Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reading To Your Kids #3: Make Predictions and Inferences

Hi.  It's me.  Sorry for the delay.  We have been having a summer full of fun and excitement!  For example, we found out we are adding another boy to our family in November!  I'm so happy and blessed to be a mom.  I get so much joy from watching my children learn and grow - nothing compares!  Even being a speech therapist - as much as I love it - doesn't quite bring the same amount of satisfaction.  I'm lucky I get to do both!

Now this series on reading to your kids is for all you fellow moms out there.  My next suggestion is technically two - but they go so well together that I wanted to talk about them at the same time.  In general terms, here are the definitions:

Predictions and Inferences have to do with using context clues (from pictures or from words) in order to make a guess about the story.  Predicting is guessing what will happen; inferencing is guessing what already happened.

1) A great example of teaching 'predicting' is something that you will see most lower elementary teachers do every time they grab a book.  They will show the cover to their class, read the title, and ask, "What do you think this story is about?"  Try doing this with your kids every time you pick up a book.  They will start out by making guesses based on the picture on the front.  That's great!  Encourage every guess.  It's important to teach your child that there is no wrong answer.  Then read the title.  Sometimes the title of the book doesn't match the picture exactly...this provides a good opportunity for discussion.  For example, in many copies of "The Mitten" by Jan Brett, the cover shows the mitten but it also shows a lot of other animals that will make an appearance.

 Talk about how the mitten is probably the main part of the story since it is the title.  Then make predictions about the mitten.  Whose is it?  Why is it on the ground?  What do you think happened next?  What are the animals going to do with it?  See how you have already had some great discussion and you haven't even opened up the book yet?

2)  Make predictions as you go throughout the book about what might happen next.  You will need to talk about why you think something will happen next.  For example, in one of my favorite books for preschoolers, "Good Night Gorilla", there are hardly any words which can allow for some great conversation.  There is a page where the gorilla is stealing the keys from the zookeeper.

 You can ask, "What is the gorilla going to do next?"  Talk about how the gorilla is reaching for the keys, so he is probably trying to take them and unlock his cage and escape.  (That was actually using clues to make an inference which then helps you make a prediction.  They go together very well.  But you can see how it can get quite complex and children may need it explained step by step).

3)  Many picture books have plenty of opportunities to teach inferencing, because the illustrator can't very well draw every single thing that happens in the story.  Oftentimes you have to use your imagination and clues from the story to fill in the blanks.  Returning to my "Good Night Gorilla" example, the page after the gorilla is sneaking the keys is a picture of the gorilla following the zookeeper and they are now at the elephant's cage.

 Clearly some things have happened since the last picture, namely, the gorilla opened his own cage with the keys that he stole.  Many children have a difficult time grasping these events when they didn't actually see them occur.  Explain to the child that something happened and we didn't see the picture of it, but we know it happened because of the clues the pictures gave us.  So....what do you think will happen next?  See - another predicting opportunity.  This particular book is great because there are a TON of opportunities for inferencing and predicting.  I think that once you start paying attention you will notice how often we apply these skills in books without even realizing it!  If your child learns how to do this with pictures then it will be a great foundation for them to start applying it when they learn how to read on their own, then when there are no pictures at all.

I hope you find this helpful and that you have fun reading books with your kids!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Reading To Your Kids #2: Try Avoiding the Text

Sometimes it's fun to deviate a little bit from the exact printed words on the page and tell a story your own way.  It's good for a child to hear the same story told in different ways.  They learn the skill of re-telling which is crucial for academic and social success.  Besides, when you read the same book OVER and OVER and OVER again, we parents sometimes require a little change of pace.  It's essential to our sanity!  My son is a little obsessed with Berenstain Bears books right now.  They are fun and they teach great morals - but sheesh - sometimes they seem way too long!  So sometimes I shorten it up.  I'm modeling how to summarize stories for him - so it's a win-win!

Did you know there is research that shows that wordless picture books help readers "understand the elements of story structure, develop visual literacy, think and write creatively, and cultivate language and narrative abilities"? (Masters Program in Library and Information Sciences).  This <----- about="" articles="" books.="" great="" has="" link="" other="" p="" picture="" related="" research="" some="" to="" wordless="">
There are lots of great wordless picture books out there.  My friend Lynn did a post about some of them last month.  Check it out here.

One of my favorite books isn't technically wordless per se, but it has very limited words and the pictures are so much fun!  It can create so much great discussion!  The book is Good Night Gorilla and it's a favorite among all the kids I work with.  It'll probably come up again in this series when we talk about inferencing.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Reading To Your Kids #1: Take Your Time

I have promised a few friends and a few parents that I would do this series and I think it's time!  Summer Break is approaching and that's a great time to establish a reading routine with your kids.  I'll just be posting a new concept each time and I don't know exactly how many posts I will end up doing....we shall see!  My first tip is a short and simple one, but a very powerful one at the same time.

Reading Tip #1: Take Your Time
We all have nights where we are home late from a baseball game or something, we just want the kids to go to bed so we read a quick book and get it over with.  That's OK!  But hopefully most of the time you are able to sit down, relax, and let your child take the lead.  Let them turn the pages, ask questions, talk about the pictures, etc.  There's no need to rush to get through it.  Many children need a long time to absorb what was just read and apply it to the pictures on the page.  Especially if it's a first-time read-through.  You might find that after you read the text and give your child a few minutes to let it sink in, they suddenly start asking questions.  Those are the times when you can catch a glimpse into your child's amazing mind.  Let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why Should I Spend the Money on Private Practice?

As a parent of a child with a speech or language delay, you probably have a lot of questions about what to do and where to go to receive help.  Here are some reasons why the parents who come to Speaking of Kids are especially pleased with their choice of private practice.
1.  The child is getting one-on-one attention once or twice a week.
Many times, especially for younger children, a school district will qualify a child for services, but only for 30 or 60 minutes a month.  In other cases, they are unable to serve a child because their needs aren't severe enough to meet their criteria.  Still, in other cases, the child is getting services 30 minutes a week, but they are being seen in a group of 3 or even more students, so the time spent in the SLP's room is not always super effective.  Please know, I'm not in any way trying to bash schools.  They have to set guidelines and procedures to help them accommodate such a wide variety of needs. Many speech therapists have anywhere from 70-100 kids on their caseload!!!  And I know MANY great things are done in schools to help students.  There are many amazing SLP's out there who make such a huge difference in the lives of the kids they serve. Frankly, I don't know how they do it sometimes!  But for the reasons listed above, some parents think private practice is an excellent supplement or replacement to the services in the school setting.  I always say - more is usually better!  And I am happy to collaborate with the student's speech therapist from the school so we can work on the same goals together.
2. They are "in the know". 
One of the main reasons why I have tried to hard to serve children in a private practice setting is because of my strong belief that parents need to be empowered and educated.  In a school setting it is much more difficult - almost impossible - to keep parents fully informed of their child's status and progress.  I love taking time to sit down with parents and explain their child's strengths and weaknesses, and brainstorm together ways we can help the child improve.
3.  They receive materials and support to continue the child's learning at home.
This goes along with number two, but in addition to receiving added information, I try to give parents ideas, materials, and resources so that they can continue helping their child fortify the skills they learn each week.  30 minutes/week isn't going to help a child progress as quickly as if a child also practices those skills at home with a parent who is confident enough to encourage and reinforce the progress.
4.  The child maintains progress because there are no breaks.
For some students, this isn't an issue.  But for many students out there, Christmas break, Spring break, and especially Summer break are times when a child completely forgets much of what they have learned and have to back up significantly to regain that previously-known knowledge.  In private practice, we don't take breaks.  Many parents find that private practice during the Summer only is a great addition to the services the child will receive in the school when it starts back up again.
5.  Parents are highly involved.
Depending on the child's needs and the family situation, I try to encourage the parents to be involved in the therapy, or at least to sit back and observe.  I often hand out notebooks to the parents so they can write down what we worked on that day, what strategies I give them on how to incorporate concepts at home, websites or other resources they can go to, or any questions they might have.  Then at the end of the session, I review what we did, how the child did, and answer any other questions they might have.

So there are some of the reasons why many parents find private speech therapy to be an excellent option for their children.  If you know anybody thinking about this possibility, please feel free to share this link!  If you live in northern Utah and would like to contact me about speech therapy, please see my personal website at

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Speaking of Kids is Growing Up!

There have been some very exciting changes going on with my private practice.  My husband and I have been busy finding an office, painting it, buying furniture, and moving in!  This space is so fantastic, I can't get over it!!!  You want to see it?  OK - wish granted!

On the opposite side of the room there are a couple of chairs for parents to sit back and observe.  There is also a nice waiting area outside of the room if that works better for the client and family.  I will be posting more about my adventures in private practice so stay tuned! Also - be sure to check out the facebook page and like it!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ASHA Leader Blurb

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was mentioned in this month's issue of the ASHA Leader! I've always wanted to be published - now maybe I can cross that off my bucket list. I guess the writers over at ASHA liked my post about the Story Champion Chart.  Thanks to Katie at Playing with Words 365 for hosting me on her popular and exceptional blog and allowing me to get a little recognition.

In my original post, I write all about how I make the chart, but I wasn't able to post the PDFs for it.  So I will go ahead and do that now - all the images were obtained from Microsoft Word and I'm pretty sure they are all on their website so I shouldn't be breaking any copyright laws.....Just click on the words and it will take you to a google doc where you can save or print!

1) Large Symbols (for teaching)
2) Small Symbols (print two - one for each flap on the book)
3) Trophy Image 

Check back soon for more ideas on how to teach narratives!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


One of the reasons I love my job so much is that it is so broad.  Did you know that a speech-language pathologist works not only with speech sounds, but also with following directions, grammar, story-telling, voice disorders, hearing rehabilitation, stuttering, and cognitive skills, such as self-talk, initiation of goals, and attention?  To name a few.  With regards to the latter, my current caseload includes a lot of children with attention deficit disorders, and I have been trying to figure out how to serve them better.  Looking at the Linguisystems website, I found a course called "Attention Disorders" (Clare B Jones, Jill Fahey).  It was free and just what I needed to increase my knowledge with AD/HD and how it affects communication.  I particularly liked it because I could print out the notes, study it on my own time, and take the test whenever I was finished.  PERFECT! It was worth 2 CMH's, which is 1/15th of what I need to do every 3 years - not so bad! Haha!

Here are some highlights from the course:

  1. AD/HD affects approximately 6-8% of school-age children.
  2. 25% of children with AD/HD also have anxiety.  36-38% also have depression.
  3. Individuals with AD/HD have about 5% smaller brain size.
  4. AD/HD is not solely an attention disorder, but an executive functioning disorder.  This means it not only involves attention, but also other areas such as goal selection, planning, organization, persistence, self-regulation, inhibitory control, self-talk, and flexibility.
  5. There are 3 core symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.  
  6. Many children with AD/HD are poor at following directions.  As an SLP, it is critical to distinguish whether the child does not understand the directional concepts (such as left, right, before, next to, between, etc.) OR whether the child has poor language/auditory/working memory.  This will entirely affect how to write a goal and how to address it. If they do not understand the concepts, you need to spend time discussing them separately.  More than likely, if the child has AD/HD, the main problem lies in their ability to hold the information in their memory while they proceed to obey the command.  Thus, an appropriate goal would be to work on auditory memory - not necessarily understanding directional concepts. 
  7. When working with a child with AD/HD, assess and treat the language of thinking, planning, and doing.  
  8. Remember that inattention most frequently undermines spoken language comprehension, working memory, and organization of thoughts for oral expression
  9. Common goal areas that could be appropriate include: repeating sentences, requesting confirmation, restating, using self-talk recognizing social cues, auditory scanning tasks, and visual scanning tasks.
  10. Here's a great article published by the Huffington Post on AD/HD and its effects on communication.