When should you start reading to your children?  I love to read and I absolutely ADORE children's books.  Therefore, I started reading all of the children's books to my son before he was even born.  Now that I'm pregnant with #2, I'm certain he hears all of the books as I read them to my son (and he too LOVES books).  In all seriousness, I would suggest reading to your child from day one.  Is he/she is going to understand the story in the beginning?  No.  He/she won't even look at the pictures.  However, hearing your voice is important in the beginning.  Your child will love to hear your soothing voice and listening as your voice goes up and down is a wonderful thing for him/her to experience.  Plus, this is the easiest time to read to your child since he/she is so still all the time!

The lists below are not exhaustive, but simply what comes to mind at the moment...

Reading is such a wonderful activity for children.  It doesn't matter if the child can read or not.  A pre-reader can get the following benefits from reading:
1.  Learning to have sustained attention to something that does not move or make noise (like the rest of the toys out there)
2.  Learning to focus on a 2-dimensional object rather than a 3-dimensional object
3.  Pointing to the pictures
4.  Naming pictures (you point and he/she can name them)
5.  Answering questions (ask your child questions about the story or simply what he/she sees on the page)
6.  Listening comprehension (see how much of the story your child remembers and understood)
7.  Morals (books usually have a lesson or a moral - talk to your child about it after the book is finished)
8.  Asking you questions about something they don't understand
9.  New vocabulary that the book introduces
10.  "Experiencing" something that your child may not have access to otherwise (i.e. you don't live near a beach, but you can read books about the beach)
11.  Memory (if a book is read enough times, your child will remember the flaps that lift or a favorite part, or when to laugh at the funny parts)
And some of the best things your child can learn is:
12.  How to turn the pages (yup... that's a skill that they learn)
13.  Holding the pages in the correct direction (again... that's a skill)

If your child can read, then allowing your child access to reading books is always important.  The old phrase is "practice makes perfect" for a reason.  If your child does not like to read (or claims not to like to read), then stay tuned to tomorrow's blog post for some ideas to get him/her reading in no time.  A child who is already reading can still benefit from books being read to him/her.
1.  Listening Comprehension (as apposed to reading comprehension)
2.  Listening to a book that is a higher level than he/she could ordinarily read
3.  Focusing on listening (especially if there are other distractions)
4.  Answering comprehension questions
5.  Vocabulary (especially if the book is harder than one your child could read, then new vocabulary words may be introduced)

READING IS SO IMPORTANT!  Even if your child wants to simply flip through the book and you can't read the words, then point out what he/she sees and ask questions about the pictures.
I've been debating about whether or not to post this since we had ended our week of activities with old Christmas Cards.  But I've finally decided that it's ok to go back and post this last idea.  

Some children have trouble reading others' emotions or have difficulty expressing emotions themselves.  One way to work on reading others' emotions is by looking at pictures and having the student "read" the face of the person in the picture.  What do you think the person is feeling?  Why?  How should you respond?  We can teach empathy, but we can teach proper responses to emotions.  Have you ever looked at the faces on Christmas cards?  Most of them are happy, but some of the funnier cards have kids who smell something bad or are fighting.  You also find some that are very solemn and serious - those are usually religious cards.  Don't forget that you can do this with any old greeting card - birthday, anniversary, etc.  Start collecting up cards with different emotions to add to your collection of materials with emotions.

One place I used to get a lot of my pictures were from magazines!!  Check those out too!
Is your child learning to read?  Do you find yourself saying, "sound out the word?"  The child starts the word and by the time he/she gets to the end, he/she can't remember what the beginning "sounded" like!  In my experience, kids have had an easier time "sounding out the word" if they read it backwards.  Now I know what you're thinking - "this lady has really flipped her lid" - but hear me out, try it out, and then judge for yourself.

You can use regular paper or your can get paint strips with multiple colors.  You can write each letter on one of the blocks.  This will make it more colorful, fun, and helps the kids to distinguish the letters from one another.
Once you have your words written, then get a slip of paper that you can use to cover up the letters so you can reveal them one at a time.  Now you are ready to start.  Begin by revealing the LAST letter in the word.  We will use the word "fun" for our first example.  I will be put the letters in quotation marks when I'm talking about the letter name and I'll put the letter in slashes when I would want the child to say the letter sound.  You would reveal the "n" and allow the child to tell you the sound she hears.  She would sound out /n/.  You would then reveal the middle letter "u" and have the child build the two sounds together to sound out /un/.  You can stop and ask the child if /un/ is a word.  When the child answers no, then you can say, "oh then there must be more letters to reveal."  Pull the slip of paper and reveal the "f".  Have the child then add the /f/ to /un/ and build /fun/.  Ask the child again if /fun/ is a word.  The child should say yes!!!  He/she sounded out the word!!

Now, let's use the example of "read".  If you were to reveal the "d" and have the child read /d/ and then you revealed the "a" and had the child read /ad/ and then the "e", all of a sudden /ad/ changed to /ead/.  Therefore, as you are revealing letters, I want you to think of it more as revealing one sound at a time.  You would reveal the "d", then the "ea" at the same time, and then the "r".  You can explain that "ea" together make one sound; the long e.  You may even consider writing the "ea" on one block to explain that each color block is a different sound unit - not just letters.
If you do try it out, then let me know how it works for your child!!  Send me a message or leave a comment!
As I've blogged before, my background is a bit different than most Speech Language Pathologists.  I started off in Deaf Education.  Halfway through, I decided that I really wanted to do speech therapy.  However, I loved my major. Therefore, I worked my tail off to make sure to take all the classes needed for both majors (but didn't quite double major) and then went on to get my Master's Degree in Speech Language Pathology.  Ta Da!  Here I am.  Because I have a background in teaching, it means that I think a little differently than most SLPs.  As Mrs. G (the most wonderful professor in all the world) would say, "it's not wrong, just different."

Anyway, we always learned the OBI lesson plan format.  I'm not sure what OBI stands for anymore, but the lesson plan format has been engrained in me.  It's a wonderful way to approach kids when teaching them anything and anywhere - not just in a classroom.  I'll give an explanation of the format, there is a picture below for those of you who are visual learners.

1.  Mental Set:  This is the attention grabber.  With little kids, I usually tried to have a physical object.  I'd take it out and let the kids see it.  They could describe it, ask questions, etc.  The point is to grab their attention and get them interested in what they will be learning.  

2.  Rationale/Objective:  These two really go hand-in-hand.  You need to tell the kids what they will be learning (objective) and why they will be learning it (rationale).  No one wants to learn something that will be "pointless" to them (not now and not when we were kids).  Therefore, give them the meaning up front.

3.  Instruction:  Make sure to use TVAK strategies (see blog post from August 23for more information).  You want to make sure that you are constantly monitoring the kids' understanding in order to know if you need to explain more, change your methods, etc.

4.  Modeling:  Modeling what you are learning is a great way to teach the kids what they should be learning.  It's also a great way to check for comprehension.  If the kids aren't getting it, then go back to instruction, which is now re-teaching

5.  Guided Practice:  As soon as you think the kids are getting the concept, then you can do some guided practice.  If there is only one child, then you may let him/her take the reigns and try to achieve what you have taught.  However, you are there every step of the way to make sure that the child has not gotten off track in his/her understanding.  If there is a group, then you could do a group problem, have a few students collaborate, or have a discussion.  Make sure you are walking around to monitor what is happening.  At this point, you may realize that you need to go back to instruction and re-teach, then model again, and then try guided practice.  However, let's assume the kids have it. What's next?

6.  Independent Practice:  This is the dreaded H-word... HOMEWORK!!!  This is where you will give the students what their assignment will be.  You could also give a short quiz or an in-class assignment.  However, the key is that you are not helping and they are not collaborating.  This is INDEPENDENT practice.  

7.  Closure:  Now we need to tie up all the loose ends.  Have the kids summarize what they learned.  Make them "own" their learning experience.

8.  Application:  This is where you take the rationale and you give them a real world example of when they would use this skill.  Make sure it is applicable to THEIR lives!

If you are an SLP, you're thinking.  "That's all well and good, but how does this look in a 30 minute speech therapy session?"  Here's a quick breakdown with an example.  

Mental Set:  Take out your describing cards (aids to help kids learn the different ways to describe) - 2 minutes
Rationale & Objective:  Explain that we are going to learn to describe to make sure that their language is more colorful - 30 seconds
Instruction/Modeling:  This is where we are showing the kids how to describe by bringing out pictures and objects.  10 minutes
Guided Practice:  Now you are taking out an object or picture and letting the child try to describe and "win" your describing cards (for each thing he/she says, give them the coordinating card). 15 minutes
Independent Practice:  Have some pictures printed out that they can take home to describe.  You can explain this to the parents when you bring the child out to the waiting room.  1 minute
Closure:  Have them tell you what they learned.  1 minute
Application:  Let them know that this will help them in school with their writing and it's definitely needed if they ever want to become an author, screenwriter, journalist, etc.  30 seconds
Alright, I've started to "pin" things to pinterest!  Now you can find some of the same useful ideas on that great website.  Search for me (Hilary Trottier) and you can "follow" me or "repin" some of your favorite Teach Speech ideas to your own pinterest name.  It may also be an easier way to see if there is an activity that you think your child may enjoy.

Speech and Language seem to be used synonymously.  However, they are different things entirely.  Let's break it down for you just a bit.  

Speech is the actual production of sounds that build to make words.  Speech has to do with your articulation, fluency, nasality, and voice.  1.  Articulation:  This refers to the actual production of the sounds.  Does your child say "wabbit" instead of "rabbit"?  We would say that he/she has an articulation disorder.  2.  Fluency:  This is a fancy word for stuttering.  If your child stutters (and therefore does not have fluent speech), then we would say that your child exhibits dysfluency.  Please see my blog post from January 3, 2012 for more information about stuttering in small children.  3.  Nasality:  Some of our sounds come out of our nose (m, n, and ng), but most should come out of our mouth (oral cavity).  If you can think about someone who has a a cold, their sounds are typically de-nasaled.  Their /m/ may sound more like a /d/.  Whereas, some people have a more nasal-sound to them and more than just the 3 nasal sounds are actually being phonated through their nose (naval cavity).  4.  Voice:  Your voice can refer to the volume that is used and the quality of your voice.  If you "lost your voice", then we would say that you had a breathy sounding voice.  Sometimes people who are just getting their voice back after "losing it" will have a harsh sounding voice.  All of these components make up your speech.  All of the areas mentioned above are within a speech-language pathologist's scope of practice and can be worked on to correct if there is something wrong.

If speech is how you are saying things (the mechanics) then language is what you are saying.  Language is what you understand, how you use words to communicate, and how you string those words together to create phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.  There are two types of language: receptive and expressive.  Receptive language is sometimes called "Auditory Comprehension."  That's actually a really great descriptor of receptive language.  Your auditory comprehension (receptive language) is what you hear, understand, and respond to.  You would see it come in the form of kids following directions, pointing to things requested, retrieving objects, etc.  Your expressive language is what you are actually telling us - how you are communicating.  

I hope that clears things up a bit!

You're never going to agree with 100% of what someone writes.  I'm sure there are things that I write that you don't agree with as well.  However, I discovered a great site with some great information.  I'm not promoting everything that is written, but the majority of the information is "spot on."  Zero to Three is a website devoted to giving information for infants and toddlers about their development.  There are tips for parents in the form of articles (blogs), podcasts (so you can get some stuff done around the house while listening to the information), and links for other resources.  It's a free site, so check it out!
Although today is the last idea that I'll post about re-using Christmas cards, it doesn't mean that there aren't more ways to use them!  Keep thinking of different ideas and let me know what you come up with!  I'll highlight your idea on the blog and on facebook.

Does your child work on vocabulary?  Well, there is a lot of vocabulary in the pictures on Christmas cards.  You can have your child give you a definition for the picture seen (see blog post from August 5 - "Definitions" - for a full ex).  I like to use the formula:  name + group + use/unique factor.  Therefore, A wreath is a decoration you hang on your door.  You can also sort with the "Christmas Card Vocabulary Flashcards" (CCVF).  You can sort by animal vs plants (there are usually many different types on animals on Christmas cards - cats, dogs, penguins, birds, etc), overall color of the card, religious vs. secular, etc.  If your child is simply at the naming stage, then using them for naming the things seen is another great use!

Have a great weekend.  I'll see you all back here on Monday!  Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend!
Do you need new pictures for Articulation?  Well, look no further than your old Christmas Cards!  You can look through the pictures and write the words on the back that you'd like to target.  You could even categorize them by phoneme if there is a lot on the card (see the pictures below for an example - sorry they are sideways... I'm having difficulty with rotating them).

Is your child working on s-blends?  Well, I'm sure you can find scarf, snowflake, snowman, sled, sleepy child, star, skating, stable, etc
Is your child working on r-blends?  Present, tree, green, friends, travel (the 3 wise men traveled)
Is your child working on g?  gift, garland, gold, etc
Is your child working on p?  penguin, sheep, etc
Is your child working on n?  night, moon, mitten, manger, etc
Is your child working on r?  berry, wreath, carrot, roof, reindeer, Mary, etc
Is your child working on k?  carrot, candy cane, cat, etc
Is your child working on t?  hat, mitten, boot, carrot, cat, etc

If your child is just learning words (early language or pre-language) then this is another good way to have a list of target words to point out to your child.  It's especially a neat way of doing things if you don't live in a place that gets a lot of snow or a way to remind your child of what snow is during the summer.

If your child is working on listening comprehension, then this is also a great way to have your child find a specific picture within the scene.  You can say, "find the mittens."  Now you have a list of target words and your child has new materials to practice the same skill!

When I was working at a Middle School, I had a lot of kids working on telling what happened in a sequential and concise manner.  Old Christmas cards that had a lot happening in the picture was a great way to get these kids talking.  They would have to look at the picture and say something like, "On a snowy day, the kids decided to go sledding."  If your child is supposed to elaborate, then they could make up more to the story.  For instance, "After they finished sledding, they decided to go to Jimmy's house for some hot chocolate."  If you want your child to then practice writing the story, then you can start to make a Christmas card book!  You could put the picture of the Christmas card on a page and have him/her write the story below it.  Sometimes it is easier for the kids to correct their grammatical errors if they see it written rather than saying it.  Also, have them use a dictionary (not an online one, but an actual dictionary book) to lookup the spelling of a word.  That is a skill that is so important that kids don't get a lot ofCompile them together in a folder with brads and then he/she has something to show his/her speech teacher at school!  

Another fun thing to do with the Christmas cards is to come up with what could be written on the inside.  Cards can be serious, funny, or to-the-point.  Let your kids come up with what should be written on the inside.  If you save the other sides, then it would be neat to see how what they come up with compares to what the Christmas card writers created.  If there's a Rudolph on the front of the card, maybe your child would come up with, "Let it glow!  Let it glow!  Let it glow!  Merry Christmas!"  Again, you could come up with a whole book of Christmas card insides!!
Notice the "1" in the title... that means I'll have more ideas this week!  Therefore, come back for more great ideas!

Christmas has come and gone.  Most of you have packed up your decorations (or have plans to do so, but are afraid of that daunting task) and put them away until next year.  But what do you do with those Christmas cards?  You get a ton of them.  Well, I've got some great ideas of how you can make them into therapy materials (aka - FREE materials).

First off, for all of these activities, I suggest cutting along the fold of the card and recycling the part that just has the writing.  This way you are saving the fronts with the pretty stuff!

One great way to get our kids talking using the Christmas cards is for describing!  There are several ways you could have the kids describe the items (it depends on the child's level).  You could have your child just describe one aspect of the picture.  If there are three animals, then just have the child pick one and describe that one.  If your child can describe the whole scene (including the action and location), then have him/her go for it!  Or, an even harder level would be for the child to compare and contrast two pictures.  For instance, pick two cards with snowmen on them.  The pictures will not be identical, but they will be similar.  Have them pick out two to three ways that the snowmen are the same (they both have carrot noses, they both have buttons for eyes) and two to three ways that they are different (the first snowman has a red scarf and the second snowman has a blue scarf, there is a bird sitting on the first snowman and no bird on the second snowman).  If you want a real challenge, let the kids pick out which ones they want to compare and contrast - they usually pick harder things than we do.