Tips for our Homeschooled Non Verbal Students

25 Nov

COVID 19 has created an educational challenge for providing a home school education program for non verbal students. Many educators, teaching virtually, are trying to provide lessons using materials available in a student’s home environment. I have decided to highlight some of the lessons I have used in the past that would meet that need. If the student is participating by virtual means, you may need the help of a caretaker to prepare materials, model responses, and help the student. Most of the materials are common objects available to students at home.

The original posts for these activities can be found by searching in the archives of past posts under the tag Therapy Activities from Scratch and Communication Boards. The search tools can be found in the right column.

Does your student have goals such as maintaining focus, taking turns, increasing vocabulary and increasing sentence length? Many play activities only need visuals such as communication boards and props to make them into structured learning activities to address these goals. If a student has physical difficulties and is not able to manipulate objects, they can still participate by directing and making requests with a partner using a communication board or system.

There are a number of reasons to use communication boards and systems. They lead to more natural social communication with mutual turn taking. They can add structure and provide cues for repeating key phrases. They also provide visual support for children who have limited oral speech and understanding.

Educators can easily adapt to a students learning level and needs with the use of a communication board. An educator begins by providing full verbal models and pointing to the icons while providing a verbal model. They can then use the icons as prompts by pointing to the icons and waiting for the student to provide the verbal output. Eventually the student will prompt themselves by pointing to the icon and providing the verbal output independently. Finally they will no longer need the communication board during the activity and participate verbally without it. If a student’s intelligibility is poor, you will still know what he is attempting to say because the student can use icons as a visual cues. Hopefully you will avoid interactions such as “Say what I say” or ” I don’t understand, say it again.” Many students become frustrated when they find themselves in this type of communication exchange and then refuse to participate.

I have posted pictures of boards I have made in the past, for examples. You will need to adapt the icons for the materials and objects available to your student. There are a number of sources of pictures for making communication boards. Some of my sources include Open clip art, clip art from Teachers Pay Teachers (some are free samples) and Pictoselector which is a free program for Windows users. It can be found at https://www.picto-selector.eu/about/freeware/. Pictoselector allows you to use grid templates for icon placement and a number of icons. Boardmaker is another program that many schools have subscriptions too.

Toys and Grab Bag
Wind up toys with grab bag

A grab bag with toys is an easy item that can be made in the home environment. This one was made by cutting the sleeve off a sweater and sewing or gluing the bottom seam shut. You can put a number of different toys in the bag. Wind up toys are one of my favorite tools. They are always a high interest item.

The bag allows control of the objects from indiscriminate grabbing and hoarding, and facilitates turn taking. If the child is unable to wind or pull to activate a toy, all the better. That means they will need to request an action.

The Dollar store, Target Bargain bin, and Happy Meals are good places to find wind up toys. Mine have lasted a number of years. The student may also have favorite objects at home such as tops, balls, buttons, old switches, and tools.

Communication Board for Wind up Toys
Board made using Pictoselector
Stuffed Animals

Many students have a collection of stuffed animals matchbox cars or other objects. Add a fancy box and these can be put to good use. Hide an item in the box and have a student answer questions to find out its identity. The communication board is helpful for cuing a student for appropriate descriptive questions. Begin by modeling the questions while pointing to the pictures.

Animal Questions with icons from Open Clipart

Matchbox vehicles are a favorite activity. Students often acquire a stash of different ones because they are a cheap item to get on a shopping trip. I was lucky to be gifted a pack by parents and I collected more over the years. you can use them in the grab bag also.

Question Board for Vehicles

I’ve used this map with students to work with prepositions and descriptive vocabulary. The picture is an example of a simple map that can made by students to review the prepositions across, over, through, and between. It can be used with dice or a spinner as a simple board game, but students also like just driving along and telling where they are. You can have multiple trials by having them request different vehicles for making the trip.

Vehicle Board using Boardmaker

The race game is another opportunity to use the same cars. Students choose cars and then make comparisons and prediction on which vehicles will be first or last. It is another activity that provides opportunities to use adjectives and verbs.

Caregivers may want to venture out on their own with materials. However, I recommend that you consult with your student’s Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) for constructing communication boards, and visuals to meet your student’s specific needs and goals. Although communication boards are presented here as examples, your student’s SLP will know the best vocabulary and language level for your student. An Occupational Therapist (OT) can help with setting up access to a communication board and tools so a student with a physical disability can manipulate objects. These professionals play important roles in an student’s education program and I can not guarantee results when their input is not included with a students education program.

I hope these examples give you some ideas. I would love to hear from fellow educators if you have other examples or ideas to share. If you are willing to share, I can add them to this blog post. You can comment by clicking on the comment cloud located at the top of the post by the heading. I monitor comments for spam so you will not see it posted immediately. You can also tell me if you would prefer to be incognito. Good Luck and stay healthy.

One Cut Books are Great for A Home School Activity

26 Mar
One cut book
Make Your Own Book

Are you looking for learning activities for your home schooled children during the extended school closures? One Cut Books are simple projects that can be used for multiple ages and grade levels.   They can be adapted well to any subject. They can be used for creative writing, vocabulary, listing facts, and articulation drill. You can use them to review information later on.

All you need to get started is paper and drawing or writing utensils.  There is a free template provided below. A computer and printer are needed to print the template, but you could get by with a ruler and measure out a template. You can also set the template up in Power Point using a 3×2 table without a border, inserted into a 8.5 x 11 inch page in landscape mode. You can then insert your own clip art. Remember that the clip art needs to be flipped upside down on the top section. When printing it out, make sure the printer is set to print the full 8.5 x 11 inch page, without a border. This will allow each page to be the same size when folded. You may need to go to custom settings on your printer to select “without border”. You need to print in landscape mode as well.

I have included a free download of the Penguin Preposition book to get you started. There is also a site that has already made books. A group of them have been made for you thanks to Judy Kuster and 22 graduate students at Minnesota State University.  Just go to this site http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster2/onecutbooks/onecutbooks.html   Thank you grad students.

Now let me show you how easy it is to make a book. Lets start with the template and directions. Students can write or draw their own images. I made the template in Power Point to make the Preposition Penguins book. You can download pdf version of this by clicking on the picture of the template below.

Click above for Penguin Preposition book
  1. After printing your template, fold it in half on the dot and dash line. This makes it easier for you to cut the red line. Cut the red line.
  2. Fold on the dash lines so it looks like this.

3. Fold the top section to the back along the light blue lines. You should be able to open up the red line that you cut at the beginning.

4. Flatten the diamond center by pushing the two ends inward. The pages will be double sided. It should look like this.

Please respect my efforts. You may use my free down loads with parents, and students on your caseloads and in your classrooms. Do not copy, post, or distribute them on other sites. Please do not use for commercial purposes. You may refer people to this blog to obtain their own personal copy.

Stay healthy everyone and practice social distancing. We will get through this by working together.

Follow Directions to Create a Leaf Turkey

17 Oct
Leaf Turkey

Creating turkeys from leaves was one of my all time favorite speech therapy activities. It was my type of project; easy to set up, materials were easily available and it appealed to multiple ages and abilities. I could address following directions and prepositional vocabulary such as below, above, center, before, and after. I could expand it for the older elementary by using science vocabulary and discussing why leaves change color, and drop.

A walk to look at Autumn colors and changes in the trees, is a good way to start this project. Children can’t resist picking up the different colors of leaves and wanting to do something with them. I found the colors and shapes of Maple leaves work the best for this project. Keep in mind that each student needs two leaves. Pick those that still have a long stem attached. It is always helpful to have extras for those that get broken before use.

I originally posted this activity 6 yrs ago, so it may look familiar. Many of you probably haven’t looked back that far to find it in my archives. I found it recently and decided with some updating it was worth reposting. The original was made with an app called Story Kit on my school iPad and was uploaded to the children’s library here. I have updated it to a pdf file to allow access on multiple types of devices. Click on the button for access.

Free Download
Free Download

I originally placed all the turkeys on a bulletin board with signs. This became an introduction to satire. I hope you have as much fun with this as I did.

Accessorize Your Speech Therapy Sessions

6 May

I am always searching for activities that can address a number of speech therapy objectives in groups.  Clothing accessories are a good tool for this.   Most of these items are readily available in our closets, yard sales or thrift stores and cost very little if anything.  It doesn’t matter if they seem silly or out of the norm. That  just opens up possibilities for descriptive language, social conversation skills  and clear conversational speech.

So should we see what I can find in my drawers and closet?  I found hats, scarves, beaded necklaces, sun glasses, knee pads, and gloves.

This is how I used them.

To address the social skills of  conversational speech;  complimenting, asking questions, and noticing the perspective of another person.

Have two or three students go out of the room and put a number of items on.  When they come back in, students have a few minutes to observe them.  The students then go back out and switch the items among each other. They then come back in. When they come back into the room, students who remained behind report the differences.  This encourages students to be more  observant of others. I often use this as a lead in  to a discussion about body language.

Another skill to address is starting a conversation. Students ask relevant questions or make a compliment according to what someone is wearing.  For example, “I love that red scarf. Where did you get it?”  “Are you getting dressed for a special occasion?”

In another activity, students conduct  a talk show.  One student can put an item on and be interviewed by another according to the character they become with the items they are wearing. This activity is great for determining if students have conquered those articulation skills conversational speech.

I hope you have fun with these open ended activities and they help you to  get away from the grind of drills, provide an engaging activity and allow for speech and language samples for the end of the year progress reports.

 

 

 

 

The Virtues of a Grab Bag and Grab Bag Hack

1 Nov

Have you ever wished for extra arms while conducting speech therapy?  Who can forget those early days of  SLP training and starting of clinical hours.   At the time, it seemed impossible to manage everything. I wished for more hands to manage materials, data taking tools, and especially the young clients.   If you turned  your back, your clients had control of the materials and you became an octopus trying to get them back.  This was not a good start to the session.

I got  to thinking about the hacks I discovered along the way that made a difference.  A grab bag was one of my real life savers. If you haven’t discovered the virtues of a grab bag  you have really missed out.

There are lots of advantages to using a grab bag.  A bag allows for control of the materials and prevents students from helping themselves to  items before you are ready to use them.  It allows for controlled  turn taking.  Only the person with the bag has access to the items. They  take items one by one before handing it on to the next person.

It creates  intrigue for some  students who would not otherwise be interested. Who doesn’t like discovering what is hidden in the mystery bag?   And finally, when you find yourself switching locations and working from room to room, you can keep better tabs of those small pieces if they are contained in a  bag that is portable.

I used grab bags frequently with my  early language learners, especially in small groups.  It creates a natural context for communication boards when training core vocabulary such as “I have, I see, I want,” and that mportant question for vocabulary development,  “What is it?”.   I have used grab bags with a activities such as potato head, the car races, and windup toys.  You can use a clear freezer for students who need  to see the parts and request them.

Here is an example of a communication board I used with  mechanical toys and a grab bag. The board is made from Picto-Selector graph which is a free download.  It can be found at https://www.pictoselector.eu/  

A bag can also be used with older students seated around a large table.  The bag can be passed so items can always be reached.  You have one less thing in your hands which really helps when taking data.  You can even have different  bags and different cards in each so students can work on different objectives by pulling from their bag. I have a lot less trouble with a stack of cards being scattered across the table and floor.

I imagine you are saying, “I want one of those. Give me the directions for that grab bag already.”   Well here they are:

Find an old sweater or sweatshirt that has long sleeves and cuffs.  Simply cut the sleeve off, turn it inside out and sew across the flat bottom.  You can glue the bottom opening closed with a glue gun if you can’t sew or don’t have a sewing machine.  Turn it back to the right side and you should have a bag with a cuff opening for the top. Now tell me that isn’t simple.