Sunday, March 23, 2014

SHADES OF AUTISM #8: From Spelling Words To Writing Sentences


This 6 year old boy was helped during last summer, by this speech and learning specialist, to do the following: 

- Move from an interest in letters (with all academic areas addressed in an ABA class in June 2013) to being mainstreamed for spelling class by the third week of first grade in September of 2013. 

Note: At the beginning of September he could barely hold a pencil and had difficulty pressing hard enough to make legible writing samples.

Within weeks he was so motivated, by being included in the new class for spelling, that he was writing single words on his own and earning A's on his spelling tests

Fast Forward:
March 2014:
At a local CVS store I noticed an item in the Valentine's Day section that was on clearance.  It was a small metal mailbox with superheros on it.

I picked it up for 39 cents, knowing its best use would come to my mind eventually.

On the way to Alejandro's house an idea formed in my mind.  I was excited to show the activity I had thought of to his mother, and had a good feeling that it would work out well.

Alejandro LOVED the mailbox. - Motivation - CHECK!

I took a piece of paper and wrote: 
May I have ________

Since he was used to using an open sentence to cue his speech, he said, "juice."  

I said, "Okay.  Write juice."  

He needed some help with the spelling after the j and the u, but he wrote it.

I said, "Put it in the mailbox where Mommy can find it."  

He put it in the mailbox and put the flag up [without prompting :-) ].

I told him, "Tell Mommy, 'You have mail!'"

He said, "You have mail" to his mother.

She opened the mailbox and read the sentence.
She asked him to read the sentence to her and he did.

She went to get him a little juice (very little), and when he had drank it I asked him if he wanted more.
Since it had only been a sip or two, he said, "Yes."

I gave him a paper that said, "May _______."

He wrote, "May I have juice." 

He put it in the mailbox, followed my directions to say, "You have mail" to his mother (again putting up the red flag on the mailbox).

He received a little more juice.

I again asked if he wanted more (which he did), and gave him a blank paper. 

He wrote: "May I have juice."

Wow! All this learning!

In less than 30 minutes he had moved from only writing single words to writting a functional sentence (with some support).

That was Saturday, March 8,2014


For homework I told his mother this:
"Whenever he comes to you to say something 
say, 'Write it and put it in the mailbox.'"

When I returned exactly 2 weeks later his mother informed me that he wrote his first complete sentence independently (without any support) only TWO DAYS LATER, on Monday, March 10th and his second set of sentences on Tuesday, March 11th.

Here they are:

The first is:
Mom I want to play with iPad.

The second written communication is actually two sentences:
I want to drank some juice. Can you open, please?

Absolutely amazing! A million smiles  :-)

Note: Step by step learning and ABA works in many situations with certain children.  It is evidence-based and has numerical data behind it.

However, when you know a child is intelligent and you suspect that he can do much more than he is doing within his ABA sessions, it is YOUR JOB as a parent or professional to reach for MUCH HIGHER levels of FUNCTIONAL learning. 

You must do WHATEVER IT TAKES to make the learning process interesting, motivating, fun and practical.  It should be directly related to successful social interaction, successful communication and successful functioning in a typical classroom.

In this way children can be mainstreamed more quickly with the support that they need to be thriving and flourishing alongside their typically developing peers.

If you need assistance to do this then write to me, (put QUESTION in the subject line).

You can also text or call me @201-919-4805.  

As always, I love my job and I'm always willing to help a family develop a plan with their local specialists to move their child to the highest level of functioning possible.

Please comment!   I'd love your feedback.

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Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C
Speech and Learning Specialist


Monday, March 17, 2014

Assistance With Apraxia - Post #1: Too Much Saliva

A child with verbal apraxia may seem to have "too much" saliva.  

As I see it, he is not swallowing enough, so the saliva pools in the front of his mouth.  If he has an open mouth posture while concentrating on a toy or activity (and then tilts his head forward) the excess saliva spills out of his mouth onto the surface or object that's in front of him.

In most instances this problem may come and go, with some days being a high frequency drooling days and other days not so much.

When this happens with a 2 year old, or a child who doesn't really understand the meaning of the word "swallow," I use the following technique:

-  Sit the child in a stable place
-  Take a liquid the child likes to drink.
-  Put some into a small spoon
-  Put it in the child's mouth and say, "Swallow"
-  Repeat a few times during this drink break
-  Repeat several times per day

This will help the child associate the word "swallow" with the action of swallowing.

Once a child understands the meaning of the command "swallow." You can move on.

Introduce the fact that the larynx (Adam's apple) moves during swallowing:

"Mommy's going to swallow."
"You can feel Mommy's swallow."
"Put your hand here in front of my neck."
(Mother swallows)
"Did you feel it move?"
"Isn't that amazing?"
"You can do it too!"

Allow the child opportunities to feel his own neck when he swallows during eating or drinking.

When he's good at checking his swallowing you can use it to get rid of the saliva pooling and/or drooling.

While playing face to face with the child at a table, keep your eyes on his mouth and watch for the saliva to begin to pool in the front of his mouth.

Say, "I see a lot of saliva is in your mouth. It's time to put your lips together and swallow."

You can watch his Adam's apple to see if it moves and look at his mouth to see if the saliva is gone.

If he doesn't swallow you might say, 
"Touch your throat to make sure you're swallowing." 

Verbal reminders are given during the remainder of the play period ("Swallow"), whenever saliva pooling is noticed.

During the day, if a child drools, say, "Remember, if you swallow then it won't fall out of your mouth."

If he is trying to speak and it sounds wet or slushy say, "I can't understand you.  Can you swallow and then say it again?" "Oh, that's better!"  "When you swallow first I really can hear you and understand you much better!" :-)

I'm Noelle Michaels, a Speech and Learning Specialist currently in Northern New Jersey, and I enjoy sharing tips, activities and success stories with you.

If your child has Verbal Apraxia and your school district is saying it's "just articulation," having a copy of my book "Verbal Apraxia" may help you to explain to them that it's more than just articulation.

If you are interested:

My Verbal Apraxia book is available as a soft-cover book for $10.70 by mail (includes tax & postage) 

or as part of a 3-book E-book Volume entitled "Superb Therapy!" which is just $3.75 and available at:
If you would prefer the soft-cover Verbal Apraxia book:
follow the link below and 
look for and press the "Buy Now"  Paypal Button that is ABOVE the Verbal Apraxia Title:

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