Interactive Speech Therapy sessions to work on sentence building

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Developing the use of language needs to be motivating and meaningful. In recent years it has been very popular to work on language development within school and therapy settings using symbol prompts, often with a Colourful Semantics (developed by Alison Bryan) theme such as in the picture below.

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Using symbols has lots of potential for helping reinforce many actions and sentence structures but it’s easy to get stuck for ways to practise using them.

Here are some apps I’ve used successfully to liven up a group or 1:1 session while using symbols (e.g. as above) as a visual support. All of them can be used in a functional and interactive small group session by giving each other instructions or describing what someone else has done.

 

Finger paint with sounds (free).  One of the many free painting apps which can be used to tell each what to draw or paint e.g. Clare paint a yellow house. This one has sounds as you draw.

 

Pepi Bath (free). A fun free app with some drag and drop actions such as Wash Hands, Brush Teeth, Pour Washing powder, Hang Jumper.

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My PlayHome Lite (free version great and full version for £3.99).  Has a range of animated activities that you can action by dragging objects and people around different rooms. A wealth of Subject Verb Object actions to use expressively such as the Girl is Eating an Apple and the Mummy is Pouring Water.

 

Toca Kitchen Monsters (free). Two different monsters and several different foods and ways of cooking e.g. Monster is Frying a Tomato, Green Monster is cutting broccoli.

 

Discover Musical Instruments Free Admittedly some more specific vocabulary (bagpipes, drum, guitar) needed here but this is a lovely free app and telling each other which instrument to play can be a fun group activity. If you’ve got more than one iPad you could effectively set up a small orchestra.

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Toca Tea party (£2.99).  In the absence of actual party food, pretend or real, this is a great app for a virtual tea party with either toys or people. Tell each other what you want them to do e.g. Teddy drink juice, Peter pour tea, Katy give a plate to me.

 

Build a Train Lite (free). 

Potential for using some very simples phrases such as Beep Horn, Ring Bell, Stop, Go.

 

Puppet Pals (there is a lite version but directors pass £3.99 is worth it) I’m honestly not sponsored by this app but it really is so versatile. I’ve set it up with pictures of symbols and you can then set up little moving scenes of pretty much any action you want. I usually create the symbol on symbol software on my office PC, take a photo using the iPad and insert it into the app – only takes a few minutes before a session.

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Other apps worth mentioning…

 

First Phrases HD (lite version £0.99) A well designed app which allows you to select a SVO sentence and then produces a animated video to illustrate it at the end. One of the best ways I’ve found to use this is to click through the vocabulary choice bits and just show the video and ask a child to describe it. But that’s fairly fiddly. It’s not ideal for an interactive session.

 

Photo dice (free).  An app which can be used in practically any therapy session but worth mentioning here if you want to provide some unpredictability of actions or objects e.g. what is Dennis going to wear? The hat/gloves/scarf/glasses etc. Or what is Aisha going to do to the box? Stand/Sit/Jump/Throw etc?

 

Ten speech therapy activities which can be enhanced with an iPad

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  1. Warm up games. Try Air Hockey (free). No pressure to talk, easy to play, requires someone else to play with you and surprisingly addictive.

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  1. Visual Timetables. My favourite is First Then Visual Schedule HD (£7.99), which allows you to insert google images very easily. Makes a change from printing and laminating.

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  1. Informal assessment. Use a range of apps to stimulate informal talking and receptive language. Favourite apps to stimulate expressive language are Imagistory (free) or creating a spontaneous story using Puppet Pals and photos of the child. My favourite receptive assessments involve Keyword Understanding (£6.99 or free lite version) and Toca Kitchen Monsters (free).

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  1. Setting expectations of a session. Use Sand Timer (Free) or ASD tools timer (£1.49) to show how long an activity is going to last. Also use goal setting apps such as Simple Goals (free) for older children to record what they are working towards.

 

  1. Trialling AAC. Easy to take photos and give choices on the spot rather than having to ask about favourite items, take photos then go away and laminate… Use ChoiceBoard Creator (free) or TalkBoard (free) for basic grids to practice with.

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  1. Oro-motor assessments. Dress up an oro-motor assessment as a motivating activity using Bla Bla Bla (free) and Speak Up Too (free) for visual feedback.

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  1. Parent Child Interaction. Not sure how we ever managed video PCI without iPads – video it, play it back to the parent and if necessary, reassure them that you are deleting it in front of them. Also use for informal, spontaneous feedback e.g. during a swallow assessment.

 

  1. Talking about what has just happened. An immediate record of the session you’re in. Talk about doing something, do it and talk about what you did with visual prompts. Saves you going away to print photos.

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  1. Taking photos of plans, sessions, child’s work. An easy way of referring back to previous sessions – whether paintings that were made or stories which were created. If the app doesn’t store creations, take a screenshot by holding down the home button and then pressing the on/off button. The image will appear in Photos.

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  1. Inspiring parents to carry on activity at home. A lot of parents are worried that they don’t know what apps to download for their children and are keen for ideas. If they can see their child engaged with an activity with you, they’re more likely to try it at home.

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Not just a reward strategy: using iPads interactively to develop communication

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I gave a ‘Lightning Talk’ at Therapy Ideas Live in London last week and I’ve promised to put a list of the apps recommended on this blog. In my allocated 5 minutes, I discussed an app for a few different areas of language target that you could work on in therapy sessions – thinking mainly about social and functional uses of language e.g. telling stories and telling jokes.

You can see a video of the talk here.

Suggested apps were as follows:

scene and heardIntroducing Ourselves. Scene and Heard Lite (free)

 

choice boardMaking Choices. Choiceboard Creator (free)

 

Expressing Opinions. Talking Mats (lite version =talkingmat free)

 

ipad cameraSending Messages. Video function – no apps needed.

 

Giving Instructions. Cake Doodle (£0.79)cake doodle

 

Sharing Experiences. Photo Grid (free)photo grid

 

Telling Stories. Puppet Pals (free, £1.99 storytimesoundspuppetpalsfor adding your own photos), Story Time Sounds (free)

 

Telling Jokes. Knock Knock Numbers (£2.29)jokes1

 

tea partyHosting Others. Toca Tea Party (£2.49)

 

Asking Questions. Guess the Person (free)guesswho

 

Problem Solving. Faces iMake (£2.29)face2

 

air hockey2Initiating a Game. Air Hockey (free)

 

flip flapWord Play. Flip Flap Farm (£0.79)

 

 

Functional language activities using food and cooking apps

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We use language in a variety of ways in our everyday lives – to start conversations, to give opinions, to tell jokes, to persuade people to our point of view, to make other people feel better and to criticise something we do not like. Working with all children, especially those who have Autism, it’s important to think about how we are giving them the opportunity to generalise language skills in lots of different practical situations.

There are lots of food and cookery based apps available. Here are some ideas for how to use them to support meaningful language skills.

toca monsters Giving instructions to others with Toca Kitchen Monsters (free). A lovely app for giving simple instructions to direct others. Take turns to choose an action e.g. “boil the broccoli”, “fry the steak”, “blend the lemon.” At a basic level, you can encourage the child to give one word instructions e.g. the type of food (e.g. tomato/mushroom/sausage) or the cooking process (e.g. blend/boil/fry/chop). This could work as a paired or group activity.monster

 

cake doodle

Teaching someone what to do with Cake Doodle (£0.79). Similar to above but emphasising the skill of giving coherent instructions step by step. The ability to describe steps in a logical way form a key foundation skill for developing narrative. The child can ask what type of cake you would like to make and then tell you all the steps for what to do e.g. “first you squash the banana, then break the egg, then pour the sauce.” Alternatively, make the cake first and ask the child to tell you what they did.

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tea partyAsking people about their preferences with Toca tea party (£2.49). 

Finding out what someone would like to eat or drink is a basic social skill. In Toca Tea party, you can set the place for three people and encourage the child to ask others what they would like to eat and drink. Chosen drinks and food can be dragged into the correct place.

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Ideas for speech and language therapy activities using iPad videos and photos

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Time for a blog on my favourite iPad tool – taking photos and videos.

As long as you have an iPad 2 or more recent, you’ll have an inbuilt camera which makes it incredibly easy to use photos in activities with children (and you can delete them at the end of the session if there are any difficulties with consent).

Here are a few ideas for short language based group or individual activities using the camera function which don’t even require you to download any apps.

Attention activity – What’s different?

  • Take a photo of a person, room or area.
  • Change one thing about it or them and take another photo.
  • Ask the children to work out what has changed.

This provides an easy attention activity without having to rely on children closing their eyes!

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Social skills activity – Guess the emotion

A quick activity for a social skills group exploring different emotions.

  • Ask each child to make a facial expression and take a photo.
  • Show the photo to the group and talk about what the expression might mean.

Expressive and receptive activity – Listen and Make

  • Ask someone to carry out a simple activity, e.g. making a collage, building a tower or threading beads.
  • Take several photos which break down the activity into several clear stages.
  • Show the photos to one child and ask them to convey the instructions to another child without showing them the pictures.
  • Compare the end photo with the finished product.

The emphasis in this activity is on one child using their language to tethreading picll the other child how to do something. In addition, the other child can develop skills in listening to their peers. The art/craft activities work particularly well with younger children who are not confident with colours and preposition words. Examples of stages from a few different activities below:

 

boat collage

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Expressive and receptive activity – What’s happening?

I’ve already blogged about this in the past but worth repeating here as this is a tool I use regularly.

  • Take a short video of a real or acted out scenario and ask the group questions about it. It could be a video of a busy road on your way to work, a video tour of a supermarket aisle or an acted out scenario by a teacher who has discovered her bike is broken.
  • Show the video, ask Wh questions and talk about what could happen next.

There are plenty more ways of using photos and videos – please share any other ideas you might have tried!

Using sensory apps as PECs motivators

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photo-7When I first got an iPad, the apps with easy touch-activated sounds and visual effects (examples below) were the first ones I downloaded. They are fantastic as basic cause and effect activities and are highly motivating for children of a range of ages and abilities.

It took me a while to think of a way to use them for language based activities with children at a higher level. Then it struck me that if you think of the iPad and its sensory apps as a motivating toy in the same way as SLTs think of ‘bubbles’, it makes it much easier to fit into language activities.

photo-8I work in a school with a large number of children with ASD, where iPads are an obvious motivator for communication. The sensory apps work well when encouraging use of PECs across the day and in different situations.

How to use in class:pecs1

  • I started by using sensory apps in a communication group with two or three students who were using PECs to communicate.
  • Each student was given a selection of symbols in their PECs book for familiar apps so they could initiate requests for what they wanted.
  • When a student initiated a request for an app, I set up a timer (see previous blog) for 15-20 seconds before handing the iPad over. This gave a clear auditory signal at the end of their turn on the iPad itself.photo-6
  • I then waited for another student to initiate another request.

You could make this into a small group turn taking activity by connecting the ipad to the whiteboard (see blog on airserver for how to do this) so that the other students could watch the apps on the whiteboard as they waited for their turn.

Some of my (and my students’) favourite (and mostly free) sensory apps:

  • Pocket pond
  • Fireworks Arcade
  • Fluidity HD
  • Cause and Effect Sensory Light Box (£1.49)
  • Falling Stars
  • Romantics
  • Reactickles Magicphoto-5
  • Paint Sparkle
  • iZen
  • Bubbles (£0.69)
  • Music Sparkles