2 Goals, 1 Therapist......Working on Articulation& Pronouns in the Same Session!

Thursday, January 30, 2020
Over the past 11 years as an SLP I have seen so many students qualify for speech, but not language therapy. Either their scores aren't low enough to qualify in their school setting or their language difficulties don't show up on the test they are given at that time. But, after working with them on their articulation skills and having conversations with the child, you can hear that many of them also need some help with grammar. I have found pronouns to be a big part of that.

A research study done in 2013 showed that "a difficulty in the acquisition of grammar can interfere with the ability to communicate successfully and may flow into other grammar and language-based tasks." As SLP's we want our students to communicate at the best of their abilities. In the study, children were provided play-based grammar instruction that was made up of teaching, modeling, prompting, recasting, and then given feedback on their productions. The children in the study made great progress, however, they did find that children were less likely to make progress when they had articulation errors that affected the sound or sound pattern needed to produce the targets.

I have been trying to incorporate grammar instruction into my articulation therapy sessions, without taking away the from the actual articulation therapy. I have done this through reading books, modeling through play, and structured activities that can target both goals at once. Because so many of my students needed pronoun practice in addition to articulation, I created an interactive activity that can work on both goals at the same time.
 The activity includes mats for speech sounds in the initial, medial, final, and combination positions. There is a mat for each of these sounds to use in a sentence with the he, she, him, her, they, or them pronouns.
 The mats are left open ended enough that you can use these in many different ways to meet your student's individual needs. Since making this, I have laminated them and used them as smash mats (smashing a ball of PlayDoh on the target as they are practiced), stacking mini erasers on the words as they practice, I've stamped dot markers on them, kept this file on my iPad as a no-print activity, and even taped them to the wall and shot nerf gun targets at the words! Whatever gets your students motivated, do it!
I am a private therapist and see all my students one on one, but these mats would be great for mixed groups since you can print one for each child and their individual need during a group lesson. 

I have this entire packet available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 
Click on the image below to check it out. 

Resource: Smith-Lock, K. M., Leitao, S., Lambert, L. & Nickels, L. (2013). Effective intervention for expressive grammar in children with specific language impairment. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 48(3), 265–282. 

Mommy Mondays: Reading to Your Child

Monday, January 20, 2020
Reading books is a staple in our nightly routine. It's just something we have always done and always loved. In fact, reading for 20 minutes each night is the only homework assignment my kids receive on a regular basis. Research has shown that kids that read 20 minutes each day score higher on tests and are exposed to more vocabulary than those who don't. Children learn almost half of the words they are exposed to during shared book reading. A study in 2017 showed that children learn just as much from books read to them by their parents as they do from books read to them by a teacher.

As a therapist, when parents ask me what they can do at home to improve their child's language, I always say to play and to read. Reading exposes children to language rich experiences. Lots of new vocabulary, dialogue, social skills, letter names, letter sounds, and problem solving situations.... just to name a few. 
To some of us, reading a book to our kids is something that comes easy. Our kids love reading and snuggling up with a good book. But for others, it's a battle. Either the child doesn't want to sit still long enough to read or the parent is a little intimidated about how to read to their child. But here is a little secret... to start your child's love for books, you don't have to always read the book. Simply let them hold the book, flip through the pages, look at the pictures, and talk about what you see. Eventually your child will have the attention span to enjoy an entire story, but if he or she is not there yet, it's ok!

I created a cheat sheet that will hopefully give you some useful tips and tricks to use while reading with your little ones! Included in the handout is information on book orientation, vocabulary, ideas to make reading fun, as well as information on asking and answering questions (with age appropriate suggestions). I hope you find this helpful. Happy Reading!!

You can download a copy of this FREE handout, here!

Why You Should be Crossing Midline in Speech

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
One of the things I love about our field, is the ability to work so closely with other professionals. Over the past 10 years I have worked very closely with occupational therapists and the children we share. I have learned SO much from them and love watching them work. It's always fun to me when I am co-treating with another OT, seeing one of the activities they do with a student and thinking AH HA! I will add that in with (insert speech activity here) next week! I feel like I am always learning and growing from our OT's!

One of the things I learned from occupational therapists (and those fabulous COTA's) is how important crossing midline is to development. If "midline" isn't a term that's familiar to you, it's basically an imaginary line from your head to your toes, right down the middle of your body. Kids who avoid crossing midline often have learning and motor difficulties because of the lack of integration between both sides of the brain. This is a really great blog post from the OT Butterfly about how midline develops, why it's important, and how to tell if your child isn't crossing midline.

Adding activities that allow kids to cross midline during speech therapy isn't hard. In fact, it gets them moving and adds a lot of fun to therapy sessions while encouraging integration of both sides of the brain. Here are a few ideas to add this skill to your bag of SLP ticks!

  • If you're using articulation cards in therapy, put them on the left side of the child but have them reach for each card using his or her right hand. The same concept can be used with blocks or toys. Purposeful placement of items that will get their trunk rotating is key.

  • Exercises! Incorporate exercises into your therapy sessions that cross midline (side bends, windmills, etc.) Do these as a fun warm up before each session or get creative and incorporate some speech activities with these exercises.

  • When I searched Pinterest for some inspiration for activities, many came up that incorporated a figure 8 shape. Whether it's tracing the shape or driving cars on a track that's shaped like an 8, it gives great opportunities to cross midline. Place some articulation cards, vocabulary words, or wh-questions on the track, and work on the goals as you add this important motor skill.

  • When doing cut and paste activities or sorting activities, put the items they need on both sides of their body. Encourage them to cross midline as they reach for the items they need to complete the activity.

  • If you're working in a group, put two students back to back and have them pass a ball (or any object) back and forth. You could easily incorporate speech and language skills into this activity. As the child passes the ball, have them describe the object being passed, name a synonym/antonym for a word given, name items in a category, practice articulation words... there are so many things you could do here!

One important tip I like to give to my interns and SLP's-to-be is to take advantage of the professionals you work with. There will never be a point in your career where you know everything. Stay humble. Learn something new everyday. Take advantage of asking good questions. Use  opportunities to observe. And take what you have learned and incorporate it into your sessions. I know I have said this before, but it takes a village to raise successful kids. Let's use that village to help them reach their goals!!

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