Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Here is a generalisation of speech idea which made a child giggle today...

The child has two target sounds for generalisation, the 'k' and 'sh' sound. I chose these sounds as they maximally contrast and I was hoping for generalisation to other sounds.  He has a core vocab book that was made from an old Match Attax folder- this he loves to add to and it shows him his progress to keep him motivated. Everyone knows to listen out for his new words and ask him to 'fix' the core vocab word if he is not saying accurately (although not all the time).  I work on the success rate of at least 80% to keep motivation going- for every two correction there has to be at least 8 praises specific to the child. We are now working on the sounds in word initial position within sentences as he can already get them in single words consistently and accurately.

So the generalisation task today was to make a funny book. This I had printed out earlier (sorry he has got it so no pictures).

The title page was 'A funny cake'.  The opening line was that his teacher (one of his target words) is making a cake with funny ingredients. I then wrote 'she put in a...' and after each dots he had to stick in a picture of the 'k' or 'sh' word he had cut out, he then said the whole sentence. The ingredients were ridiculous like 'smelly shoes' and 'a can of coke'. He was really involved and enjoyed the task and the more silly the ingredient the more motivated he was to say the word accurately in the sentence.


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Story Mountains

I was told when I was a child that a story had a 'beginning', 'middle' and 'end'.  It meant nothing to me, I am a very visual person and words need fleshing out with images.  A 'story mountain' does this for me. I am not sure where the idea comes from, yet I know it is used extensively in the UK by teachers for written work.  For me it is a great tool for developing narrative.  Story mountains are readily available on the internet for free, the TES have some great ones.

Before I introduce this work I have worked extensively on sequencing, complex sentence coordination, mind maps and also vocabulary.  This helps the child become prepared for more complex narrative work.  It is not something I would introduce to the very young, but with adaptation it might be possible.

Story Mountains look like this:

The 'opening' is where you introduce the setting and the characters.  The 'build up' describes further information about the characters, what they are thinking and also feeling. It also builds up to explaining the 'problem' in the story.  The 'problem' discusses what the characters are confronted with, what they do, feel and think.  The resolution is describing how the problem is sorted out- the character's actions.  The ending is just that- is it happily ever after, are things really resolved?

At each point of the story mountain we create a small mind map so that all the details can be included.

The first time I introduce this idea I use a very simple picture book, which sticks to this story mountain format.  We read through the book and then reread it picking out the points on the mountain.  So the book might be something like 'The Three Little Pigs'. The opening being the mother sending them off; the build up is them choosing material and making their houses; the problem is the wolf coming, the resolution- them all being in the brick house and the wolf being 'got'; and the ending being the pigs having a party and being happy. 

We then begin to create our own stories using play based work.  For example, I might use playmobil knights and a dragon. The story would then be created together, and plotted on the story mountain.  It might look something like this-
Opening- There was a knight and a dragon who were friendly. They lived in a castle in the wood.
Build up- One night when they had gone to sleep a mean wolf came to the castle, and decided he would live there.
The Problem- The wolf wanted to scare the knight and dragon away from the castle and live there on his own. The knight and dragon were scared, and decided they needed to get rid of the wolf.
Resolution- The dragon caught the wolf and flew him a long way away, the wolf was lost.  The dragon came home. The dragon and knight were happy that the wolf was gone.
Ending- The dragon and knight had a party with their friends in the castle. 

Once we have completed the story mountain, the story mountain is used to retell the story.


Sunday, 5 May 2013

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating Conjunctions.

I have many years of background working with pre school children, however recently I have begun working with school age children on language.  The principles are similar, that is- assess, aim set, therapy, review... but the things I am working on are different. Subordinating conjunctions are something I never have had to do.  So I needed a little research into understanding them more. 

Grammatically, subordinators can be simple (one word, 'because'), complex (more than one word, 'provided that') or correlative (two words relating to two parts of a sentence,'if...then'). Semantically, subordinators can indicate a number of different meanings, including time, reason, condition... (see Rediscover Grammar, David Crystal).  Essentially the subordinate conjunction links two clauses together, one is the main one (independent) and the other is the subordinate (dependent).  This creates a complex sentence- with one part of the sentence being more important than the other, and the subordinating conjunction indicating which part. 

Subordinating conjunctions emerge after coordinating ones. The subordinate conjunction 'because' appears around the age of between the age of 35-37 months, according to Brown's Language Stages (1978). 

So how do we put it into practice, for a 7 year old?  'So' and 'because' emerge as one of the first subordinate conjunctions- so I began with these.  I am a fan of colour in therapy, as most SLTs seem to be. I decided to use colour to separate out the 'what happened' part of the sentence to the 'explain why/reason/result' part. The 'what happened' was printed on red paper and the 'reason' on blue. Symbols were used to represent each clause of the sentence on card. These cards were put in a file together.  The child need to choose the right reason to go with what had happened- he could flip between different reasons and this meant he could see there can be various reasons for something to happen.  He also needed to test this to make sure it made sense.  We discussed the subordinate conjunction and created a mind map for it to go on- which backed up his need for working memory support. 

The ease of the file was that the same pictures could be used for both conjunctions targeted in the session. The 'because' conjunction is usually followed by the reason, whereas the 'so' indicates a result.. For example, 'the grass was long so I cut it' compared with 'I cut the grass because it was long'. therefore when working on the 'so' the blue cards are first and the pink second.  

The file also means that I can add to the file further conjunctions.  The mind map has space for further discussion too.  I like the mind map as there are pictures to back up the writing- the child is actively involved in its creation.  Again there is colour involved- research indicates that colour facilitates learning.  

It worked with this child, and even broken down to this level it made him think. Even better a few times later on in the session he was using the 'because' accurately.


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

SpeechBox App

Welcome to Speech Rocket's first app review.  We have looked at the SpeechBox app. 

I have now had SpeechBox for a few weeks, and I find that I am increasingly dipping into it for therapy.   Once therapy aims have been selected it is a really helpful resource.  For years now I feel that I have been fumbling around with resources in paper, and sometimes shuffling many picture piles of cards around in therapy, speech box reduces the need for this.     

SpeechBox is easy to orientate through and very flexible.  The opening screen is a series of boxes labelled in the first instance with sounds and further down the page are categories.  It is a simple and effective sorting tool.   

Once you open a sound box you are presented with lots of photos all at once.  These are well taken photos and are instantly recognisable.  In the open box you can further choose whether to work on initial, medial or final sounds.  To fine tune therapy stimuli you can use a listing button- to show or hide pictures. The number of pictures in each box varies with the phoneme selected.   If there are not enough images for you then you can upload photos into the app. 

There are word prompts for the app, which come in American, British and Australian English.   Although this is good, it is not a feature I have hugely used.  Some of the older children with whom I work do like it though.   I like that the auditory prompts can be recorded again by the therapist, as the accents in all these countries have huge variations and I could see if people use this feature they might want to record the prompts in their own accents, especially for vowel work.

I think one of the features I like best in this app is that I can create my own speech boxes.  This I can see as an excellent asset.  For example, I can work on a core word vocab with a child and make their own box for them.

So far I have used this app for creating word lists for reading to the client at two or three points in the session.  In addition I have used it for production work on sounds.   The children I work with have liked it.   There does not seem to be an age limit on this app, and I would  feel comfortable using it with teenagers.

Some of the the boxes have more pictures than others.  This can be a bit of a draw back if you need more stimuli, for example for the r, ch or dg sound.  I guess this was done with the thought that these are less common to work on, but they are still useful sounds to have pictures for.  It would also be good to have some more complicated syllable structures in the available pictures.

I also notice a difference in categorisation of sounds to what I would do as a Speech and Language Therapist.  For example, in  the /r/ section.  The accent I work in is non rhotic and therefore would not include words such as 'cork' or 'trainer', which the app includes in this box.  I think if you know that this is the case it is easy to work therapy around it. 

The other thing I notice is that the vocabulary selected can be Australian in nature.  Dialects can impact on therapy as well as accents.  So the word 'bobo' is not one used in British English and therefore is not a useful word for the UK population. 

As a therapist I would recommend this app as an excellent resource for therapy. As with all apps it cannot replace the therapist's role in guiding the client through therapy by selection of correct targets for them.

The creator of the app is really good at reflecting on any suggested changes, and is quick at responding to emails.  The website is

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Welcome to our Blog

We are entering a new world of blogging here,  please be patient with us as we learn the tricks and skills of the trade.   We hope to bring reviews, resources and therapy ideas for speech and language therapists and parents.  Happy blogging!