Sunday, July 21, 2013

Love it and List it : my top 5 games to use in speech therapy

I'm a list maker.  

To-do lists, shopping lists, chore lists, lists of ideas, lists of books I want to read, lists of projects I want to do, lists of phone calls I need to make. I have them all. My husband even lets me make him a honey-do list on his day off. Just one of the things I love about him :)

It seems that Jenna over at Speech Room  News loves a good list too because she's having a LOVE IT AND LIST IT Linky Party!  And we're going to make it a monthly event!

Soooo.. I've linked up with her to bring you a list...

 ~My top 5 fave games to use in speech therapy~ 

If you've read my blog or visited my TpT Store, you know I love games- especially for articulation therapy.  Remediating a speech error is hard.  It's hard for kids to change a speech pattern they've repeated thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of times. Plus, we all know it can be frustrating (for them and us!)  Making it fun for them takes away some of the sting, and it motivates them to keep trying.  I don't use games in every session because I don't want to send the message that therapy is only about games, but I do use them randomly as my secret weapon!  Here are just a sampling of some of my games: 
(I'm in the process of moving rooms at my school and the amount of games I moved across campus was alarming!)  I think I may have a little problem (yikes!) 

The way I use most games, of course, is that after a child has performed a task to my liking, he or she is "rewarded" with a turn at the game.  I like games that provide simple turn taking and are easy (but exciting) to play! 

It was way hard to narrow down a top 5, but here it is!
(By the way, each game title is a link so that you can read more about the game and see the price.  Of course, keep in mind that these games are available other places than just the link I've provided) 

Students have to roll dice and try to have them land on the ring of bananas in the center of the board WITHOUT letting them fall in the hole in the middle of the board! Each time they land on the banana ring, they earn banana tokens to put in their pyramid.  The person who earns all 10 bananas first, WINS! I love this game because it's super fun and suspenseful and almost always lasts 30 minutes (the average time of my school's sessions)

We always play this game in wintertime as part of a larger winter theme.  The game uses a tissue (that you provide) as the "ice." The "snowballs" sit in water below the ice. Students take turns plopping the  wet "snowballs"on the ice until the ice finally breaks.  Of course, whoever breaks the ice loses the game!  Here's a tip: expensive tissue will cause the game to NEVER END!! Use cheapo tissue or peel a ply away to make the tissue thin :)  My kids BEG to play this game. The only con is that it uses water  so be prepared for your table to get wet. Overall, very motivating game!

OMG when looking for a link for this game, I found it is a rare find now! I bought it for $5 in the 90s but it is quite pricey now!  (Besides the link I provided, you can find it listed on ebay).  It's my go-to game for the Halloween season and a great game to play after reading one of my favorite books- Stellaluna.  Kids roll the colored dice to see which color bat they must hang on the arch.  They can hang them by their wings, toes, or hands. This takes some critical thinking and some sharp fine motor skills    My kids always say, "Whew,  pink is the lightest one" or "Ohh man, orange is the heaviest." NO ONE wants to make the bats fall because if you do, YOU LOSE!

Funny Bunny is my favorite game for Easter time! This game is easy and fun and the bunnies are irresistable- you can't ask for more than that!  Student must pick cards to see how many spaces their bunny can hop along the hill, but they might also pick a card that makes them turn the big carrot in the middle of the game. Each time the carrot turns, a hole appears on the hill (and bunnies fall in!) Whichever bunny reaches the top of the hill first, wins! 

Wow! I am really showing my age apparently! This game is nearly impossible to find now (it's $130 on Amazon!) but you can find it at Etsy or Ebay for $13. I LOVE this game for therapy of all kinds- language, articulation or fluency!  Basically, it includes cards with categories (things you find in your lunchbox, things you do when you get home from school, jungle animals, etc.) and a list of 10 items that fall under the category. You tell the students the category and they have ONE MINUTE to name as many items that fit the category as they can.  I give them a point (on a dry erase board) for each item they name on the list (or the kids can play as teams). Of course, this requires students to apply language knowledge, and really shows me how my fluency and articulation students are truly applying the strategies we work on in therapy.  The added bonus of time pressure and competition reveals so much to me about my students' abilities to carryover skills.  This is especially great for older students and could easily be played with student all the way through high school.  I love it when my students defend their answers and gripe about why their answer should've been on the list- many times they have a great arguement! 

That's it!! That's my list!  Hope you enjoyed!! When I'm not playing games, I'm making my own! You can read 2 other posts I've written on board games HERE and HERE
You can read about other SLPs' fave games for therapy at Jenna's linky party!
As I've said before, speech therapy should never be boring! 

Until next time, 


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

S-peachy Feedback!

Ok so if you aren't a TpT seller, you may not realize that nothing makes my day 
(or any seller's day) like feedback!

I have the TpT App on my phone and everytime someone leaves feedback for one of my TpT products, my phone makes the happiest little chime sound!!  
It's better than a facebook or instagram notification X 100.  The chime even has the power to make me emerge from a comfy nap to clamber to my phone to read your feedback 
(true story- happened yesterday).

If I could I would seriously hug you "feedbackers" right through my iPhone.   
{I'm from the south-you know- we are huggers} 

I read every. single. word. of the feedback that people so graciously leave and 
I hang on every word.  
It motivates me to keep creating new activities.  Some of you even have great suggestions on how to use some of the products in an unexpected way.  Others sometimes have ideas to help me make products even better. 
(which I'm always up for doing!) 

So THANK YOU to everyone who shops in my TpT store--- and an extra thank you to those who leave feedback.  I try to reply to every single comment but sometimes real life (kids, jobs, cooking, doggies, laundry, etc) gets in the way.  Just know that every bit of feedback means so much to me.

Nicole Allison over at Speech Peeps came up with a great idea to help us SLPs on TpT express our gratitude to our followers who take the time to leave feedback.  She is having a feedback linky party on her blog, and we are going to make this a new monthly "thing." 
YOU getting rewarded for thoughtful feedback!

After reading back through my feedback, I found so many great comments, but this month I wanna send a shout out to Erin Dunkle.  Erin, I hope you're out there and reading this.  
I love your feedback!

Here are just a few of my faves: 

For Open Ended Game Boards for May & Beyond....   

Erin even made suggestions that I totally used to make Birds vs. Pigs Articulation Games BETTER!

Erin Dunkle,  whereever you may be, your feedback always makes my day- 
so I want to make yours....
email me at and tell me what product you'd like from my store.  It will be my gift to you for your contiuous fun and friendly feedback! 

Thanks Nicole Allison for the great idea! Let's do this again next month!! 
See you here! 


Monday, July 8, 2013

The secret to more efficient articulation therapy....Coarticulation!

It's Coarticulation!

I've been wanting to do a blog post about this subject that is near and dear to my heart, but I'm not sure I can do it justice.  In any case, here I go.  

Warning: this is going to be a long one because I have lots to say!

In the mid 90s I attended graduate school at LSU and had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Amelia Hudson who turned me on to Coarticulation.  

Coarticulation is the idea that each speech sound is affected by every other speech sound around it, and each sound slightly changes according to its environment.  In a nutshell, it sounds take on qualities of other sounds that precede or follow them (our articulators either anticipate the next sound or carryover qualities from the prior sound).  

I mean, we don't speak in single sounds.  
We rarely even speak in single words. We speak in connected strings of syllables. 

A good example of coarticulation involves words that have the vowel a  and a nasal consonant /n/ or /m/.  Try to sound out "can" or "ham."  
Better yet,  try to teach a child to sound out these words.  Talk about confusing!! 
It breaks all the rules because of coarticulation.  
The vowel a takes on a nasal quality- changing it completely.  

This is why:
We produce 1 syllable in about a fifth of a second or an average of about 15 sounds per second.  Not only is speech production FAST it requires the coordination of about 100 muscles and countless neurotransmissions.  It's a miracle any of us get a word out! 

So while we speak... our lips, jaw, tongue and vocal folds move very quickly! Our brains choreograph the movements we need to make so that all of the movements needed for vowels and consonants are produced simultaneously.  To do this, sounds can't exist in isolation, they flow together so that our speech sounds smooth, and we are able to produce 5 syllables per second.  Otherwise we would talk like robots!

Well, with all of that intermingling of sounds going on, individual sound productions get "tweaked" in the process. 

When linguists or professors teach about coarticulation- you will see this example time and time again.  I would "cite" where it comes from but I don't think anyone even knows where it comes from anymore.  It's the classic example: 

When you say the word "happy"....
Before you've even uttered a word, you unconsciously have moved your tongue into position to say a
So while you're saying h, it will sound a little bit like a
Once you get to a you will already be closing your lips for pp
and while your lips are closed to say pp you're already moving your tongue to where it needs to be to say y.  Even while you're saying y your lips are still coming out of the closed position you needed to say pp.  Because it's as well coordinated as a symphony, the whole word only takes less than half a second. 

The wonders of speech production!! 

Let's do another one 
(just because I'm a complete word nerd and I love this stuff!) 

Let's say the word "toys."

Before you've made any sound, your tongue has already moved to the alveolar ridge 
(the bumpy area behind the top teeth for you non-speech readers:) 
So while you're saying your tongue is anticipating moving to a retracted position in order to say the diphthong oy (i.e. vowel combo)  and does so before the t  is even complete. 
As you're saying oy your tongue is already moving forward toward the front of the mouth in order to get the tongue tip behind the teeth in order to produce s.  
But wait!! Your ssssss sounded like zzzzzzzz!! 
THAT's because the voiced oy changed our s into a voiced sound 
(and all SLPs know the voiced counterpart of /s/ is /z/.) 
The nasality of the diphthong oy carried over into the next consonant. 

That's coarticulation.  
Simply put, every sound affects every other sound it "sits" next to.  
-Kind of like phonemic peer pressure-

What does that mean for us as therapists? 
Well, this is what I took away from Dr. Hudson.  
Once we've established a correct sound production in isolation, let's take a coarticulation approach to therapy.  After we teach a child a sound in isolation, we usually proceed to practicing it in the initial positions of words (beginning sound).  At this point let's pair the consonant with vowels that will facilitate (not hinder correct production).  

To start practicing /r/ at the beginning of words, pair it with /ʌ/ like "rug."  The vowel /ʌ/ is produced enough away from the lips that it won't facilitate lip rounding (the most common error for /r/ that turns /r/ into /w/) We don't want that! 

Pairing /r/ with vowels /u/ or /o/ would be catastrophic (OK, I'm exaggerating but that's how it feels) because those vowels will encourage lip rounding which may cause our /r/ to revert back to the dreaded /w/.   You will want to work your way up to those front vowels. 

You with me? 

The same is true if you want to work on other back vowels like /g/ and /k/. Pair them with back or neutral vowels.  In the early days of teaching consonants produced in the front of the mouth like /p, b, m, n, t, d, f, v, ʃ/ you would want to pair these with vowels also produced in the front of the mouth.  

Think phonemic peer pressure.  

Once they've mastered that, introduce more coarticulation contexts. 

You're not done yet! Coarticulation is your friend and it's going to bring you farther! 

Once you've moved on to multiple syllables, it's time to assess your student. 
Let's see if your student is making consonant errors in all environments or only certain environments.  Ever have a student who could /l/ perfectly in "balloon" but not in all the other word and phrases you throw at him (like "sadly" or "ugly")? 
It's because of phonemic peer pressure. 

Some coarticulation environments make sounds trickier than others. 

Here are the coarticulation "function environments:"

Initial Releaser (IR) is equivalent to initial position.
Final Arrester (FA) is equivalent to final position. 
Vocalic Releaser (VR) refers to when a consonant is sandwiched between 2 vowels such as /r/ in "go around.” 
Abutting Releaser (AR)  refers to a consonant that is preceded by a consonant and followed by vowel such as “th” in “jewel thief.” 
Abutting Arrester (AA) refers to when a consonant is preceded by a vowel and followed by another consonant such as /d/in “sidewalk.” 

In my opinion and in my experience these also often (but not always) range in difficulty for children in this order.  

For an abutting arrester, for example, the vowel that precedes your target consonant may slightly affect it and as you're producing the target consonant, your brain and mouth are anticipating the following consonant.  Tricky!!

Here are some examples using the target phoneme /s/  (keep in mind the letters before and after the target phoneme is irrelevant, it's the sounds that matter)

/s/ in vocalic releaser environment : "eraser," "raw silk," "I'm from the south."

/s/ in abutting releaser environment:  "birdseed,"  "by himself," "I'm in centerfield."

/s/ in abutting arrester environment: "classroom," " baseball game," "Go across the road." 

See what I mean? 

It's good 'ole medial position brought to a new level of intricacy. 

So as I said earlier, once your therapy takes you to multiple syllables, it's time to assess your student.  You will be a more efficient therapist if you spend your precious therapy time targeting only the environments that your students is demonstrating errors.  It's always a major A-HA moment when I realize a child isonly making errors in releaser positions (VR and AR)  or many times they're only making errors only in abutting positions (AR and AA) but never when the sound occurs as a vocalic releaser (VR). 

 I have just whittled down our work- the student and I will work only in those contexts!! Woohoo!! This is especially true for children with apraxia.  Coarticulation is THE APPROACH to take with apraxic children; the disorder is, after all, a breakdown in coarticulation!

Dr. Hudson developed protocols to assess articulation in these coarticulation environments (I was proud to be involved in one of her redesigns for the protocol!) but you can also easily make your own assessment.  Her PAIS (Phonetic Analysis of Imitated Speech) is shown here.  Sadly, I don't think she ever put her name on it.  There is also an oral only version for children with nasality issues and a blend variation.  These documents are usually public domain but I'm having difficulty finding a copy at the moment. 
You can easily make your own assessment OR do an informal assessment by having your student repeat phrases after you (with targets in various contexts).  
(let's go back to this example
This could be your assessment: 

/s/ in vocalic releaser environment : have student repeat  "eraser," "raw silk," "I'm from the south."

/s/ in abutting releaser environment:  have the student repeat "birdseed,"  "by himself," "I'm in center field."

/s/ in abutting arrester environment: have the student repeat "classroom," " baseball game," "Go across the road." 

You may find that students are struggling more in one environment than others (or only ONE!) In that case, why in the world would you waste precious therapy time drilling sounds in all environments?!

 Let's be truly diagnostic/prescriptive! 
I've done voiceless th /θ/for you!  
These handy articulation target sheets for voiceless th can be hole-punched and put in a binder (at least that's what I do). I could not function without my handy dandy sound binder (with dividers between each sound, of course!) 
/θ/can be found for free in my TpT store HERE

So the binder was born with coarticulation therapy in mind, but whether you use a coarticulation approach like I do or not, it’s simply every speech target for every phoneme that you’ll ever need for ANY kind of articulation therapy.  Little did I know that this binder would become my BFF for therapy.
Over the years, I’ve had to replace my binder numerous times; they all get tattered and torn from use abuse! Every SLP I work with begs for a copy of it and all of the grad students I supervise leave their practicum with me clinging to their binder for dear life.  Over the past years, I’ve been revamping it and typing it allllll over again.  I mean, the first copy was actually TYPED on a typewriter (no kidding, and whoa, I just aged myself) so it was time for a facelift, a makeover if you will! 

If you grabbed the voiceless th freebie and need more, you can find all of the other phonemes in my TpT Store

or get them bundled in one download when everything you need to make your own binder (like mine). 

with 17 cover and spine choices included:

Whew, if you're still reading this- congratulations- you've made it through my super long blog post about coarticulation!  You're made of strong stuff :) 
(and you're possibly a true word nerd like me) 
I hope you found it informative and interesting. 
 Feel like trying an articulation approach to therapy? Go for it! 
You might just feel like the most efficient SLP on the block. 
    Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget