Saturday, April 13, 2013



September 2011 - Age 4
Reading To Speak

I thought about AL's attraction to and passion for the alphabet.  I worked with him on beginning reading skills (starting with Picto-Cues, then quickly progressing to words).  This all happened in a few weeks (with sessions at 30 min 3x/week).  AL took to reading very quickly.

I taught him to read a sentence from a card to request, "May I have more grapes," and the next day he ended up saying the sentence spontaneously during a structured activity.

When his brother had a Bob the Builder truck that AL had been playing with before, and he wanted it back, he would cry.  I made a card and we went over to his brother.  

AL read the card, saying, "Please, may I have my toy back," and his brother gave him the toy.  He was learning about the power of words.

Over the months his interest went from Bob the Builder to Cars 2, then to Thomas Trains, and back to Cars 2.  Whatever his passion was, I followed it and used AL's motivation to my advantage in getting him talking more. 

AL's mom made a holder for his cards that she hung on the wall, and I thought up different sentences to write on the cards.

Mommy:  Another Passion

AL loved to climb into his mom's lap and rub noses with her.  When he did that I held a card where he could see it over her shoulder.  He learned how to read it and said, "I love you, Mommy."

When his mom explained to school staff what we had been doing, the school personnel asked for a duplicate set of cards to use at school. 

**What a blessing to have such great school staff!

November 2012 - Age 5
Whenever Things Seem Stalled

Sometimes there were days when AL was difficult to engage.  

His mother is his champion, and during one such day she said to me, "I think things are getting too easy for him or he's having problems that are more complicated.  Let's push him to the next level."  

So I made cards that were open ended.  

"I can't find ____."  

"Mommy, I need help with _____."  

"I am frustrated. I can't _____."

With a little practice he started filling in the blanks.

March 2013
Mostly AL and I engage in pretend play with his favorite things: trains, cars, trucks and superheros.  During last week's session I brought in a game.  He doesn't really play games too well with me, so I wasn't expecting much.  

The funny thing is that I brought in a simple puzzle game that his own mother had given me, because it was too low level for him.  You match a color word with a picture of something of that color.  The brown bear and the word BROWN fit together like a puzzle.  There were 10 pairs.

I had him pick a picture piece.  He picked an apple.  I asked him what color the apple was.  He said, "red," and looked for the piece that said red.  I said, "No.  You can't get the other piece until you tell me how to spell red."

I took a piece of paper and waited.  He didn't answer.  I cued him, "Red begins with the letter ___."  He said, "r." "Spell red," I urged, "r ___?" He answered, "e, d," and I wrote it down, and left that paper visible on the table.

I said one last time, "Spell red." He answered, "r, e, d."  I gave him the piece that said red and he put the puzzle pieces together.  I said, "Ding, ding, ding," and told him, "You have 1 point."

We continued on. When he had 5 points I cued him to look at his mom and say, "Mommy, look! I have 5 points!"  We did that every time he earned a point up until 10 points.  He finished the entire game, spelled color words (with some help, at times), and called out for his mom's attention, so he could brag to her about how many points he had.  

Any way you slice it, that was an A+ day for him, his mom and I.  There was no Autism patchy fog that day.  Everything was crystal clear and the sun was shining!

I feel proud of my work with AL.

I feel proud of mom (and dad's) work with him. 

At school he blew through his IEP.  His parents showed the school staff videos of the kinds of things he does at home and is capable of doing.  His goals have been adjusted upward to higher levels.

As therapists we are taught to move slowly step by step, but sometimes reaching for higher levels in the same session is what's needed for us to peer inside and have a peak of what the child is really capable of doing.  If we work at too low a level, or with too much predictability it may become boring to the child and he will tune out more and more.  We need children with Autism to TUNE IN, not OUT.

*  Use a child's passion then add drawings or reading to cue speech.  

*  Learn about PICTO-CUES to begin the reading process with a young child. 

*  You can read my blog post on picto-cues

*  You can listen to a short radio broadcast:

Yesterday, I taught a Spanish-speaking student to correctly say ME GUSTO [meh-gu-s-toh] by showing her a picture of a GOOSE and a TOE.  She had been dropping the medial /t/.  She saw the pictures and we practiced. It worked to cue her to include the /t/ sound!

*  Move onto basic reading skillsA short radio show:

*  Increase reading (& writing) skills.  A short radio show: 

That's all for now!   

I am Noelle Michaels.  I'm a speech and learning specialist who enjoys helping families brainstorm new ways to help their children.  

Please reach out to me, if you would like any advice or information.  I'm always glad to connect, because I truly love my job! 

I am available for families in the North Jersey area to do a FREE 30-minute consultation

I am available via email or phone, and will speak to any parent or professional with questions or concerns.  Let's work together to help children speak and learn at higher levels! 

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Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C
Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist
Special Educator & Learning Specialist
Text: 201-919-4805   

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