Monthly Archives: October 2014

3 Classic Games and How They Can Be Used for Speech-Language Practice


By Jennifer Tripoli

Does your child give you a difficult time working on speech-language homework? Does your child have the skill mastered when drilling flashcards/structured practice, but is unable to generalize the skill to conversation/spontaneous speech? Using games are a great way to assist with generalization of skills as it is a more naturalistic way to target a specific speech-language skill. Games are also a fun way to practice speech/language homework outside of the clinic! Open the box and see how many speech and language opportunities are in front of you!

Below are 3 games with ideas on how to practice a variety of different speech and language skills!

  1. Guess Who by Hasbro

Ages: 6+

How to play:

Skills targeted: Processing of yes/no questions, answering yes/no questions, question formulation, deductive reasoning (process of elimination), use of complete sentences, use of “is”/”has”/”have”, use of descriptor/color concepts, articulation of final /z/,

Processing of yes/no questions and answering yes/no questions: The game of Guess Who? Is centered on yes/no questions in order to deduct the mystery person of your opponent. When the child’s opponent is asking a yes/no question, they are required to understand the question posed in order to accurately respond to the opponent.

Question Formulation: This is a very difficult skill for children with language deficits. Asking questions require us to invert/reverse word order. Figuring out the correct word can be tricky. There are many different kinds of question formulation, but in the game Guess Who? Basic yes/no question asking can be targeted. The child needs to learn that in the English language we start a question by stating the verb (e.g. Is/does) and then produce the subject (e.g. person). Example questions in Guess Who? “Is your person a girl?”, “Does your person have a hat?” “Is your person wearing glasses?” Here is a visual to help with question asking!

Deductive reasoning skills: The skill of deductive reasoning is key for a child! Children need to learn that they need to wait and look at all the information before coming to a decision/answer. Guess Who? teaches just that. The child must gather all the clues from their opponent in order to make an accurate mystery person guess!

Use of complete sentences/ use of “is”, “has”, “have”:  You can have the child expand their answer from just yes/no. The child can respond with a full sentence such as “No, my person does not have a hat” or “Yes, my girl has glasses” or “yes, my person is a man”, etc.

Use of descriptor words/concepts/specific language: In the game Guess Who? The players must ask questions related to color or use of very specific language such as body parts (eyes, mustache, cheeks, beard, etc.), accessories (hat, glasses, earrings, etc.)

Articulation of final /z/ sound: Repetitive words/phrases are used during the Guess Who? game. Phrases such as “Is (final /z/ sound) your person a girl?” or “Does (final /z/ sound) your person have a hat?” “She has (final /z/ sound) glasses (final /z/ sound”.

Initially, this game may be too difficult for some children. It may be a good idea to find another adult to assist the child and make a “team”. If another adult is not around, you can play a “practice” round where you would guide the child through the game knowing their mystery person and making sure they are following the game appropriately.

Where can I find it?

There are many other versions of Guess Who? Here are a few more:            games&ie=UTF8&qid=1412709091&sr=1-8&keywords=GUess+who

Other games similar to Guess Who? Try playing Go Fish!

  1. Barnyard Bingo by Fisher Price

Ages: 2+

How to play:

Skills targeted: simple matching, naming/identifying farm animals, use of repetitive/carrier phrases (“I got ____” “It’s a match”, “no match”), sentence expansion (expression of colors), use of early vocabulary “in”, “open”, “shut”, “my turn/your turn”

How to play:

Simple matching: Matching skills are an early cognitive skill that must be developed in young children. Barnyard Bingo requires the child to not only match by color, but also by farm animal.

Naming and identifying farm animals: Barnyard Bingo includes pig, sheep, cow, and duck. The child is required to name the animal they pull out of the barn.

Use of repetitive/carrier phrases: Carrier phrases help children learn to produce longer sentences. Carrier phrases are any phrase that has the same beginning words, but a different ending word. The predictability of these phrases assists children in moving from the single word or 2 word level to talking in more complex sentences. In the Barnyard Bingo game, each time the child takes a turn they would say “I got_____” or “I see _____” and name the animal. Children can also use repetitive phrases during this game such as “It’s a match” or “No match” depending on what they choose.

Sentence expansion: Not only can the child use a carrier phrase to express a longer sentence, but the child can add a color concept to expand upon their sentence even more. For example, require the child to produce “I got a blue cow” or “I got a yellow duck”. This game not only helps the child learn colors, but also use colors to be descriptive in their utterances.

Exposure and use of early vocabulary: Barnyard bingo exposes children to early vocabulary such as “same” or “different”, “open” (open the barn door), “shut/close” (close the barn door), use of colors.

Turn-taking: Barnyard Bingo is a very basic game that can teach young children the concept of turn-taking. Children will be required to learn the skill of waiting and taking turns in order to function in their daily lives ( at school, on the playground, at play dates, sharing toys, etc.) During Barnyard Bingo, children can be required to verbalize “my turn” or “your turn” throughout the game.

Where can I find it?

  1. Hedbanz: The quick question game of “Who am I?” by Spin Master Games

Ages: Hedbanz 7+

How to play:

(These are the official rules, but to elicit some of my speech/language goals, I often change the rules!)

Skills targeted: describing skills, spontaneous language for generalization of sounds, receptive language/inferencing, sorting/categorizing, asking/answering questions

Expressive language/describing skills: For this skill, I change the rules of the game slightly. I have both the clinician and the child put the card on their head without looking! Instead of asking questions (the true way to play), I have the child describe the picture to me without saying the name! The child must be a “good” describer in order for the clinician or the “guesser” to come to the correct answer. For children who are beginning to work on describing skills, I often place a semantic map/web in front of them to assist with describing. Here is an example of one: This gives the child practice in producing functions of objects, coming up with category label/name, go togethers/word associations, production of other concepts related to size/color/location.

Spontaneous language for generalization of sound production: I have used this game to listen elicit spontaneous speech for generalization of specific speech sounds. Because the child is not focusing on 1 specific sound, you can listen to see if they can still maintain accurate productions of their target sound (whatever sound that may be!)

Receptive language/inferencing skills: When the child is the “guesser”, they are required to process and understand what is being said to them (whether it be questions- played the true way or other descriptive concepts). They also are required to make an inference (relate what they know to what is being described). For example: it’s an animal, it says moo, it lives on a farm, it can be black/white…. A cow.

Sorting/categorizing skills: Instead of using the headband to play, just use the cards that come with the game! Lay out all the cards, see if the child can sort them by basic categories (e.g. foods, animals, things in the house, etc.) For a more difficult approach to this, ask the child to sort into more abstract categories (less obvious categories) such as things that are yellow, or things you see outside. See if the child can come up with their own way of organizing the pictures!

Asking/answering questions: The true way to play this game, the “guesser” asks the other player yes/no questions in order to eventually get to the correct word/object. The other player answers yes/no until the object is guessed. This helps children practice not only asking yes/no questions (correct question formation), but also their ability to process yes/no questions and answer correctly.

Where can I find it?

There are a few other versions of Hedbanz. Find one your child will love!

Adult version for 14 years +:

Stay tuned for more speech/language game ideas! Want more ideas now? Visit the speech/language department’s pinterest page!

9 Things to Say Instead of “Be Careful!”

By Maureen Karwowski

As an occupational therapist who works with children who have challenges with their coordination skills, I catch myself saying “be careful” far too often. Many children with sensory processing difficulties have difficulty with body awareness, low muscle tone and decreased eye-hand coordination. I wonder just how meaningful the warning of “be careful!” is to a child struggling with these challenges. I also wonder how many times in a day a child with these challenges hear these words. My guess is too often.

Instead of general directions such as “be careful” or “watch what you are doing” a specific instruction would be more helpful. Here are 9 examples of what to say instead of “Be Careful!”

  1. Look at your feet so you don’t step on anything.
  2. Hold on tight with two hands.
  3. Big steps over the toys.
  4. You are too close to the table, walk around it.
  5. That bridge is wobbly, hold on tight.
  6. Use a gentle touch with that toy.
  7. Check with your eyes to make sure the coast is clear.
  8. Stay low so you don’t hit your head.
  9. Slow down so you are safe.

Music for the Speech and Language Learning Brain

Small kids

By Jessica Drake-Simmons

I am a terrible singer.  Trust me, you don’t want to hear me. But kids are wonderful and nonjudgmental. They don’t seem to mind my off key voice or lyrics that aren’t quite as good as the original song. In my years working as a speech therapist, I have realized that music is such an effective and fun way to develop speech and language skills.

Music is truly something powerful. Our brains like the repetition, predictability and rhythm that songs provide. Have you ever noticed how you can remember every word to a song that you haven’t heard in years, yet you can’t seem to remember the password for your bank account, which you use on a regular basis?

Singing can be beneficial if you want your child to work on any of the following skills:

  • Focus her attention on you (and maybe let her laugh at your silliness)
  • Imitate movements
  • Follow directions
  • Increase attention span
  • Produce vocalizations
  • Produce words or phrases
  • Practice a targeted speech sound
  • Strengthen memory

Music activates different parts of the brain that are not typically activated in speech. Research has found that music can be beneficial for kids with autism, childhood apraxia of speech, English language learners, receptive language delays and expressive language delays.

Songs can teach a wide variety of skills including:

  • Concepts (counting, colors, location words, descriptions)
  • Categorization
  • Associations
  • Sequencing
  • New vocabulary
  • Sentence structure
  • Rhyme
  • Imagination

How to sing with your child:

  • Add movement—make it fun!
  • Pause to allow your child to fill in a portion of a repeated phrase.
  • Increase comprehension by providing visuals or props related to your song
  • Simplify lyrics to a level your child can understand
  • Slow the song down to help increase comprehension and provide your child an increased ability to sing along (for this reason, recorded music may not be a great option)

Sing a familiar favorite like: 5 Little Monkeys, Old Macdonald, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, BINGO or Baby Bumble Bee.

Or, perhaps even better, make up your own words to a familiar tune to match the activity that you are doing…

Hi-ho, hi-ho its off to the bathroom we go.

We brush our teeth. We comb our hair.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, hi-ho.

Or how about…

This is the way we put on our shoes.

Put on our shoes. Put on our shoes.

This is the way we put on our shoes

In the morning.

Can’t carry a tune? Can’t think of a word to rhyme with ‘orange’? I’ve been there. Don’t worry! Kids don’t judge! Play with it, have fun and your child will love it!

Check out these websites for additional ideas:

This website provides song lyrics for just about every area of speech and language:

15 Fabulous Fingerplays and Facts

Printable Puppets—Increase comprehension and make your song come to life!