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.

Uncategorized

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!

Uncategorized

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!

Books · Language · Preschool Activities

Unique Books and Free Activities For Preschool Speech Therapy

I love to read books with my preschool speech therapy students. We all do, right? I also love to make the books meaningful by creating an engaging companion activity to go with it! I am not talking about a companion worksheet. These kiddos need movement, fun, and silliness! Keep reading and I will share my favorite books and free (ish) activities to do with your preschool speech therapy students!

Oh No! Poo-Poo!” by Jennie Bjorem M.A. CCC-SLP.

preschool speech therapy following directions activity

What preschool student doesn’t love poop…and chocolate? This will soon become a classic combo you will love to pull out again and again! This book is great for targeting CVCV words, imitating sentences, answering “where” questions, following directions, and working on location words!

Activity Ideas

  • Read the story. It is fun to have the student put the chocolate “poop” on the picture of the poop in the book.
  • Answer questions like “Where is the poop?”
  • Hide the “poop” around the room and look for it while practicing location words.
  • Practice CVCV words or imitating sentences
  • Eat the “poop”!!!

Oh No! Pee-Pee!” by Jennie Bjorem M.A. CCC-SLP.

This book is similar to “Oh No! Poo Poo!”, but this story features a dog who tinkles everywhere! This one will be another great hit to add to your arsenal of speech materials! This book is great for targeting CVCV words, imitating sentences, answering “where” questions, following directions, and working on location words!`

Activity Ideas

  • Read the story.
  • Answer questions like “Where is the pee pee?”
  • Make a dog or other stuffed animal “pee pee” around the room. Use this to target location words or answering questions
  • Practice CVCV words or imitating sentences
  • Have fun being silly!

Don’t Push The Button” by Bill Cotter

This book is such. a. treat. Your preschool students will enjoy “breaking rule” as they push the buttons and follow the directions in these books. There are actually several of these books so you can pull them out for different seasons! There is the original, Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. These books are great for following directions, thematic vocabulary, and using/understanding the exclusionary word “not”.

Activity Ideas

  • Read the story.
  • Practice following the directions in the story.
  • Practice giving and following directions that contain the exclusionary word “not”.
  • Set up a pair or row of objects. Give the instruction “I need you to pick one of these toys. Don’t pick the _______”.

Karen Katz Lift-the-Flap Books

Thematic books for speech therapy

You may have heard of these. But on the off chance you haven’t, I would be remiss to not share them with you. Karen Katz has created an entire series of interactive books that your students will love exploring. She has one for vehicles, pets, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter, Valentines, body parts, bath time, zoo animals, feelings, fall, winter, summer, and spring. So if you use any of these themes, with your preschool students, be sure to check these out! These books are great for targeting: thematic vocabulary, answering “where” and “what” questions, answering yes/no questions, and location words.

Activity Ideas

  • Read the story. It is a quick read, so it is good for an intro activity or a review activity!
  • Practice answering the questions in the story.
  • Choose an object based on the theme of your story (i.e. pumpkin, turkey, eggs, valentine, car, etc.) Hide the object around the room and look for it. This activity is great for practicing “where” questions and location words!

Also-if you do happen to be looking for printable activity companions to go with these books, I have created one for Easter, Valentines, and Halloween!

Are you looking for other unique and engaging activities to use with your books in your preschool speech therapy sessions? Be sure and check out this page for more great ideas! (that don’t require you to buy anything from TpT 😉)

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!

If you are interested in some more books about dating and autism for teenagers, check out The Guide to Dating for Teenagers With Aspergers Syndrome, by Jeannie Uhlenkamp!

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!