Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thankful and Grateful Blog Hop

The Frenzied SLPs are doing it again...another link up!  This time we are showing our gratitude to you, our readers, for sticking with us on this linky journey.  So, who wants to have a little fun?  Well, if you have been following this link up, than you know already that we are giving away some awesome gift cards to TpT (who doesn't need speech materials?) and Starbucks (more importantly, who doesn't need some coffee?)!  

All you have to do is follow a few simple steps to enter to win:

1. Read each Thankful and Grateful post from The Frenzied SLPs! 
2. Collect the character at the bottom of each post. Don't forget to write down the characters in order to reveal the secret phrase. 
3. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of any post by entering the phrase. 
4. Visit The Frenzied SLPs Facebook Page for an extra entry.

And that's it! Three lucky winners will be chosen after the rafflecopter closes on 11/13/2015. Good luck to you all!!!

So what am I grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Well so much has happened in my family life over the last year but here are the top 5 things I'm thankful for:

1.  Retirement!:  Um...what?  Retirement?  Well actually I am very grateful that my husband officially retired from the military after 21 years of service this past February.  Of course this means a lot of change, however, the best benefit (hands down) to myself and my children is that for my husband there will be NO MORE DEPLOYMENTS! Yahoo!!!  (All the military spouses out there reading this know what a joyous celebration this is. Ha!)

2.  Transitions!:  Along with retirement came the need to transition from military life to civilian life, which equates to new jobs, a new home, new friends, new...well...everything!  So, thanks be to God, my husband was offered a job he enjoys on the east coast, where we were able to relocate to be closer to our extended families as well.

3.  Unemployment!:  I know you are scratching your head on this one as well but the truth is, when we relocated, I had to close up shop.  I had to close the doors to my private practice, which was always my dream, and head due east.  Yet the joy I have been given from time with my children has been the most unexpected blessing of it all this year!  I will never get that time back and I'm so grateful, I have had it with my two boys.

4.  Sleepless Nights!:  For over a year now, my youngest, who arrived in late September of 2014, has not slept through the night.  He tends to wake up anywhere from 3-5 times a night and this sleep deprived mama was really struggling there for some time.  But, I cannot say I didn't love the time I have had snuggling and cuddling with my little guy in the wee hours of the morning!  Watching him nurse, or snuggle into me fills me up over and over again and I wouldn't change it for the world! (Picture above just for cuteness!!!)

5.  New Horizons!:  And lastly, I'm so grateful to have completed the transition to our new home, gotten my newest state speech license, and completed the paperwork to start up my business...again.  So, the doors of my private practice are OFFICIALLY open once again!  

What a great life I am blessed to live!!!!

So how about you?  What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?  I'd love to know!

Ok so if you have started this blog hop, here, you can click on the picture below to take you to the first blog in the hop.  If you have been following along on this hop, then by all means, click on the picture for the next blog post. Don't FORGET to grab my letter before you hop right out of here!  
Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Accidental Learning!

What in the world is accidental learning?  Well this is a term I like to use for the learning that occurs during play and highly motivating activities.  As I just recently wrote a two part series on incidental teaching, I thought I'd also tackle one of my favorite types of learning that occurs naturally and without much planning.

Accidental learning is just that, it's unplanned.  It occurs spontaneously, most often in play and more often than not as a response to the interest of a student/client.  It happens when I am NOT currently targeting that particular skill, but with a simple model I can see it will benefit the student at hand.  Accidental learning may occur at any time and in any place.  Often times, I must illustrate to parents how they have fostered accidental learning as they feel they are only teaching their child in a structured environment.  Yet, learning is a way of life.  It occurs away from the desks and tables and out of sight of the chalkboards or dry erase boards.

So here are some of my favorite ways to facilitate some "accidental learning":

1.  Grocery Store Shopping:  The produce aisle is one of my FAVORITE places to facilitate accidental learning.  You can talk about so many great cognitive concepts such as colors, shapes, sizes, vegetables vs. fruits, counting and one to one correspondence, number identification on price tags, etc.  So many great concepts can be introduced and over time learned!

2.  Playground:  How great is the playground for accidental learning?  Our children can learn social skills such as taking turns, waiting our turn, waiting in lines (climbing up and down slides), introducing self and asking to join in play, etc.  When watching children play, we can see they are learning how to play cooperatively, follow each other's leads and directions, develop pretend play skills, etc.  Oh what a wonderful place the playground is!  Be sure to help your students or own children if you know they struggle with social skills.  Actually teach them the things to say in real time so they have a memory on which to base the use of particular social skills.

3.  Library:  Oh my goodness, what a TREASURE the public library is!  So many libraries now have children's rooms with developmental toys as well as puppets and books.  They offer great free programs such as story times, STEM educational events, puzzles, writing contests, super hero days, free movies (of which you can always find a book version within the library somewhere), etc.  Some libraries offer free tutoring, e-readers, access to other technology.  Don't discount your library!  You can find information on thousands of topics for your students and own children.  With simple book reading and re-reading your child's vocabulary can grow exponentially!

4.  Busy Bags and Waiting Rooms:  How often do we ask our children to wait?!  In doctors offices, post office lines, restaurants, in traffic, etc.  Sometimes our days are just spent waiting to complete the next errand.  So why not use this time for some great accidental learning?  Have you seen the busy bags ideas that are all over the internet?  If you haven't, here is a link to my pinterest board with several of these great ideas some brilliant mothers and professionals have created.  There are numerous ways to address early cognitive concepts as well as fine motor skills, sensory needs, language concepts, etc.  So MUCH accidental learning can take place simply by making some of these busy bags with objects around your house (and head on over to the dollar store near you b/c you will find some great items to use)!

5.  Family Reading Time:  I know a fellow teacher who has "reading parties" with her own children.  It's a great way to share a book together and is a wonderful way to learn new vocabulary,  learn how to retell a story, and also see how much your children are understanding of what they are hearing by simply asking them questions.  Depending on your children's ages, you can have them either write or draw a synopsis of the book after chapters or at the end of each book.  It's a great way to prepare you children for book reports that will eventually be coming at school!  It is a great activity that can easily be modified to use for middle and high school speech therapy sessions as well for our students who are really struggling with reading comprehension.  What a great way to use academic curriculum!

6.  Pretend play:  Pretend play with your students or own children is a MUST!  What great learning occurs here!  Skills such as communication, social skills, development of narratives, cooperative play, problem solving, etc. will easily develop with little help.  Simply have fun and you will see the learning without much help from you!!!!

Ok, so there you have it!  These are my six (b/c five was too few) favorite ways to facilitate accidental learning!  Feel free to share with parents as you counsel them or find ways to incorporate some of these activities with simple modifications into your therapy sessions.

Do you have a favorite way to facilitate "accidental learning"?  If so, please share below!

Happy Talking!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween Themed Language Activites: Link Up


It's time for another AWESOME Frenzied SLPs link up!  Two weeks ago, I gave you some Halloween-themed ideas for articulation, and today I'll leave you with a few for language activities.

1.  Books, books, and more books:  Of course, one of my very favorite activities for language development is book reading.  It's so great for introducing vocabulary, listening comprehension activities, Wh-question activities for recalling story details, story sequencing and retelling of stories.  So naturally it would be #1 on my list.  But what books to choose?  Well I wrote a whole blog post on my favorite Halloween themed books.  Check out the full post here!

2.  Creepy Crawly Categories:  Working on semantic mapping anyone?  Here is a simple fun way to work on category item sorting/naming with a spider theme just in time for your Halloween fun!  Check out more here!

3.  Social Story: Trick or Treating! I made a simple social story for a few of my students who have social communication deficits and you can grab your copy here!

So these are just a few of my fun ways to use Halloween themed activities to work on language and social communication!  What are yours?

Happy Talking!
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Replacing Undesirable Behaviors

When consulting with a mother of a child with Down Syndrome, she confided that she struggles with a very undesirable behavior the child exhibits.  He tends to scream at the top of his lungs in quiet places.  Therefore, taking her son to places such as the local library, her church, a restaurant or even a grocery store can be a very difficult trip for her.  I introduced her to the idea of replacing the undesirable behavior with something more socially appropriate.  But how do we do this?

Here are my basic rules when attempting to replace an undesirable behavior:

1.  Find a behavior the child can already do.  When replacing an undesirable behavior with something more socially appropriate, we do not want to spend time on trying to TEACH a new behavior if we have a perfectly acceptable behavior in something the child can already do.

For example, when I worked in the school setting, I had several PK students who wanted to climb on, hug or cuddle with teachers.  Although a hug here and there is necessary and a great way to boost our little ones confidences, we must remember that there are certain times when this behavior just isn't acceptable.  Circle time just doesn't work if everyone in the PK classroom wants to sit in the teacher's lap.  So we attempted to replace this behavior with a quick "compliment and high five".  This way each child was given individualized attention. The teacher or myself told each student something we really liked about their behavior that day (e.x. "Johnny, I really loved how you helped clean up the books earlier!") and they still received some physical contact with a "high five" before they were asked to sit on the floor.  We began with something the students could do without spending valuable time teaching a new behavior.

2.  Find something that motivates the child.  Again, remember your goal is just to eliminate the undesirable behavior as quickly as possible.  So to do this, we must find something that is MORE motivating than the current behavior.  If this replacement behavior is NOT more motivating, than it will NOT stick!  So really watch your students, know what makes them tick, and see what puts that light of excitement into their eyes.

For the little child with Down Syndrome above, he delighted in hearing his voice echo in quiet places.  He also enjoyed the attention his mother gave him after each scream when she looked at him and told him "sh" or "no".  So I noticed that he could use a pincer grasp to hold on to items AND he liked cool sounds.  Therefore, I suggested his mother get him a quiet book with LOTs of pictures to pull from velcro patches.  Each time he pulled a picture off the velcro, she was to give him quiet praise to feed his desire for parental attention.  The fun velcro sound would still delight him, while it was much quieter than his screams.  In addition, simple books such at these never run out of fun because you can simply return all the pictures to their velcro patches and he can begin again.

3.  Practice before "game day".  We know practice makes perfect but we are not trying to be perfect here.  We are just trying to replace a undesirable behavior with something a bit more socially acceptable.  As a child ages we can shape these behaviors into the "desired" behavior, the ultimate goal.  Yet in the meantime, an acceptable behavior will do.  But we cannot expect our children to be ready to substitute these behaviors if we do not practice them.  Practice your replacement behavior when is it not needed and your student will know how to perform them when it is.

For our little guy, practicing his quiet book at home for a few minutes a day, helps prepare him for his next library trip.

4.  You may need an external motivator.  Remember when working with cognitively delayed children you may realize, during your practice sessions, that the replacement behavior is NOT motivating enough.  However, if you couple that replacement behavior with an external motivator (E.x. Your student pulls all pictures off the velcro patches of a quite book then receives one goldfish as a snack), you may have a very compliant student on your hands.

5.  Over time fade out external motivators and/or find new replacement behaviors that are closer to desired behavior.  Over time you can begin to fade out your external motivator by providing them less often and inconsistently.  You can also spend time creating a repertoire of various socially appropriate replacement behaviors to keep interest and motivation high.  In addition, you can think about ways to shape these replacement behaviors to get the child to exhibit behavior closer and closer to the ultimately desired behavior.

For example, with our little guy who loves to scream, once we replace the screaming with quiet books and possible snacks, we may want to shape this behavior to using the quiet book independently in his own chair, rather than while being held by mom.  We may eventually want to practice using these replacement behavior for longer and longer periods of time at the local library, church or restaurant.  See how long we can extend the use of the replacement behaviors before the child looses attention or motivation.  The longer we extend the behaviors and the more we increase the independence with which a child uses the replacement behavior, the closer we will come to the desired behavior.

So these are my basic rules for replacement behaviors.  Remember it may take some trial and error before you find that one thing your student enjoys doing enough to replace an undesirable behavior.  But when you do, know you have struck gold. Run with it and soon you will be seeing a whole new side of your students.

Have you spent time replacing behaviors in the past? Feel free to share your experiences below to help others.

Happy Talking!
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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fall-Themed Articulation Ideas: Link Up

The Frenzied SLPs are at it again with another great link up!  This week we are talking all about your fall themed articulation ideas so don't miss out on the fun.

I have written several blogs in the past about some of my Halloween themed activities but I will try to condense some of my favorites here below.

1.  Articulation Spider Web:  I know this looks like a lot of work but I LOVE incorporating movement into my speech therapy sessions (especially for my little guys).  This simple human sized spider web was made with some black yarn, a fence and a few articulation cards.  For more information, check it out the full post here.

2.  Halloween Bean Bag Toss:  This is another fun movement activity AND it's SUPER simple to create!  All you need is a few bean bags, index cards with numbers 1-10, a Halloween bucket and a bit of space. I like to use this activity for multiple repetitions of target sounds.  Check out the full post here for some ideas on how you could use this fun activity.

3.  Trick or Treat Lane Game:  This is a simple board game I made a few years ago that my clients have enjoyed at this time of year.  All you need to do is print it out and it's for the taking.  This could be used for both articulation as well as language goals.  Just have fun with it!  Go to this original post and you will find it at the bottom for download.

Ok so these are just a few of my favorite activities to do during this time of year to target articulation.  What are yours?  

Have fun and happy talking!

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 ( as well as this blog address (  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 OVERDO 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.
This 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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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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