Thursday, November 17, 2011

Have you heard about Nuffield?

If you as a speech therapist/teacher haven't heard about The Nuffield Centre Dyspraxia Programme (NDP3) as yet you need to ask someone quickly!

I learnt about and used Nuffield in grad school. My favourite tutor believed in the programme, particularly for use with children with Cleft Palate, and she passed that obsession with the program onto me. I use it pretty much every day for children with a range of speech disorders, and the images of "Popeye picking poppies" never get old (If you've used Nuffield you know what I mean).

The NDP3 website summarises the program as:
  • suitable for any child with a speech disorder.
  • a complete resource, spanning pre-speech to connected speech levels.
  • Provides for parental/school involvement in therapy.
  • most suitable for the 3-7 year age range but can be adapted for younger and older children.
  • Affords great therapeutic flexibility.
  • Provides detailed guidance on planning and management.
  • Is 'clinician-friendly.'
  • Ensures that therapy remains fresh, engaging and stimulating.
What I love about it is that it is a complete program, from assessment to intervention. It allows you to move from sounds in isolation to connected speech, giving guidelines all the way. The sound sequencing pages are perfect for children with CAS! What's also important is that the phrases and sentences are functional; working on negatives, possessives, everyday phrases etc. The sound stories are also fun! Check out the sample pages!

My only criticisms however, were that I would have loved the pics in colour, and a way to edit them to get specific sounds/words for each individual child.

You could imagine then, that when I heard about their new speech builder I was over the moon.

It has all the pictures from the Nuffield Program PLUS Jolly Phonics pictures! (Yea I got a bit excited there) and it allows you create your own worksheets, customise, and colour as you so desire. Needless to say I have been using it constantly in therapy. I've been even incorporating worksheet making into sessions, and the children love being able to create their own 'speech pages.'

All the info you need to know about the NDP3 Speech Builder (including demo video) can be found at, and the original Nuffield at

Let me know if and how you're using Nuffield in therapy and what you think of the new program!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It's App Time! Giveaway Inside

I know, I know it has been a while since my last post. I'm very ashamed about that, but things have been super hectic. I started two new jobs this September; one in a special school and the other in an autism unit at another school. Exhausting but I love it.

The super, excellent news is that I have created an app, available for iphone, ipod touch and ipad. After working 4 long hard months with developer Kevin Hinkson of Coralstone Communications the app was released to the itunes store on Monday October 31st 2011. The app is called EasyConcepts and can be found here .

It's an idea I've had in my head for a long time, after looking for countless ways to teach those early concepts that we assess on the CELF Preschool, such as biggest and smallest, before and after, first and last. Those two and three step directions are also quite difficult to target in therapy. I would usually put a bunch of animals on the table and go through "First touch the bear, next touch the lion, last touch the zebra etc." I thought to myself "This would be perfect as an app for children to play on the ipad." No one was creating it, so I did.

Testing it on the children in my private practice really inspired me. Their enthusiasm for "the jungle game" got me so excited about how it would benefit children, parents and therapists worldwide. What fascinated me even more was when I started to see improvements from week to week in their performance, and generalisation to other activities! I don't have a large enough sample or the control conditions to say this was a direct result of the app, but if there are improvements I'm pleased as a therapist.

What I also liked about the app was that it wasn't made to only target children with special needs. Siblings and family members enjoyed it and it required special attention and listening skills from typically developing children as well (particularly the before and after section).

I've created two pages where you can find out more about the app, special promotions and giveaways etc. You can follow @EasySpeakApps on twitter or like EasySpeak Apps on our facebook page .

I can't wait to hear your feedback on the app.

Now for our first giveaway:
I've created a printable resource called "Whose home," which looks at matching animals to their homes. It looks great when printed and laminated. To enter the giveaway you have to:

1. Like EasySpeak Apps on facebook
2. Post on our page saying how you think the app would help your children/patients.
3. Share EasySpeak Apps page on your wall.

The first 10 people to do this will receive our "Whose Home" printable and 2 lucky persons will win a free copy of the "EasyConcepts" App.

Here is a video of the app in action.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Another Whiteboard Idea

(A quick, yet hopefully helpful, interruption to my camp posts)

I've realised recently that many children with language delay have difficulty talking about the home. Areas of difficulty seem to be questions such as:
  • What are the different rooms?
  • What kinds of furniture/items do you find in each room?
  • What are some of the actions that you do in each room? etc.
I had a 5 year old who, when asked to tell me some of the things he might find in the bathroom, could only name his bath toys. I found this quite interesting, as these rooms, and the items within them form part of our daily living and interaction.

After some careful thought, I got to work yesterday doing some drawing on my whiteboard, and some printing cutting and laminating. My final product looked like this (please don't laugh I am not an artist):
I found some cliparts of furniture and different objects for each room, printed, cut, laminated, and stuck magnetic backing on them. Children today got to pull each object from the bag and say which room it belonged to then stick it on. They really enjoyed this. Some of the questions that came up in addition to the above ones included:
  • How are the kitchen and bathroom same/different?
  • Why wouldn't you put the toilet in the living room, bed in the kitchen etc?
  • Function questions for each object pulled.
  • What other items might you find in the bedroom, living room, etc?
  • If you wanted to bake a cake which room would you go to (and similar questions)?
I also recently found an amazing app called My Play Home, which is the best $2.99 I have ever spent. It allows you to interact with objects in different rooms across the house and I'm amazed every time I use it with clients. It's the one app they always ask for. My favourite part is getting the family to eat all the food in the kitchen :).

Let me know if you try out the house on the magnetic whiteboard, and as usual if you email me I can send you the furniture and items I found online so you can save on some of the prep work.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Water World (Camp Week 2)

If you thought Camp Week 1 was fun. Week 2 was even better!

All activities were planned around a 'water' theme and each day ended with waterplay in my big turtle sand/water pit. This was definitely the highlight of the day. At the end of each day I was soaked, which was a sure sign that everyone had fun.

Our story for the week was from an interactive app called "I Like Water" by grasshopper apps. This was a great one for showing all the different places you could find water. Circle time also included songs such as "If all the raindrops", "Row row row your boat", "This is the way we wash our hands" etc.

As you may remember from previous posts the camp was broken
into 5 groups. Many activities were the same or quite similar across groups this week. The first section focused on direct speech & language tasks, while the second section was waterplay. Each child was asked to bring a water toy for 'show and tell', then everyone got to share and take turns with all of the toys.

Explorers & Busy Bees

Water Listening Bingo - Listening for the name of the water related picture (Swimming pool, tap, toilet etc.) and covering it with a magnetic (chipper chat) chip, then picking up all at the end with the magnetic wand. I also asked questions like "What does it look like?" "Where would you find it?" etc.

Water actions card game- This one was my favourite, as it worked on building vocab, sentence structure and pronouns in one activity. Each child had 8 cards with pictures of people doing actions related to the water theme (fishing, drinking, surfing etc.). I put down a card and said the full sentence e.g "He is drinking water". The first person to find his matching card and say the full sentence correctly won the round and got a sticker on his card. Everyone else got a stamp on their card after for saying the sentence with or without prompting. I modified this a bit with the Busy bees according to language level.

Yes and No questions- I used the same action pictures to work on answering yes/no questions using either speech or some form of AAC.

Prepositions- Under the sea magnetic puzzle: Fishing for sea creature then putting them on vs under bowl.

Skill Builders
Listening bingo (higher level)- Similar to earlier task but finding the correct picture in response to description clues.

'Wh' waterdrops- Another favourite of mine. I put short passages on waterdrops and cut out and laminated them. I then punched holes in each waterdrop. The children answered 'wh' questions about each passage then strung them onto a piece of twine and tied it together. They really loved this one.


Silly splashing-Target sound /k/: Each child took turns throwing items that began with /k/ into the water (cat, cow, corn, key etc.). Then said "uh oh, the ..... fell into the water" "silly.....". This brought lots of giggles.

They also played water bingo, focusing on each child's target sounds.
Another enjoyable week, with many skills gained while having fun.

If any of you readers would like any of the picture materials I mentioned e.g listening bingo, action pictures, etc. Feel free to email me at

Coming next....Movement week!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Camping we will go! (2) - Camping Theme

Our theme for our first week of camp was "Camping Out." The format was pretty much the same across groups (See previous post for the group makeup), with circle time to start, followed by a focused speech & language task (worksheet etc) then an art & craft activity. Here is the breakdown of our activities for each group, with some pictures and resources. I used this site quite a bit for ideas and resources.

Circle Time (Around the pretend campfire)
Ipad story "Our camping trip" with questions
Song: A camping we will go

Following Directions:
Camping worksheet from "Say and Glue Language for Listening" by Super Super
Vocab Guessing game: What am I? for camping items

Art & Craft
Colouring and making binoculars out of card, then going on a nature walk talking about what we saw.

Circle time
Around the campfire with musical instruments, playing along to "She'll be coming round the mountain, then switching and requesting another instrument using, gesture, PECS, vocalisation etc.

Look and find camping scene with bears (Not sure where I got it but was glad to find it on my harddrive). Pointing to the object named within the scene (very simple objects like boat, bear etc).
Artic focus- sticking something beginning with each child's target sound on the camping scene.

Art & Craft

Nature walk to find different leaves, then doing leaf rubbings on paper

(Unfortunately I forgot to take pics on this day)

Busy Bees
Almost Identical Activities to Explorers, only change is we did a listening bingo for camping pictures, then worked on prepositions with a big tent that was set up.

Skill Builders
Circle Time
Camping story with Ipad
Going on a bear hunt action rhyme
I'm going camping and I'm going to take...... memory game

Therasimplicity camping scene for barrier game. I played a listening and following directions game where I handed out different pictures to the children then gave directions like " If you have a green sleeping bag put it next to the campfire". This was a fun one.

Guess what? game, where each child came up and described a camping picture shown to him and the others had to guess what it was.

Art & Craft
Camping scene photo frame with mixed media (tent opens to reveal photo).

Circle time: What noises can we make in the forest (sound sequencing)
Story time (Artic camping story from book, I think it's linguisytems)

working on individual sounds and sticking on camping scene
/s/ blends activity on pathway

Art & Craft
Creating camping scene, then sticking /s/ blends path on scene.

See, I told you it was fun.
Look out for our waterplay week coming soon!

A Camping we will go!

Hello Hello!

I know I have been away for a while. My twitter followers know that I have been promising to write a new blog post for months now, but life and procrastination have gotten in the way. Anyway the good news is that I'm here and IT'S SUMMER!!!!

This summer the Easy Speak clinic has been transformed into Camp Easyspeak, where groups come in for therapy from 9-11am and engage in activities around various themes each week. We have just completed our 3rd week of camp and I am EXHAUSTED having a great time. The children are definitely enjoying it and showing such great improvements in their speech and language skills, and parents are happy so I'm happy. I love group therapy, since the children really motivate each other and you see all these new personalities that you don't get to experience in a 45 min individual session.

I've really been brainstorming and using lots of different online resources to make activities fun and interesting and keep our campers engaged and happy. I'd really like to go into detail in a few more posts about what we've been doing during sessions and offering ideas for group therapy. This post, however, you may think of as a teaser, just a bit of an overview of our activities.
Camp is broken up into different groups, who come different days across the week.

  • Monday: Explorers; 4 boys, ages 3-4yo with mild expressive and receptive language delay.
  • Tuesday:Discoverers; 3 girls and 2 boys with severe delays. Diagnoses include low functioning ASD, Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum.
  • Wednesday: Busy Bees; 4 boys aged 2-4yo with moderate to severe receptive and expressive language delay, social skills deficits, and behavioural challenges. Diagnoses include "mild autism", PDD-NOS and new CI user.
  • Thursday: Skill Builders ; 6 boys aged 5-7, all with suspected or diagnosed high functioning ASD.
  • Friday: Adventurers; 3 boys and 2 girls with Phonological Disorders, some with suspected CAS.
Our theme has been the same across groups for each week.
Week 1: Camping theme
Week 2: Water
Week 3: Movement
and our theme for next week is going to be food.

It has been amazing to watch these children work together and interact so well with each other. This particularly with the discoverers who I was a bit hesitant to place together initially, but have created a wonderful group dynamic.

This is our first real " camp" experience at the Easy Speak Clinic and I anticipate bigger and better things to come in the future.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My New Favourite Therapy Tool

Hey everyone!

First of all I'd like to thank you all for your feedback on my last blog post "Green Analogies". I really appreciate it and am glad that you liked my random ramblings. I was able to draw reference to the analogy last night, as I gave a talk to a church congregation on children's speech and language development, and it was well received :)

Those who have been following my blog, would know that I love making resources, and I love when therapy tools can be used for a range of topics. Last week I bought my most useful therapy tool so far: my magnetic white board. It was on sale too!

Everyone loves it and I've been trying to find lots of different ways to use it in therapy. This was aided by my trusty laminator and some adhesive magnetic strip.

I wanted to share with my readers some of the cool uses of my new companion:

This one worked on categorising sky, sea and land, as both a receptive and an expressive task.

This next one is my favourite, as I love the "Five little monkeys" rhyme. The children love that Mr. Crocodile can actually snatch the monkeys off the "tree".

The next one I adapted from a file folder game which works on big and little. Children have to choose the big or little object called, then put it on the appropriate side of the board.

Another one I made up on the spot was for prepositions 'on' vs 'under', which worked a lot better than I thought.
It also came in handy when I had to quickly draw some minimal pairs for /s/ and /n/ in final position, but those ones I definitely won't dare to share (they were ridiculed enough during the session).

These are my newest resources so far for my white board, but I have a few running around in my head which I will try to make over the next week, and share as an update to this post.

I want to hear from you readers. Do you use white boards in therapy? How do you use them?

Thanks for reading :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Green Analogies

These past few weeks I have been trying my hand at gardening. My mum has a green thumb (see above pic), so I've been wondering if it was in the genes. I bought a subscription to Martha Stewart Magazine and my everyday vocabulary is now filled with words such as seedlings, trellis and all sorts of "garden related" terms. My vegetable garden has started with beans, snow peas, jalapeƱo peppers, cilantro, and red onions. Every morning I'm out in my garden, admiring the half inch of growth since the previous day, pulling the one weed that's trying to grow up, showing my neighbours and anyone who passes by. I show parents when they come to sessions and have pictures in my phone to show anyone who will listen to my garden stories (and humour me). Yes, I'm a proud mama!

While talking to my plants each day I've been doing some thinking about plant growth and making comparisons to children's language development. Now I've been making parents look through the window at my up and coming gardens for a new reason. It's a really nice visual to provide parents with an analogy on children's language.

I planted all of my seeds on the same day, but as you might be able to see in the pic below, some of them sprouted and grew before the others. The beans sprouted quickly and were up in the air in no time, while I was just staring hopefully at empty beds for a while before I saw even a glimpse of coriander or peppers. Even amongst the beans som
e were growing faster than others. They were receiving the same conditions, nurtured in the same environment, but growing at different rates.

When we look at children's language development, we may have a group of children who are the same age, who have similar nurturing environments, however some may be developing language quickly, whereas for whatever reason some may have delayed language. Som
e plants, like my red onions, may need a bit of a push, or some extra help (e.g fertiliser/plant food) getting them to where we want them to be, wh
ile in the same way parents may need to provide more focused language input or bring them to us friendly, lovable speech therapists, who provide that extra 'nurturing'.

Sometimes we need to ask an expert about what is typical or atypical for growth and development. We may need some assurance that everything is following its natural course of development and just requires time, or someone to highlight the red flags to show that something might be wrong and more needs to be done.

My mum has been my expert gardener, and after dragging her out to my garden yesterday in despair, she shared something with me that I had to share with a parent today. She told me:
"All plants are different; you need to stop comparing them to the other plants and look at what is happening to each individual one. You were so busy focusing on how tall the beans were growing past the others, that you didn't even realise that the cilantro plants have sent out new leaves"

This was true, I had failed to realise that the seedlings which initially looked like little weeds, were now starting to push out new leaves in the middl
e that actually looked like real cilantro leaves. My mothers words reminded me of what I tell parents constantly. Stop focusing on what John and Jane are doing, and look at your child's individual gains, look at his strengths and what he is now able to do that he could not do 2 months ago. You may miss out on some of the most important communication achievements. Words from my garden :)

The last analogy came to me this afternoon, when I looked outside and saw all of my pea plants almost lying on the ground.

I dragged mum outside again (yea she's getting very tired of me and this garden) who showed me that they were not dying to get back at me for talking to the beans more, but actually searching for a support system. In this case our neighbour's fence was the closest thing so they were headed for that. She noted that some plants, although they were growing, needed some type of device to help support their growth and to help them flourish. This evening we made a makeshift trellis or augmentative device to help with their growth. The acronym AAC was going off in my head as she told me this, as we can use these devices to supplement and enhance language development in children. Definitely another one to share with parents.

So there you have my 'little garden that could' and my speech and language therapy ramblings as I pretend to be Martha Stewart. Now to find a way to use it in direct therapy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A new reason to buy Shoes!!!!

(My Dream Shoe, by Michael Kors)

I love shoes! Just as much as I love shopping for shoes!And you may be asking yourself "what does this have to do with speech & language therapy?"
Well my friends, these two actually go hand in hand, and I promise you'll leave this blog post with a new rationalization for the shoe shopping you do this Easter weekend.

The thing is, after you slip those sparkling, sexy heels on, there's a great therapy resource lying on the floor longing to become one of your prized clinical tools....."the shoebox!"
I started making shoebox therapy tools late last year, when I was looking for a
new way to work on following directions. We had used larger boxes in grad school clinics to make the ever popular posting boxes, but I was looking for something smaller, that could be more easily stored. Thank goodness I had just bought a new pair of pumps. What I made ended up looking like this:

and the children loved it, even more than I had anticipated. I stuck the pictures on, then used a craft knife to cut holes for the mouths. Children are asked to feed pictures of food to the dog vs the frog, and when they put the picture in they are rewarded by a shaking box, and lots of hungry eating noises. For early vocabulary and sentence building I encourage "eat frog", "dog is eating", "the dog is eating icecream", etc, depending on level. I also use it to post artic or language pics, using the same concept of the posting box.

The next way I use my boxes is for categorisation and sorting, particularly with children on the Autistic spectrum. This, however, isn't an original idea, as I
have seen a similar concept on I have about 3 of these, working on sorting colours, frogs vs turtles and animals vs food, into different containers in the shoebox. These containers fit nicely into holes cut out with my handy craft knife.
Unfortunately most of my boxes are on loan right now to clients, but I have half a box, so to speak, to give an example.

This box is an all time favourite of a little boy with ASD, and at one point was the only real motivator for him in therapy. It was actually the first item I used to teach him PECS.
The original concept was taking the beads out and matching them to the 3 pipe cleaners by colour (red, green, yellow). As you can see he reaaalllyyyy loved this box and used it well. I think it's definitely time to make a new one, which also means it's time for some shoe shopping (see how this works ladies?).

I encourage you this weekend, for the sake of therapy and to really enhance your clinical practice, to go out and buy some shoes. Your clients will thank you for it.

Happy Easter everyone :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011


It has been a tiring two weeks! It has also been fun times at the Easyspeak Clinic!
The children were on an early easter break from school, and I took that time to do something that I've been thinking about and planning for a while now. "Camp Easyspeak" comprised of 2 groups, one social skills group for children with ASD (higher functioning), and a phonology group.

The social skills group was more of my pet project and I was beside myself with happiness to see it actually come off perfectly. This group consisted of 4 boys ages 5-7, who came on Thursdays from 9-11 am. The phono group came on Fridays 9-11 am, and consisted of 2 boys and 2 girls ages 3-5.
For both groups children participated in teamwork activities, arts and craft and free play, working around certain themes.

The phono group went through cycles of some of the sounds they were doing with me in therapy, around an Easter theme. We ended up with some interesting projects like the one below: "Attack of the eggheads!"

I wanted to share more with my readers on my social skills group, and recommend it to any therapist. I was so impressed with how well the boys worked together on all the activities. They were completely different children compared to their 45 minute individual sessions.

I wanted the parents to be fully informed about what was happening at the group, so I gave them a handout that showed what we were working on and what language/social skills areas the task focused on. An example of this can be viewed here.

I made every action and interaction a language/social skills task, from putting down bags, to greetings, to eating snack, to clean up time. There were 2 teams, who were responsible for different tasks around the camp area. We were set up outside on the deck, which provided lots of space for them to move around and an outdoor atmosphere that wasn't too distracting.

One of the most effective tools was my behaviour chart, which had visuals for appropriate behaviours, and gave points for these behaviours. Every 4 ticks got a sticker, which worked very well , as the boys were trying really hard to get their Spongebob stickers. The visuals for the behaviour chart I found at, one of my favourite sites for FREE language and behaviour resources.

Our 2 main activites were "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" sequencing activity, which also incorporated listening for details and 'wh' questions; then our following directions task to make an easter bunny. These were lots of fun and a lot easier than I had expected. Some of the boys really stepped up and offered help to the others, and it was nice to see some asking for help. They made me proud.

All of the parents were very pleased with the groups, and have been asking when the next one is planned for :)

Try it out at your clinic and let me know how it goes :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I remember my grandmother's stroke.
Almost like it was yesterday, and not 12 years ago.
A memory so vivid that I can recall the finest details; the heat of the day, my mother hanging the washing on the line.....washing left in a moment's panic after realising that this was no ordinary day of ordinary chores....
Something had changed, and we were never going to be the same again.
Most importantly I remember the day before, because this was the last day I had a conversation with my grandmother, at least one which made sense.
We talked and joked, and she imparted words of wisdom, taken for granted at the time, but which became so cherished after that.

I remember that phone call, which didn't quite make sense. I was greeted with words, but that's all they were.
Just strings of words carelessly thrown together, flowing from nowhere
No sense.......nonsense.
"Gran, you're not making sense, what's going on?"

"Mum, talk to Gran-Gran, something's wrong"

And so began a whirlwind of events, of tears, of confusion.
A new string of words which made no sense being thrown at me: stroke, hospital, damage to brain...
When all I wanted to hear was the conversation of the day before....words of wisdom, never to be uttered again.
I remember watching her become a shell of herself.
Struggling to say things, to remember things and people, and moments, but nothing coming out right.
I remember wondering what was going on inside her brain.
Where were those pieces that made her who she was?
That made her able to sit and talk and laugh with me and tell me stories about the 'old time days.'
How could all that be lost in a moment?
She was there sitting in front of me, yet I had lost her forever.

On reflection there had never been any mention of a speech therapist.
No one to come and explain language centres, and talk about words like 'aphasia'.
No one to try to help with her comprehension or expression......
To put her back together again.
It was just accepted that this was who she was, and that nothing more could be done.

When my grandmother died a year or so later there wasn't that overwhelming grief that would have been expected, for it was like she had already died on the day of that phone call. I had already lost her then.

Funny enough this wasn't the driving force to make me want to become a speech therapist. It was actually what made me shy away from wanting to work with adults. I felt that every patient who came in with an aphasia would make me relive that moment again, would bring back that feeling of loss I felt on that day.
I can't say it wasn't difficult initially, but after a while it did become a motivator for me.
If I could be that person to bring some clarity to a 14 year old girl about why she could no longer share the same conversations that she used to with her grandmother.
If I could help a grandmother, a grandfather, a parent regain some language skills, or create some bridge to the gaping communication gap in this new, confusing life......
........then I would have made the difference I may have needed 12 years ago.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

So much more than words on a page

The More that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go
-Dr. Seuss

"Come let me take you on a journey; to teach you, to fascinate you, to engage you. To keep you wanting more of the knowledge within, the new experiences, surprises, fun, laughter. Come read with me. "

This is the message that we should be relaying to a child every time we open a book*.
As a therapist I have always valued books as essential components in not only literacy development, but in language building, vocabulary enhancement, increasing moments of engagement, building social interaction skills, and many other areas of a child's development. I try to encourage all of my parents to read to their children and, most importantly, make it an interactive experience. I am sometimes amazed at the responses I get to this request:

"He's too young to read"

"She's not going to sit still to look at a book"

"He doesn't like books/ He's just not interested"

"I really don't have the time to read to her"

....and the list goes on

After hearing these responses I have made it a personal goal to ensure that all parents who receive services from my practice are reading with their children, and reading effectively. I have started coaching and providing feedback for parents on how to make it an interactive experience, and want to also share this with my readers.
Reading is so much more than words on a page. You can go through a book from cover to cover and have a great experience, without even looking at any words. Want to see this in action? Ask a 3 year old to read a book to you. They will use picture cues, imagination, everything to tell you their interpretation of the story.
It's all about the experience with your child as you go through the book, look at pictures, talk about what you are both seeing and experiencing, and open up a new world for him/her.

How do I make it interesting?

  • First by not making it seem like a punishment. Many parents tend to use a book as a 'quiet period' if a child seems too active. A book may seem like an easy escape to some peace and quiet in the house. However, to a child "Stop running around, come get a book" may cause the book to be perceived as something negative which they get when they have to stop an enjoyable activity. Incorporate book time into your daily routine as a fun, comfortable moment of interaction, with no negative connotations. Some parents note that the 'bath-book-bed' sequence usually works well to provide a good time for the 'book experience.'

  • By making the book come alive. In therapy I show parents how to make a book seem like the most interesting thing in the world. With my little ones I like to peek inside, give a very dramatic gasp with a very excited expression, then close it again. I do this a couple times until interest is piqued then I encourage them to open and see what I've found. I also do this when it's time to turn the page, or if there's something hiding under the flap (Lift-the-flap books are actually my favourite kinds). The key here is to have no fear of being silly. Children love it when therapists are silly, and they will love it just as much when their parents are. Giving voices to the characters, making sound effects, using exaggerated facial expressions, making the book move like the events of the book all help to grasp children's attention and keep them engaged. Turning the book into a cause and effect activity where you make a noise whenever he/she touches the page also helps hold interest and adds to the fun.
With older children I tend to use books geared towards their interests and give an interesting promo for it. "I've got the coolest, most super book about Thomas the Train and his friends and you wouldn't believe what happened.... Let's look and find out!" If there is some hesitation or frustration around reading it's good to provide lots of encouragement and ease pressures around this area " It's okay, I can help you if you get stuck," or " You don't have to read the words, you can be Thomas and I'll tell you what to say." Remember that older ones still like it when parents are silly and provide sound effects, just as much as the little ones.

How do I use it for language development?

The shared experience of books is great for language development in children of all ages. For babies it is a good method to help with localisation to sound, listen to changes in intonation patterns and provide exposure to the sounds of their native language. Babies are also great observers, and they take in everything from the world around them, so introducing them to pictures and early words and concepts from a very young age is a nice early addition to their language development. Some nice simple tips on reading to your baby can be found at

Reading also promotes the development of preverbal communication skills such as attention to objects, particularly shared attention. This is a key element in language development where the parent and child are looking at the same thing at the same time while the parent provides language around it. It can also encourage imitation skills, where the parent touches a picture or makes a noise around the picture and encourages the child to do the same.
Also important in preverbal communication are turntaking skills, which move from taking turns in an activity to taking turns in verbal interaction. Parents may need to pause and wait a little longer than might feel comfortable for a child to take his/her turn in the interaction.

In terms of direct language building there are so many ways to use the book experience to promote the development of content, structure and use of language. There is constant exposure to new vocabulary, parents should use this to their advantage, especially when it comes to building a first word lexicon. My favourite article is which has a comprehensive but not exhaustive list of first words, and books which can be used to encourage these.

Parents can build auditory comprehension for pictures by playing the 'touch the...' game, where they encourage children to touch the picture for the word presented, followed by lots of praise.
They can talk about what they see on the page, but can then take it a step up (according to the child's language capabilities) and go beyond the page. They can:
  • Group them into categories: " Look here's a cow, and a sheep, these are animals, can you find some more animals?"
  • Relate them to events that happened in the past "Remember we saw a big balloon at Jane's party?"
  • Talk about early concepts "This is a blue ball, where's the red ball?", "The dog is under the table," "This car is big and this is little."
  • Ask 'wh' questions "What is that?" "What is he doing?" "Where is the truck?" "When do you see the moon?" "Why is he going in there" "What do you think is going to happen next?" (Again depending on the child's language level).
  • Encourage story retells. Narrative development is an essential component of language development and a good precursor to literacy development. Encourage children to tell the story or retell one that has just been read.
The focus here is more on language development than literacy development, but I still want to stress the importance of shared reading in the development of phonological awareness skills such as rhyming, syllable and sound identification and syllable and sound blending and segmentation.

Where do I start?
With a fun, colourful, interesting looking book that you think your child might be interested in. Try different books to find your child's likes and dislikes. Choose a quiet time in a comfortable place. Be open and welcoming and give lots of praise. Get ready to give lots of language input, but more importantly to have fun. Don't forget to put your silly cap on and be ready to introduce your child to the wonderful world of books.

* I use the term 'book' loosely, as with new advances in technology this can refer to any type of media.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Hello and a Happy New Year to everyone!

I'm back from a way too long hiatus, where I've been doing some serious procrastination with regards to updating my blog. It has been on my fancy 'to-do list' since the beginning of the year and look, one month late, here I am! While I was gone I was cruising around the Caribbean (and gaining 15 lbs while at it) and when I returned I took a huge step....I opened my own private practice. It's quite small scale to start, operating from home and doing some home and school visits, but I'm really enjoying it. I'll update you on its progress as I go through the year.

Tonight's post is about my favourite christmas present, the ipad :)

I am now officially addicted to the ipad! as a personal tool and more importantly as a therapy tool. The number of apps available for use in therapy is amazing and the children love them. It has really brought a new life to my therapy sessions. The key for those searching for apps is to not only search for those labels specific to therapy like "speech therapy" or "autism" (while they return good results too). Try searches like 'preschool', 'phonics', 'routines', 'animals' to get some fun finds. I think I get approximately 4 new apps a week (mix of paid and free) to work with in therapy. I love that I can use it with everyone, from my toddlers to my adults.
Here is how I incorporate a few of the apps into my therapy sessions:

Welcomes and warm ups:
With the younger ones I tend to start with a song. My favourite for this is the very interative "Wheels on the bus HD", which appeals to the older children as well. I also like to use the "Routines" app, which makes morning routines visual and exciting. I tend to do some voiceovers and actions with this one ("wash hands, brush teeth" etc).
For warmups with older children I've fallen in love with the cute lovable monster Grover in his interactive storybook "The Monster at the end of this book", which never ceases to make me....err I mean the children giggle.

A great activity for vocab building, as well as following directions and auditory memory is "Animal Train", where children have to listen carefully for the animals to put in the train. I had feedback from a parent who was amazed that her son pointed out an iguana on television, a word that he had learnt previously from animal train.

Cookie Doodle is another favourite, where children "make" cookies from "scratch". The best part is adding all the ingredients (tilt and shake ipad to pour and shake etc), and then eating the cookie at the end. It's really good for sequencing and vocab building.

I've just started using Guess Em, a type of 'Guess Who' game for question structures and problem solving with a little boy who also has an ipad, and that has been going well.

I also enjoy 'Who's Hiding', and use it both as a language tool and a reinforcer. Children love swiping away the blanket to find the animal hiding underneath. I use it as a cause effect tool for toddlers, as a 'guess who's hiding' game for older ones and as a sentence builder- "The elephant is hiding under the blanket". Children also enjoy swiping the blanket across as a reward for completing tasks.

Another app I use as a cause and effect tool is "Toy phone", which gives sounds for animals, vehicles and musical instruments.

Artic and Phonology
I've been trialling "ArtikPix" for artic and I find it quite useful to carry, especially when I'm visiting schools. I'm also trialling "All about Sounds" with a little one.
I've found a nice therapy tool in Goodreader, which although not a fun app itself, allows me to carry the pdf versions of my artic and phono books around and view them on my ipad, which is pretty neat.

These are only a snippet, and I will review more as I go on, but I must say the ipad is the best thing to happen to technology. Thanks Apple :)