ABC’s of Reading Acquisition

Colorful children's blocks over white. ABC and 123. Shot with the Canon 20D.Promoting Literacy Skills at Home
by Lisa Priddy, M.S., CCC-SLP

Language and literacy skills begin to develop in infancy and continue to expand over the preschool years. Literacy is often defined as an individual’s ability to speak, read, and write in order to function adequately in one’s daily environment. An infant’s excitement over illustrated pictures, a two-year olds’ ability to turn pages in a book, and a three year olds’ ability to identify the letters in his/her name are all examples of literacy development. Research has shown that early exposure to printed words will likely influence a child’s literacy skills. Before children start school, they are aware of the nature and purpose of reading. Parents play an important role in their children’s acquisition of pre-reading skills. Parents who read to their children are introducing them to phonemic awareness, letter and sound recognition, and building vocabulary skills. The following
is a list of activities designed to promote literacy skills in the home environment:

Activities for Birth to Three Years

  • Read aloud to your child every day! Use varying pitch and intonation during storytelling, (for example, raising your pitch when using baby talk).
  • Allow your child to open the book and turn the pages.
  • Point to each word as you read aloud. Stress the repeated phrases and encourage your child to fill in the word(s) for the repeated phrases. For example, “The wheels on the bus go ‘round and _____.”
  • Encourage your child to draw pictures. Ask him/her questions about the drawings and have him/her make up a story to go along with the pictures.
  • Take advantage of car trips by listening to stories and nursery rhyme songs.

    Activities for Three to Four Year Olds

  • Point out the letters on traffic signs, letters, buildings, and in books.
  • Play alphabet games. Sing the alphabet song aloud with your child. Introduce letter pictures and cards. Encourage your child to find the letters in his/her name on cereal boxes, magazines, or books.
  • Read rhyming books. Have your child fill in the blanks to familiar rhymes. For example, “Jack and Jill went up the _____.”
  • As your child becomes more familiar with rhymes, encourage him/her to make up new rhyming songs!
  • Sound matching activities – Ask your child to identify the sounds in words.
    For example, “Which two words start with the same sound: dog, bat, and doll?”
  • Blending Games – Slowly say aloud each sound of a word. Ask your child to blend the sounds together to form the word. For example, c-a-t/cat.
  • Rhyming Games – Ask your child to identify words that sound the same. For example, hat-cat-shoe. As your child becomes more familiar with rhymes, say a word and have him/her give a word that rhymes with it. For example, “Tell me a word that rhymes with dot.”
  • Sound-Letter Recognition – As your child’s awareness in print grows, spell words that interest him/her. For instance, spell the names of the toys your child enjoys. Also, as you read aloud to your child, spell out the words.These activities are only suggestions. If you feel your child is ready for these activities at an earlier age, introduce them as appropriate.

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Following Directions

Two little ducks

Different Ways of Following Directions

By Kevin Stuckey, M.Ed., CCC-SLP and Susie S. Loraine, M.A., CCC-SLP

Verbal (spoken) directions are a part of everyday life for adults and children. Appropriate behavior, social interaction, and academic success are all dependent on the ability to understand and follow verbal directions. Following verbal directions requires strong knowledge of basic concepts and the ability to process and retain auditory information.

Basic concepts are words that individuals need to comprehend to perform everyday tasks such as following directions, participating in classroom routines, and engaging in conversation. In fact, basic concepts are typically the foundation of verbal directions. Basic concepts may include, but are not limited to:

  • Basic colors – red, blue, green, etc.
  • Directions – through, around, etc.
  • Quantities – few, many, etc.
  • Sequences – first, next, last, etc.
  • Shapes – round, square, etc.
  • Size – big, little, etc.
  • Social/emotional states – happy, sad, etc.
  • Characteristics – old, new, etc.
  • Textures – rough, smooth, etc.
  • Time – late, early, etc.
  • Spatial relationships and positions – front, behind, top, bottom, etc.Whether in the classroom with teachers, at home with parents, or in the community with friends, children are asked to follow directions. They actively engage their brains when listening and following verbal directions. There are five different types of following directions. These include basic directions, sequential directions, quantitative and spatial directions, temporal directions, and conditional directions.

    Basic Directions

    Following basic directions starts with a simple, one-step direction using one element, such as “Point to the ball.” The difficulty increases as more elements are added to the verbal directions, such as color (Point to the red ball.), size (Point to the large ball.), action (Point to the ball that is spinning.), or location (Point to the ball that is below the car). Then, the higher levels combine these elements (Point to the small red ball that is spinning below the car.).

This skill targets the child’s ability to follow multi-step and sequential directions. Multi-step directions require following two or more directions at a time (Put the red block in the basket and close the door.). Sequential direction tasks involve following directions in a specific order (Put the glue in the box, push your chair under the table, and get in line.).

Quantitative and Spatial Directions

Some verbal directions involve the use of quantitative concepts and spatial relations. Terms to denote quantity include one, two, all, both, either, or, and, not, except, and don’t. Terms indicating spatial location include first, second, third, last, and between. Higher levels of this activity combine quantitative and spatial relations with descriptive elements such as size and color. For example, a higher-level direction may be: “Choose the toy that is between the small green rocket and the big yellow train.”

Temporal Directions

Temporal directions target a student’s ability to follow directions containing the words “before” or “after” in a variety of positions within the utterance. For example, in some instances, the term “before” is located in the middle of the direction: “Put the truck in the box before you put the robot in the box.” Another trial may position the term “before” at the beginning of the utterance: “Before you put the doll in the box, put the rocket in the box.” Higher levels of this activity increase auditory memory and processing demands by adding color attributes. For example: “After you put the green doll in the box, put the red plane in the box.”

Conditional Directions

This task provides directions with certain conditions. Students decide what actions to do based on the given condition(s). For example: “If a doll is in the box, put the box on the truck.” Some directions also involve negation: “If a rocket is not in the box, put the box on the truck.” Higher levels add elements such as color, quantity, and size to increase the auditory memory and processing demands: “If a green doll and a blue train are in the box, put the box on the large truck. If not, put the box on the small truck.

Easter Speech Activities

Easter eggsSpeech Word Easter Egg Hunt

Choose one sound that your child struggles with and find pictures of words that have that sound in it. Print off those pictures on pieces of paper and fold them up so they fit inside one of those plastic Easter eggs. Hide the Easter eggs inside or outside of the house and have your child go find them. Every time he/she finds an egg, have them open it up and say the word that’s inside. If your child has trouble producing those sounds in words, you can just have particular letters written on pieces of paper and have your child say the sound that letter makes when he opens up the egg. It may be a good idea to have a few with chocolate or money as well just to spice things up!

Dying Eggs or Coloring Paper Eggs: Following Directions, Colors, Letters


You can even work speech and language into your egg dying routine! If you dye eggs with your child, have them practice writing letters on the egg with a white crayon before you dye it. The dye won’t stick where you put the crayon so you’ll be able to see it once the egg is dyed. If your child can’t write yet or has trouble seeing what he/she is writing, you can write it for them. Once the eggs are dry, you’ll be able to see the sounds and you can have your child practice the sound as they find them or before they eat it. You can also create written or picture instructions for the steps to dying the eggs so your child can practice following directions as well. If you don’t plan on dying eggs with your child, you can always print out Easter egg coloring pages (like from Google Image Search) and have your child decorate them. You can even write letters on them just like you would have real eggs.   Don’t forget while you’re dying or coloring to be talking about the colors you’re using as well! If you have multiple children, you could have each child in charge of one color so you can talk about who has which one.

Christine Wilson Speech Language Pathology wishes everyone a happy Easter!


The Importance of Prosody

By Rynette R. Kjesbo, M.S., CCC-SLP

Prosody refers to the set of variables in speech that affect how a message is communicated and understood. Prosody includes:

  • Rhythm – the flow of connected speech that comes from
    the combination of stressed words, unstressed words, and pauses in a phrase or sentence. A steady, unvarying rhythm makes speech sound unnatural and robotic.
  • Loudness – the amount of volume used when speaking. Whispering requires very little volume while shouting requires considerably more volume.
  • Stress – the force or emphasis used on a sound, syllable, or word in comparison to other sounds, syllables, or words. A stressed syllable in a word has more emphasis than other syllables in the word.
  • Speed – the pace of speech, or how fast or slow we speak. A fast rate of speech can have a negative effect on a listener’s ability to understand the message we are trying to communicate.
  • Pitch – the degree of highness or lowness in a person’s voice. Men usually have a low pitch while women and children tend to have higher-pitched voices.
  • Intonation – the rise and fall in pitch that occurs when we are speaking. We often use a rising pitch when we ask a yes/no question.Prosody helps us differentiate questions from sentences, but it also helps us to recognize a speaker’s emotional state (through his/her “tone” of voice), clarify communication (e.g., “I asked for the time – not a dime”), understand sarcasm… and the list goes on! Prosody (like language) is usually acquired naturally as children grow and listen to prosody being modeled around them. However some individuals such as those with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Autism, cochlear implants, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s may need assistance in learning to use prosody appropriately.


Here are some activities you can use to work on prosody:

  • Read or Tell Stories – Using character voices gives you an opportunity to try lower pitches, higher pitches, louder voices, and softer voices. For example, in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, use a low, loud voice for Papa Bear and a high, soft voice for Baby Bear.
  • Sing Songs or Tell Rhymes – Music and rhymes are great ways to work on rhythm. In addition, if you sing a song that repeats itself (such as The Song That Never Ends or Be Kind to Your Web-footed Friends) you can practice loudness, speed, and pitch by singing the verses softer, louder, slower, faster, higher, or lower.
  • Play a Game of “Copycat” – Have your child imitate phrases or sentences that you say or read from a newspaper (or other type of written material). Say or read the phrases/sentences using different intonation and stress patterns.
  • Ask and Answer “WH” Questions – Say a simple sentence such as: “Jimmy washed his dog.” Then ask simple “WH” questions that can be answered by repeating
    the sentence while stressing different words in the sentence. For example, “Who washed his dog?” “Jimmy washed his dog.” “What did Jimmy do to his dog?” “Jimmy washed his dog.” “What did Jimmy wash?” “Jimmy washed his dog.”
  • “What Does It Mean?” – Think of a simple sentence such as: “I didn’t take your pencil.” Have your child think about and describe how the meaning changes when different words in the sentence are stressed. For example, if I said “I didn’t take your pencil,” that suggests that someone else did. If I said “I didn’t take your pencil,” that implies that I did something else to your pencil. If I said “I didn’t take your pencil,” that indicates that I took someone else’s pencil. And if I said “I didn’t take your pencil,” that hints that I took something else that belonged to you.

Articulation: When Should I Worry If My Child is Behind?

bubblesBy Katharine F. Bedsole, M.S., CCC-SLP

Developing speech and language skills is a difficult task. It is natural for young children to make mistakes in the process of learning to speak. Most children eventually drop errors in their speech and develop normal speech patterns. Some children continue to make errors beyond the age when other children have mastered those sounds.

It may be time to show concern if you observe one or more of the following:

  1. Family members or friends have a hard time understanding your child.
  2. A child demonstrates frustration because you don’t understand his/her speech.
  3. Your child shows no signs of frustration when trying to communicate, but you do not understand his/her speech.

    This is the time to seek a professional’s opinion. Direct questions about your child’s speech development to a local speech-language pathologist (SLP). To find an SLP in your area, visit A certified SLP administers a standardized test comparing your child’s skills to other children his/her age. These test results, in addition to other information, determine whether your child requires speech therapy.

The chart below gives general guidelines of sound mastery. The guidelines allow for the different developmental speech milestones that children experience.

90% of Children Have Mastered These Sounds…By Age


p, d, m, w, h, n…….2 years old
t, b, k, g……………….3 years old
f, v, y…………………..4 to 5 years old
s, z, j, l, r, sh, ch, th, blends……5 to 7 years old

Apps for Students with Communication Deficits

boy in grass call by phone

By Clint M. Johnson, M.A., CCC-SLP and Julie A. Daymut, M.A., CCC-SLP

Apps are applications, or software programs, that can run on a variety of devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Some Apps are free, and some are for purchase. The user simply downloads an App to his/her device through an online store or marketplace. Many Apps are educational in nature and offer speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and parents/caregivers multiple options for targeting communication skills. The lists below highlight some of the different kinds of Apps for speech/language goals. Keep in mind that there are thousands of Apps, so this list is just an overview – Be sure to check often for updates to Apps and new Apps!


• Practice sounds in isolation or at syllable, word, phrase, or sentence levels • Identify phoneme placement (beginning, middle, or end of a word)
• Target phonological processes
• Practice tongue twisters

Assistive Technology

• Touch buttons to indicate basic communication needs
• Create pictures, flashcards, storyboards, or visual schedules
• Use pre-loaded pictures for vocabulary, including searches by category
• Add your own pictures
• Use pre-loaded verbal messages; record and store personalized verbal messages • Store sequenced messages
• Use text-to-speech or speech-to-text functions


• Track fluent and disfluent speech
• Track avoidance behaviors
• Give a percentage for stuttering moments



• Answer/generate WH questions – Who? What? When? Where? Why?

• Create/record sentences and stories

• Identify different grammar forms, such as nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adjectives

• Move objects on the screen to work on basic concept words, such as next to, above, below, before

• Find pictures that go together or choose an item that doesn’t belong • Identify an object by its function, such as barking goes with… dog

Sign Language

• Learn/review American Sign Language (ASL) signs • Take a quiz on signs
• Watch videos of signs

Social Skills

• Review/build Social Stories (short stories to help an individual understand appropriate behaviors for social situations)


• Show decibel (dB) (loudness) levels
• Calculate s/z ratio (sustaining the /s/ sound compared to sustaining the /z/ sound)


Memory Games for Seniors

CoveredThe Best Memory Games for Seniors

Posted by Chris Corrigall at April 3, 2014 in Healthy Aging

Many seniors know the benefits of exercising the body, but there are many good reasons to encourage your loved one to exercise their brain as well. With dementia and cognitive decline becoming major concerns in senior wellbeing, learning to improve brain health is as important as ever – and one of the best ways to help your loved one get started is by having them play memory games.


Researchers at Harvard and Stanford universities as well as the University of California, Berkeley, have all used Lumosity, an online memory training program, in their studies about cognitive decline. The designers of the game site state that 97 percent of participants can improve their memory after just 10 hours of Lumosity play time, according to ABC News. To personalize the games chosen, each user is asked questions that are specifically geared toward cognitive processes to find their strengths and weaknesses.


This is one of the most popular brain training games for seniors, as it allows individuals to differentiate patterns using problem solving and logical processes. As we get older, our senses may dull because we become used to solving the same types of problems over and over again. This can cause the brain to become “burnt out” or stagnant. With Sudoku, new deductions can be made because the brain uses synapses that allow seniors to fill in gaps. It’s a very simple and easy-to-understand game that almost anyone can pick up, which could also account for its popularity.

The Right Word

This timed memory game, which is available for free on the AARP website, tests memory and language skills by listing a series of definitions and having players come up with the right term. Although it may sound simple enough, there are many definitions that could relate to multiple words. After going through several definitions, your loved one will then be instructed to recall the words that were given, whether or not they answered the questions correctly.

Crossword puzzles and word searches

If your loved one likes more traditional memory games, that’s OK too. There are several great tactile games that help improve memory and cognitive skills. Even if they can’t solve the whole puzzle in one sitting, setting aside some time to work through several clues can help jog their memory and keep their brain balanced. Likewise, word searches can also foster short-term memory skills and increase his analytical processes.

The key with any brain game is making it a daily habit. Because our neurons tend to dull over time, it is essential that these games are played on a regular basis to see the best benefits.