What is 'Challenging Behaviour' in Speech-Language Therapy?


What is 'Challenging Behaviour' in Speech-Language Therapy?

Challenging behaviour is any behaviour that interferes with a child’s development or learning; is harmful to the child, other children or adults; or puts a child at risk for later social problems or difficulties in school. Another way to put it, challenging behaviour is a term used to describe behaviour that interferes with a child’s daily life.

Behaviour refers to how a child conducts themselves. It’s their actions, and reactions to their environment or situations.

There are certain ‘building blocks’ to behaviour, and many apply directly to the work of Speech-Language Pathologists:

  • Receptive language: understanding of spoken language

  • Expressive language: ability to express oneself (and consequently be understood by others)

  • Social skills: the ability to appropriately engage in interaction with others, the ability to recognize and follow social norms

  • Emotional development & regulation: ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions

  • Self regulation: ability to maintain and change emotion, behaviour, attention, and activity levels to make it appropriate to the task or situation

  • Planning & sequencing: the sequential multi-step task to achieve an outcome

  • Executive functioning: higher order reasoning and thinking skills

  • Sensory processing: accurate processing of sensory stimulation in the environment and in one’s own body, which impacts behavioural reactions

One way that we can help is to teach functional equivalents. A functional equivalent is a desirable or acceptable behaviour that achieves the same outcome as a ‘less desirable problem behaviour’.

What can SLPs do? You first have to determine the function of the behaviour that you observe - is it to obtain something tangible (e.g. screaming to get the toy), or avoid something altogether (hiding under the table to avoid working on spelling)?

A child may talk back to the SLP and refuse to work on spelling, in order to avoid the task because he/she feels that it is too difficult.

A replacement behaviour is to reduce the ‘burden’ of the task and to give the child the words to use that are appropriate. For instance, one way to reduce the burden is for the child to ask for help or clarification. Children with speech or language difficulties may require help in doing this.

The SLP can decrease the difficulty slightly and praise the child for asking for clarification or help. It’s OK to remind the child to do this and to provide that model.

Keep in mind that every child is unique and that this is simply one example. The same behaviour (e.g. talking back) may serve a different function such as getting attention, or getting to do a more desirable activity (e.g. go outside).

Let me know if you have any questions. Join my e-mail list and message me directly. My next blog will be on the functions of behaviour (Sensory, Escape, Attention, Tangible).


Language Enrichment at the Park


Language Enrichment at the Park

Today is the official start to the summer season. The sun is shining, the kids are excited for school to be out soon, and I’m thinking about how to provide parents with the tools to continue speech-language development throughout the summer.

If you already know your child’s skills are behind because you completed an assessment with a Speech-Language Pathologist, this information will be especially important for you. The good news though, is that any child can benefit from ‘language enrichment’ at the park.

I recently ate my lunch at Gibson Park in Elmira, Ontario. Despite the relatively small but growing population of this town, there are incredible parks here. During my lunch break, I found myself fascinated and almost teary-eyed with all the opportunities to practice speech-language skills on this playground.

Here are some ‘language facilitation strategies’ that I want to highlight to help you absorb this information.

  • Modeling: This is providing the sentence for your child to imitate (or word - it depends on what ‘level’ your child is at). A child sees a bug on the swing, you both look at it and you say, “I see a bug” for your child to repeat.

  • Parallel talk: This is when you talk about what the child is doing.

  • Self Talk: When you talk about what you are doing.

  • Expansion: Repeat what your child says but make it more grammatically correct.

  • Extension: Comment on what your child said and add new information.

  • Focused Stimulation: This is when you repeat. You repeat a word or phrase to encourage your child to use it.

I quickly ate my lunch and walked through the playground, writing notes in my phone on all the words that could enrich your child’s learning.

Here is what came to mind if I were playing with a toddler at this park. If you’re with an older child or a child who is already talking in sentences, you can practice words like these in sentences:

  • step up

  • hold on

  • spinning

  • sliding

  • swinging

  • push back

  • push forward

  • slide back

  • go forward

  • twirling

  • grab here

  • hold here

  • bumpy

  • again!

  • squeaky

  • green

  • squishy

  • hot

  • shade

  • sunny

  • bright

  • through the tunnel!

  • climbing

  • wet sand

  • digging

  • dumping

  • fast/slow

Take this scenerio for example. A young child climbs up the ladder and as you help her take a step you say, “step up - step up - step up (etc.)” (focused stimulation), “you’re stepping up” (parallel talk - talking about what the child is doing). Then you say, “hold on!” (modeling) the child holds the railing and your hand as she walks along the rickety bridge, “I’m holding your hand, holding” (self talk - talking about what you’re doing).

In another scenerio, if you’re practicing language skills with a child who is using sentences, you can add grammar, add meaning, and generally add more expression to what your child is trying to say. If your child says he wants to go on the ‘thing’ while pointing to the kid friendly zipline at this park you’d say, “you want to go on the zipline”. He may require help asking to try it so you model a way to ask such as, “can I have a turn?”. Rather than simply pushing him, he can practice saying what he would like you to do, “push me please!” or maybe, “I want to stop” (you never know).

You don’t have to use these strategies the whole time that you are at the park, but be mindful of the opportunities that you can use them. Most importantly, enjoy your time together this summer and keep practicing.

If you liked this article, please share.

For more information on Gibson Park and the mother daughter duo that pulled together the community to support building this accessible playground, go to http://www.kateskause.com/


Pipe Cleaner Craft for Kids - Dragonflies


Pipe Cleaner Craft for Kids - Dragonflies

This pipe cleaner craft is perfect for a rainy day like it is today here in Ontario. Use this craft to keep a young child’s attention & practice essential language skills.

dragon fly description picture.png

Here is how to make the craft:

  • bend the pipe cleaner depicted in (A)

  • do the same to the other side (B)

  • wrap the ‘wings’ around the popsicle stick (C)

  • do the same thing with the lower ‘wings’ (D)

  • wrap pipe cleaner around the stick, the ‘body’ of the dragonfly (D)

  • glue the eyes

When practicing language skills you can work on the following:

  • use pronouns or other grammatical markers (e.g. plurals) when you make the craft for mom or dad (e.g. What does mom or dad want? “He wants a green dragonfly” “She wants blue wings”). You can modify this depending on your goals.

  • describe what you or the child are doing using words like ‘wrapping’, ‘bending’, ‘twisting’, ‘gluing’ etc.,

  • ask the child what we should do next to make it.

  • give lots of choices on how to make it by asking the child where the wings should go, eyes should go, what colour he/she would like etc.,


Share this resource with your friends and let me know in the comments below what your go-to crafts are.


How to Use Glitter Sensory Jars in Speech Therapy


How to Use Glitter Sensory Jars in Speech Therapy


Glitter sensory jars have been popular for several years now, but it is just recently that I saw them up close and personal at a local craft show. Now, I’m selling them at Clearway Speech! If you’re interested in buying them, please contact We Learn Multi-Sensory Play on Facebook (Etsy shop coming soon) or visit my clinic.

Parents and educators have a variety of uses for these sparkly jars. One teacher told me she uses them with her students for mindfulness, sensory needs, and emotion regulation. “Emotion regulation” is a term generally used to describe a person’s ability to effectively manage and respond to an emotional experience.

As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I was interested in including these jars in our speech practice. Here are some of my personal uses:

  • Turn taking and eye contact with toddlers - rolling the jar back and forth.

  • Learning pronouns ‘my’ and ‘your’.

  • Language expression skills - talking about what you see:

    • I see stars

    • I see sparkles

    • I see the colour blue and red etc.

  • Adding action words like “shake”, “look”, “see”, “roll”, “stand up”, “flip”, “falling”. Sometimes I will ask kids if they want me to ‘flip it’, ‘shake it’, or ‘roll it’.

  • As a reward or break after practicing something challenging in the session.

  • As a back up toy (I have it hidden in the corner of the therapy room in an easy-to-access location).

I recently used it with a child who got into his own routine; he’d look at it for about 10 seconds, allow me to take it away while he practiced language expression skills, then I’d return it for another short break. It has also been a motivating toy to look at after an activity that is less motivating (e.g. reading a challenging book for someone with Dyslexia). Overall, it’s surprising how useful this jar is for speech, language, and social-communication skills.

How do you use it? I’d love to hear your uses in the comments below. As always, share this article & enjoy your speech sessions!


Praising Kids for Positive Behaviour


Praising Kids for Positive Behaviour

Rachel SLP explains how to correct negative behaviour in your speech-language therapy sessions by focusing on good behaviour, using parallels with parenting. Share this website with your friends & subscribe!


Why I Love Water Beads for Speech-Language Development


Why I Love Water Beads for Speech-Language Development

The water beads that I use are from We Learn Multi-sensory Play (you can find them on Facebook!). There are a variety of colours that you can choose from and all of them are non-toxic. I tried making them for the first time and I wanted to document my experience for you. I put three packages of the ‘Birthday Party’ colours and about 15 cups of water into a container I found at the dollar store.


After about 1 hour the beads look like this:


I left them in overnight and strained the water first thing in the morning. One package of beads should hydrate in water for 4-6 hours. I wasn’t sure if I could leave the beads in water overnight, but it turned out great:


In speech-language therapy, so far I have used the water beads primarily with children aged Pre-Kindergarten to Senior Kindergarten. I’m sure I will have uses with it for older children as well.

Many children can benefit from play with water beads even without a speech or language difficulty. Think of it like speech and language enrichment.

A recent study (2018 recent) discovered that children who heard more words and had more conversations with their parents had better language skills ten years later and that conversations had a larger impact on children’s language skills than the number of words parents said to their children.

Water beads are a great conversation starter.

I’ve had children say to me ‘I love this!’ and parents tell me their kids wouldn’t stop talking about the water beads all week.

Here are some uses of water beads for language development. Use sentences like:
It feels wet
- It feels like water
- It feels soft
- It looks like … (some kids say candy but don’t worry - none have eaten them!)

Talk about what you are doing or what you want to do using action words:
- I’m twirling
- I’m stirring
- I’m mixing
- Hide my hands
- Show my hands
- I’m holding the beads
- I’m scooping the beads

A number of the kids told me they were hiding their hands and thought it was so funny. Sometimes the beads bounce out of the container so we have an opportunity to talk about it ‘bouncing’ and then we ‘catch them’ or ‘pick them up’ (i.e. more ways to have a conversation and practice our language skills).

Here are some uses of water beads for speech development (clarity):
Sometimes children are practicing particular sounds in sentences, so we may emphasize certain sounds when speaking; for instance, we may practice the ‘m’ sound in the word ‘my’ when we say ‘show MY hands’ (one example).

- I like to hide articulation cards under the beads (usually laminated but I have used the paper. Be aware that they will be wet later). I hide about 5 articulation cards and children find them and practice their word(s). I repeat this over again.

I find that when activities involve new sensory experiences, children are engaged longer, they attend more, and they participate easily.

In the future, I may find soft figurines of a boy and a girl so that I can practice using pronouns (e.g. ‘he/she’ ‘his/her’ etc.) while playing in the water beads.

These are just a few ideas - I will keep using these beads in different ways and I hope you will too!



Survey & Free Poster for You


Survey & Free Poster for You

Thank you SLPs and SLPAs for connecting here to complete this quick, anonymous survey. In return, I’d like to give you a free poster that I designed to express expectations in the speech-language therapy room. (I use it, and it’s been helpful). Simply fill out your response in the survey below, and an e-mail with the poster will be sent to you (4 pages including versions with no lines & black letters).

Problem behaviours in my speech-language therapy sessions NEGATIVELY impact my job satisfaction.
Problem behaviours in my speech-language therapy sessions NEGATIVELY impact my job satisfaction.
Problem behaviours POSITIVELY impact my client’s progress toward their speech-language goals.
Problem behaviours POSITIVELY impact my client’s progress toward their speech-language goals.


You will receive 4 pages for your preference:  Pg 1: colour letters with lines (shown above) Pg 2: colour letters with no lines Pg 3: black letters with lines Pg 4: black letters with no lines

You will receive 4 pages for your preference:
Pg 1: colour letters with lines (shown above)
Pg 2: colour letters with no lines
Pg 3: black letters with lines
Pg 4: black letters with no lines


How to Make Fake Snow for Speech-Language Therapy


How to Make Fake Snow for Speech-Language Therapy

Make fake snow at home or in Speech-Language therapy to practice many skills.

Making fake snow is easy and it’s great for sensory play. I made it a couple days ago and I have used it with 3-4 year olds who are working on both articulation and language goals. All you do is combine hair conditioner with baking soda.

3 cups of baking soda
½ cup of hair conditioner


I bought a single box of the baking soda (500g) which only amounted to approximately 2 cups, so I estimated how much hair conditioner to put in. I bought a hair conditioner that was on sale, which happened to have a strong lavender scent. You may want to consider the scent of the conditioner that you use. I recommend keeping this mixture in a plastic container with a lid (pictured below).


Mix the two ingredients until you get a texture that looks like snow, is soft, and sticks together. I would add more conditioner until I got the desired texture that would allow me to clump the ‘snow’ into a ball in my hand. If it’s too wet, then add more baking soda.


One child and I were working on applying the skills she has learned in both speech and language practice (e.g. ‘l’ sound, using pronouns). We were also practicing slowing our speech down. I found this fake snow activity helpful for practicing multiple goals at ‘more advanced’ stages. Specifically, she wasn’t learning the skills for the first time, we had already practiced them over several weeks.

I used the snow and had a couple plastic molds from a play dough set to help give us topics to talk about (i.e. mold of a snowman or tree depicted below). I also had a male and a female figurine so we could use sentences such as, “she has a snowman” or “he has a tree”. We practiced clear speech and slower talking rate while using sentences like, “It smells like…”, “It looks like…”, and “it feels like…”.


I had many opportunities to model the language skills, expand on her utterances, and even practice auditory comprehension indirectly. We had a couple instances where she had an opportunity to self-correct grammar. The best part - she loved it!

As you can tell from the picture below, some of the fake snow spilled onto our play mat. You should know that it was very easy to clean up with wipes and a vacuum cleaner.

Share this article with your friends/family & comment on how you have used fake snow in your speech-language therapy sessions or at home.

IMG_20181211_114044 (1).jpg


Spider Craft That's Perfect for Halloween


Spider Craft That's Perfect for Halloween

Get your toddler talking more with this easy and fun spider craft.

There are a variety of words and sentences your child will begin to understand and use around 24-36 months of age.

At this age, children begin using words to describe locations such as in and on (e.g. hat on). They may also understand and use words like up, down, away, out, over, under, here, and there.

25-28 months: toddlers can use negative sentences by saying no to say that something is gone or away (e.g. no cookie).

Toddlers begin to use ongoing action words that end in -ing like running and walking before they are two years old. First, children will say “baby crying” before saying, “baby is crying”. The age range that children have mastered using -ing action words is between 19-28 months.

Finally toddlers begin using regular plurals (words like cows, shoes) between 27-33 months. Before this, toddlers will use more such as more cow or a number like two cow to say that there is more than one thing.

Overall, by 24 months, toddlers may be able to use 200-300 words. By 30 months around 450 words, and by 36 months they may be using over 1,000 words.

I used this simple, low cost, activity with many children this past week to practice all of these language skills and more (e.g. requesting). I designed this ‘Spider Play’ activity and it happens to be great for Halloween. The purpose of sharing this is to show you how you can practice language skills using any low cost, activity at home. You don’t have to go to a store to buy it, and it doesn’t have to light up and make noises.

Simply cut out the spider, and glue it together while modeling specific words and encouraging your child to speak with you.

Watch for ideas on which words to model, and download the free resource below the video.

Below is the free product (click ‘get this!’):

If you’re concerned about your child’s speech/language development, contact a Speech-Language Pathologist.


Help My Toddler Use Their Words


Help My Toddler Use Their Words

Learning to talk has many steps. Children must have ‘prelinguistic’ skills before using words to communicate. But which skill is a predictor of future language development?

Joint attention is an example of a prelinguistic skill that I practice with most toddlers. I do this because joint attention can be a predictor of future language development.

Joint attention is your child’s understanding that you can both pay attention to the same object or event. Children show this skill by following an eye gaze or a point. Another way to describe this skill is that it is the sharing of an experience between a child and a communication partner (e.g. the caregiver at young stages).

Early joint attention skills include reaching to be picked up by a caregiver, pointing to a toy, or looking at a book together. Later joint attention skills include focusing on a game, or requesting a favourite food.

One way to work on this skill is through ‘block play’. Download the free resource below to see what I do in my therapy sessions and to practice this essential skill at home!


How to Get Your Toddler to Talk


How to Get Your Toddler to Talk


This ‘‘Feed the Monkey” game is a go-to activity that I use in most therapy sessions with young children who are considered late talkers. I want you to be able to use it at home, because I have seen many children and families benefit from it.

A ‘late talker’ is a child between 18-30 months old, who has good play skills, motor skills, social skills, thinking skills, and understanding of language; but, has a small vocabulary.

Here are some guidelines:

  • 18 month olds should use at least 20 words. There should be a variety of words such as social words (“hi”, “bye”), nouns, verbs, prepositions (“up”, “down”), and adjectives (“hot”, “soft”).

  • 24 month olds should use at least 100 words and combine 2 words together such as “daddy go”, “doggie gone”, and “eat cracker”.

I like to include common early first words in my therapy sessions, and some common first words include “monkey”, “banana” and “eat”.

Print out the pages, cut out the monkey’s mouth, and cut out the bananas (two versions of the monkey for your preference). Find a tissue box, remove one side (so banana can fit through), and tape the monkey to the box. Now you can play the game.

Monkey blog.png

In the game, you have to hold the banana near your face, say the word “banana”, wait for the child to request the banana, and then give the banana to the child. The child then has to put the banana inside the monkey’s mouth while you model the words “eat” and “monkey” (e.g. 3-5 times). You can also say things like, “the monkey eats the banana” and “monkey eats” (emphasizing italicized words).

Focused stimulation starts with an adult and child sharing the same focus of attention. Then your child hears examples of a specific word or words. In this case it is our three early words - “banana”, “eat”, and “monkey”. Try saying these words 3-5 times during each turn with the banana. Focused stimulation is an effective strategy for stimulating vocabulary in children with language delays.

Determining when you give the banana to your child depends on your child’s level of communication. For instance, at first you may wait for your child to make eye contact with you before giving them the banana. Later, you can wait for them to make eye contact + gesture (e.g. point at the banana). As your child becomes more advanced, they can combine eye contact, gesture + a vocalization (e.g. “uh”). Still, your child can also say ‘nana’ for “banana”.

Below is the game for download, for you to use at home to get your toddler talking! If you are concerned about your child’s language skills, contact a Speech-Language Pathologist.


When Your Child Says "Wemon" for 'Lemon'


When Your Child Says "Wemon" for 'Lemon'

How to Teach the ‘L’ Sound

In speech therapy, the ‘l’ sound is one of the more difficult sounds for children to learn. The child is required to keep the tip of his/her tongue up and in place while having their voice ‘on’.

I sometimes call the ‘l’ sound the ‘lalala singing sound’. Metaphors help the children to recognize and produce different sounds in speech therapy.

I typically begin working on this sound when children are in Junior Kindergarten. When the ‘l’ sound is beside a consonant like in the word ‘block’ and ‘climb’, I will begin working on this when the child is a bit older.

One way to strengthen the tongue, so that the child can keep the tongue up for this sound, is to use a cheerio. Have the child use the tip of the tongue to keep the cheerio ‘up’. The cheerio will be placed up on the bumpy ridge area, behind the upper teeth.

Have the child practice this, and then practice holding the tongue up without the cheerio while saying just the ‘l’ sound.

If you would like more information, or materials to practice this sound at home, please see the program below. I provide helpful materials for home practice including individually selected, high resolution, photo flashcards.

Articulation L Sound
Get This!

To request a sound - comment below. If you know of anyone who would enjoy this resource, share this blog!


What Do I Do If My Child Has a Lisp?


What Do I Do If My Child Has a Lisp?

How to Teach the ‘S’ Sound

First off - I wanted to mention that there are two types of lisps. One is the lisp where the ‘s’ sound is produced incorrectly with the tongue between the teeth called an  ‘interdental lisp’ (e.g. ‘thoup’ for ‘soup’). The other one is when the airflow goes on either side of the tongue making the ‘s’ sound ‘slushy’ called a ‘lateral lisp’.

The correct way to say the ‘s’ sound has the airflow going through the centre of the mouth.

The first thing to do is to determine whether the lisp is interdental or lateral. If the lisp is interdental, most of the ‘s’ sounds will sound more like a ‘th’ sound. If it is ‘lateral’, you will hear a lot of ‘slushy’ talking.

If you’re a parent and you find it difficult to tell if your child has a lisp, you’re not alone. Sometimes you can ‘get used to’ the way your child sounds.

Many parents request that we begin working on the ‘s’ sound early because lisps can be distracting, and can make it difficult for people to understand the child. Sometimes I see children before they enter Junior Kindergarten (in Canada) so that would be age 3 and a half to 4 years.

Other times children start working on the ‘s’ sound a bit later, especially if they have other sounds that they are working on.

If you have a child that has a lisp, it is recommended to begin working on it early because it can be a sound that takes a while to correct. The ‘s’ sound is one of the most common sounds in the English language. Share this blog with your friends!

Articulation S Sound
Get this!


Prepare for Kindergarten with Dinosaurs


Prepare for Kindergarten with Dinosaurs

If you know a pre-kindergarten child who loves dinosaurs (who doesn't?) - share this! 

Let’s face it, not every child loves learning about letters. Not every child wants to recite the alphabet song, match letters, recognize letters, name them, or do whatever else we instruct them to do.

I wanted to teach my pre-kindergarten nephew how to look at a lower case alphabet letter, match it with the same shape, and then name the letter, all while playing a turn taking game.

But I had a problem. Playing with toy dinosaurs is arguably more fun than learning about letters. And my nephew loves dinosaurs. If I could just find an alphabet activity that included dinosaurs in it, I thought, my nephew would be ecstatic. He’d be acquiring essential pre-literacy skills all while playing with the prehistoric creatures he knows and loves!

I looked and looked (and looked) and couldn’t find anything. Not online, not in stores, nothing. I asked myself - why not just create my own? I developed a turn taking game that involved magnetic chips and a magnetic wand because from my experience, kids can’t get enough of magnets either. 


As I was developing this idea, I wondered if there was such thing as an ‘alphabet dice’ and luckily there was.


I used his favourite colour (orange) and his favourite dinosaur (T-Rex) and designed a playmat that could display all the lowercase letters. I decided to design it with multiple colours and multiple dinosaurs to suit more people.

In this dinosaur game, the child has to roll the alphabet dice, then find the letter on the picture that matches it, place the chip on it, and then practice naming the letter (the child can also name the sound). The child can take turns with one person or a group of people.

Turn taking is an essential skill that I include in most of my therapy sessions. Children learn to take turns in play before they learn to take turns “talking” in conversation. Turn taking can also increase a child’s attention span and promote eye contact. 


Once the board is finished or over a set period of time (e.g. after 10 minutes), the child can pick up all the magnetic chips with the wand - I call it the ‘magic wand’. I haven't met a child who doesn't love this part!


Now to the test. I was finally ready to try this activity with my nephew. When I told him we were playing a game with dinosaurs while we learned about letters he truly was ecstatic - “Can I have the T-Rex!? May I have the orange one?!”.

We sat together for over a half an hour and played all the letters, covering the entire alphabet. It’s one he will definitely go back to and play again and again. Fewf. Next up - a game with capital letters.

You can find the game mats here (click on image):

The full physical product will be available for shipping soon!


How to Teach the 'G' Sound While on Vacation


How to Teach the 'G' Sound While on Vacation

When Should My Child See a Speech Therapist?

Typically, when children have errors saying the ‘g’ sound (e.g. saying “doat” for ‘goat’), I start working with them in the summer before they enter Junior Kindergarten (JK) and during JK (in Canada).

Children who have speech sound disorders or delays are at risk for literacy difficulties down the road. Because of this, I like to include books, vocabulary, and phonological awareness skills in my therapy sessions to build on their literacy skills. Phonological awareness (i.e. the ability to recognize and work with sounds) is important because it is a basis for reading.

I make it easy for you to practice while on vacation!

In the Articulation G Sound I include materials for building literacy skills (e.g. mini books, vocabulary, phonological awareness). This package can be printed, or you can view it from your computer, smartphone, or tablet.

CLICK on the image for details.

If you would like to request another sound, please let me know in the comments below & share this article with your friends.