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Guest Post: Improving Verbal Imitation with Animal Face Posters

animal posterToday’s guest post on how to improve verbal imitation abilities of young children with language delay comes from Rachel Arntson, M.S., CCC-SLP of the  Talk It Rock It  Blog.

When you have a young child who does not imitate or does not understand the process of taking turns, what do we do to facilitate this skill?

How do we help a child pay attention to faces and the sounds that we make?

I have been a speech-language pathologist since 1980 and have used many toys, tools, routines, books, and objects over the years to facilitate verbal imitation, engagement, and turn taking. Of all of the tools I have used, however, Animal Face Posters are at the top of the list.

Many years ago I drew 12 animal pictures and cut out their faces so that my students’ faces could be viewed inside the posters. (I have included a photo to show you an example.) The animals I drew included a cat, puppy, elephant, rooster, duck, horse, cow, lion, sheep, monkey, bee, and bird. As I explored the uses of these posters, I became increasingly aware of how valuable they were as a cue to facilitate verbal imitation and turn taking. In addition, I explored using music with these posters and found the combination to be very helpful. Here are some of the observations I have made and ways I use them.

Give and Receive – Animal Face Posters are excellent tools for teaching a child to receive and give objects to others. In addition, I have had some children on my caseload who have had significant difficulty tolerating any objects up to their faces. These posters have helped desensitize them in a playful manner.

Visual Cues – Animal Face Posters give children the visual cue that it is their turn to verbally imitate a sound or word. When children do not understand the process of verbal imitation, putting objects up to the face can be extremely useful. Animal Face Posters help children know that something is expected of them verbally. Initially a child may not be able to motor plan a verbal response. This is totally acceptable. A child needs frequent opportunities to get warmed up to the idea of verbally imitating upon request. Utilizing the parents of the child by having them take verbal turns with the posters is very helpful as well.


Use Songs with Animal Face Posters – I often give copies of these posters to my students for home practice. In addition, I have a little song that I sing and teach parents that can be used with the songs. It is to the tune, 99 Bottles of Pop, and goes like this: Who is the cat today, and what does the cat say? Meow (your turn) Meow. The predictability of this song helps children know when their verbal turn is coming. Predictability is one of the wonderful benefits of using music to enhance speech and language skills.

Showing Off – Teaching children to take other’s perspective – I have used our Animal Face Posters for years now and have discovered an interesting phenomenon with some children, especially those on the Autism Spectrum. When I give an Animal Face Poster to a child with autism, very often that child will turn the poster around so that the animal face is looking at them instead of the other person. Some of the earliest developing social skills include a child’s ability to “show off” for attention, to show others what they are interested in, or to take someone else’s perspective. Animal Face Posters can facilitate this skill of showing. To further facilitate the skill of “showing-off”, I have used a mirror to help children see how they look with the posters on their faces.

Imitation of Animal Sounds and Animal Names – Listening to a child imitate animal sounds gives excellent information as to his/her ability to sequence vowels and consonant-vowel sounds. It can help guide you into what sound combinations need to be practiced. If a child is able to accomplish this task of animal noised, you can also progress to naming the animals or modeling two word phrases such as, “Bye monkey,” or “My puppy.”

Young children who experience speech and language delay, need activities that are fun and motivating for them. Try Animal Face Posters!

 Bio:Rachel Arntson has been a speech-language pathologist in the greater Minneapolis area since 1980 and currently works with infants, toddlers, and their families with Osseo Area Schools. She co-founded Kids’ Express Train, LLC in 2002, and in August of 2012, began a new company entitled TALK IT ROCK IT. With a specific interest in creating music to enhance speech and language skills, Rachel has recorded 9 CDs, has written the WE CAN TALK parent training book, and has developed the Push-Pull Puzzle. In addition, Rachel presents nationally and internationally, sharing her passion for music through creative and interactive workshops. To listen to song samples and get more information about Rachel’s products including her Animal Face Posters, please visit her website at Rachel can also be emailed at [email protected].




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