The one who makes you play Mad Libs®:
This is the client who really struggles with vocabulary. Their stories are difficult to understand because they are using the wrong vocabulary OR because they are using too many non specific words. "So then I told him that I wasn't going to be okay with him being like that and stuff and he said he was going to be there and I told him that I don't care if he gets that thing he is not going to be my friend. " The lack of specific nouns and details makes it difficult to understand and it feels like you are always filling in the blanks. I feel like these children have difficulty with word retrieval or general vocabulary deficits.
These children benefit from specific vocabulary instruction. I've mentioned this before, but I really like the suggestions in the book, Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Isabel Beck, Margaret McKeown, and Linda Kucan. Jenn at Crazy, Speech World wrote a great post awhile back about this book if you missed it. This would be a really great method to use if you were pushing in to the classroom!
In addition, I will sometimes focus on teaching vocabulary "strategies." Depending on the age of the client, we will work on synonyms, antonyms, categorization, prefixes/suffixes and multiple meaning words. Semantic mapping tools such as the Expanding Expression Toolkit (EET) by Sara Smith are very helpful in providing a framework for my clients to think about how to define or talk about vocabulary words.
Word Retrieval Deficits:
I often see these clients use non specific vocabulary or sometimes they will pull out an incorrect word. Dianne German has tools to assess what types of word finding deficits students or adults have and specific interventions or strategies to teach students based on their error patterns. She has several online classes available that I think I am going to try to take this summer.
In therapy, we may work on categorization activities including rapid automatic naming activities. I may put out 4-5 objects (super heroes are fun) and practice pointing at each one to see if the child can continue to name them at a faster pace. We use cues like providing same sound cues or visualizing words to help with word recall. I also work a lot on synonyms and antonyms as a strategy for describing words that they are not able to retrieve. We spend time learning how to describe words too if they need to talk around a word.
Teaching self monitoring can be challenging because the speech is intangible. The child says something and then it disappears. I can tell them that they were not specific but sometimes they don't believe me. I use writing a lot with these clients because it provides a concrete visual for us to work with. Software programs such as Dragon Naturally Speaking or voice memo apps can be motivating to use in therapy and make it easy to visually see what we are saying.
Here's how I use it:
1. I start by having my client tell me a story or how to do a specific task. I use the Dragon Speaking app. This is more difficult to use if you have a student or client who has articulation errors. I sometimes use that with those students to show them how other people perceive their speech if we are having a hard time monitoring.
2. We print the transcript.
3. I have a four colored pen that we use. We go through and edit. I might use red to mark non specific words and green for grammatical errors. We talk about what would be better choices to make it more understandable.
4. Once we are both satisfied, we re-record what they wanted to say. Then I can email the recording or play the recording to the parent at the end of the session.
What strategies do you use to work on word retrieval or vocabulary deficits? I'd love to hear your thoughts below. Check back next week for some of my favorite materials and apps to use when you are working on personal narratives.