Posted on 1 Comment

Word-Finding Remediation: EBP Resources for SLPs

It’s on the tip of my tongue! How many times have you used this expression or heard it from other people. Oftentimes when we think of word-finding deficits we automatically think of it as an adult affliction, however, you would be surprised how many children including even very young children (4+ years of age) are affected by it. Did you know that “up to 7% of children have specific language needs and around 25% of children attending language support services have word-finding difficulties (WFD; Dockrell et al., 1998)?”

If you participate in various speech language and education related forums you may frequently see a variation on this question: “How would you assess and treat a child with word finding difficulties?” Before I provide some recommendations on this matter I’d like to talk a little bit about what word-finding is as well as what impact untreated word finding issues may have in a child.

So how do word-finding deficits manifest in children? In a vast variety of ways actually! For starters they could occur at the word level, conversational level or both. Below are just a few examples of word-level errors from German, 2005:

  • —Error Pattern 1- Lemma Related Semantic Errors
    • “—Slips of the tongue” or semantic word substitutions  such as —fox→ wolf;  clown → gnome
  • —Error Pattern 2 – Form Related Blocked Errors
    • “Tips of the tongue” or responses characterized by word blocks, pauses, fillers (um, ah, etc), repetitions, metalinguistic or metacognitive comments such as “I know”, “I don’t know”, etc.
  • —Error Pattern 3 – Form & Segment Related Phonologic Errors
    • —”Twists of the tongue” which include phoneme omissions, substitutions and additions such as cactus → catus; octopus →opotus, etc.

Further complicating the above may be the speed (some delay or no delay) with which they retrieve words as well as accuracy/inaccuracy of their retrieval once the words are retrieved. Additionally, a number of secondary characteristics may also play a role which include gestures (e.g, miming a word, frustration, etc) as well as extra verbalizations (metalinguistic and metacognitive comments).

At discourse level, students with word-finding deficits typically occupy one of two categories: productive vs. insufficiently productive language users. While their narrative language profile may be marked by frequent pauses, word fillers, as well as word and phrase revisions and repetitions.

Moreover, word-retrieval deficits are not limited to discourse, they are also found in reading tasks.  There word-finding issues  may manifest  as  omitted words or almost stuttering/cluttering like behaviors.  Interestingly German and Newman (2005; 2007) found that  students with word retrieval difficulties are able to successfully correctly identify  the words they missed during oral reading tasks in silent reading recognition tasks.

Difficulty coherently expressing oneself can have significant detrimental effect on the child’s academic performance, social relationships and ultimately self-esteem, which without appropriate intervention may potentially lead to poor school performance as well as mental issues (e.g., anxiety, depression, etc.)

So how can word-finding deficits be assessed?  Please note that common comprehensive language tests  will not do a good job of teasing out  word–finding deficits.  While you may notice some word finding errors on the Sentence Formulation subtest of the CELF-5, you may need to use specialized tests in order to assess word finding at word and discourse levels. Presently there are three standardized tests available for that purpose: Test of Word Finding Third Edition, The Test of Adolescent/Adult Word Finding, as well as The Test of Word Finding In Discourse created by Dr. Diane German (available via PRO-ED).

However, in the absence of these tests, you can assess word-finding at both word and narrative levels using the adaptations of standardized tests as well this informal narrative assessments.

For example, you can use the Expressive One Word Picture Vocabulary Test (EOWPVT) in order to test the efficiency of the student’s word retrieval in single word context. Here, the goal is not necessarily to test their expressive vocabulary knowledge but rather to see what type of word finding errors the students are making as they are attempting to correctly recall the visually shown word. Depending on the extent of the child’s word finding deficits you may have some very useful information to derive from the presentation of this test.

To illustrate, I recently informally administered applicable portions of this test to a four-year old Russian speaking preschooler. Based on his performance I was able to determine that his errors are primarily Error Pattern 3 – Form & Segment Related Phonologic Errors or —”Twists of the tongue”. This was further confirmed when I had the child to participate in the narrative retelling task.

So where can we find reputable evidence-based practice information on effective assessment and treatment strategies for word finding deficits? My answer is invariably to go and explore the resources made available by the “queen of word-finding” Dr. Diane German, who has conducted an extensive amount of research on this particular topic. Start with her website, entitled Word Finding.

She has a lot of good information to offer  there for free to both speech language professionals as well as parents. Take a look at her recommended materials and resources, they are very valuable and incredibly helpful when it comes to assessing and treating children with word finding deficits. And if you get the opportunity take the online course on word finding deficits in children that she offers. I took it several summers ago through National Louis University. She will also be offering it once again this upcoming winter (SPE 525 On Line, Word Finding Intervention) at National Louis University. I highly recommend that you take it, but if you can’t you can’t take it, she also offers a CEU course through Northern Speech Services.  Taking her course through  National Louis University changed my entire outlook on how to work with children with word finding deficits. I even wrote about it on ASHAsphere HERE. So the next time someone asks you a question on how to assess or treat word finding you know exactly where to refer them for evidence-based practice resources.

So have fun and evidence-base practice on!

PS. Calculating percentage of word-finding difficulties in children.

Dr. German recommends the following procedure: Obtain a language sample of 50 T-units (kernel sentence + subordinate clause)  in length using stimuli of  interest to the learner (or use one you have as long as all utterances in the sample are included). Then asses each T unit for the presence of one or more of the following  7 WF behaviors in discourse: repetitions, revisions (reformulations), substitutions, insertions (comment that reflects on the WF process like I cannot think of it, etc. ), time fillers (um, er, uh),  delays with in the T unit, and empty words (thing, stuff). Learners with WF difficulties manifest one or more WF behaviors in 33% or more of their T units (often 40% – 50%).  Typical language learners display WF behaviors in 19% or less of their T-Units (German, 1991) (German, 2015: SIG 16 Topic: Assessing Word-Finding Skills)

Helpful Smart Speech Therapy Resources:

References:

  1. Dockrell, J.E., Messer, D., George, R. & Wilson, G. (1998). Notes and Discussion  Children with word-finding difficulties-prevalence, presentation and naming problems. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 33 (4), 445-454.
  2. German, D. J. (2009, Feb. 10). Child Word Finding: Student Voices Enlighten Us. The ASHA Leader, 14 (2), 10-13.
  3. German, D.J. (2005) Word-Finding Intervention Program, Second Edition (WFIP-2)  Austin Texas: Pro.Ed
  4. German, D.J. (2001) It’s on the Tip of My Tongue, Word Finding Strategies to Remember Names and Words You Often Forget.  Word Finding Materials, Inc.
  5. Dr. German’s Word Finding Website: http://www.wordfinding.com/

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are the personal opinion of the author. The author is not affiliated with dr. Diane German nor PRO-ED publications in any way and was not provided by them with any complimentary products or compensation for this post. 

Posted on 2 Comments

Why Do I Have to Tell You What’s Wrong with My Child? Or On the Importance of Targeted Assessments

A few days ago I received a phone call from a parent who was seeking a language evaluation for her child. As it is my policy with all assessments, I asked her to fill out an intake and a checklist to identify her child’s specific areas of difficulty in order to compile a comprehensive and targeted testing battery.  Her response to me was: “I’ve never heard of this before? Why do I have to tell you what’s wrong with my child? Why can’t you figure it out?” Similarly, last week, another parent has questioned: “So you can’t do the assessment without this form?” Given the above questions, and especially because May is a Better Hearing and Speech Month #BHSM, during which it is important to raise awareness about communication disorders, I want to take this time to explain to parents why performing targeted speech language assessments is SO CRUCIAL.

To begin with it is very important to understand that speech and language can be analyzed in many different ways beyond looking at pronunciation, vocabulary or listening and speaking skills.

Targeted areas within the scope of practice of pediatric school based speech language pathologists include the assessment of:

  • SPEECH
    • The child may have difficulties with pronunciation of sounds in words, stutter, clutter, have a lisp or have difficulties in the areas of voice, prosody, or resonance. For the majority of  the above difficulties completely different tests and testing procedures may be needed in order to appropriately assess the child.
  • LANGUAGE
    • Receptive Language
      • Ability to follow directions, answer questions, recall sentences, understand verbal messages, as well as comprehend orally presented text
    • Memory and Attention 
      • Also see executive function skills
    • Expressive Language
      • Vocabulary knowledge and use, formulation of words and sentences as well as production of narratives or stories
    • Problem Solving
      • Verbal reasoning and critical thinking skills are very important for successful independent decision making as well as for interpretation of academically based texts and complete assignments
    • Pragmatic Language 
      • Successful use of language for a variety of communicative purposes
        • Initiate and maintain topics, maintain conversational exchanges, request help, etc
    • Social Emotional Competence
      • Effective interpersonal negotiation skills, compromise and negotiation abilities, as well as perspective taking are integral to academic and social success. These abilities are often compromised in children with language disorders and require a thorough assessment
    • Executive Functions (EFs) 
      • These are higher level cognitive processes involved in inhibition of thought, action and emotion, which are located in the prefrontal cortex of the frontal lobe of the brain.  
      • Major EF components include working memory, inhibitory control, planning, and set-shifting. EFs contribute to child’s ability to sustain attention, ignore distractions, and succeed in academic settings. 
  • READING DISABILITIES AND DYSLEXIA
    • Phonological Awareness
    • Reading Ability
    • Writing
    • Spelling 

One General Language Test Does Not Fit All! 

Children with speech and language disorders do not necessarily display weaknesses in all affected areas but may only display difficulties in selected few.

To illustrate, high functioning students on the autistic spectrum may have very strong academic skills related to comprehension and expression of language but may display significant social pragmatic language weaknesses, which will not be apparent on general language testing (e.g., administration of Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals -5). Thus, the administration of a general language test will be contraindicated for these students as it will only show typical performance on these tests and will not qualify them for targeted language based services that they need.  However, by administering to them a testing battery composed of tests sensitive to social pragmatic language competence will highlight their areas of difficulty and result in a creation of a targeted intervention plan to improve their abilities in the affected areas. 

Similarly, children at risk for reading disabilities will not benefit from the administration of general language testing either, since their deficits may lie in the areas of sound discrimination, isolation, or blending as well as as impaired decoding ability.  So the administration of tests sensitive to phonological awareness and emergent reading ability would be much more relevant. 

This is exactly why taking an extra step and filling out a simple form will result in a much more targeted and beneficial speech language assessment for the child.  The goal of any competent professional assessment is to eliminate the administration of unnecessary and irrelevant tests and focus only on the administration of instruments directly targeting the areas of difficulty that the child presents with.  Given the fact that assessment of language covers so many broad areas, it makes perfect sense to ask parents to fill out relevant checklists/intakes as a routine part of a pre-assessment procedure.  Otherwise, even after observations in school setting, I would still just be blindly ‘fishing’ for deficits without really knowing whether I will  ‘accidentally stumble upon them’ using a general test at hand.

Of course, even checklists need to be targeted by age and areas of functioning. Here’s how I use mine. When performing comprehensive fist time assessments I ask the parent to fill out the comprehensive checklists based on the child’s age.    These are broken down as follows:

However, oftentimes when I perform reassessments or second opinion evaluations, I may ask the parent to fill out checklists pertaining to specific, known, areas of difficulty. These currently include:

After the parent fills the checklist out, the child’s areas of difficulty literally jump out from the pages. Now, all I need to do is to choose the appropriate testing instruments, which will BEST help me determine the exact nature and cause of the child’s deficits and I am all set. I administer the testing, interpret the results and write a comprehensive report detailing which therapy goals will be targeted. And this is why pre-assessment checklist administration is so important.

Helpful Resources

Posted on 5 Comments

Between the Lines Level 1: App Review and Giveaway

Those of you who follow my blog know that I absolutely adore the “Between the Lines” app series by Hamaguchi apps, which focuses on targeting aspects of social language including tone of voice and non-verbal body language, perspective taking as well as idiom interpretation. I have already reviewed Levels 2 as well as Advanced, HERE and HERE, previously on my blog, so today I will be reviewing level 1, which is the simplest version in the the series geared towards “social beginners” . Continue reading Between the Lines Level 1: App Review and Giveaway

Posted on 3 Comments

Real Vocabulary App Review and Giveaway

Today I am a reviewing a new vocabulary app created by the Virtual Speech Center called Real Vocabulary Pro.  Developed to target the core curriculum vocabulary of K-5th grade students, it has tons tons of pictures and pre-recorded audio to target various vocabulary concepts as well as allows users to add their own words, pictures and audio recordings for a more individualized and targeted therapy sessions. Continue reading Real Vocabulary App Review and Giveaway

Posted on 4 Comments

Winter Non-Fiction Leveled Reading Passages and Questions Product Swap and Giveaway

Today I am doing a product swap and giveaway with Sharon Schackmann, the author of the Speech with Sharon blog, who’s created a product entitled: Winter Non-Fiction Leveled Reading Passages and Questions with a focus on teaching non-fiction text to older students: elementary through -high school ages.

This mega sized 44 page packet includes 7 passages on a variety of winter related topics including: Continue reading Winter Non-Fiction Leveled Reading Passages and Questions Product Swap and Giveaway

Posted on 1 Comment

Tips Corner: Creating Opportunities for Spontaneous and Functional Communication

In today’s guest post,  Natalie Romanchukevich advises readers on how to create opportunities to expand children’s spontaneous communication skills.

Helping young children build speech- language skills is an exciting job that both caregivers and educators try to do every second of the day.  We spend so much time giving our children directions to follow, asking them a ton of questions, and modeling words and phrases to shape them into eloquent communicators.

What I find we do NOT do enough, sometimes, is hold back on our never ending “models” of what or how to say things, questions, and directions, instead of allowing our children initiate and engage with us.  Greenspan refers to these initiations as opening circles of communication (Weirder & Greenspan “Engaging Autism”, 2006).

Speech- language development can be thought of as having three interacting and equally important domains- Form ,Content, and Use (Lahey, 1988).

Form refers to the grammatical correctness of our words and sentences (eat vs. eat+ ing).

Content is what the we are essentially communicating- the meaning of our words and sentences.

Use (also known as pragmatics) refers to the function of our words or for what purpose we are using them.

The communicative functions that slowly emerge and characterize communication over the course of language acquisition in vary in typically developing young children.  Children communicate to greet others, comment on objects/actions, request desired objects, request assistance, protest, deny (a statement), ask questions, regulate others (e.g. “blow!”, “open!”), entertain, and narrate events.

In order for children to be able to express these functions, aside from the intent to communicate, there must also be opportunities to express ideas, wants, needs.  For example, why would Timmy request for an object (nonverbally or verbally) if the caregiver hands everything to the child at the slightest sign of a tantrum.  Why ask a “where?” question if every toy or beloved object is comfortably in sight?  Why ask for help if the caregiver readily assists the child with all activities.  The educators describe it as assuming the child’s needs.

Of course we do it out of love and care for the child, and, let’s be honest, sometimes, to save time.  However, it is important with both typical and delayed children to be mindful of what (form, content, use) we model, when (timing is crucial in teaching) we model it, how (facial expression, tone of voice, etc) we model it, and why (is it developmentally important to teach it now?) we model it at this very moment.

Just as it is important for kids to comprehend concepts, follow directions, and understand the different wh- questions, it is also paramount that your child is able to initiate communication.  After all, communication is the ability to express ideas, thoughts, and wants, not just understand those expressed by others.  Answering questions and following commands is not initiating.  Language that is elicited by us- is not spontaneous.

To use language spontaneously, effortlessly and creatively, children need opportunities to practice the skill, to experience taking the lead.  In order for our children to get there, we must first offer models of how to initiate communication and do so appropriately.  We can then create opportunities for the child to speak up.

The most basic strategies you can use to encourage spontaneous initiations (whether nonverbal or verbal) may seem seem initially as counterintuitive.  I mean what is the point to introducing attractive new toys or displaying a yummy snack and then putting it away? Yet it is exactly that action which may very much encourage your child to run after you with gestures or words.  Even then, you may still choose to play “dumb” and be “unsure” as to what it is your child wants.  Does s/he want that bag with new toy or snack “opened?” and “out?”

If the child is nonverbal, his use of gestures to regulate your actions to get the desired item out and open may be the child’s initial step toward sound imitation.  If you are working on getting the child to request help (not just objects), here is your opportunity to model “help” if the child can’t open the item independently.  On a side note, I often hear educators model “help me please!” when the child is clearly at a single word level.  This is not a developmental way of teaching.   Yes, it is nice to hear a full sentence but your child may not be ready for it.

While playing with your child and actively commenting on your joint play, you may find it productive to suddenly become quiet and cease all attempts to ask questions.   This often works beautifully in my therapy sessions; usually, after I have engaged the child into some sort of cooperative and enjoyable play! But it takes a conscious effort and self-control on the part of the adult, since we are so used to engaging in this adult- directed (telling the child what to do as opposed to letting him/her lead and you follow) approach to teaching.

However, once you are able to contain your speech and actions (I promise you it is possible), you may be surprised to hear some immediate or delayed imitations of words/ phrases as well as spontaneous meaningful language.  The language produced, to me, is an indication that the child wants more of the experience- more language enriched play.  Use this opportunity to expand on what s/he is already saying.

Here, timing is really important as you want to imitate back everything your child is doing.  This is another way to communicate with your child.  Build on your child’s language to further describe the objects or people in play without using long sentences.  So, allowing nothing to happen for a few minutes at a time may just be the push to help your child come out with some form of communication.

In addition, stopping a novel activity or toy exploration at the very height of your child’s excitement also works well with many children.  You don’t have to be  confrontational about it, “if you don’t imitate my word/ phrase I just won’t give it back to  you”.  make sure to create these “obstructions”, as Greenspan refers to them, in a friendly, playful and positive manner.  Obstructions or fabricated “problems” are also a big part of social-cognitive and constructivist theories of language learning.

The idea behind these “obstructions” is that the children are forced to problem solve and use resources (language being one of them!) so they can get what they want.  Allowing your child to problem solve is critical to overall cognitive development that affects and shapes speech and language. Presenting your child with developmentally appropriate activities that involve thinking and figuring out of how to get X is an invaluable strategy that I always use with all of my children.

In sum, stop access to items that are already loved, tape up containers, close boxes and jars with favorite snack and toys, give your child all but ONE important item that is needed to complete an activity (glue, scissors), give your child the “wrong” item, or offer the “wrong” solution to the problem.  All of these “problems” will push the kid to think and figure out what to do next.  This, in turn, facilitates spontaneous language use.

Letting go of control and just allowing for things to spill, break, or simply not follow the predictable comfortable routine, too, elicits a ton of speech- language and fun communication.  These are the most teachable moments as our children experience all the new words and concepts first hand.  Perhaps, this is why many children learn “dirty” or “wet” attributes before they learn their colors.  These concepts are more easily learned because they are experiential and bring about relevant words to describe these personally relevant and emotional experiences.  Cleaning up and taking turns arranging things back in place is super educational too as our children need to learn responsibility and helping others.

Moreover, exposing children to objects that are completely novel and foreign (but safe!) may help elicit an attempt to ask a question “what this?” because the child wants to know.  The motivation is there.  Now s/he needs language to get the answer from you.  Some children may use a word with a rising intonation, which too is a question form, just not grammatically mature one.  For example, “Hat?” is as much of a question as “Is that a hat?!”.  If all your child is capable of verbalizing is “wow”, then you can go ahead and model “what IS that?” question a few times.  Of course, you want to pair it up with an exaggerated expression of surprise and excitement in your voice.

To sum up, do not be afraid to experiment, get “messy”, stay silent, entice, intrigue and just wait for a few minutes to see what your child will do.  Yes, we want to teach our children to attend, sit down for a structured activity, and identify objects, shapes, colors, and actions; but these adult- directed activities do not allow for self- expression or spontaneous language use.  You also want to follow your child’s natural interests and inclinations as this is frequently a way into their world.  If you show interest in your friend’s ideas and you let him/her speak, will they not want to bond with you even more? Will they not want to communicate with you?

Creative and talented teachers are those who can use unconventional materials presented in unexpected ways while targeting all the skills that must be learned!  Learning to manipulate the environment to get the most out of your child’s skills can be difficult but indescribably rewarding.

References:

  1. Lahey, M. (1988). Language disorders and Language Development.
  2. Greenspan, S. & Weider, S. (2006). Engaging Autism: Using the Floortime approach to help children related, communicate, and think.
  3. Wetherby, A. & Prizant, B. (1990). Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales. ChicagoIL: Applied Symblix. 

nrslp

Natalie Romanchukevich has a MS in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Long Island University (LIU) as well as Bilingual (Russian/English) Certification, which allows her to practice speech- language pathology in both Russian and English. Following graduation, Natalie has been working with both monolingual and bilingual 0- 5 population in New York City, and has been an active advocate for preschoolers with disabilities in her present setting.  Natalie’s clinical interests and experience have been focused on  early childhood speech- language delays and disorders including speech disorders (e.g., Articulation, Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Autistic Spectrum Disorders,  Auditory Processing Disorders, Specific Language Impairment (SLI), as well as Feeding Disorders. Presently she is working on developing her private practice in Brooklyn, NY.

Posted on 14 Comments

Birthday Extravaganza Day Thirty: Idiom of the Week

Today it is my pleasure to bring you a giveaway by Speech with Sharon, which is an Idiom of the Week.

This awesome 78 page packet contains

37 color and black and white idiom posters for the following idioms:
•Cry my eyes out
•Feeling blue
•Cry over spilled milk Continue reading Birthday Extravaganza Day Thirty: Idiom of the Week

Posted on 5 Comments

Birthday Extravaganza Day Twenty Five: There was a Silly SLP Who Got Stuck to Some Categories

It’s DAY 25 of my Birthday Month Giveaways and I am raffling off a giveaway by Teach Speech 365, which is  There was a Silly SLP who Got Stuck to Some Categories .

This catchy little mini-book activity targets categorization skills. The silly SLP gets stuck on all sorts of things. There is also a complementary silly male SLP [named Sam] which contains the same activities!

Packet Contents:

  • Pre/Post Test pages for data collection
  • Mini-book
  • Sequencing mat and pics
  • Following Directions cards
  • Category Sort pics
  • Creative writing pages
  • Comprehension questions worksheet
  • Silly Sam pages
  • and much more!!

You can find this product in  Teach Speech 365 TPT store by clicking HERE or you can enter my giveaway for a chance to win.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted on 7 Comments

Birthday Giveaway Day Twenty: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie – Language Activities for Preschool

It’s DAY 20 of my Birthday Month Giveaways and I am raffling off a giveaway by Rock Chalk Speech Talk, which is  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie: Language Activities for Preschool.

  This cute 57 page packet of course goes along with Laura Numeroff’s book, “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” The activities in this packet target common language goals for preschoolers and include categories, vocabulary, basic concepts, sequencing, functions, WH questions, and associations. The packet is loaded with adorable pictures and cute games all preschoolers are sure to enjoy!

You can find this product in  Rock Chalk Speech Talk TPT store by clicking HERE or you can enter my giveaway for a chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted on 3 Comments

Birthday Giveaway Day Nineteen: Food Category Sorting

food category sortingToday’s giveaway Food Category Sorting is brought to you courtesy of The Speech Summit.

This cute 26 page activity involves sorting: fruits, vegetables, desserts, meat, and drinks.

It includes:
picnic boards to sort each categories
food items on 3 ½ x 3′ cards
picnic themed game boards
pages of food themed tokens

An interactive game which targets category sorting and vocabulary building activities is also included. For those who don’t want to use the game you can use food cards and picnic boards for strengthening listening comprehension and verbal expression  by sorting the food items into the correct categories as well as naming items in correct categories. You can find this item in Speech Summit’s TPT store HERE or you can enter below for a chance to win your copy.
a Rafflecopter giveaway