The Speech Newsletter: Low Tech Edition

Last month, we shared our favorite apps (Robyn’s List | Brook’s List) to help entice and excite your child or students, but this month we thought that we would take it back to some “old school” ideas and go “low tech”. Robyn has come up with a great way to still excite your child or student, but no iPad or computers are needed. These are great ideas to help you and your child find ways to work on speech and language skills without much effort and it can be a great way to have your child take part in their own progress. You can make each new activity a new challenge for your child. And once you get the hang of it, you and your child can come up with your own ideas to add to the bowl!

If you are like most of us, this is how your day gets divided up. Between all of the other things that you have to do, it is hard to find the time to work on your child’s speech and language “work”. Hopefully with the use of the fish bowl ideas, and some helpful tips below, you will be able to see how to incorporate these things into everyday activities…even laundry!

These are some tips to help make the most of your fish bowl activities, and any other “teachable moments” that you might find during the day:

Use the “Rule of 3” when you are asking your child to imitate or practice a new skill- If you ask your child more than 3 times to try something new, you are either going to lose their attention after the second request or make them frustrated by the third.
Give your child time to respond- we are always moving so quickly, but sometimes if we just slow down a little and actually wait for a response to a question, we might just get it. Some children need a little extra time to process verbal information, so give them that time and allow them to respond when they are ready, not when you are

Set your child up for success not failure: when you want your child to practice a new speech or language skill in a “real” situation, be sure to set up the situation in order for them to be successful in their attempt. If you want your child to use that great new “S” sound, don’t ask him to order spaghetti with spicy sauce at the Italian restaurant….you can ask him in front of the waitress if he would like spaghetti to which he can respond with a beautiful “YES”!

Have your child practice when she doesn’t know she is: when you learn to incorporate some of the fish bowl ideas into your daily activities, your child isn’t always aware that she is practicing a particular skill. When she comes to you looking for that specific Barbie that she can’t find in the box full of Barbies, use that opportunity to work on her describing skills by asking her to tell you 3 things about that particular Barbie…she is “blond, beautiful and a doctor”….perfect!

Fill a fishbowl or jar with all of these ideas (Tips of the Day from Advantage Speech Therapy Service’s Facebook page) or more of your own – so that when you are looking for something to do, you can easily reference an idea. Write the date you worked on it on the back and a (+) or (-) on how they did (i.e. if they mastered the skill or if they need more work) so you can know how long it was between and how they did from one date to the next…

Over 30 days worth of ideas…

  1. When working with your kids on their speech goals, don’t feel overwhelmed that you need to work on it non-stop. Create a balance for both you and your child. Start by focusing on a few times throughout the day – breakfast, bath time, car rides or at the grocery store. Eventually you will realize that it will become second nature to pose questions, make corrections and address their goals at various times of the day without even realizing it.
  2. If you have a child with pronoun confusion, use a catalog/magazine/newspaper to talk about what you see the people doing. Examples, “He is eating cereal.” or “They are walking in the park” etc. It will also address vocabulary including actions/verbs and sentence construction at the same time!! If your child is not at the point of making sentences on his/her own, you can lead them with part of the sentence and see if they can finish it!
  3. Play “I spy” as you are driving down the road. “I spy something…”…have your child guess what it could be (inside or outside the car). Keep guessing. If they need a hint, give a hint but don’t give away the answer! Once the answer is revealed, switch turns! This will work not only on turn-taking and vocabulary but more specifically problem solving and using adjectives and/or verbs as well as asking questions. So many great outcomes for such a simple game!
  4. Walk around house (or go for a walk outside) and find items that start with a letter or letter sound or are part of a category. Consider a sound that your child may have in error and focus on those words.
  5. Understanding the concept of same and different is an important skill. To address this, think of an object or animal such as a dog and a cat. Talk about all the ways they are the same (both animals, both have 4 legs, both have a tail, both are house pets) and then talk about how they are different (a cat says meow, typically a cat is smaller, a cat can live indoors/outdoors, a dog says woof, a dog is an indoor pet, you walk a dog on a leash) etc. Try with occupations and household items or vehicles as well as places etc. The more your child can build on their vocabulary, the more equipped they will be to engage in conversation and be interactive and engaging on any topic presented to them.
  6. If your child is having a hard time making the letter / sound connection, the DVD called LETTER FACTORY is a great tool. It’s fun and engaging and helps the child learn what sounds the letters make. They also make games/toys that reflect that same music etc.
  7. Play GO FISH. There are so many variations you can have with it including: using target vocabulary for a specific sound, pictures of items in categories, alphabet recognition – you name it!! You just need to make sure you have two of every picture. GO FISH is great for sounds like /g/, /f/ and /sh/ since you have to say “GO” and “FISH” each and every turn. This game also works on vocabulary naming, taking turns, asking questions (using inflection), answering questions etc.
  8. Work on functions – tell what you do with an object. For example: What do you do with a fork? a knife? a shovel? a radio? a book? To increase the complexity, don’t answer with just one word… instead, put the answer in a sentence. You read a book. You cut food with a knife. You dig a hole with a shovel. Follow up the answers with questions. For example, Where do you dig holes with a shovel? (in the dirt, sandbox, the beach). Who uses a knife? Why is a knife sharp? Do you cut the same things with a knife as you would with a saw? Where do you listen to the radio? etc. These concepts and questions require kids to think outside the box – there may not be just one right answer. As long as they can talk about it and explain it, they can get credit!
  9. Make a habit of asking your child what they did at school but instead of making it easy for them to answer in single words or with a yes/no responses, phrase it in such a way to ask them to tell you 3 things that happened at school and don’t accept lunch or recess as answers. Be specific. Tell me 3 things that you worked on today. or Tell me 3 things you learned today. Tell me 3 places you visited. Tell me 3 people you talked to.
  10. Read a book and pick out the target vocabulary and reinforce them in order to address the articulation. If the child has difficulty saying the WHOLE word, break it down into syllables and if syllables are still too hard, break the word down to isolated sounds….one at a time.
  11. Picking up on the last tip of the day…take target words and have the child put them in their own sentences (using the book/pictures in front of them). This way you are not only reinforcing literacy and vocabulary but focusing on articulation and then building those articulatory sounds back into language. If your child is too young to do this on their own, cue them with a leading phrase.
  12. Show your child and/or talk about silly sentences and have them correct you. Say something wrong and see if they can fix it. Cartoons may provide visuals of things that aren’t right and need fixing or use a joke book to talk about WHY the joke is funny. Tap into the semantics (meanings) of words and how they impact what you think.
  13. Game idea by Wiz Kidz game via Discovery Toys… Think of items that start with certain letters in a given category. Example., think of things that start with /s/, /r/, /t/, and /f/ in a grocery store [soda, seasonings, salt, tomato, radish, tomato sauce, tostitos, fish, tea etc.]. Or pick letters of items that are found in the garage. etc. [screwdriver, table, funnel, sandpaper, radio, etc.] Assign point values to each letter and see who can accumulate the most points.
  14. Use the iPad or other technology to tap into learning and make it fun. Even games like Angry Birds, Bop iT!, Where’s my Water?, Chicktionary, Tetris, Boggle, Cut the Rope, Slice it, Solitaire, Words with Friends etc engage the child in spelling, problem solving, critical thinking, following directions, listening, and sometimes racing against the clock while working on those skills!
  15. Working from the game HEADBANDZ, work on asking questions to determine what picture you were given on your head (that you are not able to see). [There is a picture on my page with funny looking over-sized glasses and a picture attached to it – that is THIS game!] This game is lots of fun but can be hard for the person guessing as they can’t just ask if they are a random “thing”. They need to think about categories and narrow it down before guessing something specific. Example (all questions must be in yes/no format): Am I furniture? Do I live outside? Can you eat me? Am I one color? Am I round? … once you get the answers from your questions, they should hopefully help lead you to ask other questions – again, remain ‘general’ until you can narrow it down.
  16. Think about word families and rhyming. Name a word…RAN. Now name words that rhyme with it in the -an family. fan, can, man, Dan, Jan, pan, tan etc. Take it a step further and use colored tiles or blocks to have each color represent a different letter. Then have the child change the word “ran” to “fan” by changing the /r/ color to a new color to create the word “fan” yet it cannot duplicate the /a/ or /n/ colors already in the word. *If this explanation is confusing please feel free to email me separately at [email protected] and I can elaborate more.
  17. Use the game angry birds to talk about prepositions. The bird flew INTO the ____. The yellow bird flew OVER the _____. The black bird landed ON the _____. Sometimes the animals fly through or under as well! You could have your child write sentences for what happened on each level and/or what new skill emerged on a given level. The reward? They get to keep playing!
  18. When a child is just starting to work on articulation and saying their sounds – they need to start at the bottom and say the sound on its own (in isolation). Then they can build up to syllables. Think about all the long vowels (they say their name). Work on CV and VC combinations with the long vowels. For example, if the child is working on /t/, have them say “tay, tee, tie, toe, two” as well as “ate, eat, ite, oat, ute”. Once they can master the syllable level they work up to words!
  19. If a child is having trouble locating the ‘spot’ in their mouth for their sound, use peanut butter, yogurt or pudding (i.e. something that will stick to their mouth). For example, for placement of the /t/, /d/, /l/ etc. you would place PB etc behind the top teeth and have the child “feel” that spot in order to know ‘where’ to put their tongue to make the sound.
  20. For a child that is working on letters and their corresponding sounds, you can sing the song from LeapFrog (Example, The “B” says ‘buh’, the “B” says ‘buh’…Every letter makes a sound the “B” says ‘buh’!). In addition you can place ABC flashcards in front of them and work on their sounds. Another idea would be to do the reverse… say a sound while covering your mouth and see if they can identify the sound you made.
  21. Play a game in which you have to name pictures/objects that start with each letter of the alphabet. See how many different things you can think of. To make it harder, give your child a category such as “the grocery store” or “the garage” and try to name items from that category beginning with each letter!
  22. An important skill is being able to tell how two objects are the same and how they are different. For example, an orange and an apple are the same because they both grow on trees, they are round and sweet, they can each be made into juice, as well as being a fruit, but you cannot eat the skin of an orange and one is red/green/yellow and the other is ‘just’ orange.
  23. Have your child describe a story or tell you how to make something with the steps. This will address many skills including vocabulary, expressive language, and sequencing. They will need to think of the story in an order, they will need to have a beginning, middle and end as well as be able to explain in words what they may instinctively know how to do receptively. Examples include: tying shoes, washing dishes, brushing your teeth. To make it harder, take away the ability to gesture or using your hands.
  24. Play a game of opposites. One person starts by saying a word, then your partner has to name the opposite pair to that word. For example, the first person says, “up” then the partner says, “down”…next could be “hot” (cold), upper/lower, push/pull, inside/outside. Vary your vocabulary based on who you are playing with. There is also an iPad game called OPPOSITES that is fun to play working on this very skill and the words definitely get harder with each level! To take it up a notch, have your child put the word in a sentence.
  25. Pick an event in your day and think of 5 WH questions to ask your kid about that event. For example, “Who are we going to go see today?”, “What are we doing with ___ today?”, “Where are we going?”, “When are we going to the ______?” and “Why are we going to the ____?”. You can elaborate and ask “HOW” you are going to the ____ to see if they can give you more information. This task also works on verb tenses. You WILL do something in the future – then you can talk about what you DID in the past!
  26. Pick idioms that are common to start working with…(examples included below). Try to incorporate them into your day. See if your child can figure out what you are talking about. Then, see if they can put it in context themselves. Its hard not to take the phrase literally!
    **Its raining cats and dogs – its raining really hard.
    **Put on your thinking cap – think hard.
    **It’s time to hit the sack – time to go to bed.
    **It’s time to hit the books – time to study.
    **Has the cat got your tongue? – not able to talk/tongue-tied.
    **Now the shoe is on the other foot – the situation has been turned around.
    **It cost me a an arm and a leg – it cost a lot of money.
    **Your eyes are bigger than his stomach – you take more food than you can eat.
    **It goes in one ear and out the other – easily forgotten, can’t remember.
    **Get off my back – stop bothering someone about something.
  27. Look through books and have your child not only name pictures but try to identify what sound they hear at the beginning of the word or the end of the word. This will address pre-reading skills and help them make the letter/sound connection. If a given letter like /c/ makes more than one sound, talk about what “other” sound it can make other than the one you found and a word that it can be found in. For example, you see a “car”. Talk about what sound they hear at the BEGINNING of car. They might say /k/ – if so, talk about how some sounds sound the same but are their own letter. Car starts with /c/. It can have a soft sound and a hard sound. /c/ in car is a hard sound. What other sound can a /c/ make? You might give clues to help them think of another word like “ice” or “slice”. If kids are old enough to understand you can explain the grammar rule behind it!
  28. When you read a book (preferably one they don’t know the ending to) have your child try to predict what will happen next. Talk about the events in the story and how they build up to a climax and then how the story has a resolution. The iPad app TOONTASTIC works on this very skill in that you can create your own story with different episodes leading up to a climax. You get to pick the characters, the setting, the music etc. To top it off, you can record yourself telling the story! Puppet Pals as well as StoryTime are other apps that also work on telling stories and picking characters and settings and recording your own voice!
  29. Use breakfast time to work on literacy. Look on the back of the cereal box for words that start with certain letters and/or sounds. See how many words they can find. To take it to another level, have your child tell you what that word means!!!
  30. Talk about how two objects go together. For example, a fork and spoon go together because they are both utensils and you use them to eat your food. You can also add a ‘knife’ to that group. Or, a bike and a bus go together because they are both vehicles and they both have wheels. You can add car, truck, skateboard etc. to the list as well! You can walk around the house and find objects in different rooms as prompts/cues to help you brainstorm! See if you can find items that go together in the same room and/or from different rooms!
  31. Use a picture book (wordless book) to have your child tell the story in their own words using the pictures as a guide. The CARL books about a dog and a baby are great examples and fun to talk about! The fun thing about picture books is that the story can change every time you tell it! Prompt your child with questions to get him/her thinking if needed. Or, you can provide a leading sentence to help them finish. For example, “Carl is going to the ____. (Why is Carl going to the ___? What can you tell me about what Carl is doing?).
  32. Inspired by a friend telling me what her kids do….Take 3-5 ornaments off your Christmas tree (or other holiday decorations) and make up a story using those ornaments (decorations). You might have an angel, a pet, Mickey Mouse, a tree, a picture of your family or a snowman etc….or an Easter bunny, eggs, baskets, chocolate candy, etc. Imagine all the creativity you can muster up all the different ornaments on your tree!

**Ongoing ideas are posted on the Facebook page for Advantage Speech Therapy Services.**

We hope these low tech ideas inspire you to realize that you don’t need to have technology or expensive smartphones to work with your child! All you need is a little creativity in everyday activities in order to help them achieve their individual goals and beyond!

We hope you have a happy and healthy 2013!