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a recipe for speech and language

A Holiday Cookie Recipe for Better Speech and Language

It is largely recognized that the holiday season is a lovely, yet chaotic time of year. During this busy time, being with family often takes precedent over the speech and language homework sent home by your child’s speech-language therapist. Why not combine a holiday tradition with speech-language homework?

Use this recipe for extra language and speech reinforcement while decorating cookies this holiday season:

  • 2 cups of basic concepts: While adding ingredients give directions emphasizing the understanding of a recipe for speech and languagequantitative concepts, such as all, some, one, both. For example, “Add both cups of flour” or “Put on some red sprinkles and some green sprinkles.” If this is too advanced, you can always get extra practice with counting. You can count the cups of ingredients or the number of cookies.
  • 1 teaspoon of adjectives: Adjectives or descriptive words can easily be targeted during baking. You can talk about ways to describe the cookies that you are making, e.g., “Look! You made a big cookie and your sister made a small cookie,” or you can give directions including adjectives, e.g., “Decorate the long tree cookie and I’ll decorate the short tree cookie.”
  • 2 tablespoons of vocabulary: Like with any activity throughout your day, it is good to try to introduce your children to new vocabulary or reinforce the vocabulary they are already using. Vocabulary categories that are easily targeted during cookie decorating are: colors, shapes and nouns. For example, “Do you want to make the tree, snowman or ornament?” or “What colors did you use on your cookie?”.
  • Mix in turn taking: Turn taking is a great social skill to practice at home with siblings or friends. Take turns putting in ingredients, mixing or putting on candies to decorate. Appropriate turn taking can be used by kids when playing games with peers and during conversations.
  • Stir in requesting: Have your child exercise his or her expressive language skills by requesting for items. Depending on their skill level a carrier phrase could be used, “I want ______” or the request could be in question form, “Can I have the _______, please?”. Once your child is successful at making simple requests, work towards expanding the utterance, making the request longer, (e.g, “I want the red frosting”).
  • Bake for following directions: Baking holiday cookies makes for the perfect set up for your child to practice following directions. First start with simple one step directions, “Put on white frosting”. To continue to improve your child’s receptive language you can advance to first/then directions, “First put on white frosting, then put on green sprinkles”.
  • Let it cool with articulation practice: Throughout the whole baking/decorating process, articulation (speech sounds) can also be targeted. As an adult model, you can provide the correct productions for your child emphasizing the target sound. (e.g., What cookie do you like?, Look at my cookie!”). If your child is at the stage in speech therapy where they can practice saying their target sounds, work on using them during the activity. For instance, if you were working on “s” or s-clusters you could practice using the sound to describe what you see “I see a reindeer” or when taking about the steps to baking “Stir in the flour”.

Throughout your cooking baking experience keep in mind that the activity should remain fun, keeping the speech-language practice with in your child’s abilities in order to keep frustration low. Enjoy this recipe for ideas of ways to target speech and language! Happy Holidays!




Top 5 Toys for Speech and Language Development: School-Aged Edition

With Hanukkah only a few weeks away and Christmas right around the corner, parents need to be on the lookout for fun and educational gift ideas. If your child’s speech and language development is one of your concerns, read on for our list of the top 5 toys/gifts for enhancing speech and language skills in school-aged children.

Parents can also help develop these skills by playing with their children and modeling appropriate language, encouraging turn taking, and requesting. Parents can also help children with articulation difficulties through play by modeling accurate speech sound production and correcting their child’s inaccurate productions.

Top 5 Toys for Enhancing Speech and Language Skills in School-Aged Children:

Toy

Function

Apples to Apples
  • Appropriate play with peers
  • Turn taking
  • Direction following
  • Same/different (e.g., explain why the cards go together)
Board Games (e.g., Candyland)
  • Turn taking
  • Direction following
  • Articulation (e.g., say a word before you take your turn)
  • Appropriate play with peers/parents
  • Sequencing steps to play
HeadBanz
  • Word finding (e.g., object description)
  • Object function (e.g., “you sleep on it, and it is soft”)
  • Asking/answering “wh”-questions (e.g., “where is it used for?”)
  • Articulation (e.g.,  monitor sound production, target specific sounds)
Memory Games
  • Turn taking
  • Direction following
  • Memory skills
  • Articulation (e.g., can use pictures of target words)
Story Cubes
  • Sequencing (e.g., story building, temporal relationships)
  • Verb tenses (e.g., make the story in present/past/future tenses)
  • Turn taking
  • Opposites (e.g., say the opposite of what is on each dice)
  • Auditory comprehension (e.g., retell a peer/parent’s story)

Speech Delays and Talkative Older Siblings

Older sibling with younger siblingA parent recently asked me what to do when her child’s older sibling constantly answers for him.  While it’s caring that the older sibling wants to help his little brother, it’s also very important for each child to have his own space to learn and develop, try new things, and make mistakes.  So how can parents help?

What to do when an older sibling compensates for a child with speech and language difficulties:

  • Talk to the older sibling alone. Instead of being reactive, be proactive by talking to your older child about his younger sibling’s needs.  Teach him that it takes time to learn how to talk, and he can help his younger sibling talk by giving him space to try on his own.
  • Use positive language. Instead of telling older siblings what they can’t do, tell them what they can do.  For example, “You can help Jonny talk by being a good listener,” or, “You can be a helpful big brother by letting other people have a turn to talk.”
  • Teach older siblings alternative ways to be a helper. Praise your older child for wanting to help his younger sibling, and then offer him other ways to help. For example, he can help his younger sibling by being a good listener, by giving him time to finish his ideas, and by saying encouraging things (such as, “good job!” or, “thanks for sharing your idea!”).
  • Emphasize “talking turns” between family members.  It’s important for all children to learn conversation rules early on, which includes learning about listening, interruptions, and waiting for a turn to talk.  This can certainly be hard for young kids.  To help, emphasize “talking-turns.”  (“It’s Jonny’s turn to talk. Next will be your turn to talk.”)  You might even use a tangible object, such as a toy microphone, ball, or teddy bear, to pass back and forth when it’s each person’s turn.
  • Play games as a family that promote turn-taking.  You might take turns with a toy by passing it back and forth, play catch with a ball, or play a board game that involves turn-taking, such as Barn Yard Bingo, Candy Land, or Zingo.
  • Encourage active listening. Teach family members what it means to be a good listener. Use concrete examples such as, “You can listen by looking at the person who is talking,” or, “When you are listening, your mouth is quiet.”
  • Set aside one-on-one time for each sibling to play with a parent alone. Language development is enhanced through modeling, practice, and play with caregivers.  To make sure your child is receiving language-rich opportunities, set aside 15-20 minutes each day to play one-on-one with your child.
  • Praise the things that are going well. When you notice positive behavior, reinforce your child right away using very specific language.  For example, “Wow! You let Jonny have a turn to talk. You are a very good big brother when you let other people have a turn to talk.”

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can help your children develop healthier communication habits.  Older siblings have a special role as a “big brother” or “big sister.”  By teaching them about their special role, you can encourage your kids to feel more positive about helping their younger siblings. For more ideas about how to incorporate siblings into your child’s speech and language development, visit the blog, Encouraging Siblings to Help With Speech & Language Practice.

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Encouraging Language Skills during Family Board Games

One of the most impactful ways a child can make progress toward their speech and language goals is through home practice.  I compare it to working outFamily playing a boardgame at the gym; one day a week counts for something, but you’re unlikely to see noticeable results.  Instead, three or four days a week is the best way to build muscle and endurance and notice tangible changes.  Speech and language development functions in a very similar way. To help children maintain and make further gains between speech sessions, we assign home practice activities.  To kids, this often translates to “more homework!”  So how can we encourage children to practice throughout the week?  Try choosing fun and engaging activities that mask the speech and language goals

Here are some board games recommended for school age and adolescent students:

7 favorite games that encourage language skills:

Outburst Junior. This fast-paced game encourages the use of categories and vocabulary.  Players are given a word or category, and asked to name as many category members as possible before the time runs out.

Scattergories Junior. This fun game also encourages the use of categories.  Players are given a specific letter (e.g., “F” or “G”) as well as a list of categories.  Each player must think of various category members that begin with that letter.

Guess Who. This silly game encourages players to ask questions and group pictures together based on similarities and differences.  Players have a board filled with faces (or in the new version, animals, appliances and even monsters) and have to guess which face belongs to their opponent.

Headbanz. This engaging game encourages children to verbally describe objects, ask questions, and remember clues.  Players are each given a secret word to wear on their headband.  Players can look at other players’ headbands, but cannot see their own.  Each player must ask questions about their word, and give others clues for theirs (e.g., “Is my word an animal?’).

Catch Phrase Junior. This high-energy game encourages the use of vocabulary, verbal descriptions, categorization, synonyms, and word definitions.  Players are given a word and must try to get team members to guess what it is without actually stating the word.

Cranium Junior. This entertaining game also encourages the use of vocabulary and word meanings while tapping into the various senses.  Players are given a question card and must act, hum, draw, or sculpt the answer to help their teammates guess what it is.

Apples To Apples Junior. This interactive game encourages the use of vocabulary, word meanings, synonyms, and categorization.  Players are given a stack of cards, each with a different word (a person, place or thing).  A descriptive word is then placed in the center of the game and players must choose a card from their stack that best fits the description.

5 modifications for kids with language difficulties:

Each of these games relies heavily on language skills. Therefore, a child with language difficulties might find these games challenging.  To help, here are a few ways to modify each game so that your child feels more successful.  I advise using the modifications for all players, instead of singling one child out.

  • Extend the time allowed for each turn. Instead of using a sand-timer, use your own timer on a smartphone or stopwatch to allow each player more time to complete tasks.
  • Eliminate timing altogether.  If you notice your child crumbling under the time pressure, just eliminate timers altogether.  After your child has had practice with the game and feels more confident, you can slowly reintroduce the timer.
  • Adjust the vocabulary words. If your child seems unfamiliar or overwhelmed by the vocabulary in the game (e.g., Apples to Apples), create your own playing cards with more suitable vocabulary for your child.
  • Encourage note-taking. Games such as Guess Who and Headbanz rely on memory.  If your child seems to have difficulty remembering clues, encourage him/her to write things down during the game (e.g., my headband is an animal, it lives in the zoo, it has stripes, etc).
  • Provide lots of encouragement. Discourage any negative comments from players, while encouraging positive comments instead (e.g., “good try” or “nice job!”).  Give your child positive and descriptive praise for anything they are doing well (e.g., “Wow, you are showing great sportsmanship” or “That was an excellent question to ask.”)

Above all, have fun!  Games provide an excellent avenue for learning, but more importantly, they provide a fun and engaging way to spend time together.  By incorporating your child’s speech and language goals into games, your child will learn and practice without ever hearing those dreaded words, “more homework.”  Ask your child’s speech-language pathologist for more fun activities to address their speech and language goals at home.

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“Love, 15, 30, 40, game”- Why Tennis is a Great Summertime Activity for Children of All Ages

Tennis provides an excellent opportunity for your child to get outside and practice a wide variety of skills, such as sportsmanship, turn-taking, eye contact, and ball skills.  Tennis is a great partner activity, as it can be played with one player on each side of the net (singles) or with two players on each side(doubles).  Similarly, players can be rotated out, which works on waiting and patience, if there are more than 4 children who want to play with one another.

How Tennis Improves Your Child’s Muscles, Motor Skills and Coordination:

  • Muscle tone: Tennis is a sport which requires constant quick muscle responses to move towards the ball. The child must stabilize her trunk and arm muscles to hold the racquet and hit the ball.Children at the tennis court
  • Hand-eye coordination: The player must keep her eyes on the ball (tracking the ball on the court) in order to keep the game going (a rally) and have the best chance of scoring points. Ideally, the player is able to throw and catch a ball consistently to have the greatest success, as playing a game of catch without the racquets is a prerequisite skill to maintaining a rally.
  • High energy: Tennis is physically demanding, as the player must be constantly moving during the tennis match to keep up with the ball and protect her side of the net. This requires the player to have a good amount of endurance, strength, and breathing control.
  • Muscle grading: The player must be able to determine the appropriate amount of force needed to hit the tennis ball when the ball is moving, in order to return the ball to the other side of the net. For instance, when serving the tennis ball to begin the game, the player will need more force to hit the ball a longer distance, as the server is required to stand behind the baseline (farthest back). On the other hand, when the player is rallying the ball, she may want to hit the ball softly, to place the ball in a spot which will be challenging for the opponent to get to.
  • Sensory: Tennis is usually played outdoors. Therefore, many sensory components are involved. For instance, the outdoor smells (e.g. grass, sunscreen, bug spray); the feel of the ball (e.g. fuzzy/rough; can get soggy/dirty/muddy if it falls into a puddle); and the environmental noises (e.g. insects, airplanes, others nearby, traffic). The player is required to take in all of these sensory components, while also staying focused on the task at hand.

Overall, tennis is a great sport for any age:

Tennis can provide both a cardiovascular and a strength workout, as the player must chase after the ball and protect her side of the net, while also stabilizing and manipulating her racquet.  Tennis is a perfect sport for families to play together, and an easy way to work on sportsmanship and social skills with same aged peers.  If you have any concerns about your child’s ball skills, hand-eye coordination, or bilateral skills, or any other skills mentioned above, please reach out to your child’s occupational therapist or physical therapist for further support and collaboration.

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Teaching Turn Taking

While sitting at the park you begin to wonder why it appears to be so effortless for other kids to enjoy playing and interacting together when your child has a difficult time with what seems to be such an easy activity. Relax, we have all Kids taking turnsbeen there.

Teaching turn taking is a challenge for all kids and is even more difficult for kids on the autism spectrum. I say it is difficult but NOT impossible!

Strategies to help your child engage in turn taking activities:

Rule-based games:

There are several types of activities that involve turn taking. Rule based games are simply just board games. This is probably one of the easiest games to use to teach turn taking. It is important to teach your child the rules of the game and more importantly the outcome of the game. Since these games are predictable, children tend to understand it better because there are no surprises and they know the expectation.

You can also adapt these types of games depending on your child. If your child has difficulty with fine motor skills, you may choose different game pieces to use. There are several Iphone/Ipad applications called TurnTaker that helps prompt your child to know that it is their turn. Rule based games are also a great tool to help facilitate reciprocal conversation and appropriate use language.

Pretend Play:

Another easy way to teach language to all children is through the use of pretend play. During this time, most kids take on different roles and use these roles to develop a theme. It will provide your child with multiple opportunities to use the language that they are acquiring. It also gives them control over what happens next.

Once a “script” has been developed, it is important for you to begin to change parts of the script or involve others.

Cooperative Activities:

This is most commonly seen at schools or homes with other peers/siblings. I like to teach this by having two or three children working on the same project, such as a painting-but only allowing them access to one or two paintbrushes. This forces the children to ask each other for the brushes. You can also teach this by giving each child a puzzle to complete, but giving the pieces to another friend in which they have to ask each other for. If your child is non-verbal, you can teach them to point or use PECS pictures to mand for the pieces.

Tips for turn-taking activities:

  1. Make sure to use social stories whenever possible. Social stories are dialogues that are easy for the child to read and follow. It should be short, detailed, and specific.
  2. Modeling. You can use yourself or other peers to model the correct behavior.
  3. Visuals. Use visuals to help your child understand what is expected of him/her. It can also be used to help teach the rules of the game. Example: If playing Guess Who, you can make a picture prompting them with questions to ask (picture of boy and girl, brown hair vs. blonde hair etc).

Feel free to leave a comment with your turn-taking strategies and stories.