The spring weather usually translates to more time outdoors for most families. Children thrive when exposed to fresh air and exercise on a regular basis. It is also never too early to teach healthy habits! This week we are discussing how to help your child improve both their fitness and functional language skills. We will be discussing three different forms of exercise and communication skills to target during the activities.
This post is geared towards children with emerging language skills. These kiddos are not consistently verbally communicating, or they are doing so with 1-2 word utterances. We’ll provide target vocabulary for each activity . Create various combinations of the words listed to form several 1-3 word utterances. These will be models for your kiddo to imitate. Provide positive reinforcement for any attempts at communication.
Walking or running is a fantastic form of exercise that requires no equipment. Many local fun runs or themed 5Ks also have shorter walking or running events for children. These events can provide incentive to practice during the weeks before the big day! Attending such events also adds a fun community component.
Target Core Vocabulary: want, help, go, more, all done, fast, slow, no, I, we
Verbs: walk, run
Examples: we go, I want go, go more, go fast, no slow, no more, I want walk, run fast, no slow run, I want help, no more help, run more, walk slow more, i want help, I run
Depending on your child’s motor skills, you can choose to play with a large or small ball, or even a frisbee. Keep in mind the activity shouldn’t be too frustrating, so pick an item that your child can easily catch.
Target core vocabulary: want, more, help, get, go, play, all done, no, up, down, fast, slow, like, turn, I, we, my, you
Nouns: ball, frisbee
Examples: I want more, more help, ball go up, get ball, get frisbee, my turn, no frisbee, I like ball, no more ball, help get ball, ball go fast, frisbee go slow, my ball, we play ball
Some kiddos may not be interested in the idea of exercising just to be healthy. Your child may be more motivated to simply play at the playground. This option provides many opportunities for movement too!
Target core vocabulary: want, help, more, all done, go, up, down, turn, no, on, I, you, me, my, we, on, fast, slow, like
Nouns: slide, swing, ladder, bars
Examples: I want slide, help me swing, go on slide, go fast, I go up, no more slide, I like swing, no on slide, more swing, I want more, all done slide, go fast, my turn, my turn swing
What type of exercise does your kiddo enjoy the most? Is it not one of our activities? Comment below and we'll provide some vocabulary suggestions!
Today we are talking about using a classic craft material...dot markers! These are fantastic for small children or kiddos who have fine motor delays and find it difficult to grasp thin markers. But make no mistake, children of all ages can enjoy arts and crafts with these tools. For extra fun, or a sensory component, purchase a scented set! We just recently got the ice cream scented Do-A-Dots and love them! We also purchased a dinosaur themed dot book to use with the markers. However, you certainly do not need a coloring book to target the language skills we will be discussing.
As we’ve done before, we’ll be breaking up the post into two separate sections: Ideas for kiddos with emerging language skills, and ideas for those working on expanding language and vocabulary. Scroll to the section that best applies to your kiddo.
(This is for kiddos not speaking or communicating using 1-2 word utterances.)
Core Vocabulary: want, more, like, no, put, on, help
Describing words: (These will depend on the colors or scents of the markers you purchase.) Some of ours were: big, small, pink, blue, purple, sweet, delicious, messy, neat, clean, big, small
Nouns: marker, paper, hands (Do not forget to label the item(s) depicted in the picture you create or color.)
While using the markers to make pictures, comment on the actions of your child or on the actual drawing. Combine the target words above to form 1-3 word utterances. These are easier to imitate than longer, complex sentences. Here are some examples:
As always, provide tons of positive reinforcement for any communication attempts!
(This is for kiddos using sentences, but they need help building vocabulary or producing narratives.)
1. Pattern Practice: Create color patterns with the dot markers and ask your child to complete the pattern. This is actually an important skill for a variety of academic tasks. As you practice, you can increase the complexity of the patterns you provide.
Target vocabulary in sentences:
I want you to complete the pattern. That means to finish it by adding more dots.
Can you predict what dots should come next?
This pattern has more colors. It is more complex.
2. Art Vocabulary: Take the opportunity to teach your kiddo about pointillism. You can explain that this is a form of art where a large picture is formed by many tiny dots. Search for some pictures on the internet to provide examples. Then try to make some pictures in a similar style using the dot markers.
Target vocabulary in sentences:
Artists use different mediums. That means they have different ways of creating art.
Pointillism is a style of art made with tiny dots.
3. Practice telling a narrative. In general, a great way to build story telling skills is to expose your kiddo to narratives frequently. Besides reading stories, you can explain what you are doing on a daily basis. Remember to model the use of sequential words (i.e. first, next, then, last). During this task, it can be done with any picture you draw. Here’s our example for the picture below:
I’m going to make a face. First, I’ll use the pink marker to create a mouth and a nose. Then, I’ll use a green marker to form the eyes. Next, I’ll use the purple marker to add some hair framing the face.
Today I brought my children to the playground. This is something I haven’t been doing frequently since my daughter is only two months old and we have been mostly staying home, adjusting to the new normal. As my son played, I observed the following interaction:
A mother rushed over to the slide area. There were six school aged children gathered at the bottom of the slide, seemingly having some sort of meeting. As the agitated mother rushed over and started yelling, I noticed that a little blonde boy sitting at the edge of the slide was attempting to push a girl away from him. It was a futile attempt since she had already slid down and was wedged behind him. The other children were shouting for the boy to “Move!” and the girl’s mother came closer to the boy and began shrieking, “Oh no! You better not be hitting my baby!”
The boy’s grandfather immediately intervened, informing the angry parent that the boy is deaf, and only speaks in sign language. After a brief interaction, the boy signed “I’m sorry.” to the girl. This was translated by his grandfather. Both parties left seemingly embarrassed by the interaction, for different reasons.
As a speech therapist, I sat there pondering how the situation could have been avoided. I decided that the girl’s mother should have investigated the situation before reacting. I found myself imagining a different ending to the story. That mother could have walked over and thought,
WHAT DOES THIS BOY NEED?
If she had asked him, or even just thought about it for a second, the answer would have been clear. He needed an effective communication system to play with his peers. He needed to be reassured that he was okay after being startled by a child sliding into him, because he couldn’t hear her coming.
After the children left, my son and I played, while I continued to ponder how important it is to ask the question of so many children having a hard time.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
My son began playing with an older boy who wandered over. I mentioned to his mother that her son was very sweet for playing with my son. She explained that he has autism and was comfortable playing now that all the other kids had left since it was quieter. We chit chatted so more and then she pointed out how odd another child at the park was acting. He was pacing between two poles, with some repetitive movements, near the bus stop. Rather than being quick to judge, the question passed through my mind again,
WHAT DOES HE NEED?
Here’s my point:
Within this twenty five minute period at the park, we encountered two people with disabilities and another child with characteristics of autism. All of these children would have greatly benefited from understanding, acceptance and the question, WHAT DO YOU NEED?
You see, this is April, the month specifically for Autism Awareness. And there’s a whole lot of talk about how we need more than awareness. We know autism is here. We need acceptance of those with ASD in our community. They need more kindness, more understanding, and less judgement. But how do we spread acceptance, not just awareness? What if it all starts with the question, WHAT DO YOU NEED?
National Library Week starts today! To get in the spirit, we are listing ten different ways to promote reading or library related activities. We hope you try some of these suggestions not just this week, but in the weeks and months to come. Developing a love of reading requires consistency. It can be challenging for parents juggling so much, but also very worth it! Here are some of our favorite unique ways to celebrate library week:
Spring has sprung! Gardening presents opportunities to practice many different language skills. It also is a wonderful sensory experience. But what if you are like us and don’t exactly have a green thumb? A spring time sensory bin can save the day! This bin brings the fun of garden play without the mess or responsibilities of continual watering and maintenance.
To make our bin we went to Dollar Tree and the whole thing cost under ten dollars to create! The base of the bin is black beans. We also obtained some children’s gardening tools and small plant pots for scooping purposes. The additional items we added to the bin were different types of artificial flowers. (We taped the bottoms for safety to ensure they weren’t too pointy!) If you have a larger bin, adding some toy bugs might be fun. Since we were using a smaller bin, we kept it simple.
How you use your bin depends on the language abilities of your kiddo. This post will be broken into two sections to focus on the two different types of talkers we frequently see in therapy. Scroll to the section that best meets the needs of your child.
Emerging Verbal Behavior: Working on 1-2 Word Utterances
Core Vocabulary: want, help, more, no, all done, put, in, like, I, it, that
Verbs: dig, scoop, plant, pick
Nouns: garden, flower, bin, bean, pot, rake, shovel, spade
While your child explores the bin, you can demonstrate pretend gardening play by “planting” different flowers in pots. You can dig and scoop the beans with the various tools provided. As you’re playing or observing your kiddo with the bin, comment on the actions occurring. Model 1-3 word utterances by pairing the core words and verbs with the target nouns listed above.
Here are some examples of useful phrases:
I want help
I want flower
No more flower
Put pot in
Put flower in
Flower in pot
I like that
I rake beans
No more rake
If your child imitates these phrases or makes any attempt to communicate, be extra responsive! Answer them accordingly, or expand on their utterance. Provide positive reinforcement for communication by giving them the materials they are requesting as quickly as possible. Also, compliment them for using their words.
Expanding Language: Building Vocabulary and More
This section is for kiddos who speak using full sentences. The goal is to work towards learning new vocabulary words or telling narratives.
Increasing exposure to new words: Whether you are using the bin to simply explore or for pretend garden play, there are a plethora of adjectives and nouns you can introduce to your child. If you want your kiddo to have a robust vocabulary, you must model new words in the appropriate context for them consistently. Pick some target words to use repeatedly as you play with the bin and see if your child will imitate them after playing for a bit. When they utilize the target words in their own sentences, provide positive praise (I.e. “I like how you used some new words!” “Wow, that was a long sentence! Good for you!”).
Here are some suggested adjectives we used when describing various portions of the bin:
tall, silky, exotic, sharp/pointy, hard, deep, smooth, rough
We also used some nouns to label names and parts of flowers:
stem, pistol, petals, leaves, hydrangea, daisy
Try to use more interesting color shades than basic pink, blue, or purple. For example:
Magenta, cerulean, lilac, lavender (Colors vary based on your artificial flower selection.)
Telling Narratives: If your child uses simple sentences, you will have to model this skill by summarizing what their actions are or combining their utterances. Start by saying something like: “Tell me how you plant the flowers here.”
- If they just show you the actions, provide a narrative yourself. (I.e. Oh I see. First, you dig with the rake. Then you scoop some dirt in the pot. Last, you “plant” your flower by pushing it into the pot! Great job!) This sort of skill requires repeat exposure, so continue telling narratives in your daily life. Describe your actions when you’re cooking a meal, or driving somewhere. Make sure you use sequencing words like first, then, next, last, finally. Then you can try asking the question again the next time your child plays with the spring sensory bin in the hopes that they can tell a narrative after hearing some more from you!
- If you ask your child and they respond with single sentences, combine their sentences to make them longer. At the end, you can say, “I like how you told me the directions! Now I know what to do!” to reinforce the skill.
At some point this week, many families will color Easter eggs with their kiddos. You don’t want to miss this EGGcellent opportunity to elicit language from your child during this activity. As you prepare to add some color to your eggs, we will tell you how to add some language demands as well! The skills you target will depend on your child’s current abilities. So we separated this post into two different types of goals for kiddos we frequently encounter. Select the portion of the post that best applies to your child.
Emerging Verbal Behavior: Working on 1-2 word utterances
Core Vocabulary: want, more, put, no, help, like, I, it, that
Nouns: eggs, various colors being used, cup, spoon
Supplies: Easter egg no-measure kit
This activity will allow you to model tons of 1-3 word utterances throughout the task, simply by pairing the core vocabulary with the nouns listed above. Almost all the commands or comments needed can be formed with these words!
Here are some examples:
I want egg
I want more
I want color
Put more color
No more color
No more eggs
Want more help
I like it
Like that color
Remember to structure your environment to promote natural communication. Keep materials such as eggs or extra dye slightly out of reach to see if your child will request them without prompting. If not, provide a model and help them to imitate it. Provide positive reinforcement for all communicative attempts.
Expanding Language: Building Vocabulary and More
These activities are for your kiddo if they typically communicate using full sentences, but need help expanding utterances, telling a narrative, or using more diverse vocabulary. Here are some ideas for targeting these type of skills while coloring eggs:
1. Egg science: Time to conduct some color experiments! Try dipping eggs in various dyes to see how the colors are altered! This is a chance to introduce science vocabulary. Explain the scientific method by describing the process as you test each egg. Emphasize the following vocabulary:
First, observe the color of the egg. After one color has dried, select a second dye for egg dipping. Next form a hypothesis, about what color the egg will become once it is dipped a second time. (Explain that a hypothesis is an educated guess.) Next, conduct your experiment! Once the egg is dry, analyze the results! How did the egg change? Then decide if you’re hypothesis is correct! Discuss what conclusions can be drawn. (I.e. Keeping an egg in the dye longer, makes the color darker. Dipping an egg a second time always changes the color.) Get creative and test whatever other theories you might have!
- Provide positive reinforcement whenever your kiddo uses any of the newly learned science words.
- If they use incorrect grammar, do not correct their statement. Instead give them a choice of how they can rephrase the statement correctly. For example: "Could we say I dip two eggs. or, I dipped two eggs ?"
*Tip* Dipping only half of each egg allows for more experiments. Plus kiddos may find it easier to hold the egg with their fingers than use the wire dipping tool. This is possible if only half the egg is going into the dye.
2. Telling a narrative - After dying a few eggs you can work on your child’s narrative skills by helping them to describe the steps necessary for coloring an egg. You could ask them to practice this in a variety of ways. One option is to say you’re writing down the steps to teach a friend how to dye eggs. Ask them to tell you what to write in your note. Or just ask, "How would we tell someone to do this?" You could also simply say you’re confused and that you forgot what to do and have your kiddo explain. You can provide models of important sequencing words such as first, next, then, or finally to prompt them.
3. Comparing/Contrasting -Once the task is done, look at your finished products and come up with some adjectives to describe your eggs. After describing single eggs, you can begin working with pairs of eggs to compare and contrast them. First explain to your child that comparing means talking about how items are the same, while contrasting means talking about how items are different. Model this skill for your kiddo by giving some examples like the ones below. Then see if they can generate any independent statements.
Both these eggs are blue, but this one is a darker blue.
Both these eggs are blue, but this one is brighter.
Both these eggs are blue, but this one is spotted.
Both these eggs are blue, but this one is lighter.
Springtime presents many EGGcellent opportunities for language and learning. Easter makes some very affordable therapeutic tools readily available...Plastic eggs! We are EGGstatic about all the different ways they can be used to teach kiddos. In this post, we will outline eleven EGGciting different methods to target language or literacy skills so that everyone can find EGGsactly what they need! Feeling EGGravated? We promise not to use anymore puns!
1. Hunt for Functional Items
Simply place pictures of common items in your eggs. Give your child a checklist of items they need to locate. You can either use a simple picture list for matching, or a written list that identifies the function of each item (i.e. “Something used for cutting” would be the clue for the picture of scissors). You can choose to print your pictures and generate a list with corresponding clues, or you can use ours. It will be released later this week as one of our freebies. This task does not just teach about how items are used. The important skill of using a list and checking off completed portions is being practiced. This can be applied to a variety of areas in life.
2. Letter matching (uppercase to lowercase)
Write an uppercase letter on one side of the egg. Write the corresponding lowercase letter on the other side. Separate all the egg halves and mix them around. Your kiddo can practice matching uppercase to lowercase by putting the pieces back together.
3. Word families
Open your eggs. Write single letters on one side of the egg in a vertical line and one word family ending that corresponds with all the listed sounds, on the other side of the egg. Have your kiddo close the egg and turn the single letter side to create new words.
Some popular word family endings include:
-at, -in, -it, -op.
4. Rhyming Pairs
Separate ten eggs in half and write one rhyming word on each side. Mix the halves and have your child find and match the rhyming pairs.
5. Same letter matching
If your kiddo is still working on letter identification, some of the above mentioned skills may be too difficult. Instead, increase their exposure to the alphabet by practicing letter to letter matching. Simply write the same letters on each egg half and allow your kiddo to connect the matching pieces. You can reinforce their learning by labeling each letter matched (i.e. “You got a match! That’s the letter T.”).
6. Sensory eggs
Host an egg hunt and fill the eggs with a variety of textured items for your kiddo to explore. With each egg, you can model use of adjectives to describe the item inside. Use whatever you find in your home! Some suggestions for fillers with vocabulary include:
Play-doh - squishy
Cotton balls- soft
Scented tea light candle- sweet (or whatever scent you include)
Beads- small, round, hard
*Children should always be monitored for mouthing to ensure no small items are ingested.*
7. Color matching
Separate a set of multicolored eggs into halves. Show your child how to match the halves so that each whole egg is only one color. Practice identifying or labeling the colors during the task.
8. Sorting by size or color
Collect a group of many different colored eggs. You can also use a variety of sizes. Create bins for different colors or sizes and help your child sort the eggs into the appropriate categories.
9. Preposition practice
Place eggs in various locations around the house. Ask your child to identify the places the eggs are found. Model responses if necessary. (i.e. “Where is the egg? UNDER the table.) If your kiddo cannot independently respond, provide choices. (i.e. Is the egg ON the couch or UNDER the couch?)
10. Following Directions
You can approach this skill in two different ways. You can give your child commands to follow as clues to find the eggs. (I.e. “Go to the kitchen. Open the cabinet.”) Or you could allow your kiddo to hunt for the eggs and practice the skill after the hunt. (i.e. Put all your blue eggs on your bed.”)
11. Core Vocabulary Practice
For kiddos working on using one word utterances, “open” can be a powerful word that can be useful in many different scenarios. Put desired items or treats inside the eggs and emphasize use of the word (i.e. What should we do? OPEN the egg!) If your kiddo needs help with each egg, this is better because you have several natural opportunities for your child to request “OPEN.” You may also choose to keep the eggs hidden or out of reach to target use of the word "more." Again, emphasize the target words when you model requests for your child (i.e. MORE eggs please!).
Have you tried any of these or other activities with Easter eggs? Let us know by hitting reply below!
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In a few days it will be the fourteenth of March, and math enthusiasts know this to be Pi Day. This week we’ll be posting some ideas for Pi Day festivities for those looking to increase FUNctional language through some math related tasks. Many educators bring in various pies to share with students on Pi Day. Since we always want to include students with allergies, we recommend playing the game, “Pie Face,” instead. Shaving cream or something else can always be substituted for the whipped cream in the case of a dairy allergy. The game allows for natural opportunities to practice language and communication skills during some silly play.
Nouns: game, pie, whipped cream
Verbs: put, turn, spin, go, hit, give, want, need, clean
Pronouns: I, you, me, we, he, she
Adjectives: cold, wet, fluffy, sweet, delicious
Questions: Who, do
1. Set up the game and play according to the directions. Focus on some of the skills listed below.
2. Model appropriate comments for your kiddo as the events of the game progress. You can also model expression of opinions so that if your child becomes frustrated, they have some language to imitate instead of turning to undesirable behaviors. Some examples are:
Oh no! I got hit! I don’t like that.
It feels weird!
I hate this part.
I like when other people have a turn.
You’re safe! No pie hit you!
This game is so silly!
3. We’ve mentioned before that pronouns are an area of difficulty for kiddos with autism. They may struggle to use or understand pronouns. Depending on your child’s knowledge of pronouns, you may just choose to comment on the games events while modeling the correct usage of the target words. (I.e. “WE are playing a game.” “SHE got hit with a pie!”) If your kiddo demonstrates adequate comprehension but uses pronouns inconsistently, you can provide choices to help them select the correct sentence structure (I.e. “Should we say, HE won, or SHE won?”). This helps them to feel empowered and take a role in improving their grammatical skills, as opposed to simply being corrected.
4. As with most other games, you can use positive reinforcement simply by praising students for waiting their turn or appropriately remaining on task.
5. During the first few rounds, model use of target adjectives by using your senses as a guide. Not all games make this possible, but this activity allows for multi-sensory play. Talk about how the whipped cream feels, smells, looks, and tastes. In later rounds, you can ask your child about the sensations and see if they use any of the target words.
6. You can work on the two following questions repeatedly throughout the game:
Who: Who’s turn is it?
Do: Do you like this game?/Do you like that part? As the game progresses and some players are hit with pies, while others are not, the answers may change!
Last Friday, we celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday. He made an amazing contribution to children’s literature. Among his many treasured titles, Green Eggs and Ham allows for practice of many important skills. Parents can choose to target one or two of the topics listed below at a time. You can also address other topics by simply rereading the story. Repetitive reads of a children’s book may seem boring, but they are comforting to kiddos! Below are some areas to focus on while sharing this classic with your child.
During any read aloud, ask questions before, during, and after reading. Not only does this allow you to assess your child’s understanding of the story, but also it provides practice responding to questions, which is an important academic skill.
Rhyming is a key skill that positively impacts decoding abilities when practiced. Learning words with the same endings and sounds help when students encounter unfamiliar words. For example, if I can read the word box, I can read the word fox.
In the story, the main character refuses to try green eggs and ham throughout the entire book. In the end, he tastes the new food and actually likes it! So he discovers he’s been carrying on about not liking the dish for no reason. This is a great example to bring up if you have a picky eater at home. Many times children particularly don’t like green foods, such as veggies. This book provides an opportunity to start a dialogue on the topic. If you can convince your kiddo to try something new, provide praise for experimenting, even if they decide they do not like the new food.
Dr. Seuss books are chocked full of sight words. Since the text is repetitive, it allows for multiple exposures to each target word. You can ask your child to find the words or take turns reading some of the repetitive portions of the text for practice.
Throughout the book, Sam harasses the main character to try green eggs and ham. Take a few moments to reflect on Sam's behavior. He is repeatedly asked for space. Discuss real life peer play scenarios vs. fictional events. If someone keeps telling us “no” and/or is becoming angry, we need to walk away and give them the space they are requesting. You can also observe the signs of his escalating feelings throughout the book (i.e. angry face, the use of capital letters and exclamation points to show yelling and loud tones).
Any day is a good day for sensory play! Many children love shaving cream and we can certainly see why. All the possible language and learning opportunities during play, make this fantastic foam a favorite among SLPs and teachers as well.
Nouns: shaving cream, table, hands, wipes
Verbs: Need/want, spray, put, draw, write, dip, squeeze, clean, wash, dry
Adjectives: wet, dry, cool, messy, neat, foamy