Teaching Verbal Skills
Hi! I am Mom to a 9 year old boy with Autism. He only has a few spoken words but I want to encourage you to think about verbal skills as communication skills. So if your child can learn to sign or communicate wtih a speech generating augmentative device that is a verbal skill too. I know the primary goal is usually speech. However is it critical to give the child some reliable form of communication as soon as possible whle still working toward verbal communication.
Signed Exact English has been a great gift for my son to use to communicatie his wants and needs and to demonstrate that he can read! This is such a complex issue and so many things to try. One of the most important rules we follow in our house is that "EVERY SOUND IS A WORD". We encourage ANY vocalization (well, short of screaming) to communicate. My son's primary form of communication is Signed Exact English, but when he signs he must also vocalize with the sign. He can't say the whole word "milk" but he can say "mk"...so we require that...(this is soy milk for him as he is on the GFCF diet too...he is not even really supposed to be using the soy milk but that is another topic). Anyway, "music" as you can imagine right now sounds just about lilke "mk" too BUT he is learning the function of using his voice to comunicate and that it can help get him what he wants. He can't say "computer" but he can say "com" with a couple other sounds to simulate the other two syllables. While speech therapists may get too wrapped up in exact articulation...it is more productive to use the "errorless learning" concept that rewards every attempt with positive reinforement then tries to model the correct pronunciation and require increasingly closer approximations to the word. My son's "car", "Mom". "come" and "hi" are some of the best and so another tool we use is to take the sounds he has and emerging sounds and try to shape them into additional funcitonal words.
We are now focusing on the individual sounds of "b" and "p". I have to actually touch my son's mouth to gently press the upper and lower lip together as the starting p oint for "b" or "p" and demonstrate them then ask him to imitate. "p' we do almost as a whisper right now to drive home the difference between the stronger b and the softer p. Then we take the b and ask for functional words "bye"...it's getting pretty good! Yipee! He already had a "c" cor "k" sound so we are asking for "cup" also a nice approximation developing, and we have a new puppy so we are asking for "pup".
Listen to the sounds your child may make when they are playing...(my son makes more sounds spontaneously than when asked...an Apraxia issue.) Your child will be more motivated to ask verbally for something they really want..."cookie" for example...my son tries pretty well to say "apple" too. Another tool can be just the opposite of this later technique and that is once you have identified any sounds t hey make that resemble individual speech sounds ask them for some thing really out there...David is asked for words like "zoo" and "they" because we are tr ying to get new sounds that might come in the process of tring these really dificult ones. I have been having him stick his toungue out between his teeth and do a raspberry to get the feel of placing his tongue toward the front of his mouth touching his teeth...notice where your tongue has to be for the "th" or z" sound.
Having your child imitate oral motor movements and playful sounds are very helpful...we like the Mighty Mouth game that makes players do things like:
1. stick out the tongue in a point 2. stick out the tongue as if you were trying to touch your nose 3. stick out the tongue as if trying to touch your chin 4 lick your lips as if trying to lick off peanut butter 4. pucker lips like a kiss 5. do a fish mouth with rounded lips open like, an "O" 6. move tongue from side to side with mouth open 7. push tongue against inside of cheeck 8. move tongue up and down with lips parted. Watch to see if your c hild moves his/her head with the up and down or side to side movements or can keep thier head isolated. You could make cards with these oral motor movements on them and play it like Simon Says. I reward my son's attempts with tickling as he loves to be tickled...he also goes for high f ives and praise to keep motivated.
Taking your index finger and tapping gently all around the lips can help provide some additional sensation to the mouth when working on speech sounds, as can various oral motor stim devices...you can find in catalogs like Beyond Play.
Singing games even if they seem to young for your kids are also great speech activites as they stimulate both sides of the brian at once. Think of songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider, Bingo, Wheels on the Bus, and Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes..with the motions, singing and interaction these improve social skills as well. My son always responded well to music...when he was 2 and 3 it seemed like he only listened to me when I was singing.
Even if the kids are too young to read it is never to early to introduce them to words maybe with pictures too to help them understnad language...picutes and words of things like coookie, car, apple, ball, dog, cat, etc. and picutes of family members...Mom, etc. I STRONGLY suggest working tirelessly on building receptive language...if you need some ideas on how to do that you can talk to me in my chatterbox. Communication is critical! This is what we spend about 90% of our instructional time on in one way or another.
Don't underestimate the importance of reading daily to your child...good old Dr. Seuss is GREAT for kids to internalize the sounds and rhythm of language!