Thursday, August 30, 2012

Giveaway: $25 Chili's Gift Certificate AND Guess What I Am? Game

Communication Station: Speech Thearpy, PLLC BELIEVES in the power of Parents!  We believe that parents can be their child's BEST communicator!  So to encourage family time and great communication I decided to have 2 GIVEAWAYS in 1:

1.  A $25 Chili's Gift Certificate:  We believe that family time around the dinner table is crucial to help children grow and develop a healthy self-esteem as well as GREAT language and social skills!  So what better way to promote family dinner time than a gift certificate to someplace delicious!!!


2.  Guess What I Am! game:  I love, love, love GAMES as a great family time as well as a great language activity!  Check this one out!
Name:  Guess What I am!
Ages: 3+

Front of box

Back of box
 This game has many different pictures of people and animals with the faces cut out!!!  You pick a card (face down) and hold it up to your face.  You can see your opponents pictures but not your own.

I'm lookin' good as an octopus, right?!!!
Few examples of Face Cards

The object: to guess what person or animal is on the face of your card.  Its a great game for asking ?s, thinking about descriptor words (adjectives), categories (ocean animals, farm animals, etc.), and works on problem solving skills, working memory, and so much more!!!!!

Chips and dice on left tracker sheet on right

Chips close up

 Check out the cute chips and picture sheets that help your kiddos keep track of which animal or person they are "not".

Well I hope you like our first of many giveways!  Enter below for a chance to win!  There will be one winner for the Chili's gift card and one winner for the Guess What I Am? game.   Winners will be chosen at random!  Enjoy and good luck!!!

Entries will be accepting unil 12:01am EST on 9/5/12.  Winners will be announced on 9/5/12.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back to School with Phonological Awareness!

Are you ready to be back at school?  Is your child working on reading, letter/sound identification, or sound blending?  If so...this game is for you!  If focuses on short and long vowels and has an added initial sound closure activity at the end with school vocabulary words!  Just print and play!!!!

*Graphic from Boardmaker Plus.  For personal use only as Boarmaker retains the copyrights to their symbols!

The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2010 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.  Boardmaker™ is a trademark of Mayer-Johnson LLC.

DynaVox Mayer-Johnson; 2100 Wharton Street; Suite 400; Pittsburgh, PA 15203; Phone: 1 (800) 588-4548; Fax: 1 (866) 585-6260; Email:; Web site:

Happy Talking!!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What You Can do to Improve Your Child's Fluency at Home!

There are several things parents can do at home to help facilitate fluent speech.  Below is a list of simple techniques you can try to help support your child who stutters. 

Take it slow...have fun...and happy talking!!!!

1.  Listen Attentively:  For persons who stutter, when they feel they are not being listened to or that what they have to say, needs to "fit" in their communication partners timeframe, a sense of anxiety builds.  The race is on to get those words out as quickly as possible.  The problem with that is the faster a person who stutters tries to talk the more dysflent they tend to become.  So listen attentively to your child and give him/her as much time as needed to get their messge across.

2.  Quiet time activities:  There are times when your household is just to hectic (e.g. in the morning before getting ready for school, or right before dinner just as mom or dad gets home from work) or loud for you to listen attentively to your child.  Sometimes there are just too many things you as a parent need to do and cannot give your child your full attention.  When that happens, set your child up with "quiet time activities" for him/her to do and remind him/her that you will have time and WANT to listen to that story at a later time(be specific-e.g. "when I am done cleaning the dishes", or "in the car on the way to school" or "at the dinner tabel", etc.).

3.  Listen to your child's thoughts NOT his/her speech:  Sometimes, once we as parents notice our child's dysfluencies we tend to notice nothing else when he/she is talking.  This is a hard skill to learn, but try very hard to listen to what your child is trying to say rather than the way he/she says it.  When you do this, you send a message that you are interested in what your child is saying and his/her thoughts ARE important.  The more your child's messages are understood and acknowledged, he/she will feel more and more successful when talking.  Success leads to courage and that courage will result in feeling less embarrased when "talking" even if he/she is using dysluencies. 

4.  Speak Slowly:  We as adults struggle with slowing our rate of speech, however according to research, parents use of a slower rate of speech is the BEST way to facilitate fluent speech in their children.  You can do this by slowing down your production of sounds, holding out sounds longer than what you would typically do, and smoothly move from the last sound of one word into the first sound of the next word.  You want to change your rate of speech not only when you are talking to your child but whenever you are talking AROUND/NEAR your child! This can be so very difficult for us as parents but if you make a conscious effort to slow your rate of speech, your child will learn that they too can control their speech rate and that once again, there is no urgency with which they need to express their message.
5.  Use pauses:  The general rule of thumb is: anyplace a comma, semi-colon, colon, or period could go in your utterance (if you were writing it down), pause for a second longer than what you typically would do.  This illustrates for your child that he/she can pause in their utterances to retrieve the correct word and organize their utterances without needs to speed up their rate of speech.  Again, this technique reduces the pressure and anxiety you child might typically feel to get his/her words "out"!

6.  Don't Interrupt:  If there is one technique I could stress in this list it would be this one!  Please, please DON'T interrupt your child OR try to help him/her out by "finishing" their sentences!  When your child is interrupted or when his/her statements are "finished" for them, the feeling is that what they have to say is unimportant or that you just don't have the time to talk to them so you need to finish their statements and move on.  This type of behavior creates anxiety and stress and when you child attempts to speak again, that anxiety will be with him/her and will affect fluency even if that time you are listening attentively to what he/she has to say.  So please do NOT interrupt.  If you feel the need to finish your child's sentences, ignore it and remember that what you are doing now can give your child positive feelings about communicating verbally in the future!

7.  Silence is OK:  By adding more silence in your daily routine, you teach your child that he/she does not have to fill up every day with talking.  It is ok to be quiet some times.  Quiet time during the day also helps rest your child's brain and articulators so that when he/she is ready to share something with you, fatigue is not a factor in communicating.

8.  Avoid Open-Ended Questions:  Avoid asking your child questions that require long explanations or narratives (e.g. "What did you do in school today?) and stick to simpler more concrete questions (e.g. "What did you enjoy better today, recess or art?" or "What would you like for lunch tomorrow, ham and cheese sandwich or egg salad?").  The more pressure your child feels to create a long narrative to answer questions, the more dysfluencies he/she may exhibit.  You want speaking to be successful, positive experience.  If complexity of language needs to be reduced to create this positive experience, so be it.
9.  Prepare your child for changes in routine and reduce language demands:  You may have noticed that when your child is more excited or tired, frequency of dysfluencies will increase.  At this time you want to reduce the language demands on your child. You can do this by allowing him/her to have quiet time, time to re-energize and give his/her articulators a rest, asking simple concrete questions, and if you must converse, carry most of the conversation yourself, reducing the stress of talking on your child.  Prepare you child in advance (either through schedules or reminders) of changes in his/her routine.  Encourage good sleep patterns (particularly the night before a more tiring day) and remind other adults to reduce the language demand on your child during times of excitement or fatigue.

10.  Talk openly about stuttering:  Reduce the stigma and embarrassment by talking openly and honestly about stuttering.  Too many times parents think if they talk about stuttering, it will alert their child to the fact that he/she does stutter and will increase embarrassment.  So they tend to avoid the topic completely and act as if nothing is wrong.  The problem with that approach is that your child is already aware of their dysfluencies.  They know they don't "talk like everybody else" and you NOT addressing it actually increases embarrassment for your child.  Your child begins to feel that their dysfluencies are SO disgraceful that you as their parent CAN'T even talk about it.  The shame that builds from words unspoken can significantly affect your child's feelings about communication for years to come. 

11.  Don't expect a performance:  As parents we are so proud of all the things our children learn that we sometimes ask them to perform these skills unexpectedly and to people they might otherwise see as strangers.  So for the time being, avoid asking your child to perform in this manner and decrease undue stress and anxiety.

12.  One on One time:  Everyday it is important to set aside some one on one time with your child who stutters (its a great idea for every child but if you can't do it for all at the very least for your at risk child).  15-20 minutes is more than enough undivided attention to devote to your child for the purpose of letting him/her communicate thoughts and feelings without any urgency or pressure of others around him/her.  Make sure you do this when your child is NOT overly tired or excited as these are times being fluent is difficult for your child.  Pick a special time (maybe right after dinner, etc.) where you can sit down together and talk or be silent.  The point of this time is to tell your child you are there for them if they want to talk but there is not pressure to fill the time with noise.


13.  Make some ground rules:  Every family should have some ground rules.  For those families with children who stutter a few good rules are:
          1.  Only one person talks at a time
          2.  We speak only when that person is finished (hold our thoughts in our heads until it is out turn)
          3.  No judgments or comments will be made on the way someone said something (meaning, no "jokes" or snide remarks about stuttering)

* This information was complied by my clinical experience and educational opportunities over the years, as well as information from The Stuttering Foundation, and Amy Speech and Language Therapy, Inc.*

Monday, August 27, 2012

My child started stuttering. Is this normal?

Stuttering (what we SLPs term "fluency), is a common concern for parents particularly when their children are between the ages of 2-6 years.  Firstly, let me remind parents that it is typical for children between these ages to exhibit periods of dysfluency.  Why does this happen?  Many theorize that often a child's language develops much faster than his/her ability to control oral motor movements and this difference in skills development is then exhibited through dysfluent moments (stutters).  However, these typical dysfluencies differ from a fluency disorder in the frequency and type of dysfluencies exhibited.

Typical Dysfluencies/Stutters:  These type of dysfluencies are typically used for the purpose of delaying a message in order to revise one's statement.  Your child could be using dysfluencies for the purpose of reorganizing the words in a sentence or trying to retrieve the correct vocabulary word for his/her message.  He/she may also use these dysfluencies to correctly organize speech sounds in more complex words. 

The 5 most used, typical dysfluencies are:

1.  Whole word and phrase repetitions:  Ex.  "I, I want some juice."  or "When is, when is dad going to be home?"

2.  Sentence Revision:  Ex. "Him has,  The boy has my toy."

3.  Part-Word Repetitions:  these repetitions differ from a fluency disorder in that they are easy repetitions (no tension present) and are not frequently used.  Ex.  "M, Mo, Mom told me I could have a cookie."

4.  Interjections (verbalized):  we all use interjections as a means to delay our message for the purpose of planning and organizing our proceeding thoughts.  Interjects are most often verbalized by the use of "um, ah, like, right", etc.  Ex.  "I um, want to have ice cream for um, dinner."  "I wen to the store, right, and mom got me a toy."

5.  Interjections (nonverbal):  nonverbal interjections are really pauses within an utterance, again for the purpose of planning and executing the next part of one's thought.  Sometimes these pauses are for the purpose of retrieving the correct word from your child's expressive vocabulary.  Ex.  "Mom, (pause) you told me I could get a toy (pause) when we go to the store."

What should you do if your child is exhibiting these dysfluencies?
NOTHING!  You now understand the purpose for typical dysfluencies and how they are strategies your child uses to improve his/her expressive language.  Therefore, the only thing you need to do is BE ATTENTIVE (make eye contact while your child is talking to you) and PATIENT.  Let your child take as long as he/she needs, to express his/her thoughts.  Then remember to PRAISE your child for "taking the time to find the right words to tell me".

Your child really does have so much to say, so give him/her the opportunity to do so!

When should I become concerned about my child's stuttering?
If the frequency of your child's dysfluencies appears to be increasing over time and the intensity (the tension) with which those dysfluencies are being exhibited increases, you may want to contact a speech-language pathologist for further evaluation.  If your child is exhibiting "bumpy" speech (i.e. multiple sound (e.g. "P, p, p, please can I have that?") or word repetitions frequently (e.g. "You, you, you, you want to go play outside?")), sound prolongations (i.e. if your child is saying a sound continuously (e.g. "I say a caaaaaaat today.") for a few seconds before they can finish the word),  or "hard/sticky" speech (i.e. when your child is speaking and his/her mouth is open but NO VOICE is coming out, as if his/her speech is "stuck" in the back of their throat), you should follow-up with a speech-language pathologist immediately as this indicates laryngeal tension during a dysfluent moment which is not considered typical development.

* This information was complied by my clinical experience and educational opportunities over the years, as well as information from The Stuttering Foundation, and Amy Speech and Language Therapy, Inc.*

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dinosaur WH?s Game

In lieu of the beginning of the school year, I thought one way to make it a DINOmite year would be to make a few fun Dinosaur speech and language games!!!  Here's the first one.  Download, print and enjoy!

**Remember ANY language activity can be used for articulation and fluency practice!  Ask your speech therapist for guidance on how to use this particular resource.**

*Clip art purchased from KPM Doodles (Teacher's Notebook)Reminder that all materials on Communication Station: Speech Therapy, PLLC is for personal use only and not to be used for commercial purposes. reserves the creative rights for this below game!  If you do use this material please give credit to  Thank you

Dinosaur WH Questions Game

Monday, August 20, 2012

12 Communication Activities to do with a Rainbow Salt Tray!

Learning 4 Kids blog has a great sensory activity, a Rainbow Salt Tray!!!!

Once I saw it, I imagined so many wonderful ways in which communication could be facilitated just by this one activity.  I was so inspired, I just had to "play".  So I grabbed a box, some construction paper, salt and a few paintbrushes and got started.  My son is a clever guy.  He tends to come up with WONDERFUL ideas I would never think of, so I enlisted him in this play activity is a list of 12 activities we came up with:

Pre-academic Vocabulary Development:  (colors, numbers, etc.)
1.)  Colors:
      The most basic idea I initially had was how this box of rainbow colors lends itself to learning and talking about colors.  I started by uncovering a color strip and my son would label the color.  (If your child does not yet know colors, simple label them for him/her, with much excitement.  E.g.  "Oh my, we found BLUE!!!") 

We extended this activity to search through our "telescope" (a.k.a. paper towel roll with contact paper, with patterns, covering it) to find objects that were the same color!
2.)  Numbers:
      Then we counted the number of color strips in the box and I wrote the numbers (one on each strip) accordingly.
We extended this activity by me writing and labeling a number in the box and my son worked on counting out the same number of a specific object in sight (in this case...the number of strawberries correspond to the number 3 in the box).  Your child cannot count yet?  No problem.  You take his/her hand and use hand over hand modeling while counting out the corresponding number of objects!  The goal is to expose your child to this vocabulary for the purpose of language (and in this case, academic development).
After a few minutes I pulled out some foam numbers and letters and we added them to the salt tray of fun!

Here we counted out 7 letters/numbers to correspond with the number in the box.
3.)  Letters (articulation and phonological awareness!!!!):
      Adding some hidden letters in the tray lent itself quite rightly to working on phonological awareness skills (we uncovered the hidden letter, named it, talked about the sound it makes, and talked about other words that belong with that letter).  Lots and lots of modeling during these games helps with exposure.

If working on articulation:  you can think of words that begin or end with the target sound and have your child try to imitate.  Also hiding pictures or objects with your child's target sound in the tray and have him/her label them once uncovered could be a fun game!!!

4.)  Shapes:
      I attempted to make shapes in the box (my star was a terrible sight to see but I give myself an "A" for effort) and my son would identify them.  If your child does not know shapes yet, just focus on exposing him/her to them by labeling them yourself!

Of course we extended this activity by getting our trusty "telescope" out and looked for objects that have the same shape in our surroundings.  In the picture below, my son, found a star on our sensory table after I drew (a very sad attempt) a star in the rainbow box.

Receptive Language Task:
5.)  Imitation game:  in the perfect world my son and I would have had our own rainbow boxes so we could imitate each other's drawings (at his age, it is mostly lines, circles, squiggles...but for older kids with more fine motor control and visual/spatial orientation, more elaborate drawings could be imitated).  Unfortunately, I didn't think of it prior to this activity so we were "sharing" the same box and I started out by imitating his lines, followed by him trying to imitate mine.  This was a great opportunity for me to use descriptive words such as "squiggly, curvy light/soft, hard, round," etc. (E.g. "I like how you made a squiggly line just mine."  or "I think that line is too soft/light.  I can't see it.").  You can see, my son is trying to imitate a curved line below and doing a pretty good job of it! (by the way he then looked at the two lines and called it "a road" guessed it...then asked me for cars so he could drive on the "road"...which of course lead to a whole new activity with the rainbow salt tray!  see that activity below)

     Direction Following games: 
6. and 7.)  Simple gross/fine motor directions as well as Sequential directions:  I attempted to further focus on receptive language skills by adding directions throughout the various activities we came up with that day.  Simple directions such as "draw 1 line", "draw a circle", or more complex directions such as "First draw a circle, then draw a line", etc. focus on listening, attention, comprehension of the language used and of course working memory (can your child hold that direction in his/her head long enough to execute it).  To do this task you want to make sure your child can follow some simple directions at the very least and use his/her strengths as an asset to this game.  For example, my son really enjoyed trying to draw circles so when I wanted to practice a 2 step direction, I started out with something I knew he could and wanted to do followed by a another direction (e.g. "Draw a circle, then a line").  Notice in that example I used only one sequencing word, "then".  Because of where he is linguistically, my son would have struggled if I created a "first/then" direction so I chose to simplify in order to improve his chances of success.  When in doubt simplify!!!!  Once that skill is mastered (mastery is considered >80% accuracy or 8/10xs), then you can increase the complexity of your directions! 

8.  Prepositional phrases (locational directions):  You can also use objects with which to make directions about.  I started this after we began bringing in other toys to play with in the tray.  E.g.  "Pick up Lightning McQueen and put him in the box".  Or "Get the paintbrush under the table", etc.  You may notice that these directions are more complex in nature but they don't have to be.  You could simply have your child place objects you name into the box or in various places around, under, between, the rainbow tray and other toys which focuses on understanding prepositions (location words).  Another great language skill!

Global Language (receptive and expressive) Activities:
9.)  Categories games:
      Another great way to organize vocabulary in our brain is to work on categorizing objects (by function, location, shape, size, or other attributes).  During Rainbow Salt Tray play today I had this "brilliant" idea that I would "draw" a few objects in one category and describe if for my son to guess.  Can you tell what these things are supposed to be?


If you answered "cherry" for A and "banana" for B you'd be correct!  As my son had some strawberries as a snack on the table, I thought I'd take that opportunity to talk about the kinds of foods we eat, particularly fruit and could he guess what fruit I was making.  I tried to make the fruits on the correct color strip and he was surprisingly pretty good at naming foods, but not so good at looking at my "artistic" drawings and labeling the correct fruit.  But, that's OK!  Remember: EXPOSURE and language facilitation is what our goal is.  If you are having fun laughing, talking, and playing, than the activity is successful.  My son, thought these pictures were hilarious and proceeded to tell me what I actually drew (according to his mind and that was PERFECT!  Talking talking talking!  That's the goal!).

10.)  WH?s (what, who, where, why, how, when):
       Abstract drawings and forming shapes with a paintbrush in salt, lends itself to this language activity: asking and answering WH?s.  "What are you making?  Where does mommy keep that in the house? Where can we buy that?", etc.  Remember:  if you child is just beginning to answer WH?s, the more concrete questions the better.  And if he/she is answering in single words, you can expand upon their utterances. (e.g. Adult: "What are you making?", Child: "A ball",  Adult: "Oh, you made a ball!  Its blue! What can we do with a ball?",  Child: "Throw", Adult: "That's right!  We throw a ball.").

11.)  Road Rally (or other pretend play):
        As I stated above, my son thought of the brilliant idea to get some cars and drive through the salt "streets".

 During pretend play, there are so many ways to elicit language:  self-talk, parallel talk, expansions, etc. (if you don't know what these techniques are, read my blog titled  Parents: What you can do right now to improve your child's language). The most important thing is to make sure you and your child are having fun and playing together!

12.)  Hidden Objects:
         Hide some objects in the salt tray and let your child go on a treasure hunt.  When he/she finds the objects, have him/her label them and talk about them.  We have been talking a lot about bugs so I decided to add some dollar store bugs to the mix.  We had a good time playing talking.

Other things we learned "accidentally" through play:
  • Paintbrushes have different sizes and therefore make different size lines! (we talked about smallest, bigger, biggest concepts)
  • To get the salt back INTO the box, we need to put the box partially under under the table and sweep (with our hand or largest paintbrush) the salt back into the box.  That problem solving took a little time for my son to figure out but with trial and error, he did it!
  • Adding tongs and tweezers to our play, opened up a whole new world of possibilities!!! AND working on this fine motor skill is a PLUS!

  • Tips for parents: (these are things I learned through trial and error today)
  • The best place to do this activity (so mom and dad don't have to sweep up the floor) is outside!  Plus there are more objects to talk about that you can see, and lots of movement can be done outside!
  • I found, this box works best if I put contact paper OVER the rainbow strips of paper to keep the salt from getting stuck under the strips.  I initially lost alot of salt under the paper because I only taped down the tops and bottoms of the strips.
  • The sillier I was the more fun my son had (which is usually the way it goes with kids)!  So don't be afraid to be a bit silly and have a lot of fun! 
  • The best thing I learned today is that although, I had all of these grand ideas of things to do with this salt tray, once again I learned that my son is by far more creative than I am!!!  So I recommended you follow your child's lead and always talk about the things that are interesting to him/her!!!!

  • This is by far an exhaustive list of activties to do with this salt tray!  I'm sure you can come up with many more ideas!  Feel free to comment them below!  Be creative and happy "Painting"!!!!

    **Important:  the above list is just a few ideas for language facilitation.  If you are working on specific language goals, talk to your speech language pathologist about the best way to use this activity to toarget your child's individual goals.**
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