Action Word Sentences

building_sentences_action_wordsAction Word Sentences are a great starting point for little ones who need language therapy. Action words are one of the first things we teach.






Here’s a printable for simple sentences.  I used “she” because the little one I was working with was using “he” for everyone, even girls and ladies.

For simpler sentences use just the action word – “eating”

For advanced sentences use pronoun + is + action word + object – “She is eating cereal.”

Y for Spanish Speakers

Spanish Y EnglishYWhen my Spanish-speaking ESL students pronounce English words with the letter Y, they often use the  “J” sound.

In Spanish, words spelled with Y sound like “J”.  That’s the sound we expect for Spanish Y.

BUT for English Y we expect the sound “Y”.   Remember to code-switch* this sound into the English “Y” if you want to be understood easier by English speakers.

Try to avoid saying

  • you  like jew
  • yes  like Jess
  • year like jeer
  • yet like jet

Be careful students!  To make the English Y you will need to soften your Y.  Pull your tongue back a little so you don’t tap it against the alveolar ridge (the bumpy spot behind your upper teeth.) and say the English Y sound slowly letting air come our your mouth steadily and smoothly.

*code switch – switching (alternating) between two languages.


Building Sentences in Speech Therapy

Building SentencesWe’ve worked on “He Verb+ing”. Pronouns and actions words are a great starting point with little ones who need language therapy.

We’ve moved on to “He Is Verbing”. Adding the form “to be”.

Now we’ve graduated to “He Is Verbing  Object”. I wanted pictures with non-countable objects to make our sentence 4 parts (without the article a or an), And put together these sentences (and more) into a practice worksheet with pictures:

  • She is eating cereal.
  • She is blowing bubbles.
  • She is cutting hair.
  • He is playing guitar.
  • He is building blocks.
  • He is raking leaves.

See my free printable to He Is Verb+ing Object here.

Teaching Possessive S

Possessive SAt the clinic I’m working with kiddos who can’t say the sounds S/Z.  So simple sentences like “He is walking” becomes “He i walking” and “Jack’s book” becomes  “Jack book”.  Sometimes it’s causing even more trouble when the kid’s name has an S.  “Scout” becomes “Kout” and “Spencer” becomes “Penter”  The poor guys can’t even say their own names. Being able to tell you own name is an important skill that builds confidence and self-esteem.

Some kids need to improve their language skills.  We are working on Possessive S. The problems with “English teacher” materials on teaching Possessive S is they include words that end in S or Z or the sound EZ is added.  (Possessive S for “mouse” is “mouses“.) This is applying an extra rule of English when the kid is having trouble learning the first rule.  I made a worksheet for my kids that kept it simple. Each target word ends in voiceless sound K or T, so the sound S (apostrophe S) will be the same each time.

See my free printable on Simple Possessive S here.

“Songs of the Spectrum” CD Benefits Autism

SongsOfTheSpectrumI’d like to share with you a great CD of music about autism spectrum kids, their families and their experiences. The CD is called “Songs of the Spectrum”. It’s a collaboration between New York Times writer/editor John O’Neil (dad of James O’Neil, a teenager with autism) and their family friends Jon Fried and Deena Shoshkes, husband and wife team from the Indie band “The Cucumbers”. Proceeds from sales of the CD benefit different organizations that support autism.

vtvisit (1)

Deena is cousin to my husband. She and Jon are talented musicians, compassionate individuals and parents themselves. This project is an encouragement to parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. Here’s a photo of me, Deena and Jon from our visit last summer.

O’Neil wrote the lyrics and then Jon and Deena set the lyrics to music.  The CD was recorded by 14 different artists including Jackson Brown, Teddy Geiger, Dar Williams,  Kelly Flint (a mother of a child with autism), Jon and Deena and more.jon&deena

The songs cover a range of experiences.

House on Fire talks about the strain a child with autism can place on a marriage.

Understanding is about a boy who has a different kind of fun.

Hide and Seek is about embracing an autistic child’s particular perspective on the world.

Afraid (My Brother’s Cries) is about the struggles of the siblings of children with autism.

For a free download of the song Understanding go to  You can hear clips of the whole project, and order the CD “Songs of the Spectrum”.

References – “Songs of the Spectrum” benefits autism groups. USA Today 4/2/2010


John and James O'Neil, with musicians Jon Fried and Deena Shoshkes, collaborators on the "Songs of the Sprectrum" CD.

John and James O’Neil, with musicians Jon Fried and Deena Shoshkes, collaborators on the “Songs of the Sprectrum” CD.

Getting Testing Scheduled by Your School District

getting_your_child_tested_by_your_school_districtMy neighbor has a 4 year old who is late to talk. This handsome child is in the fortunate position of of having two languages in his home and a third at his school. His father speaks French, his mother speaks Tagalog, and he attends an English-speaking preschool. (Read my post about the benefits of a bilingual home.)

This little guy has one language he is better at (of the three) but he is behind and his parents think (correctly, I might add) that he may need help from their school district (SD). This summer they sent a letter to their school requesting an evaluation. No response has come from the school and they asked me to help. A quick phone call to their school district’s special education office gave us the information we needed, and I helped them to get on track for getting their preschooler tested. Here are the steps I advised.

1.Enroll your child for “evaluation only”. (Not necessary for students already enrolled in school.) Since their son was not enrolled (at 4 he was not yet in Kindergarten), the school district (SD) was not prepared to recognize him as a student that they must consider. Your first step is always enrollment. You can also ask your SD to evaluate an older child who is in private school, or who is homeschooled. Go to your SDs enrollment center with your proof of address, your child’s birth certificate (for his correct age) and his immunization record.

2.Request in writing. Always write your requests. Parents can speak to teachers, or call special education offices, but nothing is done until that request is in writing. I recommend a paper letter sent in the U.S. mail. Keep a copy for yourself. I sent my letter directly to the Special Education Department of my school district. I looked up who the director was, and addressed it to her. Regular mail is good enough. You don’t need special mail with a signature. That actually starts you off on an aggressive tone, and I don’t recommend it. Your school is run by regular people. They don’t want to fight with you. Just use regular mail. You can also hand deliver your letter, either to your school administration or to your SD office.

3.All SDs have limited financial resources. The law says they must respond to parents who request an evaluation, but since resources are limited, they may do what they can to push it off as long as possible. It’s your job to be aware of the steps in the process and call, and ask, if things are taking too long (Was the letter received? What can we expect next? etc.)

4.Know the laws in your state about timelines. Fifteen days, 30 days, 60 days all mean days school is in session (Monday – Friday), not weekends, holidays or summer. That means ’60 days’ starting on September 3rd may actually end on December 4th.

5.Maintain a pleasant relationship. Use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Ask for help, rather than demanding. The people in your SD deal with many parents (some not so nice) and they will work harder for parents who are polite to them, and treat them with respect.

I hope this helps.  If you have other questions about advocating for your child, please let me know.

Autism Spectrum & Adolescence

Aspergers & Adolescence

Autism Spectrum is challenging at age eight.   But at double that age, at 16, the challenges more than double! Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by difficulty with communication, impairment in social skills, understanding how to engage and interact with others, and unusual behaviors and special interests. If you are raising a teen with autism spectrum, you can see the problems of autism will be compounded when a child hits the teens! You will deal with body changes, mood swings, interest in the opposite sex, desire for more freedom, disregard for parental rules, etc. Here are some suggestions to navigate autism spectrum and adolescence more smoothly.

Control what you can. Does your teen have limited insight behind the wheel of a three-thousand-pound vehicle? You don’t have to put yourself into a dangerous position when driving with your pre-licensed teenager.  You may not be able to control your son or daughter’s poor behavior behind the wheel, but you can remove the privilege of driving.  You can control that part. Take away driving (or all extra-curricular rides) for a time. Maybe your son has to take the bus, or ride his bike, rather than driving for a while.  Would that be the end of the world? When behavior improves, privileges can return.

Keep teaching. Every opportunity is a learning situation. Does your teen resist learning new skills? Come along side him and teach.  Skills for independent living are money management, food preparation, housekeeping, hygiene, transportation, educational planning, job seeking, job maintenance, social skills, health, housing, safety skills, and knowledge of community resources. And let’s not forget pregnancy prevention and parenting/childcare.  If your student will head off to college in a few years, shouldn’t he be able to do his own laundry and prepare his own meals?  You can start teaching him now the skills he needs for independent living.  It can seem like a big job, but you can accomplish it a little at a time.

Discuss changing expectations.  Michelle Garcia Winner, in her Social Thinking program, talks about how students on the autism spectrum often don’t realize that expectations change as they get older. Be sure to discuss your expectations with your teenager.  Many don’t have the intuitive skills to guess that expectations increase as you get older, so explain it clearly and calmly.  I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be calm and controlled (not emotional and yelling) when you discuss important issues with your teens, autistic or neurotypical.

Join you teenager’s team and problem solve with him. Plenty of times, I’ve said to my son “I’m on your team. What can we do to solve this together?”  When your teenager knows you’re on his side, he often lowers his defenses and may work with you.

Be a good listener. Keep quiet and listen.  I know this step is hard but you have to do it. He has an opinion and he wants to be heard.  Would you listen to a guest in your home?  Think of your teenager as an adult boarder.  Would you talk to a grown-up who rents a room from you the way you talk to your teenager?  If not, think about what you can change in your tone of voice and the language you use with your teen.

Keep the conversation flowing.  If she’s attending a school with typical teens, she is probably exposed to drugs, drinking, bullying and sexual behavior.  I wish I could prevent my teen from experiencing these things, but I cannot. Talk to your teen and observe her. When something seems fishy, speak up.  Your teen may need to talk about problems she’s facing.  Your input could help her.  Make a time to “check in”.  We do this in the evening after homework and shower, before my teen goes to bed.  Find the time your teen is most receptive and use that time to chat.

Politeness counts.  Do you say please and thank you? Your son or daughter needs to see you model good behavior.  They can yell, but you should remain calm, (or at least look and sound calm). If you get too worked up, it’s ok to stop a discussion and come back to it after you’ve both calmed down.

Let him individuate. Teenagers are biologically programmed to fight with their parents enough to make “moving out” and moving on with their lives easier for them. Make sure your teen gets opportunities to be with peers, and do normal teenager stuff. And if he has neurotypical friends, that’s all the better for him. If your son or daughter will be remaining in your home, because they are unable to move out due to intellectual or behavior problems, you must find a way to live together with appropriate boundaries.  No longer a child, your teen is more like an adult and deserving of more adult treatment.  Job, rent, car privileges – decide on what your expectations are and hold your teen accountable.

Laugh about it – Marie Osmond once said “If you’re going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you might as well laugh about it now.” Find humor in as many situations as you can.  It may relieve stress for all of you.  If your teen doesn’t understand why you are smiling or find certain things funny, explain it to him. But don’t expect him to understand every time.  Teens with autism spectrum disorder have limited insight into social behavior.

Don’t let “autism” be his only moniker.  Your teenager is unique. Autism is not the only thing that describes him. He has strengths and weaknesses like every other teen. Love who he is! Accept him for who he is.  If you have never accepted him for who he is, you need to do so now. Encourage him with his talents, the same way you would with any neurotypical teen.


Repetition is Important to Children

Post today by guest blogger Sanaz Amini, MA, CCC-CF

At some point every parent has to face that moment when all his/her child wants to do is watch the same movie, listen to the same song, or read the same book over and over. I know it can get pretty boring and annoying for us adults, but your little one feels more secure with the story or song s/he already knows. As babies get older, you will see more evidence of this type of repetition, like the four-year-old who can’t stop watching “The Lorax.”

Each day your child is seeing new places and learning new things and that can be scary for him/her. Experts believe that repetition offers security and a sense of control to children. If your child loves a certain bedtime story book and wants to hear the same story every night, read her/him the story and gradually introduce new stories (Curtis & Schuler, 2010).

Repetition plays a big role in language learning in your little ones. To facilitate your child’s language through repetition, you can set aside some time each day to encourage the repetition of songs, lullabies, stories, and other activities.

I run an Early Intervention Group (0-3 years) twice a week at work and we start our day with a good morning song followed by circle time. During circle time, we sing 3-4 songs; we pick from a list of about 15 songs over and over. These kids hear the same songs pretty often and it really helps them learn. I often see kids who come into these groups with no language and leave with lots of words they learn during circle time through repetition in the songs. The best part is the smile you see on their little faces when they finally get the words right to their favorite song.

We always encourage book reading in this blog. However, your children don’t have to own a ton of books to learn new words. You can read them the same books they enjoy and you can always check out books from the library too. According to Senechal and Cornell (1993), multiple readings of the same book provide children with opportunities to encode, associate, and store information about new words or information, resulting in stronger memory representations. Horst, Parsons and Bryan (2011) looked at the effects of repeatedly reading the same story to young children and they concluded that repetition is important in learning new vocabulary from books.


Curtis, G., & Schuler, J. (2010). Your bab’ys first year. (3rd ed., p. 455). Cambridge, U.S: Da Capo Press.

Horst, J., Parsons, K., & Bryan, N. (2011). Get the story straight: Contextual repetition promotes word learning from storybooksget the story straight.Frontiers in Psychology2(17),

Sénéchal M., Cornell E. H. (1993). Vocabulary acquisition through shared reading experiences. Read. Res. Q. 28, 361–374.

Sanaz Amini, M.A., CF- SLP, received her Master’s degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Washington State University and her Bachelor’s degree in Communicative Disorders and Sciences from San Jose State University. Sanaz has experience evaluating and treating children with a variety of disorders including language, articulation, phonological, fluency, autism spectrum, and childhood apraxia of speech. She also has experience treating adults with dementia, aphasia, and traumatic brain injuries. Sanaz’s professional interests lie in the areas of early intervention, traumatic brain injury, and social-pragmatic disorders. Sanaz provides therapy in a private clinic in San Jose. You can read her blog at


Developing Gratitude

Parenting a child with special needs is difficult, and many times I have felt ungrateful at the situation. Not ungrateful to have a child, but ungrateful because it’s not what I expected. It’s much harder than I expected. I am the kind of person who naturally looks at the negatives first. It’s so easy for me to see all the things I “don’t have”, and the things I’m “not getting”. Rarely do I look around and see all the blessings in my life.

GratefulListI have been working on developing gratitude. Here are the things that help me. Maybe they will help you too.

Write it down. Keep a gratitude journal. Get in the habit of writing down the things you’re thankful for. My friend Mary posts daily on her Facebook page “grateful today”. She’s up to Day 124 of listing the things she is grateful for. My sister and 4 friends shared a house, and on the stairwell they posted big sheets of white butcher paper. The girls agreed that EVERY night they would write down things they were thankful for. The paper filled up with words of blessing and gratitude.

Focus on the positive. Train your mind to think of one positive thing in the situation. When I feel distressed that my son lags behind his peers in a certain skill, I purposefully call to mind things he HAS learned since six months or a year ago. I compare his development with him, not with his peers. Thinking about his small steps toward big goals make me feel grateful.

Employ your senses. One of the easiest ways for me to appreciate things around me is to use my senses. Is there natural beauty around you? Do you see it? Pay attention to your surroundings. Take a walk. Notice a beautiful sunset. Smell the flowers around you. Listen to the sounds of nature. Even small things like the taste of a good meal or the hug of your child are things you can stop and appreciate.

Live in the moment. Don’t waste energy on the past. It’s already gone. Don’t worry too much about the future. It hasn’t arrived yet. Pay attention to NOW. Practice mindful living. Spend a minute to appreciate one good thing you have. Don’t let days or weeks go by in a blurred rush, and miss many sweet moments in your life. Raising children with challenges may seem, at times, like there are no moments to appreciate, but I assure you, they are there! They may be happening right now.

Think of someone who has it worse than you. How is your life compared to others? It’s easy to find others who are better off than us. What you may not see so easily is others who are worse off than us. There is a man in our neighborhood who had a stroke. He’s probably about my age. Walking is very difficult for him to re-learn. He is using a walker and drags one foot behind him. He walks very slow. We see him when we take our dog for a walk. We pass him quickly and lose sight of him. But every time I see him, it reminds me that someone is worse off than me, and my gratitude increases. I can walk without any difficulty and this is something I am very grateful for.



Word Stress Activity for ESL

Teaching Word StressFor more American English pronunciation, correct word stress is very important. Here’s an activity for teaching correct word stress.

I cover syllables (sometimes called “beats”) in words, and stress (also called accent or emphasis) as “longer, louder, & higher pitch.”

Give your students 3 syllable words that have stress on the first, middle or last syllable free printable here.

Give each student a word and ask them to go around the classroom and find the other students who have a word with the same stress pattern.

Your class should separate into 3 groups.

Help them with identifying the stress in their word, if they need.

Have students read their words out loud for the class to correct their work.

Teach some basic stress rules like those found here.

Best of luck and Happy Teaching!