Autism · Language · social language · Social Skills

The Difference in Social Communication and Pragmatic Language

Social Communication Disorder

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

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

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

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

This graph shows the difference between social communication and pragmatic language

What Exactly Is Nonverbal Communication and Verbal Communication?

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

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

Verbal communication is every verbal component of speech:

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

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

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

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

Expressing Affective Language

Expressing Affective Language

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

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

Emotional Intelligence, Empathy, and Complex Emotions:

Empathy, Complex Emotions, and Emotional Intelligence Activities

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

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

Making Friends Social Narrative and Activities

Making Friends Social Narrative and Activities

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

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

Making Friends Project Based Learning Activity

Making Friends Activity

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

Power Relationships Teaching Guide

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

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

Nonverbal Communication Teaching Guide and Activities

Nonverbal Communication Teaching Guide and Activities

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

Conversation Social Narrative and Activity Packet

How to have a conversation teaching activity

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

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

Oral Narrative and Storytelling Teaching Guide

Oral Narrative and story telling activities

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

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

Tone of Voice Teaching Guide

how to teach tone of voice

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

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

A Conversation With a Famous Person

Conversation skills hands on activities

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

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

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

Autism · Language · Uncategorized

Must Have Pragmatic Language Evaluation Tools and Tips

Pragmatic Language Assessments

My favorite speechie thing to do is pragmatic language evaluations and therapy. I even like to write the reports. *gasp* . Try not to judge me too harshly though, because I want to share my pragmatic language evaluation tools and tips with you. I am hoping it will save you time, and maybe help you enjoy writing those reports a little bit more. (Hey don’t look at me like that, I said maybe).

First, I want to take a moment to discuss what ASHA says indicates an area of concern when it comes to social communication.

According to ASHA, “Social Communication includes 3 major skills…using language for different reasons, changing language for the listener or situation, and following rules for conversation and storytelling”.

Nonverbal communication such as understanding/ using gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, proxemics, and eye contact all fall within that last section- “following rules for conversation and storytelling”.  (To read more about what ASHA says, click here).

So if you are like me you might be thinking, “Whoa…that is A LOT of really complicated things to evaluate, how do I do this in a methodical way that will get me all the information I need so I can write good strong goals (and a parent friendly report)”? Well, keep reading my friend, and I will tell you how.

Parent/Teacher Report

As with all evaluations, I start my assessment process by sending out checklists and questionnaires to the parents and the teachers. I have created some that specifically ask questions regarding the areas outlined by ASHA. I created them to be a rating scale, because I have found most student’s rarely fall into a “they always do it” or “they never do it” category with these skills. In my experience, parents and teachers find rating scales easier to fill out, and I find they give me more useful information.

Student Observation

The next step- try and observe the student in his or her natural habitat…or the lunch room, or recess, or centers…you get my point. Students act different for us in one-on-one settings, so watching them interact with other children in less-structured settings can give you a wealth of information. Even though I know this takes a lot of time out of your day, I strongly advise not skipping this step if possible. To keep me organized during this step, I use a checklist to remind me to try and observe #allthethings.  If you are in a position where you cannot observe the student, you will have to rely on the parent/teacher rating scales.

The rest of the evaluation takes place in my room. I like to give the student structured tasks that revolve around those ASHA guiding principles. Personally, I find that I get more/better data from my own personal evaluation than I have gotten from a formal assessment. I know those assessments have their place, but I personally find them too rigid and not quite as thorough as I would like them to be.

Nonverbal Communication/ Theory of Mind

This is probably my favorite area of the evaluation because you never know what is going to come out of the student’s mouth. I just love getting a glimpse into their little brains.

So just a quick reminder, theory of mind is “the ability to understand the desires, intentions, and beliefs of others”, and typically develops between 3-5 years of age. It is well documented that students who have Autism and/or social language deficits often struggle in this area, so it is extremely beneficial to evaluate this area.

I evaluate theory of mind and nonverbal communication together because you can’t have one without the other. Think about it. What strategies do you use when you are trying to guess what someone else is thinking or feeling? You look at their facial expressions, body language, gestures, eye contact…AKA their NONVERBAL LANGUAGE!

To evaluate both areas at the same time, I show my student a picture of someone displaying an emotion. I have the student identify what the person is feeling and then they have to tell me two things the person in the picture might be thinking. I like to show pictures depicting both basic emotions and more complex emotions. (To read more about complex emotions click here). Usually my students do a good job identifying simple emotions, but asking them to tell me what the person in the picture is thinking (AKA theory of mind) is much more challenging. I have even had students tell me “How am I supposed to know what they might be thinking?!”

Story Telling

Since ASHA states that deficits in storytelling accompany social language disorders, I definitely want to assess that area. I like to give my students a prompt, then, as they tell the story I listen for the following skills:

  1. The story is on topic
  2. The story contains details
  3. There is a clear beginning middle and end
  4. The student uses nonverbal communication to enhance the story

As for what kind of prompts I like to give, I usually use the following hierarchy:

  1. How to do a familiar task (i.e how to do a chore)
  2. A story about a personal event (i.e. a time the student got hurt/felt scared—these are usually easy for the student to remember)
  3. Retelling a familiar story (i.e. fairy tales or summarizing a book)
  4. Creating a new story (i.e. “Tell a story about a time a boy went to outer space”)

Conversation Skills

When I evaluate conversation skills, I look to see if the student does the following: initiates a conversation, stays on topic, asks questions, makes comments, takes turns speaking, and ends the conversation appropriately. I try to let the student lead the conversation as much as possible so that the student has the opportunity to use these skills. Usually though, I find that the student needs to me to lead the conversation.

Jokes/Humor/Idioms/Figurative Language

Even though ASHA does not explicitly outline deficits in these areas as a potential indicator of social language disorders, I still like to take a look at some of these skills. This is because in order for an individual to understand humor or figurative language, they must be able to take on someone else’s perspective (which they do by utilizing those nonverbal communication and theory of mind skills).

Let Me Save You Some Time

If you like this method of completing informal pragmatic language evaluations then I have some good news for you! I have already created an informal pragmatic language evaluation resource that follows this method of evaluation. I personally use this resource for all of my evaluations and I have found it to be very helpful.

This resource contains all of the pragmatic language evaluation tools that I talked about in this blog post: a parent/teacher rating scale, an observation checklist, plus stimuli for evaluating theory of mind and nonverbal communication, conversation prompts, story prompts, and jokes and idioms to help you evaluate figurative language.

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

Autism · Language · social language · Social Skills

Oral Narratives In Speech Therapy

How to Teach Oral Narratives for Speech Therapy

We need to talk and I want to be 100% honest with you.  I am not an expert Speech-Language Pathologist. There are many, many things I don’t know.

Phew! *Wipes brow* Serious moment done! Now that you know that I will NEVER pretend to be anything I am not; we can talk about narratives and their role in speech therapy.

The reason I need you to know I am not an expert SLP is because I used to know nothing about teaching narratives. I didn’t even know I should be working on them! I discovered their importance while reading some reviews on The Informed SLP. (Seriously-click that link to check it out, it might just change your speechie life.)

Why Should I be Working on Oral Narratives in Speech Therapy?

I am so glad you asked! As it turns out, there are quite a few reasons you should be working on narratives, but for this post I am going to focus on the three that stood out to me.

  1. The first reason is that when you work on narrative skills, there is evidence that suggests that other language skills may improve simultaneously. My understanding is that the trick here is not to get caught up in perfecting the “microstructure” of stories, but instead to focus on improving students understanding of the “macrostructure”. (In case you need a little refresher, when I say microstructure, I am talking about things like grammar, vocabulary, syntax, etc. When I say macrostructure, I am referring to the bigger story elements such as the character, setting, problem, and solution.) 
  2. Do you know what else gets better when you work on oral narrative skills? WRITING SKILLS! We know that we need to be working on writing skills in therapy (after all, writing is written language). But typically, we only have about 30 minutes at a time to get our speech business done and, oh my word, writing takes FOREVER. It almost feels like a waste of a session when you spend the entire 30 minutes helping each of the four students in your mixed group write two, maybe three sentences. I’m just saying, if the people who know more about these things than me say that when you work on oral narratives it also helps with writing skills, I think we should be giving it a try. I am all about efficiency, and what is more efficient than working on two things at once?
  3. According to ASHA, storytelling deficits are indicative of pragmatic language disorders. (Click the link here if you want to read what ASHA has to say). So working on oral narratives not only helps students with receptive and expressive and writing deficits, but it ALSO helps with social language disorders?! That is like working on four things at once! If working on two things is efficient, what does that make working on four things?

How Do Oral Narrative Skills Develop?

As it turns out, narrative skills actually begin to develop when children are very young. (As I began researching this topic, I read this article that showed me that my two-year-old son is already learning narrative skills!) When we are talking about how narrative skills develop, it gets pretty complex really quickly. I am not even going to attempt to break down the complexity of these development skills, but I am going to tell you the basic hierarchy I developed that I think makes a good starting point for your everyday speech therapist.

  1. Retelling Stories About Familiar Routines: In the first stage, children are talking about familiar routines. Since they have done these things before, they have an easier time sequencing and organizing the story.
  2. Retelling Past Personal Experiences: In the second stage students begin to tell a story that actually happened to them. It requires students to pull an event from their long-term memory and sequencing skills might deteriorate slightly.
  3. Retelling a Fictional Story: The next step is having your students retell a fictional story. This is best done with stories that have easy to identify characters, settings, problems, and solutions. In this stage, students must now rely more heavily on sequencing skills and short-term memory skills.
  4. Creating a Fictional Story: Students begin creating their own fictional stories in the final stage. This is the most complex stage because it requires students to have an understanding of story elements, sequencing skills, and they must also rely heavily on both their long term and short-term memory to create a story that makes sense.

How Do I Work on Oral Narratives in Speech Therapy?

Now for the moment you have all been waiting for! (Cue the drum roll in your head) It is time to talk about how we can target oral narrative skills in speech therapy!

  1. Target sequencing skills. Many students who struggle with storytelling skills have a hard time organizing a story into a logical structure, so we need to be making sure our students are proficient in this skill.
  2. Teach the main story elements (macro elements). Again, you can make this much more complicated, but for your average SLP, I personally think targeting the basic story elements (character, setting, problem, and solution) are a good starting point when you are trying to target macro elements. I would suggest helping your students get really proficient at identifying these and then moving onto more complicated story elements, if you think it is necessary.
  3. Help your students identify the main idea. Often times when students struggle with narratives, they have a hard time getting to the point of the story. They get wrapped up in details and never really tell us what they wanted to say in the first place. Helping them learn to weed out the main idea from the details will help them tell more stream lined stories.
  4. Help your students make personal connections to the story. This is the basic stage of making inferences. When students feel connected to the characters in the story, it makes it easier for them to make emotional inferences. This is especially important to work on with students who have Autism or pragmatic language disorders.
  5. Practice making inferences about the emotional states of the characters. This is the more advanced stage of making inferences. It is known that students with Autism struggle with understanding the emotional states of characters in stories, so the more you can practice this, the better. A great way to introduce this skills is by showing a picture that shows an emotion and helping your students make a story about the picture.
  6. Pre-teach Tier 2 Vocabulary: If students are retelling a story, make sure they understand the important Tier 2 Vocabulary.
  7. Practice, practice, practice. Practice retelling stories until they are securely stored in long term memory. Each time a student retells a story, it should get better. The story should become more fluid and other language elements such as sequencing, grammar, and vocabulary should improve.

Speech Therapy Oral Narrative Interactive Notebook

Speech Therapy Oral Narrative Interactive Notebook
This interactive notebook activity contains everything you need to target oral narratives using the strategies listed above.

Now that I have told you everything I think you need to know to start tackling those oral narrative speech therapy goals, I want to tell you about this interactive notebook I created to help me work on narrative skills with my caseload. It will help you target each of those 7 areas that I listed above in one beautifully curated speech therapy session. Here is how it works.

  • Students will practice their narrative skills by creating an interactive notebook.
  • Print off the activity pages and assemble them using the instructions I have given you in the download.
  • As students create their notebook, they will be practicing using sequencing skills, identifying story elements, finding the main idea, making inferences, and practicing some Tier 2 Vocabulary.
  • By creating a notebook, students have all the resources they need to go back and practice retelling the stories they have already created in the notebook. This repetition is paramount for improvement in storytelling skills.
  • The activities in the notebook build in complexity using the hierarchy I listed above. You can practice each level as much as your students need until they are ready to move to the next section.

If you are interested in learning more about this notebook, click the picture below and it will take you to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

Speech Therapy Oral Narrative Interactive Notebook Product Cover
Click the image above if you would like to learn more about this Speech Therapy Oral Narrative Interactive Notebook

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

Articles About Narratives and Speech Therapy

Click the links below if you are interested in reading more about narratives and speech therapy!

 Adolf, S. M., McLeod, A. N., & Leftwich, B. (2014, April 14). Structured narrative retell instruction for young children from low socioeconomic backgrounds: A preliminary study of feasibility. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00391/full#h9

Gillam, S. L., Olszewski, A., Squires, K., Wolfe, K., Slocum, T., & Gillam, R. B. (2018, April 5). Improving Narrative Production in Children With Language Disorders: An Early-Stage Efficacy Study of a Narrative Intervention Program. Retrieved from https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0047

Spencer, T. D., & Petersen, D. B. (2018, July). Bridging Oral and Written Language: An Oral Narrative Language Intervention Study With Writing Outcomes. Retrieved from https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2018_LSHSS-17-0030

Westerveld, M. F., & Roberts, J. M. (2017, October). The Oral Narrative Comprehension and Production Abilities of Verbal Preschoolers on the Autism Spectrum. Retrieved from https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0003

How do you like to work on narratives?

Leave a your favorite narrative strategies in the comments so we can all get some fresh ideas!

Autism · Back To School · Language

Fun Activities to Teach Body Parts To Preschoolers

Activities to teach body parts

If you have landed here, you are probably looking for some fun activities to teach body parts to preschoolers. It doesn’t matter if you are a parent, a preschool teacher, an early interventionist, or a speech-language pathologist, you know the importance of teaching body parts. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), children should be able to identify a few body parts between the age of 1-2 years.

Maybe your student still needs to learn body parts, or maybe you are wanting to reinforce some emerging skills, but if you have landed on this page it is because you are searching for some ideas to teach body parts…so let’s dig in!

Fun Books For Teaching Body Parts

Like any speech therapist, I love using books to introduce/teach/practice new vocabulary. For body parts, my favorite book is “Toes, Ears, and Nose” by Marion Dane Bauer and Karen Katz.

Toes, Ears, and Nose book
“Toes, Ears, and Nose” lift the flap book, written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Karen Katz.

To turn this book into an interactive lesson for my little learners, I like to print out pictures of each body part featured in the book using a program like Boardmaker or Symbolstix. As we read the book, I help my students match the printed image to the picture in the book. This works on matching two non-identical pictures and helps my kiddos stay engaged while we are reading. I have yet to meet a kid who didn’t like ripping apart two pieces of Velcro.

Body Part Book Activity
“Toes, Ears, and Nose” body part picture matching activity.

Songs for Teaching Body Parts

I am sure we all like to use Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes as our song companion when we teach body parts. So today, instead of recommending a new song, I would like to suggest a YouTube channel.  If you haven’t already discovered the YouTube channel Cocomelon, I would strongly encourage you to watch some of their videos. I love these videos because the characters have great facial expressions and use really good nonverbal language. I also like that they take traditional songs and put a new spin on them. Here is their versions of Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes if you would like to check it out.

Cocomelon Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes YouTube Video

This is another great video choice for teaching body parts. It has more body parts and it talks about the functions of the different body parts!

Fun Activities to Teach Body Parts to Preschoolers

Activity #1: I can’t take credit for this first activity. I have seen it a few times on social media, but its such a genius activity that I wanted to share it here, just in case you haven’t seen it.

Body Part Band Aid Activity
Band-aid body part activity

You will need band aids and a stuffed animal or doll, that’s it. Pretend that your toy has gotten hurt and needs a band aid, then help your student put a bandage on the hurt body part. I mean, what kid doesn’t love playing with band aids? And what teacher doesn’t like working on pretend play skills, body part vocabulary, and following directions at the same time? That sounds like a win-win scenario if I’ve ever heard one.

Activity #2: Preschoolers + Play Dough = True Love, #amiright?

Body Part Play Dough Smash Mat
Body Part Smash Mat Activity

For this next activity I used my play dough smash mats from the Body Part Activity Packet I created on Teachers Pay Teachers. Your students can have fun smashing out their favorite colored play dough while you are teaching vocabulary and following directions. Fun and multitasking? Another win for the teacher.

Activity #3: Sensory Bins. So you may not want to do this one if you really hate cleaning up messes…but if a little mess doesn’t bother you and you want to take a multi sensory approach to your lesson, give this one a try. And hey, you can always have your students practice those functional cleaning skills when you are done.

Body Part Sensory Bin Activity
Body Part Sensory Bin Activity

For this activity you will need a container and a filler and pictures of the body parts you want to practice. Dry rice, dry beans, dry pasta, pom poms, and cotton balls are all common fillers. For the container, lot of teachers like to use empty supply boxes or food storage containers. You can also use a clothes pin or tweezers to grab the pictures out of the bin for a fun fine motor challenge. To create these images, I have used the matching picture-to-picture worksheet that is included in my Body Part Activity Packet.

All your students have to do is find the picture in the filler and practice matching them to their counter parts. Burying the picture under the filler for a little scavenger hunt is extra fun-but again, messy. I especially love this activity for learners who have limited language abilities.

Activity #4: Slap the picture.

Body Part Vocabulary Activity
Body Part Slap the Vocabulary Picture Activity

For this activity you will need images of the vocabulary you are wanting to teach and something to hit the picture. I like to laminate the picture and use these little suction hammer things to grab it. I got my hammers as part of another game, but you can use a fly swatter, a pointer, or students can use their hands. You can do this activity individually, or students can compete against each other.

Activity #5: Sentence Builder

Body Part Sentence Builder Activity
Sentence Builder Activity

For this activity you will need a mirror and some picture cards to use as a visual cue. Students find a body part while looking in a mirror, then make the sentence “I see my _____.” I’ll even give you bonus points if you make silly faces while you look in the mirror. 😉

We have reached the end of this post and I truly hope you have found some fun activities you can take with you as you teach your preschoolers about their body parts. If you would like to see these activities and more like them, check out my Body Part Activity Packet on Teachers Pay Teachers by clicking the image below. If you would rather keep perusing the blog, I would recommend reading this story about this experience with one of my preschool students!

Body Part Activity Packet Cover
Click the image to check out this Body Part Activity Packet on Teachers Pay Teachers!

References: One to Two Years. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/12/

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

Click the image above for your free pragmatic language evaluation checklist!
Autism · Back To School · Language

Nonverbal Speech Therapy Homework Activities

Speech Therapy Homework Calendar

I was sitting in an IEP meeting and a cold dread started seeping from my throat to my toes. I was terrified of what I was going to say to the parents sitting across from me. They were desperate for their son to talk- so desperate, that our meeting was solely focused on that one topic. As the paid speech and language expert in the room, it was my job to help them.

To help this family I needed to do three things:

  1. Help them understand the severity of their son’s disorder. SPOILER ALERT: I failed. (But that is a story for another time.)
  2. Inspire their confidence in my ability to help their son. I would like to think we made some progress in this area by the end of the school year, but lets be honest, I know we will never be best buds.
  3. Help them help their son at home. SECOND SPOILER: I would like to think I was successful, but I was not efficient… keep reading to find out what happened.

Let’s go back to that IEP meeting. The parents wanted their son to talk, so they were requesting more speech time. I increased his speech time at school, but I knew that this little boy needed help outside of school too. His parents were already trying to help him at home but they didn’t have a strategy and frankly, they weren’t using good techniques. I really wanted to help this little boy and his family, but as a school SLP I had limited contact with the caregivers outside of IEP meetings.

The mother and I exchanged email addresses, and each week I told her the goals we were targeting in speech and ways that she could practice them at home. Trying to teach her how to facilitate a language rich environment through email was tedious. I kept thinking to myself “There has to be a better way to give this family home practice activities.” I hoped there might be some sort of homework calendar for nonverbal students on Teachers Pay Teachers, but the only homework calendars I could find required the student to have expressive language skills. Since this boy had very limited expressive language skills, none of those resources would work for me.

I spent all school year thinking about this problem. I spent all school year thinking about how I could do this better. I wanted something that I could easily print and give to the parents of nonverbal and limited verbal students that would help them practice language skills at home. I wanted something that could be used for every nonverbal preschool, PPCD, kindergarten and early intervention student on my caseload. I wanted something that would get me through the entire school year. I wanted something that would teach caregivers how to work on language skills using everyday items.

Since nothing like that existed…I created it. It was my first big project on Teachers Pay Teachers and y’all, it took me F-O-R-E-V-E-R. I sat down and made my first draft and put it up for sale. It was awful, but someone purchased it.  That person then promptly gave me a well-deserved, terrible review. (If that person ever reads this, I am so sorry you bought that.)

But I still felt strongly about this project so I called my grandmother and asked for her help. My grandmother is a well experienced teacher, and I knew she would have some wisdom for me. We hashed a new plan for my calendar and my grandmother agreed to be my editor. I slowly churned out each month until the calendar I have today was completed. I was so happy when that dang thing was finished!

My Nonverbal Speech Therapy Homework Calendar

Each week focuses on common areas of weakness and 2-3 skills are targeted each week. It also very loosely follows the kindergarten curriculum of the district I worked in. I did this so that my students could practice the vocabulary they were learning at school, at home. Most of the activities can be completed using items people probably have at home, but there is a shopping list that should be sent home with the caregivers at the beginning of the month so they can make sure they have everything they need on hand. Each activity is then explained using basic vocabulary and tells the caregivers what skills are being practiced during any given activity. As the educator, all you have to do is print off the calendar and companion activities and send them home.

Even though all that stuff I just mentioned is great, I think the best part is that no expressive language abilities are needed to complete any of the activities in the calendar.  

So now you are asking, “Can you tell me more about this calendar?” Honestly, I could talk about this calendar for days, but I think the preview, product description, and free sample do a better job of showing you what is included in the resource. Just click on the image below if you want to learn more!

Year Long Nonverbal Speech Therapy Language homework activities

One more thing…my sweet friend Kaitlyn (aka The Stay at Home Teacher) created a blog post about the resources she uses with daughter as part of their home school-preschool routine. She mentions this calendar and several other resources that would be helpful to speech language pathologists, special education teachers, and early interventionists. If you want to read more about these resources, click here!

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

Click the picture to get your free pragmatic language evaluation checklist now!
Autism · Language

How to Teach Tone of Voice: In 4 Easy Steps

If you have ever wondered how to teach tone of voice, you are not alone. I have been there, sitting across from a boy who has confusion written across his face, as I try and explain that yes, saying I’m sorry is usually a good thing, but that it was his tone of voice that made his teacher upset.

Have you been there? Can you see that student? Do you want to help this child, but have no idea where to begin? I have been there too, and I can tell you what I would do to try and help this boy.

  1. Introduce the topic:

Reading passages are a great way to introduce a new topic. They educate the student about the topic and introduce new vocabulary. It’s a great way for students to warm up their mind to receive the knowledge they are going to be taught. I also love reading passages because they are versatile for mixed groups. All students can benefit from additional reading practice and it is easy to use reading passages to target articulation skills as well.

I use two reading passages. One passage explains what tone of voice is and why it is important. The second one teaches students how to listen for changes in tone of voice. I also give my students a short quiz to reinforce their understanding of the passage. As an extra bonus, the quiz also gives them a chance to practice reading comprehension skills.

2. Learn the vocabulary.

The topic of tone of voice requires knowledge of two types of vocabulary. The first type is emotional vocabulary. Students must have a strong foundational knowledge of emotions before they can be successful with tone of voice. And I am not just talking about basic emotions. I am talking about complex emotions such as embarrassed, frustrated, or disappointed. (You can read more about teaching complex emotions by clicking here).

The second type of vocabulary relates to the changes in tone of voice. These are words like “rate”, “pitch”, “emphasis”, “prolong”, and “volume”.

The following YouTube videos provide good examples of the following vocabulary words:

Pitch & Volume:

                After you watch this video practice talking in louder and softer volumes and higher and lower pitches.

Emphasis & Prolongation:

After you watch this video, help your students identify why Rachel prolonged certain words while she was talking to Joey and which words Rachel and Monica were putting emphasis on.

                Rate:

                Use this video to discuss Elliot’s rate of speech, why you think she is talking fast, and how it effects the communicative message.

3. Learn to listen.

Before students can interpret tone of voice, they must learn to listen for it. At this point I would have my students listen to the same word, pronounced with several different emotions/tones. For example, you could use the word “no” and say it with a happy tone, a sad tone, a frustrated tone, and an embarrassed tone. Using audio clips that do not show other non-verbal cues, such as facial expression, will help your students to practice only using their listening skills. Many similar emotions also have similar tones, which can be difficult to identify without knowing context or seeing body language, so I would focus less on identifying the correct emotion, and more on picking out the tonal differences in each word.

I use a worksheet to guide my students through the listening process. The worksheet helps students identify the rate, pitch, volume, and any emphasis’ or prolongations the speaker used to convey the emotion. You can continue to practice this skill using a variety of words and sentences until your students are proficient at listening for the tonal differences in a communicative message.

4. Practice identifying emotions based on tone:

The next step in the process is probably the trickiest-learning to listen to a speaker’s tone of voice and interpret the communicative message. Here are a few activities you can use to practice this skill:

Watch Video Clips: The first time you play the video, don’t let your students watch the characters, instead, have them practice listening only to the tone of voice. I would have my students complete a guided listening worksheet to help them through this process and to help them guess which emotion they think is being portrayed.  After they have listened without watching, allow them to watch the video and discuss how it is easier to understand the communicative message when you can see the speaker’s body and facial expressions. You can use these video clips below to get you started.

How I Met Your Mother: Marshall’s Dad Died (Sad)

Star Wars: “Luke I Am Your Father” (Anger, Disbelief)

The Devil Wears Prada: “You Think This Has Nothing To Do With You” (Annoyed)

Titanic: “I’m The King of The Word” (Excited)

Barrier Games: Practice identifying tone of voice when you cannot see your partner. You can do this by having the student sit with his or her back to you (or another student). One student is given two cups. One cup contains a word or sentence, the other cup has emotion words. The student draws one card from each cup and must say the word or sentence using the emotion that they drew. The other student must guess the correct emotion.

Teaching Tone of Voice Activity

There you have it! Four steps to teaching tone of voice. It looks easy enough in writing, but we know how challenging this skill is to teach. If you would like a little extra help, check out my resource on tone of voice by clicking HERE. It contains reading passages, audio clips, guided listening worksheets, and activities to help you get started.

Tone of Voice Activity Packet

What tricks do you use to teach tone of voice? Please share in the comments below so that everyone can learn something new!

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