Mr Potato Head

This is the toy potato that comes with a suitcase of body parts and accessories ie. ears, nose, mouth, moustache, glasses, hat. Children (and adults!) love to build their Mr.Potato Heads and, as they are building, they can be developing lots of their speech and language skills:

Attention and Listening:

Sometimes children struggle to remain focused on an activity for any amount of time. Mr.Potato Head can be used to slowly increase the length of time that they attend.  If an adult keeps hold of the suitcase of parts, they can control how long it takes the child to build their Mr. Potato Head. Each time the game is played, the adult can gradually build up the amount of time the child is taking to complete the task. The child will be enjoying the activity so will not realise their attention is being developed and before they know it, they have been focused on the game for 15 minutes!

Understanding:

Body Part Words

Body parts are one of the earliest categories of words that children develop understanding of. By labelling the items and talking about what your child is doing as they build Mr.Potato Head, they will start to develop knowledge and understanding of the words e.g. “Pushing the eyes in. Oh a big nose. Oops the glasses fell off!”

You can then lay out a selection of body parts and ask your child for one to see if they can understand the body part vocabulary e.g. “Give me the mouth.’

Following Instructions

As well as understanding individual words, children need to be able to understand the words within sentences. Mr.Potato Head provides lots of fun instructions to do this e.g. “put the nose on the mouth” “put the legs on the head”. Your child really has to understand what is said to them as the instructions are not always standard/expected.

Talking

Once a child understands the body part words, they then need to be able to use the words in their talking; putting the words in the right order and moving their mouth into the right positions to articulate the words. If the adult keeps hold of the suitcase, the child can practice asking for the different items “Give me the nose” “I need the mouth”

Sounds

Mr.Potato Head is a fabulous reward game to keep a child motivated to practice the different target sounds they are working on. Every time the child has a go at saying their target sound/word, they get a piece of Mr.Potato Head. With at least 15 different accessories, the child is guaranteed at to make the sound 15 times and, because they are having fun, they probably will not realise they are practising their speech.

Turn-Taking

Lots of children find it difficult to wait their turn. Playing Mr.Potato Head with a friend, gives the child lots of opportunities to practice waiting to have their turn. As they are excited to build their Mr. Potato Head, not only are they motivated to wait their turn but they also want to carry on playing the game until it is completed.

Grammar

If you use a Mr.Potato Head and a Mrs.Potato Head, there are lots of chances to reinforce to your child the possesive pronouns ‘his’ and ‘hers’ and your child has lots of reasons to use these pronouns correctly e.g. “Give Mr.Potato Head his eyes.”

Overall, Mr.Potato Head is a fun, easy-to-use resource that can be used with a variety of age groups. It has lots of speech and language development uses and, at the end of the day, who does not like building a potato with eyes in his head, a nose coming out of his mouth and a hat where his ears would be!

Meet 33 year old Jack

Each week we will put a spotlight on one of the people the SpeechRight speech and language therapists have been working with. This will give an insight into the types of difficulties we support and what goes on in a speech therapy session.

Name: Jack

Age: 33

Difficulties: Jack has a stammer. His stammer first appeared when he was 4 years old. Jack’s stammer involves repetition of the initial sounds of words, blocks (where his mouth is in position to say a word but no noise comes out) and prolongations (where a sound is made longer). Jack has never received any speech and language therapy support until he came for a detailed initial assessment 2 weeks ago with SpeechRight. This identified that Jack would benefit from therapy which:

  • gives him some direct speech strategies he can use to support his fluency
  • focuses on his general communication skills e.g. volume, eye-contact, talking speed, posture, facial expression
  • considers his thoughts and feelings around his stammer and its impact on his daily life

Hearing: No concerns

Session: Therapy Session Two with Emma

We started the session with a re-cap of how things had gone during the week. Jack reported that he had been able to try some of the activities we had suggested at the last session and he was pleased with how this had gone. Jack said he felt that his stammer had increased this week in his spontaneous conversations but when we discussed this in more detail, we realised that potentially the stammer had not increased but Jack’s awareness of it had. This is important because if Jack is to have strategies to use to support his fluency, he needs to be aware of what his talking and stammer are like now.

We had three key areas we were targeting today:

Abdominal Breathing: Breathing is important to consider when looking at our fluency. The breath coming out of the lungs ‘powers’ our voices. Therefore, if we do not complete regular, relaxed breaths we are going to be unable to maintain a steady, calm flow of talking. Together, Jack and I practised this breathing and began to use it as we slowly increased the length of our utterances from single sounds to short words, longer words, phrases and sentences.

Tallying: Tallying was used to help Jack accurately identify when he stammered. He needs to know this in order to use the direct strategies he will be taught. Jack and I held a conversation about our favourite holiday destinations. As we were talking, every time Jack felt he stammered he held his finger up. In the same way, every time I thought I saw or heard a stammer, I held my finger up. The idea is for Jack to ‘catch’ as many stammers as he could. Following practice last week, Jack achieved a near 100% record in this session. When Jack ‘caught’ his stammer, he was also able to learn more about what happens when he does stammer; he realised that in a stammering moment when he is repeating the initial sound of a word, there is a lot of tension in the top part of his throat.

Talking Speed: Jack uses a fast talking speed and this puts lots of pressure on his language system to: quickly workout what he wants to say, to formulate the utterance he needs to produce and to quickly move his mouth and tongue into all the correct places to make the speech sounds. This can encourage him to stammer. A fast talking speed also puts lots of pressure on the listener to keep up with and follow what Jack is saying. If Jack does stammer, combined with his fast talking rate this can have a negative impact on Jack’s ability to clearly communicate his ideas. We encouraged Jack to use a ‘good talking speed’ by using more pauses in his speech (rather than saying each word more slowly). By pausing, it also gave Jack chance to use his ‘relaxed breathing.’ Jack practised reading aloud a range of different reading passages with a special ‘syllable ball’ that gave him the pace he needed to follow.

Jack was given a number of different activities to practice linked to the exercises we had done today. Jack has a lot of work on at the minute with his business so he felt that he needed a longer time before the next session in order to complete enough practice. Jack felt a session in 3 weeks would be best.

In the Spotlight next week will be a group of six 5 years olds who are completing a Narrative Group at school. Narrative works on developing a child’s attention and listening, understanding, talking and social communication skills.

Meet Emilia, our week two spotlight

Each week we will put a spotlight on one of the people the SpeechRight Speech and Language Therapists have been working with. This will give an insight into the types of difficulties we support and what goes on in a speech therapy session.

Week Two Spotlight

Name: Emilia

Age: 3:2

Difficulties: Language Delay. Emilia communicates using some single, spoken words e.g. “juice” and lots of non-verbal communication e.g. pointing, reaching, looking.

Background: Emilia had an initial assessment. She showed that she understood everything that was said to her but was delayed in her development of spoken words. ‘Delayed’ meant Emilia was showing the ‘typical’ path of spoken language development but it was happening at a much later age for her.

Examples:

  • To request a drink, Emilia will say “juice”
  • If she sees a noisy fire-engine on the road, Emilia will look at her mum and then point to the fire-engine.
  • To request a biscuit, Emilia will gesture ‘eating.’

Hearing: All assessments passed

Session: Therapy 3 with Mum, Dad, Emilia and Emma.

Emilia and her parents are taking part in Parent-Child Video Interaction Therapy. This therapy involves parents being given strategies to use within their interactions with Emilia to support her spoken language development. Parents know they have not caused Emilia’s language difficulties but there are specific strategies they can now use with her to encourage her speaking skills.

Parents both reported how they had got on with the strategies they had been practising in their ‘Special Time’ last week with Emilia. ‘Special Time’ is a specific 5-10 minutes parents identify daily when they play with Emilia and focus on their strategies. Dad said he really liked the way ‘Special Time’ gave him the justification to take time out from work/jobs and simply ‘play’ with Emilia.

We separately video-ed mum and dad playing with Emilia for 5 minutes each. Together we then watched the video back and identified all the positive things Mum and Dad were doing to support Emilia’s language (there were lots!) and looked at how each of them had used their targets.

Video is used, as research shows, this is the most effective tool in helping bring about change in peoples’ behaviours; rather than being told they have/have not done something, the video allows them to actually see it for themselves.

After watching the video, Mum felt that she had not used her strategy enough with Emilia during her interaction. In fact, the video showed her that there were lots of lovely examples where she had used the strategy and, within the video, Emilia actually used one new spoken word which she had not said before. Dad felt that he had used his strategy a lot with Emilia but he changed his mind after watching the video as he realised that there were lots of missed opportunities for the strategy’s use.

We then agreed parents’ new targets for the week ahead before we all finished with a game of ‘animal lotto.’

This lotto gave lots of opportunities for us all to practice the language development strategies together during play. I also demonstrated the key animal Makaton signs to parents so they could now sign, make the symbolic noise and label the animal. All of this will help to support Emilia’s language development; the animal noise will grab her attention so she can listen to the animal label and, if everyone else is using signs, this will encourage Emilia to use signs/gestures herself. Research, and my own experience, shows that using signs helps to support and develop children’s talking skills.

The family left happily with their strategies to practice in Special Time and the animal lotto game to play.  I was left slightly disappointed to have lost yet another game of Lotto this week!

In the Spotlight next week will be Jack. Jack is 33 years old and has referred himself for support with his stammer.

Who Have We Been Supporting This Week?

Each week we will put a spotlight on one of the people the SpeechRight Speech and Language Therapists have been working with. This will give an insight into the types of difficulties we support and what goes on in a therapy session.

Week One Spotlight

Name: Tom

Age: 4:0

Difficulties: Speech Sounds. Tom has lots to say but his speech is unclear so listeners cannot understand his spoken sentences.

Background: Tom had an initial assessment. He showed that his speech sound development was disordered. This meant that the speech errors that he was making were not ‘typical’ errors that lots of children make as the speech sound system develops.

Examples:

  • ‘book’ became “ut”

He deleted the first sound ‘b’ from the word and changed the ‘k’ to a ‘t’ sound.

  • ‘pea’ became “pay”

He changed the vowel ‘ee’ to ‘ay’

  • ‘tap’ became “da”

He changed the ‘quiet’ ‘t’ sound to a ‘loud’ ‘d’ sound and deleted the final sound from the word

Hearing: All assessments passed

Session: Therapy 1 with Mum, Tom and Emma.

This first session was all about getting to know Tom and checking that he had stored the correct information about sounds and words in his head.

We built a paper ‘spider’ together and at the end of each of the spider’s legs I found something out about Tom (who his best friend was, where he liked to go and what his favourite food was). This gave lots of opportunity to hear Tom’s speech sounds in his talking. It also gave Tom chance to make a spider with 8 eyes!!

Next we checked out if Tom could hear the difference between some of the sounds he was confusing. We had ‘t’ skittles and ‘k’ skittles. I would say a ‘t’ or ‘k’ sound and Tom had to roll the ball to the correct set of skittles. Tom needs to realise that the ‘t’ and ‘k’ sounds are separate sounds and have stored this correctly in the language system in his head. If he does not realise that they are separate sounds, then it is no wonder he will confuse ‘t’ and ‘k’ in his talking.

After skittles, Tom became the ‘teacher.’  We looked at a picture book together and I picked out different words for my friend ‘Sam the Puppet’ to say. Sometimes, Sam would say the words the ‘right’ way but sometimes he would say them a ‘silly’ way. Tom, using a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ action had to let Sam know how he was doing. It was important for Tom to be the teacher because Tom needs to understand the correct way to say a word so he can send the right instructions to his mouth to produce the word.

Finally, we finished by making some ‘silly faces’ in the mirror using some chocolate and strawberry sauces. We all (mum included!) put sauces in different places on our faces (tip of our nose, side of our lips, on our chin) and then we each had to try and lick the sauces off with our tongues. This let us look at how quickly and easily we could move our tongue. When we say words and sentences, we need to move our tongue quickly into lots of positions in our mouths to make the speech sounds. We then ended with a game of table football. It was Tom against Mum and I and we each had a straw which we had to use to blow a small chocolate ball into our goal. When we speak, we use the airflow coming from our lungs. Using straws shows how strong our airflow is and if we can control it. Sadly, Tom won the football match 5-3!

Tom and Mum then left with a pack of activities/resources to continue these games at home. Tom’s next session is in a week but he will be having daily therapy from mum as they play one of the games together.

In the Spotlight next week will be Emilia. Emilia is 3 years old and has been referred because she is only using 15 single, spoken words.