Early Intervention · Language · Preschool Activities

What Is Core Vocabulary?

Are you a parent looking for some strategies to help you work on speech and language skills at home? Or are you an SLP looking for early intervention resources to give to caregivers? Today I am going to teach you all about Core Vocabulary. But first, I need to answer the question: What Is Core Vocabulary?

Pretend you are suddenly forced to move to another country where you are unfamiliar with the language. What kind of words would you want to learn first? Do you think it would be more helpful to learn words like, “milk”, “cracker”, or “pencil”? Or would it be more important to learn words like “eat”, “go”, and “help”?

If you said eat, go, and help, you chose something called Core Vocabulary Words. Core Vocabulary Words are the words that are used most frequently in any given language. They are made (mostly) up of verbs and pronouns. These words can be used in many different ways across different situations. For example, you could use the word help with a few gestures to indicate that you need help opening something or that you need help finding something.

Here is a list of core vocabulary word examples for speech therapy.

If you said milk, cracker, and pencil, you chose something called Fringe Vocabulary Words. These words are not used as often, and can really be used to talk about one thing. They also are usually nouns. If I say “pencil”, I can really only tell you about that pencil. Fringe Words are not a versatile as Core Words.

Now think about this. What words would help your child get the most bang for his buck? Probably the Core Vocabulary Words.

Fringe Words are not bad. We need them to help our phrases and sentences make sense- so don’t feel like you need to omit them. However, if you have to choose a word to emphasize-choose the Core word. For example, if you are helping your child put away cars, focus more on the word “put” instead of the word “car”. Put would be the Core Word. “Car” would be the fringe word.

Here is a list of fringe vocabulary words for speech therapy.

This is most important for caregivers who are focusing on modeling 1–3-word phrases with their child. If you have to pick 1 word to model for your child, choose a Core Vocabulary Word. As your child learns more words, begin adding in the Fringe Vocabulary Words that are most functional for your child.

I also want to warn you about something. If you do a quick Google search to learn more about Core Vocabulary you will probably see a lot of articles about Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) systems. This is a great approach for children using these systems. It is also a great approach for any child learning language– so don’t let those articles confuse you or make you second guess yourself.

I really hope you found this helpful. I would love it if you would share this post with anyone who is looking for ways to easily work on speech therapy at home with their toddler or preschooler. Additionally, I have some parent handouts with over 20 different strategies. They were created by me (a Real SLP-Mom) so they are practical and effective. I walk you through each strategy and how to use it at home. There is also a Spanish version and an English version.  

**Quick Disclaimer: The ideas shared in this post are meant to educate and help caregivers feel more confident implementing speech therapy-type activities at home. They are not intended to be a substitute for speech therapy with a licensed SLP, as each child has unique needs.**

Early Intervention · Language · Preschool Activities

5 Easter Speech Therapy Activities to Do At Home

Easter Holiday + family time + fun activities = Speech therapy at home? Yes, you read that correctly! Today I want to share my 5 favorite Easter Egg-themed activities that you can use to target some speech therapy skills at home. Let me get you set up and then we can get to the fun part!

Easter speech therapy ideas and activities

You will need:

  • Boiled Eggs
  • Stuff to dye the eggs (we usually get a kit, but here is how you can do it with food dye)
  • Mayonnaise, mustard, or anything else you need to make your favorite boiled egg food

Before you get started with your toddler or preschooler, let’s think through each activity. Get your stuff set up and ready to grab so you aren’t wasting your child’s precious attention span running around the kitchen gathering your supplies. This principle is going to hold true for each of the Easter-themed speech therapy-inspired activities I will share with you today.

The secret to making any activity a speech therapy-type activity is being intentional with the words you use. This is going to vary depending on your child. When deciding what words to use with your child, I like to give parents two strategies to try and remember.

The first strategy is to try and only use 1-2 more words than your child currently uses. For example, if your child isn’t speaking try and only use 1-2 words when speaking to him or her. If your child usually speaks using 3-word phrases, then try and speak to him or her using 4-5 word phrases.

The second strategy is to speak using “functional” or “core” words. These are the words that make up the majority of any given language. Usually, they include words such as verbs, pronouns, location words, and some adjectives. Here is a list of a few of my favorite core words that would be great to focus on during these activities.

  • More
  • All Done/ Finished
  • Want
  • Go
  • Look
  • There
  • I
  • You
  • It
  • Se
  • Put

Easter Speech Therapy Activity #1: Dye the Eggs

Potential Speech Therapy Targets:

  • Following Directions
  • Vocabulary

We are all pretty familiar with the activity of dying Easter eggs. For this blog post, dying eggs is going to be our baseline activity. All of our other activities are going to build off of this one. But, before we get to those other activities, let me walk you through how to turn the activity of dying Easter eggs into a speech and language activity.

I always recommend parents let their kiddos help as much as possible. Once you get all of your supplies set up and ready, let your child jump in! Each time you do anything, make sure you are talking about it and labeling yours (or your child’s) actions. Remember, try and only use 1-2 more words than your child is currently using so that you aren’t overwhelming him/her with many new words s/he may not understand.

Once your eggs are decorated, you can move on to some of these other activities!

Easter Egg Speech Therapy Ideas for  Toddlers

Easter Speech Therapy Activity #2 Hide the Eggs:

Potential Speech Therapy Targets:

  • Location Words (on, in, under, by, etc.)
  •  Following Directions
  • Answering “where” questions

You’ve dyed your eggs, now you get to hide them! Want a quick mom hack? If you have more than one child, let them hide each other’s eggs! For us, that meant that my husband and son teamed up to hide eggs for my daughter. At the same time, my daughter and I hid the eggs for my son. This is a time-saver, and you get two times the opportunities to talk about location words! Also, if your child is focusing on where to hide the eggs, they won’t find it as easy to see where their eggs are hidden.

This easter egg activity is the best for practicing location words such as on, in, under, and by.  Read these next few paragraphs carefully, because they are important for helping you get the most out of your time!

There are two levels to this skill. The easier level is understanding. This is called receptive language. If your child is at this level, your child is working on following a direction that you give. For example, you could say “put the egg under that bush” or “put the egg on the swing”. Your child does not need to speak or answer questions at this level.

The more advanced level requires verbal output from your child. This requires your child to have an understanding of receptive language (understanding) and expressive language (verbal output). That means if you ask “Where is the egg?” your child is working on verbally answering “under the slide”.

Understanding this difference is important because it helps you provide the most customized experience for YOUR child. If your child isn’t at the more advanced level that is OK. Pushing your child to do more than s/he is ready for will only be frustrating for all of you. On the other hand, we always want to challenge our children to reach their full potential, so if you see your child is able to answer those more difficult questions-by all means ask them! Just test the waters and see what your child can do. Then, go from there.

If your child is not yet able to verbally answer the question “Where is the egg?”, you get to be the example for your child. You do this by labeling your actions and your child’s actions as you hide and find eggs. For example, “You put the egg in the pot”, or, “The egg is under the chair!”

Another mom tip- put your dogs inside while you do this activity! Otherwise, your dogs might end up eating your eggs before your child can find them! (Not that I am speaking from experience or anything…)

Easter speech therapy activities

Easter Egg Speech Therapy Activity #3: Humpty Dumpty

You Will Need:

  • Your dyed eggs
  • Somewhere for your eggs to fall (preferably outside)

Potential Speech Therapy Targets:

  • Teaching the verb “fall”
  • Rhyming Words

Nursery rhymes are an amazing way to practice language skills at home. The rhyming words make them catchy and can potentially help with literacy skills as your child gets older. Children also tend to be drawn to them because they are silly and fun. I happen to have a way to help you make the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” come to life!

How to Do It: Take your boiled eggs and pretend they are Humpty Dumpty. Find a high place such as a table, slide, or jungle gym for Humpty to fall off. Sing the nursery rhyme with your child. When it is time for Humpty to fall, let your child give the egg a push. Watch the egg fall and then examine it. Does the egg have cracks? Is it broken? What happened? Talk about it with your child!

Activity #4: Peel the Eggs

Now that Humpty is all cracked and broken, you can peel the eggs! This activity is self-explanatory, but I still wanted to include it, because I don’t want you to overlook it. Peeling eggs is great for working on those fine motor skills, and kids usually think it is pretty fun. To make it more speech therapy-based- just do the same things we have already talked about. Label your actions and your child’s actions as you peel the eggs. Explore new words together such as peel, slippery, crack, or squishy.

Activity #5: Make an Egg Snack

Let me start by saying use your discretion. If your eggs have been out in the sun all day, don’t feel like you need to do this. Yuck. But if you have some extra boiled eggs that have been chilling in the fridge, this is one more way you can sneak in a language-building activity!

I would suggest making something like deviled eggs or egg salad using those eggs. If you don’t have a recipe on hand a quick internet search can give you some ideas. As always, let your child help as much as possible and be intentional by talking about what you are doing.

I hope you have found some great Easter themed speech therapy activities to do at home with your toddler or preschooler! I also hope you are leaving feeling more confident and excited then when you landed on this page. If you are a caregiver trying to find new and interesting ways to work on speech therapy at home-you’ve got this!  

If you are looking for more fun speech therapy at home ideas from an SLP-Mom, I’ve got you covered! I have these handouts that go over easy to use, at-home strategies and I also have this playlist of YouTube videos. These are both great resources for parents looking to incorporate speech therapy strategies at home!

**Quick Disclaimer: The ideas shared in this post are meant to educate and help caregivers feel more confident implementing speech therapy-type activities at home. They are not intended to be a substitute for speech therapy with a licensed SLP, as each child has unique needs.**

Early Intervention · Language · Preschool Activities

How Do You Strategically Teach Positional Words to Preschoolers?

Have you ever sat down and wondered how do you strategically teach positional words and location concepts to the preschoolers you see in speech therapy?

How to teach positional words in speech therapy

If you have read many of my posts, you know they are riddled with confessions. I share these confessions because I want to show you my journey in a transparent and honest way. I also hope that when I share my mistakes, imperfections, and immaturity you will find relatability and see growth.

What is today’s confession? If you couldn’t guess from the intro it is all about teaching location words in a strategic way. You see, I used to be guilty of just jumping straight into drills and not actually teaching skills. This was frustrating for me and my students. It made us both feel like failures.

When you just drill, drill, drill you aren’t TEACHING a skill. You are just kind of hoping that your students will absorb it through multiple trials. Guess what? For our students, it doesn’t usually work that way. They need explicit teaching and strategic scaffolding to be successful.

So, how do you strategically teach location words and positional concepts to your preschoolers?

I have several activities that I do in a specific order. They increase in difficulty from the most concrete to more abstract. You can stay in each level as long as your student needs to feel successful. But, from my personal experience, I really wouldn’t recommend jumping around too much when you are just starting to teach these skills.

Before you start: Pick a few location words you need to practice. If you are just starting out, I recommend on, under, and in. These are the most concrete and are usually the earliest emerging of the prepositions. Get your visuals ready. Are you using signs, pictures, or something else? After you get set up, take about 3-5 minutes to pre-teach the visuals to your students.

Activity #1: Gross Motor Location Words

How to teach location words in speech therapy

You Will Need: A box big enough for a child to sit, under, and on. The recycle bins most classrooms have work great for this!

How to Do It: First, you should use the box and the visuals to model each location word for the student. That’s right friend. You will be climbing on, in, and under that recycle bin. Your student will probably be super eager to hop in that box, so once they have seen you do it, let them have at it! I first give the direction for the student to follow (i.e. Get under the box). This will target their ability to receptively comprehend the location word. Show your visuals each time you give the directions.

Once they are in the right spot, I also ALWAYS model the question “Where are you?”. Even if this skill is too advanced, it gives the student the opportunity to practice and be exposed to the expressive component of this task. If the student can’t answer the question yet, I just model the answer for him/her.

By having the student manipulate and move on, in, and under the box, it helps them feel and connect the location word. This is the most concrete way I have found to teach this skill.

Activity #2: Big Box + Manipulatives

How to Do It: You are going to need to hang on to that recycle bin or big box a little bit longer. Once your student has a good feel for manipulating their own body and the box, we can make it a little more challenging. We do this by having the student manipulate an object and that big box they are familiar with. I prefer doing this with larger objects. Again, pair the verbal direction with your visuals and target both the receptive and expressive components. If you are lucky, you may even be able to get through Activity #1 and Activity #2 in the same session!

Activity #3: Little Box + Manipulatives

Teaching prepositional concepts to preschoolers

How to Do It: Find a small container with a lid. I prefer clear containers because it helps the student see inside the box. Continue on like you did in the previous activity. However, this time, since the container is different, the task is slightly more challenging. Do you see what we are doing here?  Keep on pairing the verbal direction with your visuals and target both the receptive and expressive components. Begin to fade cues as you can.

Activity #4: Hiding Objects Around the Room

How to Do It: As the title implies, you are going to be hiding objects around the room. This is so easy to turn into a hide-and-seek type game and kids LOVE it. However, this is slightly less structured than the boxes, so it becomes a little more challenging. You can keep doing this activity for as long as you want. Use the visuals as much as needed. Try and remember to target both the expressive and receptive components.

What about worksheet-type tasks that use paper, cutting, and gluing?

I am so glad you asked! In all honesty-I don’t like them. I wait and introduce worksheet tasks until my student is able to do these other functional activities. I find the cutting and glueing to be more abstract and difficult. Worksheets are great for reviewing and making things more challenging, but I would not use these activities during the teaching phase.  

Ok folks! That is going to wrap up today’s post. Thanks for hanging out with me! Drop a comment if you learned something new about teaching positional words to the preschoolers on your caseload! Also, if you liked my style and want to learn how to strategically teach other speech therapy skills be sure and check out these posts or my YouTube channel!  

Early Intervention · Language · Preschool Activities

Spring Themed Speech Therapy Activities to do at Home with Toddlers

Welcome friends! I am typing this while I am sitting outside on a perfect spring day. The sun is shining, there is a nice breeze, and it is neither too hot nor too cold. It is the perfect kind of day to do some planting with your toddlers! Planting flowers is one of my favorite spring themed speech therapy activities to do at home with my own toddlers. Let me get you set up and then I will break down how to turn this every day activity into a language rich activity.

Theme: Plants

Activity: Painting a terracotta pot and planting seeds

Book: The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carle

Best Time to Do It: On a Gorgeous Spring Day

Speech and Language Skills You Can Target: Sequencing, Following Directions, Plant Vocabulary, Past, Present, and Future Tense

You Will Need:

  • A terracotta pot
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Potting Soil
  • Seeds
spring speech therapy activities for toddlers at home

How to Do It: Buy a terracotta flower pot. I got a 12” one because that is what my packet of seeds told me to get (I really don’t have a green thumb hah!) Set up your pot and paints outside and prepare yourself for a mess-but also to have fun! Before you start, explain the process to your child exactly what you will be doing using simple instructions. For example:

  1. First, we will paint the pot.
  2. Next, we will let the pot dry.
  3. Then, we will scoop soil in the pot.
  4. After that, we will plant the seeds.
  5. We will water the seeds.
  6. Then we get to watch them grow!
Spring preschool speech therapy at home activities

Listing out each step like this is GREAT for teaching sequencing. Sequencing is a super important skill because it is the foundation of narratives. A narrative is just a fancy word for stories. If you have ever wanted your child to to “tell you about their day”- you really are wanting to hear a narrative about their day!

Now that your are all set up, it is time to start painting!  As you paint, talk about what you are doing and what your child is doing using simple words. A good rule of thumb is to try and use about 1-2 more words than your child is currently using when he/she speaks.

Let the pot dry, then come back, pour in your soil and plant and water your seeds. Let your child “help” as much as possible. Continue being mindful of your speech. Label your actions and your child’s actions throughout each step. Try and focus more on verbs (action words) instead of nouns (objects). We do this, because verbs are considered to be more “functional”. That means that we can use verbs in more ways than we can use nouns. When we focus on verbs we get the most bang for our buck.

Once you have planted your seeds, review the sequence from before. This time use the past tense of the verbs. For example:

  1. First, we painted the pot.
  2. Next, the paint dried.
  3. Then, we scooped soil in the pot.
  4. After that, we planted the seeds.
  5. Then we watered the seeds.

This review step is important for a couple of reasons. First, it exposes your child to the vocabulary words for a 3 time. (You really can’t repeat too much). Second, it exposes your child to the past tense form of the verb. Third, it reviews the sequence again. If your child has enough language, encourage him/her to tell you the steps in order.

Toddler Speech Therapy at home

Another mom tip-instead of dumping the soil into the pot all at once, try and find something small for your child to scoop the dirt. We used small plastic cups, but small shovels would also work. This does three things. First, it gives you the opportunity to model and practice the word scoop several times. Second, it is great for building fine motor strength in little hands. Third, it’s a good time killer. I find that when my kids have a structured task in front of them, the tantrums and whining are at a minimum. Less whining is always a win in my book.

To tie it all together I love strategically incorporating books and YouTube videos. It’s just one more way to expose your child to similar vocabulary words in a different way. For this activity, I love reading “The Tiny Seed” by Eric Carle. After you read the story, help your child retell the planting sequence one more time!

For the YouTube video, I love anything by Cocomelon. This Cocomelon “Gardening Song” is a perfect way to review the activity. I am a parent and I know most of us use TV to entertain our kids (no judgement). I feel like if we are doing it anyways, we might as well do it strategically.  

One more thing! This activity also makes a perfect gift for grandparents or loved ones! I am pretty sure we will be making painted pots for my mom and mother-in-law for Mother’s Day this year!

If you are looking for more speech therapy at home ideas from an SLP-Mom, I’ve got you covered! I have these handouts that go over easy to use, at-home strategies and I also have this playlist of YouTube videos. These are great resources for parents looking to incorporate speech therapy strategies with their toddlers at home!

**Quick Disclaimer: The ideas shared in this post are meant to educate and help caregivers feel more confident implementing speech therapy-type activities at home. They are not intended to be a substitute for speech therapy with a licensed SLP, as each child has unique needs.**

Early Intervention · Language · Preschool Activities

Spring Speech Therapy At Home Activities

Have you been combing the internet looking for spring speech therapy at home activities? You are in the right place! I am so excited to share this speech therapy activity you can do at home! I have been eagerly waiting for the day my son was old enough to truly understand and appreciate it. Let me break it down for you.

Theme: Caterpillars and Butterflies

Activity: Watching Caterpillars Turn Into Butterflies

Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

Best Time to Do It: During the Spring or Early Summer

Best Ages: 2+

Speech and Language Skills You Can Target: Sequencing, Caterpillar/Butterfly Vocabulary

You Will Need:

  • Caterpillars (I ordered mine online from here)
Spring Speech Therapy Activities At Home

How to Do It: Purchase the caterpillars. When they arrive, tell your child what is going to happen to the caterpillars.  For example:

  1. First, the caterpillars are going to eat the food.
  2. Then, they will get big.
  3. After that, they will make a chrysalis.
  4. When they come out of the chrysalis, they will be a butterfly!

SLP-Mom Tips For Doing These Spring Speech Therapy Activities

Listing out each step like this is GREAT for teaching sequencing. Sequencing is a super important skill because it is the foundation of narratives. A narrative is just a fancy word for stories. So, when we want our children to “tell us about their day”- we really are wanting them to tell us a narrative about their day!

Check on your caterpillars every day. Talk about the changes you see. Are they growing? Do they look hairy? What are they doing? Each time you check on them, remember to review the sequence of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. This review step is important for a couple of reasons. First, it exposes your child to the vocabulary words each time. (You really can’t repeat too much). Second, it reviews the sequence again. If your child has enough language, encourage him/her to tell you the steps in order.

Toddler spring speech therapy at home activitie

Continue being mindful of your speech. A good rule of thumb is to try and use only 1-2 more words than your child is currently using.

Now, to tie this spring speech therapy at home activity together, I love strategically incorporating books and YouTube videos. It’s just one more way to expose your child to similar vocabulary words in a slightly different way. For this activity, I love reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. After you read the story, you help your child retell the caterpillar sequence one more time!

For the YouTube video, this “Butterfly Dance Song” is a perfect way to review the activity. I am a parent and I know most of use TV to entertain our kids (no judgement). I feel like if we are doing it anyways, we might as well do it strategically.   

If you are looking for more fun speech therapy at home ideas from an SLP-Mom, I’ve got you covered! I have these handouts that go over easy to use, at-home strategies and I also have this playlist of YouTube videos. These are both great resources for parents looking to incorporate speech therapy strategies at home!

**Quick Disclaimer: The ideas shared in this post are meant to educate and help caregivers feel more confident implementing speech therapy-type activities at home. They are not intended to be a substitute for speech therapy with a licensed SLP, as each child has unique needs.**

Autism · Early Intervention · Language · Preschool Activities

One-Of-A Kind Speech Therapy Parent Handouts for Early Intervention

Speech Therapy Early Intervention Parent Handouts

Speech therapy parent handouts for the early intervention population can be an absolute life saver. But, do you really just want to send home any old handout? I don’t.

Let me confess something:I used to be a tad judgy about how parents would “work” with their kids at home. I could never quite figure out why parents would appear to only focus on teaching their kids the ABC’s but seemed to ignore more functional language skills. (If you are a parent reading this, I humbly ask your forgiveness for my previous ignorance.)

All of that changed in March of 2017 when I had my first child. “I will be different from other moms”, I told myself pridefully, “I will do everything right.” Go ahead. Laugh. Roll your eyes. It’s fine. If you have read any of my other blog posts or emails you know I have been humbled many times in recent years.

Here’s the thing. Being a mom painfully opens your eyes to the fact that you can’t do “everything right”. For starters the very definition of “everything right” changes drastically depending on which expert you are asking. But more importantly, we are all human. We are made to be imperfect and exhaustible creatures who need rest and have a finite list of capabilities.

I could right an entire post on this alone, but let me segue into the actual topic of this post: helping parents build language skills at home. You see, I am in a unique situation as I am writing this post. I am currently the mom of a 2- and 3-year-old. There are a few years of SLP’ing under my belt, and I am a TpT’er with the skills and knowledge to create helpful resources.

Speech therapy at home for toddlers

I am piling these metaphorical hats on my head to create handouts for parents who are in this life stage with me.

But these are not like any other early intervention parent handout you have given out. These handouts were made by someone currently in the trenches of parenting littles. I now know exactly how hard it is to do #allthethings.

Here is how these Early Intervention Speech Therapy Parent Handouts work:

  1. These handouts explain the language strategy and breaks it down using simple language, easy to follow steps, and clear examples.
  2. Each handout provides prompts to guide parents through visualizing what each specific strategy would look like in their home, with their child.
  3. There is a space to physically write out a plan for successfully implementing each strategy.
  4.  The best part of this resource though, is that I give my very own SLP-Mom tips.

There are over 25 pages of practical, non-judgy, SLP Mom approved tips and tricks for teaching language at home. All you have to is print them off and send them home. There is an English version, a Spanish version, and a bundle that has them both for a discount!

Speech Therapy Early Intervention Parent Hnadouts

Oh! I also have an entire series of videos where I am personally teaching how to use some of these strategies. Feel free to pass it along to anyone that is looking for ideas of ways to do speech therapy type activities at home with their little one!

Ok, before I sign off let me loop back around to that first thought. I now know that those parents who were fixating on the ABC’s were just doing their best. The truth was, I was letting those parents down by not having appropriate resources to help them! They were working on what they knew to do-and that should be applauded! I wish I had had these handouts then, so I could confidently hand them something that I knew could make a difference.

Now, if you know me, you know I value transparency in everything I post, say, and do. So, I hope that you find the honesty and growth in my story and can relate to it and not hold my previous judgy-ness against me.

Articulation

Using Articulation Reading Passages to Strategically Practice Conversation Skills

Do you know how to use articulation reading passages strategically to help you bridge the gap between using sounds in sentences and using sounds in conversation? Let me share my method and mindset for strategically using articulation reading passages as the bridge between sentences and conversation.

You know the feeling. That feeling. The one you have as you look at your articulation student with pride and think “Yes, we’ve got this. I think we can start practicing this sound at the conversation level.”  

It’s a great feeling isn’t it? Now comes the next feeling- how are we going to work on this?! In my experience, jumping straight from working on sounds in sentences to a full-fledged conversation is really overwhelming for the student. They go from being pretty successful to feeling like they are, well, failing. I think there is a better way to scaffold this transition to make it a little bit smoother.

Let me introduce articulation reading passages. When used strategically, these babies are the perfect stepping stone from sounds in sentences to that full-fledged conversation.

Articulation Reading Passages

Here is my method and mindset:

  1. First you need a passage. Preferably, choose a passage that was specifically created with articulation therapy in mind. That means, you can pick a passage by target phoneme and that the passage has been strategically flooded with as many words as possible that contain your target sound. More target words = more practice. After all, repetition is the key to learning.
  2. Read the passage to your student. As you read, student should follow along and carefully listen to the words. Have your student highlight or underline any words they hear that have their sound. Here is why I start by reading the passage to my student:
    • It gets their brain ready to work on our lesson.
    • It helps with auditory discrimination. Not all of the words in the passage will follow typical spelling patterns. This helps your students rely more on their listening skills instead of just what they see on the paper.
    • While using articulation reading passages DOES support reading skills and can be great for mixed groups- this is NOT reading class. I don’t want my students who struggle with reading feeling overwhelmed by being expected to read AND do speech. Sure, we can help them in this area. But that is not the focus of this particular lesson.
  3. Have your students go through and practice just the words, 5x each. If you picked a reading passage that is saturated with target words, it is easy to get several trials with this step alone. This step is also intentional for another reason: it gets your students thinking about the words they will probably be using in the conversation steps that are coming up.
  4. Have your students read the passage out loud. Make sure they are focusing on reading the passage slowly and with good production of words with their sounds. Remember the highlighting we did earlier? It is a great visual reminder for this step.
Articulation Reading Passages for Older Students

Activities for Using Reading Passages to Practice Conversation Skills

  1. Conversation Activity #1: Turn the paper over and have your students retell the story or a few things they learned from the passage.
  2. Conversation Activity #2: Use the passage to spark some interesting conversation topics. Have your students answer questions about the passage, tell about a time something similar happened them, or give their opinion about what they just read. I find that having a topic given to me in the form of a reading passage makes it easier to have a natural conversation.
  3. Conversation Activity #3: Discuss any unfamiliar words from the passage. This step is great for many reasons. First, it exposes your students to new and unfamiliar words, which is always a beautiful thing. Additionally, talking about unfamiliar words requires a heavier cognitive load than some of the other tasks we’ve done. So, remembering to use those target sounds while doing a more difficult task is an awesome challenge for their little brains!

There you have it! This is how I like to use reading passages to strategically practice conversation skills in articulation therapy!

I hope you could see how intentional I am with the order of these steps and my thoughts behind my method.

If this method jives with you, I just so happen to have a set of articulation reading passages for sale in my store. There are 5, strategically created reading passages for each of the later developing sounds (including each vocalic /r/). There is a combination of silly stories and high interest non-fiction reading passages, saturated in words with each target sound. Each passage also follows the steps listed above and gives you conversation prompts to get your students talking!

Articulation Reading Passages for Later Developing Sounds

If you would like more strategically created lessons-be sure and check out my social communication teaching guides!

Autism · social language · Social Skills

How to Teach Nonverbal Communication

Can you define the 7 main kinds of nonverbal communication? More importantly, do you have a plan and strategy for TEACHING the 7 different kinds of nonverbal communication? If your answer falls somewhere between “Haha, nope.” and “Probably, but it would be a hot mess”, keep reading. In this post, let’s have a chat about how to teach nonverbal communication using strategy and intention.

If video is more your thing, here is a great video tutorial on how to teach nonverbal communication!

First, let me begin by defining those 7 main areas of nonverbal communication. These are the areas we traditionally think of we when we evaluate and teach those elusive nonverbal skills.

types of nonverbal communication

Now that we’ve refreshed our memory on what nonverbal communication is, let’s talk about how to teach nonverbal communication, strategically.

I always start teaching any new skill, by making sure my students understand what they will be learning. So, if I was teaching nonverbal communication, I would start by introducing what nonverbal communication is. Then, I would dive deep into defining, explaining, and practicing those 7 main areas I listed above. Let me share a few simple activities to take you from introducing nonverbal communication to integrating it into everyday life.

Activities for Introducing Nonverbal Communication:

FIRST define what nonverbal communication IS. Explain the 7 areas, but don’t dive in too deep just yet. I usually do this with a simple reading passage and check for understanding quiz.

What is nonverbal communication?

I like creating reading passages because it gives me a chance to think out the best way to phrase things in a simple and straight forward manner so it makes sense to my students. It is also a good way to practice reading skills and reinforce things being worked on in the classroom.

After your students understand nonverbal communication, have a little bit of fun. Find pictures or videos (the Disney-Pixar “shorts” are great for this) and work with your students to find, identify, and describe each kind of nonverbal communication.

Activities for Teaching Facial Expressions:

Draw it out! There are 6 primary facial expressions that are the root of all other facial expressions. They are happy, sad, anger, fear, disgust and surprise.  Each facial expression has its own very distinct characteristic, so explain those characteristics to your students, then practice drawing them!

facial expressions and nonverbal communication

Individuals with Autism tend to focus mostly on the lower 1/3 of the face when they are trying to identify facial expressions, so make sure you are explaining the importance of looking at all sections of the face, so they can get the complete picture and correctly define the emotion.

Activities for Teaching Gestures:

First, be sure your student understands what a gesture is (again, I use a short reading passage to teach this skill). Then, create a list of several different gestures your student might encounter throughout daily life. Practice defining the gestures and making them together.

This can easily be turned into a game where one person draws a card that has a gesture written on it, and the other person has to name the gesture and define what it means. You could also do a memory style game where students match an image of a gesture to the definition.

Activities for Teaching Touch:

Before you begin, make sure that YOU know the different levels of touch and the definition of each one.

touch and nonverbal communication

Then, introduce these to your students (again, in my speech room we would start with a short reading passage…see a pattern emerging?) Once your students understand each kind of touch, give them sample scenarios and have them sort the type of touch that you would expect to be used in each scenario.

Activities for Teaching Proxemics (Personal Space):

Before you begin, make sure that YOU know the different levels of personal space and the definition of each one. Then, introduce them to your students. A fun way to help them visualize this skill, is to grab some masking tape or blue painters’ tape and draw this image on the floor.

personal space and nonverbal communication

Then, discuss situations and scenarios in which a specific level of touch would be appropriate. You could make this a movement activity by reading a scenario, and having the student answer by standing within the correct layer of the ring. This gives a great example for your students visualize and feel.

Activities for Teaching Whole-Body Language:

Once again, introduce the topic. Explain what whole body language is. To me, whole body language includes things like having an open or closed posture, leaning in or out, and tilting of the head. Then, practice identifying and doing the skill. To practice this skill, you could pull out the old video clip trick again. As you go through different video clips, help your student identify and define the types of whole-body language.

Activities for Teaching Vocalics (Tone of Voice):

As usual, grab your reading passage and start by defining “tone of voice” to your students. Once they understand what tone of voice is, and why it is important, move to this fun little activity.

Give your student a context, facial expression, and word. The student then has to use their tone of voice to portray the emotion that is occurring in response to the event. I like to use the SAME WORD to really highlight the changing occurs in the TONE and not the WORD. Really great words to use practice with “no”, “yeah”, “thank you”, and “hey”. Here is an example so you can see what I mean!

teaching tone of voice activity

If your students need more help understanding and practicing tone of voice, be sure and check out this awesome resource!

Activities for Teaching Eye Contact:

So, this is a tricky topic because a lot of people have mixed feelings about “forcing/guilting” an individual with Autism to make contact with others. I am NOT here to comment on that debate. What I am recommending, is that we teach our students with Autism the FUNCTION of eye contact as it relates to nonverbal communication. Even if they choose to not use eye contact for themselves, it will help them be a more proficient nonverbal communicator. If they are able to READ eye contact and if they are able to understand WHY people keep reminding them to “look at the person”, it will help them exponentially!

There you go friends. I know it was a lot, but that is how to teach nonverbal communication.

If you were paying attention, you probably noticed I talked a lot about introducing new topics with reading passages. If creating all those passages from scratch sounds overwhelming, I have some good news for you, I have already created them!

Not only have I already created the reading passages, I’ve also created many of the other activities I described today. I actually have even created some bonus activities I DIDN’T describe today.

Where can you find them? In my TpT store! Click the image below and it will take you there!

nonverbal communication activities

If you have been hunting for activities to help you teach other social communication skills, be sure and check out this page! It has all of my best tips to help you be the most efficient and strategic version of your SLP self.

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4 Tips for Confidently Interacting With Caregivers as an SLP

I’ve said it once and I will say it again. In this place, this space, I will always be real with you. So it’s time for another confession. Caregivers terrify me. I’m getting better, and I’ve even worked with some wonderful parents, but they still make me nervous. Today I am going to share 4 tips that I have used to help me go from the SLP hiding in the bathroom to interacting confidently with caregivers!

If live action is more your thing, watch this video that has 4 tips to help SLP’s interact with caregivers confidently!

In the beginning of my career, I worked with families in a home health setting. I got to see these parents  2x a week so it was very easy to establish rapport with them. 

Imagine my shock when I started my first year in the schools. I saw the caregivers once a year, if that. They didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. I was insanely busy and didn’t know how to communicate with them. It was a recipe for disaster.

interacting with caregivers as an SLP

I used to get so anxious before any kind of interaction where I would have to talk to a caregiver-any caregiver. I was scared they would ask me a question I didn’t have an answer to. Sometimes, I was worried they wouldn’t trust my judgement as a young professional. Other times, I was afraid of having to try and defend practice and procedures that were way above my pay-grade or ability to control. Sometimes, I needed to apologize for a mistake I had made. No one likes to talk about it, these are all VERY VALID CONCERNS and very real situations.

But the good news is, that now that I have been around for a few years, I have developed some strategies to help me feel more confident in this area of our job. Today, I am going to share with my best, tried and true tips, that will help you interact with your student’s parents with confidence.

4 Tips For Confidently Interacting With Caregivers as an SLP

1.) Make a conversation outline before any known interaction. Seriously, think through how you want to start the conversation, the points you want to make, and how you want it to end. Bonus points if you actually write it down. I even do this before phone calls or I stumble all over myself. #soawkward.

2.) Do your homework. Think about the topics that you think you will need a solid answer to. Is it service time, is it goals, is it something else? Research it. Find everything you can to support your argument, become familiar with it, and print a copy for the parents. You look so awesome and confident when you are prepared and organized.

3.) Get support from your team. If you are going into a team meeting like an IEP or ARD meeting, let your teammates in on your thoughts so they can back you up. Sometimes other people have a better way of wording things in the stress of the moment. 

4.) Also, I would be remiss to not say this, try and interact with your student’s caregivers in unstructured times. Such as class parties, the cafeteria, etc. I used to run from parents if I saw them in the cafeteria, but the more you see them, the more they trust you! If you are unable to see the parents in unstructured settings, hand written notes and positive emails or phone calls also work WONDERS with helping you establish rapport. This is one perk of sending home speech folders-it makes “informal” communication super easy!

As you get ready for your next parent interaction, remember these 4 tips for confidently interacting with caregivers as an SLP and I  promise you feel more confident going into the meeting. Best of luck! 

Want to hear more of my story? Be sure and check out this post to learn how this normal SLP started a TPT store, blog, and YouTube channel!

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Teaching Sequencing with Thematic Units in Speech Therapy

I love doing thematic units with my speech therapy groups. Because you can create activities to last several sessions, it makes planning sooooo much easier. Traditionally, SLPs like to do thematic units based around things like holidays, seasons, snowmen, or some other cute something-or-another. But lately I have been doing a different kind of theme. Instead of basing it off of an object, I have been teaching sequencing with my thematic units!

teaching sequences in speech therapy

Here is the method to my madness.

First, you have to think “why do we target sequences?” Honestly, there are many reasons. But here are some of my faves:

  •  Sequences are the foundational skill for telling stories, giving directions, and giving information.
  • They are a prerequisite to being able to retell (aka sequence) a story.
  • Targeting sequences improves vocabulary, specifically verb-related vocabulary.
  • Sequencing helps our students organize language in their brain.
  • They are a great way to start eliciting longer word utterances.
  • A good sequence can easily be modified into a hands-on activity!

That is why we work on sequencing skills. Now, each sequence comes with its own set of vocabulary that also needs to be taught. So, by working on a sequence you are inherently teaching new vocabulary. Most of our students needs to improve vocabulary so this is a natural way to work on it. Win-win.

The beauty of teaching sequencing and thematic units together, is that you get the benefits of BOTH sequences and themes.

When we work on a theme, we like to read books, play games, and do fun activities all surrounding the theme. We use these things to reinforce many different kinds of skills such as answering questions, location words, or articulation. If you pick the right sequence-theme, you can continue to do all these things.

Here is how I have been creating my sequence-themes.

  1. I pick a sequence. Choose sequences that are 3-4 steps in length and can be easily turned into a play-based activity.
  2. I think of all the different ways I want to teach the theme. For me, I like to use toys, sequencing pictures, books, YouTube videos, and songs.
  3. We practice the sequence-theme and do thematic based activities for several sessions. Usually until the student is able to master sequence.

Here are some of my favorite themes to use while teaching sequencing!

Making Pizza

Birthday Party

Going to the Grocery Store

Washing the Dog

Washing a Baby

Brushing Teeth

Making PB&J

Washing Dishes

Washing Hands

Also, I have already created sequencing pictures for these activities. I would love to share them with you (for free!). You can snag them by clicking here.

If you enjoyed this post, I also think you will love reading about my favorite (free) preschool speech therapy activities to use with books.

What are your favorite speech therapy themes? Do you love using sequences? Or do you have some other genius tip to share? I’d love to hear about it!