Big Game Social Skills

football blog pic

There is something going on this week, something big,  what some might call “super”. Even if you aren’t a football fan, the fun atmosphere of a big game is enough to get everyone a little bit excited, even if it’s just for the chicken wings. Much to my boys’ chagrin,  my favorite part of the festivities, hands down, is the commercials. The Dorito’s  Crash the Superbowl contest never disappoints! These commercials are gold mines of social language concepts, and I have a freebie in my TPT store to use with them HERE . You can look on Youtube for past year’s winners for a nice variety of commercials that include double meanings, figurative language, hidden rules, and lots of social thinking concepts!  The screaming goat is my all time favorite!

I also have another freebie (SCORE!!) in my store to work on the steps of conversation with a football theme:  Conversation Quarterback.

For your older students, it would be a fun discussion prompt to continue the football theme and talk about these social language concepts:

  • Sports “trash talk”-What is said versus what is meant and the hidden social rules behind this.  We need to consider the right people, place and timing for this high level social skill or it could end badly!!
  • Extend this social discussion to talk about the hidden rules of football viewing parties:  no double dipping, no talking during certain parts of the game, being a gracious winner (or loser), not standing in front of the TV, bringing food to share with others, etc..
  • Compare and contrast what players, coaches, and fans might be thinking, feeling and saying before, during and after the game.


No matter the outcome, I hope you enjoy the game!  Share your football themed ideas for social language here!








You were singing along now, weren’t you??  However, the Y.M.C.A. is neither the local gym nor the Village People song, but an acronym I used when chatting with my fellow SLP Carrie Clark  on her podcast, “Storm of the Brains” earlier this month!   The Y.M.C.A. acronym stands for:

Yes (Y)  Medical/Social  (M)    Complimentary (C)      Availability  (A)

Our topic of conversation was what to do with little guys who are resistant to the therapy setting.  I know I have had several of these friends over the years and understand that there are MANY reasons when our speech buddies might be having a hard time participating in intervention settings.  Check out our podcast HERE and make sure to follow Storm of the Brains for lots of fantastic insight into speech and language challenges from SLPs around the country!

Here are some thoughts on what we can offer our families and  why we might be seeing challenging or non-compliant behaviors :


The family has already heard a lot of no, so make sure you offer something that you can give them a yes to.  There is nothing scarier to a parent then to hear that no one can help your child or there is nothing you can do.  The power of a yes can help them work through the really difficult times.  It may be that your yes is that you can refer them to others or yes, that you can help their child directly (I wrote about the power of yes and no on my blog last year).

As a mom, I try to be aware of balancing honesty with compassion, and I am careful to never take away someone’s hope for their child.  We need to find something positive to note about the child, said from a sincere place.  The fact that you see something positive in their child will help build trust with the family because let’s face it, they might not be hearing a lot of positives right now.  From a parental point of view, if I feel that you like my child and noticed something positive about them,  I am so much more open to listening, even if it’s hard to hear. 


Who needs to be included on the child’s team?  It may one, some or all of these support services and providers.  Where do you help a parent start?

A developmental pediatrician is a great idea if you feel there may be something more diagnostically going on with your young clients/students.  A developmental pediatrician can be the one to consider a diagnosis (in addition to a general pediatrician) and also function as a gate keeper to consider/manage medication options or consider/manage/refer to holistic or other therapeutic options.*

The developmental pediatrician may also be helpful in connecting families with other parent mentors in the community.  A new diagnosis can be a lonely road to walk as a parent!   Support/information for parents is crucial as this time may be very stressful on the family!

We also need to be aware of the financial costs of all these therapies and become familiar with the support resources available in our communities (Katie Beckett, Medicaid, insurance, scholarships at private therapy centers and hospitals).

Complimentary: Other therapy considerations*

  • OT evaluation for sensory components: calming, attending, regulation, connection
  • ABA consult: learning how to learn, highly structured program not natural language
  • School based SNP programs for 3+ year olds in their area
  • Hearing eval to rule out hearing loss
  • SLP role in providing visual schedules & supports (less language may be better right now). A visual schedule and work first boards are a great place to start.
  • Choiceworks app is awesome for visual schedules on ipads
  • What reinforces the child? Edibles are a good start, reinforce frequently then fade, talk to the parent to find out what motivates the child. CONSISTENCY IS IMPORTANT!!
  • Start with short sessions of therapy and then build in sensory breaks, highly reinforcing activities (music, ipad, spinning, mini trampoline, swing). They may not be ready for individual speech therapy until some of these other interfering behaviors are addressed first!
  • Consider co-treating with OT, but be aware of reducing language and sensory overload
  • Behavior specialist: help with structure at home and identifying specific behaviors such as non-compliance to target. They can be part of the team to help figure out the function of the behaviors as well (is it sensory, frustration, communicative intent, attention?)

 Availability:  Learning to learn:

Neuro-typical learners are naturally more connected to their learning environment and learn incidentally. Our kids, especially little guys on the spectrum, often don’t.  It’s often difficult to address language concepts and play until child is available to instruction.  Pulling apart interfering behaviors from being available is important because both can impeded being ready to learn!

Children with sensory, communication or cognitive impairments have to learn how to learn first:  joint attention, reciprocal play,  and emotional reciprocity are all foundational skills that have to come first. Michelle Garcia Winner talks about these being the roots of the social language tree and has a great visual poster to talk about the foundations and growth along the social continuum.  All these pieces of the puzzle are equally important to helping our students/patients transition through these difficult times therapeutically and to support their families in the process.

What advice do you have for working with children who may be resistant to therapy? Share here!  It really does take a village, doesn’t it people?   (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Kick off the Year with a TPT Sale!

TPT sale 01192016

It feels like we just started back to school, but we are zooming towards spring pretty quickly!   TPT is holding a big sale tomorrow and you can get up to 28% off of many fantastic speech products to take you through Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, spring time and more (use code START16 at checkout on 1/20 and 1/21)!   Here are a few of my social language products I’d love for you to take a look at in my store, SmartmouthSLP :

Sid (Socially Inappropriate Dude) & Sis (Socially Inappropriate Sister) are involved in another social language misadventure with a Valentine theme HERE .  Lots of fun for your elementary crowd!

Social Skills: Valentine Card Chaos

It’s Your Lucky Day!  This social skills product for your elementary aged students has more than 30 pages full of St. Patrick’s Day fun (including an original story for an interview with a leprechaun) HERE

St. Patrick's Day Social Skills: It's Your Lucky Day

It wouldn’t be spring time without some worms!  This social language game is all about appropriate conversational topics and how NOT to open a “Can of Worms”!  This is a fun way to work on serious social language concepts with your middle and high school students  HERE .

Social Skills Topic Game:  Can of Worms!

Don’t forget to check out some of my favorite stores for more fabulous social language products during the sale:



Super Power Speech

Super Power Speech


Speech Paths

Speech Paths

Peachie Speechie

Peachie Speechie

Cupid Quandary

cupid quandary blog pic

I know it’s a bit early to talk about Valentine’s Day, but it is less than a month away!  For my older students with ASD (and even those without ASD), it can be a day fraught with confusing social messages.  Just take a look at the commercials on TV this time of year.  Everyone is coupled up happily, shopping in jewelry stores, eating chocolate (yet still being in great shape) and buying very expensive flowers that will not last until March.  Disney channel doesn’t do a great job either at setting realistic expectations of events and predictable behaviors in pre-teens regarding crushes, dating and like/love!

While these conversations should ideally be happening at home, we can and should address some of these concepts from a social perspective. Specifically, talking about how our thoughts and feelings affect other people and vice versa.  We need to include perspective of the range of emotions and relationships:  for example, like is not as strong a feeling as love and friendship is different than dating.  I really like using paint sample strips to visually demonstrate a spectrum of emotion like these .

We also need to talk about timing (oh, it really is everything, isn’t it?). When we are building relationships with people, be it friendship or more, we must consider if it is the right time, with the right person and/or the right place.   I had a high schooler ask a fellow student to prom…in the middle of math class…when he had never spoken to her before.   It did not go well.  This led into another conversation about a common social situation that can be so hard for ALL of us to understand; just because you like someone, doesn’t mean that they will feel the same way.  Ouch.

This is clearly not a one time topic to cover nor is it where we would start with a student.  We need to build relationships and trust before we step into this conversation as well as partner with the family!  I have a freebie in my TPT store, Cupid Quandary, to practice some of these early skills with your late elementary/middle school friends.   It’s not a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates, but I do hope you will LOVE it!

What social language concepts do you address in regards to relationships and emotion?


Let’s Break the Ice!

lets break the ice 5x5

Winter is here in the South, even if all the plants were tricked into thinking it was Spring last month! We are bundled up and stuck inside with each other a LOT for the next few months.  Conversation is what’s on the agenda in speech right now and I wanted to share a new spin on an oldie but a goodie!!  My Don’t Break the Ice Game is sturdy, inexpensive and washable, all a plus in my line of work.  And who doesn’t enjoy smacking the ice cubes out of the frame mercilessly once the bear falls down?

For my kiddos who are learning about the concept of asking and answering questions and making comments conversationally, I love using visual cues (Example: colored construction paper on the board as a key:  yellow- initiating topic   red-question   blue-connecting comment and so on….). Michelle Garcia Winner uses a color coding idea with this Conversation Tree in her book, “Thinking About You, Thinking About Me”.  There is another great teaching tool that uses color coding for in depth teaching of all kinds of conversation skills called “Color My Conversation“.  Check it out if you have any PTA money to spend on some social skills materials! One other idea I really like is from Liz’s Speech Therapy Ideas blog on using craft sticks for conversation prompts HERE

I have been playing my Don’t Break the Ice game using these “All About You, All About Me” cards from Super Duper as prompts but you can use pictures, make a Pinterest board of conversational topics that appeal to your specific students (make it a private board and share this suggestion with the families too so they can practice at home!) or let your kids brainstorm their own conversation topics too.  We all have more conversational buy in when we get to talk about our area of interest!  Just remember we can’t always talk about what we want to talk about 🙂

We turn take and build on the conversation while playing the game.  Instead of putting the bear in the middle, I put a small velcro button on an ice cube and attach a laminated picture of the topic.  You can laminate a blank piece of tag board cut to fit the ice cube and then write topics for readers (or draw a representational picture) with dry erase markers too. Once my students get the hang of how to have a conversation, I draw a question mark on the laminated square and put it on the middle cube. Two of us playing the game know the conversational topic, but a third person has to try and guess the topic based on what they hear in the conversation.

What are some fun ways that you work on conversation in speech?










Don’t Look Now!

paper plate

I came across this Christmas party idea on Pinterest that was clever and had some great social language application.  I know, I can’t help it.  My brain filters most Pinterest pins through a social language  lens.  Well, social language AND the beautiful Fixer Upper pins AND recipes that I may or may not ever make.   Anyway, the gist of the game is to put a paper plate on top of your head and try to follow verbal directions as you draw specific features of a picture (in the blog, it was a Christmas scene).  The person gets points for being as close to the description as possible.

My social language twist on this would be to use this paper plate drawing challenge to illustrate the need to use our eyes when we listen.  Michelle Garcia Winner describes in detail why thinking with our eyes is so much more important than just eye contact here.   She illustrates beautifully that we gain so much more information visually in our environment, if we look when we listen and observe.  Hello non-verbals!  So how does the paper plate game accomplish this?

Divide your students in to two groups.  Have one group of the students try and complete a picture without looking (just listening) to the directions.  Then, ask the second group to do a similar task while being able to look and listen.  If it’s just you and one student, try the drawing activity with and without looking, maybe on different therapy days and then compare them together.  This is an interesting way to introduce the concept of visualizing and verbalizing too by encouraging your students to make a picture in their minds of what you are describing.  It’s harder than it sounds for some of our kids!

Compare the amount of detail, the clarity of the picture, and how easy/difficult it is for other people to recognize what you were trying to illustrate between the plate pictures.  What was missing when we couldn’t use our eyes?  Hmmmmm.  This leads to a conversation about the importance of not only listening, but also thinking with our eyes at home, school and in the community!  For more ideas and support on teaching this concept from Michelle Garcia Winner, please check out her website at  .  It’s packed full of freebie handouts and suggestions for families, teachers and therapists!

How do you work on the social language concept of thinking with your eyes?