Archive for June, 2010

June 27th, 2010

Ready for the R Sound

If you have a child/student who has difficulty saying the R sound, you can try to help.  First, find out if the child can say the sound by itself (not in a word).  Try to say “rrrrr” and feel where your tongue goes.  The trouble with teaching R is that your tongue could be doing something a little different than my tongue, but it all sounds pretty much like an R.  Not only that, but in many places where English is spoken, when R is at the end of word, a vowel sound is used.  It sounds like “caa” instead of “car”.   Think English “accent”, Australian, Boston etc.  This is one way to say an R sound:

Lift and curl the tip of the tongue. It doesn’t quite touch the roof of the mouth. Bunch up the body of the tongue. Flatten the sides so they touch the molars.

See what I mean?  You can’t tell a child to do this and expect results, but sometimes a child can imitate when you say “rrrrr”.  Maybe he/she just can’t put it all together in a word or sentence yet.  Your first job is to listen to the child and see if he/she can say the sound by itself.  Don’t forget to look at the child’s face.  For example, if he/she is rounding the lips, it’s likely not an R, it’s probably a “w” sound.  Sometimes asking the child to smile and say “rrr” gets a correct R, but not always.   At this point, you have two choices:

  1. Find a professional. See the CASLPA or ASHA websites for help.
  2. Wait a little longer for development to take place.  Try again in a week or a month and see if he/she is ready to imitate “rrrrr.”

What you don’t want to do is ask the child repeatedly to imitate “rrr” because he/she will be practising it the wrong way.  Your muscles need to learn a new way of working to get the result you want.

If your child is able to imitate “rrr”, then you’re in business and you can begin to teach.

Teaching Tips:  Like learning any new skill, knitting, dancing, driving a car, one key to success is practice, practice, practice.  Every day for a few minutes is great, but even once a week will help.  For children, the other key to success is making it fun, fun, fun.   A parent once told me she didn’t want to use external rewards (stickers) with her kids, because she felt it should be internally rewarding for them.  Okay in theory, but I personally didn’t have a problem paying my oldest child a quarter to get ready for school in the morning when I was trying to get 4 of them out the door.  He’s now on his own and I’m pretty sure he gets a bigger salary now, which motivates him to get ready for work in the morning.  My motto is to use whatever works best for the child. You won’t have to use it for the rest of his/her life — hopefully.

Handouts: These are progress charts you can use to reinforce practice times.  Put a sticker on each star or square every time you practise or just draw a happy face.

June 20th, 2010

The Bear Facts

There are few hard and fast rules about the exact age children learn to say speech sounds correctly. We know that some sounds are easier and learned earlier.  Some sounds are harder. They’re often learned later.

Easier sounds:  M, W, P, B, H, T, D, Y

Difficult sounds: L, Sh, Ch, J,  R, S, Z, Th

All children make errors as they learn to talk.  Lots of children (and some adults ) lisp, for example.  This means S sounds like Th – “thun” for “sun”. It’s normal for some children to make mistakes with sounds that are difficult, even up to ages 6 and 7.

One of my children had difficulty with R. When she was 5 years old, she didn’t mind practising it a little.  That’s all she needed. On the other hand, it took 3 years of practise (off and on) for another one to learn R.  There’s something to be said for waiting until the child is developmentally ready.

If a child is always frustrated because no one understands him or stops talking because he’s embarrassed, you need to seek help.  This is really important because some medical professionals  say “Your child will outgrow it”.  Suddenly, the child is 10 and no one has addressed the issue.

For a child with only a few errors, these strategies might be all that is needed to get on the road to clear speech.  These same strategies can be used when teaching students learning English.

Strategies :

Pay attention to the way you talk.  Be a good model.

Say your sounds clearly, so your child/student can hear the correct pronunciation.

If you talk fast – slow down.

If your child/student makes an error, repeat it back correctly.  Put extra emphasis on the correct sound.  If the child says, “wun” for “run”, you say, “Yes, let’s rrrrun.”

Talk about the sound he’s having trouble with. Give it a name. Call it “The bear sound”.

Warning: Don’t  keep asking your child to repeat the sound  if he really can’t do it.

Activities :  To encourage awareness of the R sound,  use the picture of the bear at the beginning of  Ready for R.   Ask, “What does a bear say?”  Have the child draw a picture of a bear or cut one out. Put the picture on the fridge or somewhere in the  classroom where you both will see it.  This visual will remind you to talk about it.  Act out “Goldilocks and the 3 Bears”.  Don’t forget bears frequently say “rrrrr”.  Not only did the Baby Bear say, “Someone’s been sitting in my chair”, he also said “rrrrrrr”.  Get some bear books from the library. Have a Teddy Bear day.  Have Bear Olympics or a Teddy Bear picnic.  Have fun!

June 13th, 2010

The Perils of Marian

If you’ve scrolled down to the bottom of the page, you’ll have seen the screaming little girl rat  –  a nod to the Perils of Pauline.  Watching those old silent movies reminds us that communicating is more than talking. This clip would be a great way to introduce the topic of communication to students:

Communication involves words, gestures, facial expression and body language.  Meaning is conveyed in written words, pictures (think of washroom signs) and even colour (stop lights).  A foot stomping toddler, a raised eyebrow, crossed arms- we all get it.  Even the message of a silently glaring teenager comes across loud and clear. . If you’re a sports fan, pay attention to the gestures and facial expressions of the players and coaches during World cup soccer, you don’t have to speak the language to understand the meaning.

Activities: Rent a Charlie Chaplin movie.   Play charades and guess the meaning of the actions or have them create their own silent movie.

These are two worksheets you might find helpful for teaching the topic of communication:

We’ve had requests for worksheets and lesson plans to go along with Ready for R and they’re in the works. We’re aiming the language level at about grade 3, because if a child is still having difficulty with the R sound at that age, he/she definitely needs help.  Speech sounds are an important part of communication.  More about that in the next blog.

June 9th, 2010

Lost in ….Translation???

Marian asked if I’d help design the blog and supply a few illustrations that suggest communication. And to tell you the truth, I think she thought my choices a little odd, so if you’ll indulge me, I feel an explanation is in order here.

First, I NEEDED to include the robot! Why a robot you say? Well for one thing he’s on the cover of our book. And really, who can resist a little shameless self-promotion? But truly, there is another reason (Marian just rolls her eyes and says “No one’s going to get that Savaaann.”) But come on, surely you remember the robot from “Lost In Space”? “Danger, Will Robinson, danger.”

Tell me, is that not communication at its finest? Succinct and visceral – voice crying out, arms flailing – who could miss that message? (I’m sure Will never did, although Dr. Smith was a bit thick, if I remember correctly.)

Then there’s the ranger. I love that ranger! Why a ranger you ask? As a tribute to my Italian heritage (Silvana Bevilacqua – yup that’s Italian) I felt there had to be a little yelling. Sadly yelling is often the preferred method of communication in our household.

I just happened to have him lying around. He seemed perfect and I confess he’s one of my favourites. I suppose I could have used a town crier “come one, come all” – that sort of thing. But did I tell you I love my ranger? (He’s from “The First Picnic“ by Claire Wilson – A World of Stories/Gumboot Books.)

Now if you just drop your eyes to the bottom left of the page, you’ll notice our damsel in distress. Not too hard to figure out that girl needs help, (can you guess who she’s loosely based on?) again “communication at its finest.”

What is it Marian always says? “We communicate in many ways, verbal, visual” and oh yeah, “don’t forget to listen.”