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?


  1. I have perfected stick figure drawing for just these reasons. Therapy materials are crazy expensive and never what you really need. I'm putting together an early words iPad app and you have just strengthened my conviction to put in as many truly early words as I can!

  2. I am terrible at drawing. I have to do all the planning and stimulus creation ahead of time. I am always impressed with therapists that can do it during the session.

    If you're interested in extra thoughts or collaboration on your iPad app, just let me know.


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