The Misconception About Speech Therapy Practice

WhatsApp Image 2017-07-25 at 04.21.04

Many people think that speech therapy needs to be conducted in a clinic or school setting using worksheets and drilling on certain sounds or or to be working in a very structured way – however, that is a total misconception!

While you ABSOLUTELY can address speech goals in a clinic or school setting using worksheets… I find it more beneficial to work on their goals in a more natural format – whether it is for articulation, fluency or language! After establishing the correct posture/positioning of their articulators or breathing strategies, clients (of all ages), are engaged in conversation about things that are interesting to them.

Whether its…

  • a 3 year old who says “look!” and wants to talk about something that caught their eye across the room
  • a 5 year old who wants to talk about Legos or an older child who wants to talk about the new video game they got for their Nintendo
  • a High-school tennis player working on /r/’s, the conversation can revolve around words that relate to that topic!

Ultimately the adult can STEER the conversation in the right direction IN ORDER FOR the goals to be addressed – meaning – the child should not just randomly say things off topic and that be ok – because its important for kids to work on maintaining topic as well.

While establishing correct positioning for the targeted sounds, I think its more beneficial for the child to work on vocabulary that THEY use rather than drilling on worksheets or random words they would not use in their everyday language. If the ultimate goal is CARRYOVER and wanting the child to USE the RIGHT POSTUREfor their sound, doesn’t it make MORE sense to practice words that are in their natural environment at various times throughout the day rather than in a structured setting on non-recognizable words??

So….when asked by your speech therapist to “practice at home” allow it to be addressed in natural conversation, while playing a game, while in the car, over breakfast, while discussing a tv show or while reading a book before bed. The possibilities are truly endless!

There are no “exact parameters’ for practice – yet – some kids do require more structure – but others need to realize that speech is not just sitting in a room or at a table, saying their sounds or answering questions. It’s about the real world and implementing their goals into their daily lives so that they grasp the connection that TALKING IS EVERYWHERE… Kids need to learn that working on and addressing speech goals is a constant thing not just a thing you do when you’re sitting at the table with your therapist for 30 min twice a week. It’s not just at home, it’s not just with their therapist – it’s everywhere – all the time. The more time you put into building your child’s awareness to their goals the quicker they will become SELF-AWARE and apply what they are learning in order to reach their goals faster – no matter what age they are!!!

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • On the phone
  • In the car
  • At the dinner table
  • With friends
  • With family
  • During bath time
  • Reading books
  • Ordering food at a restaurant
  • In the swimming pool
  • At karate practice
  • At the playground
  • In school
  • At home
  • When asking questions
  • When answering the phone
  • When singing a song
  • At grocery store

Bottom line - play is play BUT play is also learning – so why not address speech goals WHILE having fun? Who said it had to be work?

blog photo robyn 3

Is it picky eating or a feeding disorder?

Slikovni rezultat za picky eating

Most children will demonstrate problems with eating at some point during their development. Picky eating is a common occurrence for children as their preferences expand. Most children outgrow this behavior by adolescence. Feeding disorders are more serious than occasional mealtime battles or reluctance to try new foods. A feeding disorder is diagnosed when a child will only eat a limited number of foods and completely avoids entire food groups or textures that are necessary for proper growth and development. It is important to understand the difference between a feeding disorder and an eating disorder. Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, are serious psychological conditions which require treatment from a mental health professional. Feeding disorders may impact a child’s behavior as well as physical, social, and cognitive development. Children with feeding disorders may feel socially isolated, create financial strains for their families, or become so underweight that they begin to have medical problems. Pediatric feeding disorders are estimated to impact 10% of the infants and children in the United States.

Slikovni rezultat za picky eatingFeeding issues can present differently based on age. Newborns may have trouble swallowing due to breathing problems or a weak ability to suck. Older infants may have difficulty transitioning to baby food, table food or drinking from a cup. Toddlers and school-aged children with feeding issues often have extremely limited diets based on texture, often preferring soft foods such as yogurt and applesauce or crunchy foods like crackers and cookies. Typically, their diets do not include healthy items. Fruits and vegetables or protein sources such as chicken, beef, or fish are avoided. Other issues include children who over-stuff their mouth with food in order to trigger a swallow but often end up choking on food or even vomiting. Often mealtimes with these kids can last well beyond the recommended 30-minute window and become unpleasant for the child and the family.

Slikovni rezultat za picky eatingIf you suspect that your infant or child has a feeding disorder, it’s important to have him evaluated by a speech-language pathologist who can diagnose and treat these issues. Friends and family may advise that “he will eat when he’s hungry.” Unfortunately, this is not the case with children who have sensory issues and problems with the mechanics of eating. The Institute of Myofunctional Studies in Roswell, Georgia specializes in the treatment of oral phase dysphagia, a condition that can cause children to limit the types of foods that they will eat. Although children with this condition are often labeled as picky eaters, the problem is more complex than that. These children typically lack the strength and coordination necessary to successfully manage more complex textures of food beyond yogurt, purees, crackers, and other soft or easy-to-chew foods. In conjunction with working on the mechanics of eating, the speech-language pathologists at the Institute of Myofunctional studies create plans for children to safely try new foods and expand their diets to include foods to which they previously had an aversion.

For more information on the evaluation and treatment of pediatric feeding disorders, contact Jennifer Herring, M.Ed., CCC-SLP or Sharon Wexler, M.M.S., CCC-SLP at the Institute of Myofunctional Studies at 770-817-8002 or visit our website at We are conveniently located across from North Fulton Hospital in the Roswell Business Center, 11660 Alpharetta Highway, Suite 520, Roswell, GA 30076.  Follow us on Facebook at The Institute of Myofunctional Studies for updates, more articles and helpful hints!

_I2A8150.CR2, 06APR16 @ 10274900Jennifer Herring, M.Ed., CCC-SLP

Jennifer earner her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the College of Charleston and her Master of Education in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Georgia State University.  She has worked as a speech-language pathologist in public schools, pediatric home health, and private practice.  Jennifer’s expertise includes evaluating and treating individuals with a wide variety of disorders encompassing feeding and swallowing, articulation and phonology, childhood apraxia of speech, dysarthria, social/pragmatic communication, receptive and expressive language, stuttering, and voice issues.  She is certified in the Hanen Centre’s It Takes Two To Talk program and has been trained by the PROMPT Institute.  Jennifer has completed additional training in the topics of pediatric feeding and swallowing, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and picture exchange communication system (PECS).  Licensed by the state of Georgia, Jennifer is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and holds their Certificate of Clinical Competence.  She integrates research-based principles with the creativity required to help her patients reach their full potential.

How to Prevent a Speech Delay 

adorable, blur, bookcase

1. Be familiar with developmental milestones

Be familiar with developmental milestones so that you know when they should be developing certain skills and sounds. It can also act as a guide for you to know what skills are to come and what you can be working on.

2. Correct errors

a. Acknowledge that you understand your child when they talk but correct misarticulations so that they are aware of the RIGHT way to say a word.
b. Don’t allow your child to say “wawa” for water or “baba” for bottle. If that is how THEY say it because they are unable to put the whole (correct) word together, that’s one thing – but always call things by their correct label.
c. What you reinforce will be repeated. In other words, if you do not correct the mispronunciation, your child will never know how to say a word right.

3. Read to your child

a. Reading is key even when your child isn’t talking and able to label pictures.
b. The more your child can sit and engage with a book will be instrumental in developing their attention span and focus.
c. The more you sit and read to your child on a regular basis, the wider their vocabulary will become. Children learn receptively (pointing to pictures named for them) before they are ever able to use words expressively on their own.

4. Engage them in conversation

a. Talk to your child even if it requires you to give them choices to respond to you. Always encourage a vocalization (or a sign if they are non-verbal) to reinforce turn-taking and communicating needs.

5. Pick up on cues

a. If your child is frustrated and grunting to get your attention - PUT A WORD TO IT. Do not allow the “grunt” to be a form of communication. WHAT YOU REWARD (respond to) is what you are REINFORCING. Therefore, if they need help – teach “help” or if they want something, encourage saying “more” or “please” to express themselves. If they pull you to the pantry and point, do not allow them to get what they are pointing to (by pointing alone) – encourage “eat” or “hungry” or saying, “Do you want a cookie?” Then – build on it to encourage a response (not a head nod) but a verbal response.

Developmental milestones and resources are available on the Advantage Speech Therapy Services website

If you feel that your child needs a speech evaluation, call or email to set it up.


blog photo robyn 3

New Speech (*in home*) Therapy Solution Available in Milton, Ga!



  • Has your child been in therapy for years?
  • Has your child had a hard time mastering their pesky sounds?
  • Do you feel that there is no light at the end of the tunnel for mastering misarticulated sounds?
  • Do people misunderstand what your child is saying?
  • Has this affected their self-confidence?
  • Has it affected their school-work?


Look no further – this software program is your answer! Read the article below to learn more about the Complete Speech Program and how MY COMPANY can help your child in the comfort of your OWN home!

The American Speech and Hearing Association reports that roughly 6-8 million Americans have a language impairment. Thanks to a technology now available in Milton, that number may be shrinking. Robyn M. Drothler, M.ED CCC-SLP, a local Speech-Language Pathologist, has been using a new device called a SmartPalate with her clients. Drothler’s practice, Advantage Speech Therapy Services, is the first practice in Milton to introduce this technology.

The SmartPalate is a custom mouthpiece and computer software that displays where a student’s tongue is touching the roof of their mouth during speech. Speech-Language Pathologists, including Drothler, then create custom “tongue targets” for the sound(s) the student is working to develop such as /r/, /l/ or /s/. The visual target allows the student to repeatedly practice the sound simply by matching their tongue with the respective target.


“This program greatly reduces the amount of time a child needs to be in therapy due to the benefit of visual feedback since they get to SEE where they need to put their tongue,” says Drothler. “The Smart Palate Program allows the child to take out the “audio” component (i.e. how THEY hear their sound) and rely on visual feedback to learn the correct placement of their articulators in order to ultimately create a NEW sound that they otherwise could not create on their own.”

smartpalate_navSmartPalate technology, known as electropalatography, was developed by Dr. Samuel Fletcher, an industry recognized audiologist and speech-language pathologist in the mid 1950’s. For decades, the use of the technology was limited to research facilities, primarily with speech students who were deaf or had hearing impairment. In 2010, a system was developed by CompleteSpeech for commercial use and Speech-language Pathologists have continually expanded the use of the technology to students with multiple speech disorders and backgrounds. In multiple cases, children, teens and adults who have struggled in speech therapy for years without significant progress have made immediate sizable improvements in their speech and consequently their self-esteem and confidence.

On the effect speech disorders have on students, Drothler says, “Not being able to say your name, volunteer to answer questions in class, speak with confidence and make new friends can be very daunting for a child. In my experience, this program has given so many kids the confidence they need to speak in all aspects of their life. They typically come to me after years of trying in the school system with traditional therapy. One-on-one therapy with the benefit of this software has been a game-changer.”

Robyn M. Drothler M.ED CCC-SLP is a licensed Private Practice Speech-Language Pathologist in Georgia. She specializes in providing speech therapy services to children with varying disabilities including but not limited to: articulation, developmental delay, fluency, Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and expressive language delay. Ms. Drothler can be reached at 404-784-1252 and/or and is currently accepting new client applications.

03For product information, visit Complete Speech website.

For videos on how the SmartPalate program uses APPs for carryover and home practice and reinforcement of goals check out this link on YouTube:

**This video shows you how the app can work on regular vowels – and it can also help with vocalic /r/ with an in app purchase**.


Roswell, Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton….and surrounding areas.

blog photo robyn 3

Summer Learning Fun


Just because it is summer, doesn’t mean kids should stop learning. Remember learning can be fun – the more creative you are, the more fun it can be! Sometimes they won’t even know they are ‘learning’ in the process! That’s the best kind, right?

Start the summer with a plan – Have each kid make a to do list of what he/she wants to do. This will help generate ideas and interest that your kids have. If your child is too young, have them draw pictures of what they want to do over the summer. Then talk about it (building communication and expressing ideas).

By engaging your child in the various activities below you are working on any # of skills listed below:

  1.  Vocabulary
  2.  Following directions
  3.  Articulation
  4.  Comparing and contrasting
  5.  Listening/understanding
  6.  Being independent
  7.  Making choices
  8.  Expressing wants/needs
  9.  Sequencing
  10.  Story telling/journaling
  11.  Teamwork
  12.  Problem-solving
  13.  Responsibility
  14.  Fluency (when talking with different people in different environments)
  15.  Carryover of skills from therapy sessions!


At home games to play….

  • Make bubbles – follow a recipe to make big bubble fun!
  • Cook a fun meal / dessert - understand measurements and more/less with fractions and serving sizes (good opportunity to teach nutrition! as well)
  • Have a picnic – make a plan, create a list of what you need (walk through the whole experience and write it all down!), follow directions to get it done with teamwork
  • Go to the grocery store and have your child write down the list of items and categorize the items such as “fruit, produce, breakfast foods, snacks, freezer items etc.”.
  • Go to the pool and incorporate learning there with cool water toys – for young kids, work on counting, numbers, colors, following directions. At the pool play a game where they copy each other’s moves in a sequence – works on following directions, recall, and memory!
  • Teach the value of money and have a lemonade stand – Have kids use their OWN money (or discuss borrowing) to get it started – what is needed. (cups, lemonade, ice, containers etc). Earn money in the process and then discuss “paying back” money that was borrowed and what it means to save. Discuss the breakdown of donation/saving/spending.
  • Start a piggy bank and generate ideas on how to make money and save. Count the money at the end of the summer! Discuss values of coins (more/less/equal – i.e. different ways to make the same amount!)
  • Start a garden and work on responsibility and enjoy the fruits of your labor at the end!



If you are on a road trip – make it fun! However, hold back and ease into your ideas/rewards. Don’t flood kids with everything all at once. You want your creativity to last the duration! Address behavior and how items can be earned OR taken away if disagreements or fights ensue.

  • ABC license plate game – look for letters on signs and license plates from A to Z!
  • I spy - work on adjectives, naming objects, and word combinations. You could also talk about actions and articulation of specific sounds while taking turns!
  • Write a letter to a long distance family member or friend. Write on paper!! Nothing better than receiving a handwritten note. Discuss the envelope and Post Office Process.
  • Read a book – write a summary – create a short story with illustrations. If your child is younger, draw pictures to reflect different parts of a story/favorite part and then talk about it.
  • Listen to a book on tape. Pause and ask questions – make predictions.
  • Challenge each other to answering word problems or solve puzzles.
  • Be creative and draw a map of where you are going and what you will do. Make landmarks on the map and create a “key” so others know what is reflected on the map.
  • Start a journal of the trip so you remember what you did each day.
  • Create bingo boards of what you should look for along the way.
  • Bring card games along with you to play that don’t require game pieces.
  • Make your own passport or variation of where you went and what you did.
  • Bring a map and connect dots on where you have stopped and visited.
  • Check out this link (also listed below) for tips/tricks for traveling in the car as well as fun ways to incorporate games and printables that are available for you to add to your collection!

Image 6-8-16 at 9.47 AM

Make sure that home tasks and chores are accomplished before they run to get their screen time in. Take advantage of the weather and encourage them to be outside – ride bikes, climb trees, play games and create memories.

Other resources and links to more suggestions to different activities!

blog photo robyn 3

Pieces of a Puzzle


There are many pieces of a puzzle that are required to make therapy work.

  • Establishing goals – There needs to be a plan in place to know what you want your child to accomplish, where you want their speech development to be in 6 months or a year.
  • Parent <—> therapist communication – There needs to be lines of communication open between a parent and therapist whether face to face or in follow up emails regarding therapy and progress.
  • Schedule – A schedule needs to be established so that there is consistency and a routine for addressing goals.
  • Consistency of sessions and goals – Without the consistency of therapeutic sessions, reinforcement of goals is absent, the communication component is missing, and the ability to make progress becomes slower. Everyone needs to be on board to make therapy work (grandparents, teachers, babysitters, siblings etc – not just parent and therapist)
  • Carryover of goals into everyday life – It needs to be understood that communication exists at all times. When kids are happy, sad, mad, frustrated, excited, on vacation, with friends, with family, on the playground, in bed, while eating a meal, or even taking a bath…it is not something that should be addressed when its convenient. It’s all the time.

The more you can incorporate the goals into every day life and work on the goals in all situations, the more progress you will see, the more involved your kids will be, the more your kids will talk. If you choose to address the goals ONLY when its convenient and on a periodic basis, your child will be confused on what is expected. If only one person (therapist) is reinforcing the goals, then the child isn’t understanding the expectation.

Many times I get asked “Why isn’t my child progressing?”
My response, “Tell me what you are doing at home….”
Usually the answer is that they aren’t working on the goals – they expect the two 30 minute sessions to ‘fix’ their child and that’s incorrect.

The GOAL OF THERAPY is to assist the family in learning what to do to help their child the other 23.5 hours of the day. Parent participation is KEY and VITAL to the results of therapy.

Therefore, the parents need to step back and look at what they are doing as its not all about what the child is/isn’t doing but more about what the parents are doing to help make a difference.


  1. Am I talking too much or not enough?
  2. Am I giving my child time to respond or I am talking FOR them?
  3. Am I taking the time to get my child to TRY?
  4. Am I modeling correct speech?
  5. Am I helping or hindering?
  6. Am I working through the tantrums or am I giving in?
  7. What behavior am I reinforcing?
  8. Am I making it easy or am I giving my child an alternate solution to get what they want?

It’s obvious that doing things FOR your child is easy, but what you reinforce is what your child learns.
Therefore – reinforce TALKING. TRYING. IMITATION. It doesn’t have to be perfect but they need to at least TRY.
If they get what they want by crying and you do not require them to talk/sign to get it, they will not learn to talk/sign to get it. They will continue to cry and it will increase in magnitude each time.


Bottom line – BEHAVIOR IS COMMUNICATION. It will get harder before it gets better. You will be changing the rules and your child will be frustrated. This is a good sign. It means your child is understanding that the rules have changed and there are different requirements to get what they want.

If your child cannot talk – they are misbehaving (crying, screaming, kicking, spitting, hitting, etc. having a tantrum) to get what they want. Speech therapy is working to remedy that.

It requires TEAM WORK. It is not a part time task. It is an all the time – every day – round the clock – every time you need something expectation.

If your child is not in therapy and you need to work on promoting communication and reducing tantrums, give us a call.

blog photo robyn 3


How to choose the right SLP


When your child isn’t meeting the developmental milestones and you think you need to reach out for support – here are some suggestions to determine if the therapist you talk to is right for your child.

Finding a therapist

Call your insurance or do a google search to find a local therapist. (Call your insurance to get an idea on what your coverage is… Recognize that its not simply  “do I have coverage yes/no?” You need to ask about articulation/language/fluency/developmental delay and/or any potential diagnosis they may have.

Decide on where you want therapy to be conducted

  • Decide if you want to go to a clinic or have in home therapy. There are benefits to both – just think about your child and his/her needs. Do they have other therapy that would benefit from being done altogether in a clinic or do you just need speech and ‘in home’ is convenient?
  • Recognize that in home therapy may cost most but could be beneficial to your child to work in your own home and be convenient for your family.

When you call – talk to the therapist about:

  1. What your child is doing.
  2. What you are concerned about.
  3. What prompted the referral.
  4. Ask the therapist if they have experience working with children similar to yours.
  5. Ask if they have certifications/training in certain areas that could benefit your child.
  6. Ask what sets them apart from other people in the area (they may talk about training or in home therapy or a tool/software they use)
  7. Time and location are key to therapy – the more flexible you are, the more options you will have.

NOTE: The therapist is a trained professional that is prepared to help your child. Be open to their suggestions and pay attention to what they do so that you can implement the tools at home. You cannot expect the therapist to do all the work. Observe, watch, engage, participate, learn, ask questions etc in order to best help your child during the off times.

Advantage Speech website is available with resources for you.

Advantage Speech Therapy offers:

  • In home therapy
  • Periscope therapy sessions for parents unavailable for sessions due to work.
  • Emailed copies of notes and video follow ups (as needed to help with home carryover)
  • Social media resources (#AdvantageSpeech) – *fB, twitter, Instagram, Periscope etc. for suggestions and resources/links and helpful tools.

Advantage Speech Therapy also offers:

Any or all of these programs may benefit your child – call for a consultation to determine if ASTS is right for your child!


blog photo robyn 3


Speech Ladder

Learning sounds comes at different ages for different children, but the following developmental milestone chart shows which sounds are achieved by children 90% of the time. That is not to say that children cannot produce certain sounds earlier than the chart suggests. Think of the progression of sounds as a ladder. Kids learn sounds in isolation first, building up to syllables, then words, phrases, sentences, reading and then carryover. First they learn to produce sounds in isolation.




If you are working on more than one sound, they may each be at different levels in the process. (for example, /r/ may be at the isolated of syllable level while /k/ and /g/ may be at the word or phrase level). That’s ok. Different sounds progress at different stages. They also develop at different stages (insert link to speech developmental milestone on website).

Ideas for helping your child learn to say their sounds.

  1. Aim high – try to get them to say the word(s) with their sound in it. If its too hard, break it down to a syllable.If that’s too hard then work on the sound in isolation. Continue to breakdown and then build back up until success is achieved.
  2. Use a mirror to watch how you are using your articulators (lips, tongue, teeth etc) to produce the sound.
  3. Make eye contact and model the sound(s) so they can SEE how to produce them.
  4. Talk them through how to make the sound (example: /t/ uses the tip of your tongue up behind your top teeth, /k/ is made in the back of your mouth/throat, /m/ uses your lips, /f/ requires you to tuck your bottom lip in and put your teeth on your lip – like you’re biting it!) This will help them know what to do beyond just listening and watching to the sound being produced. 
  5. If they need basic practice work on CV and VC syllables with long vowels (example: say, see, sigh, so, sue OR ace, eece, ice, oce, uce). Sometimes a slight space between the Consonant and the Vowel help them transition from one sound to the other.
  6. Really that just because your child can say one word with their sound in it does not mean they can make all words. Different sound combinations and the position of the sound makes all the difference. 
  7. Read books and stop on words that have your child’s sounds in them.
  8. Aim to get 3 solid productions of the sound/syllable/word etc for the motor movement to be reinforced.
  9. ARTICULATION STATION is a great app to work on sounds.
    [*There is a free version with the /p/ sound and all other sounds require in app purchase. If you have multiple sounds the full PRO version may be a better option. You can record and play games while learning your sound with this app.]
  10. If vowels and /r/’s are difficult, VOWEL VIZ is a great app to help reinforce the sound production using the microphone of your phone or iPad.


THE GOAL OF THERAPY is to get to a point of consistent productions in spontaneous conversation in order to move into a maintenance mode in therapy. At this point therapy sessions will be spread out to make sure that the child is able to maintain success over time without consistent weekly therapy sessions.

For children with more difficult speech patterns, Advantage Speech Therapy is a provider of the COMPLETE SPEECH PROGRAM which helps reduce the time in therapy for sounds including (but not limited to) /r/ and /s/. It is a visual software program that requires a palate to be made so that the sensors can allow the child and therapist to visually see where they are producing their tongue to assist them in making the necessary productions. They have also recently come out with Target Palates which are specific to each sound but mobile (i.e. they do not require you to hook up to a computer). 

ASTS has also recently earned PROMPT training February 2016.


blog photo robyn 3




Now that the holidays have come and gone and you have received new technology, here is an updated version of my list of favorite apps. It’s important to note that if an app is more RECEPTIVE in nature, you can work WITH your child to pull out EXPRESSIVE components of the app. Make them talk, speak their answers, count out loud, repeat answers….this would allow you to work on BOTH articulation and language related goals (i.e. answering questions, labeling pictures, putting words together, following directions etc while also practicing their weak sounds.)
Enjoy the list and feel free to email me if you would like to have YOUR favorite app added to the list!!




01Articulation station (Little Bee Speech)

*Worth buying the whole set if you have a child that needs to work on more than just a few sounds. *good variety of words, matching game/repetition, sentences, recording, email option to send to parents for carryover. Collects data as well.


Helps your child to produce common CV syllables such as ‘boo’, ‘key’, ‘2’, ‘me’ etc which carries over to saying ‘words’. you can start with CV then build up to CV+CV and ultimately CVCVCV combinations.


*Works well with the complete speech program to help your child learn to produce the different vocalic /r/ variations. It works with your microphone on the ipad.


Allows you to customize for specific sounds and build from words to phrases etc with your target sound.


Makes practicing speech sounds fun with silly sentence combinations


Allows for multiple players and you can customize goals and track progress. you can email parents the results. the child gets to play fun games while practicing at the word, phrase, or sentence level.

VAST-Autism 1 (core) (SPEAK IN MOTION)

This app allows kids to see how sounds are made by just looking at the mouth. You can  work on saying sounds/syllables in a playlist or create one of your own. They also have a built in mirror so you can watch yourself. There are many other apps in this “vast” series.


This is a board game in which you move around the board while working individually or in a group while addressing your own individual goals. You can take data durin gthis app as well.




This is an app that works on occupation vocabulary in that you have to match the firefighter’s hat to his shirt to his pants. Then you can play a game to associate different items to that person. You can also be quizzed.


This app requires you to think of what doesn’t belong in the group and to be able to talk about it. Based off of the fun deck series by superduper publications.


This app gives you a category and you have to name the items in that category. Based off of the fun deck series by superduper publications.


This app gives you two choices of tenses for the verb being targeted and the child has to determine which one is the past tense. Data is collected – 1 child at a time. Based off of the fun deck series by superduper publications.




An action causes a reaction – nothing comes for free. Make your kids say/do something to get what they want. Knowing what they want is half the battle – so take “that” and MAKE them say it. If you don’t know what it is, allow them to ‘show’ you but once you get there – say, “oh you wanted a cookie? tell Mommy “cookie””. Make them say it so that when the situation arises again, they will be able to know what to say.

Behavior IS communication so when your child is misbehaving, that is how they are communicating. So you need to address the behavior with signs and other forms of communication to assist them in not getting so frustrated. The goal is to understand what they are trying to communicate and help them elicit a more appropriate way to ‘ask’. Additionally, just because your child isn’t ‘talking’ doesn’t mean your child isn’t communicating with you. Pay attention and you’ll learn that there is so much being ‘said’ non-verbally or through body language or through facial expressions or just through pointing/gesturing. The key will be to pair meaning to those expressions so the child has a more functional way to talk/communicate.

Carryover is key for home reinforcement. Your therapist cannot do all the work in 2 thirty minute sessions a week. You need to talk/discuss/read the notes from the therapy sessions and do those things with your child at home. Reinforce what they are working on.

Don’t lose sight of your child’s strengths just because of their weaknesses. Use the strengths to build and guide the weaknesses. Use what you know they CAN do to help with things they struggle with. Encourage them and provide rewards so that it doesn’t get frustrating due to the difficult nature of the task.

Engage in a dialog with your child about what they are doing. Ask open-ended questions and not just yes/no questions if they are able to. Give choices to help elicit conversation or provide leading phrases to help them know what to say.. Encourage eye contact as that is key to conversation.

Nothing comes for FREE. Play dumb. MAKE your child talk/engage to express what they want – help them by offering choices but MAKE them talk. Don’t just give them what they want because you know – make them say it because you know!!!

Gestures – do NOT rely on gestures for a child to communicate. Knowing what your child wants is the hardest part. Make them say it/approximate it/sign if they have to, but pointing and grunting are not ok. If you allow them to get what they want by pointing and grunting then THAT is what they will do in the future to get what they want because that was the “condition” you gave it to them under.

Allow others to help. Don’t over-burden yourself. Mother’s Morning Out (MMO) programs or play groups are very functional and useful and can take some of the daily burden off you – your child needs to be with other kids and engaging them in a play group will be good for you as well.  It can give you a time to connect with other parents with similar situations and you can learn from each other.

Include your child even when it may take more time and require you to slow down. Working with your child on every-day tasks will pay off in the long run. Don’t take the easy way out and do it for them. That’s not helping them learn.

Joint attention – shifting attention from ‘what’ they are playing with to ‘who’ they are playing with. This is key in developing language and communication skills. We want to see joint attention during play activities.

The key to progress and reaching goals is consistency!! Put the effort in as you reap what you sow. The benefits that you get when you invest time with your child’s learning is priceless.

Many times I will let the child THINK they are taking the LEAD but in actuality I am steering them with choices. However, other times, just go where your child takes you and incorporate choices, vocabulary, imitation, requesting etc in those activities.

Find what motivates your child and use it to your benefit. Use snack time or your child’s favorite video to help them EARN it. Kids should be earning TV or iPad time. You could say that x number of minutes of speech HW earns them x number of minutes on the iPad. You can use snacks to help your child work on articulation. Each kid is different and each kid will require different motivation. Some will require a 1-1 correspondence of reinforcement during set activities while others may be able to work for a few minutes before needing a reward/reinforcement.

Narrate what your child is doing to help give them the words that they need while playing. They very well may understand receptively but expressively is much harder. So the more you talk and engage and show them/model the words needed, the more they will learn to use those words appropriately.

Use others to help you. Brothers and sisters are useful assistants. Make sure they understand what is needed to help your child so that they can hold them to the same standard. Many times siblings become the ‘mini me’ when I leave after therapy. It helps with carryover. Grandparents and other caregivers need to know the expectations you have with your child so that they don’t hand things over for free and that they have same requirements for your child.

Use PECSpicture exchange communication system to help your child functionally interact. This is a vital option if your child is non-verbal and needs a way to communicate. Take pictures of what your child plays with, what they play with, what they eat, where they go. Print pictures in a 3×3 size and laminate (doesn’t need to be 4×6). Create a board on a wall with the pictures divided up into categories (food, toys, places etc) and then your child can take a picture and exchange it for what they want. [This is the nuts and bolts explanation but your therapist can assist you in creating and using this system.]

Questions – ask your child questions. Depending on their level, start out open-ended and then provide choices if need be. Get your child thinking on their own. Use picture stimuli to help with naming.

Real progress can be seen by engaging in a sing-a-long… whether its ABCs or Wheels on the Bus. ABC puzzles are great for learning vocabulary, manipulating pieces, asking for ‘more’, taking turns, following directions, listening for descriptions to locate a given piece….Additionally, saying the abcs allows you to hear how your child’s articulation is forming. When you sing songs leave off words – have your child fill it in. This way they can anticipate what is coming. Use repetitive rhymes…..Brown Bear Brown Bear or Old MacDonald or B-I-N-G-O!

Sign language elicits communication – learn a few key signs (more, please, help, hurt, drink, eat, all done etc) for basic communication but pair with a verbalization to help them understand that the ‘purpose’ is to talk with our mouths. Eventually you will withdraw the sign and encourage the vocalization on its own.

Turn-taking is important for kids to learn for obvious reasons. They need to learn that a conversation is two-sided and that you ask questions and wait for answers or provide information. There are many goals of communication that require interaction and if you interrupt and don’t pay attention to what the other person is saying then it becomes difficult to communicate and understand the other person. Make good eye contact and follow social cues.

Understand how important follow through is. If you don’t follow through on what you say then you are teaching your child that your words don’t have meaning. Be strong and don’t give in or else you will be teaching them that when you say “no” they can still get it if they have a tantrum.

Use video and pictures to help your child see what a great job they are doing. Many times kids will talk again and again when they see themselves on video. It reinforces the skill/word etc. They want to see themselves so use the opportunity. Take videos of others doing something you want your child to learn to do (wave/say hi or bye) so by watching the video of a familiar face they may engage and connect with it more.

Welcome – work on greetings and welcoming people. Work on waving and saying hi/bye. There are so many times in a given day when this can be incorporated so its up to you to maximize the opportunities.

Examine yourself. Are you giving things away for free? Are you making it easy on yourself by handing things over and not MAKING your child talk? Think about the end goal. Do you want your child relying on you every step of the way? Or do you want your child to be an independent thinker? Your actions and choices impact that end goal.

You always have two choices. Two choices with behavior or two choices with answering a yes/no question. Its not black and white – its not clear cut. But you and your child both have two choices on how to handle things. Talk them through it by reminding them of the choices – if they do “this” then they get “that” – or if they DO NOT do “this” then they do NOT get “that”. Keep it simple

Exaggerate your responses!! Emphasize what you want to say. Be animated!! The more fun and energetic you are the more tuned in your kids will be!




Other thoughts…

  • Praise success…don’t always focus on what they are NOT doing – focus on what they are doing RIGHT.
  • You have to MAKE a change to SEE a change. “Insanity” is defined by doing the same things over and over again yet expecting different results.
  • Echolalia – interject before they respond to your questions (so they don’t repeat the question) by providing them with a leading phrase to show them HOW to respond. Echolalia is a child’s way of trying to respond but now knowing how. *Kids will answer questions when they understand what is being asked of them and will echo when they don’t.
  • When playing games on the iPad that are more receptive based, for example, pull the iPad away (momentarily) to get your child to say a word/repeat/ask for something. You want them to learn to label – not just ‘understand’ and that is the difference between receptive and expressive games. Sit next to them and play WITH them.


blog photo robyn 2