Using Play-Doh to Target Early Language Skills

One of my favorite toys that I like to use in therapy sessions is Play-Doh. The possibilities are endless and kids tend to have so much fun! The following are several goals that can be targeted while playing with Play-Doh with your children:

1) Imitation of Play Actions: Typically, kids learn to imitate our actions before they learn to imitate our sounds and words.  You can use Play-Doh to target this early imitation skill! Demonstrate different actions with the Play-Doh and praise any attempt your child makes to do what you do. Examples include squishing, rolling, making a ball, dropping, patting, etc. You can also bring in other props such as a rolling pin and cookie cutter to make different shapes. You could also incorporate other toys such as cars and have the cars roll over the Play-Doh, run into the Play-Doh, etc. You could even pretend that the Play-Doh is a car or a train and make it move across the table. Again, the point here is for your child to attempt to imitate what you do with the Play-Doh so praise them for all attempts!

2) Requesting via signs or words: My favorite requests to use in sessions include “more” and “help”. Encourage your child to request at their current level.  If they are able to verbally request encourage them to use their words. If they are currently able to sign that is great too! Even if they are just reaching for more Play-Doh you can model the word and honor their request. To target “help” give your child a closed container of Play-Doh and encourage them to ask for help before you open the container for them. To target “more”, give them a small piece at a time and encourage them to request “more”.

3) Teaching Action Words: Model action words while playing with the Play-Doh. My favorites include open (while opening the container), take out, roll, smash, drop, squish, cut, push, put in, close (while closing the lid), etc. Any word that you can think of to model with the Play-Doh would be great to use here!

4) Following one step directions: Tell your child what to do with the Play-Doh and see if they can follow without a model. If they do not understand the direction, model for them and then ask them to do it again without the model. You can get silly with this and ask them to put the Play-Doh on their head or nose. You could also give your kids directions to make your own recipe!

The possibilities are endless so have fun with it!

Resources: Laura Mize, Teach Me To Talk

Katie Dabkowski, MS, CF-SLP

Early Pronouns: When They Should Be Acquired and How to Teach Them

Your child’s pronoun usage can be very difficult to understand and even more difficult to teach! Many parents – and therapists alike–  struggle teaching this concept to their little ones. First, you need to have a basic understanding of when each pronoun should be acquired. This way, you’ll know what is appropriate to teach and what isn’t! The research varies slightly with regard to pronoun acquisition; however, all research agrees that I and it are the first to emerge, followed by you.

Approximate Age of Acquisition:

12-26 months – I, it

27-30 months – me, my, mine, you

31-34 months – your, she, he, yours, we

35-40 months – they, us, her, his, them, her

41-46 months – its, our, him, myself, yourself, ours, their, theirs

47+ months – herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves

Sources: Adapted from Haas & Owens (1985); Huxley (1970); Morehead & Ingram (1973); Waterman & Schatz (1982); and Wells (1985).

Now for the tricky part – teaching pronouns! Many children with language delays, auditory processing issues and echolalia struggle with correct pronoun use. Yet, parents often don’t understand how to practice the skill at home and facilitate generalization. Pronouns by nature are ABSTRACT, and therefore, difficult to “see” or conceptualize, thus difficult to teach to children.

Here are a few tips and activities for targeting pronouns with your toddler at home:

  • Use GesturesAlways pair pronouns with gestures! This provides a great non-verbal cue for the child to understand who you are referring to and what each pronoun represents. Point to yourself for “I” and tap your child’s chest for “you.” When you are modeling what, you want your child to say, take his/her hand and use it to pat their own chest for “I” or “my.”
    • Raise your intonation to emphasize the pronoun as you gesture to help the child make the connection
  • Modeling – Providing frequent models is important! Often times, parents and therapists simplify language and use proper nouns instead of pronouns. For example, “Mommy is eating” or “Ms. Lisa is going bye-bye.” This strategy is great for babies who are not talking or who are just learning to talk because it improves understanding and attaches meaning to the words. However, once your child is talking, it is important for them to hear you modeling the correct pronouns! For example, “I am eating” and “I am going bye-bye.”
    • Don’t worry if you forget! Simply follow-up with an emphasized model: “Mommy is eating. I am hungry.”
  • One at a time – Focus on just one pronoun at time. This can be challenging because it is natural to want to use them together. “I have blue and you have green.” Although, it may seem helpful, it can actually be quite confusing for your little one!
    • It takes time and maybe a slow process. That is okay!
  • Prompt with how the child should say it – Rather than saying, “Do you need me to help you?” prompt your child with a model of what he/she should be saying. So, for example, you would simply model, “Help me.”
    • This can be challenging because our tendency is to prompt with phrases such as, “you say” or “tell me,” which may only lead to more confusion and repetition of the wrong pronoun!
  • Look for opportunities in everyday play and routines – pronouns are best taught during normal play and interactions. Model, gesture/point and emphasize the pronoun by raising pitch, intonation and volume. Provide lots of opportunities for repetition and practice!
    • “Mine” – If your child produces the /m/ sound, mine is a great place to start! Model the word as you hold a toy (or part of a toy). Be sure to keep it light and fun and always give the object right back! It’s important for your toddler to know that you are not there to take their toy. You are simply being playful and having fun (while teaching a pronoun).
      • Tip: Do not do this with your child’s favorite toy. They will not like you saying, “mine” and will likely become very upset. If you see that your child is getting frustrated or upset, stop working on it and try again later!
    • “Me” – Look at family pictures (printed or on your cell phone) and ask, “Whose that?” Model, “me” while pointing to a picture of yourself and tapping your own chest. Model “me” again and use hand-over-hand assistance to help your child touch his/her own chest.
      • Selfies – Children love phones and they especially love taking pictures on phones. Take a few “selfies” with your child for extra engagement, motivation and fun, then use the pictures to model me!
    • “I”
      • Choosing items – Lay a few objects out in front of the child and say, “I want banana” or “I want car” as you take the object. Exaggerate “I” as you take the item.
      • Snack time – Ask, “Who wants ____?” Help your child touch their own chest while modeling “I do! I do!”
      • Actions – Use actions to practice the pronoun “I.” Children love gross-motor and movement activities and this is the perfect opportunity! Pair “I” with simple actions (i.e. I run, I jump, I hop, I sleep, I laugh, I cry, etc.) as you act out the action. For example, “I laugh” and then crack-up laughing or “I cry” and pretend to cry. Have fun and get into it! The more you are enjoying it, the more your child will too.
    • “You”
      • Playful commands and help scenarios. Create “you do it” situations where you need to ask your child for their help.
        • Roll a toy car under the table and say, “Oh no! Oh no! You get it.”
        • Wrap a toy in Play-Doh or putty a say, “Oh no! Stuck! You do! You!”
        • Think of the key phrases, “You do,” “You go,” “You get,” “You eat,” etc.
      • My” vs. “Your”
        • Practice with clothing, body parts or food. “My pants” and “Your pants” while gesturing.

Resources: Laura Mize, Teach Me to Talk

Kelly Fridholm, M.C.D., CCC-SLP

How can I encourage my son/daughter to practice their “speech homework” outside of therapy?

If your child receives therapy for their articulation or phonological skills (i.e. how they produce specific sounds), intervention focuses on repeated practice of the target sounds at different levels. Your therapist structures the session to be highly motivating and engaging for your child so that they are motivated to participate in the repetitive nature of the task. Additionally, your therapist most likely assigns homework to work on in between sessions to help with generalization of your child’s articulation skills—but here’s where the challenge lies! Most kiddos are reluctant to practice their ‘speech homework’ outside of therapy because it is challenging and because it is not the most exciting work. However, daily practice of articulation skills is necessary for both acquisition and maintenance of these age-appropriate articulation skills. Here are a few tips and activities to encourage your child’s home practice:

  • Choose the same time each day to practice—on the way to school, after dinner, right before bed, etc. Creating a routine makes it easier to incorporate practice into daily life.
  • Set attainable goals—45 minutes of articulation practice per day is not going to fit into your daily routine, and it doesn’t have to! 10 to 15 minutes of directed practice per day is all you need to ensure that your child does not lose the progress that he/she has made in therapy.
  • Provide the correct cues for target sounds—Your therapist will create articulation goals based on your child’s current level of functioning. Talk with your therapist to determine if your child is working on targets at the syllable/word/phrase/sentence level and support their production of target sounds at that level.
  • Make practice fun! – Articulation homework does not have to be ‘drill’ work; you can use your child’s speech targets in a variety of fun activities, such as:
    • Sound scavenger hunt
      • Cut out pictures of your child’s target sounds and hide them around the house. Go on a scavenger hunt to find the missing words!
    • I-Spy
      • Try to find objects that start with the target sound while in the car, on a walk, looking through books, etc.
    • Adapt age-appropriate crafts
      • Making a spider for Halloween? Cut out 8 target words/pictures and attach to the spider’s legs
      • Winter crafts? Make a penguin out of an old Kleenex box and ‘feed’ it your target words
      • Jewelry? Put one bead on each target word and practice the word before adding the bead to your bracelet/necklace
    • Snack time!
      • Cover target words/pictures with one piece of a favored snack (cheerios, popcorn, fruit loops, nuts, raisins, cheddar bunnies, etc.); practice each word 3 times before eating the snack
    • Do-A-Dot
      • Say target words for X-number of dots per page

 

**Remember to consult your speech-language pathologist to make sure you are providing the appropriate level of prompting for your child’s goals

Autumn Smith, MS, CCC-SLP
Assistant Director of Speech-Language Services

Executive Function: Tools for Success in School

An Environment for Success

How can teachers setup their classroom to create a positive learning environment?

An organized classroom promotes organization habits among students and makes the teacher’s job easier.

  • Ensure that chair and desks are arranged in a way that allows for flexibility to fit group instruction as well as small group work.
  • It is helpful for students to have a supply center, which allows them to independently prepare and manage their materials. It may contain items such as scissors, hole punchers, pencil sharpeners, etc.
  • A homework center allows for a designated area where homework-related activities to be centralized.

Homework Management

How can teachers develop effective systems for managing homework?

A clear routine and system for assigning, collecting, and storing homework will make managing homework assignments easier.

  • Designate a regular place for recording homework, whether a portion of the chalkboard, whiteboard, or online so that it is easily accessible to all students.
  • Establish a regular time for assigning homework. It may be beneficial to assign homework at the beginning of a lesson, so that students are not writing the assignment down as class is ending. This also allows for time to answer any questions regarding the assignment and can greatly increase homework completion rates.
  • Keep a master planner and homework log where either the teacher or a responsible student records all the assignments. This can be a class resource for students who are absent or are missing assignments.
  • Extra handouts can be kept in a folder, a file organizer, or online. This way, students who miss or lose assignments have the responsibility of obtaining the necessary papers.
  • Designate a physical structure, such as a paper tray, to collect homework rather than using class time to collect papers.
  • Establish a regular time for collecting homework. Consider using a “5 in 5” reminder, requiring students to complete 5 tasks in the first 5 minutes of class, such as turning in homework and writing down new assignments.
  • File graded work in individual hanging folders to decrease class time devoted to handing out papers.
  • To encourage organization, have students designate sections of their binder for (1) homework to be complete, (2) graded work, (3) notes, and (4) handouts. Consider periodic checks and provide feedback.
  • Have students track their grades on grade logs to provide them with the opportunity to calculate grades and reflect on their performance.
  • At the end of a grading period encourage students to clean out their binders, and discuss which papers are worth keeping and why. Encourage them to invest in an accordion file or crate for hanging files to keep important papers.

Time Management

How can teachers structure classroom time efficiently and teach students time management skills?

  • Time timers provide students with a concrete visual reminder of the amount of time remaining for a task. They are a great tool for group work, timed tests, or silent reading.
  • Post a daily schedule in a visible place to establish the day’s plan. Present the schedule to the students, and refer to the schedule when making modifications to model time management skills.
  • Display a monthly calendar to provide students with regular visual reminders of upcoming events. These calendars are also beneficial for modeling backwards planning.
  • Carve out time for organization. Devote a short amount of time for students at the end of the day to reflect on their learning, manage their materials, prioritize homework assignments, and make a plan for their completion.

 Materials Management

How can teachers help students manage their materials?

  • Designate a short amount of time once a week for students to dump out and reorganize backpacks and clean up lockers.
  • When students finish tests or tasks early encourage them to use the downtime to organize their materials.
  • Have students use labels, racks, or dividers to keep items clean and organized.

Resources:

Rush NeuroBehavioral Center. (2006, 2007). Executive Functions Curriculum.

Monica Zajaczkowski, OT

 

Jen Brown, M.S., OTR/L

My Child Overstuffs During Mealtimes…. What Can I Do To Help?

Let’s face it… all kiddos, especially our toddlers, over stuff their mouths during meals or snack from time to time. Typically, this happens when our overzealous little ones are beginning to transition to solids or when children can’t get enough of their favorite food or snack. Some kiddos, however, stuff their mouths during every mealtime and snack causing a great deal of concern to parents and caregivers. If your child is a frequent stuffer, here are a couple of tips to help!

  1. Pace him! Provide your child with small portions of food at a time – aim for only a few pieces of food during each offering. Make sure these pieces are small and can be easily managed. Also, you can encourage sips of a beverage between bites to help pace your little one.
  2. Wake up his mouth before mealtimes. Sometimes, kiddos over stuff during mealtimes because it takes more for their little mouths to feel the same thing that your mouth or my mouth may feel. To account for this, we want to “wake up” their mouths before a meal. You can give them a sip of ice cold water or tart lemonade before they start eating. Brushing your child’s tongue and insides of his cheeks with a toothbrush or a vibrating toothbrush can also serve as a sensory wake up before a mealtime or snack.
  3. Alternate tastes/textures during mealtimes. Just as we want to wake up a child’s mouth immediately before a mealtime, we want to continue waking up his mouth during the meal, too. Consider providing meals that contain a variety of spicy, crunchy, cold, or carbonated food and beverage items. These 4 sensory inputs can help a child become more aware of their mouth and organize oral movement more effectively. Foods such as pickles, raw carrots, and spicy dips can be included in the meal. Spices can be added to other foods. Cold, carbonated water can be sipped between mouthfuls. Add lemon to the carbonated water for extra sensory input if the child will accept it. Add ice to other liquids.
  4. Use a mirror. Provide your child with a mirror during mealtimes to give them additional visual feedback. They’re watching themselves eat and this can help to increase their awareness about how full their mouth is getting!

**Remember, before trying these tips at home, always consult with your speech-language pathologist to determine the best course of treatment for your child!

Julie Euyoque, M.A., CCC – SLP

Home for the Holidays

It’s hard to believe the holidays are already upon us, and this year could bring some new challenges. Seeing family and friends is a great part of the holidays, but when your family is working with a therapist to meet developmental milestones, these interactions can cause additional stress. You may be wondering how to talk about it with your family. Or you may be wondering how your child is going to do playing, communicating or eating during the celebrating.

Here are some quick tips to help you get through:

• Talk with your therapist about concerns you have, and ask for specific ideas and activities that you can do over the holidays.
• As much as possible, keep your child’s daily routine in tact.
• Talk with friends and family before the actual visit, so you can spend your time celebrating instead of explaining.
• Sometimes, the best way to explain is to demonstrate. Give some information, and then show your family how to do what you are talking about. This gives YOU the chance to be the therapist
• Bring a few of your child’s favorite toys with so that he/she feels more comfortable, and has an opportunity to play in a familiar way.

Realize that your child will likely act differently when put in new environments. This is expected and perfectly normal. Offer your child more help, and be sure to add in some extra positive reinforcement. If you notice the family visits are getting too stressful for anyone, take a break!

Sarah Pifkin Ruger, MS, CCC-SLP

36-48 Month Milestones in Speech and Language Development

Is your child aging out of the Early Intervention program? Questions about what to look for next in terms of speech and language development? Our speech-language pathologist Jessie Delos Reyes provides a helpful checklist for upcoming milestones and developmental red flags:

36-48 months of age

Receptive Language (what your child understands):

  • Understands 1,200-2000+ words
  • Hears and responds when you call them from another room
  • Follows simple commands if item is out of sight
  • Follows two- and three step directions
  • Understands words for some primary colors (i.e. can point to named colors)
  • Understands some simple shapes (circle, square)
  • Understands concepts (big/small, soft/hard, rough/smooth) when contrast is presented
  • Follows simple two- and three-step directions
  • Listens and understands longer stories

Expressive Language (how your child uses language to express himself and communicate needs and wants):

  • Uses 1,000-1,600+ words
  • Speech intelligibility is 90% or greater
  • Talks about activities at school or with friends
  • Talks about daily happenings using about four sentences at a time
  • Requests permission
  • Shares and ask for turns
  • Answers simple “who?”, “what?”, and “where?” questions
  • Asks “when” and “how” questions
  • Uses pronouns: I, you, me, we, they, us, hers, his, them
  • Uses plurals
  • Uses four or more words in a sentence
  • Labels parts of an object (wheels, steering wheel)
  • Begins to express feelings (sad, happy, frustrated)

Speech and language red flags:

  • Difficulty being understood by familiar and unfamiliar listeners
  • Consistently dropping beginnings or endings of words (“ike” for “bike,” “ca” for “cat”)
  • Difficulty producing three to four word phrases
  • Difficulty following two- and three-step directions and simple sequences
  • Inconsistently answering simple WH questions (who, what, when, where)
  • Difficulty stating wants and needs
  • Difficulty playing with others or a lack of interest in other children

If you have concerns regarding your child’s speech and language development, call our office to schedule an evaluation with a speech language pathologist.

Jessie Delos Reyes, MA, CF-SLP

The Best Thing I have Learned During My Time at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc.

For over a year, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working with the families that PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. serves and alongside the therapists that have also made helping children and families their life’s work. I have seen early words emerge. I have clapped alongside parents who were so proud of their child who just pointed out every single picture in a book. I have built towers, and forts, and racetracks. I have heard giggles and I have seen smiles. But most of all – I have learned right along with the kids and families I’ve been teaching!

Every child is different – no statement has ever been truer. Walking into each and every therapy session means coming prepared to adjust my plans to help that child meet communication goals. What is true and effective for one family might not prove effective for another – and that’s okay! As therapists, we are equipped to pivot and move forward. After appropriately implementing a therapeutic strategy with a family, we reconvene together to discuss its effectiveness. Have we seen progress? If not, what else can we try?

But there’s a big piece that we need help with, and it comes from… families! Parents are the experts on their child! Without parent expertise, we would be without the wealth of knowledge that comes from spending every day with the children we support. So that brings me to the most important thing I’ve learned during my time at PlayWorks –

Therapists and families form one big team!  Therapists are there to provide intervention, support, home programming, ideas, progress, and expertise. Families are there to provide fun, home practice, insight, and expertise!

It has been such a joy working with all of the families and therapists I’ve met during my time here. As I move on to my next adventure in Austin, Texas, I go with a smile on my face thinking of all the progress I’ve seen and fun I’ve had. Thank you to everyone at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc., and thank you to the families for sometimes being our experts!

Leanne Sherred, MS, SLP-CF

Fun Fall Arts and Crafts

Here are some easy and creative activities you can make at home to practice matching with your children this fall!

Popsicle Stick Puzzles

  • Line up and tape five to six large wooden popsicle sticks together on the back to create a little puzzle board.Picture1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Paint the other side of the popsicle sticks or use markers to create a simple picture and let dry. Get creative! For a fall theme, you can draw pumpkins, apples, or a spooky ghost!
  • Once dry, take the tape off of the back of your puzzle pieces and play!

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This is a great way to get your little one to work on problem solving in addition to working on matching of pictures and colors. For older children, you can help them learn to spell their names or other words by writing a letter on each popsicle stick!

Pumpkin Shape Matching

  • Draw or print out a pumpkin on paper or cardstock (cardstock and lamination is recommended if you plan on using it more than once)
  • Draw shapes on the pumpkin with a black marker to create a face
  • Cut corresponding shapes out of black construction paper (again, cardstock and laminate to use again!)
  • Use tape or sticky velcro on the back of the shapes
  • Provide shapes for your child to match the pumpkin’s “face”

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To make it more challenging or to incorporate movement, print out a few pumpkins with different shapes on each and post them on the wall in your play area. Allow your child to choose a shape and find which pumpkin it matches! This activity will encourage matching and problem solving – and it’s a great indoor activity that gets your child up and moving when stuck inside on cool fall days!

Pumpkin Face Matching

  • Print out several (5 or so) simple pictures of pumpkins with different jack-o-lantern faces.

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  • Using construction paper or colored felt, cut out a large pumpkin outline and different styles of eyes/mouths based on the simple pictures of the different jack-o-lantern faces.
  • Have your child select one jack-o-lantern and select the correct features to make that face.

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Not only is this a great activity to practice matching, but it is also good for shape recognition. You can also incorporate number concepts by encouraging your child to count the pieces used for each face.

Kimberly Shlaes, MAT, DT

Fall Family Fun!

Last fall, I brought my Goddaughter and her younger sister to an amazing apple orchard/pumpkin patch called All Seasons Orchard in Woodstock, Illinois. In addition to the apple orchard, All Seasons has a corn maze, tractor and pony rides, a petting zoo, a mini zip line, tube slides and multiple bouncy houses! It is about an hour outside of Chicago, but well worth the drive! Whether you make it out to All Seasons or find an apple orchard closer to the city, check out these awesome ways to support your child’s speech and language development on your fall outings:

Vocabulary: Label both the familiar and novel items you encounter on your outing, and talk about ways to describe the new objects (big/little, soft/hard, wet/dry, etc.). You can easily teach and reinforce animal names at the petting zoo; fruits, veggies and other food labels at the country store; parts of a tree in the apple orchard; etc. Use the object labels frequently to reinforce their meaning:

“Look! A big leaf. My leaf is red. What color is your leaf? My leaf feels crunchy.”

Following simple directions: Target two skills at once by giving your child a direction using familiar attributes, such as “Put one apple in the red basket” or “Give the little pumpkin to your brother.”

Increase expressive language: There are many fun and exciting activities at the apple orchard that will have your child communicating like you’ve never seen before! If you are working on sign language, encourage requesting ‘more’ or ‘help’ for picking more apples, going down the slide, or jumping in the bouncy house, for example. If you are working on simple one- to three-word phrases, expand on your child’s utterance by one word and encourage them to imitate your model:

Child: “More!” or “Go horsie!”

Adult model: “More slide!” or “Go on horsie!”

Basic concepts: Teach basic preschool concepts, such as colors, shapes, numbers, etc. by identifying objects throughout the orchard. A simple way to target these skills is by playing “I Spy…” Encourage your child to find what you label and help them come up with their own objects for you to find!

If you would like more information on All Seasons, you can check out their website: http://www.allseasonsorchard.com/

Happy Picking!

Autumn Smith, MS, CCC-SLP