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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Superb Therapy, LLC
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Sunday, January 19, 2014

The BEST Way To Teach Colors

Photo Colors 3_2 Once a child shows awareness of colors (that's STEP 1 of my Learning Colors Hierarchy), and is able to sort colors (STEP 2) she is ready for STEP 3: learning to show an understanding of color words [Ex: red, blue, yellow, green, orange, etc.].  

When a child can show understanding of certain words her receptive language vocabulary is growing.

Here is one activity to begin with, as I explained it to a little boy's father:

To begin Step 3 use an empty coffee can and solid color items. The items must be identical, with only the color differentiating them. 

If the items are thin (like plastic poker chips) cut a slit on the plastic cover of the can that the poker chips can snugly fit through. If the items are bigger, like one-inch cubes, cut a larger opening in the top.

If he is sensitive to noise don't use a metal container. Some children like it if I shake the can when the items are in it and others don't.

Decide on the first color. I usually pick red. Pick a contrasting color-one that is very different (NOT orange). I usually pick blue. 

Put 12 red and only 2 blue on the table.

Hold the can with one hand, so you have good control of it. Say, "Give me red" and point closely to a red item, so it's clear what you're asking for.
Hold out your hand and take the red one he gives you. Put it in the can.

Note: On the second turn you will let him put it directly in the can himself. Point to the opening of the can and have him put it in (guide him, if necessary).

On the first turn, after you put it in, say, "More red" and offer the can. If he picks up blue in error and starts toward the can quickly block the hole with your hand and say, "No. That's BLUE. No BLUE. I want RED." Point to a red item and repeat, "Give me red."

Do this until all red items are in the can. Say, "YES! You found all the red ones!" Celebrate then say, "NOW, give me BLUE." (And point to BLUE).

Each time he does better add more blues to make it more challenging until there are mostly blues and only a few reds that he must locate.

When he can get all red with no errors then go back to the beginning, this time starting with 12 blue and only 2 red items and ask for BLUE.

When that is mastered try 12 yellow, 2 red and 2 blue and ask for YELLOW.

In my experience, most children learned the first color, red, in one to three sessions. :-)

There are more activities for teaching colors in my book: The Best Way to Teach Your Child Colors.

It is available as a soft-cover book for $10 by mail (within the USA) - Call me to order: 201-919-4805

or the Teaching Colors book 

is included in my E-book SUPERB THERAPY! which is $3.75 and available through at the following link:

SUPERB THERAPY Final Book Cover JPG(1) Note: These steps can be used to learn letters, numerals, animal names and more.  For example, just say cat and dog instead of red and blue..."Give me the cat."  "Give me the dog."
Step 1: Awareness of Different Animals
Step 2: Able to Sort Different Animals
Step 3: Able to Understand the Names of Animals

I'm Noelle Michaels, Speech and Learning Specialist, and I truly love my job!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

When All The Stars Line Up

I recently attended an elegant fundraiser for Autism Speaks in Little Falls, NJ.  This wonderful event was hosted by NJ Housewife, Jacqueline Laurita, and her two nieces.

I donated a gift certificate for $650 worth of Speech Therapy from my private practice, Superb Therapy, LLC.

As the winning ticket for my gift certificate was called I stood in the middle of the back of the huge room and visually scanned back and forth to see who raised their hand or stood up to claim the prize.  

A woman who was sitting directly in front of me, only 3 feet away, won the gift certificate.  What were the chances of that happening, in a room filled with tables?

I gave the winner my business card and informational flier and we spoke for a few minutes and exchanged phone numbers. 

Today I met her son, and I think we are a good match.  He is 3 1/2, has less than 10 words, does not speak upon request nor does he imitate speech spontaneously or consistently.  

He does do some independent vocal play, which shows me that he is ready to begin to speak more functionally.

My first goal is to get him to repeat everything I say.  

He likes music, pizza and cookies, so I made up a pizza and cookies song for him.  I audio taped it with my phone and we played it over and over many times.  

He gave me a few approving looks, a few smiles, and his eyes lit up a several times...then his mother and I both heard him imitate the word "cookie" once.

It was a great first session!  I can't wait until next week!  I have a great feeling about this little boy.  I'm ready to take him up a few levels in speech and get him communicating with his older brother in fun ways!

I'm Noelle Michaels, Speech and Learning Specialist, serving children and families in the Northern NJ area.  I love it when I meet children who I can connect with and teach to communicate at higher levels.  It happens all the time, and I'm happy to say that I truly love my job!

*My new E-book "Superb Therapy!" is now available!  The introductory price is ONLY $3.75 and it has: Verbal Apraxia, SNACKademics, and The BEST Way to Teach Your Child Colors included. That's 3 books in one for a great price!!!

To see a preview or buy it go to:
To learn more about me go to my website.
You can order e-books ($3.75 + tax each) there too.
To order soft-cover copies of any of my 3 separate books ($10 + tax each - includes postage):

Write to me at with BOOK ORDER as a subject line and call me to confirm your order, or just call me at 201-919-4805.  

I am always available to give parents or professionals advice.  Write to me at 
& put QUESTION FOR NOELLE in the subject line or call me at: 201-919-4805.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tutoring for the average child? Why???

Spoiler: FUN math game at the end of this post!  :-)
Many parents are content if their child is in the "average" range, and are very happy if they see an "above average" score on a standardized test.

However, when parents see a "below average" or "failing" score, they instinctively reach out for, and do whatever they can do to get help for the child.

They may try on their own, at first, using flash cards to drill the child in an effort to get him to memorize addition facts or multiplication facts.

Other parents may decide to hire a tutor.
The majority of parents who hire a tutor see the expense as a necessity (i.e., an investment in their child's future academic success).

If their child is "doing okay" (is in the average or above average range), then other investments are often made; usually in extracurricular activities.  

Those children get martial arts, acting, music, gymnastic or dance lessons.  They go to ceramics or swimming classes, or spend time on a bowling league or at boy scout or girl scout meetings.  

Being an "average" or "above average" student has its reward...getting to enjoy more of the FUN stuff!


Of course, all those activities help children to be well-rounded individuals, but does it support them in reaching up to or even  beyond their true academic potential?

Why is it that a parent of a child with "average" skills doesn't get help to lift that child into the "above average" range?

Why doesn't a parent of a child with "above average" skills get support to raise that child's skills into the "superior" range?

In other words, why are parents content with what they consider (or what others may consider) "good enough?"


For years the concept of WORKING TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY or WORKING TO YOUR POTENTIAL has been popular.  

It's all that we really want...that a child's work should reflect his or her potential.

But, how can someone decide what a child's potential is?

Frustrated parents may say: 

I know he can do better.  He's smart.  He's just being lazy, and his grades are suffering.


She can read pretty well, but she just won't practice.  This year she's falling behind in reading comprehension.

Parents seem to have decided what their child's potential is based on past performance.  

**Yet, in my opinion, past performance doesn't always predict future performance

What do I suggest?

I recommend getting children involved in short, FUN activities which allow them to learn and practice academic and other skills in natural and common sense ways.  

If you don't know how to do it, then a TUTOR (who does know how) might be hired, even if only for a few weeks to get you started.  

Of course, if you like the tutor and can afford to continue, then a long-term relationship might be best for your family.  

Remember it's not an all or nothing relationship. 

The length and frequency of tutoring sessions can be tailored to the child or family.

I see some families only once a month or every six weeks.  Other families prefer that I visit once or twice per week.  Every child's needs are different.  

You can take a break over the summer or increase tutoring over the summer.  

Both are valid strategies, depending on the child's needs and what other summertime activities the child is participating in.


The activities should be SHORT and FUN!

That way you have plenty of time for other things, and the child will continue to look forward to these entertaining and stimulating academic games.


This is a game which I often teach the children whom I tutor.  

It's my "PARTNERS TO 10" card game, which helps boost addition skills and builds confidence when adding long strings of numbers. 

The goal is to learn which pair of numbers or "partners" add up to 10.

Here are the "partners":

9   and   1
8   and   2
7   and   3
6   and   4
5   and   5

You can use regular playing cards, homemade cards or any number cards with numerals 1 through 9, like these wonderful Toy Story cards that are pictured below, which I found at my local dollar store. SEE PHOTOS BELOW.

It is so easy to play, and can be played slowly for beginners and more quickly once the numerical partners are known.  

Since all cards are face up, players are free to look around for answers until they eventually memorize the partners over time.

Partners To 10 can be played with others or alone (solitaire style).


How PARTNERS TO 10 is played:
Players take turns picking the top card from the deck of cards.  Each card has one numeral on it; either 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or  9.  

This deck of cards is located where the child can reach it, in order to get a card when it is his or her turn. 

You may choose to give each child a card from the top of the deck when it is his or her turn, if the child cannot do so for himself or is impulsive and is grabbing too many cards at once or not waiting his turn.

Players place cards in front of themselves in a horizontal line.

When a player picks a card he names it and then tells what he needs to make 10.

"I picked a 7.  
I need a 3 to make 10."

"I picked a 4.  
I need a 6 to make 10."

"I picked a 3.  
I need a 7 to make 10.  
I have a 7.  
I'll put the 3 with my 7 to make 10.  
Ding, ding, ding! 
I have one point."

The pair of cards which equal 10 are pushed to the side and placed vertically, so both can be seen, one on top of the other. 

Here is the set up for one player:

Here is the set up for two players:

Each pair of cards that equals 10 is one point.

Play continues in this way until there are no more cards to pick, but the game is not over yet (if there is more than one player). 

Players may then take turns asking another player for a card they need.

"I have a 5.  I need another 5 to make 10.  Sarah, please pass me your 5."

Then it's Sarah's turn to ask for a card she needs.  

It's best to ask the player to your left for the card you need, but if that player doesn't have what you need you may then ask the next player to your left.

The game is over when all cards have been matched with their partners to make 10. 

Each player's pairs are counted.  

Five pairs = 5 points.  Many times players will end up with the same number of points and the game will end in a tie.

"We both won first place!"
"You won first place and I won second place!"


Knowing partners to 10 can help a child add a long string of numbers more quickly.

I'm Noelle Michaels, speech and learning specialist.  I enjoy tutoring and teaching parents fun ways to help their children get to higher skill levels that MEET or SURPASS their "potential." 

Truth be told, I truly love my job!

If you need ideas or suggestions, please reach out to me for a FREE consultation:
201-919-4805 (Text or Call)

Radio Show:

Youtube Channel:

- SNACKademics
- The BEST Way To Teach A Child COLORS


Monday, August 5, 2013

SHADES OF AUTISM #7: Learning Quickly

I do not teach one step at a time

I bound up the staircase of learning quickly.

When I see that a child can do something, I do not make him practice that skill.

I work with him on a more difficult form of the problem or concept.

When a child is intelligent, and his communication skills are not strong, we often simplify the things which we want to teach him.

That can lead to boredom, and a loss of motivation to learn.

Reaching for a higher level skill helps the child to become cognitively stimulated. 

It also shows us exactly what he is capable of learning.


In TWO sessions I taught Alejandro to answer True/False questions in written form, when he had never answered a True/False question before.

On day one he placed a toy in a rectangle with a TRUE statement.

On the next session he CIRCLED the word TRUE or FALSE after reading a sentence.  

He also wrote the word FALSE as an answer to a question.

After he wrote the word FALSE, I said, "Now, write your name on the bottom of the page," and he did.  

He had been putting wooden or foam letters in order to spell his name over the past two years, but this was the first time I had seen him write his name on paper. 

Alejandro also practiced other test-taking skills.  He filled in circles which were next to his answers, and put an X in a square shape next to his answers.

His parents were very excited and surprised to see him performing these higher level skills.  

We talked about the possibility of having higher level goals included in his Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Taking a TRUE - FALSE test is now within his reach, after only TWO sessions!

My advice to parents: 

~  Don't be content with learning in small increments. 

~  Try to reach higher levels quickly whenever possible (whenever you see that flash of brilliance appear).  

Contact me or have your child's therapist or teacher contact me, if you want more information about this.

I'm Noelle Michaels, Speech and Learning Specialist, and I truly love my job!

Superb Therapy, LLC
Denville, New Jersey, 07834  USA


Sunday, July 28, 2013

SHADES OF AUTISM #6: True or False

Today I started out wanting to see if Alejandro could put small toys into categories.

Not large categories, like animals vs. vehicles, but smaller differences, like animals with feathers vs animals with fur.

I thought about maybe introducing the word MAMMAL, but then another idea came to me and I went with it.
I decided to see if Alejandro could match a toy animal to a written comment about that animal. 

I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and wrote 2 sentences, drawing a large rectangle around each one.

Alejandro read the two statements I had written down.

The cow gives milk.                  The cow flies.

I gave him a toy cow and said, "PUT IT WHERE IT GOES."

He placed it by The cow gives milk.

"Ding-ding-ding," I said.  "You have 1 point."

I gave him a toy chicken and 2 new sentences:

The chicken has fur.          The chicken has feathers.

He read each one aloud and then put the chicken on the side of the paper 

with The chicken has feathers.

It occurred to me that this was a good way to introduce TRUE or FALSE.

The animal was placed on the comment that was TRUE.

Saying, "That's TRUE! The chicken does have feathers!" is a good way to introduce the term TRUE.

Saying, "The chicken has fur!?!  No way!  That is not TRUE.  That is FALSE!" is a good way to focus on the word FALSE and it's meaning.


Being able to take a True/False quiz is an important functional academic skill to have when in the classroom environment.

Being able to differentiate when you are saying something that is TRUE and when either you, yourself, or another person is making a FALSE statement (i.e., lying), is an important functional social skill to have.

I think that starting off with this somewhat concrete activity (using a small toy replica) is an excellent first step.

I'm Noelle Michaels, speech and learning specialist.  

I am always trying to think of new ways to help children learn important skills, and I truly love my job!

Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C
Superb Therapy, LLC
201-919-4805 (Text or Call)

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