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The Importance of Narrative Assessments in Speech Language Pathology (Revised)

Image result for narrativeA few years ago I wrote a guest post on the importance of assessing narratives for another blog. Below is a revised version of that post containing the updates with respect to the assessment of narratives.

As SLPs we routinely administer a variety of testing batteries in order to assess our students’ speech-language abilities. Grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and sentence formulation get frequent and thorough attention. But how about narrative production? Does it get its fair share of attention when the clinicians are looking to determine the extent of the child’s language deficits? I was so curious about what the clinicians across the country were doing that in 2013, I created a survey and posted a link to it in several SLP-related FB groups.  I wanted to find out how many SLPs were performing narrative assessments, in which settings, and with which populations.  From those who were performing these assessments, I wanted to know what type of assessments were they using and how they were recording and documenting their findings.   Since the purpose of this survey was non-research based (I wasn’t planning on submitting a research manuscript with my findings), I only analyzed the first 100 responses (the rest were very similar in nature) which came my way, in order to get the general flavor of current trends among clinicians, when it came to narrative assessments. Here’s a brief overview of my [limited] findings. Continue reading The Importance of Narrative Assessments in Speech Language Pathology (Revised)

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A Focus on Literacy

Image result for literacyIn recent months, I have been focusing more and more on speaking engagements as well as the development of products with an explicit focus on assessment and intervention of literacy in speech-language pathology. Today I’d like to introduce 4 of my recently developed products pertinent to assessment and treatment of literacy in speech-language pathology.

First up is the Comprehensive Assessment and Treatment of Literacy Disorders in Speech-Language Pathology

which describes how speech-language pathologists can effectively assess and treat children with literacy disorders, (reading, spelling, and writing deficits including dyslexia) from preschool through adolescence.  It explains the impact of language disorders on literacy development, lists formal and informal assessment instruments and procedures, as well as describes the importance of assessing higher order language skills for literacy purposes. It reviews components of effective reading instruction including phonological awareness, orthographic knowledge, vocabulary awareness,  morphological awareness, as well as reading fluency and comprehension. Finally, it provides recommendations on how components of effective reading instruction can be cohesively integrated into speech-language therapy sessions in order to improve literacy abilities of children with language disorders and learning disabilities.

from wordless books to readingNext up is a product entitled From Wordless Picture Books to Reading Instruction: Effective Strategies for SLPs Working with Intellectually Impaired StudentsThis product discusses how to address the development of critical thinking skills through a variety of picture books utilizing the framework outlined in Bloom’s Taxonomy: Cognitive Domain which encompasses the categories of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation in children with intellectual impairments. It shares a number of similarities with the above product as it also reviews components of effective reading instruction for children with language and intellectual disabilities as well as provides recommendations on how to integrate reading instruction effectively into speech-language therapy sessions.

Improving critical thinking via picture booksThe product Improving Critical Thinking Skills via Picture Books in Children with Language Disorders is also available for sale on its own with a focus on only teaching critical thinking skills via the use of picture books.

Best Practices in Bilingual LiteracyFinally,   my last product Best Practices in Bilingual Literacy Assessments and Interventions focuses on how bilingual speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can effectively assess and intervene with simultaneously bilingual and multicultural children (with stronger academic English language skills) diagnosed with linguistically-based literacy impairments. Topics include components of effective literacy assessments for simultaneously bilingual children (with stronger English abilities), best instructional literacy practices, translanguaging support strategies, critical questions relevant to the provision of effective interventions, as well as use of accommodations, modifications and compensatory strategies for improvement of bilingual students’ performance in social and academic settings.

You can find these and other products in my online store (HERE).

Helpful Smart Speech Therapy Resources:

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Creating A Learning Rich Environment for Language Delayed Preschoolers

Today I’m excited to introduce a new product: “Creating A Learning Rich Environment for Language Delayed Preschoolers“.  —This 40 page presentation provides suggestions to parents regarding how to facilitate further language development in language delayed/impaired preschoolers at home in conjunction with existing outpatient, school, or private practice based speech language services. It details implementation strategies as well as lists useful materials, books, and websites of interest.

It is intended to be of interest to both parents and speech language professionals (especially clinical fellows and graduates speech pathology students or any other SLPs switching populations) and not just during the summer months. SLPs can provide it to the parents of their cleints instead of creating their own materials. This will not only save a significant amount of time but also provide a concrete step-by-step outline which explains to the parents how to engage children in particular activities from bedtime book reading to story formulation with magnetic puzzles.

Product Content:

  • The importance of daily routines
  • The importance of following the child’s lead
  • Strategies for expanding the child’s language
    • —Self-Talk
    • —Parallel Talk
    • —Expansions
    • —Extensions
    • —Questioning
    • —Use of Praise
  • A Word About Rewards
  • How to Begin
  • How to Arrange the environment
  • Who is directing the show?
  • Strategies for facilitating attention
  • Providing Reinforcement
  • Core vocabulary for listening and expression
  • A word on teaching vocabulary order
  • Teaching Basic Concepts
  • Let’s Sing and Dance
  • Popular toys for young language impaired preschoolers (3-4 years old)
  • Playsets
  • The Versatility of Bingo (older preschoolers)
  • Books, Books, Books
  • Book reading can be an art form
  • Using Specific Story Prompts
  • Focus on Story Characters and Setting
  • Story Sequencing
  • More Complex Book Interactions
  • Teaching vocabulary of feelings and emotions
  • Select favorite authors perfect for Pre-K
  • Finding Intervention Materials Online The Easy Way
  • Free Arts and Crafts Activities Anyone?
  • Helpful Resources

Are you a caregiver, an SLP or a related professional? DOES THIS SOUND LIKE SOMETHING YOU CAN USE? if so you can find it HERE in my online store.

Useful Smart Speech Therapy Resources:

Heath, S. B (1982) What no bedtime story means: Narrative skills at home and school. Language in Society, vol. 11 pp. 49-76.

Useful Websites:


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Book Review and Giveaway: Learning To Read is Ball

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing once again  another book written by a NJ based, fellow SLP, Kimberly Scanlon of Scanlon Speech Therapy LLC entitled “Learning to read is the ball”.

I have previously reviewed another book by Kimberly entitled “My Toddler Talks“, which discusses parental strategies to facilitate language abilities in toddlers. In “Learning to Read is the Ball”, Kimberly created a picture book with an accompanying guide, which offers advice on how parents and related professionals can work on developing emergent reading abilities in young children.FullSizeRender (2)

Kimberly’s book is filled with super adorable bright and friendly hand designed illustrations centering around – you guessed it: balls! It is both child and parent friendly! Children can focus on bright colorful pictures, simple text, and repetitive warts to begin developing their emerging phonological awareness abilities.  The parent guide summarizes and explains the importance behind foundational reading skills and how parents can use this picture book to facilitate the development of literacy skills in their young children.

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The book uses early vocabulary words coupled with catchy rhymes to develop foundational reading abilities such as sound and print awareness. It is applicable for a variety of age groups.

It can be used with language impaired toddlers to introduce them to functional vocabulary words, as well as with emergent readers to introduce them to repetitive thematic text.


The book looks deceptively simple but it’s actually incredibly versatile. In addition to reading to the children, it can also be used to develop their critical thinking skills (see pg. 35), enhance their lexicon by discussing synonyms and antonyms (see pg. 37), as well as boost their narrative (storytelling) abilities (see pg. 38).

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I highly recommend this book to parents, early intervention professionals, as well as speech language pathologists as a terrific research-based resource for improving oral language and emergent reading abilities of young children with and without language disorders.

You can find Learning to Read is a Ball (on Amazon), where you can also find Kimberly’s other book, My Toddler Talks . Now for the fun part. Thanks to Kimberly’s generosity I am doing a Rafflecopter giveaway off to book copies to two lucky winners. So enter below for a chance to win your own copy “Learning to Read Is the Ball“.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thematic Language Intervention with Language Impaired Children Using Nonfiction Texts

FullSizeRender (3)In the past a number of my SLP colleague bloggers (Communication Station, Twin Sisters SLPs, Practical AAC, etc.) wrote posts regarding the use of thematic texts for language intervention purposes. They discussed implementation of fictional texts such as the use of children’s books and fairy tales to target linguistic goals such as vocabulary knowledge in use, sentence formulation, answering WH questions, as well as story recall and production.

Today I would like to supplement those posts with information regarding the implementation of intervention based on thematic nonfiction texts to further improve language abilities of children with language difficulties.

First, here’s why the use of nonfiction texts in language intervention is important. While narrative texts have high familiarity for children due to preexisting, background knowledge, familiar vocabulary, repetitive themes, etc. nonfiction texts are far more difficult to comprehend. It typically contains unknown concepts and vocabulary, which is then used in the text multiple times. Therefore lack of knowledge of these concepts and related vocabulary will result in lack of text comprehension. According to Duke (2013) half of all the primary read-alouds should be informational text. It will allow students to build up knowledge and the necessary academic vocabulary to effectively participate and partake from the curriculum.

So what type of nonfiction materials can be used for language intervention purposes. While there is a rich variety of sources available, I have had great success using Let’s Read and Find Out Stage 1 and 2 Science Series with clients with varying degrees of language impairment.

Here’s are just a few reasons why I like to use this series.

  • They can be implemented by parents and professionals alike for different purposes with equal effectiveness.
  • They can be implemented with children fairly early beginning with preschool on-wards 
  • The can be used with the following pediatric populations:
    • Language Disordered Children
    • Children with learning disabilities and low IQ
    • Children with developmental disorders and genetic syndromes (Fragile X, Down Syndrome, Autism, etc.)
    • Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
    • Internationally adopted children with language impairment
    • Bilingual children with language impairment
    • Children with dyslexia and reading disabilities
    • Children with psychiatric Impairments
  • The books are readily available online (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.) and in stores.
  • They are relatively inexpensive (individual books cost about $5-6).
  • Parents or professionals who want to continuously use them seasonally can purchase them in bulk at a significantly cheaper price from select distributors (Source:
  • They are highly thematic, contain terrific visual support, and are surprisingly versatile, with information on topics ranging from animal habitats and life cycles to natural disasters and space.
  • They contain subject-relevant vocabulary words that the students are likely to use in the future over and over again (Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986).
  • The words are already pre-grouped in semantic clusters which create schemes (mental representations) for the students (Marzano & Marzano, 1988).

Let’s Read and Find Out Science Level 2 - Weather and Seasons Package | Main Photo (Cover)

For example, the above books on weather and seasons contain information  on:

1. Front Formations
2. Water Cycle
3. High & Low Pressure Systems

Let’s look at the vocabulary words from Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll  (see detailed lesson plan HERE). (Source: ReadWorks):

Word: water vapor
: Steam from a hot soup is water vapor.

Word: expands
Context: The hot air expands and pops the balloon.

Word: atmosphere
Context:  The atmosphere is the air that covers the Earth.

Word: forecast
Context: The forecast had a lot to tell us about the storm.

Word: condense
Context: steam in the air condenses to form water drops.

These books are not just great for increasing academic vocabulary knowledge and use. They are great for teaching sequencing skills (e.g., life cycles), critical thinking skills (e.g., What do animals need to do in the winter to survive?), compare and contrast skills (e.g., what is the difference between hatching and molting?) and much, much, more!

So why is use of nonfiction texts important for strengthening vocabulary knowledge and words in language impaired children?

As I noted in my previous post on effective vocabulary instruction (HERE): “teachers with many struggling children often significantly reduce the quality of their own vocabulary unconsciously to ensure understanding(Excerpts from Anita Archer’s Interview with Advance for SLPs).  

The same goes for SLPs and parents. Many of them are under misperception that if they teach complex subject-related words like “metamorphosis” or “vaporization” to children with significant language impairments or developmental disabilities that these students will not understand them and will not benefit from learning them.

However, that is not the case! These students will still significantly benefit from learning these words, it will simply take them longer periods of practice to retain them!

By simplifying our explanations, minimizing verbiage and emphasizing the visuals, the books can be successfully adapted for use with children with severe language impairments.  I have had parents observe my intervention sessions using these books and then successfully use them in the home with their children by reviewing the information and reinforcing newly learned vocabulary knowledge.

Here are just a few examples of prompts I use in treatment with more severely affected language-impaired children:

  • —What do you see in this picture?
  • —This is a _____ Can you say _____
  • What do you know about _____?
  • —What do you think is happening? Why?
  • What do you think they are doing? Why?
  • —Let’s make up a sentence with __________ (this word)
  • —You can say ____ or you can say ______ (teaching synonyms)
  • —What would be the opposite of _______? (teaching antonyms)
  • — Do you know that _____(this word) has 2 meanings
    • —1st meaning
    • —2nd meaning
  • How do ____ and _____ go together?

Here are the questions related to Sequencing of Processes (Life Cycle, Water Cycle, etc.)

  • —What happened first?
  • —What happened second?
  • —What happened next?
  • —What happened after that?
  • —What happened last?

As the child advances his/her skills I attempt to engage them in more complex book interactions—

  • —Compare and contrast items
  • — (e.g. objects/people/animals)
  • —Make predictions and inferences about will happen next?
  • Why is this book important?

“Picture walks” (flipping through the pages) of these books are also surprisingly effective for activation of the student’s background knowledge (what a student already knows about a subject). This is an important prerequisite skill needed for continued acquisition of new knowledge. It is important because  “students who lack sufficient background knowledge or are unable to activate it may struggle to access, participate, and progress through the general curriculum” (Stangman, Hall & Meyer, 2004).

These book allow for :

1.Learning vocabulary words in context embedded texts with high interest visuals

2.Teaching specific content related vocabulary words directly to comprehend classroom-specific work

3.Providing multiple and repetitive exposures of vocabulary words in texts

4. Maximizing multisensory intervention when learning vocabulary to maximize gains (visual, auditory, tactile via related projects, etc.)

To summarize, children with significant language impairment often suffer from the Matthew Effect (—“rich get richer, poor get poorer”), or interactions with the environment exaggerate individual differences over time

Children with good vocabulary knowledge learn more words and gain further knowledge by building of these words

Children with poor vocabulary knowledge learn less words and widen the gap between self and peers over time due to their inability to effectively meet the ever increasing academic effects of the classroom. The vocabulary problems of students who enter school with poorer limited vocabularies only worsen over time (White, Graves & Slater, 1990). We need to provide these children with all the feasible opportunities to narrow this gap and partake from the curriculum in a more similar fashion as typically developing peers. 

Helpful Smart Speech Therapy Resources:


Duke, N. K. (2013). Starting out: Practices to Use in K-3. Educational Leadership, 71, 40-44.

Marzano, R. J., & Marzano, J. (1988). Toward a cognitive theory of commitment and its implications for therapy. Psychotherapy in Private Practice 6(4), 69–81.

Stahl, S. A. & Fairbanks, M. M. “The Effects of Vocabulary Instruction: A Model-based Metaanalysis.” Review of Educational Research 56 (1986): 72-110.

Strangman, N., Hall, T., & Meyer, A. (2004). Background knowledge with UDL. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum.

White, T. G., Graves, M. F., & Slater W. H. (1990). Growth of reading vocabulary in diverse elementary schools: Decoding and word meaning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 281–290.

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Book Review: Easy-To-Say First Words

Today I am reviewing a cute book for toddlers entitled: Easy-To-Say- First Words: focus on Final Consonants written by a speech language pathologist -Cara Tambellini Danielson MA CCC-SLP.

The book’s intent is to help  young toddlers learn monosyllabic first words with an emphasis on word final sounds. It has super adorable illustrations and easy to say 3-letter (CVC) nouns, adjectives, and verbs.

 Here’s a list of one-syllable VC and CVC words the book targets:

  • up
  • hot
  • mop
  • hop
  • beep
  • cup
  • hat
  • bat
  • sun
  • eat
  • boat
  • book
  • read
  • kick
  • roll
  • ball
  • cake
  • bike
  • red
  • ride
  • duck

Here’s a list of initial and final consonants the book targets in single syllable words:

  • /p/
  • /b/
  • /m/
  • /n/
  • /r/
  • /d/
  • /t/
  • /k/
  • /g/
  • /h/
  • /s/

The book also includes a short guide for parents which explains how to get the most optimal outcome from it’s usage. Suggestions include making sure that the child clearly sees the parent’s face, making pauses while reading, usage of gestures and play, as well as responding with enthusiasm to emphasize correct word productions.

Easy to Say First Words - Inside Page 2

I really like the engaging illustrations and the use of repetitiveness throughout the book to emphasize the words being learned. The words are short, early developing, and easy to pair with gestures. I love the fact that it is appropriate to use with a wide range of young children include those with communication and developmental delays/disorders such as Autism, Down Syndrome, as well as Childhood Apraxia of Speech.

You can find Cara’s book on Amazon for $9.95.

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Materials Swap and Giveaway: Bear Says Thanks Book Companion

Those of you who are familiar with my posts know that I am a huge fan of Karma Wilson’s Bear Books This is why I am very excited to review a comprehensive book companion created by Mindy Stenger, M.A., CCC-SLP of the The Speech Bucket blog, entitled Bear Says Thanks.

Packet Activities:

Part I: Story sequencing, retell, and elements identification (with picture support). Mindy recommends using the larger pictures for a classroom story board/individual students. She recommends that smaller pictures be cut out to use with story sequencing, retelling, or for taking home for at home retell for parents. Mindy created this activity to correspond to the following common core language arts standards: RL.K.2, RL.K.3, RL.1.2, RL.1.3, RL.2.2, RL.2.3, RL.3.2, and RL.3.3.

Part II: Story Comprehension (with and without picture support) targeting what, where, who,  and how questions. Mindy created this activity to correspond to the following common core language arts standards: RL.K.1, RI.K.1, SL.K.3, RL.1.1, RI.1.1, SL.1.3, RL.2.1, RI.2.1, SL.2.3, RL.3.1, RI.3.1, and SL.3.3.

Part III: Food identification and matching (picture to print).  Mindy created this activity to correspond to the following common core language arts standards:  RF.K.3, RF.1.3, RF.2.3, and RF.3.3.

Part IV: Identifying similarities and differences among food related patterns. Mindy created this activity to correspond to the following common core language arts standards:  L.K.5 and L.1.5.

Part V: Grammar -Plurals. Students can fill in the blank, or read the complete sentences. Mindy created this activity to correspond to the following common core language arts standards: L.K.1c, and L.1.1c.

Part VI: Grammar-Prepositions. Applicable to different ability levels (2 choice responses and fill-in the blank). Mindy created this activity to correspond to the following common core language arts standards: L.K.1e, L.1.1i, and L.2.1.

Part VII: Game boards. One for following directions (“If you land on__, do ___” and another blank board which you can tailor to your needs to address a variety of therapy targets. Mindy created this activity to correspond to the following common core language arts standards: L.K.5a, and L.1.5a.

Part VIII: Food and drink categorization. Mindy created this activity to correspond to the following common core language arts standards:  L.K.5a, L.1.5a, and L.2.5.

Part IX: Story Vocabulary. Students match written story words to their respective definitions and then write sentences for each word Mindy created this activity to correspond to the following common core language arts standards: L.K.4, L.1.4, L.2.4, and L.3.4.

Pages X: Writing. It includes a Venn diagram to organize information and asks the students to write down the things they are most thankful for. Mindy created this activity to correspond to the following common core language arts standards:  W.K.1, W.1.1, W.2.1, and W.3.1.

This packet is filled with many useful activities which are great for students of varying ages from preschool through early elementary ages. Several extension activities can also be targeted with these materials (with and without picture support) including but unlimited to:

  • Nutrition Pyramid (separating foods by relevant groups and discussing their nutritional values)
  • Social Skills: Why it’s important to be grateful for things that we receive, why it’s important to be nice to others as well as why it’s important to help those who need it
  • Friendship Recognition: What qualities make up a true friend

The versatility of  these materials as well as the adorable and engaging illustrations will make sure that your students stay engaged with the materials for several sessions.

You can find this activity in Mindy’s TPT Store  or you can head over to her blog for your chance to win your own copy in her Rafflecopter Giveaway.

But wait there’s more! Mindy is reviewing my packet The Role of Frontal Lobe in Speech and Language Functions on her blog. Which means I am giving away  The Role of Frontal Lobe in Speech and Language Functions  in my own Rafflecopter Giveaway below. So enter both giveaways to maximize your chances to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway