Tag Archives: modelling

My favourite therapy prop: a 20 year old toy dog

dressing up dog

Last week was Speech Pathology Australia Week & talk on twitter turned to favourite toys for therapy. I love toys that can be used to work on several different targets. Meet Dog, he’s one of my favourites because he’s so versatile, and the children love him! Wikipedia tells me that Pound Puppies were sold in the 1980s, I think I was given mine for Chanukah when I was 8 or 9 years old. Who knew he’d be starring in therapy sessions more than 20 years later!

I’ve recently been dressing up Dog to work on the verb: wearing. Here’s what a therapy session might look like.

When I teach a new word, I begin by modelling it a lot in different contexts. The child and I take turns choosing items for Dog to wear, and I comment: “wow, Dog is wearing glasses. I’m wearing glasses and Dog is wearing glasses.”

Accessorising ourselves


Then we start putting on funny accessories ourselves and I keep modelling the target word: “You’re wearing goggles, you’re ready for a swim.” “I’m wearing a monkey hat, it’s warm!” Children learn by doing; in this activity they’re wearing different things, while I model the word. It’s also fun to take photos of the child wearing different accessories, and talk about what they’re wearing in each photo.

Dressing paper dolls


Next we try a paper based activity, like this doll game. We dress the dolls (while I keep modelling the target word) and then I’ll try to cue the child in to using the word himself. I’ll say something like: “My doll is wearing a yellow dress and boots, your doll is…?”

There’s an app for that

DSC_9972I found this free iPad app, which is good to end on. The child selects clothes and shoes for the doll – it’s another fun opportunity for more modelling and perhaps the child will be ready to use the word himself.

Tip: children want to keep trying different clothes on the doll. So when it’s time to talk about what she is wearing, I take a photo of the outfit and switch to the photo app. Then the child can’t change the clothes anymore and can focus on describing what she’s wearing!

Practise at home

I give the parents the paper dolls to take home, encourage them to practise the other activities as well, and remind them to talk about what they’re wearing throughout the day.

If your child is struggling to learn new words and you’d like an assessment or advice, get in touch.

Use simple language when your child starts nursery



Here in the UK we’re about halfway through our school summer break. Which means in two or three weeks time children all over the country will start nursery for the first time. I did a  quick google search and found hundreds of ‘how to prepare your child for nursery’ posts. I thought I’d add a couple of points from a communication perspective.

Use simple language during the settling in period

When your child experiences strong emotions, they may not be able to use the language skills they have when they’re calm. I’ll give you a couple of examples.

If your son usually understands well and can follow complicated, multi-step directions he won’t be able to use this skills when crying hysterically that you’re leaving. Use very short simple sentences to support his understanding, you could try something like:

“I’m going to work.”

“You’re staying here, at nursery.”

“You’re playing with (key worker / friend.)”

“I’ll come back after story time.”

The same inability to access skills can happen with talking. Your daughter might normally use multiple phrases joined together with conjunctions to make requests, but if she’s incredibly shy or feeling anxious she won’t be able to tap into this skill. Try not to assume she’ll ask for what she needs in the first few days at a new setting. Be sure nursery staff regularly talk about things she’ll need to know, for example, the location of the toilets, and where to hang her coat.

Learning English at nursery

If you have been speaking a language other than English to your child at home, it is normal for them to experience a ‘silent period’ when they start in an English speaking setting. Your child will be listening carefully to what people are saying and may not say anything themselves for several months. Nursery staff will know how to support your child by using very simple language with gestures. Staff may include them in small group work to develop their confidence and know not to pressure them to respond verbally.

After spending time listening, children tend to begin talking by using words they have heard other people use a lot (sometimes “sit down!” or “be quiet!”) They then gradually begin to build their own phrases and sentences.

Remember to keep speaking your home language at home, so your child doesn’t forget it! If your child is learning English at nursery and after 3 – 4 months of daily attendance is still silent it may be worth asking a speech and language therapist for advice.

Today at work I made phone calls and ate sandwiches for lunch

Parents often tell me they’re frustrated that their child doesn’t talk about what they did at nursery. I remind parents that “what did you do at nursery today?” is a huge, open question, normally asked at the end of the day when a child is likely to be tired. You may have more luck finding out what your child got up to, by talking about your day first, as a model:

Adult: “When I got to work, I took my coat off and made a cup of tea.” (expectant pause!)

Child: “At nursery, I hanged my coat up, and do a painting with Mary”

Try it!

Photo by emmacraig1

Having a go when it might go wrong: what I learned from communicating on holiday


I’m on holiday in Tunisia! Travelling is a wonderful adventure, the food, architecture and landscape are exotic and exciting. Communication can be a challenge; although I’m a Speech and Language Therapist I’m not a natural linguist. My high school French is rusty and my Arabic skills stretch to hello & thank you, here in Tunisia I’m trying a total communication approach!

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