Well…Eek! I had my toy to blog about this week and of course they do not make it anymore. But! But there is always a but! I found another…The infamous ball popper!
Sometimes with toys and our kids we need to think outside of the box and keep it simple. And, we may need to think about our current toys a skosh differently. Some kids are motivated by different activities. Some of our kids need and seek movement. And, this week’s toy fits the bill for movement and of course FUN! Fun keeps the activity motivating. Fun helps the child attempt something such as speech that may be difficult. Some of our kids that have a diagnosis of Childhood Apraxia of Speech or suspected motor planning would be examples of when speech may be challenging. So, let’s talk toys and let’s talk about this week’s pick… Ball poppers! (In case you missed my first 12 favorites, each are listed in this post). I have seen these ball poppers at Walgreens and on several sites online so the shopping options are endless.
I know, you may be reading this and thinking there is not anything educational about this toy. No colors. No numbers. No alphabet. No vocabulary. I get it. But I challenge you to think outside of pre-literacy and cognitive skills and think about Fun. Before you go any further, think about this toy and how it may be used to work on language and nonverbal communication.
First, I would model how the toy works. Put the ball in the cow’s mouth. Squeeze his belly. The balls flies out across the room. Nine times out of ten, the child will immediately chase after ball. Why? Holy smokes that was fun! Did you see it fly out? It made that “pop” sound when the ball came out. Yes! The child wants that to happen again.
We have created a communication temptation as Barry Prizant and Amy Wetherby suggest in some of their literature. (Find more listed on my pinterest page). This is the same thought process I discussed in the post regarding the balloon rocket. Why is this important? For our kids that do not initiate communication and interaction, we have just provided a reason for them to do so. The child wants to see the ball fly out again from the ball popper. The child is motivated.
On a side note, if your child typically does not initiate with you or communicate for basic needs and wants we can think about other ways to sabotage the environment too. Place objects out of reach. Put preferred food items higher in the pantry. Put a handful of a preferred snack item in a closed container. Motivate your child to have to use you to communicate for an item. Many of the kids I see are not motivated by interaction. If the child has a preferred item he/she is content and does not “need” me nor want to interact with me. But, if I am holding the cow, the child has a reason.
So, now that we have the child’s attention what do we do? I am so glad that you asked! When the child brings the ball to you, we have a couple of options. I might be inclined to turn around to see if the child comes around me to hand me the ball. We could label the ball, meaning, say “ball” to teach the child what the name of the object is. If we have “popped” the ball a couple of times and the child is engaged, we might see if the child can imitate the sign for “more” or “ball”. Then, I might ask, “Where does the ball go?” For the child with limited verbal skills we directly teach what the appropriate response is. Model the sign for “in”. Then take the child’s hands and teach the child the sign for “in”. Verbalize “in”.
Often times I hear a parent repeat the question in 3 different ways. But, if the child does not learn spontaneously from the environment we may need to teach the expected response instead of repeating the question. Therefore, stating the question once and then providing hand over hand assistance is often helpful. For the child that verbalizes “ball” I might consider modeling the phrase “ball in mouth” or “ball in”. This might be a great time to pull out a pace board to model that phrase and provide the child with another visual support to learn the skill. Check out this handout on language expansion and extension.
Next, I might ask, “What do we do?” The verbal expectation could be “Squeeze” or “Squeeze cow”. My OT peeps have taught me about bilateral activities which can be beneficial for some of our kids.
When the child brings the ball back, I might ask, “What happened?” The expected response could be, “Pop”, or “Ball fly”, or “Ball out”. Once you have went through this sequence one time, keep going as long as the child is interested. Initially, I encourage you to keep your questions and responses the same. When we create these verbal routines within activities we are teaching the child the expectation. We are providing them with consistent questions and answers which increases the likelihood of the child learning the appropriate response or an approximation of the response.
What do I mean by approximation? For example, I might provide the visual cue (I am a fan of Nancy Kaufman) for /b/ by tapping my lip and producing that sound in isolation for the child that cannot produce the entire word “ball”. If you are interested in learning more about approximations or shaping a sound I provided some great resources in my post, Apraxia: One SLP’s Experience.
Thank you for joining me this week! Moving forward, I am going to slow the blogs down a bit. Yes, I will still be posting regulary (just not weekly) and yes we will continue with the guest posts. Speaking of…I cannot wait to hear from my friend Julie Wattenberg, PT, MPT, DPT, over at Baby’s First Fitness in a couple of weeks.
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