Making Social Inferences

The Speech Corner Photo Cards for Social Inferences and Subtle Cues is one of our favorite tools for targeting social skills. Created by Rachele Ellsworth, M.S., CCC-SLP, the deck contains fifty large color photographs of people engaged in various activities (e.g., waiting at a doctor’s office, helping someone in need, sharing a meal together). Questions on the back of each card target understanding of the subtle social cues depicted. It allows us to practice making inferences and predictions as well as understanding emotions and body language all with one material!

For example, one of the cards shows a fireman helping a woman who has just been in a car accident. Some questions on the back read:

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  • Do these people know each other? How do you know?

  • What just occurred to bring these people together?

  • What might the man say? What might the woman say?

  • How might the woman feel? How might the man feel?

  • Where is the woman going now? How do you know?

  • Do you think more people are near these people? 


We love using these cards with children who are struggling with interpreting social cues. One child that we used these cards with went from needing a great deal of support to interpret body language and relationships between people to independently making predictions and interpreting body language both in picture scenes and in her real life!


Alexia Mazzone
The Ins and Outs of Play

Play is an integral part of children’s cognitive, language, social, and emotional development. It allows children to explore the word in safe and meaningful ways. Play is important. But how do you work on it?

Start by recognizing your child’s play level. In simplified terms, there are four main stages of play:

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1.     The first stage is exploration. Think of a baby who explores objects by looking at, touching, and mouthing them.

2.     The second stage is dump and fill. Remember when Bobby thought putting all the balls in the basket and then dumping them out was the funniest thing?

3.     The third stage is functional play. Functional play is when kids use objects for their intended purposes (e.g., rolling a toy car, building a block tower).

4.     The fourth stage is pretend play.

 Play stages usually overlap with each other. Your two-year-old may be doing a little dump a fill, a little functional, and a little early pretend play. But understanding where your child is in their play helps determine what they’re ready for.

 Adults should model play that’s about one step above what children do when they play by themselves. This will make the play interesting and engaging enough for the kids without it going completely over their heads!

 If you think your child is ready for pretend play, start modeling it from the simplest level.

·  Beginning pretend play involves using one object for one function (e.g., pretending a doll is sleeping or using a banana to “call” someone).

·  Pretend play then evolves into play sequences with one object (e.g., kissing the doll and then put her to sleep).

·  Children then start adding more objects and more steps (e.g., having a mommy doll help brush the baby doll’s teeth, turn off the light, and go to sleep). Pretend play continues to develop on from here.

 What pretend play should you model? Draw inspiration from your kid’s everyday life and routines. Set the scene (e.g., going to the beach, going to the doctors, or getting ready for bed) and see if they join in and start to add steps. Don’t forget the small steps like pretending to put on your seatbelt, turning the key (or pushing the button!) to start the car, or adjusting the water temperature so it’s not “too hot.” Add some unexpected problems like a flat tire or it starts to rain. You can also draw inspiration from your children’s favorite stories or shows.

 Lastly, remember: play is supposed to be fun! If you and your child aren’t having fun, something needs to change. If you have any concerns or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact your child’s teacher or us.

Alexia Mazzone
Frequent and Consistent Therapy at TALK

Frequency.  Consistency.  Frequency...Consistency.  More than likely, you have probably heard your speech therapist mention these terms more than once.  You have a solid treatment plan.  You have amazing and skilled therapists.  BUT we still need to talk about frequency and consistency.  These two factors are the drivers of success in therapy.

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Once your child has finished the diagnostic therapy period and we have held the initial parent meeting to go over the evaluation and treatment plan, it is now time to dive in and target those carefully selected objectives! Treatment plans with short-term objectives are written for a four-month period and progress of all goals will be reviewed at the following parent meeting, with all data graphed and analyzed. Functional, measurable goals are implemented to target your child’s communication needs.

Consistency and frequency of therapy are two of the most important factors for demonstrating progress in speech therapy. AT TALK, all clients attend therapy for a minimum of two times per week. Researchers in the field of speech and language development find that therapy once per week tends to promote maintenance of skills. More frequent and consistent therapy is vital for making greater progress across all domains of speech and language. If your child is making slower progress than desired, take a look at their attendance of sessions.  Have they missed numerous sessions?  Have they taken several breaks?   Talk to your therapist about increasing frequency of services, if appropriate. 

You can also ask your therapist if implementing a home practice program is suitable for your child. Maintaining mastered skills at home can help progress with inconsistent skill levels targeted in speech therapy.  The more frequent and consistent the intervention, the higher the chances are of meeting their goals!

Alexia Mazzone
Supporting Language At Home

A question we get all the time from parents is, “What can I do at home to support my child’s language development?” As simple as it sounds, one of the best things parents can do at home is to model the correct language target and provide auditory bombardment.

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Auditory bombardment is an evidence-based treatment strategy where the therapist (or parent) repeats the target stimulus multiple times for the child to hear. Auditory bombardment can be used in conjunction with articulation therapy and language therapy. If your child is working on their /s/ sound, consider bombarding them with /s/ words during car rides. If your child is working on their pronouns, bombard them with sentences using correct pronouns while at the park or the zoo. When your child makes an error, model the correct target and repeat a few times. So, if your child says, “Look!! The dog eating!” respond with, “You’re right! The dog IS eating! It must be hungry because the dog IS eating it’s food!”

Doing these small things throughout the day can help make a difference in your child’s progress on their speech and language goals.

Alexia Mazzone
Look, Listen, and Infer
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The Look, Listen and Infer Fun Deck created by Clint Johnson, M.A., CCC-SLP and Erin Riojas with Super DuperⓇ Publications is a therapy material that can be used to help improve critical thinking, auditory comprehension, and inferencing skills. It is a great therapy tool for school aged children in second grade or higher. The deck assists clients with inferring the meaning of a message by listening to a scenario while also looking at a picture to provide an appropriate and logical answer given a social scenario.  

This tool is beneficial because it teaches children to improve their inferencing skills by reminding them to look at all the details in the picture to help determine the meaning of the message. One of our clinicians recently began using this with a seven year old child who has difficulties with critical thinking and inferencing skills. The pictures and the scenarios listed on the cards has helped the child look at the big picture and the small details to determine the meaning of a message. 

An example of the type of scenario given is a picture of an older sister and younger brother standing outside a closed door. In the picture, the older sister appears to be carrying a heavy fragile item with both of her hands, as the younger brother is holding what appears to be a light box since he is carrying the box in one arm only. Below the picture the card has written, “Your sister asked, ‘Can you give me a hand?’ What should you do next?” If the child has difficulty providing a logical and appropriate answer, there are multiple choice options provided. “Applaud her for carrying such a heavy box; Give her a high five; Help her open the door.” The most appropriate answer would be to help her open the door. 

The Look, Listen and Infer Fun Deck is a quick, fun way to target skills that many children struggle with.

Alexia Mazzone
Five Common Myths about Language Development
 
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  1. “Using sign language will make my child talk later.”

    Using signs before a child can talk actually promotes language!

  2. “Late-talkers always catch up.”

    Some late-talkers catch up, but many do not! We’d rather see kids earlier so they can catch up sooner rather than later.

  3. “Learning two languages at the same time causes language delays.”

    There are so many benefits to bilingualism! When we evaluate bilingual kids, we look at their combined language skills.

  4. “He’s not talking much, but he’s a boy.”

    Girls and boys actually develop language at the same rate. But boys have a higher risk of language delays/disorders.

  5. “I should use flashcards to help build my child’s vocabulary.”

    Kids learn new words best when they hear them multiple times in natural environments.

For more information, please check out asha.org.


Alexia Mazzone
Expanding Language

 Can you tell me more? EET To The Rescue!

 One therapy tool that gets a lot of use around the TALK clinic is the Expanding Expression Tool (EET).  The Expanding Expression Tool (EET) is a multi-sensory tool that helps children organize and retrieve information when providing oral and written descriptions or definitions. It was developed by Sarah Smith, a Speech-Language Pathologist.  The EET consists of a rope with seven large colored beads. Each bead provides a reminder for the type of information that can be included in a description. It is considered a multi-sensory tool because the child is simultaneously using their sense of touch, sight, and hearing while using the EET. This makes the EET a powerful teaching tool for children with various learning styles.

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The parts of the EET are:

Green bead (Group) – What category does the object belong to?

Blue bead (Do) – What does the object do? What can you do with the object?

Eyeball bead (Look like):  - What does it look like? (e.g., shape, size, color)

Wooden bead (Made of) - What is it made of (or come from)?

Pink (Parts) - What are its parts? What parts go with it?

White (Where) - Where do you find it? Where does it come from?

Question Mark - What else do I know? What is the child’s prior knowledge?

This simple strand of beads has magical powers when it comes to teaching clients to understand and expand their knowledge of categories, function, and important features of everyday objects.

Alexia Mazzone
Guess Who Is Improving Their Speech and Language?!

Movement, crafts, themed activities and games are just a few ways we like to make our therapy session FUN and MOTIVATING. Apart from the obvious fun, games are used in session for several important reasons that targets a range of skills in the areas of: receptive and expressive language, articulation, phonology, motor speech, fluency, voice, and social communication skills. One of our favorite games at TALK is Guess Who, which is an engaging game that incorporates a range of concepts.

Guess Who is a great way to reward our kids while practicing their skills. The game itself targets a wide range of speech and language development goals. Let’s break it down by some areas:

Receptive/Expressive Language:

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·       Basic concepts (e.g., boy/girl, colors, etc.)

·       Following directions

·       Reasoning and processing

·       Comprehension skills by responding to questions to put down the correct people in order to narrow down the choices

·       Using descriptive vocabulary to gain specific information

·       Forming yes/no questions (e.g., “Is your person a woman?”)

·       Understanding and using negation (e.g., “My person doesn’t have glasses.”)

You can also create your own visuals to assist in asking questions, such as a visual aid for carrier phrases (e.g., “Does your person have ______?” or “He/she is wearing _______.”).

Articulation:

·       Target speech sound errors at the structured conversation level

·       The phonemes /s/ and /z/ are sounds that come up frequently in the game (e.g., “Does your person have a mustache?)

·       The phoneme /r/ (e.g., “Is your person wearing a hat?”)

·       Monitor in conversation when your child is not paying attention to their articulation

Fluency:

·       Praise/reinforce smooth speech in the moment when asking questions

·       Video tape your child during the game and watch it together after the game. Have him/her identify when smooth or bumpy speech was used

·       Practice using smooth speech with learned stuttering modification and strategies (e.g., easy onset, pull out, cancellations, light articulatory contact, etc.)

Voice:

·       Practice speaking rate, pitch and volume when asking and answering questions 

Social Communication:

·       Elicit turn-taking

·       Encourage help and self-advocacy skills by reminding your child to ask for a repetition of the question or ask for clarification

Fortunately, Guess Who is very adaptable for specific goals. For example, create your own cards for each window to target verbs, places and nouns. You can even glue family members’ pictures on the back, and have your child ask social questions by formulating questions associated to their likes and dislikes (e.g., “Does your person like to play basketball?”). Games can easily be modified in therapy or at home to increase engagement. Modify the rules, instruction length or match concepts to what is most appropriate. The sky is the limit! The reward of playing games can help to encourage ongoing progress for overall success!

Alexia Mazzone
Understanding Social Communication

What exactly is Social Communication?

Social communication is the use of language (including nonverbal) in social situations. Social communication can be intuitive, but for some of us, these social competencies don’t come naturally! They need to be learned.

 

Did you know there are “hidden rules” of conversation and play?

There are! We are constantly using our social competencies at school, work, and home to interact with others, share experiences, and build relationships.

 

Does your child have difficulty with social communication? Here are some skills to keep an eye out for:

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·      Participating in group settings

·      Developing and maintaining friendships

·      Playing with others

·      Having balanced conversations

·      Interpreting body language

·      Understanding and using figurative or ambiguous language

·      Understanding and using sarcasm, jokes, emotions, and inferencing

 

What can I do?

·      If you are concerned your child has difficulty with social communication, the next step is to contact your school district or a Speech-Language Pathologist for an evaluation.

·      Early treatment greatly improves prognosis and success!

·      At TALK, we provide therapy for children with a variety of speech and language difficulties, including social communication disorders. We offer the following services to teach, practice, and generalize social communication

  • Individual therapy

  • Group therapy

  • Summer camps

Alexia Mazzone
The Role of an SLP in Reading Intervention
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When you think of a speech-language pathologist (SLP), a few buzzwords probably come to mind; terms like articulation, language, or fluency. Most people don’t think of reading when they think of SLPs. However, it is well within our scope of practice to diagnose and treat reading and written language disorders. SLPs have extensive knowledge in language development and understand the foundational building blocks required to become a fluent reader.  Additionally, SLPs are efficient in morphology, syntax, phonology, semantics, and pragmatics, which are crucial for fluent reading, reading comprehension, and written expression.

Pre-Reading Skills

Before a child can decode, or read, they must have an understanding that words are composed of smaller units and how these units operate separately and together. This skill is referred to as phonological awareness. Research has shown that children who have strong phonological awareness skills learn to read more quickly (Dickson, D.  and Neuman S. (2007). Handbook of early literacy research). Strengthening these skills can help children who are at-risk for reading delays or those struggling with reading be more prepared for the complex and linguistic demands of reading.

The following skills are some examples of phonological awareness:

·       Rhyming (e.g., “flag and stag”)

·       Syllable segmenting (e.g., “student: stu/dent”)

·       Syllable deletion (e.g., “student without the ‘stu’ is ‘dent’”)

·       Blending sounds into words (e.g., “sh/i/p says ‘ship’”)

·       Segmenting words into their sounds (e.g., “leg: l/e/g”)

·       Deleting sounds in words (e.g., “cup without the c is up”)

·       Substituting sounds in words (e.g., “change the ‘B’ in bat to an ‘M’”)

Kids at Risk

Certain populations with speech and language disorders may be more at risk for reading challenges than others. A diagnosis of any of the following does not cause a reading delay, but it is important to note and be aware of. Some at-risk groups include individuals with Apraxia of Speech, Autism, phonological disorders, auditory processing disorder, and language delays.

My Child Has a Hard Time Reading- Now What?

An SLP can find the strengths and weaknesses in your child’s phonological awareness and reading skills and develop a plan tailored to your child’s specific needs. In addition to providing dynamic assessments, SLPs can help with prevention of reading and writing disorders by educating teachers and parents on the importance of pre-literacy skills and red flags to look for. Once your child has been assessed and a reading delay has been detected, a treatment plan unique to your child should be developed. At TALK, we use fun, evidence-based multisensory programs to teach reading and spelling through multiple modalities. If you have concerns about your child’s pre-literacy or literacy skills, give us a call or visit our website to schedule an evaluation. 

Alexia Mazzone