Books · Language · Preschool Activities

Fall Books For Speech Therapy

Unique fall books and activities for speech therapy

The fall season seriously has all the best speech therapy books, don’t you agree? 

A lot of people will post their favorite fall books on IG and send them in newsletters, so I am hoping to share some books with you that maybe you have haven’t seen yet. I also want to tell you why I love them! They will all be linked to Amazon so you can grab them if they look intriguing to you. Let’s go! 

Here we go, my favorite fall books and activities for speech therapy!

Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre-good for: upper elementary students working on vocabulary, describing pictures, discussing fall

There are two reasons I am recommending this book. The first is the pictures. They hug your soul and make you feel like you are hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, not just reading a book. The second is the vocabulary. She uses very simple sentence structure, but gracefully weaves in unusual vocabulary. This a perfect way to scaffold learning new words for those students who have difficulty learning language.

Amelia Bedelia’s First Apple Pie by Herman Parish- good for: mid-upper elementary, idioms, figurative language, describing words, story elements, story retell, multiple meaning words.

Oh this book makes my SLP heart so happy! First of all, it is STUFFED with idioms and figurative language. The author also uses interesting vocabulary and bright pictures. I could literally make this book last an entire month if I wanted to. However, none of that is my favorite thing about this book.

Speech Therapy fall themed books and activities

The BEST THING about this book is…HAVING A PIE PARTY with your students!!! When I read this book for the first time, I learned many of my students had never eaten the heavenly concoction that is pie! I HAD to remedy that. When I do this, I bring an apple and a pumpkin pie. Each student gets a sliver of each. We use describing words, we compare/contrast, we draw, we write, we graph…but most importantly we have FUN while I get the pleasure of sharing a new life experience with many of my students. I know COVID might make this a little bit tricky this year, but maybe you can get creative and figure out a way to make this work. Or at least tuck this idea away in your toolbox to use another time! 

Pumpkin themed books…


Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman- good for: younger students, Halloween themed vocabulary, story retell, predicting, having fun!

This is a peppy Halloween themed book. This book is perfect for students with language difficulties because it is full of repetitive text that builds on itself. We all know that repetition is the key to learning! It has a catchy flow that it makes it enjoyable for your students to listen to and keeps it fun for you to read, even after the 1000th time… . There is also a companion song which you can listen to here.

Where is Baby’s PumpkinWhere Is Baby’s Turkey by Karen Katz- good for: preschool and toddler students, targeting location words, answering “what” and “where” questions, thematic vocabulary.

These books are perfect for the littlest ones on your caseload. They are short, have lift-the-flaps, and use simple vocabulary. They are a fun way to introduce holiday vocab and target “where” questions and prepositions. 

Preschool fall themed speech therapy books

        When I teach this, I introduce/reinforce the vocab from the book with real pictures and then after we read the story, we “hide” a pumpkin/turkey around the classroom. So fun. So perfect for those friends that need to get those wiggles out! You can check out the book companion I created for “Where Is Baby’s Pumpkin”, here.

How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? by Wendall Minor- good for: elementary age (maybe middle school), synonyms, creative thinking/writing, learning about our world.

This book will pull  creativity and imagination out of your students while they learn synonyms for the word “big” and discover new places around the world. In this story, the author has the reader imagine how big a pumpkin could grow. Then, the vivid pictures depict a giant pumpkin as it travels around the U.S. 

       When I teach this, we read the book and discuss all of the different synonyms for the word big. (I have some worksheets to help you with this, if you are interested.) Then, the next session, we go back through the book and use YouTube videos to explore and discuss all of the places that the pumpkin traveled in the book. Our favorites were always the pumpkin regatta and hot air balloon festival! Then, for the last session, we get creative! We draw/write/discuss a fun place to imagine a giant pumpkin. 

If you loved these ideas, be sure to check out this page for more of my unique speech therapy book recommendations!

I would love to know, do you use these fall themed books in speech therapy already? What are your favorite books to use in the fall? Drop me a comment below and let’s talk about it! 

Autism · social language · Social Skills

Wonder Book Study for Speech Therapy

Wonder activities for speech therapy

Have you been hunting for that perfect book study to use with your older speech therapy students? The book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio may just fit the bill! Reading this book with your students will give you a unique way to discuss nonverbal communication, perspective taking, vocabulary, and of course, kindness.

Using the Book Wonder to Study Perspective Taking and Nonverbal Communication in Speech Therapy



I loved studying the book Wonder with my speech therapy kiddos and I think you will too. Here is why: 

1.) This book is dripping with language that perfectly describes different nonverbal communication actions and character perspectives. 

2.) The types of nonverbal communication the author describes are very different than the examples we often see on drill cards or worksheets, so you have a lot of opportunities to discuss new and unfamiliar nonverbal communication.

3.) The book is chunked into sections that discuss the perspectives of different characters. But, the author also uses precise, descriptive language throughout the book that allows you to target this skill in every chapter.

4.) Students find this story relatable and encouraging, especially our students who might be different than their peers.

5.) Of course it discuss the importance of kindness, which is awesome.

6.) Even if the reading level is too high for a student to read independently, it is great for your student to spend time listening to you read and discuss the story. It will expose him/her to more advanced themes and vocabulary, which they can digest with you. 

Click here if you are interested in using this guide to help your students analyze the different kinds of nonverbal communication and practice perspective taking!

If you read this book with your student/s, be prepared for it to take several weeks to read. This may not be ideal for every student. However, I  believe that taking time with a student to explore a book above their reading level will help expand their comprehension abilities. Another bonus, it makes lesson planning much easier!

Are you looking for more unique book activities to do with your students? Be sure to check these out

Autism · social language · Social Skills · Uncategorized

Important Dating Skills for Students with Autism

Pretend you are the parent or teacher of a teenager with Autism or a Social Language Disorder. Your teenager comes up to you one day and says “Guess what? I am dating someone!” Let’s talk about the most important dating skills for students with Autism.

If this is you, please keep reading! I want to share a few tips and friendly reminders for parents and teachers who are getting ready to start teaching their students with Autism or Social Language Disorders about safely dating.

Dating and relationships are terrifying topics for any parent, but I would imagine it is especially nerve wracking for parents of students with social language difficulties. At the time this blog post is being written, there are no studies that specifically analyze the correlation between Autism and sexual abuse. HOWEVER, there is a study that indicates that a child with any type of intellectual disability was four times more likely to be sexually abused than a child without disabilities (Sullivan & Knutson, 2000). Yikes.

Indulge me for a second and think about your first boyfriend or girlfriend.

I met my first boyfriend when I was 13 years old. We were on the swim team together. One day after practice, I mustered up the nerve to give him my home phone number (because 8th graders didn’t have cell phones back then). We dated for about a year, but like most middle school flings, it didn’t last forever. After that, I dated a few guys here and there until I met and married my husband when I was 23.  

What do you remember from the dating process? Sure, I remember a lot of fun times, but I also remember a lot of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, anger, and sadness. I especially remember being confused…does he like me? Should I kiss him? Do I need to break up with him? How far is “too far”?

Now, I am relatively socially adept. I am pretty good at interpreting and using nonverbal communication. I understand the social norms that surround dating, but navigating this social routine still made anxious! Did you feel this way too?

If you and I both felt this way, imagine how our students who struggle to understand social communication feel!

That is why we need to work with their caregivers to strategically teach them about this process!

Here is what I would do. Begin by TEACHING the student the most important dating skills. Explain why we date and break down the dating process into the following easy to understand steps.

1.) You Like Someone

2.) You Ask Them Out on A Date

3.) You are Dating

4.) You Keep Dating…or You Break Up

5.) Be Patient and Keep Trying

Autism dating skills

A few more important dating skills for students with Autism to keep in mind…

Now, you and I both know that dating is tricky, so, it is important to not shy away from the fact that your student will probably face some rejection. Make sure you talk about ways to avoid rejection (hello, understanding nonverbal communication). Also, make sure you talk about what to do if they are rejected or if someone breaks up with him/her. I know it is unpleasant, but your student deserves to have a plan in place if he/she needs it.

Healthy and unhealthy relationships. Does your student understand this concept? If not, then you need to teach it. Make sure your student knows the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships…and what to do if they are in an unhealthy relationship. (i.e. break up, talk to a trusted adult, etc.)

ONE MORE SUPER IMPORTANT THING

Talk about physical touch. If you are a caregiver, I strongly, strongly, encourage you to just dive into this topic. Yes, it will be extremely awkward-I’m sorry. But open communication could prevent your child from being abused or put in a dangerous situation. If you are a teacher or therapist of some sort, well you probably can’t go as in depth, but you CAN make sure your student knows that they don’t have to do ANYTHING that makes them uncomfortable.

Do you know a student or teenager who could benefit from discussing dating and relationships? Are you uncertain about what to say or how to approach this topic? I can help!

I created this teaching guide on dating and relationships. It introduces dating, why we date, and it breaks down the process of dating into manageable steps. But the best part is that it also gives you discussion questions and activities that will help your student make a plan to be a safe and successful dater!

Dating and relationship social skills for autism

If you found this post helpful be sure and pop over to this post about power relationships! This is another important safety topic that I feel passionate about!

Preschool Activities

Engaging Fall Articulation Activity For Preschoolers

Fall Articulation Activity

Wouldn’t it be nice if your preschool students had an engaging fall themed activity where they learned new, salient, vocabulary while they work on their articulation

Be honest, have you ever looked at a deck of articulation cards and wondered how many of the words the child actually knows? Particularly those little friends who are not only speech delayed, but language delayed as well?

Now, tell me if this scenario sounds familiar to you: You are working with a preschool student. He (or she) is unintelligible and has many phonological processes. He also has language delays and needs to learn new vocabulary. OH, AND HE CAN’T SIT STILL…because, I mean, he is in PRESCHOOL…

Have you experienced this? Are you bored of using the same articulation cards with words that aren’t even relevant to this child’s life?

I have already created a set of preschool themeatic vocabulary activities that I love. But they just won’t cut it for my kiddos that need articulation support as well.

So, to solve this particular problem, I have created a set of fall themed vocabulary + articulation/phonological process + task cards. Basically, I’ve upgraded your standard artic card.

Here is how to do this fall themed activity.

1.) Pick the targets that aligns with your student’s speech goals. Print, cut, and laminate those cards. You can store them on a binder ring, or they fit nicely into these task card boxes from Michael’s.

2.) Take some time to teach your student about the vocabulary words on his/her cards. Look at pictures, videos, and discuss the words. This is important, because, as the student hears them in class or at home in the upcoming months, s/he will be familiar with them! 

3.) Follow the steps on the cards. Have your student move a clothespin as you complete each step on the right hand side of the card. In the first step, you will model the word for your student. I would do this maybe 5x or so.

Fall Themed Articulation Task Cards

Move the clothes pin down, this is the fun section! Have your student touch the circle as he/she says the sound. I would do this at least 5x for each word so that you can get in as many trials as possible.

Fall Preschool Articulation Activity
Fall

You could also use pom poms, play dough, dry erase markers, or paint dabbers to mix things up. These fine motor activities are really great for kiddos who need to keep moving their hands!

Finally, move the clip to the last step. In this step the student practices saying the word as independently as possible.

Preschool Fall Speech Therapy Articulation Activity

This articulation activity is awesome because, once your student is familiar with the process, you can review and practice all fall long. They make a great warm up or exit activity for your speech therapy sessions!

These cards do all the things a good speech therapy resource does:

  • Target multiple goals
  • Support different styles of learning
  • Are evidence based
  • Engage little learners
  • Provide a lot of visuals!

I am so excited to have this fall articulation activity for the preschoolers in my life. If you need them in your life, you can find them in my TpT store!

P.S. Did you know I have a YouTube Channel where I share my best tips and tricks for teaching social communication skills? Be sure and check out my list of videos before you leave!

Uncategorized

Social Communication Definition

What is the definition of Social Communication? Social communication is how we use language when communicating with others. It goes beyond thinking of something to say, and physically saying it. Social communication is how we change the way we communicate based on the people around us. Still sounds confusing doesn’t it? Let’s break it down a little bit further.

Social Communication Disorder Definition
Use this graph to help you visualize the different areas of social communication.
If you are interested in learning more about social communication, or if video is more your thing, be sure to check out this video. I go into a lot of detail explaining what social communication by giving you a definition AND examples!

According to ASHA, Social Communication is made up of 4 main subcategories: Social Interactions, Social Cognition, Pragmatics, and Language Processing. Each of these four categories are broken down into smaller categories. I know this is a lot, but we will work through each of these categories as we talk about the definition of social communication!

Section 1: Language Processing

The different areas of social communication

Language processing is made of expressive language and a receptive language.

Expressive language is the language we produce. It includes things like using vocabulary words, combining words, and making grammatical utterances.  We use expressive language skills when we are speaking and writing. Although there are other forms of expressive communication.

Receptive language is the language we understand. It includes things like understanding a conversation, understanding vocabulary, and following directions. We use receptive language skills when we are listening to someone speak and when we are reading.

How Does Language Processing Effect Social Communication?

From a social language standpoint, we must understand what our communicative partners are saying before we can interact with them. In order to communicate, we must have some ability to express ourselves. If we cannot do these things, we cannot be social with others. The more language we can understand and use, the more social we can be.

Section 2: Pragmatics

The area of Pragmatics consists of nonverbal communication and verbal responses.

Nonverbal communication consists of the aspects of communication that are not verbal.

  • Eye contact
  • Gestures (pointing or giving a thumbs up)
  • Body language (shrugging or slouching)
  • Facial expressions
  • Eye gaze
  • Proxemics (personal space)

Verbal communication is every verbal component of speech. They include:

  • Speech Acts (The reason why we are communicating). Speech acts include making requests, making comments, giving directions, making demands, negotiating, and making promises.
  • Prosody & Tone of Voice. This is the intonation, rhythm, tone, and rate of speech. Socially, we change our prosody based on our communicative partner. If we are talking to a peer, we talk quickly, with an informal tone. If we are giving a presentation, we talk more formally, using a different tone and rate.
  • Discourse (The kind of communication interaction we are having). Discourse includes conversations, telling stories, retelling events, or telling someone how to do something.

Each of these kinds of discourse have different functions socially. We converse when we want to get to know someone better. To share an event, we tell a story. If we are giving instructions, we need to be able to tell someone how to do something.

How Do Pragmatics Effect Social Communication?

From a social stand point, some types of communication might be an interaction. This means both people are equal participants. Other times, it might be a social transaction. This means one person is using the other person to get something, but is not trying to interact socially with the other person. For example, a student who only communicates to ask for food, is participating in a social transaction, but is not interacting with the person he/she is talking to.

Section 3: Social Cognition

What is social communication?

Social cognition is the awareness of social cues. Very simply speaking, it is the ability to look at another person, identify how they are feeling, and then change the way we interact with them based on that information. Social cognition is made of four areas: emotional intelligence, executive functioning, theory of mind, and joint attention.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to interpret and understand the emotions of others.

Someone who struggles with emotional intelligence has a hard time understanding complex emotions and empathizing with others.

We do this by reading others nonverbal and verbal communication, and then changing how we interact with them, based on the signals they give us.

For example, pretend you come home and you see a family member is acting sluggish and sounds extra tired. You would probably ask “What is wrong?”, right?  You have used emotional intelligence to determine the other person don’t feel good. If you offer to get him/her medicine, then you have used the information that person gave you, to change your interaction.

Think about how you would change your interactions with others if you saw the following emotions.

  • Excited/happy
  • Angry/frustrated
  • Tired/sick
  • Jealous
  • Determined
  • Sad
  • Bored

Theory of Mind is the ability to understand that other people have their own thoughts and feelings that may be different from yours.

Many students with social communication disorders do not realize that others have different thoughts and opinions from themselves. Socially speaking, this is important because it helps regulate how we interact with others.  

Consider this example. I might be having a lot of fun playing a game, but if I can tell that my friend looks bored, I might offer to change the activity. Even though I think the game is fun, I understand that my friend might not.

Someone who struggles with theory of mind, has a hard time understanding that other people have different thoughts and feelings.

Executive function is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We use these skills to learn, work, and manage daily life.

Trouble with executive function can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions. When we have difficulty with these tasks, we have a hard time interacting with others.

Joint Attention is the ability to share attention to the same thing as someone else.

If someone struggles with joint attention, they have a hard time paying attention to things that are not of interest to them. They are also not motivated to pay attention to what someone else is giving attention to.

For example, if we are interacting together and turn around and look at something, you will probably turn to look at what I am looking at, even if I didn’t say anything. This is joint attention. Those who struggle to interpret nonverbal communication often have a difficult time maintaining joint attention.

Section 4: Social Interactions

Social interactions are how we interact with others. Skills in this category include the ability to navigate power relationships, code switch, and problem solve in social situations. Let’s look at these a little closer.

Power Relationships are connections between two people defined by how much power/authority one person has over the other.

Power exists in every relationship. It is natural and healthy. Not everyone can be equal within each relationship. Power usually exists to help others or to keep people safe. If everyone had equal power, the world would be very chaotic.

In power relationships, we understand how to participate in each of these roles. We understand who our authority is, how to submit, and why it is important.  We also understand who are our peers, and how to interact with them, as well as how to interact with any subordinates we may have.

Code Switching is the ability to change the way you speak or act based on who you are interacting with.

For example, if you are bilingual, you code switch to know when to speak Spanish and when to speak English. In social communication, this means knowing how to act and speak around certain people. For example, you would understand that you use slang around your peers, and formal language with your authorities.

Social Problem Solving is the ability to solve problems in complex social situations. This includes compromising, apologizing, and agreeing respectfully.

In Conclusion…

As you can see, the social communication definition is very complex, which can make it very difficult to evaluate and treat.

If you are not an SLP and your student has been diagnosed with social communication and you still have questions, please reach out to your student’s Speech-Language Pathologist. He or she will know your child and be able to answer your specific questions.

Autism · social language · Social Skills

How to Teach Power Relationships in Speech Therapy

Power Relationships and social communication

Do your students have trouble submitting to authority figures or bossing their peers around? Navigating around these social relationships, known as power relationships, can be tricky for students with social communication impairments. Keep reading my friends, and I will tell you why we need to be working on power relationships in speech therapy, and how to teach them!

If video is more your thing, go check out this video on how to teach power relationships!

What are Power Relationships?

According to ASHA, Power Relationships, are the ability to understand and appropriately use deference and domination in social communication. While this may sound a little strange at first, it just means being able to understand how to act in social situations with authorities, subordinates, and a peers.

How do I teach my students about Power Relationships?

I am so glad you asked! All you need to get started is to follow the 7 steps I will outline below!

Step 1: Teach the Vocabulary

I would start teaching this topic by introducing the vocabulary. I like to do this using an interactive social narrative, that opens a discussion about the topic. Chances are, your student has never heard the words “authority”, “subordinate”, “power relationship”, or “peers”. If they have heard them, they may not be familiar with what these words mean. Here are some definitions you can you use:

Power Relationship: A connection between two people defined by how much power/authority one person has over the other

Authority: A person with the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience

Subordinate: A person with lower rank or in a lower power position

Peer: A person with equal power to you

Often times our students with social communication disorders also have language disorders, which can make learning new vocabulary challenging. So, make sure you are using lots of examples and visuals as you are teaching these new vocabulary words.

Step 2: Identifying Power Positions

Your students might be confused what their power role in a relationship is, so the next step is helping them identify people around them who are their authority figures, peers, and subordinates. I would do this with some kind of graphic organizer or visual. This helps the students to see that they have many authority figures and peers, but they probably do not have any subordinates. This can be difficult for some students to accept.

Identifying Power Positions in Speech Therapy
Here is an example of a graphic organizer I would use to teach power relationships in speech therapy!

Keep this in mind as you teach this step: Older siblings and students are probably peers. Not all adults are authorities. If your student needs a subordinate, they can call a pet or themselves a subordinate.

Step 3: Why Are Power Relationships Important?

Students who struggle to submit to authority, need to understand that authority figures are put in place to make and enforce the rules. These rules are made to keep us safe and to keep things running smoothly. If we did not have rules there would be chaos. As you discuss this, help your students think of examples of what would happen if we did not have authority figures.

Step 4: Showing Submission

This step is tricky because it requires the student to understand and appropriately use nonverbal language. Make sure your student understands the types of nonverbal communication before you move to this step, then discuss the ways that you use nonverbal communication to submit to authority. For example, using appropriate tone of voice, eye contact, body language, gestures, and personal space.

Teaching students to submit to authority
Consider these aspects of nonverbal communication as you discuss submitting to authority!

Step 5: Dangerous and Safe Strangers

Remember how I said not all adults are authorities? We need to be very, very careful we are not teaching our students they have to submit to all adults. Are most adults safe? Yes. But are ALL adults safe? NOPE. Students with social communication deficits tend to see things as black or white, and do not easily catch onto nuances. It is our responsibility to teach them what they need to know to stay safe.

Start by explaining that most adults who are wearing a badge and/or a uniform are probably safe. BUT even when talking to these people, they need to be listening to what the person is saying and see if it is appropriate.

For example, if a doctor tells you “take off your shirt and get on the table” this is expected and appropriate for the student to submit to the authority of the doctor. But if a store manager gives the student the same directive, well, this is not appropriate and the student should not submit. You will need to spend a lot of time on this step to make sure your student is able to identify dangerous and safe strangers.

Step 6: Rules

This step is for the student who likes to boss around his/her peers. In this step, you will discuss the different kind of rules: posted, social, and imagined.

Posted Rules are rules that are written somewhere, for example, “don’t steal”.

Social Rules are not written down, but we all know to follow them. For example, “don’t pick your nose in public.”

Imagined Rules are rules that we made up for ourselves. For example, “this is my chair and no one else can sit here.”

Many times, our students will have some imagined rules that they are trying to force on their peers, even though they do not have the authority to do so. As you work on this step, make sure your students understand they are equal to their peers and they should submit to their authorities.

Step 7: Self Monitoring

Once your student understands power relationships and why they are important, you need to teach them how to practice the discipline of self monitoring. To do this, have your student think about a recent interaction they had with a peer, authority, or subordinate. Guide them through this process by asking the student to describe the interaction, tell what the did well, and make a plan for improvement.

References: (2020, February 21). Check Your Power Position: Helping Individuals with Autism Navigate Power Relationships. Lecture presented at Texas Speech Hearing Association 2020 Convention in Texas, Houston.

Now for the good stuff…

If you are new to teaching power relationships in speech therapy, or if you are just don’t have the time/energy/desire to make your own lessons, I’ve got you covered. I’ve put together this teaching guide for you using all the elements I’ve listed in this post. Oh! And if you are interested in the digital version, I’ve got that too!

Uncategorized

How Does A Normal SLP Start a TPT Store Anyways?

Have you ever wondered about the stories of your favorite TpT authors, bloggers, and online mentors? What prompted them to start this journey, more importantly what motivated them to stick with it? I can’t speak for them, but I would love to share the start of my TpT journey with you. 

It all started back in the year 2017. I was in my 3rd year working for a public school in North Texas and I was pregnant with my first child. I was meeting a teacher friend for coffee after work one day, but this wasn’t just any friend. This is one of those special, life-long and life-changing friendships.

You see this friend, she used to teach on my campus, but she had just had her first baby and had decided to leave public education to be a stay-at-home mom. During this coffee date, my friend told me she was starting a Teachers Pay Teachers store. I thought she was nuts, but I encouraged her, because that’s what friends do. Then she told me I should start one. Now  I really thought she had lost her mind. I had literally no idea the first thing to do to create a TpT resource. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

But this friend, (whose name by the way is Kaitlyn AKA The Stay At Home Teacher) kept bringing it up. She was so encouraging, that I finally decided “what the heck, I’ve got a few ideas, I’ll do it.” So, I bought my first cheap-o computer and got to work. And within minutes hit my first road block. Because I had no idea what I was doing.

By this time, I had had my baby and his sleep time became my work time. Those first resources took me days. And NONE of them still exist in their original form because they were TERRIBLE…so terrible.

Pay attention here, because this is the turning point in my story. I discovered I love a new challenge.

The thrill of turning “I have no idea how to do this” into “I figured it out!” continues to propel me forward.

It’s this same basic motivator that has created almost every resource in my store. If you were to look on my store shelves you would notice that almost all of them share a common theme: social communication/pragmatic language.

Here’s why: the thought of treating higher level social communication kids, used to scare me. I would get them on my caseload and they looked mostly normal. I found it so difficult to pinpoint what skills they needed to work on, because they could do all of the “big” things. Then once, I figured out what they needed to work on, I had no idea how to strategically teach it! Have you ever felt that way?

So, I decided I would take the hardest thing for me to teach, and I would learn as much about it as I could.

I wanted to be able to use these skills in my own classroom, but I needed to learn it so well that I felt confident making a resource about it. And now, I have done enough of these that I am in love with teaching social communication, and I want to help you fall in love with it too! If you don’t believe me, go read more about my love of social communication here!

Now I just keep doing it. I keep learning.  I keep setting new goals, goals that feel impossible but this phrase has become my motto: I CAN DO HARD THINGS.

And you know what?  You can do hard things too.

I can do hard things

If you’re interested in upping your pragmatic language therapy/evaluation game then you have come to the right place. Let me share my tips and tricks with you so that you can approach this tricky area with confidence. Click here and we can start learning together–I even want to give you a free pragmatic language evaluation checklist so you can sample my work. If my style isn’t your cup of tea, you can unsubscribe at anytime 🙂

Back To School

Why Do I Come To Speech?

Back To School Speech Therapy Activities

Student: “Mrs. Davault, why do I come to speech?”

Me: You are learning how to correctly say the /r/ sound.

Student: “Ok, why does HE come to speech” *student gestures to a boy in the group that has autism and perfect articulation*

 Me: (fumbling, as I quickly try and find age appropriate words to explain a pragmatic language disorder): Um, well, he is working on something different.

Have you ever had the “Why do I come to speech” conversation? Or worse, the “Why does he come to speech” conversation? It’s tricky, you know.

Some disorders are easy to explain, others, not so much.

As a newer clinician, I would frequently experience some version of that conversation. Group therapy makes this conversation even more difficult, because let’s be honest, you cannot be 100% confidential in group therapy. You just can’t. I had no idea how to explain why a student came to speech, without totally violating all confidentiality.

Finally, after what felt like the millionth time of having this conversation, I had a light bulb moment. I needed to be doing a better job of explaining to my students why they were coming to speech. I already talked about goals with my kids, but I wasn’t doing a very good job. We would quickly address it at the beginning of the year, and then I usually would forget about it until the start of the next school year.

What I wasn’t doing, was teaching my students why they had to come see me in the first place.

When you take the time to explain the different kinds of speech and language disorders to your students, you can help each student understand what they are working on when they come to speech, and then you can draw on this knowledge for the rest of the time they are in speech therapy. You can also use this knowledge to open a conversation about specific goals, and how you are going to go about mastering those goals.

Here is how I do this:

  1. I do an age appropriate activity with my students that explains why they come to speech. If they are younger, we do an interactive mini-book that gives a very broad summary of their disorder (although I do not use the word disorder with them). If they are older, I like to do a reading passage and comprehension question activity (that way we are still working on other things while we address this task #multitasking). Each student gets a reading passage or book, that is specific to their individual disorder.
  2. After they know why they are coming to speech, we talk about when they will come and we talk about their individual goals. You can use your discretion on this step to make it as confidential as you feel comfortable with. For example, you can choose to pull students aside individually and discuss goals one at a time while the other students in the group work on coloring the mini-book or answering the comprehension questions.
  3. We talk about how it might take a long time to master our goals, and that the more we practice, the faster we will master them.

The beauty of using this method, is that it opens the doors of communication. Students have an opportunity to have their questions answered and they understand the process. They also get to learn about many different kinds of speech disorders, and that everyone who comes to speech, has goals to work on.

What’s even more beautiful, is that we can use this method for any “first day of speech”. It could be the first day back from summer, the first day of a new IEP year, or the first day of a new insurance authorization period. It works all the time!  

If you are interested in using my method, please let me save you some time! I have already done all the hard work of creating, so you don’t have to. Click here so you can see the entire resource!

This resource contains the following first day of speech therapy activities:

  • Classroom posters you can hang in your room to remind students why they come to speech. (see below)
  • Interactive mini books for younger students. There is one for each disorder (language, articulation, fluency, pragmatic language, and voice).
  • Reading passages and comprehension questions for older students. There is one for each disorder (language, articulation, fluency, pragmatic language, and voice).

If you are not sure what this school year will bring and would like a digital version of this resource, I’ve got you covered! Just click here!

If you’re interested in upping your pragmatic language therapy/evaluation game then you have come to the right place. Let me share my tips and tricks with you so that you can approach this tricky area with confidence. Click here and we can start learning together–I even want to give you a free pragmatic language evaluation checklist so you can sample my work. If my style isn’t your cup of tea, you can unsubscribe at anytime 🙂

Autism · Language · social language · Social Skills

The Difference in Social Communication and Pragmatic Language

Social Communication Disorder

I have a challenge for you. Write an essay telling me the difference between Social Communication and Pragmatic Language. Make sure you cite your references!

JUST KIDDING! I know you aren’t going to do that; you are reading this blog post because you want me to tell you the answer! So, keep on reading my friend and I will tell you what you want to know.

I have often heard people use the terms ‘Social Communication’ and ‘Pragmatic Language’ interchangeably, but they are not actually the same thing. Simply speaking, Pragmatic Language is a component of Social Communication.

According to ASHA, these are the areas that make up social communication:

This graph shows the difference between social communication and pragmatic language

What Exactly Is Nonverbal Communication and Verbal Communication?

Nonverbal communication consists of the aspects of communication that are nonverbal:

  • eye contact
  • gestures
  • body language
  • facial expressions
  • gaze
  • proxemics (personal space)
  • challenging behavior that is communicative in nature.

Verbal communication is every verbal component of speech:

  • Type of speech act
    • Requests
    • Comments
    • Directives
    • Demands
    • Promises
  • Communicative intentions
  • Prosody
  • Tone of Voice
  • Discourse
    • Discourse Style
      • Conversation
      • Narration
      • Expository
      • Procedural
    • Interaction vs Transaction
    • Cohesion and Coherence
    • Social Reciprocity
    • Etc.

Ok, now that is A LOT of stuff and that’s just the highlights. To see ASHA’s full list, click here. AND that is ONLY pragmatics! Social Communication also includes plain old expressive/receptive communication, social cognition (aka knowledge of social skills), and social interactions.

Once I realized how much more we need to be targeting to help our little friends with social communication impairments, I made it my personal goal to try and create a resource targeting each of these areas outlined by ASHA. I am not there yet, but if you keep reading, I am going to show you everything I have created so far.

Many of these items are extremely unique in the TPT marketplace because I have a hunch there are a lot of us that didn’t know the official name for some of these skills we have already been working on.

Expressing Affective Language

Expressing Affective Language

Have you ever had students whose social language skills weren’t quite right, but you couldn’t exactly put your finger on what was wrong? Did you notice that when you asked them questions, they could give you the right answer, but when it came time to use these skills in the real world, they couldn’t? In this situation, the problem is with the students ability to express pragmatic language. With this teaching guide, you can methodically teach your students how to use affective communication to connect with others using the included scaffolded and interactive lessons.

Do you understand affective communication? If you are still feeling a little murky, this post should clear it up for you!

Emotional Intelligence, Empathy, and Complex Emotions:

Empathy, Complex Emotions, and Emotional Intelligence Activities

Do your students with autism and social emotional disorders struggle to understand empathy and emotions? This resource contains no prep activities and scenarios focuses on teaching these skills, then practicing them in structured activities, so that your students can begin understand these complex concepts.

Does teaching empathy have you stumped? Go read this post on how I strategically teach this skill!

Making Friends Social Narrative and Activities

Making Friends Social Narrative and Activities

Do your students with social language difficulties know how to make new friends? Are you struggling to figure out to teach this complicated skill? I can help you! This social activity strategically breaks down the friend making process into 8 easy to understand steps. Then, students use the companion activities to practice what they have learned in a structured environment, leaving you feeling confident and productive.

If you are still feeling a little apprehensive about teaching friendship skills, go read this post. You might even find something that you can apply in your own life!

Making Friends Project Based Learning Activity

Making Friends Activity

Are you looking for an interesting new way to target social skills goals that is not just another worksheet? This no prep, hands on, and engaging project will get your student’s creative juices flowing while learning about the social skills that are needed to start and maintain a friendship.

Power Relationships Teaching Guide

Power Relationships, authority figures, and peer relationships activities and teaching guide

Do your students have trouble submitting to authority figures or bossing their peers around? Navigating social relationships can be tricky for students with social communication impairments, but it doesn’t have to be! This resource breaks this complex social skill into easy to understand chunks that will teach your students who they need to submit to and why.

Nonverbal Communication Teaching Guide and Activities

Nonverbal Communication Teaching Guide and Activities

Nonverbal communication can be tricky to teach. Most of us have learned these skills effortlessly, which makes breaking them down into easy to understand lessons quite tricky. This resource discusses the seven main areas of nonverbal communication (facial expressions, body language, gestures, touch, personal space, eye contact, and tone of voice). Each area is introduced with a reading passage and contains an expansion activity so students can practice the skills. The focus of this resource is to help you teach these vague skills using a concrete, methodic approach to improve your student’s understanding.

Conversation Social Narrative and Activity Packet

How to have a conversation teaching activity

Knowing where to start when teaching conversation skills can be confusing. This is an important topic and needs to be taught intentionally. This social activity helps students learn the fundamentals of conversation skills by strategically breaking down this complex social skill into manageable step by step instructions, leaving you feeling confident and productive.

I love teaching conversation skills! Go check out this blog post to see how I teach them to my students!

Oral Narrative and Storytelling Teaching Guide

Oral Narrative and story telling activities

There has been a lot of research coming out in the past few years indicating the importance of working on oral narrative and story telling skills to help develop other language skills. Targeting these skills improves writing abilities and other areas of language such as grammar, vocabulary, and pragmatics. This interactive notebook uses evidence based strategies in a step by step, scaffolded hierarchy to help students practice telling stories.

Do you know why targeting oral narratives in speech therapy is so important? Read this post to learn more!

Tone of Voice Teaching Guide

how to teach tone of voice

If you have ever wondered how to begin teaching tone of voice, you are not alone. This resource will guide you through the process of teaching this complex skill in easy to understand steps. The resource contains informative texts that introduce the topic of tone of voice and also has audio clips and other guided practice activities to help your students understand what tone of voice is, how to listen for it, and how to use it.

Or if you want to read how I teach tone of voice using 4 easy steps, click here!

A Conversation With a Famous Person

Conversation skills hands on activities

Are you ready to try a different approach to practicing conversation skills? Do you love targeting multiple skills during one activity? Your students will love practicing this social skill while having a pretend conversation with a famous person! This engaging pragmatic language activity has everything you need to get your students talking!

References: https://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/ASHA/Practice_Portal/Clinical_Topics/Social_Communication_Disorders_in_School-Age_Children/Components-of-Social-Communication.pdf

If you’re interested in upping your pragmatic language therapy/evaluation game then you have come to the right place. Let me share my tips and tricks with you so that you can approach this tricky area with confidence. Click here and we can start learning together–I even want to give you a free pragmatic language evaluation checklist so you can sample my work. If my style isn’t your cup of tea, you can unsubscribe at anytime 🙂

Autism · social language · Social Skills

Expressing Higher Level Pragmatic Language Skills

Teaching Affective Expression

Have you ever had students whose pragmatic language skills weren’t quite right, but you couldn’t exactly put your finger on what was wrong? You ask them questions, trying to probe their knowledge, and they always give you the right answer, but when it comes time to use these skills, they often fall short.

These students are difficult to treat, aren’t they?

            The problem is not necessarily in their understanding of pragmatic language. The problem is with their ability to USE pragmatic language. And I’m not just talking the use of obvious, easy-to-measure social skills like participating in greetings. I am talking about higher level skills such as expressing sorrow, gratitude, complements, regret, and empathy. And of course, it’s not just about saying the right words, but using the correct nonverbal communication too. When students don’t use these skills, they are not effective social language communicators.

            Using these higher-level communication skills is called affective expression. These skills are difficult for individuals who struggle with pragmatic language, because it goes beyond just expressing wants and needs. Affective expression helps you to truly connect with your communicative partner on a deeper level. Read on if you want some ideas to help you teach these complex skills.

Step 1: Create a Buy In to the Learning Process

            So, how does one go about teaching these extremely complex skills? Well, we start by giving our students a reason to buy into this learning process. You can do this by having your students make a list of their loved ones, and talk about why that person is special to them. Explain that when we care about people, we want to make them feel good, and if we hurt them, we want to make it right. Help your students understand that when they use these social skills, it will make them feel better and it will make the people they care about feel better too.

Step 2: Teach the Vocabulary

            Introducing the vocabulary is always an important step in the learning process. So, take a moment and exclusively explain each concept: sorrow, regret, gratitude, compliments, and empathy. Make sure your students have a solid understanding of each concept before you move on.

            I know a lot of us like to use videos to introduce new concepts, so, I found some videos that you might like to use as you teach these skills. But just a heads up-I would definitely recommend using these with kids who are a little older (middle school and up) and have typical or almost typical receptive language abilities. You probably will want to watch them to decide if they will work for your students.

Giving Compliments:

I like this first video because it talks about the nonverbal communication aspect of a giving compliments. The actors do have an accent, so it might be hard for your students to tune their ears to it at first.

This video talks about the different types of compliments which I really liked and found helpful, but the speaker does speak a little fast, so he might be hard for some kids to follow.

Expressing Gratitude:

This video talks about why you should be expressing gratitude and how to do it in four steps. The content is really good, but the speaker is an older man, so some of your students might have a hard time finding him relatable or engaging.

This video shows different students expressing gratitude.

Expressing Empathy:

This video does a nice job of explaining what empathy is and it gives for steps to remember when expressing empathy.

Expressing Regret/ Apologizing

This video just has text going across the screen. The content is good, but it might not be good for students that struggle with reading.

This video goes over 5 steps to giving a good apology.

Expressing Sorrow/Emotions

This video talks about why it is important to express emotions. The content is interesting and good, but be cautious showing this video because it is very wordy, and it uses some higher level vocabulary that might not be ideal for students with language disorders.

Step 3: Create a Script

            Individuals with pragmatic language difficulties can have a hard time knowing what to say in social situations, we know this. Scripts are a tool we can use to help them know what to say. Basically, a script is a formula of words that work for a specific situation. For example, if you wanted to give a compliment, you could use the following script:

Step 4: Structured Practice

            After your students understand how to use the script, practice using it. You can do this by giving them pretend scenarios and determining how to use the script in different situations. Practice in a structured environment until you feel like your student is proficient.

Step 5: Real World Practice

            Help your student practice expressing affective pragmatic language in the real world. This is the most important step, the longest step, and the hardest step. This step is important, because these skills are not mastered until they can be done the majority of the time. Independently means the real world and not the speech room. This step is the longest, because, let’s be honest, opportunities to practice some of these skills don’t come up every day. This step is the hardest, because, well, generalization of new skills is always hard.

            So how do we do this step? The way I see it, there are 3 options.

  1. Push in to the classroom. This is my least favorite option because, like I said earlier, you can’t fabricate skills like expressing sorrow. These opportunities don’t occur often, and the chances of them occurring during your (maybe) 30-minute time block is slim.
  2. Train the student to look for opportunities to practice these skills. Once the student is back with you, have him/her reflect on their performance. Did they follow the script? What did they do well? What can they improve next time?
  3. Caregiver support. If you have supportive caregivers, this is the best way to help students practice in the real world. Enlist their help in finding scenarios to practice these skills. Teach them how to look for practice opportunities and guide their student through the learning process. After all, the caregivers are probably going to be the ones who are with the students as they encounter these situations in daily life, so let’s use them to our advantage!

If you want to learn more about this topic…

Go read this article. It discusses evaluation of pragmatic language skills, particularly trying to find concrete a way to evaluate pragmatic language so that students who struggle with these not-so-obvious skills can receive treatment in the areas they need to improve. It’s a great read!

How do you like to teach complex social language skills? Leave comment so everyone can get some new ideas!