October is International AAC Awareness Month!

page22The children’s book, “How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname),” is the perfect way to raise awareness about speech generating devices and other assistive technology, and it’s on SALE through the entire month of October at Speaking of Speech.com!

“How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname)” is a beautifully illustrated story of challenge, triumph, and acceptance. The students and teachers of Cherry Street School all have nicknames that celebrate their differences. But the new girl, Katie, is really different. She can’t walk. She can’t talk. It seems like she can’t do anything! So how can the other students involve her in their activities? And how can they give her a nickname?  This sweet story is told from the perspective of Katie’s classmates who initially only see her as very different from them.  Once Katie is given access to assistive technology (switches and a speech generating device), they suddenly see how Katie is very much like everyone else;  she just does things in a different way. Following the story is a kid-friendly section on Disability Etiquette that even adults can learn from.

Visit http://store.speakingofspeech.com/products to order your autographed copy today! Also available in German from both www.amazon.com and www.amazon.de.

Extend the lesson even further with a free discussion guide, the Reader’s Theater script (great for having students tell the story through theater!), and disability etiquette video. These extension materials are available through www.patmervine.com.


The Many Uses of Wordless Picture Books

There is no moment more magical than the first time a child reads — actually reads — a book independently.  Such focus, such concentration on the text as the child decodes the printed words!  This is the first step on a lifelong journey across time, space, cultures, and ideas that a love of reading will provide.

29313But firing the imagination is not limited to books with text.  Indeed, wordless picture books may tap into more imagination, more language, more critical thinking, and more projecting of one’s self into the story.  Whether illustrations are simple or lush, the reader uses them to answer so many questions, because that is the only way the story can be told:  Who or what is in the picture?  Where and when is this taking place?  What is happening?  Why is this happening?  What is the problem?  What are some solutions?  How did the character’s actions work out?  What is the difference between this picture and the one before and the one after?  Did anything change?  How does the character feel? What is the character thinking?  How would you feel?  What would you do?  What will happen next?  And on and on….

Wordless picture books are ideal for speech/language therapy.  Just think of how many 17165875goals can be addressed by a single wordless book by letting the child take the lead in “reading” the story:  describing, labeling, grammar, predicting, articulation, and fluency are just a few of the typical s/l skills that can be practiced and measured.  Add to that joint attention, answering questions, turn-taking, and perspective-taking, and you’ll see that wordless picture books are ideal for working on pragmatic skills.  When the child has finished “reading” the book, review it for practice in recall, retelling, and sequencing.  Have a student who is weak in written language?  Use wordless picture books to practice sentence and story writing. Working with very young children or children with cognitive impairments?  Use the books to build receptive skills and basic concepts:  Show me —.  Point to —-.  Where is —?  What color/shape is —?   He is clapping;  now you clap.    Imagine — all of these communication skills can be  worked on, no reading required!

the-lion-and-the-mouseWordless picture books are especially good for children who use AAC.  In addition to building all of the skills detailed above, the children can use their AAC system at the single word, phrase, or full sentence levels to tell the story, answer your questions, and ask questions of their own.  This builds fluency with the system as they learn how to navigate to needed core and fringe vocabulary, and helps AAC users increase their mean length of utterance.

22750286If you Google “wordless picture books,” you’ll find a lot of “top ten” recommendations.  If you want to find titles of a hundreds wordless picture books, join Goodreads.com (free), then put in this URL:  https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/wordless-picture-books.  I guarantee you’ll find a year’s worth of books that will appeal to and be appropriate for all of the students on your caseload, regardless of age, gender, personal interests, or IEP goals.  Many may be available in your school or public library.  To add to your own collection, you can search local booksellers or find nearly all on Amazon.

“What goes on in that Speech Room?”

Kids are curious about that little room down the hall, next to the nurse’s office.  What is that room for?  Who goes there?  It looks like a fun place!  Why can’t I go, too?  Kids who WILL be going to speech/language therapy have different questions.  Why am I going to Speech?  What is therapy like?

To help SLPs and teachers explain speech/language therapy to newly identified students AND the rest of the class, I’ve written three children’s books that address three different aspects of what we do.

Matthew cover“The Mouth With a Mind of Its Own” is about a little boy with such significant articulation issues that he can’t even say his own name.  He is isolated from his classmates, who think he is speaking a foreign language, and he misses out on daily activities because he can’t make himself understood.  Fortunately, the speech/language pathologist comes to the rescue and leads him through the process from screening to articulate speech. At the end of the book, I’ve answered questions submitted by students from my own elementary school in a section called “Get to Know a Speech/Language Pathologist.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 12.06.24 PM“There Was a Speech Teacher Who Swallowed Some Dice” is a silly rhyming tale to introduce students to all of the items commonly used in therapy. Kids love this “speechie” twist on a familiar tale.  The book ends with a glossary of all of the therapy items and how we use them, and has a “Speech Room Scavenger Hunt” that you can photocopy for the students as they hunt for all of  the items in your room — a language lesson in itself!


Katie cover“How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname)”  acquaints students with assistive technology, including augmentative communication, and how it changes the way classmates view a fourth grade girl who has significant physical and communication disabilities.  This book ends with a section on disability etiquette.   Katie is also available in a German translation from Amazon in Germany.



Each book can be a stand-alone lesson, but you don’t have to stop there!  Here are additional resources that will extend each book into lessons in articulation, vocabulary, language, story mapping, and more. Click on the colored text below to get to the resources, the majority of which are FREE!

“How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname)”:  I’ve created a Reader’s Theater version of the book and PowerPoint “scenery” you can project, a free Discussion Guide which can also be used as writing prompts, and a Communication Word Search.  A Disability Etiquette video, “Making Everyone Feel Welcome,” told by the characters of the book, is on my YouTube channel. While on YouTube, check out the amazing video made by Polish students who have disabilities, inspired by Katie’s story, ideal for middle and high school students.  Clever SLP, Truvine Walker, offers a number of free artic and language activities related to this book at her TeachersPayTeachers store.

“The Mouth With a Mind of Its Own”:  Truvine Walker offers a free Speech/Language Companion Packet for this book on TPT that extends the story in many directions to meet a variety of s/l therapy goals.

“There Was a Speech Teacher Who Swallowed Some Dice”:   Truvine Walker created an amazing Speech/Language Companion Packet for this wacky story — again, it’s free!

These books are super gifts for student clinicians and SLPs in the school.  Autographed and personalized copies are available through Speaking of Speech.com.  Did you order your copy from Amazon but wish it was autographed?  Send me an email at pat@speakingofspeech.com, and I’ll send you a free signed bookplate!

Got Books?

Guest post by Truvine Walker, M.Ed., CCC-SLP


From my earliest memories as a child, I remember having books with me almost everywhere I went. I’ve now replaced my books with a Nook Color and a Kindle app on my iPad; but, I still love to read. Fortunately, working as a Speech-Language Pathologist in an educational setting, I can pair my love of books with my responsibility to improve communication. Because we know there IS a connection between language and literacy, it is a great idea to utilize books in therapy whenever possible. Books are not the only tools in my therapy toolbox; however, they are a staple. Why, you ask? Books are versatile and can be used to address a variety of communication goals. They are also some of the least expensive therapy materials you can find, if you shop in bargain bins, buy used, and/or frequent your local library. Books are also great resources for teaching social skills, and addressing major life issues (speech and language problems, divorce, sharing, etc.). I love it when I find book units specifically designed for speech and language therapy; however, sometimes, I make my own or make materials to go along with units I purchase. I love using book units because they enable me to target multiple goals in a session using a common theme or source. There are a few free materials on my TPT store: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Browse/Search:Truvine%20Walker

Below are a few ways in which I use books in therapy:

  • Articulation– There are numerous ways to address articulation, so I’m not even going to begin to give suggestions. There are several lists available that categorize books that can be used to target specific articulation sounds. ConsonantlySpeaking.com, Pinterest, and speechymusings.com are just a few websites that offer fairly extensive lists. Disclaimer: I did not make any of the lists, and I strongly advise that you review each book prior to using it in therapy to make sure it’s what you need for your students.
  • Making Choices – This requires a little bit of preparation. I present my students a choice of 2-3 books that I plan to use in therapy at some point during the school year anyway. I show them the front and back covers of the book, ask them to make a choice, and to share why they voted for a particular book. This allows my students who are reluctant to speak in a group the opportunity to speak without worrying about answering incorrectly or not being able to answer at all. I tally the votes, and the book with the most votes wins. It’s a win-win for me because I know they are a little interested in the book, and we have the opportunity to talk about voting, democracy, etc. This works with all age ranges. I simply adjust the vocabulary as needed.
  • Making Predictions, Recalling Facts, and Commenting– There is a free sheet on my TPT page entitled iPredict, iRead, iLearn. After a book is selected, I ask the students to predict what they THINK the book is about. After we’ve read the book (usually 2-3 times), I ask them to record something that they learned from the book. It can be new vocabulary, facts, etc. In the final column, I ask them to share what they like and dislike about the book. I’ve adapted this worksheet to include a visualization task. The students are prompted to illustrate one of their favorite details from the book on the back of the book review. At the bottom of the page, I ask them to write a few sentences describing their illustration.
  • Comprehension – I don’t think this needs explanation. You can create questions from simple to complex based on the needs of your students. If you purchase a book unit, the work is already done for you.
  • Compare and Contrast – I love comparing different versions of the same story (ex. ‘Twas that Night Before Christmas,” “The Three Little Pigs” vs. “The Three Ninja Pigs,” etc.) and, surprisingly, your students will as well. Sometimes you can compare the differences in characters, events in the story, outcome, etc.
  • Vocabulary – I always go through the stories I use and select vocabulary that I anticipate I need to preview or teach prior to the story. As I’m reading the story, I give each student a small sticky note pad. They are instructed to give me a sticky if they hear a word that they don’t understand. After the story, I go back to the pages where I have sticky notes, and as a group we discuss the unfamiliar words.
  • Narrative Retelling – After reading the story multiple times, you can have students retell the story in their own words. Sometimes you can use the pictures in the book (you have to cover the words for those who read well) or you can create your own retelling cards. Retelling is great for working on story elements, sentence structure, sequencing of events, etc.
  • Pragmatics – I often use illustrations of facial expression to discuss emotions, as well as synonyms and antonyms of the emotions. We identify and discuss the events in the story that provoke the emotions discussed. Often, we take it a step further and brainstorm events that happen in everyday life that could elicit those same emotions. If it’s a negative emotion, we discuss problem solving ideas.
  • Grammar – You can use books to address varying grammatical features, and follow up with worksheets related to the book to reinforce and/or assess mastery of skills. Again, this list is not my creation, and I’m sure it’s not exhaustive, as new stories are being created daily. The following list is a great place to start if you need to locate a list of books that target specific language goals. http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster2/languagefocusbooks.pdf

If you’re already using books in therapy and have suggestions, details, and/or resources, please share. I personally am always looking for new ideas, and I’m sure others are as well. If you’re not already using books in therapy, I encourage you to give it a try. Once you start and get in the habit, it actually makes planning for therapy more efficient, more fulfilling, and less demanding physically because you have fewer materials to transport.


Note from Pat:  I’m delighted to have Truvine as one of my first guest bloggers.  Truvine Walker, M.Ed., CCC is a speech/language pathologist in Georgia.  Among many other very impressive materials to extend books in therapy, she created wonderfully detailed and clever extension activities for “There Was a Speech Teacher Who Swallowed Some Dice,” “The Mouth With a Mind of Its Own,” and “How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname).”  You will definitely want to follow her TPT store so you don’t miss any of the gems she posts!

Becoming a Children’s Author, Part 1: Deep Roots and Inspiration

I have always been a writer at heart.  I won a prize for a poem I wrote about a kangaroo in first grade.  I loved diagramming sentences (a lost art today, alas!).  I read everything I could get my hands on.  And I attacked every writing assignment in English with passion.  My junior year Advanced English thesis was on the relationship between the libretto and musical motifs in Handel’s “The Messiah,” complete with footnotes and graphic examples;  oh, what I could’ve done with this theme on Prezi!  My teacher didn’t know a thing about music, but he gave me an A+ and wrote that I should be given a B.S. in English.  I’m not sure he meant Bachelor’s of Science.

In high school, I worked as a stringer reporter and contributor to the Teen Beat section of our local newspaper, received the school’s journalism award as a senior, and flirted with the idea of journalism as a major in college.  Instead, I went into a different area of communication — speech/language pathology — but my love of writing never waned.  As an SLP, I published more than a dozen books and software programs with Mayer-Johnson Company, contributed a series of articles to “Exceptional Parent Magazine” and “Closing the Gap,” and self-published materials for SLPs on my web site, Speaking of Speech.com.  This blog is another extension of my passion for writing.

About 5 years ago, a kernel of a children’s story worked its way into my imagination.  The inspiration came from the work I do as an SLP and assistive technology specialist.  In those roles, I support students who have little or no verbal skills, and who rely on alternative and augmentative communication (AAC), from no-tech systems, such as pointing to pictures, through high-tech, multi-thousand dollar devices that generate speech output. I have worked with countless students, teachers, aides, and parents to provide a means of effective communication and a reason to use it.  I’ve taught undergrad and graduate courses in AAC, and have devoted hours of lecture time on the barriers to using AAC.  I won’t get into them here but, suffice it to say, there are many….and all too many are related to reluctance, resistance, or flat-out refusal of adults to use AAC with children who would benefit from it.  Implementing AAC and other assistive technology (AT) takes lots of time and effort, sometimes enormous amounts of both, and that can be a barrier right there.  Sometimes, people just don’t realize how life-changing AAC/AT can be for children and adults who have significant disabilities.  Demonstrating the benefits, then, was one goal of the story I wanted to write.

Another source of inspiration, and the reason I wrote the book from the perspective of classmates who don’t know how to be friends with with a girl who has multiple disabilities, came from the reason I went into speech/language pathology and specialized in AAC/AT in the first place.  My dear uncle was stricken with a progressive neurological disease; the first function to go was his ability to speak, followed by a loss of writing skills, and then a loss of facial expression.  As communication skills diminished, so did his humanity.  Family members, friends, even medical professionals (who should know better!) were unprepared to communicate with someone who couldn’t communicate back.  After a brief greeting to him, he seemed to cease to exist, as people talked around him, over him, and even about him, but not TO him.  And, sadly, this is frequently the case in other families, and in classrooms, too.  As a society, we all too often just don’t know how to communicate with people who can’t talk.  There is also the tendency to view people with disabilities as “less than,” as we focus on what they CAN’T do, rather than what they CAN do.

So, demonstrating the value of AAC/AT and telling the story from the perspective of those who feel unable to relate to people with disabilities became the story line for How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname).  I will talk more about the process of writing the book in future posts, and would be happy to answer any questions you have about my book and the process of becoming a children’s book author.  Please post your questions in the Comments section!  Check out my author site, www.patmervine.com, for more info, videos, and freebies.