Speech & Language Assessment Checklist!

checklist cov

Hey everyone, I’m excited to share a new product that I have available for you!  It my Speech & Language Assessment Checklist!  This is a 21 page speech & language checklist for the most common speech and language goals used in speech therapy for elementary aged children. Continue reading


Comprehensive, Informal Syntax Assessment!

syntax cover

I’m sooo excited to share a new product I have created with you!  It’s my Comprehensive & Informal Syntax Assessment!  Have you ever noticed there doesn’t seem to be a good, comprehensive syntax assessment anywhere!?  Standardized tests only test a handful of forms, and I have yet to find a comprehensive resource on the market, so I decided to make one!  I’m so excited about this, because there is nothing else quite like it out there (at least I haven’t been able to find anything), so I’m hoping this can be a valuable addition to your materials collection! Continue reading

Phonological Awareness Activity for Moderate to Severe Speech Sound Disorders Part 1: Consonant Chart

phono awareness

I recently completed a webinar series (gotta get in those CEUs…) about speech therapy for moderate to severe Speech Sound Disorders (SSD) in young children, and the presenters talked A LOT about phonological awareness.  I know phonological awareness is critical for future reading ability, but I didn’t realize how teaching phonological awareness can actually help drastically improve articulation and sound production!  I’ve been using two of the activities that the presenters shared, and I’m LOVING them!  I’ve been using them for about 2 weeks with one of my clients, and I’ve already seen some great progress.  This post will talk all about the first activity.  I’ll write another post for the second activity later.  They are both so great that they need their own spotlight!  🙂 Continue reading

Friday Favs: 5/31/13

friday favs

Wow, there was a TON of great stuff posted in the speech blogging world this week!  Must be that the end of the school year somehow gets those creative juices flowing (or maybe now we just have time to act on all those great ideas…)!  Here are my favorites from the week.  Enjoy! Continue reading

Friday Favs: 5/24/13

friday favs

If you’re new to Friday Favs, this is where I post all of my favorite finds for the week.  Here’s some great stuff from this past week.  Enjoy!

1) I recently posted about the use of sippy cups for babies and toddlers.  Read all about the pros and cons of sippy cups here! Continue reading

Friday Favs: 4/26/13

friday favs

OK, I realized I’m a little late on this.  This post should be titled “Saturday Favs” rather than “Friday Favs,” but you know what they say: Better late than never!  Here’s some favorites I found this week:

1.  Using Oral Storytelling in treatment for students with fluency and language disorders.  This is a post I wrote this week, and I’m excited about it.  If you try it in therapy with your own kids, I’d love to know what you think!

2.  Great lists of multiple meaning words sorted by grade level at spellingcity.com

3.  SoundGator.com: A great, FREE website containing hundreds of sound effects in several different categories.  This is a great resource for working with kiddos struggling with Auditory Processing or Auditory Attention.

4.  BeckmanOralMotor.com has a webpage that explains, in detail, all of the developmental patterns and movements for all of the oral structures.  There are also detailed descriptions of atypical patterns.  This is a great resource for in-depth oral motor assessments and feeding therapy.

5.  CommunicationStation has a great post for tongue thrust therapy.  Check it out!

Until next time,

Aersta Acerson

A Utah Speech Therapist

Sensory Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder


In light of Autism Awareness Month, I thought I would post a link to a great website for Sensory Processing Disorder.  Kids with Autism often have sensory sensitivities, which can affect all other aspects of their life: social, physical, mental, emotional, academic, etc.  The Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist found at sensoryprocessingdisorder.com is NOT meant to be used as a diagnostic tool.  Rather, if your child or student exhibits some of these behaviors, you may want to consider a referral to a sensory specialist, usually an Occupational Therapist.  That being said, this checklist is VERY thorough, and I highly recommend taking a look.  Even if you think you know a lot about sensory disorders, I’ll bet you’ll learn something!

Until next time,

Aersta Acerson

A Utah Speech Therapist

Using Oral Storytelling to Help Children with Stuttering or Language Disorders


My mother-in-law is highly involved in the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival here in Orem, Utah.  She had a meeting for the festival today and asked me to meet up with her.  While I was there, I met a sweet lady named Tamara who travels to elementary schools teaching children the art of oral storytelling.  I told her I was a private Speech-Language Pathologist practicing here in Orem, Utah, and that I was interested in the art of storytelling.  She began telling me about the changes she sees in children after learning techniques of storytelling; how they exhibit more self-assurance, learn proper oratory and presentation skills, and are less afraid of speaking in front of an audience.  These techniques continue to be invaluable throughout their lives.  As I sat there listening to her, I thought to myself, I would love to teach these techniques to my students who stutter!  And then I thought, why stop there?  I would love it if all my students with language disorders learned these techniques!

Now, we already know that it is critical for children to learn how to tell a basic story.  Unfortunately, this task is very difficult for many of our speech kiddos.  Nearly all of my language students have a storytelling goal.  But the big epiphany happened when I thought about teaching my students the art of storytelling in addition to story fundamentals (ie: sequencing, plot, characters, main idea, problem, etc).  The art of oral storytelling incorporates techniques children struggling with speech and language need to learn anyway (good eye contact, poise in front of an audience, use of appropriate voice, proper pacing, etc).  I quickly realized teaching kids to become storytellers rather than simply learning to tell stories could make all the difference!  They could learn several critical skills in a highly engaging and entertaining way!

So, I decided to do a little research to find out exactly how to teach children to become good storytellers.  I found this great website that gives session by session instructions on how to teach children to become good storytellers.  There’s a TON of stuff on the website, so I’ll just discuss the main points here.  Feel free to peruse the website for more detailed information.  Obviously, everything I’ve listed will take several practice sessions and will need to be adjusted to meet the needs of your child or student.  At the end of each “session” homework should be given to ensure the children are practicing their stories.

To become a good storyteller, students must learn the following:

1.  Learn what a good storyteller is/does through example and observation.  You can display a bit of talent yourself, or you can go to this YouTube link and show the children examples of professional storytellers.  Your choice. 🙂

2.  Explain why we learn to tell stories:

  • So that people remember us after we die
  • Entertain others
  • Teach lessons
  • Earn money.  Some people tell stories for a living.

3.  Introduce voice projection and proper “belly breathing” techniques:

  • Explain the importance of voice projection when speaking in front of an audience.
  • Teach the physiological process of speaking.  This would be a great time to use the FREE Speech Helper’s Ebook from Home Speech Home.
  • Teach them proper breathing techniques.  Teach them how to speak from their diaphragm.  You can have them lay on the floor with a book on their belly and have them practice breathing through their diaphragm.  If they are breathing correctly, the book will move up and down.  Have them feel the difference of breathing and not breathing through their diaphragm by feeling their throats when they speak.

4.  Introduce story sequencing by using picture story cards.  Choose a story and make simple picture cards depicting the sequence of the story.  Tell the children the story and have them practice rearranging the cards in sequential order.

5.  Let the children pick a book.  It is important that the child choose their own book so that they feel a sense of ownership over the story.  The website contains a Bibliography of tried and true storytelling books for children.  Here are some pointers they give for choosing a good book:

A good book for storytelling will:

  • Have a clear beginning, middle, and end
  • Have short, simple, and straightforward text
  • Contain repetitive phrases where the audience can join in (ie: “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll BLOW your house down!”)
  • Play on basic human emotions

A bad book for storytelling will:

  • Depend on illustrations to help tell the story
  • Contain a lot of text with a lot of dialogue
  • Contain lots of symbolic language that makes it difficult for a child understand and/or rephrase in their own words

6.  Introduce Character Mapping.  Character Mapping involves describing a character’s characteristics using word webs.  Have the children identify the main characters of their story and create word webs using words the describe each of their characters.

7.  Have the children memorize the first and last lines of their story.  Storytelling isn’t about memorizing, but knowing the first and last lines gives the children confidence that they know how to begin and end their stories.

8.  Teach children how to speak with expression.  The website describes a fun game that you can use to illustrate this concept.  First, have each child count from 1 to 10 in a monotone voice.  Then, have each child practice counting from 1 to 10 with different vocal expressions.  For instance, they could count like a toddler just learning to count, count like an angry parent, count like you were dropping pennies into a penny bank one by one, etc.

9.  Teach use of different facial expressions.  The website suggests using a game called “Pass the Face.”  Everyone sits in a circle, and one person makes a facial expression.  They show the group, then show their expression to their neighbor.  The neighbor makes that expression, then makes an expression of their own.  Play continues around the circle.

10.  Teach the children to use body language.  You can teach this by playing pantomime games.  The website provides three game examples, but I like the following two:

Game 1: Catch It!  Everyone stands in a circle.  A player calls another player’s name and yells an object (ie: dirty sock, hairy spider, birthday present, etc).  The “catching” player “catches” the object and makes appropriate body language and facial expressions.

Game 2: Walk the Walk.  Have the children walk across the room pretending different scenarios.  For example, walking through snow, walking home from school knowing chores are waiting, walking barefoot in the desert, etc.

11.  Discuss pauses and volume in storytelling.  Ask the children to identify parts in their story where it is best to talk in a slow whisper with a scared fast, or talk fast and loud with an excited face, etc.

12.  Help the children create an introduction for themselves and their book.

13.  Put their hard work to good use!  Have a storytelling event where the children get to perform their stories for each other!

Until next time,

Aersta Acerson

A Utah Speech Therapist

Friday Favs: 4/19/13

friday favs

All right y’all, here’s this week’s installment of “Friday Favs!”

1.  Quia.com is an awesome, FREE website for educators!  You can search for games, worksheets, etc that other educators have created and use them for your students!  Several SLPs have accounts, so there are lots of activities that are speech related.  Be aware that you do have to pay a yearly fee if you want to create your own activities.

2.  The Communication Station posted a great freebie this week!  It’s a social inferencing activity to help students identify events that are expected and not expected.  Check it out!

3.  The Peachie Speechie posted this week about a darling activity called “I mustache you a question!”  It’s a conversation game using fake mustaches.  Such a fun and simple idea, and so engaging for the kids!

4.  Here’s a great freebie from Speechy Musings!  It’s a packet of several short stories containing figurative language.  Talk about a great way to help generalize those idioms you’re students have been working on!

Until next time,

Aersta Acerson

A Utah Speech Therapist

Common Speech & Language Disorders In Children

Perhaps you’re child has been recently evaluated and diagnosed, and now you’re looking for information on what his diagnosis means.  Or maybe you’re concerned about your child’s speech and language development and you’d like to know more about various speech and language problems.  Below is a list of the most common speech and language diagnoses in children, what each diagnosis means, and what you can expect concerning your child’s speech and language development.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.  More information can be found at ASHA’s website.  If you have questions concerning your child’s speech and language development, please contact me for a FREE phone consultation, or refer to my Speech & Language Developmental Guidelines.

Childhood Apraxia of Speech

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder.  Children with CAS have a difficult time programming and planning the motor movements needed for speech.  When a child has Apraxia, it means there is a problem with the connection between the brain and the child’s mouth.  The child’s brain and the muscles in their mouth are typically developmentally normal, but for some unknown reason, CAS causes a problem with the signals being sent from the brain to the child’s mouth, making it difficult for the child to plan and produce the very precise motor movements needed for speech.  Think of it as like trying to write with the hand that you don’t typically write with.  Your brain knows the letters and how to form them.  The muscles in your hand are strong and able to produce the movements.  However, when you try to form the letters, they come out sloppy and distorted because your hand isn’t quite capable of making those refined movements.

What does this diagnosis mean for my child?

This, of course, depends on the child and the severity of the disorder.  Apraxia is a relatively rare speech disorder.  Children with CAS usually require several years of intensive speech therapy.  This is because the goal of therapy for a child with CAS is to train the child’s brain to program common motor movements for speech.  Teaching a child to program and produce these movements automatically can take significant time.

Articulation Disorders

An Articulation Disorder is the most common and the least severe of the speech and language disorders.  A child is diagnosed with an Articulation Disorder when they cannot correctly produce one or more developmentally appropriate sounds.  For example, if your 3rd grader is having trouble saying the /r/ sound, he will most likely be diagnosed with an Articulation Disorder, and will need to receive speech therapy.  The same is true for your Kindergartener who cannot produce her /k/ and /g/ sounds.  Articulation Disorders range in severity, but a good speech therapist can correct most Articulation Disorders in a relatively short amount of time.

Phonological Processes Disorder

A Phonological Process Disorder is very similar to an Articulation Disorder in that a Phonological Process Disorder affects the sounds a child produces.  The difference is that, rather than affecting one sound, a Phonological Process Disorder affects a class of sounds.  For example, your preschooler may drop most or all of the sounds at the end of his words (ie: “cat” becomes “ca”).  This Phonological Process is called Final Consonant Deletion.  Like an Articulation Disorder, a Phonological Process Disorder can range in severity, but a good speech therapist can correct most phonological processes in a relatively short amount of time.

Fluency Disorder (Stuttering)

A Fluency Disorder refers to the smoothness and fluidity of a child’s speech.  Stuttering is by far the most common Fluency Disorder.  It is typically characterized by syllable repetitions (ie: m,m,m, mom…), abnormal breathing patterns during speech, and blocks (ie: a child becomes “stuck” on a word or sound).  Stuttering is a serious and often life-long diagnosis that can affect a child socially and psychologically.  As with nearly every speech and language disorder, early intervention is critical.  This is especially true for stuttering.  Younger children have a much higher likelihood of outgrowing stuttering than do older children.  If you believe your child is exhibiting signs of stuttering, it is important to consult with a Speech-Language Pathologist as soon as possible.

Language Disorder: Receptive and Expressive

While Articulation and Phonological Process Disorders refer to the sounds a child produces, a Language Disorder refers to the actual words a child says and hears. There are two types of Language Disorders: Expressive and Receptive.  Most children diagnosed with a Language Disorder have difficulty in both areas, though the severity of each may differ.

Expressive Language Disorder

An Expressive Language Disorder refers to difficulties producing language.  Typical problems include difficulties with grammar, sentence creation, vocabulary, word finding (it’s on the tip of my tongue…), and difficulty with expressing wants, needs, and ideas.

Receptive Language Disorder

A Receptive Language Disorder refers to difficulties processing and understanding spoken language.  Difficulties may include lack of auditory comprehension, inability to answer questions, difficulty following directions, difficulty understanding social cues, difficulty maintaining conversations, and inability to understand humor or sarcasm.

What does a Language Disorder mean for my child?

Unfortunately, a Language Disorder is a life-long disorder.  Children cannot be cured from or simply “grow-out” of a Language Disorder.  However, with long-term (usually at least from grades PK-12), intensive speech therapy, the affect of a Language Disorder on a child’s life can be dramatically reduced.  Think of it this way: Have you ever tried to learn a second language?  If you have, then you know it is a very time consuming and difficult process.  Most second language learners never become as fluent as a native speaker even after years of intensive study.  For children with Language Disorders, it is as if they are learning a second language their whole life.  Learning a language (even their first!) does not come naturally for them, and it takes years of specialized instruction to become fluent and comfortable with language.

Voice Disorder

A Voice Disorder is one of the more rare speech disorders among children, and involves problems with a child’s vocal folds.  Usually, these problems occur in exceptionally loud, outgoing, and noisy children.  Yes, all children are prone to noise and yelling from time to time, but some children do not stop yelling, talking, etc.  Vocal over-use behaviors coupled with allergies and dehydration can lead to nodules or polyps on the vocal folds.  This causes a child’s voice to sound hoarse.  If you suspect your child has a Voice Disorder, the first thing to do is to take your child to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist.  If you visit a speech therapist first, she will refer you to an ENT before she can begin treatment.  A Voice Disorder is often associated with a medical diagnosis, and the type of speech treatment needed depends on the medical diagnosis given.  If your child does present with a Voice Disorder, it is usually resolved with a few months of speech therapy.

Feeding Disorder

Surprising, but yes, Speech-Language Pathologists can and do diagnose and treat Pediatric Feeding Disorders.  A Feeding Disorder occurs when a child is unable or unwilling to consume enough calories needed for proper growth and development.  These children are often labeled as picky eaters, but in reality, they are problem eaters.  Feeding Disorders often occur due to other medical or developmental difficulties.  For example, children who were born premature, or children diagnosed with a disorder such as Autism or Sensory Processing Disorder often have a co-occurring Feeding Disorder.  Children with digestive issues such as reflex or food allergies can also develop Feeding Disorders.  Some children develop Feeding Disorders after a traumatic event, such as choking.  Characteristics of a Feeding Disorder include:

  • History of medical or developmental problems
  • Very limited food repertoire.  Often child with a Feeding Disorder cut out whole categories of food from their diet.
  • Rigid eating behaviors:  Children with Feeding Disorders often will not eat if changes are made to their feeding routine.  They are very rigid about the location, preparation, and presentation of food.
  • Misbehavior during meal times
  • Presence of gagging or vomiting while eating

What does this diagnosis mean for my child?

If your child exhibits symptoms of or is is diagnosed with a Feeding Disorder, it is critical to get treatment for your child right away.  Children do not grow out of a Feeding Disorder, and it will often become worse with age.  Children with Feeding Disorders often require treatment from a Speech-Language Pathologist for several months in order to increase their caloric intake and food repertoire.

Until next time,

Aersta Acerson

A Utah Speech Therapist