Thursday, April 20, 2017

I Made These 3 Mistakes Teaching The Picture Exchange Communication System, Have You?

If you have any experience with the use of AAC for communication, you are probably aware of The Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS. 

I Made These 3 Mistakes Teaching the Picture Communication System, Have You? www.speechsproutstherapy.com


The PECS System is considered low-tech and does not require an electronic device. PECS was developed in 1985 by Andrew Bondy, Ph.D and Lori Frost, SLP  based on behavioral teaching techniques. It was a unique augmentative/alternative communication system developed to meet the needs of learners on the autism spectrum or those with developmental learning disabilities with significant communication challenges or who were non-verbal.

PECS is a well-known, widely used system of AAC. You have probably seen those communication notebooks, with Velcro and a sentence strip on the top cover, filled with more Velcro strips and laminated picture symbols inside. In classrooms for children with disabilities, you'll see children pull a picture off their book or a choice board and hand it to an adult to request a snack item or toy.

The PECS system was based on behavioral teaching techniques. In the beginning level in the system, a learner exchanges a picture with a communication partner to request something... which is then quickly honored.

Pretty simple, certainly low-cost, and easy enough for anyone to implement, right? 

Actually no. Not if you want your learner to become a fluent, successful communicator that acquires a robust set of communicative functions and an ever-growing vocabulary. Not if you want to be as effective as you can be.  You need training for that. Why? Because the research-based system will help your learners reach their highest potential using the system if you know what you are doing. I thought I did. But I had forgotten about many details that can make a big difference.

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I just completed PECS LEVEL 2 training and I have a lot to think about going forward. 


I took the Level 1 training a few years ago. Alright, maybe it was a lot of years ago... probably 15 years give or take. Since then I have used it to teach picture exchange for requesting, but not recently. Now I'm getting ready to start it with learners of mine, so I jumped on the chance to take the Level 2 training at our Educational Service Center and I'm glad I did.

In case you are wondering, I am using the term "learners" because I have heard that this week and I really like it. It works for a variety of terms and settings: including student, client or patient.


I realized that there are a few things I was doing while implementing PECS that I need to change.

I was definitely due a refresher and I learned a lot of additional tips and tricks. I think I have a deeper understanding of the process of the Picture Exchange Communication System. I also realized where I have messed up and was missing implementing parts of the protocol that can make a difference. Have you made any of these mistakes? Confession time- I have. Here are three, but there are certaintly many more!

I Made These 3 Mistakes Teaching the Picture Communication System, Have You? www.speechsproutstherapy.com


1. I attempted to teach phase one, the basic exchange to request, with only one trainer- me. I remembered that two trainers were recommended, but finding another adult to work with you can be hard to do in a school setting. Teachers and assistants are super busy and engaged with the rest of the children in the class. I figured I was pretty good at multi-tasking and could just work harder without the extra help to keep the student engaged and learning. So I went it alone. 

There are several reasons this is not a good idea. A huge one is that we don't want our learners to become prompt dependent. A second trainer reaches from behind the learner to provide gentle physical prompts without talking to or engaging the learner. This method of prompting is much more natural, less intrusive, and is less likely to build an expectation of and a pattern of waiting for a prompt to begin a communication exchange.  It's really not possible to subtly prompt while facing the student as the communication partner. 

The job of the communication partner is simply to entice, then deliver the reinforcer with lightning speed as soon as the child hands over the picture. That works so much more smoothly when we use two trainers. I really think that using two trainers will improve my learner's rate of skill acquisition and become ready for phase 2 more quickly- which doesn't need a second trainer! So get creative, and find some help.  The need for two trainers should be short-term. 

Our presenter, Anne, offered several suggestions on how to find a second person to work with you.
The good news is, you do not need to use the same second trainer to be available every session. In fact, it's preferable to rotate communication partners because you will get better generalization. No-else is formally trained in PECS? That's okay, because YOU are. ( I hope! If not, I strongly recommend attending training if possible). So where can you find someone to help you?

See if a teacher or an assistant can spare 15 minutes a couple times a week, Consider co-treating with your occupational therapist. If you have a behavioral trainer, ask them. That could be a great partnership. Or perhaps you can use a volunteer if confidentiality concerns are taken care of. High school and university students are often looking to volunteer or to observe in schools. Even a peer or older student may be able to pitch in. 

Keep in mind, when trained correctly,  the phase one skill of grabbing a picture and releasing it into the communication partner's hand will be learned quickly. Then you won't need any help- because you are ready for phase 2!

How do you work with an untrained helper? Have your helper do the enticing, and you do the physical prompting. If they are untrained, just tell them to hold the item up and show it without saying anything. Have them put out their hand when the learner reaches toward them, and as soon as the picture is in their hand, they will quickly give the item to the learner and name it out loud. 

 Great Tips for teaching vocabulary and language skills to students with autism or developmental delays using Picture Exchange Communication www.speechsproutstherapy.com

2. I wasn't keeping the communication book, my hand and the desired item all in line. 

In the beginning phase, you are teaching the learner to reach for the picture and exchange it. I have placed the communication book off to the student's side, and sat next to him. Now I know that you do not want the learner to have to shift eye gaze too far from the motivational object to find the picture and drop it in your hand. You don't want them distracted and losing interest.

So the best way to arrange the materials and yourself is to line it all up with the reach. Sit across from the student if you are the "enticer". Be sure you position your open hand in front of the desired object. Now you are ready to deliver that reinforcer in a split second!



3. Sometimes training stalled at requesting and commenting.


The PECS system provides wonderful visual support for expanding sentences and teaching all kinds of vocabulary. Anne brought along so many great activities that can be used with our PECs learners. I am showing you a few here.  You can teach colors as adjectives with a fun selection of items in multiple colors. You can teach size, number, and shape.

How great is this little dog activity for teaching positions?

Great Tips for teaching vocabulary and language skills to students with autism or developmental delays using Picture Exchange Communication www.speechsproutstherapy.comGreat Tips on how to teach vocabulary and language skills to students with autism or developmental delays Picture Exchange Communication www.speechsproutstherapy.com




Picture Exchange Communication Tips and 3 Mistakes I Made www.speechsproutstherapy.com

Do you have students that are more interested in flicking the paper of the pictures than exchanging them? The "flicking can become the motivator and some students tend to stim with them. Solution? Mount your pictures inside baby food jar lids for "flick-free" pictures to exchange! Genius.

Would you like  Free Templates to create your picture cards? 

Read these posts and download them!

Autism Supports: Free Templates To Easily Create Picture Exchange Cards in PowerPoint


Autism Supports: How to Make Photos With No Background Using Your Smartphone




I hope you got some great ideas, I know I did.

Great Tips for teaching vocabulary and language skills to students with autism or developmental delays using Picture Exchange Communication www.speechsproutstherapy.com


Until next time my friends.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Autism Supports: Free Templates to Easily Create Picture Exchange Cards in PowerPoint

Create Your Pictures for Picture Exchange Communication in Powerpoint.

Autism Supports: Free Templates to Easily Create Picture Exchange Cards in PowerPoint www.speechsproutstherapy.com

Many people use Boardmaker to create their communication pictures, and it is a great program that has an extensive library of pictures. If you want to use your own photos or pictures, and want the flexibility to customize your pictures and photos, give PowerPoint a try. It's easy to use, and most of us have a copy already on our computer, so there is no extra cost. Love that for sure. 

I just completed PECS LEVEL 2 training and we talked a lot about using pictures for communication.

My level 2 training went in depth over all the phases of the Picture Communication system. In phase 3, pictures are now stored inside the book. This is the phase where learners are taught to discriminate between pictures and choose the correct picture.  The learner must truly look at the pictures and determine which one will get the enticer to deliver the goods!

In earlier phases, the learner picks up a single picture and exchanges it for something they want. In phase 3, there is no more simply reaching and grabbing. The learner has to begin to scan for the picture they need. To teach this in increments, two pictures are placed on the front of the book. We can start with a picture of the preferred object, and a blank square. This makes it easy to differentiate which one to choose. Next you gradually change the second square to be a picture of a non-preferred item. 

You need progressively lighter pictures for training phase 3.

 Our trainer, Anne,  suggested doing this in increments by going to the copier and producing a super light/faded copy of the picture, then several more copies that get progressively sharper and more clear until the picture is fully visible. See what I mean in the picture of the glove above.

Another way to do this is with PowerPoint if you are using photos or clipart. No worries, I created templates for you to get you started. You will need a copy of PowerPoint to use them. 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

First, you will need pictures to use!

 In my last post, I showed you how to create awesome white-background photos of real objects using just your smartphone. Read the post HERE. You can also use photos or pictures you find on the web, just be sure you are following copyright laws when you download them. Be especially careful if the finished product will be posted online. The Edublogger wrote a post on The Educator's Guide to Copyright, Fair Use and Creative Commons. Read the post to find out more about online images and copyright. 

Smarty Symbols is a popular alternative for picture symbols that can be downloaded and used.  They offer a paid membership. There are many free and low-cost clipart images available on Teachers pay Teachers. A wonderful site with cartoon-style clipart that is free to use is My Cute Graphics.


Use the FREE templates two ways for picture exchange training.

1. Create a grid of various pictures to keep interest high. In Levels 1 and 2 you will want a variety of pictures of preferred items that your learner will want to use to request.  Pop a copy of each picture on top of a square in the grid and print. Save your file and you can re-print easily if pictures become lost or worn. I like to keep a file for each student, so I can find their pictures quickly.

  2. Create multiple copies of the same picture that become progressively less opaque for Phase 3 PECS training. Create a grid of the same picture in progressively lighter intervals. Pop a copy of your picture on each square. Then bring the grid to the front (directions are provided for PC users) and print: No messing with that copier, and it will be ready to reprint any time you need it. Grids are provided in 2x2 inch and 1.75 x 1.75 inch squares. The grids can also be re-sized if needed.
 Download the free PowerPoint templates with instructions HERE.

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I learned of so many more great ideas and tips during our training. 

 What else did I learn? I have lots to tell you about and many great  photo examples of activities that Anne brought to show us. I'll be sharing these in my post next week, so be sure to stop back by! If you are not already following, you can get notice of new posts by following Speech Sprouts on Bloglovin HERE


I would love to hear what you think if you use the templates, feel free to leave me a comment.


Autism Supports: Free Templates to Easily Create Picture Exchange Cards in PowerPoint www.speechsproutstherapy.com
Download the Free Template HERE.

Until next time my friends! 






Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Autism Supports: How to Make Photos with No Background Using Your Smartphone

Many children with autism need photos for visual support.

Autism Supports: How Make Photos with No Background Using Your Smartphone by Speech Sprouts www.speechsproutstherapy.com


I am a speech-language pathologist who has young children with autism on my caseload. I am also a friend and family member of people with autism. I have seen how using visual supports for children with autism can make a huge difference. 

Years ago, there was one sweet little boy with autism I knew well. He would get very upset and have huge meltdowns when his mother ran too many errands with him in the car. He could tolerate one or two stops, but no more than that. I helped mom make a visual schedule by taking photographs of the storefronts of her usual stops, and making a visual schedule with the photos for running car errands. It helped tremendously. Photos work!

In the beginning- working on communication skills with young friends who have autism and are not yet verbal.

Autism Supports: How Make Photos with No Background Using Your Smartphone by Speech Sprouts- Making a choice board www.speechsproutstherapy.com
What will your student want to request?
I have a basketful of nifty toys. I begin by allowing my little friend to explore the toys. I want to see what he will enjoy and find motivating. We then use the preferred toys in therapy. I want my visits to be fun and establish rapport before moving on to more challenging activities. 

I can target many goals with my basket of bubbles, vibrating ball, rainstick, a noisy shape shorter, a light stick, wind-up toy and more goodies. For students who are non-verbal, I begin by encouraging them to engage more in interchanges with another person, take turns, increase shared attention and move toward requesting. When it goes well, we are soon calmly waiting our turn instead of crying. 

We establish a little play routine. I use lots of pauses while playing and watch to see if my little friend is anticipating what comes next. My friend looks at the toy, then at me, then back at the toy. I love when he shifts his gaze to look me and see if I am about to deliver the goods! Great stuff, we are laying the foundation in becoming a communicator.

Time to work on requesting with a picture exchange. But we need photographs!

I will be introducing my friend to requesting using a picture exchange. He is not yet ready for understanding symbolic pictures, so I need photographs of his favorite items. This is where I love having learned a few things about photography using my iPhone! So… I took these photos to make a communication board. We are all set. You may be wondering how I got that great white background and eye-catching contrast?

Autism Supports: How Make Photos with No Background Using Your Smartphone by Speech Sprouts- Making a choice board www.speechsproutstherapy.com
Plain backgrounds help children focus on the subject.

I am going to show you how to take great object photos with just your smartphone to use with your students.

I own the iPhone 7, but you can get a great shot with a good android phone too.  I wanted a well-lit shot with no distracting background. Much easier to understand.  

Here’s how you can do it:

Take the Photograph.


Autism Supports: How Make Photos with No Background Using Your Smartphone by Speech Sprouts- Making a choice board www.speechsproutstherapy.com
How to get a great photo using your iPhone
  1. Use a white backdrop. You can place your table against a white wall or better yet, use white poster board or a sheet of white paper taped to a vertical surface and curved like this photo of the little alien.
  2. Try to use bright natural light, but not direct sun. Near a large window is great.  If you don’t have natural light, try two lamps pointing at the object from opposite directions to help eliminate shadows. Forget the flash, it will make harsh shadows
  3. Get close to your subject. Using the zoom on many cell phone cameras will make your picture grainy. Get closer instead.
  4. Be sure your camera lens is clean- wipe with a soft cloth.
  5. Try lowering your phone/camera to the level of the table instead of an overhead view. Figure out the best angle for your subject.
  6. If you own an iPhone, lock in the focus on your subject by holding your finger down. You will see a yellow box and it will say AE/AF lock in yellow on your screen.
  7. Adjust the exposure by sliding the little yellow sun up or down... Be careful not to over-expose.
  8. Now hold still (I hold my breath) and shoot!


You may have a terrific shot you are happy with now. 

If not, you can edit it a bit. This might seem a little daunting at first, but once you do it a couple times, you will get the hang of it!
You can use the built-in editing features in the iPhone (which aren’t bad) or an editing app. Snapseed is a free app that’s awesome for editing, and not too hard to learn.


Editing on the Iphone:


Autism Supports: How Make Photos with No Background Using Your Smartphone by Speech Sprouts- Making a choice board www.speechsproutstherapy.com
Edit your photo to make it "pop"

  1.  Open your picture in the camera roll, then touch the icon on the bottom that has three lines with circles or “sliders” on them.
  2. Touch the icon on the bottom that looks like a little clock. You will now see three options: light, color and B&W. Touch the arrow for the “light” icon. From there you may want to adjust a few things to whiten the background a bit, try making small adjustments to the brilliance, highlights and contrast. You can also up the exposure if the shot is altogether too dark. Just don’t over-expose.

Autism Supports: How Make Photos with No Background Using Your Smartphone by Speech Sprouts- Making a choice board www.speechsproutstherapy.com

Editing with Snapseed

If you want to learn to edit with Snapseed, this tutorial on the iPhone Photography School log can get you started. Learning it is more than I plan to cover today, but definitely worth it if you love taking pictures with your camera phone! Another good tutorial is by Pink Pot. 
    
In Snapseed, you can adjust your white balance if your shot is too yellow. Here’s my super secret for getting a bright white background with little to no shadows: use the brush tool, and overexpose just the white background to make it brilliantly white and eliminate shadows. You do this with your finger!

Setting up and editing your photos may take a bit of time to learn at first, but is terrific for creating those “no background” photos for your choice boards or AAC devices that really help your student focus on what the image represents. As an added bonus, you will learn some great tricks to making your other smartphone photos extra beautiful!

Create your choice board:

1.   Send your photos to your computer. Email yourself your photos, or upload them to a service like Dropbox, and save to your computer.

If you have Boardmaker, you can import your pictures and use them in the program. Here’s a tutorial from Boardmaker: https://www.spectronics.com.au/article/26369

I made my board in PowerPoint. Give it a try if you do not have Boardmaker. Do NOT use Microsoft Word, trust me on this, you will get frustrated!

 Don’t worry, if you are unfamiliar with PowerPoint, I will have a free template download for you HERE.  Just open it in powerpoint, and save to your computer.

If you want to do it yourself, here's how:

2.   Email yourself your photos, or upload them to a service like Dropbox, and save to your computer.
3.   Open a new file and draw a table with the number of cells you need. Format it to have no fill and all borders showing. Change the dimensions of the cells to be the size you need. I made mine 2.5 inch squares. Center your table on the page.
4.   Now click insert picture and insert one of your photos. You can re-size, crop, and move your photo into one of the squares. You can add text by clicking on a cell and typing.  When finished, print! (if you have any trouble printing in Powerpoint, click Save As and save as a pdf file before printing.)

Autism Supports: How Make Photos with No Background Using Your Smartphone by Speech Sprouts- Making a choice board www.speechsproutstherapy.com
This noisy shape sorter is a favorite!

By the way, this shape-sorter is awesome. The shapes make noise going down the tubes, and my kids love the silly noises. If you want one, you can find several vendors by searching "noisy shape sorter".

Here’s how my choice board turned out.


Autism Supports: How Make Photos with No Background Using Your Smartphone by Speech Sprouts- Making a choice board www.speechsproutstherapy.com
This board encourages matching. I also made a mat without pictures - so I can change and  move around the photo choices.


I can’t wait to try it out with my young friend. Let me know if you give it a try.


Read my Next post for more templates and Ideas:

Autism Supports: Free Templates to Easily Create Picture Exchange Cards in Powerpoint


Have a lovely week, my friends! 


Autism Supports: How Make Photos with No Background Using Your Smartphone by Speech Sprouts- Making a choice board www.speechsproutstherapy.com

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fresh Speech Therapy ideas for Spring: Read Sheep in a Shop

Are You Ready for Spring?

I have happily put away my winter speech therapy activities, I am so very ready for spring! How about you? I am linking with the Frenzied SLPs to share a fun spring activity, and I can't wait to see what everyone else has to share. e sure to check out each one, and you should get plenty of spring inspiration.

Fresh Spring Speech Therapy Ideas by Speech Sprouts www.speechsproutstherapy.com

















The birds are chirping, my daffodils have bloomed, and there is a new baby horse in the field down the street. And yes, those narcissus in the picture are from my very own garden! If you are a bit north of here, you may not be seeing it yet, but it's on it's way, I promise.

Fresh Spring Speech Therapy Ideas by Speech Sprouts www.speechsproutstherapy.com
Isn't he adorable?


March came in like the proverbial lion, and out like a lamb. We already had a 90 degree day in Texas, believe it or not. Lamb you say?

Time for a Spring Sheep Activity! Read Sheep in a Shop

I love the "Sheep" series by Margot Apple. We have read Sheep in a Jeep and Sheep on a Ship. They are sound-loaded with the "sh" phoneme of course, so we work on articulation of stridents. They also have a fun story line with rhyming text. Each story includes a silly mishap, and my children love it! This week we read Sheep in a Shop.

Speech therapy storybook fun with Sheep in a Shop plus a cute lamb craft for spring! Read this blog post by Speech Sprouts www.speechsproutstherapy.com

The sheep need to buy a birthday gift, so they head to the shop. But what to buy? They try out everything in the shop, wreaking havoc as they go. They finally make their decision, but not before making a stack of balls come tumbling down on them! The problem is, they don't have enough money to pay for their purchase. What to do? Why, shear each other and pay in wool of course!

Speech therapy targets you can address with Sheep in a Shop.


There are plenty of articulation and language opportunities in this story, especially:
1. The "sh" phoneme: sheep, shop, sheer
2. Regular plurals and final clusters: rackets, rockets, blocks, clocks, pockets, trains, planes
3. Rhyming words

An Easy Spring Sheep Craft

After reading the story, we had to make our own spring lamb. I always make a sample ahead of time with crafts, then have the children predict what they will need, make a request for each item, describe what they are doing (cutting, gluing), then re-tell what they did!
Speech therapy storybook fun with Sheep in a Shop plus a cute lamb craft for spring! Read this blog post by Speech Sprouts www.speechsproutstherapy.com


To make this sheep you will need:


Speech therapy storybook fun with Sheep in a Shop plus a cute lamb craft for spring! Read this blog post by Speech Sprouts www.speechsproutstherapy.com

1. A small paper plate or white construction paper circle about 5" in diameter
2. Cotton balls- I cut them in half to make them go further
3. Black construction paper- you will cut out one head and two legs. I pre-cut them for my pre-schoolers
4. Wiggle eyes
5. Ribbon for a bow.-you may want to pre-make these for young children.
6. White glue

Speech therapy storybook fun with Sheep in a Shop plus a cute lamb craft for spring! Read this blog post by Speech Sprouts www.speechsproutstherapy.com



Assembly is easy.

Glue the head and legs on in the back of the circle. Add a wiggle eye. Now it's time to add the cotton balls.


How to get plenty of repetitions of your speech therapy targets

You keep control of the cotton balls, and get additional practice opportunities by requiring the children to say one of their articulation words or other targets before giving them each cotton ball to glue. That's a lot of practice!

Here are a few of our sweet creations!

Speech therapy storybook fun with Sheep in a Shop plus a cute lamb craft for spring! Read this blog post by Speech Sprouts www.speechsproutstherapy.com


Need more springtime activities? You may want to check out these Speech Sprouts posts:

11 Spring Speech Therapy Freebies You Won't Want to Miss

Spring Speech Therapy Ideas That are Just Ducky!

13 Great Easter Freebies For Speech and Language: No Hunting Needed!

Be sure you head over to check out more great Spring Ideas by the Frenzied SLPs by clicking these links:




Happy, Happy Spring Everyone!




Speech therapy storybook fun with Sheep in a Shop plus a cute lamb craft for spring! Read this blog post by Speech Sprouts www.speechsproutstherapy.comSpeech therapy storybook fun with Sheep in a Shop plus a cute lamb craft for spring! Read this blog post by Speech Sprouts www.speechsproutstherapy.com

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sharing Kindness- and Freebies! A Sweet Blog Hop with the Frenzied SLPs.


Friendships and Opportunities are Built on Great Social Skills


Teaching kindness is so important.

Sharing Kindness with Freebies for Valentine's Day or any day by Frenzied SLPs sharing Kindness blog hop! www.speechsproutstherapy.com



We all know children who need work building social skills. They don't have a clear view of how other people think or feel, and how their own actions can result in negative consequences because of it.

Social skills are critical for children in making and keeping friends, getting along with teachers and overall success. That's one reason I love all the recent focus on kindness, it is very appropriate and timely. I'm delighted to join in the discussion and help teach skills for life.


I am joining the Frenzied SLPs in sharing kindness this month. 


We would like to share some love with a fun blog hop. This group of SLPs are some of the kindest people I know, so this hop is a natural. Stop by each blog and find a link to FREE materials centered around the kindness theme and incorporating a variety of speech and language goals. Hop all the way through and I know you will find plenty of activities you will love.

I created a fun little kindness freebie for you.

This activity will help children discriminate: Is it kind or not kind?

FREE Is it Kind? Scoop up this Sweet Social Skills Freebie for Valentine's Day or any day, Check out more freebies in the Frenzied SLPs Kindness blog hop! www.speechsproutstherapy.com

Laminate or pop the page in a page protector and you can have your students use wax wicks to connect the lovebugs to the pictures of kindness. Dry erase markers will work great too. A BW copy is included, perfect for coloring.

It's easy to expand the activity into a full lesson. Talk about each picture and tell how the people are feeling, and why? Is the behavior a friend maker or friend breaker thing to do?  Tell some more things that you can do to be kind. Draw a picture of someone being kind, then tell about it.
Download this activity in my store, Is it Kind? Activity HERE.


More freebies at each stop.


Check out The Frenzied SLPs Sharing Kindness Blog Hop for more freebies by starting HERE. or just hop to the next post and continue until you are back here. Click the images below to start hopping!


                 


We graciously thank you for downloading and using these materials with your students/clients. If you would be so kind, please leave feedback in our TPT stores if you find a few spare moments.


I'm so glad you joined us.

Be sure to spread the love and tell your slpeeps to stop by too. Have fun!


Monday, January 23, 2017

Tricky Sticks- A Super-Easy DIY Game for Cheap!

 Make this easy game your students will love for next to nothing. 


Tricky Sticks- Make this Super-Easy Speech Therapy Game www.speechsproutstherapy.com



Let's face it, sometimes speech therapy drills can get boring.  Getting all those repetitions is well... repetitious. Adding a fun game keeps my students, (and me) motivated. I am always on the lookout for new open-ended games to change things up.


Tricky Sticks is a perfect quick-play game for speech therapy.

Here's why I love Tricky Sticks:

1. I can use it for any target
2. It's perfect for mixed groups
3. I use it with all ages- so easy and they all love it.
4. Quick-play- so you get plenty of repetitions/ responses, maximizing therapy time.
5. Play as long as you like, no set finish time means it lasts your whole session.
6. Space-saving. You can store your sticks in a cup or baggie.
7. Super cheap and easy to make!


I first got this idea from a wonderful resource teacher. 

Wow-  simple and fun, I had to make a set for speech. I stopped at the dollar store and got a package of colored craft sticks for less than two dollars. Can't beat that!

I opened the package and separated out 1/3 of the sticks. The rest I put aside.  Next, I took a black marker and added stars on the bottom of a few of the third I had separated out, and squares on the bottom of the rest of the third.  (ok, maybe it's rectangles) Not too fancy, but it doesn't matter a bit.

That's it! You can make this game in just a few minutes. Easy peasy. Now if only writing IEPs and evaluation reports was this quick and easy. A girl can dream...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Ready to play? Here's how.

1. Pop your sticks in a colorful cup, shape ends down.
2. Have your students answer a question or practice their articulation word. 
3. After they respond, they pick out a stick and look to see if it has a shape.
4. If the stick has no shape, it's a "keeper." The child keeps the stick in his pile and gets one point.
5. If the stick has a square, you give it to the player on your right.
6. If the stick has a star, pass it to the player on your left.
Tricky Sticks- Make this Super-Easy Speech Therapy Game www.speechsproutstherapy.com7. Play as long as you like. When the session is finished, the person with the most sticks wins.

A variation for older children who are mature enough not to be upset if they lose... I tell them the star means boom! and they put all their sticks back in the cup.

Why Tricky Sticks?

Actually, I am not really sure why I started calling this game Tricky Sticks, other than it sounded catchy and interesting to my students. We have been playing this favorite for years, and my kiddos love it. I have seen some people call a version of this game Kaboom, that sounds catchy too. 


What do you think? 

You don't have to use the colored sticks, but I think it's more fun that way. I hope you give this little game a try. Have fun! 


Until next time,



Friday, December 30, 2016

Snowman in a Snowstorm- An Easy Winter Craft for Speech Therapy


Try this frosty snowman craft this January 

There are so many vocabulary and language opportunities during art activities... and I am wishing for a little snow this winter!

 Make a Snowman in a Snowstorm: Easy Winter Craft for January- Recycle your leftover lamination to make these cute snowmen! www.speechsproutstherapy.com
Recycle leftover lamination to create these cute snowmen!

I know many of my friends have been digging out after snowstorms dropped plenty of the white stuff...up to four foot drifts in some places.  But here in North Texas it's been a very warm December. We had a balmy Christmas and even a couple of 80 degree days. That's just wrong, even for Texas. I miss snow angels and catching snowflakes on my tongue. So we'll be making it snow in my therapy room the first week of January.

These cute snowmen will be the jumping off point for talking about the winter season.


You'll Target: Describing, seasonal vocabulary. How does it feel outside when it snows?  What are some of the things you can do in the snow? What do you wear when it's cold?

I have a question about that for you all. Growing up in the Catskill mountains in New York, we wore "ski hats" on our heads to stay warm. My Texas buddies call those "toboggans".  Our toboggan was a long curved sled that went flying down the hill (Fun childhood memories for me). So what do you call those knitted hats?

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Make a Snowman in a Snowstorm: Easy Winter Craft for January- Recycle your leftover lamination to make cute snowmen! www.speechsproutstherapy.com


Do you ever wonder how to use leftover lamination pieces?

I know when I laminate at school, there is always about a foot of unused lamination in the beginning of the run. I save those pieces for this project. It makes a great overlay to paint your snowflakes on. Layer it over a snowman or snow scene and it gives a nice dimensional effect. You can also put a one-foot square piece under each shoe and go "ice skating" on the carpet!

You'll Target: Categories, describing. Examine the laminate. Is it clear or solid? What else is clear? What is it made of? Name some other items made from plastic.

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Snowmen in a snowstorm paintings. Brrr...

You will need just a few easy-to-find supplies for this project. Gather blue, orange green and black construction paper, scissors, white tempera paint, q-tips, a paintbrush and lamination pieces.

Make a Snowman in a Snowstorm: Easy Winter Craft for January- Recycle your leftover lamination to make cute snowmen! www.speechsproutstherapy.com


Prep the construction paper parts: 

Use a hole punch to create pebbles for your snowman's mouth. Older children will love doing this task themselves. Cut out larger circles for your snowman's eyes.

For my preschoolers, I pre-cut the scarves from construction paper in several colors so they can choose. Older students can trace and cut out their own if you make a template. Cut out orange triangles for the carrot nose.

You'll Target: Requesting and using descriptive color words: I need a blue scarf, I want an orange scarf. Size vocabulary: large and small circles. 


Paint your snowman 

I use dark blue paper. It provides a nice contrast to the white snowman and is also perfect to go with my favorite winter book: Snowmen at Night by Carolyn Buehner. Add dots of glue to the wet paint to put on the "pebbles" for the mouth, then add the eyes and a carrot nose. 

I have my children ask for each part to work on requesting. What do you need? How many black dots?


Dot the "snow" on the laminate.

Give your students white paint and a q-tip, and let them dot away!

You'll Target: Position and quantity vocabulary. Are you working on the top or the bottom? Do you have a few or many? Who has the most dots?  The least?

Frame your art.

After letting all the paint dry, we make a simple construction paper frame. You can cut strips for this. Lay the laminate on the snowman, then the frame on top. Talk about top and bottom. Staple to secure it. Done!


You'll Target: Sequence vocabulary, retelling,  irregular plural: snowman/snowmen. Tell how you made your snowman. What did you do first, then, last? Are the snowmen all the same? How are they different?

Make a Snowman in a Snowstorm: Easy Winter Craft for January- Recycle your leftover lamination to make cute snowmen! www.speechsproutstherapy.com


It's Snowing!

Hang up these creations, and it will be snowing even if you are down south like me. 


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A New Winter Freebie for You

FREE Winter Speech and Language Activity- Who Has a Scarf? S-Blend articulation practice and Who? questions too. www.speechsproutstherapy.com
FREE Who Has a Scarf? Winter Activity

This cute freebie is just a little thank you for a wonderful year in 2016. I can't wait to see what 2017 brings! I hope it's full of learning, adventures, laughter and love for all of you.

This activity is wonderful for practicing that tricky initial /sk/ blend. Children answer "Who has a scarf?" or "Who does not have a scarf?" Of course you can target asking and answering who questions and has/have too.

 Mix up the fun by laminating the mat and using with dry erase markers, as a smash mat with dough, or with bingo chips. There is also a BW mat included you can color yourself.  Pair the mat with the writing page to use in centers or work on literacy skills in therapy.

Stop by Speech Sprouts store to download. Please leave me some sweet feedback when you do. I love reading your comments, I read every one!

Click HERE to find Who Has a Scarf?


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Need more winter speech and language activities? 


Here are more activities available in my store you may like:

Now it's time for a little hot chocolate.

Stay cozy my friends! Until next time.