During my career there have been certain students who have made a lasting impression on me and aided in my growth as a speech language pathologist. It seemed that fate crossed our paths so that we could learn from each other. I am thinking in particular of a student who I met in her Kindergarten year. Her disability prevented her from speaking or using her arms and legs effectively although eventually she learned how to use her head to control a motorized wheel chair and a laser to activate an Alpha Talker and then a Delta Talker. This is when the field of augmentation communication was beginning to blossom with more advanced electronic devices. This child did not have the outward appearance of much ability other than a beautiful smile. However with her devices her true personality could shine.
I will never forget the time I worked with her at her home during extended summer services. She would be going into first grade when school resumed. Her mother reported she had something to tell me. She proceeded to tell me she had seen the movie Pocahontas. That doesn’t seem that unusual except she used her Delta Talker to do it and she had programmed the name Pocahontas into it herself. Those of you who have worked with min speak realize this involves not only getting into the programming mode but also selecting a symbol sequence to represent the name. She did all of this using a laser attached to a head band. She had learned the programming by watching me during other sessions. I learned not to underestimate her abilities when motivated.
She would be in her twenties now. I lost track of her after her elementary years but I think of her often. She reminds me that our first impressions of a student’s capabilities are not always correct.
How does this get us to Don’t Break the Ice you ask? Well it was difficult for her to play with her peers and have normal interactions. I was always searching for games I could adapt. Don’t Break the Ice was one of the games I adapted so she could play too. I basically took the orignal game and put masking tape along two sides. I then color coded the rows. This allowed her to tell another student what block of ice she wanted to be hit out by saying two colors. Where the colors intersect is the block chosen. She used her voice output system to communicate. The set up was also useful for other students using a communication board. You can color code a dice or spinner. Students roll a dice and then say what color they have or will hit out. It is good for I want, I have, I need statements.
This is our first week back from the holiday break. Some of us are in the grips of winter. Baby its cold out there! It seemed appropriate to go with a winter theme and cold things. I dug into my archives and brought out my version of “Don’t Fall Through the Ice”. This activity has been in the vocabulary section and there are written instructions that can be printed out under the link. I didn’t include pictures so some of you may have missed it. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. The activity is really very simple and made from recycled materials. I get a lot of use from my coffee cans. All you need is a wide mouthed container like a coffee container, a large rubber band, paper towels, marbles, and a spinner made from a plastic lid. The spinner has the words, one, couple, few, and several. The marbles are placed in a container of water. The paper towel is stretched across the mouth of the container and held by the rubber band. Students take turns spinning the spinner, taking the corresponding amount of marbles from the water, and placing them on top of the paper towel. Eventually the water will weaken the paper towel and the marbles will fall through. I used this activity as a reinforcement for students during therapy or as a group activity to work on the concepts of amount. I have table groups play and then compare the number of marbles they put on top before they fall through. In addition to the spinner words you can talk about the concepts of wet/dry, weak/strong, and most/ least.
This is the time of year when a lot of games are selling for good prices and you may be wondering which ones are good for therapy. I have adapted Pop the Pig recently. It really only needed a communication board to add the structure I need. I use it with students who are working on making basic comments such as I have ______, and I want______. It is also possible to work on descriptive vocabulary such as size, colors and amounts. We also work on turn taking and becoming aware of another student’s turn and when they are finished. The game is really pretty simple. Students roll the die to choose a colored hamburger. The student then looks at the bottom to see how many times they press the pig’s head so it will munch on the hamburger placed in the mouth. Pressing on the head inflates the rubber tummy until the belt pops open. It isn’t as dramatic as the advertisement indicates. However my students seem to enjoy this game and it provides a lot of repetition. I have them make comments for every turn they take. It is also good game for general reinforcement. If you find one at a good price, pick it up.
The school year is coming to a close and it will be time to return the iPads to the technology department. We don’t always get the same iPad back in the Fall. If the technology department has completed updates it is possible they come back wiped clean. I didn’t keep a list of apps last year and I regretted that. I decided to post my most used apps on the page now called Videos and Apps. Maybe you will find one you haven’t discovered yet. They were all free when I originally downloaded them.
I thought I would also write a bit about how I use what I call my Pretend Play apps. Three of my favorites are Toca Hair Salon, Toca Monsters, and PlayHome Lite. I use these boards frequently with my students in the Life-skills programs. I have found I need to create a lot of structure and routine or it becomes the student making a lot of random hits on the screen and basically zoning me out. If there are two students, it is often difficult to get one student to give up their turn to the other student. I don’t find a session very fruitful under these conditions. Maybe you have had that experience too. I have found that adding activity based communication boards to go along with the apps adds the structure and the control I need.
I use Boardmaker to make the communication boards and usually start with a pretty basic framework. My pronouns and nouns are on the left side of the board. The next section contains the verbs needed, then prepositions and adjectives. I leave the right side for my My Turn, Your Turn, Finished, exclamations like Oh-no, and Do it again. By keeping the basic framework the same, the student becomes familiar with the icons and knows where to look for them. You do too which makes it easier to model the sentences. If you keep your framework similar, you can make new boards easily by using the same framework and only replacing the vocabulary you need for the new activity. I use plastic protectors and just slip the new board in. This has saved me from laminating.
Quite a few of my students are working on using two to three word phrases using carrier phrases such as “I have____”, “I want____”, “I need____”, and turn taking. I require them to use words or the communication board before manipulating something on the iPad. They then indicate Your Turn to the next student. I model this behavior as I play with them and it isn’t long before they are talking with me in a more natural context. It also works if you are working on subject pronouns and verb forms. I model which tense of the verb I want them to use such as future tense on something they “will” do. I am posting pictures of two of my boards I use with the apps “Play Home Lite” and “Toca Hair Salon”. Has anyone else discovered this works for you?
Here are two adaptations for the game Crocodile Dentist. This is a plastic crocodile that has a spring loaded mouth. The mouth closes when a certain tooth is pushed down. Kids enjoy the suspense of seeing who is going to get bit. The trigger tooth changes location each time the mouth is opened. Some of you may already use this game for reinforcement. I thought you might like to know how you can expand its use a little further. I use it to expand a student’s verbal output to 2 to 3 word phrases using a communication board and to review prepositions when following directions.
Using permanent markers, I colored the teeth alternating colors. I used pink, green, and orange because I already had a die that had those colors. If you don’t have a die you could make a spinner or use colors for a die you have.
For my students with limited verbal abilities, I use the communication board along with the die in a plastic jar. I have the students shake the die to get the color of tooth they need to push down. I then model phrases using the communication board while playing the game. The game creates a lot of opportunities for repetition of phrases such as “I have ….” or “push down green tooth”. I also reinforce saying “your turn” and “my turn.” After repetition the students start to say the appropriate phrase when you point to the correct icons as a prompt. Finally, they may prompt themselves by pointing to the icons and verbalizing. This is a good way to break up an imitative pattern that often happens when training non-verbal children and uses a natural context for turn taking.
The colors are used in the direction cards also. Cards were made using the concept vocabulary: next to, beside, between, right, left, colors, not, side, front, either/or. Children take turns drawing the cards and following the directions for the tooth to be pushed down. We play a variation by giving each child three poker chips. They feed the crocodile a chip if he bites. The person who feeds all three chips is the winner. I provided a word program down load because I thought people may need to adjust the color words for their needs. If you have any difficulties with this, leave me a comment. Print out the cards and have the students pull them out of a bag and then follow the directions while playing the game.
card download here