Posts Tagged ‘learning disabilities’

Working with a Speech Delayed Child

Posted on May 18th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


Since late winter, I have been working with a speech delayed child.

She is five years old and she will start kindergarten in September. Initially, I worked with her for one hour each week. After a month or so, her parents were delighted with her progress and they asked me to double the frequency of our sessions. Currently we meet Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for one hour.

image of Vocabulary Development speech delayed childMy goals in working with her are to (1) expand her vocabulary (2) increase her speech from one or two word answers to full sentences (3) improve her phonemic awareness (4) increase her understanding of concepts (i.e. opposites, positional words).

Initially our sessions included (1) a wordless picture book (2) nine words that are related to a theme (i.e. Bedtime) (3) a rebus poem / chant ( i.e. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star).

Now, our sessions also include (1) pictures of words that begin with the same sound (i.e. fish, flag, fingers, flower, five, fork) (2) concept books (3) puppets (4) stories for beginning readers (especially the Oxford Press Read At Home series)

So far, my sessions with my speech delayed student have included the following themes:

Birthdays, In the Neighbourhood, Valentine’s Day, Feelings, Weather, Clothing, Families, Farm, Bedtime, Music, Fruits and Vegetables, Colours, In the Kitchen, in the Bathroom, Toys and Counting. All of the themes are intended to introduce new and reinforce her existing vocabulary. Once the individual words are mastered, we add description: blue umbrella, brown blocks, green grass. image of words that begin with F used with a speech delayed child
More recently, we have added concepts to our sessions: Words that Are Opposites, Positional Words (in, beside, under, over, behind, in front of).

A typical session with my speech delayed student includes -

  • Chatting about a simple Wordless Picture Book. Breakfast with Jack created by Pat Schories has been a favourite.
  • Reviewing the vocabulary introduced in previous sessions. My young student proudly gives herself a “check” each time she correctly says a word.
  • Reviewing the rhymes and chants introduced in previous sessions. She tracks across each line, using rebus picture clues to ‘remember’ the words. She loves to ‘read’ Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Grandma’s Glasses all by herself.
  • Sorting pictures into words that begin with the /F/ sound, the /M/ sound, the /C/ sound and the /S/ sound.  I mix picture cards for two sounds, she sorts them and then we mix up two more sounds.

To further encourage speech, we play with puppets and we play Simon Says and we sing If You’re Happy and You Know It. My student loves to be Simon. She giggles and laughs as she tells me what to do.

I can’t tell you how rewarding it has been to work with this young girl.  Her vocabulary and her ability to converse has blossomed.  It has been so exciting to witness the transformation in this beautiful, funny, enthusiastic child.

Speech Delay and ESL – Making Progress

Posted on March 27th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


cover art for Breakfast for JackFor the past six weeks, I have been working with a four year old girl who is learning English as a second language and who has a speech delay. We meet once each week for one hour.

I have been using a variety of materials and techniques to support her learning. Today I thought I would highight a few of them.

Wordless Picture Books
During each of our sessions, we read one or two wordless picture books. These are books that have little or no text. Readers use picture clues to decide what is happening in the story. Wordless picture books invite discussion because, as you turn the pages, the story unfolds and there is plenty of opportunity for meaningful talk.

Although we have read several wordless picture books together, Breakfast for Jack has been our favourite. The book is a good size for sharing one on one. The story is relatively simple and yet the illustrator has included many interesting details. It is morning, the sun is rising. Jack wakes up and stretches. Soon Boy is awake. He and Jack go downstairs. Boy feeds the black and grey cat but, each time he starts to get Jack’s breakfast, he is distracted. Poor Jack is very hungry.

When my young student and I first started reading Breakfast for Jack together, she was only able to talk about small snippets of the story because of her speech delay and limited vocabulary. Now she explains that Jack is orange and white, the cat is black and grey, Boy wears purple pyjamas. We talk about the family’s breakfast of toast and cereal. We also talk about the cat enjoying a bowl of milk and then snoozing under the telephone table.

Breakfast for Jack is engaging. The illustrations ensure that the reader understands exactly what is happening. The story and illustrations draw young readers in and keep those same readers involved in telling the story.

Since Breakfast for Jack has become a favourite, last week I added dog finger puppets to our session. You may be aware that hand puppets and finger puppets are frequently used for play therapy because children often feel safe using a puppet to express themselves. In working with a child with a speech delay, it seems very logical to include puppets and encourage her to play with them. On Thursday, our three little dogs played together, they talked and raced at the park.

Illustrated Vocabulary
Keeping in mind that my student is not only dealing with a speech delay, she is also learning English as a second language. Each week I prepare one page of vocabulary that is related to a theme. The page introdues nine words that are illustrated and related by theme. We have done ‘Weather Words,’ ‘Things Families Do,’ ‘Clothing Words,’ ‘In My Neighbourhood,’ ‘Valentine’s Day,’ etc. We review all of the vocabulary each week. As well, she reviews the vocabulary at home each week. Her progress with these words has been quite dramatic.

Rebus Poems
Each week we add a new rebus poem to our program. Usually the poem is related to the vocabulary we are learning. For example, when I introduced ‘Weather Words,’ I created a rebus version of ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider.’ When I introduced ‘Things Families Do,’ we learned ‘Grandma’s Glasses.’ I like using rebus poems with young children very much. We track the text with our fingers (reinforcing that we read left to right and top to bottom). When reading rebus poems, we use picture clues to help us remember the poem / chant, we hear rhyming and we learn new vocabulary.

My young student’s mom and I are thrilled with the progress she has made to date. She is an enthusiastic learner and she is happy to enjoy stories, chants and learning new words. Next week, I will write again about our session together.

Breakfast for Jack at

Breakfast for Jack at

Picture Books to Help Children Deal with Challenges –

Posted on October 29th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart


You may also be interested in our page titled “Diversity.” We highlight picture books and chapter books that celebrate and inform us about human diversity including learning disabilities, physical disabilities, allergies, single parent families, interracial families, same sex parents, aging, death and more.

Don’t miss our page of quotes about diversity.

As parents and teachers, there are many moments when we must help our children to deal with challenges. These books deal with important information and themes. A well written book can often be enormously helpful. Today, I would like to introduce you to a number of picture books that may assist you to guide your children.

David and the Worry Beast (Anne Marie Guanci and Caroline Attia) was written especially to help children cope with anxiety. David’s worry beast causes him to worry when he plays basketball, when he’s at home and when he is at school. His anxiety grows and grows until he learns specific steps to cope with his worries. In addition to providing tips for children, the authors also have suggestions for parents.

David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety at

David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope With Anxiety at

The Friendship Puzzle: Helping Kids Learn About Accepting and Including Kids With Autism Written by Julie L. Coe, inspired by Jennifer Maloni, and illustrated by Sondra L. Brassel
Published by Larsian Publishing, Inc.

When Mackenzie meets a new boy in her class, she tries to be his friend but he seems a little different. At recess, Dylan spends alot of time on the swings and, althought he apparently wants to play soccer with his classmates, he does not seem to know how to join in and play.

Dylan is bothered by the noise in the cafeteria and he sometimes waves his hands and makes noises. Mackenzie decides to find out how to be Dylan’s friend. She learns that Dylan ‘doesn’t have a lot of words and that it is hard for him to tell people he wants to play or be friends.’

In addition to telling the story of Dylan and Mackenzie, The Friendship Puzzle includes discussion questions and suggested activities. The authors also remind readers that it is important to praise children who reach out to and are inclusive of others.

The Friendship Puzzle: Helping Kids Learn About Accepting and Including Kids with Autism at

The Friendship Puzzle: Helping Kids Learn About Accepting and Including Kids With Autism at

Miss Little’s Gift (Douglas Wood and Jim Burke)– Douglas is in grade two and he doesn’t like to sit still. He interrupts his teacher; he has problems with reading and on the playground. He is very resistant to staying after school in order to get extra help but Miss Little is firm and determined. She finds a book to match his interests, she encourages him and she gives him just enough help. Miss Little’s Gift is a celebration of the difference a wonderful, caring teacher can make.

Miss Little’s Gift at

Miss Little’s Gift at

All Kinds of Friends, Even Green (Ellen B. Senisi)– Here we accompany Moses on a school day. When he is given an assignment to write about friends, he carefully considers all of his friends and all the fun things he does with them. Ultimately, he decides to write about an iguana named Zaki whose toes were poisoned by mites. Moses likes Zaki because ‘she figures out how to get where she wants to be in different ways.’ Moses understands that friends may different on the outside but may be very much alike on the inside.

All Kinds of Friends, Even Green! at

All Kinds of Friends, Even Green! at

Grade Three Reading – What if You’ve Made it to Grade 3 and Can’t Read?

Posted on September 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart


Whether your child struggles with grade three reading or not, this is an enjoyable, generously illustrated chapter book

I Hate Books a great chapter book for grade threeI Hate Books! written by Kate Walker
Generously illustrated chapter book published by Cricket Books

Hamish is blessed with a Grandpa who reads aloud “with lots of expression”. When Hamish was little, he loved books but the love affair ends when he begins grade three reading and his teacher asks him to read aloud. Before long, Hamish is referred to a reading specialist and it is confirmed that he has been making up stories rather than reading the words on the page.

After struggling with flash cards and remedial reading, Hamish decides that life will be fine – whether he learns to read or not. It takes a disastrous family road trip, an embarrassing birthday party and a persuasive older brother to change Hamish’s mind.

Happily, Hamish overcomes his struggles and eventially earns a prize for “most improved reader.”

Shortlisted for the Australian Children’s Book of the Year and the Young Australian’s Best Book Awards, I Hate Books! features relatively short chapters and very appealing illustrations. At about a grade three reading level, it is recommended for children aged seven to nine.

I Hate Books! at

I Hate Books! at

Catherine’s Story – Helping Children Learn About Living with Disabilities

Posted on March 4th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart


Catherine's Story -  Helping Children Learn About Living with DisabilitiesCatherine’s Story written by Genevieve Moore and illustrated by Karin Littlewood
Picture book about a child with disabilities published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Catherine’s story is based upon the experiences of a young girl who, as an infant, suffered from West’s Syndrome, also known as infantile spasms (a form of epilepsy). Catherine wears braces when she walks and she claps her hands very, very quietly. She is not able to talk but she does listen very intently. Catherine’s dad explains to her cousin that many people talk far too much; Catherine is special because she listens so well. Catherine, who needs help throughout the day, is supported by her dad together with her grandmother.

Catherine’s Story is beautilully illustrated with vivid hues. It is a valuable resource for classrooms and families seeking to understand children with disabilities.

Epilepsy Ontario’s Resource “Perfection” – a play and program for classroom use

Catherine’s Story at

Catherine’s Story at

You may also be interested in our page titled “Diversity.” We highlight picture books and chapter books that celebrate and inform us about human diversity including learning disabilities, physical disabilities, allergies, single parent families, interracial families, same sex parents, aging, death and more.

Don’t miss our page of quotes about diversity.

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