Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ava's new room

This past week we've significantly rearranged Ava's room. Her room is small, and the children would rarely play in there because the room felt cramped. She did, however, have one of those long shallow closets with sliding doors. We came up with the idea of taking the doors off and moving her toddler bed into the closet.

Well, it gave us more space, but it looked awful.

So, I decided that we could try hanging curtains around it to hide the storage and edges of the closet. We went to a fabric store and chose some material and got 10 yards of two different types. One was pink and satiny and the other was a tutu type material (not sure what it was called actually) with pretty sparkles. I just hemmed all the edges and we called them curtains.

We bought and installed a curtain rod and then tossed the curtains up and it's better. Ava loves it. Now it does look like a pink princess went a little overboard in her room, but I can live with it. (Ok, that made it sound easy, but I am obviously completely uneducated on how to hang curtains, because achieving that look was extremely difficult and my husband did most of the work.)

This is what her room looks like now. Everyone is enjoying the refresh and I've noticed the children spending a lot more time playing in there.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Coming and I Don't Have a Good Feeling About It

Our evaluation by the school district is coming up in a little over two weeks. Thursday they will send someone to observe her at school. Then two weeks later I bring her in for a morning of testing. I just don't think she'll qualify for further services.

She's doing so well. The occupational therapy has been nothing short of a miracle. She's trying new foods, tolerating stimulating environments, touching a wide variety of things without too much protest, and playing more with others. It is amazing and I am in awe at the transformative powers of occupational therapy. I'm not sure she needs much more OT.

Her speech is still full of errors, but her language is fine. Her teacher is just an amazing teacher and has a lot of experience with little ones and so doesn't have a lot of trouble understanding her at school. Most of what she has to say at school has a lot of context to help out. Her intelligibility is aided by her good coping skills. She will often try another way when her first attempt at communicating is unsuccessful. She also has good inflection, facial expressions and body language which helps boost her intelligibility. All of that is wonderful, but is going to work against her during this assessment. I suspect they will not qualify a child who isn't even three yet based on the presence of speech errors alone.

We'll just go and see what happens. But I'm not getting my hopes up.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Speech Therapy Update: Speech vs. Language

We saw Ms. J for therapy yesterday. It was the first time in about three months. Ms. J had some issues with her office space and wasn't seeing clients for a while and then we had some scheduling conflicts. It is amazing how time can just slip away.

Three months is a long time at this age. Ms. J was amazed at Ava's language. She's talking in full sentences. For her age, her sentences are complex and she is also doing well with grammar. To be honest, even when she had no words, I wan't super concerned about her language skills. She always understood exactly what was being said around her and was managing to be pretty expressive through body language and other non-verbal communication. Now that she's talking she has a lot to say.

Her speech, on the other hand, hasn't progressed a lot. After working with her for an hour, we were sent home working on mostly the same things. We're still working on that final /k/ sound. I think I hate /k/. Never once, did I imagine working on the same sound for months and months and months on end. However, I should note that it is finally coming in. It is guttural, but with prompting and multiple cues we can get a back sound instead of a front one. So now we're going to try to stimulate /k/ in medial and front positions as well.

So, in summary, language is great, intelligibility is moderate (pretty good in context to a familiar listener, but iffy under other circumstances), and speech is still our biggest area of concern.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Discovery Bottles

Magnetic, Static Electricity, and "Magic Dust" Discovery Bottles

Discovery bottles are just clear closed bottles filled with something for the children to explore visually and through interaction with the bottle. We've made several over the past week or two, but I'm sharing my three favorites today.

Magnetic Discovery Bottle

This bottle is simple in concept. Fill the bottle with pipe cleaners cut into half inch or inch long pieces. Have the children predict if a magnet will attract the pipe cleaners. Give them the bottle and the magnet and let them find out.

The kids loved watching the magnet attract the pipe cleaner segments. They competed to see who could get their magnet to attract the most segments of pipe cleaner. They attracted pipe cleaners near the bottom of the bottle and then would drag the magnet (and therefore the pipe cleaners) to the top of the bottle very carefully to watch them suspended seemingly by "magic" at the top of the bottle. Michael even managed to suspend the bottle in mid-air through the power of the attraction between the magnet and the pipe cleaners.

Static Electricity Discovery Bottle

Cut small shapes out of tissue paper and insert into clean dry bottle. I presented this to the kids like a magic trick. I showed them the bottle "at rest", so to speak, with all the shapes resting at the bottom. We talked briefly about gravity and what happens when we flip the bottle upside down (fall to the bottom) or on it's side (fall to bottom again). I then told them I needed their help to do a magic trick and had them repeat magic words after me as I rubbed the bottle against the carpet. (abracadabra, alakazam, etc.) Then I showed them how our magic made the shapes stick to the side of the bottle. When Michael asked I explained a little bit about how it was really static electricity that made it work, not really magic.

"Magic Dust" Discovery Bottle (or Current Bottle)

Put some shaving cream in the bottle (about 1/3 full). Then fill bottle with colored water (be careful, the shaving cream will try to escape). Swirl until the shaving cream dissolves and then add more water until the bottle is completely full. Now your bottle will make beautiful swirls and current-like patterns as you swirl or shake the bottle. It is hard to see in the picture but it really is quite peaceful and beautiful. The children call it the "magic dust" bottle. It is one of the first ones they choose to show off to guests.

The Cricut Card Elves Strike Again

The children received another homemade holiday card in the mail (see the Halloween cards here). It was sent to the children by Ava's godfather and designed and made by his girlfriend with her cricut machine. It is adorable.

She also had a brilliant idea. While she was cutting the pieces to assemble the turkey for the front of the card, she made extra pieces (a little larger). Then she put together two assemble-your-own-turkey activity kits for the children. They are so excited and can't wait to make their own turkeys. Michael insists his is going on the wall in his room. Ava hasn't stated a preference yet, but I suspect she'll copy her brother.

(Thanks for the card! It is lovely.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Weekly Review: Week 36

Blog to commiserate with this Week

You know when your child does something they shouldn't for the millionth time and you fuss (or possibly even yell a little). They apologize, sincerely even, and you know the mature adult thing would be to let it go and move on. And yet, you're having trouble letting the transgression go. Linda wrote a post about encountering that very situation more times than she'd like in her week. I completely understood.

The Weekly Procrastination Update

I did slightly better this week. I got 5 additional CEU's. That leaves me with 5 more to get in the next three days. Why, oh why am I always leaving this to the last minute? Oh yes, the answer to that would be the children. Well, that and my natural tendency to procrastinate.

The Weekly Thing for which I am Extremely Grateful

My amazing parents took both children for three days. My husband and I booked a beautiful room at an inn 6 hours away and spent two nights there together. It was our first getaway since we became parents a little over four years ago and it was wonderful. We had a private balcony overlooking a river. I went out there once, but it was cold, so I went back in our room. The room had a gas fireplace and an amazing whirlpool tub. It had cozy comfy chairs and a canopy bed. They brought us milk and cookies at bedtime. And there was silence and adult conversation. It was peaceful and rejuvenating.

Ava this Week

Ava is blossoming. She's come out of her silent bubble and is fully participating in the world around her. It's amazing to see. Three months of occupational therapy has worked wonders. I didn't realize how much of what was holding her back was due to sensory issues. Those are mostly under control now and what a difference. She tolerates noise and being near others. She tolerates being touched and touching things. She's so much better about trying new things to eat.

And as she tolerates all of those things better, she's talking more. She's talking in more settings and more situations. She's initiating conversations and drawing attention to herself. Kudos to early intervention. We still have a long road to go on clearing up the speech, but now we have some speech to clear up and she's willing to use it.

The Weekly Michael

We came back from our mini-vacation and picked up the children from their grandparents' house. Once we got home Michael said to me, "I thought we were going to stay at Grandpa's house forever." He sounded disappointed that he had to come home. Hmm. Always nice to be missed.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Early Pentatonic Music

As a companion to my review of early pentatonic instruments from a couple of days ago, I wanted to discuss pentatonic music.

Given that the notes you'll find on the early pentatonic instruments include only d, e, g, a, b, D, and E you need music that only includes those notes. It was more difficult than I expected to find songs for early pentatonic instruments.

Music Book Reviews: Pentatonic Music Books

These are the four books I found.

Music Book Review: I love to be me: Songs in the mood of the fifth

The first book is I love to be me: Songs in the mood of the fifth. Music is by Channa A. Seidenberg and illustrations are by Kingsley Lou Little. This book was first published in 2002. The book includes 32 songs written for a 7-string lyre in the pentatonic scale. Almost every song is accompanied by a beautiful full-color illustration and includes lyrics. The songs are presented very simply. Notes are not divided into measures. Some of the songs are very simple musical accompaniments to children's poems. Others are more lyrical. This would be a nice way for a preschool teacher to introduce children's poems with a picture and simple musical accompaniment.

Music Book Review: Clump-a-Dump and Snickle-Snack

The second book is Clump-a-Dump and Snickle-Snack by Johanne Russ. This is a translation of a book published in Holland in 1966. It includes 42 fairytale themed, holiday, and lullaby songs written in the pentatonic scale. The music and lyrics are handwritten rather than typeset for the most part. The book also contains occasional (beautiful) black and white pencil drawings. Due to the handwritten appearance of the music it is a little harder to follow than the Seidenberg book. Also, this music is significantly more complex. However, the content is original and there is a lot there to learn and enjoy.

Music Book Review: Pentatonic Songs for nursery, kindergarten and grades 1 and 2

The third book is Pentatonic Songs for nursery, kindergarten and grades 1 and 2 by Elisabeth Lebret. This book was published in 1985. This book contains 45 simple songs. Many were written by the author or based on nursery rhymes. This book includes no illustrations. The music is done in a handwritten style and the lyrics appear as if they were typed on a typewriter.

Music Book Review: Familiar Songs for Pentatonic Playalongs

The final book is Familiar Songs for Pentatonic Playalongs published in 1991 by Noteworthy Press. This book has the music and lyrics for 11 pentatonic songs and named notes (not full music or lyrics, but just the names of the notes) for an additional 14 songs. For 8 of the songs the book includes song cards that show a visual representation of the music for easy use with a lyre. This book begins with an introduction to the lyre and the pentatonic scale. That is followed by the 8 song cards and the full lyrics and sheet music (and small black and white illustration) to the 11 pentatonic songs. That is followed by the named notes for 14 additional songs. Finally there is a short information page on reading musical notation. If you were only going to get one of the four books, I would recommend this one. Yes, there are fewer songs overall, but the songs are familiar and accessible. The book also provides some introductory information to the instrument, the pentatonic scale, and musical notation. The song cards are a great bonus as well.

These books are not easy to find. Most websites had one or two, but not all. I finally found all four of them here.

My Pentatonic Song Card Adaptations

So, to be perfectly honest, even after several years of piano as a child I am not a great sight reader. Also, the lyre is a completely new instrument to me. I use intervals a lot when I'm trying to sight read and the translation from a traditional music staff to the pentatonic instrument was challenging for me. So, I took a couple of familiar tunes I knew were pentatonic and made my own song cards. I'm sharing these arrangements with you. I hope someone finds them to be useful. (I checked and both of these are public domain songs so I do not believe I am violating any copyright laws. If someone believes otherwise please contact me so I can address the issue.)


I give permission to copy, print, or distribute these music cards provided that:
  1. Each copy makes clear that I am the document's author.
  2. No copies are altered without my express consent.
  3. No one makes a profit from these copies.
  4. Electronic copies contain a live link back to my original and print copies not for merely personal use contain the URL of my original.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sand on the Light Box: Storytelling

After we finished making our sand shapes the other day, I decided on a whim to use the light box / sand combo to do some impromptu storytelling. The first story that popped into my head was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The children loved it! Now, keep in mind that I draw about as well as your average 4 year old, and yet somehow even my stick drawings in the sand on a light box are entrancing to young children.

Here are a few pictures I snapped during the storytelling.


The Three Bears taking a walk in the forest.

Three hot bowls of porridge.

Goldilocks testing the three chairs.

Goldilocks waking up to see the three bears looking down at her.

The story reached its natural end and I was encouraging the children to do a little free play in the sand before it was time to put everything away. Most of my attention was on Ava, but then I realized that Michael had been busy. Next thing I know I turn my head and see this:

Everything you see there he drew on his own. Then he told Ava and I the story of Mama Cat and Michael Cat who had to go out and take their dog to the vet. While they were out a little girl from their village went into their house, sat in one of their chairs and ate up all their food... So, yes, his story was closely modeled after Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but I was very impressed with both his drawing and storytelling nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Early Pentatonic Instruments

I was browsing a catalog I received in the mail to see if anything caught my eye for the children and I stumbled across a kinder lyre. It is a small stringed instrument with only seven strings. It is tuned to a pentatonic scale (more on that in a bit) so that the children can pluck any sequence or combination of strings and produce a musical result. I was intrigued. First, I liked the concept of the pentatonic scale. Second, I liked the idea of bringing another instrument (besides the piano which is rarely used) into the house.

Then I glanced at the price. Since this was a catalog of children's toys, I expected the lyre to be priced like a toy. Let's just say that it wasn't, and leave it at that. I tried to put it out of mind, but I found myself thinking about it over the next several days. I decided that I wanted to get a pentatonic instrument for our household and began to research in earnest.

Pentatonic Scale

(I am not a great musician or an expert at musical theory, so take this information as a novice's summary of the information she has researched. If you know more about this and think something is incorrect, please send me an email so I can update this post.)

The typical scale most of us are used to is a diatonic scale with 7 notes (A, B, C, D, E, F, G). The pentatonic scale uses only five of those notes. In an instrument tuned to the key of D, those notes would be D, E, G, A, B. Eliminating two notes from the diatonic scale results in a scale that leaves only harmonious combinations of notes. This makes an instrument tuned to a pentatonic scale an excellent choice for a first instrument for a child.

Choices for a Pentatonic First Instrument

As I was researching pentatonic instruments I found three main options: the lyre (the 7 or 10 string version is often called a kinder lyre), the glockenspiel (a metal xylophone), and the pentatonic recorder.

Kinder Lyre

A kinder lyre is a small stringed instrument. The ones I looked at had either 7 or 10 strings tuned to d-e-g-a-b-D-E (-G-A-B). The music is played by plucking the strings. Here are the four kinder lyres I looked at:
  1. Harps of Lorien-Kinder Lyre
  2. Auris Pentatonic Lyre
    Here is a video that features the auris pentatonic lyre.
  3. Eyster Meadow Lyre
    This lyre in this video is an Eyster Meadow Lyre.
  4. Song of the Sea Kinder Harp target="_blank"
    Here's a sound sample of this lyre.

Pentatonic Glockenspiel

A glockenspiel is a percussion instrument similar to a xylophone. This Auris Pentatonic Glockenspiel has a beautiful tone.

Here is a video of a duet played on two of these.

Pentatonic Recorder

A pentatonic recorder is a woodwind instrument that is similar to a flute tuned to a pentatonic scale. This Choroi Pentatonic Recorder sounds beautiful.
This is a video that shows a Choroi Pentatonic Recorder (you need to skip to about 4:45 in to see it).

Which early pentatonic instrument should I choose?

In my completely novice opinion, the glockenspiel seems to be the most accessible for very young children followed by the lyre and finally the recorder. If I were making a decision on which one to get for our family (a 2 1/2 year old and a just turned four year old) I would definitely choose the glockenspiel.

I wanted the lyre though. I was more excited about playing the lyre myself, and so I chose to get that one. I think the children will be able to play it a little, and they will be able to listen to me as I learn a new instrument. Perhaps we can get a glockenspiel too later and play multi-instrument pentatonic duets. Hmm. I'm probably getting ahead of myself a little.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sand on the Light Box: Pre-Writing

I sat down on the computer and made some simple design cards. I intended to print them on cardstock and laminate them, but ran out of time so I just printed mine on regular paper.

Then I set up the two light boxes with the translucent shallow boxes and sand. I held up one card at a time and encouraged the children to try to copy the design in the sand. I gave feedback, tips, and encouragement as necessary. Michael could copy all of the simple shapes on his own and did pretty well with some tips on the more complex shapes. Ava was able to copy the very simple shapes on her own, the intermediate shapes with some tips, and the complex shapes with a lot of assistance.

This is an excellent activity for developing pre-writing skills. Pre-writing skills develop the fine motor strength and control necessary and the hand-eye coordination for writing without actually holding a writing implement (crayon, pencil, marker, etc.).

Here are the cut out cards and some examples of the children's copying. Michael used the orange sand and Ava used the blue.

Ideas to expand this activity:
  1. Have the children name the shape (if it is simple) or name the shapes that make up a more complex shape. For example, "This is a square with a plus inside."
  2. Show the card and ask the child to make a big, medium, or small version.
  3. Add something to the picture. For example, show the oval and ask, "Can you draw this oval with a triangle on top?" (or underneath, or to the left, or to the right, etc.)
  4. Subtract something from the picture. For example, "Can you draw this house without the roof?
  5. Show two cards and ask them to draw both in their sand box at the same time. They will need to learn, through trial and error, how big to make each and how to leave room for the second while making the first.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hospital Visits as a Measure of Progress?

Ava and I were back at the ER Friday night for croup again. Friday was Michael's birthday. I sent Daddy home to spend the evening trying to make Michael's (small family) birthday celebration as much like it would have been as possible.

Cons: Well, those are pretty obvious. First, Ava couldn't breathe and needed a steroid to calm things down. Second, it was happening on Michael's birthday.

Pros: It was a mildly interesting fact that I was spending the evening in the exact same hospital that I had been in four years earlier.

Also, it gave me a chance to really see how much progress Ava's made with her sensory issues since our last trip to the hospital (almost exactly 7 weeks ago). Wow! The difference was amazing.

Last time Ava screamed when they weighed and measured her. She screamed when they took her temperature and measured her oxygen levels. She screamed when they took her blood pressure and examined her. She screamed when taking her medicine.

This time she was great. She was a little nervous and wiggly, and cried a little occasionally, but overall she handled everything fairly well. She was even charming with strangers. She was being cute and trying to be funny and enjoying the attention. This is the same child that used to act like direct eye contact from a stranger was an assault. Oddly enough, this trip to the ER was a huge way to track some pretty amazing OT progress.

(And we were sent home without an overnight stay or breathing treatments necessary, so this trip was much more successful than the last one. Hurray for not waiting until things were absolutely critical this time.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Puffy Paint on a 3D Cone

I was inspired by a couple of ideas I found on pinterest.

First we made our own "puffy paint" combining equal parts flour, salt, and water (we used 1/3 cup of each to make about 5 oz.) and then mixing in some liquid tempera to color. The children chose to make red, purple, and orange. I then used a funnel to put the paint in small 2oz squeeze bottles.

I then set the kids up with some white cones I had made from cardstock and trimmed so they would stand up straight. I also taped them to a base to catch spills and keep them from tipping over while they were being painted.

We ran into a problem right away. The paint wouldn't squeeze. I found a small pair of embroidery scissors and managed to make the holes larger and that worked for a while. We continued to have trouble during the activity with the holes getting blocked by small lumps of paint or because the paint dried up in the tip. We would shake and tap the bottles and I'd use the scissors to clear out the tips of the bottles and that helped. I honestly think the children would have played much longer if we hadn't had the technical difficulties though.

My only suggestion would be to use squeeze bottles with much larger holes than ours - perhaps ketchup style holes. Or just use a paint brush.

They had a blast though. From the start of the project (making the paint) through then end of painting the cones, the kids were engaged for a full hour and a half.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Weekly Review: Week 35

Favorite Blog Quote this Week

I identify strongly with the following quote from this post: "Children are wonderfully wonderful but they are also bottomless gulleys of sucking need..."

The Weekly Procrastination Update

With the 2 additional hours of CEUs I managed to get this week I now need 10 more in the next 12 days... Hmm. I don't seem to be gaining on this situation.

The Weekly Celebration

Four years ago, in the wee hours of the morning, following 19 hours of labor, we welcomed our 8 pound, 6 ounce firstborn into this world. We joined all the other parents who have experienced this profound transformation.

In the four years since then he has grown from a helpless (and rather incessantly noisy) infant to an amazing young boy (still incessantly talking). He loves cars, tools, building things, fixing things, and destroying things. He loves petting a kitten and watching her purr. He takes pride in being a big brother and loves his sister's company. He can read three-letter words, write his name, and will listen happily to any story. He carries a tune nicely and loves to sing for an audience or just to himself. He began preschool this year and is doing amazingly well there.

I am simultaneously excited about what the next year will bring, intimidated by the challenges it will hold, sad at how fast the time will go by, and curious about the little boy he will be when he turns five. Raising a child is such an adventure.

Ava this Week

Twice a year, we have parent conferences at Ava's preschool. They use a checklist of skills and write (N-not demonstrating, S-sometimes, A-Always) next to each item. 6 months ago Ava's sheet was full of Ns and Ss. This time almost everything was an A - even in the communication section. The combination of speech services, OT services, and preschool has been so powerful.

The Weekly Michael

This is really the first year Michael has fully understood what a birth day means and what birthday celebrations are about. We've been celebrating off and on all week. First his grandparents came into town and we had his party. Yesterday they did some special things at school. Tonight we will give him our gift, a gift from his godmother, and his gift from his other set of grandparents. He has been so mature about all of it. He is excited, but not crazy over-excited. He's been grateful, polite, and appropriately thankful when receiving gifts. He's been good about sharing with his sister. All in all, I've been struck by what a sweet, mature new 4 year old he is. It's been a wonderful (and busy) week.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stimulability from a New Perspective

As I was taking a course dutifully working towards earning my 15 continuing education credits for this year I came across an interesting article that reminded me of several concepts in articulation/phonology treatment that I hadn't had time to think about recently.

In a nutshell, I was taught to address the error sounds a child is stimulable for first. That seems to make sense. In theory they would make progress faster and with less frustration than with sounds that are harder for them.

The article I read claimed that more recent research (I have not had time to look up the source articles yet, so take this with a grain of salt until I can confirm.) shows that often, children will acquire the sounds they are stimulable for on their own given time. Therefore, time in therapy should be spent on the sounds they are least stimulable for. If you spend 3 months establishing and working on /k/ and in the meantime, the /t/ which they were stimulable for pops in on its own, the child now has some mastery of two sounds at the end of that time period instead of just one.

This therapist chooses two targets to work on with a child at any given time. She chooses the two most complex sounds the child is not stimulable for that have the most contrast (voicing, manner, place). This is an entirely different model of choosing targets than I was taught to use, but the idea is intriguing.

I have two questions for any readers that might want to discuss this:
  1. Have you encountered this approach to articulation/phonology therapy before, and what do you think?
  2. If you agree that this approach has merit, do you think that this approach also applies to children with motor planning problems (apraxia)?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The problem with making assumptions about therapy materials.

I bought a therapy resource that was designed specifically to target early emerging sounds. Even better, the resource stated that it included 100 words per phoneme (20 one-syllable initial, 20 two-syllable initial, 20 two-syllable medial, 20 one-syllable final, and 20 two-syllable final). I thought to myself, "Why did I spend all that time designing my own early-emerging sounds card sets? There was already something out there!"

Well, I pulled it out the other day and excitedly flipped to the one-syllable final /p/ words to use with Ava. It was new. It was colorful. It was a spiral bound book that stands up like an easel. It was new and shiny. I had high hopes. There were 20 one-syllable final /p/ words. They were easy to find, and Ava was interested. However, I was able to use only 8 of those. I was so disappointed. Let's take a look at why.

First I had to eliminate all the words with blends (CCVC). That eliminated 6 words (stop, sweep, clap, step, scope, and grape). Then I had to eliminate the 6 words that began with phonemes that were too difficult for her (cup, cap, chip, drape, cop, and rope). That left me with 8 (soap, type, ape, top, shop, ship, map, and soup).

Of those 8 words, two began with /s/ and two began with /sh/. If your client is having difficulty with those phonemes you would be left with only 4 words to work on.

(If I apply these same criteria to my own final /p/ card set I am able to use 24 of the 30 picture cards in the set. I have to eliminate the 4 that begin with /k/ and the 1 /l/ and the 1 /r/.)

I encountered similar problems with the other one-syllable words. If you are going to design a set of cards designed to target early emerging sounds, it is not actually helpful to have so many of the words include sounds that emerge late or words that include more complex syllable shapes.

I suppose the moral of the story is to try to get a good look at the actual word lists in the materials you are about to spend your limited resources on. It is definitely possible that when you get a good look at what is included the set may not meet your needs.

Visual Aid:
  1. cup
  2. soap
  3. cap
  4. stop
  5. type
  6. chip
  7. sweep
  8. clap
  9. step
  10. scope
  11. ape
  12. drape
  13. top
  14. cop
  15. shop
  16. rope
  17. ship
  18. map
  19. grape
  20. soup

Try it for yourself. How many of these words would you actually be able to expect your child/client to produce accurately?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Michael's birthday party was outstanding. I couldn't possibly say better things about the place that we used for his party. The children had a wonderful time for 90 solid minutes. The activities were perfectly designed for the age group. They alternated structured games with free play and changed the activities available for free play each time. They did a nice job of making Michael feel special as the birthday boy without making the rest of the children feel left out. Michael will remember his party happily for a long time. Here are some scenes from the party.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Last night, Michael was having a conversation with his grandfather about the animals he's seen at the zoo. Michael rattled off a long list concluding with gorillas. His grandfather asked, "Have you ever seen a movie called King Kong?" (The answer is no.) Michael thought for a long moment and replied, "Well, I know a song about King Kong." I thought to myself, "Really?"

We all let that sink in a bit, and then just moved on to another topic of conversation. Michael seemed to be thinking. Then he started singing:

"Old King Kong was a merry old soul and a merry old soul was he..."

Everyone cracked up. Parenting is such fun sometimes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


My husband's parents are in town to celebrate Michael's birthday with us. We went to dinner last night to kick off the festivities in style. The children were getting a bit impatient while we waited for our food to arrive. Grandma taught Ava to use her iPhone to take pictures and that was a huge hit. Michael immediately wanted to "play". I pulled out my phone and showed him how.

I kid you not. In five minutes he took 271 pictures. He took extreme pride in the fact that he had taken about 30 pictures in a row of his Grandpa's arm and I have all the shots to prove it.

At the end of the meal, the children were waiting again while the adults finished up. They took a few more pictures, but that wasn't going to do the trick a second time. Grandma picked up Ava and they went for a little restaurant tour to talk about all the pictures they could see. It was sweet to watch Ava in her Grandma's arms chattering away happily. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but she had a lot to say.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Little Imp

Yesterday morning Ava started calling, "Daaaaaaa-dee! Daaaaaaa-dee!" I wasn't quite sure where she was so I called back, "Daddy's in the shower sweetie," but she didn't seem to hear me. I went searching.

I found her in her room. She looked pretty surprised to see me open the door rather than her daddy. (She had locked herself in. I had put a childproof doorknob protector on the inside of her door the day before when she kept wandering instead of napping.)

She quickly said, "Let's do speech Mommy!" I was pretty startled at this out-of-the-blue suggestion until I saw the open baggie of froot loops on the floor. Apparently she had taken off with the bag from my tower of speech supplies and snuck up to her room with it.

She figured volunteering to do speech would get her out of being fussed at. It worked actually. I said, sure and headed downstairs to find a card deck. At that point she helpfully pointed out, "The bag is already open Mama!"

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Weekly Review: Week 34

The Weekly Procrastination Update

Last week I mentioned that I need to get 13 more hours of continuing education credits by the end of the month. Since then I got two. That's better than 0 right? Now, that leaves about two-three more weeks to get 11 more. Hmm...

The Weekly Accomplishment

I'm managing to fit some speech drill in with Ava on a daily basis. Sometimes that is two 30 minute sessions. Other times it is 5 minutes. All of it is better than nothing.

Now, the kittens knocking over my rather precariously balanced tower of speech materials three times in a row was less helpful. The first time I simply sighed and picked it back up. The second time, I scolded a bit and picked it back up again. The third time I used several inappropriate and uncharacteristic words before picking up the tower a third time and trying to re-stack it in a way that was less tempting to kittens. Good thing the children were napping at the time.

Sibling Moment

Michael is starting to feel proud about being a big brother I think. I told the story about him defending her when eavesdropping on our speech session. Later, when he overheard his grandfather teasing her a bit, he piped up rather loudly with, "Don't talk to my sister like that, Grandpa!"

Ava this Week

I'm trying to pay attention to how often I don't understand Ava. It is more often than I think. I have a strategy I use in these situations. I can often tell if she is making a comment or asking a question due to her inflection. If she's making a comment I can't understand, I'll say, "Tell me more." and hope to get additional hints from her expansion. If I still don't get it I'll make a generic comment like, "That's really cool." (if she sounds positive) or "That stinks!" if she sounds negative and just move on. But we've missed an opportunity for more meaningful conversation. If she's asking me a question, I'll respond with, "Well, what do you think?" and hope that she'll answer her own question or that whatever she says next will give me a better clue about the subject of the original question.

The Weekly Michael

We're getting ready to celebrate Michael's birthday this weekend. His actual birthday isn't until next week, but I'm not sure I'm going to try to explain that distinction to him. He is adorably excited. When asked his age, he now responds with, "Almost 4!" instead of "3 1/2!" The party will be small, but hopefully just right for us. My husband's parents are travelling in from out of town and it will be wonderful to have them here to celebrate with us. My parents will be there as well and we'll have a few close friends that Michael is really comfortable with. I'm looking forward to it too. Watching 0-4 has been an amazing transformation.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

5-15-30 - Every Little Bit Counts

I suppose that sort of title usually applies to exercise. In this case I'm talking about speech practice. I've been attempting to incorporate therapy into our routine for months now. I've been largely unsuccessful.

Recently I've been motivated to try again. First I came up with a reinforcer that worked well - about three times. Then Ava decided that she'd rather skip speech even if she had to give up her treasured "colored cheerios". Apparently I wasn't destined to make one thing and have it work every time forever after. :-)

I admit. I hadn't even printed out all of my own card sets. Today I printed out two more. I'm stashing sets around the house. I'm trying to pull them out in those moments. You know, the ones where an activity wraps up sooner than you expected and you wonder how on earth you're going to make it through the next 5-15-30 minutes. Sure, she still whines a little, but I tell her that we can't do anything else until we finish a little speech. It doesn't take us long to go through a card deck and with more of them printed, she's seeing fresh pictures each time. If she's in a good mood and doing well, I'll do the card deck several times in a row. We'll say the words individually, say them with the prompts on the back, say them two-three times in a row, or pair them up and say them in pairs.

Taking speech in smaller, spontaneous chunks seems to be working better for us. I'm having to work to get Michael to not chime in when it is Ava's turn. Otherwise I can't hear her response well enough to give appropriate feedback. Other than that, it isn't a problem having him around during our practice sessions.

I'm not trying to teach anything new. I'm just trying to establish some final consonant usage in running speech. I'm working on that with the easiest consonants. I should take a baseline from some conversational speech so I can recheck in 2-3 weeks to see if we're getting any carryover at all. It would be a great experiment.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Wayward Defender

I've been squeezing therapy with Ava in after her nap. She tends to wake up before her brother, so the time works fairly well. Yesterday, Michael woke up and came downstairs in the middle of our session and hung out nearby eavesdropping.

I have been working to get Ava to add in the "easy" final consonants (for Ava, /p, t/) at the end of the first word in a two word sequence or at the end of the second word in a three word sequence. So, we said, "wipe". Then, "wipe, wipe". Then, "wipe, wipe, wipe". That was fairly easy. So then we said, "Mama wipe". Also fairly easy. As soon as we add, "Mama wipe eye(s)" we lose the final /p/ sound in wipe. I was trying to get it back using visual, tactile, and gestural cues and she and I had gone back and forth several times.

Then, from behind me Michael piped up, "Mama! She SAID that!"

I love that his instinct is to defend his sister, but his timing wasn't the best. On the other hand, I did take a moment to explain to him what I was looking for demonstrating the difference and when I turned back to ask Ava to try one more time, she got it. Not a bad way to wrap the session up.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

If You're Happy (Emotions Version)

I was first introduced to this idea several months ago by our Parents as Teachers home educator. I wanted to make our own version and couldn't remember the details so I did an online search for "if you're happy emotions" and found two helpful resources. This page shows the basic lyrics and some visual cue "faces" you can make. Another page gave me the brilliant idea to simplify the lyrics to make them more accessible to children with speech delays. Here's the project.

If You're Happy Song - Emotions Version with Visual Cue Cards

Making the Cue Cards

Group Planning

I sat down with the kids and drew a happy face. I asked them how the person felt and they responded "happy." I asked them "How else can people feel?" They responded "sad" and I asked how the face would be different if the person were sad. They told me a frown (and demonstrated for me). I made a sad face with a frown. We then worked together to discuss, demonstrate, and draw the other four emotions (sleepy, surprised, scared, and mad). We also chose the color for each emotion. I let the kids choose and so our colors are a bit unorthodox.

Make and assemble fronts and backs of Cue Cards

I then drew the faces on the circles and wrote the matching emotion and action on the back as a cue for myself when I was holding them up for the kids.

Identify Emotions / Sing the Song

There are a wide variety of activities to do with these cue cards.
  1. Adult hold up the cards and leads the song.
  2. Distribute the cards to the everyone (we had two each) and take turns holding one up and letting the person holding the card be the leader.
  3. Use the cards to help the children learn to identify emotions (without singing) in flash card mode.
  4. Have the children mimic the facial expression of the card you hold up.
  5. Let the children make an expression and you try to guess which one they're making by holding up the matching card. They get to tell you if you're right or wrong. Get it wrong on purpose sometimes so they can enjoy telling you no.

Song Lyrics

You sing the song to the tune of If You're Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands. If you are a teacher, parent, or early childhood educator who has no need to simplify the lyrics, just use the original wording. I'll give the simplified version in a bit.

Here are the originals:
  1. If you're happy and you know it clap your hands...
  2. If you're sad and you know it say "boo hoo"...
  3. If you're mad and you know it stomp your feet...
  4. If you're scared and you know it say "oh no"...
  5. If you're sleepy and you know it take a nap (or close your eyes, or make a yawn)...
  6. If you're surprised and you know it say "oh my"...

Here is how to simplify the lyrics:
If you are doing this activity with children who have speech delays, slow it way down and encourage them to sing along. (Or at least repeat "boo hoo," "oh my", and "oh no" when cued.) Once they have learned the song encourage singing by doing the activity where they get to hold the cue cards and lead the singing in turn.

If you're happy, happy, happy clap your hands.
If you're happy, happy, happy clap your hands.
If you're happy, happy, happy clap your hands, clap your hands.
If you're happy, happy, happy clap your hands.

If you're sad, sad, sad say "boo hoo".
If you're sad, sad, sad say "boo hoo".
If you're sad, sad, sad say "boo hoo", say "boo hoo".
If you're sad, sad, sad say "boo hoo".

And so on...

SLP Notes: This activity is great. You hit speech, language, vocabulary, and pragmatics all at once and can emphasize whichever is most important for your goals with a particular child. It can be adapted high (original version, fast pace, child led). It can also be adapted at a mid-level (modified version, medium pace, cued verbal participation). It can be adapted very low as well with modified version, slow pace, and only gestural participation or cued vocalizations (yawn, crying, snoring, exclamations of fear or surprise) to work on turn taking. Even using the activity to draw the child's attention to your facial expressions could help you work on eye contact if your goals are at that level. For vocabulary you get the emotions themselves, but also the parts of the face including eyebrows and terms like smile and frown.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I have NO IDEA!

The worry is so acute when they have no words and all the other children seem to be talking. Then, if you're lucky, you see progress when therapy begins and the feeling of relief is so profound. Sounds are better than silence. Single syllable words are even better than sounds. Two-syllable words or two-word utterances are even better than that. And then you get sentences, and lots of new words and you start to think it will all be okay.

Then there's a long plateau. Her immediate family understands her most of the time. I get a lot of practice, and at her age (2 1/2) she's almost always talking about something where I get some context clues. Being able to understand her most of the time gives me a false sense of security as well.

Lately, Ava is singing. It's adorable and a sign of great language development. Now, when I say singing, I don't mean the ABC song or Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I mean just making up songs out of the blue.

She learned it from me. I make up songs about what we're doing all the time. If we're getting dressed I'll make up a silly song about putting on shirts and socks. If we're eating breakfast I'll make up a song about how our food tastes good to our mouth and then travels to our tummy to give us energy for the day. If the kids are running circles in the house I'll make up a song about how many laps they've managed to do. (I know, I'm a dork.)

A few days ago I noticed Ava starting to do the same thing. She made up a song about her baby and feeding her. Then she made up a song about going to the grocery store. I caught about one word in ten of those songs and only because I had some context to help with the guessing.

She's also making up songs about random thoughts in her mind. I can tell she's singing "words" and is super excited about whatever story she's telling. I can tell she wants an audience and wants to talk to me about her song. She's just bursting with pride at making up her own songs. I can see all of that clear as day.

And I have NO IDEA what the songs are about. None. It's killing me. It also makes me realize how unintelligible she is out of context and how very unintelligible she probably is to strangers. So sad. I must find more time for therapy.

Speaking of therapy, my new froot loop therapy reinforcer is working beautifully. She's bringing it over and asking to do speech just so she can have a froot loop snack. Whatever works! Being able to sit down with her regularly and get in sessions of a decent length is letting me get a better feel for her current skills and needs in terms of motor processing. Once I get things better sorted out I'll do a post on the topic.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Science on the Light Box: Baking Soda and Colored Vinegar

Light Box Science: Baking Soda and Colored Vinegar

I grabbed one light box and the translucent tray to go on top. I also got out some baking soda, food coloring, and four 2 oz squeeze bottles filled about halfway with vinegar and gathered the children around the light box on the kitchen floor.

We reviewed what happened when we mixed water and oil on the light box (they stay separate). I explained that this time we were going to put colored vinegar on baking soda. I let them taste the vinegar and the baking soda. They claimed they liked both. I had them make a guess about what would happen when we dripped colored vinegar on the baking soda (their guess was that the baking soda would get wet and turn colored).

We chose four colors of food coloring and colored the vinegar in the squeeze bottles. I also used some leftover colored water for contrast. I sprinkled a rather thick layer of baking soda in the translucent tray and began by dripping some colored water on the baking soda and asking them to tell me what happened. They decided that the baking soda was wet and colored just like they guessed.

Then we tried the colored vinegar and got colored bubbles. We decided that when vinegar combines with baking soda we get a different reaction than when water mixes with baking soda. Vinegar makes bubbles and water does not. That was as complex as we got.

They were quite impressed and couldn't wait to play themselves. I handed them squirt bottles and let them begin.

Ava discovered that if she mixed yellow and blue she could make green bubbles. That was a lot of fun. The next time I try this activity I think I'll give each child three bottles with red, blue, and yellow and encourage them to mix colors as they go.

At one point the first tray of baking soda was completely saturated and I quickly rinsed it out dried it. We distributed a much thinner layer the second time and tried to make actual designs.

Cleanup was as easy as rinsing the tray out and drying it with a cloth.
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