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What's in a Game?

Posted on 16 August, 2016 at 18:15 Comments comments (1141)

You play games with your child simply for the fun and enjoyment of it right? Well, that doesn’t have to be their sole purpose. Many of the games you already play with your child can be slightly adapted to develop language, speech and communication skills as well!

Whatever game you do play, it will always involve turn taking. This is an important social skill that children are expected to develop around school age. This skill is crucial for your child to form friendships and cooperate with others. Make sure to talk to your child about the importance of taking turns when playing a game, and praise them when they display it.

Below are some ideas for games you can set up for your child.


Twister is an interactive way to develop your child’s vocabulary, including colours, right/left, body parts (e.g. hand, foot) and prepositions (e.g. below, above). It is also a fun way to have your child practise following instructions, which is important for preschool and school.

Backwards naming

Choosing words and challenging your child to say them backwards is a fun way to develop their pre-literacy skills. This requires them to have a representation of the word in their mind, and then manipulate and re-order the sounds in the word.

Guess Who

Guess Who is another fantastic game for developing vocabulary, including adjectives associated with; colour (e.g. brown), body parts (e.g. head), objects (e.g. glasses), shape (e.g. long) and size (e.g. small). Guess Who also gives your child the opportunity to practise asking questions, which is an important grammatical form for children to develop in order to clarify their understanding e.g. “What are we having for lunch?”. It is also important for social situations, as part of being able to maintain a conversation e.g. “What did you do at the zoo?”. Your child’s problem solving skills will also be developed, as they have to narrow their questions to identify your selected character.

Tongue twisters

You can find many examples of tongue twisters online. Some examples include; ‘She sells sea shells by the sea shore” and “Peter picked a pair of pickled peppers” As the name implies, tongue twisters are a fun and comical way to strengthen your child’s tongue muscles for speech.


Puzzles are great for developing what is called “executive function” (higher level cognitive skills such as visuo-spatial skills and organisation). When making a puzzle together, encourage your child to use prepositions e.g. “Does that piece go below that one?” and counting e.g. “That was our fourth piece”.

Eye spy

Playing eye spy will develop your child’s pre-literacy skills, in particular letter knowledge, by challenging them to identify the first letter of a word they are thinking of.

Memory card game

A memory card game is an effective way to develop your child’s short term memory skills, through having to remember where certain cards were placed. If a child is trying to decide on the second card to pick up, have them use prepositions to describe where they think the matching card is e.g. “I think it is 2 cards below this card”. When you pick up a card, use it as an opportunity to encourage your child to describe the picture, and use their descriptive vocabulary.

Rhyming game

Pick an easy word to rhyme and say words that rhyme with it, back and forth to each other e.g. cat-mat-bat-hat etc. The challenge is to see who can make the most rhyming words. Rhyme is an important pre-cursor for reading and writing.

Memory string

Begin the game by saying “On the weekend I bought a… e.g. hat”. Your child then has to add an object- “On the weekend I bought a hat and a… e.g. ball”. You then go back and forth, adding more and more objects. The aim of the game is to try and remember all of the objects. Your child will not only be encouraged to use lots of object based vocabulary, but will also develop their short term memory skills.

Articulate for kids

By having your child describe a concept or object through words alone, you are encouraging them to develop their vocabulary. It is also getting them to practise producing sentences of increasing length, which will be expected of them in primary school.

Pokemon Go

The Pokemon Go craze is well and truly about! Not to worry, there are ways in which this game can be made more educational. Stand away from your child and when they see a pokemon, have them describe its location to you. This will develop their use of prepositions e.g. “in front of the tree”. Don’t let them catch the pokemon until you have identified where the pokemon is, based on their description. Also have them describe the appearance of the pokemon to you, as part of developing their descriptive vocabulary e.g. “It is orange, is small and has a smooth head”.

Alphabet game

Start by naming a word beginning with ‘a’. Continue back and forth with your child, naming words beginning with each of the letters in alphabet. This will develop your child’s pre-literacy skills, in particular their letter knowledge. You can make the game more challenging by narrowing the task to a category e.g. animals.

While games such these are fun and beneficial for your child, if you have any concerns regarding your child, please refer them to a qualified Speech Pathologist such as A/Prof Jenny Harasty for a communication assessment. 

Amelia Laurendet (Student Speech Pathologist)

Stimulate Language

Posted on 24 July, 2016 at 22:05 Comments comments (614)

Stimulate Language



Today I am going to talk about the importance of language development in children. Major learning takes place during the early years of a child’s life, and being able to understand the foundations of language is a precursor for their future success.

How can you help cultivate strong language skills in a child with ASD? It is important to talk and respond to you child. Remember, they understand more than they can say! Also, it is vital you understand your child’s behavior. Take note of what your child likes and dislikes. Everyone prefers learning in ways they enjoy.

If you are struggling to stimulate language in your child with ASD you must determine what their sensory preferences are. Does your daughter dislike getting her hair washed? This could be a sign that she is over-sensitive to touch. Does your son appear not to hear you when you call his name? He could be under-sensitive to sound. It is vital that you notice the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and movements your child desires or avoids.

In order to stimulate learning you must next figure out what type of learner your child is. There are five main types. One is a rote learner, this type of learner may memorize information and can recite it word for word, but they might not know the meaning behinds the words. Your child might also be a gestalt learner where they can memorize sentences as whole chunks, but do not understand the meaning. For example, you could tell your child “Walk to the car” and they may do it, but then if you tell them “Walk to your room” they may still walk to the car. This is because they associated “walk to...” with one specific action. Visual learners are also common, this child will learn by seeing and not hearing. Another type is the hands-on learner, which includes kids who learn best by touching things, they often loves to swing, push, and move. Finally, there are auditory learners, this is unusual, but some children with ASD enjoy talking and listening to others to learn. Observing your child and how they learn will help motivate language and communication. (More Than Words).

Children with ASD learn in unique ways, so remember to play to your child’s strengths. If they enjoy the movement of fingers, then use their fingers to introduce numbers and counting. All children love to succeed and they will with time. Therapy with a Speech Pathologist or Occupational therapist often include parent training. Working with these experts can help discover the best intervention for each individual. Placing your child in an environment filled with motivating people and items will encourage communication and future success.




-Molly Cagle



Sussman, Fern and Robin Baird Lewis. More Than Words. Toronto, Ont.: Hanen Program, 2012. Print.


CELF Preschool-2

Posted on 24 July, 2016 at 22:05 Comments comments (5702)

When your child reaches an age between 3 and 6, The CELF Preschool-2 test can be administered to determine any language difficulties. Written by Elisabeth Wiig, Wayne Secord, and Eleanor Semel, this is a well-respected and practical tool that helps clinicians target problematic areas, and determine services for preschool children with disabilities. This is not the only version available, CELF tests can be used for ages ranging from 5:00-21:00. In regards to language, there many different areas involved with these tests.

The main 9 concepts the CELF Preschool-2 tests are as followed:

1. Sentence Structure

2. Word Structure

3. Expressive Vocabulary

4. Concepts and Following Directions

5. Recalling Sentences

6. Basic Concepts

7. Word Classes

8. Recalling Sentences in Context

9. Phonological Awareness


These tests are paired with books that are child-friendly and filled with colorful visual stimuli to elicit the best results. Each of these sections plays an important role in the classification of language impairments in young children.

For Sentence Structure, the child may be asked to point to “The duck is walking towards the girl”. This is used to evaluate their capacity to interpret the sentence spoken to them. This is a skill that can be developed by a parent consistently speaking to their child about what is going on in their own environment!

Word Structure is used to determine the child’s ability to apply the rules of morphology and appropriately use pronouns.

The objective of the Expressive Vocabulary section is to determine the child’s ability to label pictures. For example, the child may be shown a picture of a girl riding her bike and asked, “What is this girl doing?” Acceptable answers include riding, biking, pedaling, and ride a bike.

Concepts and Following Directions can be a difficult task for some children, but this will get easier as a child gets older and continues to learn! In this section your child will be instructed, “When I point to the a tiger, you point to a giraffe. Go.” If the child follows these instructions, then they have done it correctly.

Next is Recalling Sentences, or the ability to imitate sentence without changing the meaning. This is a prime example of how normal and abnormal language development can be distinguished.

Basic Concepts is a section in which your child will be shown three pictures: a hot dog, an ice cream cone, and a piece of cake. Then the child will be told to point to the one that is cold. This is a skill that you can practice with your child at home!

The objective of the section Word Classes is to evaluate your child’s understanding of how words relate to each other. For example “How do the words slide and swing go together?”

Recalling Sentences in Context evaluates your child’s ability to repeat a phrase that is spoken to them.

Phonological Awareness is the final section and it evaluates your child’s awareness of sound structures of language and their ability to manipulate those sounds. (CELF Preschool 2 Australian)

Following these tests, two checklists must be completed by the clinician, parent, or other caregiver. The first is the Pre-Literacy Rating Scale; the objective is to identify pre-literacy skills that may influence the child’s development of reading and writing skills. Next is the Descriptive Pragmatics Profile, which is used to identity nonverbal and verbal pragmatic deficits that may negatively influence social and academic communication in context. (CELF Preschool 2 Australian)

In Australia and New Zealand 342 children were assessed for the CELF Preschool-2 and they ranged in age from 3:00-6:11. Half of the children were boys and the other have were girls. This project was conducted at Macquarie University, Sydney by Dr Jane Carstairs and Dr Rosemarie Lloyd, with the assistance of Ms. Lauren Krause to determine the appropriate standardization.

So how do you know this test is valid? The CELF Preschool-2 Australian test’s validity comes from a study conducted in the United States. There were 62 males and 58 females, and they were all tested on two separate occasions, these results were compared. Stability was calculated using Pearson’s product-moment correlation coefficient. The result found to be excellent across all ages for Recalling Sentence and Expressive Vocabulary. Good for Word Structure, Concepts and Following Direction, Basic Concepts, and Word Classes. And found to be adequate for the sections Recalling Sentences in Context, Phonological Awareness, Pre-Literacy Rating Scale, and Descriptive Pragmatics Profile.

Getting your child formally tested can be difficult, but Jenny has found much success with getting kids to complete their work and stay motivated, while having fun doing so! It is important to have your child’s strengths and weaknesses assessed in order to better prepare them for their future!



-Molly Cagle




Wiig, Elisabeth, Wayne Secord, and Eleanor Semel. CELF Preschool 2 Australian. 2nd ed. St. Marrickville: Harcourt Assessment, 2006. Print.


A day in the life our occupational therapists

Posted on 18 July, 2016 at 2:05 Comments comments (146)


Lucy: A day in the life of one of our Occupational Therapists



For Lucy, each new day is as unique as the children she treats. She works in a variety of setting from an elementary school to a clinic, and this flexibility can cultivate great progress in her clients.

Kids spend a large portion of their week in a school setting, so play skills are vital. This OT aims to guide children towards independence; this encompasses teaching healthy interactions with peers, proper body language, and toilet timing. Toilet timing is when a caregiver regularly places the child on the toilet at timed intervals to provide ample opportunity for the child to go. Lucy also works with the parents to create scripts for every day tasks. These scripts must target a concrete single behavior that is in need of management. The goal must be simple and presented regularly to the child. Lucy has found this method to be successful in many areas including using the toilet.

Repetition is important when dealing with children with various disabilities. Handedness can be a confusing concept for some Lucy’s clients, but with repetition, positivity, and encouragement she can help them figure out their hand preference. Handedness is an important concept for a child to learn at a young age, as it influences their muscle memory and literacy skills.

Lucy also uses an approach called Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA. ABA is an evidence-based method that helps record progress in children. Lucy works with her clients accumulate transferable skills from a classroom or clinic setting to a normal social setting. Lucy also focuses on the training the parents, this is a vital concept because “teachable moments” during daily activities are crucial to the child’s development.

For Occupational Therapists, establishing a relationship with the family is just as important as the relationship with the child. Especially when it comes to feeding issues. Lucy uses a program called Sensational Meal Times. This is a program that was developed by an OT and Dietitian in Australia, and has provided positive results. Lucy works with the parents to figure out what foods, textures, and smells the child will routinely encounter in the home. Then, she aims to find foods that are similar to what they always eat. The goal is to expand the child’s food palate, making meal times healthier and more enjoyable.

The life of an Occupational Therapist is never boring. Lucy’s day demands various skills and approaches, but she makes it look so easy!


-Molly Cagle


A day in the life of a speech language pathologist

Posted on 18 July, 2016 at 2:00 Comments comments (733)

Jenny: A day in the life of a Speech Pathologist




The services of a Speech Language Pathologist are in high demand. Dr Jenny Harasty is a renowned Speech Pathologist and Neuroscientist, with a Masters and PhD in the area of brain function. Jenny has been practicing for the past 25 years, providing her with the skills to work with a wide range of families and adults. Contrary to what many people believe, her caseload is not limited to children struggling with articulation. This profession encompasses a variety of complex difficulties and disabilities.

Jenny can see as many as eight different clients in one day, all at different locations! In the morning, Jenny may start with a five-year-old who needs positive behavioral management, because he cannot control his tantrums and has an autism spectrum disorder. Jenny works diligently to find the most effective technique to teach this child. Some kids prefer reading a story about super heroes and how they handle their anger. When they get an answer correct, receiving a piece of clay to fiddle with might be the encouragement they need to continue to improve. Others may show more progress when they play games, and are awarded points when they act appropriately.

On multiple occasions Jenny has found that it is not a specific activity that causes the child to tantrum, but rather, he is lacking the language skills to express what he is thinking. If this is the case, Jenny then works to pinpoint the breakdown in the learning process, and uses evidence-based methods to target the root problem.

Jenny could then leave her clinic and travel to a nursing home, where she works closely with the staff to assist her clients afflicted with dysphagia. Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder than can lead to aspiration. Jenny must use a variety of tools and methods to assess the kinds of foods these patients can and cannot eat. Difficulties with swallowing can major health problems, so Jenny’s attentiveness is vital!

From there, Jenny may travel to a primary school to aid a child who has suffered from a traumatic brain injury. She uses a variety of games like Twister and card games to physically and mentally stimulate this child. But her ability to help the people is not limited to the younger and older generations. Working in their homes can act as a safe place for teenagers working through the pressures of secondary school. Making friends can be a foreign task to some kids, but Jenny creates a welcoming and enriching environment to help these young adults learn to love themselves and others. After this she may help a young adult with difficulties train for travel and a vocation. Helping them follow the instructions needed in their job and sorting out difficulties with processes and remembering words needed so they can stay in the job.

A day in the life of Speech Pathologist can be hectic, but it is also a science that helps a variety of people. Bouncing from case to case sounds difficult, but Jenny is a pro!


-Molly Cagle