I like to shop for therapy materials and sometimes it is a nice break in the day to sift through the toy aisles and take a gander at what’s new and exciting! But, there is always a but, I am continually hopeful the toy manufactures do not take some of the good ones away. In my opinion, Elefun fits in that category! I cannot tell you how many children have grinned ear to ear when this toy comes on! Let’s talk about how I might use Elefun in my sessions with the little ones. We are also going to discuss verbal routines and how to think about our language, especially when the child has a language delay. And, I look forward to hearing yours too!
Most of my kids I see learn from direct teaching vs. spontaneous learning from their environment. What do I mean by direct teaching and why implement it? Often times the children are busy trying to figure out their bodies in space which might require frequent movement. Sometimes too much background noise interferes with learning. The child may shut down with too much auditory information. Some of the kids are easily visually distracted as well which is important to keep in mind too.
That being said, I often use consistent 1 word or short phrases when working with kids keeping in mind some ABA principles. I consider what the reinforcement is within the activity and use physical and gestural prompts as needed to teach the skills. I also like to consider using verbal routines during some play activities. Elefun is a prime example of an activity I would use such verbal routines. (And by the way, do not hand out the nets first. The nets will be distracting and take away from the learning opportunity and possibly cause frustration for the therapist/parent. Remember, we can structure an activity and/or the environment to increase the child’s probability of success.)
In my best speech pathologist voice I might say “What do we do first?” (Insert pause). Then respond “Nose on” or “Put nose on”. I also incorporate signs and gestures too. Then ask, “Where does the nose go?” (Insert pause) “Up. Up. Up” or “Up high” while pointing up. Next ask, “Now what?” (Pause). Respond with, “Turn on” or “On.” The first time through I might make the pauses very brief. The child may have limited attention and may need the game to happen quickly. And, this toy has a built in reinforcer…the butterflies flying out of the nose! Fun!
Once the verbal routine is established within the structured activity and the child knows what to expect, then increase the length of the pause. (I thought this was a good resource for verbal routines too.) Why? Because we are creating a rote, structured setting in which we are directly teaching the child the expectation within the activity. And, we have a built in reinforcer of the butterflies coming out. I love that this game only lasts 15-20 seconds. When the butterflies have flown out, I turn off the toy, pause and say “Stop.” If the child loves the toy, it will be easier to teach the command, “Put in” too to help clean up the butterflies. Then, repeat the verbal routine.
On a side note, you can also build in verbal routines during a daily activity within your day such as teeth brushing, getting breakfast ready, etc as I discussed in a previous post. Why? Some children on the autism spectrum have difficulty learning language. Some children with apraxia learn to use new words when provided rote phrases and pauses. Here is an example of a format I found that everyone in the family could use. Write out the verbal routine within a given daily activity and have the paper available for all family members. Then, the language and expectations can be consistent across the day and across family members.
For our kids that learn new words and phrases quickly we can also focus on the sound production within the word or phrase if articulation is a concern. For example, let’s say a child omits final sounds within words. While playing with Elefun, I might have the child imitate “Up” and incorporate a visual cueing method to provide a visual cue of the sound. There are a variety of methods but I think the important piece to keep in mind is having the child learn the visual cues. Why? Because we can start to fade the verbal prompt and only provide the visual cue. Why? Because we want the child to be as independent as possible during the structured task.
We also want the child to experience success so we might consider the Successive Approximation Method. Initially, accept any type of approximation a child produces. Then, attempt to shape the child’s vocaliztion. The use of and fading of cues will be dependent on the learner and his/her ability to learn new skills. I am a fan of Nancy Kaufman and use some of her strategies in my sessions.
That’s not all! The nets come in different colors. We can ask, “Do you want blue or green?” This allows an opportunity to teach colors by labeling the colors in a structured setting. It also provides the child with the opportunity to make a choice. I would encourage you to provide choices to your child throughout the day vs. “Do you want a…?” (Unless, of course, you are working on yes/no questions). Giving choices vs. asking “yes/no” questions may decrease the guessing game with your child throughout the day and decrease frustration. Or, you can tell the child to “get blue” or “get green” to work on color identification. So many options with this toy! Do you have more to add or share?
I hope you enjoyed this week’s post! In the upcoming weeks we will have more posts related to some of my toy favorites with ways to think about and to teach language. We are also going to have our first guest blogger! Very exciting! I have a post brewing about some of my experience with apraxia and motor planning as well.