Summer speech for little Eric

Image from the US Air Force

My mom was reading this blog post for expanding language on holiday, when she got the idea to email a story about how I practiced speech as a little guy. She shared the following with me:

I read this and remembered how we seized the opportunity to work on your speech while on vacation. The summer after you turned 4 years old, your speech therapist wanted us to practice your speech. To maintain the “f” sound that you had learned during the school year, we practiced it as we drove up the California coast to Monterey. You really liked firefighters and firetrucks, so I created flashcards for those words and others. I had the cards prepared in advance for the coastal trip, and we brought markers, too.

In the car, I sat in the backseat with you so that we could practice your words. I would show you a card and ask you to say the word. Once you repeated a word, you were allowed to draw a picture of it. The speech therapist had said, “First you say it, then you draw it!” You loved drawing pictures, so that helped motivate you to practice your sounds.

As we were driving along the beautiful coast, hard at work practicing in the back seat, the traffic on the freeway suddenly started to slow down. Upon looking up, we saw thick clouds of grey smoke, and several policemen standing in front of a blockade. The traffic came to a stop. A policeman approached our car and told us that we needed to get off the freeway due to a severe fire ahead. It looked like our trip to Monterey had hit an unexpected detour.

We exited the freeway and decided to stop off at a hotel for the night since it was unlikely we would be able to travel any further. The front desk clerk at the hotel informed us that firefighters working in the area would be using part of the hotel to take breaks between shifts. Even though the hotel would be busy and a bit noisy, we said that was fine and we went to our room.

Once we arrived in our room and looked out the window, I could tell this would be a great opportunity for you to gain some speech practice with real life images. We could see all kinds of “f” sounds right in front of us: firefighters walking around, fire trucks in the parking lot, and flames in the distance.

Keeping in mind what the therapist said, “First you say it, then you draw it,” the unexpected detour of the fire that day led to more valuable practice and quality time with you.

Shortly after I read my mom’s email, I contacted her to ask if I could use the story in a blog post. I thought the story was great and I also felt that SLPs and parents would be interested in reading it. In this age of technology, when parents can easily be overwhelmed by thoughts of how to help their children effectively practice speech, this story offers a reminder that even the simplest of activities can make a big difference.

Substitute SLP

blogEntryThumbnailFor the past month, I was a substitute SLP at a local speech clinic in San Diego, CA. I covered for a couple clinicians while they were out. It was interesting because I never substituted like that, plus I was asked to provide therapy to different age groups and do it in a private practice setting. One of the age groups is two-year-olds.

It had been a couple years since I provided therapy to two-year-olds, and even then, I only worked with them for a year during my six years as an SLP employee of a school district. Prior to that, I received some experience with two-year-olds during grad school, but I usually gravitated to working with older children. So, I felt the need to prepare for the little guys.

After reviewing goals, I realized that I needed to practice signs and phrases appropriate for fun activities. I went to YouTube almost immediately to search for child-friendly ASL signs, and discovered great video demos from a woman with a business called My Smart Hands: The real-life and animated videos reminded me of signs for finished and fish, but also taught me signs for farm and songs like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Viewing the signing videos led me to thinking about activities I would do, and what I would say during the activities.

During the speech sessions, I targeted signs in activities with toys, songs, and books as I sat on my cushion with the child nearby on the ground. I also found myself modeling words with VC (Vowel-Consonant e.g., “up”), CV (Consonant-Vowel e.g., “go”), and CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant e.g., “pig”) combinations in 1-3 word utterances. It all came back to me as I demonstrated self-talk (talking about what I was doing) and parallel-talk (talking about what the child was doing) strategies to facilitate communication. Despite occasional tantrums, it was very fun and rewarding therapy with the two-year-olds. I also liked sharing strategies with the parents during or after sessions, so they could enhance progress at home.

Preparing in advance for the sessions seemed to help me a lot. Overall, I enjoyed my substitute SLP stint that consisted of a fair amount of therapy with two-year-olds. I look forward to upcoming opportunities as a substitute SLP. Luckily enough, I was recently asked to cover again at the private practice in April.

Image source: YouTube page for My Smart Hands.