Holly Ballard MS/CCCslp
Crystal Hutchins MS/CCCslp
Sherrie Susser MA/CCCslp
Randi Weinberg MA/CCCslp

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fun Summer Activities

Oral Motor Exercises
  • ·        Blowing bubbles
  • ·        Windmill toys – blow on them to make them spin
  • ·        Buy a variety of whistles – blow them outside, loud whistle sounds, soft whistle sounds, long sounds
  • ·        Use a straw and blow bubbles in your milk or  chocolate milk
  • ·        Buy licorice, try to drink through a piece of licorice.  Even the long tube shaped noodles would be fun.  (then eat the licorice, tough chewy licorice will really work the muscles in the mouth)
  • ·        Buy silly shaped straws that have many bends and turns
  • ·        Popsicles are a fun summer snack.  Put the popsicle above your lips try to lick it.  Put the popsicle on the side of your mouth and lick it.  Place the popsicle below your lips and lick it.  (can do this with frosting and lollipops too)
  • ·        Spaghetti noodles – try to pull the spaghetti into your mouth
  • ·        Singing songs that have repetitive sounds or words are a good practice for oral motor skills.
  • ·        Any song that you can hum to or say “la la la la”
  • ·        Go to you tube – look up “slow children’s songs” or “children songs”.  Watch and sing along with the videos

Language Based Activities
Here are a few suggestions to do during the summer for language skills.
  • ·        Take pictures and then tell what is happening in the picture.  Parent’s write down your child’s words.  Make a book by pasting all the pictures into a notebook.  (then you could share a few photos during speech therapy at the start of the school year). 
  • ·        Go to the Littleton Public Library.  The library has a wonderful collection of children’s books, books on tape, and even a suitcase/bag that has a book with activities listed to go along with the book.  The librarians are always very helpful in recommending appropriate books.  Enjoy the time reading together.
  • ·        Work on sequencing words, First, Second, Third, or First, Next, Last.  Talk about the activities for the day and use those words.  Write the words on a note card and label them 1, 2, and 3.  At the end of the day, review what you did first, second, etc.  Take pictures of the activities.  Print the pictures and sequence the pictures.
  • ·        Playing a fun board game or card game is always a good activity.  Just try to incorporate language into the game so that it is interactive.  “It’s my turn”.  “I rolled a six.  I am moving six spaces, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6”.
  • ·        Here on the speech therapy blog site.  There you will find other activities and suggestions for “reading with your child”, articulation practice, and language skills.  
  • ·        Encourage your child to repeat any direction given to him/her.
  • ·        Practice the “rehearsal strategy” for recalling/remembering directions.  This strategy is as follows:

1.     Repeat the directions out loud.
2.     Say the directions to yourself (whisper voice).
3.     Picture yourself doing the direction (close your eyes and “visualize” what you need to do)
4.     Do it!  Follow the direction.

Have a fantastic Summer! 

Sherri Shire-Susser  M.A. CCC/SLP

Friday, January 30, 2015

Picture Books Stimulate Language

Picture books are a great source for targeting language skills.  The link provided below was found on the internet.  The link noted is a great resource  which would support all students needing language skill development and targeting language skills.  Please look at the link below.    Using Picture Books to Stimulate Language

The ideas and suggested books are provided in the document.   Please visit our Littleton Town Library for the books noted.  If the town library does not have the book they could possibly get the book from MLVC consortium (this provides access to a variety of other libraries within Middlesex County).

Sherri Shire-Susser  M.A.  CCC/SLP

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Social Skills/Pragmatic Skills

What do we mean when we say “social skills” or “pragmatic skills”?

Often times as speech therapists we may use the words social skills or pragmatic skills when talking about students or lessons.   As adults we have a basic understanding about what “social skills” mean.  However, when a child needs help with their social skills it can mean a variety of different things based on the needs of an individual child.   You may be thinking, “my child doesn’t have friends"or "my child needs to learn how to make friends” as a “social skill” difficulty.  Or, maybe you are thinking “my son/daughter has many friends, why are they getting help with their social skills?”.  The information below is provided to give you some information about what social skills include and some internet resources.

What is meant by the word “social skills” in the school setting?
Social skills include some of the following skills:
·        Establishing and maintaining eye contact when speaking or interacting with peers and teachers
·        Greetings (saying hello/goodbye)
·        Beginning and ending conversations, maintaining conversations
·        Understanding figurative language (i.e. idioms, metaphors)
·        Problem solving social situations
·        Understanding non verbal language – reading facial cues, body language, personal space, gestures, tone of voice,etc.
·        Understanding and developing vocabulary for labeling emotions (i.e. happy, joyful, frustrated, annoyed, etc.)
·        Recognizing emotions of peers and teachers in the classroom setting
·        Social Thinking:
Simply put, social thinking is our innate ability to think through and apply information to succeed in situations that require social knowledge. Social thinking is a form of intelligence that is key to learning concepts and integrating information across a variety of settings; academic, social, home and community. Limited abilities for learning and/or applying socially relevant information can be considered a social thinking learning disability. (Michelle Garcia Winner,
·        Recognizing bullying, responding to bullying
·        Flexibility in thinking, interacting with peers, understanding boundaries in the classroom with teacher directions/routines
·        Turn taking skills (for example, when playing a board game it is important for all players to know the “unwritten rules” while playing a game such as knowing when it is “my turn”, waiting for others to take their turns, having a good attitude towards both winning and losing, etc).
·        Perspective Taking

Social skills can be taught and learned.  When a social skill deficit is identified, a student may receive speech therapy services by attending a social skills group.  At Shaker Lane, there are many people who help with social skills.  Our classroom teachers often provide many learning opportunities on a daily basis (reading books, using the HEART program, discussing social problems in a large group setting/small group setting, solving a problem as it occurs).  The speech therapists will run social groups to work on specific social skills that have been labeled and identified on an Individualized Educational Program.  In addition, The ABA teacher and assistants have social skills groups and there are times when the ABA teacher and speech therapist will collaborate and teach a social skill lessons to a small group.  In addition, our guidance counselor at Shaker Lane provides assistance through regular education services to help students formulate friendships and of course, develop social skills. 

Below is a list of good resources from the Internet to learn more about “social skills”:

Sherrie Susser

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Learning and the Adolescent Brain

I truly love working with adolescents – their energy, enthusiasm, creativity and their rapid ability to learn and change make them an exciting group of students to work with.  That being said, as both a parent and teacher of teens and pre-teens, I will be the first to admit that it is often no picnic.

“She didn’t used to forget everything!  She was my dependable one!”

“She never would have done something so irresponsible last year….”

“I only made a suggestion and he just exploded on me.”

“He loses every piece of homework.”

“She cries about everything!”

This kind of input I have heard from parents of teens (or said about my own) across the board.  So why does this period of child development feel like such a hurricane?

One important thing to understand about adolescents is that their brain is still very much under construction.  While many of their functions are mature like an adult, especially in the lower parts of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex is still in development.  This part of the brain is responsible for planning and organizing, inhibiting impulses, and prioritizing.  It is not fully developed in males until approximately age 23 and in females at about 21.   Yet this is the part of the brain we access to prevent blurting a random opinion, decide the steps to solve a problem, or avoid a risky situation.  Can this lead to problems in middle and high school?   It sure can!

Interestingly, when adult brains are scanned as they view pictures of people who are frowning or upset, they use the pre-frontal cortex (the thinking, planning, judging part of the brain) to interpret it.  When teens are shown pictures of the same people, they are scanned and are using the amygdala, part of the limbic system, which is the ‘emotional response and fight-or-flight part of the brain’.  This can explain their responses that seem extreme to a minor incident (ex. “Why didn’t you take out the trash like I asked you to?”).  They are processing that information in the part of the brain we use to survive danger rather than using judgment and weighing the relative importance of the problem.

Adolescents tend more to use a trial-and-error method of problem solving because they are not using their pre-frontal cortex as efficiently as adults.  This can look impulsive and somewhat risky to adults.  However, it is this willingness to embrace risks which also enables teens to try many more new things in a short period of time when compared to their fully adult counterparts (ex. “This term I want to do field hockey…..No, now I like theater”).  What seems like a rapid shift to us reflects the way their brains are developing.  They are also able to rapidly acquire information compared to adults, which comes in handy because they have so many subjects to learn in a day!

It helps to realize that they are developing exactly as they should, even when it can be frustrating from the adult viewpoint.  They are in process and the organizational skills, ability to inhibit an impulse rather than act on it, and ability to prioritize and make sound judgments will continue to develop throughout their remaining time at school.  This hurricane of the middle and high school experience is blessedly normal.

Holly Ballard, M.S., CCC-SLP
Littleton Middle and High School

P.S. In the next blog update, I will provide suggestions for creating structure and organization at home to help them as they work on acquiring these skills in the meantime.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Language Modeling Techniques

Listed below are a variety of techniques that you can use to expand and encourage correct and more mature language production. You may find that you are already doing many of these naturally. Many of these techniques are geared towards younger children or children who are at the earlier stages of acquiring language; however, there are some techniques you can apply to higher level language students.

Highlighting - Emphasize the words your child leaves out of sentences or misuses by saying the words louder with a different pitch. This also works with misarticulated words - repeat the word by overemphasizing the correct sound. This technique models and encourages correct speech and language skills without having your child become frustrated by constantly repeating you.
Ex: "SHE dropped HER spoon."

Self-Talk - Talk to your child about what you are doing while you are doing it, as long as your child is interested.
Ex: "I am stirring the soup." "Now I am taking out the shampoo so I can wash your hair."

Parallel Talk - Talk to your child about what he/she is doing while he/she is doing it.
Ex: "You are eating an apple." "You threw the ball to John."

Expansion - When your child gestures, vocalizes, or uses words or sentences, expand the communication into a more adult-like utterance.
Ex: "Yes, Daddy is coming down the stairs” in response to a child pointing and saying “Daddy"

Expansion Plus - Expand your child's utterances and then add some more information.
Ex: "Uh-h, the truck is broken. The wheel came off." in response to child's "Truck broke."

Description - Talk to your child about what he/she sees while he/she sees it, by describing it without reference to the child.
Ex: "The soup is hot." "That's a tall tree."

Waiting - Give your child time to respond to your utterances. It may take time for your child to formulate a response or locate the right articulators. Allowing additional time for a response takes the pressure off of the child. Use body language and facial expressions to show that you expect a response.
Ex. "Do you want more?" (pause while maintaining eye contact) Child: "More"

Forced Choices - Rather than asking your child a broad question or a yes/no question, ask him/her a forced- choice question.
Ex: "Do you want an apple or crackers?"

Defining - expand on your child’s utterances by introducing and defining different words. You can also provide synonyms/antonyms to expand vocabulary.
Ex: Child: "Big truck." Adult: “Yes, that big truck is a fire truck. It is used to put out fires
and help people in an emergency.”
Child: “That is really dirty.” Adult: “Yes, the counter is very messy. It is not clean. Let’s wipe it down to make it clean.”

Slow Rate - Model slow, clear and coherent sentences when speaking with your child, if he/she is working on these skills. It can be difficult to slow down and be mindful of the way you talk especially with all we have going on, but you are your child’s best language model!

Crystal Hutchins, MS/CCCslp

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Articulation Development

Articulation is the production of speech sounds; it is the “speech” part of speech and language services. Many parents of younger students wonder if their child’s speech errors are age appropriate or not. The link below displays an easy to read chart of the development of children’s speech sounds. It is important to remember that all children develop differently at different ages so view the charts below more as a guideline (see charts from blog posting 4/8/2014).

Should I be concerned?

Sometimes children experience numerous sound errors in connected speech even though they may be able to produce sounds correctly in words. Sometimes it is a matter of getting your child to slow down his/her speech. Other times the sounds have not yet been generalized to conversational speech. It may be time to be concerned if familiar listeners have trouble understanding your child’s speech and/or if your child is becoming frustrated when he/she is not understood.

There are numerous ways to remediate articulation errors, some of which you can do yourself at home such as following a home program put together by an SLP. General education services are also available on a short-term basis. Talk to your child’s teacher or a speech/language therapist if you have any concerns.

Crystal Hutchins, MS/CCCslp

Friday, May 23, 2014

Activities to help facilitate word retrieval skills

Parents: There are many fun activities/games that can be played to facilitate word
retrieval skills. Below are a few suggestions:

* Play word classification games - have your child think of items that would fit in a
category. If you want, time your child and see how many items she can come up with in a certain category, then see if she makes progress over time.

* Play "I am thinking of …” - describe an item or define a word and have your child guess the item/word. You will be providing good models for describing objects and promoting vocabulary growth.

* Fill in the blank associations - have your child complete common phrases and sentences. This will help him use the context to trigger a target word. (e.g., peanut butter and ___, a pair of ___)

* Play “What’s missing?” - choose a task and list the items needed to complete the task while leaving out one key item. For example, if making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you would need bread, a knife, jelly, and ____ .

* List items needed for a specific task - have your child name a task and then ask her to tell you all of the things she would need to complete that task. For example, if the task is sledding, your child could say, “coat, snow pants, hat, mittens, boots, sled, etc.” Encourage your child to visualize herself completing the activity.

* Completing similes. A simile is when you say that something is ___ as a ___. Provide a descriptive word for your child and have her finish the simile. For example, you could say “as fuzzy as a___ .” See if your child can come up with multiple options.

* Synonyms/Antonyms - tell your child a word and have him come up with one synonym (a word that means the same thing) or one antonym (a word that means the opposite) or both.

These are simple “word games” you can play during daily activities such as taking or walk or riding in the car. If these games seem too difficult for your child, use visuals such as objects or pictures to help. Providing auditory cues such as “it starts with ‘t’” or “it goes with a bucket” can be really helpful as well.

The point of these kinds of activities is to practice word retrieval skills and strategies. If your child is becoming frustrated with the activity then take a break or try something easier. Most of all,have fun!

Crystal Hutchins, MS/CCCslp