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Older Friends

Language Therapy, Older Friends

Strategies for Unfamiliar Words

So our kids are reading their class book or listening to NPR (that’s what kids do for fun nowadays, right?) and they come across a word or phrase they don’t know.

Do they…
A. panic
B. ignore
C. figure out the new word

Even though we WANT the answer to be C, the reality is they most often choose B.
Sure with us by their side, they can work through these new vocabulary words with thought-provoking followup questions…

but my kids need tools they can whip out in the middle of class or worse…. standardized testing. Furthermore, they need an easy way to remember these strategies.

So here we go. A 2-step strategy for conquering unfamiliar language *WITH HAND SIGNS* (wahoo!) as a memorization strategy. So many of our kids will remember the motor plan or pneumonic given to them before they will remember the strategy itself. When we make it goofy, we make it memorable. Adding multiple modalities (I’m counting cheesiness as a learning modality) will only increase our friends’ success.


Step 1: Think When

Think when you have heard this word or phrase before.
Perhaps you can remember the situation in which you heard it? That may give you insight as to the definition.
Maybe you can think of another word that sounds similar- one you do know the meaning of?


Point to your head, then point to your invisible watch.

(I guess we could also point to our head and then unlock our invisible iPhone? Or we can keep our fingers crossed that watches are still relavent enough that kids have at least seen them in movies.)


Step 2: Try Out

Try out different words in the unknown word or phrase’s place.
Help your kiddo figure out whether the word serves as a noun, verb, or adjective.
Find a possible synonym for the unknown language and try it out!
If it makes sense, you win! If it doesn’t make sense, keep trying out new words.

The good news is even if you didn’t find the exact synonym or meaning, you likely have gotten close.

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Hold your imaginary “puzzle piece” and keep sticking a new piece in your “sentence” until you find the right match.


And there you have it! My kids have had a lot of success with this strategy so far- I hope yours find success too! They can use these gestures and concepts on vocab words, figurative language, and any other ol’ piece of language our kids come across… AND they can do it without you. That is the best part.

Have fun with it!

Articulation Therapy, Generally SpeechyThings, Language Therapy, Little Friends, Older Friends

Let’s Talk Visuals


My biggest takeaway from my internship in a public school was the use and value of visual supports. My supervisor was the visual QUEEN and while I didn’t fully understand why at the time… I certainly do now.

The way I see it, there are two major reasons you should consider using visuals in therapy:

  1. If our kids are language delayed, language may not be their best learning method. For receptively delayed kids, more words mean more confusion, higher frustration, and less success. Providing them with a visual reminder, cue, or explanation may be their key to success in learning skills and handling emotions. For our behavior kiddos, it can mean pointing to a desired action rather than them hearing the word “NO” one more time in their day.
  2. You are building a cueing system. Your option for cueing your kids with minimal visual cues (or better yet- them self-regulating and checking back to their cue independently) is stronger if you START using that cue early on.


Tips on Smart Visual Creation and Storage

Once upon a caseload, I was a young CF with lots of extra time. I took advantage by building my own visual library. I used (and still use) the visuals I collected for picture exchanges, cueing, behavior supports… the works! My biggest recommendations to you as you create your own library are the following:

  1. Invest in binders and tons of velcro (check amazon for better velcro prices!). Velcro strips are excellent for storage purposes on binder pages but velcro dots may be your best friend when it comes time to place velcro on the back of a visual. I have ruined many-a-scissor and wasted many-a-hour from cutting sticky velcro strips.
  2. Pick a system. I chose to have the “scratchy” side of my velcro as the anchor and the “soft” side on the back of visual supports. REGRET! Put the “scratchy” side on your visuals to allow using them on felt boards later on. Learn from my misfortune…. it’s too late for me but save yourselves.
  3. Laminate EVERYTHING and keep it forever. If you are going to spend the time putting all of these visuals together- do it right the first time. If you want to save yourself HOURS AND HOURS of googling you can check out my SLP visual kit (pictured below). You still have to laminate… but you don’t have to google for (did I mention?) HOURS AND HOURS to find cute, high quality, comprehensive images. I did it for you. It took me forever. <3

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Soapbox over. Use your sweet kiddo’s eyeballs like the sponges they are! Our little learners all have different needs and modalities- we don’t talk about that enough in grad school.

I would love to hear about your favorite visual supports. Send me a message or comment!

Best of Luck!



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Articulation Therapy, Most Popular, Older Friends, Products

Teaching Retroflex R

I have so so many R kids on my caseload right now. Which sometimes makes my head feel like jelly and sometimes I secretly enjoy. (keep that between us- I don’t want our schedulers to send me every R kid)


For my sanity, I began to develop a systematic approach to teaching the R. Before you read any further, let me clarify that I am specifically discussing retroflex R in this post but the same principles can be applied to bunched R.
If you are unsure of the types of R (bunched vs. retroflex), you can check out THIS helpful video.

As a part of my quest to conquer the R, I began to develop various visuals and handouts to help my patients, their parents (and me) along the way. I’ve compiled some of these resources in my handy dandy R packet. You will see a few previews from this packet, as well as a few helpful youtube videos, in this post.

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PHASE 1: Make sure your kiddo can HEAR and SEE the difference between a correct and incorrect retroflex R. If a child can’t discriminate auditorily or visually, there is really no point in going further. This step is a must! Many kids will fly right through this.

Phase 2: Teach AR in 3 steps: tongue flat (“ahhh”), curl tongue slowly, close jaw a little bit. To help kids grasp this, go nice and slow, give them lots of modeling, perhaps even bust out the ol’ mirror and flashlight. I also like to use my hands as a cue (either by counting or mimicking what movement my tongue is making). I’ve demonstrated this in yet another video– yay!

Phase 3: Shape AR into ER. First we produce AR using our 3-steps, then we FREEZE on the 3rd step and say ER immediately after. Continue practicing in this progression until the child is comfortable enough to produce ER without an “AR warm-up”. You can check out this helpful video for further explanation. I find once we perfect our AR, the rest typically comes more easily. I want slow, careful, intentional movements. If a kiddo misses a step, I want them to know exactly which one was in error. When children become “their own therapist”, they are better off!

Phase 4: Use ER as our springboard for ALL THE REST! You heard me. If a kiddo can consistently and independently produce ER, then we are well on our way to saying the remaining vocalic R’s (ear, air, ire, or), initial R, and even R blends.The slide show below gives a little glimpse into what I’m talking about here. The general concept is the “er” sound we have been teaching now simple represents R in the remaining forms. For example, each vocalic R turns into a little equation. OH + ER = OR and so on. Start practicing this segmented and slow so the vowel doesn’t distort the lovely retroflex R we have achieved. Smooth it out over time. Same goes for initial R (red becomes “errrrrred”) and try becomes (“terrrrrry”). We can speed things up once the articulators are consistent.


To help teach the oh-so-tricky medial vocalic R, I created a few visual-heavy and tactile resources to help your kiddos out. My Teaching R Packet mentioned above has almost 100 pages of worksheets designed to help overcome every obstacle the R may throw at you.

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I also developed these R puzzles to help tactile and visual learners remember that no matter what R word we’re saying- they can’t get sloppy! If they have R in isolation, they can do it in any word. It’s amazing how much these little things have helped my students.

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Finally, I have some super silly tongue twisters to help with generalization. These contain materials for word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, and structured conversation level practice. These are a great challenge for those older kids still working on R!


To check out these 3 resources in a growing bundle you can click HERE! To check out my whole R category click HERE.

That about sums it up! Keep in mind every kid is different. This method is simply something I have had a ton of success with (as have so many others!). Feel free to take and leave whatever you find useful to your individual students or patients. Be sure to follow Speechy Things on instagram for more therapy ideas as well! My email newsletter might be helpful to you as well (and you will get some freebies!).