Expressive Language

Hands-On Learning Games: Improve Your Child’s Expressive Language Skills

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expressive language skills

Hands-on learning games are a great way of helping your child build his expressive language skills. Being able to express one's self is a crucial skill that affects every aspect of your child's life. Not being able to explain himself, persuade his listeners, or simply share a funny event because he has an expressive language disorder can seriously impact your child 's self-esteem.

Imagine being unable to explain why you had a bad day in class, or why you want to go to a friend's house. Or, what if you wanted to convince your sister to let you borrow her bike, but you didn't have the words you needed to persuade her?

You may find your child is easily frustrated, since he can't use language effectively. He might resort to hitting, kicking, or even biting when he doesn't get his way, because he cannot use language to help him solve conflicts with others.

The best way to help your child is to give her plenty of opportunities to play with language, in a fun, engaging activity that doesn't pressure her to produce. This hands-on learning game is perfect as it allows your child to strengthen her language in a totally naturally way, and even lets her use visuals to help get her point across.

In order to play this game, you will need to take a trip first with your child to a fun place. During the trip, make sure to take separate pictures of  everyone who goes with you on the trip. You should also take pictures of all the main events. For example, if you go to an amusement park, take a picture of each ride and game that your child plays.

You should also take pictures of your child as they leave the house to go on the trip. If you plan to travel by car, take a picture of your child sitting in the car. You will use all of these pictures to act as cues to help your child tell a story about his trip.


Card stock (to print out the pictures on)

Regular size photo album (to store the pictures in a story format)

How to Play:

  1. You're going to make a story of your child's trip using the pictures you took. First, organize the pictures in the order in which they occurred. You can separate the pictures according to the different events that took place during the trip.
  2. Your child should sit on the floor or at a large table with plenty of space to move the pictures around. Point to a picture of your child, and ask, "Who's this?" in a playful manner.
  3. Place that picture to your child's left.
  4. Now take an event picture, and place it to the right of the first picture. You have now created a sentence, only with pictures instead of words.
  5. Say to your child, "This is - (your child should say his name, or "me ," if he is able to.) Next point to the event picture, and ask your child to name it.
  6. Lastly, your child should put the two together : "I rode on the merry-go-round."
  7. Underneath the merry-go round picture place another event picture. Point to the picture of your child, prompting him to say, "I rode in the  bumper cars."
  8. Continue with the rest of the pictures.

Tip: You can make this game harder by letting your child sequence all the pictures himself. Instead of telling you the story bit-by bit with in sentence form, he should first arrange the pictures in story form, and then tell the entire story using his own words.

Don't forget to reward your child at the end of your learning session! It need not be a large reward, but it should be something that is enticing to your child. It could be a treat, or it could be being allowed to stay up a half-hour past bedtime, or going to a park you don't usually visit.


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Parenting children

Parenting Solutions: Bribing vs. Rewards: How Are They Different?

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Rewards are a common form of reinforcing your child's behavior. Some parents, however, resist rewards, arguing that they feel too much like bribery. "Why should I give my kid a prize for behaving how he's supposed to act anyway?" some parents complain.

The truth is that bribery and rewards are similar: both involve a promise of compensation to your child in exchange for good behavior. However, there is one fundamental difference that is key, and that is when the compensation is promised.

Let's say you're trying to get your 8 year old to settle down and go to sleep. He has been delaying for the last hour and a half with drinks, bathroom stops, and a sudden desire to share new information with you. Finally, fed up, you promise him a chocolate bar with his lunch if he goes to sleep within the next few minutes.

He happily agrees- and you've just bribed your 8 year old. Why is this? Look at what prompted the offer of compensation: was it his good behavior, or his unacceptable behavior? In this case, the reason you decided to offer him a chocolate behavior was to stop his bad behavior.

On the other hand, let's say you sat down with your child and discussed the problem of late bedtimes. After discussing possible causes, and each side giving suggestions on how to solve the problem, you chose a chocolate bar as one of the rewards for going to sleep on time. That night, when your 8 year old chooses to go to sleep on time, he is being rewarded for his good behavior. The reward was a planned response to a desired behavior.

To put it simply: bribes are promised while you're child is acting out, while rewards are promised before the behavior occurs. If you think about it, there isn't really anything so terrible about this. Could you picture yourself turning down your paycheck on payday, explaining to your boss that just being able to help other people is reward enough?

Rewarding children for acceptable behavior can help children muster up the necessary motivation to tackle an otherwise difficult or unpleasant task. As parents we hope that in the long run, our children will eventually see the value of whatever it is we want from them.

What do you think? Do you use rewards in your house? And what for? Do you use rewards as a short-term motivator, or do you use them on a more consistent basis? Leave a comment; I'd love to hear what you think!

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Listening games

Hands-on Learning Games: Help Your Child Be A Better Listener

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This hands-on learning game is great for improving your child's auditory processing skills. Children who have auditory processing issues need to first learn to pay attention to what they hear before they try to improve their auditory memory or sequencing skills.

This game is fun, and uses the natural medium of language to improve listening skills. Give your child a treat by making a treasure hunt where they find a small treat or toy hidden in the house, and you will add to the fun and indirectly improve their sequencing skills. You can also choose to reward your child with a small treat after every three correct answers; a chocolate chip, raisin, or other small treat is fine.

I have found that not only do kids beg me to "play" with them, but their brothers and sisters also demand a turn!

Choose a song:

Your child will listen to a song and follow along as it is sung, using pictures as an aid. The song you choose will depend on the age of your child and the severity of his auditory processing issues. For children ages 4-6 the best types of songs are traditional nursery rhymes. You can also try popular children's artists such as Raffi.

For children 6 and up,singers such as John Lithgow and Hap Palmer are good choices: the songs consist of more than one sentence, offer a refrain, are interesting, and have catchy tunes.Teenagers and adults can use folk tunes, or any other song, as long as there is some sort of story being told;one-liners don't offer any complexity.

Create a presentation:

Next, you will create pictures to go with the song. These pictures will help your child "hear" what is in the song, since they offer visual support (their strength) to an auditory activity (their weakness). You will need to make pictures of all the nouns; in later songs you can add verbs. There is no need to add the words.


The first time you play a song, help your child follow along by pointing to the words as the song is sung. This helps the child to become more familiar with the song.

After that, your child can follow along on his own. If it is too hard, you can stop the song after each pictiure. In this case you'd be using a really easy song with a slow pace and not more than 4-6 different pictures.

You can also sing along with the song, emphasizing the nouns (and verbs, if applicable), or help a younger child by gently holding their hand and pointing together.

You'd be surprised how hard this is for many children, however they will enjoy it as long as you make sure that they are at least 80% successful.

You need to work with your child at least 3 times a week for about a half hour. In the beginning it may be less, until your child gets the hang of it. You will begin to see better listening skills after about 2-3 weeks.


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Parenting children

Parenting Solutions: Self-Esteem and the Learning Disabled Child

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One of the most important issues that parents worry about is maintaining their child's self-esteem. If your are the parent of a child with learning disabilities, then your worry is compounded by the knowledge of the very real challenges your child faces every day.

Whether you look in a parenting magazine, an online forum, or read the newspaper, it seems that everyone is worrying about making sure their children have high self-esteem. Interestingly enough, however, high self-esteem seems to be a relatively modern phenomenon: there seems to be little reference to it in the popular literature as recently as pre-World War II.

Why is this? Were parents less concerned about their offspring than they are now? Some would argue that "in those days" families were so busy surviving, they didn't have time to worry about the items higher up on Maslow's hierarchy. After all, if you're not sure whether you'll be able to feed your children, your'e unlikely to spend precious time (or money) on making sure they feel good about themselves.

However, even if you look at the more well-to-do classes, there is still very little mention of making sure the progeny felt good about themselves. Correspondence, advertisements, and popular literature still show a paucity of references to self-esteem. Parents wanted their children to be happy, healthy, and to be able to provide for themselves. They expressed concern over passing valuable family traditions on to the next generation. But feeling good about themselves seems not to have been an issue.

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from this. The post-World War II generation was the start of a time period where the structure and function of each family member changed radically.

For many families, fathers became the breadwinners. Women stayed mostly at home, raising their families. Children, whose bread-winning capabilities were no longer relied upon, were finally allowed to be children: they had time to play, read, pursue hobbies. School became accepted as a way of improving one's self; it was the gateway to prosperity and a better life.

Suddenly even the average person had "leisure time," and enterprising businessmen rushed in to fill this heretofore unknown need. Perhaps it was then the pursuit of happiness changed from being a dream to an expectation. Even more importantly, happiness changed from being something you achieved on your own, through worthwhile accomplishments, to something others gave you.

This is what is at the root of all of our troubles with self-esteem today. We say we want our children to be happy: to feel good about themselves, to be happy with who they are and what they can do. But if they must look to others to fulfill this for them, then they will never truly be happy. Not only will they want more "happiness," but they will feel entitled to it.

Furthermore, we confuse happiness with other more appropriate terms such as "joy" or "satisfaction" or even "fulfillment." These are things that the most endowed webkinz site cannot give our children. Hard work, giving back to others, sacrificing for the good of a cause outside of themselves-these are difficult feats that cannot be bought at your local mall.

However, it is precisely these opportunities that our children need to have  in order to have high self-esteem. If we can allow our children these opportunities, they will learn they can make a difference in the world, despite their various "handicaps." A report card full of low grades, a teacher's sarcastic words- all of these will pale eventually in comparison to the good they know they can give back to the world.

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Colors, Shapes, and Size

Hands-on Learning Games: Using Litter to Teach Your Child Colors

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This is probably one of the more unusual hands-on learning games that you'll find, but I guarantee you it works.

My husband and I are fostering two little girls, ages 5 and 3  1/2. They have been with us for nearly nine months. When they came to us, they suffered from some serious delays, so we went to work pronto on using every minute of our time to teach them, particularly the older one.

I find that the best way to teach kids with disabilities is to think of every minute as a learning opportunity. Initially it seems hard, but once you get into the habit of it, it will get easier and you will definitely get unbelievable results.

I used the vast amounts of street litter and daily walks- to the store, to visit a friend, order to learn colors. How? First I chose a color to focus on. We started with her favorite color, purple. I knew it was her favorite color because she always pointed to and requested items that were that color. Also, when I would ask her what color something was, she would always say,"purple," whether or not it actually was.

Each time I saw a purple ice-pop wrapper, potato chip bag, or any other purple object, I would point it out to her. She then ran to it and stomped on the item. If it wasn't stompable, we just touched it. When I saw that she mastered that color, we went on to a new color.

For this to work  well you need to stay with one color until your child knows it absolutely cold. Then, when you go onto a new color, add on the new color as well. However, don't focus on more than two colors (one old and one new) at a time, because it takes away your focus.

Not only did she learn primary and secondary colors, she also learned "light" and "dark" as well as a few names such as turquoise and silver- all within about six weeks. I think that's pretty good for a 15 minute activity that requires no advance preparation!

A side benefit: her younger sister and brother (age 2 1/2) got so used to this game, that even after she no longer needed it, they insisted on carrying on the game! They were so determined to play, that I had to carry on the game with them as well.

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School Tips

School Tips: Help Your ADHD Child Organize Her Backpack

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The first day of school is on the horizon. How about a few school tips to make those first days go a little bit easier? One of the most challenging things about school is helping your child keep his bookbag organized. Here are several parent and child tested tips for helping your ADHD child:

1. Color-code. Tired of hearing your child say, "I can't find my science notebook and I looked all over for it!" followed by a half-hour dig through the wilds of your child's backpack? Try using color to help your child stay organized. Every notebook, folder, workbook, or textbook that pertains to a particular subject should be the same color.

For textbooks and workbooks, you can use contact paper, plain wrapping paper, or large colored stickers (depending on your child's preference and school rules). When you or your child's teacher tell her to take out her science homework, she has a visual clue that will help her find what she needs easily and quickly.

2. Take only what you need. Some children have a tendency to take everything they own to school. This means they will drag along with them the entire pack of pencils, four erasers, eight pens, three sharpeners... I think you get the idea.

A better idea is to allow your child to take the minimum: two pencils, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, and two pens are usually sufficient. Include markers and crayons if they need them. Store the overflow in a marked box out of eyesight, which discourages raiding when someone can't find that elusive eraser.

3. Create a homework caddy. How many times has your child left their pencil case at home, because they forgot to put it back in their backpack after they finished their homework, or borrowed a pen to write down a friend's phone number?

Instead, use a caddy (a plastic basket or cardboard box are also fine) to store all the supplies your child might need, such as a ruler, a compass, a protractor, colored pencils, markers ,etc. When your child does his homework, he leaves his pencil case in his backpack, and uses the caddy instead. The caddy should not be stored in his room; it should be kept in whatever room your child does his homework, and can be available to anyone who does their homework in that room.

4. Teach your child to use a homework planner/calendar. Being organized in school include knowing how to organize your time. There are many different types of homework planners on the market, so you should easily be able to find one that suits both you and your child's needs.

You will need to train your child to use it, initially. Start out by helping your child fill out a school schedule. Color-code each subject. Then, every night when she prepares her bag for the next day, she simply looks at her schedule, and sees, for example, geography (green). She then makes sure that anything with a green wrapper or label ends up in her bookbag.

If you want to get even more organized, you can put a little number in parenthesis next to each subject; this number will indicate the number of materials that correspond to that subject. So if geography includes a notebook, a textbook, a workbook, and a handout folder, she will put the number four in parenthesis next to the word geography in her planner.

Next, you will have to help your child get into the habit of using the planner properly. Don’t try to do everything at once. Teach her a little bit each day. When you have taught her everything (and you will probably have to make a list in order to make sure you don’t forget anything), then you can slowly hand over the reins.

Plan to spread out the process over a month, since it takes about 30 days to develop a habit. In the first week, you will teach her how to use the planner, and you will supervise her while she uses it. This is full supervision, meaning she fills in the blanks or checks off work completed, but you stand next to her while she does it.

Don’t try to take short cuts, and don’t try to supervise while cleaning the room or doing the dishes, because then the following conversation will take place: “Why didn’t you finish the second half of your homework? What do you mean you forgot? Didn’t you write it in your planner? But I told you to write it in!”

During the second and third weeks you will gradually decrease the amount of assistance you give your child. You will do this from back to front, meaning the last steps you undertake when preparing with the planner will be the first ones you hand over to your child.

For example, if there are 6 steps involved in using the planner, days 1 and 2 your child will do step 6 unassisted. Days 3 and 4 he will do steps 5 and 6 on his own. Days 5 and 6 he will do steps 4, 5, and 6 on his own, and so on.

5. Set a regular weekly time to help your child de-clutter his bookbag. It may be tempting to schedule a cleaning on a Sunday night, in preparation for the upcoming week. However, this leaves open the possibility of “homework surprises,” - when your child suddenly realizes they have a big test or major paper due the next day.

This should happen less frequently if using the above methods, but unless you’ve implemented a system that insures your child knows he is responsible for getting all his homework in his planner (be on the lookout for a future post!) then it could still happen more often than you would like.

A better choice would be to set a time for the beginning of the weekend. That way if any surprises are awaiting you, they can be dealt with at the beginning of the weekend, instead of at the end. And of course, this also encourages your child to make sure everything is taken care of, since they know that otherwise they will have to spend their free time completing all that work.

Think of this time as a little bit of private time with your child. Avoid recriminations, and just focus on getting the job done pleasantly. Put some music on, set out a plate of healthy snacks. After all, if you have to do the job anyway, why not have fun while you’re at it?

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Autism-Learning: What comes first, the artist or the autist?

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I came across a captivating series of artwork by artists with autism today: It made me think of how we view talented people with disabilities. Is their talent a consequence of their disability, or is it completely separate? In this display of artwork, the intention was for the artists to express through pictures how they felt about their world, but on second thought, isn't that what all artists do?

I suppose that any form of art is really about self-expression, but I wonder if it is a form of discrimination to say that these artists'  unique abilities are attributable to their disabilities. Just imagine how a critical review of Van Gogh's work would read today, "... a fascinating insight into the mind of the emotionally disabled...prodigious output despite his significant handicaps (missing an ear and all).." And of course Van Gogh is just the beginning; what about Mozart, DeNerval, Einstein, or Bohr?

In fact I think you could safely say that most of the  truly brilliant people who have given us so much could probably qualify for SSI nowadays. Perhaps it's a non-issue to many, but I'm thinking it's a subtle form of discrimination, kind of like saying, "Yes, it's amazing the work he's done, considering his's truly laudable how he was able to rise above his ghetto/immigrant/broken family background." Think about it. We would never tolerate anyone saying this, so why do we allow people to do this with the special needs population?"

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