

Middle School Materials:

1.  Auditory Memory: Associated Words and Digit Recall Sheet

These are a just a few of the freebies you can find at my website (communicationstationspeech.com) as well as this blog address (communicationstationspeechtx.blogspot.com).  Click under the FREEBIE Friday labels on the right on both pages and you'll find a treasure trove of goodies!

My best advice for working with middle schoolers and keeping them motivated is to do two very simple things:

1.  Keep it fun.
2.  Follow their interest.

You do that and you should be just fine!  Check out all the other great blog posts on this topic from our fabulous SLPs participating in this link up.

Happy Talking!
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Do's and Don'ts of Incidental Teaching!

Last week, I talked a little bit about what incidental teaching is and the steps you can take to implement this technique.  This week let's talk about all the Do's and Don'ts of this strategy.  This is a list of my own tips that I have found to work well.

The "Do's and Don'ts" of Incidental Teaching:
  • Keep it as natural an interaction as possible.  Ex. "Oh, I see you looking at Mr. Potato Head.  He is soooo fun!!!!"  Wait for child to request and if no response " Do you want Mr. Potato Head?" Wait for response.  No response "Tell me, 'Head'."  Child responds and you give praise "Oh I heard your voice! Here's Mr. Potato Head."
  • DON'T OVER DUE IT!  One of the biggest mistakes we as therapists make is over use of a particular technique or strategy.  I typically would only use this technique when child wants to begin a new activity.  I would not hold ALL objects/materials out of reach and have child request EACH piece.  That seems to me to be a bit of overkill and really doesn't represent real life.  A child only has to request at home the things that are out of reach.  Many of his/her toys are within reach, so we want to teach this skill of initiating requests yet maintaining it's natural interaction.
  • Keep functional use in mind at all times.  Remember this skill of requesting items out of reach is one that, if used correctly, translates to the home environment for requesting things such as snacks, drinks, toys out of reach/sight, etc.  Generalization can be seen when you train parents to use the same technique at home.
  • FOLLOW THE CHILD'S LEAD.  Do not pre-plan that you will be playing with various activities/toys for certain time spans, but follow your student's lead.  Allow him/her to choose the activity from your pre-chosen options.  Give your students' the permission to terminate each activity upon their own choosing.  Do not force more play time if the interest in the activity is no longer there as learning will not occur.  Rather, allow your student to clean up (with your help), then choose the next activity.
  • Make incidental teaching a routine.  If you are using this technique, be sure to use it for each therapy session so your students get used to this routine.  Very soon, you will have your students initiating requests without prompts if you dedicate yourself to routine use of this technique.
  • Alternate materials to which the child has access.  To keep motivation high, be sure to alternate the toys and other materials you allow your students to have access.  Be sure to have a mix of familiar and unfamiliar/novel materials available.
  • When working with a group of students, be sure to teach your students to "take turns" choosing an activity.  This way you can use the technique, while also teaching very important social skills such as turn taking, waiting, etc.
These is a quick and easy list of tips that can be helpful when implementing this technique.  Always remember to have fun and keep it simple.

Happy talking!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Don't Forget Incidental Teaching!

Incidental teaching is defined as creating a highly motivating learning environment by fostering and nurturing our students' interests.  Incidental teaching simply uses developmental activities based on the students' cognitive level.

Incidental teaching is considered part of a behavioral therapy program however you can also see this technique used in relationship models as well.  Relationship models tend to call this technique something similar to "environmental sabotage" or "playful obstruction".  Please note that in relationship models this technique tends to be used in a more naturalistic way rather than part of a structured behavioral approach.  Whatever you choose to call it, this technique can be a very simple and effective approach for speech therapy if used appropriately.

The Steps of Incidental Teaching:

  • Arrange the therapy environment so materials are within child's sight (not reach), making it necessary for child to request objects that are highly motivating for him/her.
  • Wait for child to initiate engagement.
  • Prompt child to respond only as necessary.
  • Provide child with access to materials requested when child uses correct response.
  • Fade out prompting over time.

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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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