Lovin’ Legos®!

I’m pretty sure one can never outgrow a fondness for Legos®.  I played with them ALL the time as a kid and had my own Lego® table that had an opening with a mesh bag attached to it in the center to store all my Legos®.  My husband and I spent last Christmas Eve watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation while assembling two big Lego® castle sets he had gotten for his birthday but had yet to set up.  I even have a Lego® Yoda on my keychain (I’ve never actually seen Star Wars, but my husband was giving out these keychains to some guy friends at our apartment one night and I guess I just didn’t want to feel left out!)

Needless to say, I don’t mind one bit when the preschoolers I’m seeing in class choose the Lego® center, or when they request it as one of their choices for therapy activities during pull-out sessions.  Here are 3 ways I like to use Legos® in therapy!

1.  Vocabulary Building:  I’ve used Legos® to target animal vocabulary (think Farm, Brown Bear Brown Bear, and Ocean themes).  Cut small pictures into twos or threes and tape onto the Legos®.  You can have kids match animal tops/bottoms (or throw ‘middles’ in there, too!) and then label the animals.  Identify their different features (ie fins, beaks, wings, etc…!) while you do this activity.  There was even one day where I was working on basic concepts with kids at center time using Legos® (see idea #2 below!) and taught them the word ‘skyscraper’ as we were making tall buildings.. it was really fun to hear them using that word on their own the next day when I came in!

2.  Basic Concepts:  I’ve done this a lot during center time with my preschoolers.  We work on building tall/short towers, long paths, putting certain colored blocks on top or underneath another block, etc…  You can easily do comparative concepts here, too.. which one is smaller, which one is tallest, which tower was made of more Legos®, etc…  Build a Lego® bridge and have toy animals/people go under and over it.  The animal vocabulary activity I mentioned above is perfect for working on concepts /top, middle, bottom/, too, by having them point to which part is the middle, which part is the bottom, etc..

3.  Associations & Categories:  Another simple way to use Legos® that is kind of similar to Idea #1.  Tape pictures of items that go together to various Legos®, and have your kids identify the items that belong together by matching up the correct Lego® pieces (this is easier with the larger Lego® blocks!).  To work on categories, stack Lego® pieces on top of each other that have pictures of items that all belong to the same category (animals, foods, etc…)

What are some of your favorite ways to use Legos® in therapy? Click below to check out the 3rd Thursday 3 For All Link Up, hosted by Speech2u, to see how other SLPs are using Legos® in therapy!

Apraxia Treatment (1st in a 4 part series): Establishing a Core Vocabulary

This is an area that is so very near and dear to my heart.  If I could treat preschoolers with Apraxia all day long, I’d be in Heaven.   This is an area of speech therapy that I just love!   I feel like these kids *really* need me– I know everyone on my caseload ‘needs’ me, but I feel like it’s a different level of need with the apraxic kiddos!  

With apraxia, I feel like it’s really up to me– I’m the individual that’s key to unlocking their communication by getting to know the very detailed ins and outs of their speech production strengths and needs, and figuring out exactly how to use their strengths to facilitate the other areas of need.  I can then, in turn, teach parents and teachers how to model, cue, and simplify words/sentences as needed.  That’s not to say I don’t do parent education like that with the rest of my caseload, but it’s different with Apraxia.  It’s not the same as educating parents on how to read books to their child to build vocabulary and work on answering questions, making predictions, learning basic concepts, etc…  Apraxia is much more intricate, more involved, more detailed than a lot of other areas.  It’s a challenge that keeps my SLP ear fine-tuned and keeps me on my toes!  

Many kids with apraxia (around the age I see them– preschool) have a very limited expressive vocabulary.  They often use just a few words to convey many other words and ideas.  I have a little girl with apraxia on my caseload, who, when we first started out, used “my mommy” for ev-er-y-thing.  Everything.  Coupled with a head nod “yes” or “no.”  For instance, I’d tell her I liked her hair or her outfit, and she’d respond with “my mommy” to tell me her mom did her hair or got the outfit for her.  We’d be reading a story, and she’d point to things in the book and say “my mommy” with a head nod “no,” trying to convey they didn’t have that particular item at home or they had never done those activities.  One day she even ran across the playground at recess, to the swings, yelling “my mommy!!” That was her automatic that came out, and she didn’t have much more beyond that, spontaneously… which brings me to the point of this blog post:  Establishing a core vocabulary in kids with apraxia.

The first step in establishing a core vocabulary in kids with apraxia, for minimally verbal kids, is figuring out the vowels and consonants they can produce in isolation and upon imitation, as well as any syllable shapes they can produce, such as:
*VC (up, out, in, etc)
*CV (me, my, bee, bow, pie, pay, etc)
*VCV (okay, owie, ohno, etc)

*CVCV (reduplicated syllables; same consonant and vowel sounds repeated– mama, dada, papa)
*CV1CV2 (same consonant sound repeated, different vowel sound in each syllable– mommy, daddy, mummy, puppy, people (/pipo/), bubble (buh-bo))
*C1V1C2V2 (both consonant and vowel change in 2nd syllable– happy, hippo, money, honey, muddy)
*CVC (hop, nine, bat, etc… Generally the hardest, as it includes a final consonant sound)

This is what SLPs are great at– list-making!! (Does anyone else ever add new things to their to-do list that they’ve already done, just so they can cross them out?? I’m not the only one, right?!)

List 1:  Motor Coordination
The purpose of this first list you’ll want to make is for motor coordination– practicing syllable shapes/words that have sounds the child already has in their repertoire.  Use what they have and build on those strengths!  If they only have /p, b, m, uh, ee, ah, oh/ sounds, you can teach words like mama, mommy, papa, mo (“more”), “muh” (as an approximation for “more”), me, pop, bubble (buh-bo), puppy, mop, etc.  

Write down their consonants and vowel sounds they are able to produce, and create words from them– any word you can think of, even if it’s not necessarily a “functional” word for them.  Functional is your second step– These words on the first list are just for practicing different syllable shapes and practicing a variety of consonant/vowel combinations to increase motor coordination skills.

List 2:  Functional Word List (General)
These are words that are used for either social purposes (i.e. greetings), or to manipulate their environment in some way.  Examples of these types of words are open, on, off, in, out, up, down, hi, bye, no, go, put, etc…  These are also words that you can use for pivot phrases when working on combining words together (more on pivot words/phrases in another post in the series!).

List 3: Functional Word List (Specific)
This is where you’ll make a list of words that are functional to that child specifically.  Favorite foods, toys, books, games, family members’ names, etc… can all go on this list.  In most cases, you’ll have to simplify these words and make them into simpler approximations for the child to imitate.  

Lots and lots of practice and repetition is key in treatment of Apraxia! Shorter, more frequent sessions have been found to be of more benefit to children with Apraxia than longer sessions across fewer days (i.e. 15 minutes 4x/week vs 30 minutes 2x/week).

Additionally, if you don’t already have something with visuals (like the Kaufman Kit) to represent the syllable shapes/words in lists 1 and 2, create some of your own.  Visuals are key when teaching these words, because eventually you’ll want to decrease your cuing and have them to be able to see the picture and produce the word spontaneously!  I’ll be doing another post in this series that includes some of my favorite apraxia materials, so keep an eye out for that! It’ll include both free and paid materials, both hard goods and printables.  Even some DIY ideas!

That concludes the first part in my 4 part series on Apraxia treatment!  The other three parts of this series will include using pivot words/phrases in therapy, cuing techniques, and a collection of Apraxia materials.  Hope you’ll come back to join me for the other posts in the series! If there’s any other topics re: Apraxia that you’d like to see covered in this series, please let me know– I’m open to ideas!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

I love Brown Bear week in preschool!  I love this book because it’s so simple, yet there is SO much you can do with it.  Here are some of the things we did this week in therapy to go along with the book!

While reading the book, I had my kids tell me the name of the animal on each page, and also targeted some WH questions by asking them questions about the animals (i.e. “What do dogs like to chew on?” when we got to ‘white dog,’ or “Where do ducks live?” when we got to ‘yellow duck.’).

(link to purchase the book on Amazon)

I love all of the early consonant sounds you can target with the characters in this book, too.. I have a lot of little ones working on /p, b/ sounds, so this book is perfect for them! Purple cat, Brown Bear, Red Bird, Blue Horse, Black Sheep…  I have a lot of kids working on /t, d/, too, so we practiced red bird, whitdog, goldfish, purple cat, and yellow duck! (and “water” too when talking about where ducks and frogs might live!).

Brown Bear Roll & Cover:
We used this Brown Bear Roll & Cover page from Making Learning Fun during group artic sessions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  The kids would roll the die, and say their speech words the same number of times as the number on their die before coloring the animal. Perfect for groups of 2, so one kid could color while the other practiced, and vice-versa.                                                                                                                        A way to get more repetitions out this is after printing out one copy, use white-out on the duplicates of 2 & 3 and instead write 5 & 6 before making more copies, so there’s duplicates of the higher numbers rather than the lower numbers– more opportunities for increased repetitions!
Brown Bear Memory Game:
                                                                                                                                I used these Brown Bear animal cards from 1plus1plus1equalsone’s free printable pack to play “Memory” to target vocabulary.  You could have them match up the animals together, or use pictures of the different animal homes (i.e. cave, pond, farm, etc…) and have them match up the animal to its home.

Work on increasing MLU by having them use a carrier phrase, like “I found….” or tell you the animal sound when they flip over a picture (i.e. “Cat says meow.” “Frog says ribbit!”)


                                   Brown Bear on the wall!
I laminated this big brown bear and taped it on a wall for the week. The kids kept asking for it over & over every time they came in the room!

In this picture we were working on speech sounds (I had a group of 2; 1 working on k&g and another working on s-blends).  I had them pull a card, say the word 5x, and then stick it on the bear.  When all of the cards were on there, I had them find a word they had practiced, pull it off, and say it 5x before handing it to me.

I also used it to target associations.  I picked out pairs of cards, had 1 set taped to the bear and 1 set on the floor on the other side of the room.  They had to pull a card off the bear and walk over to the cards on the floor to find the item that belonged with the card on their hand, and then tell me how the items were alike.

You could also work on concepts like /top, middle, bottom/ with the bear by having them put various pictures on different areas of the bear.

Carrier phrases like “Put on ___” or “Take off ____” work well for this, too! Use for increasing MLU or for any apraxic kiddos who you’re using carrier phrases with!

Image Spinner App:  After seeing this Brown Bear post from Speech Room News, I grabbed the Image Spinner App for my iPad (99 cents in the iTunes store).

For artic, I had my /p, b, t, d/ kids practice their speech sounds by spinning and saying the names of the characters they landed on.  

For vocab, I had them spin the spinner, tell me the name of the animal, and find the matching picture that was taped up to the big brown bear on the wall (using the cards from the printable pack I mentioned above).  I targeted WH questions by asking them questions about where the animals lived, what sound they make, what they eat, etc…

Another great resource to check out is the Brown Bear Companion Pack from Putting Words In Your Mouth.  I grabbed this during the TeachersPayTeachers back to school sale, and it is FANTASTIC for following directions and basic concepts!

Other ideas:

  • Sort items by features (i.e. 4 legs vs 2 legs, fur/no fur, feathers vs fur, etc..)
  • Target verbs by having students act out each animal (i.e. hop like a frog, bear crawl, fly like a bird).  You could also lay cards out on the floor or taped to the wall and have them spin the spinner, and act out that animal as they move to the card(s).

What are your favorite things to do in therapy with this book??

Co-Teaching Tuesday: Small Group Instruction in the PreK classrooms

One new thing I’m doing this year is going into the preschool classrooms during small group instruction time to be my own small group rotation.  Each teacher does it differently, but typically the class is broken down into 3 separate groups, and the kids rotate to a new group every 6-7 minutes.  Prior to this year, the preschool teacher would be one small group, while two classroom paras would run the other two small groups.  This year, typically, it will be the teacher doing one group, a classroom para doing another group, and me doing one group.  Our OT will be coming in sometimes and doing a fine motor small group, as well!

For my first week in the small group rotation, it was Brown Bear, Brown Bear week.. so I did Brown Bear Bingo with my kids!

I pulled the pieces out of a brown paper bag with a bear face on it, and gave them clues as to what animal I had picked (i.e. This is an animal that likes to hop and lives in a pond..).  I had to adapt this for each group, as some kids were at the level where they could do some basic inferencing, while others needed something much simpler.  Some other ways I did this were:

  • Pulling out the picture, showing it to them, and having them repeat back the character name (for kids who were minimally verbal or working on combining two words together).
  • Giving them just the colors (also for the lower level kiddos) (i.e. “My animal is purple.  Can you find a purple animal on your card?”) and having them tell me what the animal was when they found it
  • Giving them just the animal sound (“This animal says quack quack”) and having them tell me the name of the animal.

I used the chips from our Chipper Chat set for the covering pieces, and at the end, they got to use the “magic wand” to swipe over their card and pick up all the magnet pieces (which, of course, they thought was the coolest thing ever!)

Grab the Bingo Cards from Making Learning Fun!

If you’re an early childhood SLP, how do you incorporate yourself into the classroom? Do do you large or small group time in the classrooms? Center time? I’d love to hear from you!