Tag Archives : Brain Based Learning

Holistic Services for Children with Communication, Language, and Literacy Disorders

Holistic Services for Children with Communication, Language, and Literacy Disorders

Speech language pathologists can maximize the success of children with communication, language, and literacy disorders by taking a holistic approach to the delivery of speech/language assessment and therapy services. By focusing on a child’s development that encompasses their communication, language, literacy, social-emotional, physical, and functional life skills, clinicians can truly make a difference in the lives of children and families. Pediatric speech language pathologists can provide services in a child’s natural environment where they spend a large portion of their days such as school and home environments. In a private practice clinic, the therapist can address functional speech, language, and literacy goals in a meaningful way. Services should always take into consideration the needs of families.

It is important to know the etiology or why a child may demonstrate communication, language, and/or literacy disorders. For some, there may be a genetic reason such as stuttering/fluency disorder or dyslexia. Others may have acquired speech/language impairment due to traumatic brain injury. Some children may have speech/language delays in the area of expressive and receptive language.

Nevertheless, speech/language pathologists can provide valuable services to remediate a variety of needs. Did you know that the current graduation rate for students with disabilities is 67.1 % compared to 84.6 % for general education students (Data on Disabilities-National School Board Association)? The school to prison pipeline is another unfortunate reality for some students with disabilities. Therefore, it is crucial for parents, teachers, and counselors to know the signs for communication disorders and ensure that children receive a comprehensive speech, language, and literacy evaluation and evidence based therapeutic intervention from a licensed speech language pathologist.

In a holistic approach, developmental history, neurological systems, speech, and language needs should all be considered for a child’s optimal communication. A child’s neurodevelopment influences their learning. If a child has difficulty with their neurological systems, they will be required to put more effort, patience, and focus into developing their speech and language skills. When neurological systems of a child work more efficiently, higher cerebral functions improve. Some cerebral functions include auditory processing and integration as well as receptive and expressive language skills.

To improve these functions, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy may co-treat in a private practice or school settings to address functional goals. For example, sensory strategies may be used with an autistic child while working on receptive and expressive language tasks. A speech-language pathologist or physical therapist may decide to introduce basic yoga techniques to provide movement breaks and increase engagement in therapy sessions. Did you know that when a child participates in yoga, the child will regulate yogic breathing which promotes self-control and impulse control? Children make connections through language and do so more efficiently when movement is involved.

Additionally, brain function is made possible by oxygen. Breath support lays the foundation for yoga. Movement increases blood flow. An increase in blood flow indicates the amount of oxygen transported to the brain. Breathing exercises are beneficial during stuttering therapy to increase speech fluency or the use of easy starts as a fluency technique. Clinicians may also utilize breathing exercises to calm a child who is struggling to self-regulate their emotions during a speech/language sessions.

Movement helps to increase the number of connections between neurons. This can be beneficial for individuals with apraxia of speech whose speech muscles require movement. Increased movement, repetition of movement, and crossing midline all help improve coordination. Research shows that exercise and movement increase growth of new neurons in the brain. Incorporating movement into a speech language pathology session is great for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), executive function difficulties, and speech/language disorders, to enhance concept knowledge, build vocabulary, target visual imagery, and increase social skills, self-confidence, and focus during a targeted learning activity.

It is very important for speech/language pathologists to provide assessment and therapy services in a welcoming environment that will help facilitate gains in critical speech, language, literacy, and social skills. Holistic care incorporates the needs of children and families so that they can increase functional communication, literacy, and life skills. Good practices for health and wellness should be encouraged so children have adequate rest, nutrition, exercise, and socio-emotional health. Building Successful Lives, Speech & Language Services is committed to providing holistic services for children and families in metro Atlanta and online communities. If you are a family in need of community based services, please contact us to see if we may be of assistance.


Social Emotional Learning for Children with Communication Disorders

Social Emotional Learning for Children with Communication Disorders

Children, teenagers, and young adults need social-emotional skills to be successful at school, home, and for their lives. These are the skills that help kids build confidence, understand their own strengths and weaknesses, collaborate with others, navigate social situations, develop strong relationships, and make better decisions. These are critical skills for all learners.

Some activities to integrate in speech language therapy and/or at home:

  1. Journaling
  • Many prompt questions can be used to help children journal their feelings. This activity can be cotreated with an occupational therapist or special education teacher. Let them express themselves through their writing. If they are comfortable, they can share their journaled thoughts.
  • Some questions that may be asked: “When was a time that you used self-control?” or “Describe a challenge that you have faced at school. What did you do?”
  1. Talk about Managing Emotions
  • It’s important for younger children to identify emotions at an early age. A short story can be used with children to place themselves in the perspective of the main character. This activity can develop their ability to understand their feelings, while engaging in language therapy.
  1. Practice Social Problem Solving
  • Encourage children to answer social problem solving in their own way. Once they provide an answer, add some suggestions to clarify the most respectful approach to a problem. A speech-language pathologist, may ask during pragmatic language therapy, “What should you say or do in this situation?”
  1. Encourage Positive Self-Talk/Affirmations
  • Self-talk is a very powerful skill to help children start their day. Encourage children to say positive affirmations aloud with or without their peers.
  • The following can be used: “I can think.” “I can learn.” “I can work hard.” “I am enough.” “I am proud of myself.” “I can share my ideas.” “I am unique.” “I can achieve great things.”  “I can have a great school year.”
  • In addition, children are very creative, and they can create their own positive affirmations as well.
  1. Practice Mindfulness with Breathing Exercises
  • When a child is angry, it is best to ease the situation with breathing exercises. Some children do not know how to calm down on their own. By practicing mindfulness, children will become more focused on the activity, while relaxing their mind and body.
  1. Discuss Empathy
  • Discuss empathy and respect. Teach children to consider the feelings of others from peers to adults. Always encourage children to speak their viewpoints and also deliberately listen to the thoughts and opinions of others without interrupting.
  1. Encourage Active Listening Skills
  • Some children may have trouble in displaying emotions or recognizing other’s emotions. Let children listen to each other during group therapy by initiating personal questions or an age appropriate social scenario problem. In addition, children may use their active listening skills at home with their parents. Encourage young children to listen with their ears and then provide responses that are respectful of their communication partners.

Effective social emotional abilities contribute to several positive impacts on the lives of children and adolescents. Speech language pathologists specialize in pragmatic language or social language skills. During therapy sessions, clinicians may facilitate intervention so that young people can gain the skills they need to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a variety of situations and settings. Addressing social emotional learning skills are related to the life changing work that speech language pathologists provide for children and families on a regular basis. This can truly make a difference in the lives of those with communication disorders and co-occurring learning disabilities, autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and/or challenges with Executive Functioning.



Strengthening Neural Pathways for Comprehension in School Aged Children & Adolescents

Strengthening Neural Pathways for Comprehension in School Aged Children & Adolescents

There are many facets to culturally responsive therapy that are effective for children with communication and language disorders. Children’s literature, music, movement, and visuals can strengthen the neural pathways for comprehension. The following information provides information on the multiple benefits.

Music is something that we all know and love. However, did you know that speech therapy involving music can address the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs of children? In fact, music with movement and visuals can help strengthen the neural pathways for comprehension when reading. Likewise, the visuals associated with music are likely to help a child with language and attention. Music also promotes an increase in breath and muscle control, easing sound production for children.

Music may increase neurogenesis (new production of neurons) in the hippocampus, improving memory. The hippocampus is responsible for our navigation, memory, and regulation of our emotional responses. This is important for children with autism; the use of music may indicate improvements in their social and cognitive behavior. Music also decreases stress, and pain, while improving cognitive and motor skills.

To use music as a tool, reading can be taught by using children’s songs. Using familiar songs allowed children to focus on the skills being taught because they were already familiar with the content being taught. It is also vital for the child to read the words to the song. Once the child has sung the song enough to remember the lyrics, they are ready to read the lyrics without music.

Another exercise that can be used is to replace words within the songs with words from their word families. This exercise improves phonological awareness. Children need to be taught to listen and identify words that share the same initial, medial, and final sounds to progress in reading.

Rhythm sticks are also a great instrument to use to incorporate movement, rhythm, and music altogether for the child. By feeling the rhythm, children will have a new experience associated with language. The ability of the brain to develop and maintain neural connections is based on the new movement and play experiences of young children.

Keep in mind, that older children can rewrite lyrics in a song to strengthen their language skills. Repetitive songs provide the child with oral patterns that they will eventually use in their own speech.

Sources: https://scholarworks.lib.csusb.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3074&context=etd-project


Why Do You Teach Categorization in Speech-Language Therapy ?

Why Do You Teach Categorization in Speech-Language Therapy ?

Many children with language disorders struggle with understanding the skill of categorization. Pediatric speech-language pathologists frequently write objectives for children to improve their ability to name items in categories, name categories when given items in the group, and identify what items do not belong in a category. SLPs select these objectives in therapy often because a child did not demonstrate mastery of this skill on an assessment. 

Do you really think about why this is such an important language concept for your client with communication disorder to master? As speech-language pathologists, we need to be able to readily explain to parents, special education teachers, and administrators, the reason we are targeting categorization in speech-language therapy as well as the skilled therapy techniques we use to improve this area.  

Children need to learn categorization because it is a critical language processing skill. Semantic or vocabulary processing is a large part of how children understand language and effectively retrieve words. After young children learn to label basic nouns and express their functions (e.g. verbs) during their daily routines, they naturally progress to learn word associations. Categorization is typically the next skill in this developmental hierarchy. 

Children need to learn categorization because when they do, it helps them effectively store new words and information in their brain. In doing so, they connect a new vocabulary word or concept to their schema or pattern of knowledge that they already know. For example, when a child learns the subcategory of desserts his or her brain makes an association because he or she already knows that is a type of food. When an older child learns about the water cycle, he or she can make meaning based on previous knowledge about weather, types of precipitation (rain, sleet, snow, etc.), and/or sequence of events. 

Preschool children and children in grades K-2 with language disorders need to learn various categorization tasks with Tier I vocabulary words. They need to practice divergent naming task or expressing items in categories such as food, clothes, transportation, and shapes. They need to practice convergent naming tasks that require them to say the category name when told examples of items in that category. Similarly, they need to be able to distinguish what item does not match the group during an elicited task. 

Children in grades 3-5 can further their development of categorization by practicing divergent and convergent naming tasks with Tier III academic vocabulary. Since many speech-language pathologists support teaching the language underpinnings of the common core state standards, they can teach their students how to categorize English/Language Arts vocabulary. For example, students can sort parts of speech vocabulary, types of nouns, types of literature terms, or figurative language vocabulary into groups. They can name Tier III words when given a category and state the category when given examples in this group. 

So, what materials do you use to take data, instruct children, and provide language practice opportunities for categorization objectives? I have several items in my TPT store to work on these goals. Some of these include:

1) Categories Data Check- 8 forms to quickly assess Tier I vocab
* If you own my Vocabulary Progress Monitoring Tool, it will be updated with this expanded category data check. Email me if you have questions at [email protected]
2) My Speech Language Category Book- sorting Tier III E/LA 
3) E/LA Comprehensive Categorization Bundle- Tier I & III vocab
4) E/LA Vocabulary Memory Concentration Activity

So the next time someone asks you why you teach categorization in speech therapy? You can remind them that you also provide language therapy and then effectively explain your rationale. 

Thanks for reading my blog today! 

Until next time,

Tamara Anderson

Guess What? SLP Lingo & Test Prep Vocabulary

Guess What? SLP Lingo & Test Prep Vocabulary

My speech-language therapy students are quite accustomed to me pulling out all sorts of vocabulary activities during their weekly sessions. I wanted a new way to help them practice saying the meanings of their key speech-language therapy and English/Language Arts words. So many of my students with language based learning disabilities struggle with verbally defining their curriculum vocabulary and many of them have memory deficits as well. After all, true mastery of a concept is when they can understand and explain the concept.

This was my motivation behind creating my Guess What? Frequently Used SLP Lingo & Test Prep Vocabulary Game. This is the 4th in this series. I wanted a fun way for my speech language kiddos to practice their curriculum vocabulary skills. This was an instant hit in my sessions!!!

To play this curriculum game, I select one semantic map from the set to focus on during a 30 minute session.

Research shows that the use of semantic or vocabulary maps is an excellent memory and learning strategy because it helps children successfully organize and retrieve information from their brains. Score! You can read more about that here as I did research on that as well when I completed my Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree. http://bslspeechlanguage.blogspot.com/search/label/Brain%20Based%20Learning

Then I have each student in a group choose a mystery word and tell them to make sure they don’t let the others see it!



Then I put the question prompts page on the table and a word bank.


I love the variety of visuals available in this game because it allows you to differentiate instruction without your kids even knowing it.
For example, some kids may just need the semantic map when it’s their turn to ask a question while others will read directly from the question prompts page or another student will just need the word bank page to formulate his/her question.

Students will take turns asking their opponents a question to try to guess or figure out their mystery word. If someone guesses their word, they pick another word from the deck. The game continues until all the vocabulary from the selected semantic map are guessed.

My speech-language 4th and 5th graders absolutely LOVE this game and they get SUPER competitive too which I don’t mind because they’re practicing their learning objectives. This game will work well for middle school students too! There are 5 semantic maps with 40 Frequently Used SLP Lingo and 5 semantic maps with 40 Test Prep Vocabulary. Your students will have several weeks of language intervention to practice 80 words with this curriculum game!

You may purchase this product in my online TPT store here:

I have three other Guess What? Curriculum Games in this series that are also favorites with my speech kiddos. They are available in my TPS store as well.

1) Guess What? Types of Literature, Story Elements, & Text Features

2) Guess What? Types of Sentences, Parts of Sentences, & Parts of

3) Guess What? Figurative Language, Prefixes, & Suffixes


Thanks for reading the blog today! 🙂

Tamara Anderson


I love Semantic Maps! {Evidence-Based Strategy}

I love Semantic Maps! {Evidence-Based Strategy}

I love any reason to use markers in speech-language therapy sessions with my students. When I demonstrate how to make semantic maps, I naturally use markers to make the terms more appealing. Who doesn’t like colorful work samples anyhow? Plus, it is a great memory aid as well.

Semantic maps are visual representations of key vocabulary words that are accompanied by definitions, pictures, and/or acronyms to help individuals learn academic content.

I provide speech-language therapy to kindergarten-fifth grade students. Typically, I use this evidence based strategy with my 5th grade students with science and social studies content. However, it is beneficial with younger kids as well.

Last year I implemented a single subject research design study for my Ed.S. degree program in curriculum & instruction. I compared 5th grade students’ receptive social studies vocabulary knowledge after instruction using semantic maps with World War I and World War II terms vs. the intervention method of flash card drill & repetition. Making semantic or metacognitive maps were a part of Dr. Caroline Leaf ‘s, The Switch On Your Brain 5-Step Learning Process system that I implemented during this research. She is a neuroscientist and speech-language pathologist. How cool is that! I met her in person two years at a conference and she is a phenomenal speaker!


Ok, back to semantic maps. My research findings revealed that the use of the semantic map strategy increased the receptive vocabulary knowledge of 5th grade speech-language impaired students at a greater rate than vocabulary instruction using the flash cards method. On average, my students made a 35 % gain from pretest to posttest with WW I terms and a 50 % gain with WW II terms using semantic maps as a vocabulary learning strategy. When they used the flash card method during the non-treatment phase they demonstrated a  11% increase with WWI terms and a 15 % increase with WWII terms.

This year, I have reviewed key ideas about the Civil War, reconstruction, westward expansion, animal cells, and plant cells using semantic maps with my students who have language disorders and co-occurring language based learning disabilities.


Thanks for reading my blog today! 🙂

*Remember to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for regular updates as well! I appreciate your support of Building Successful Lives (BSL) Speech & Language.

Tamara Anderson

Learning Styles Myth or Fact:  Right Brain vs. Left Brain

Learning Styles Myth or Fact: Right Brain vs. Left Brain

While chatting with a friend recently, she asked me if I had recommendations for learning strategies to help her god daughter in school because she is a “right brain learner.” She explained that she tends to do well when she uses visual aids and wanted to know if I had any video resources that I could send them. I told her that I would be happy to share some information with them.

It is true that specific parts of the brain have specific functions such as Wernicke’s Area in the Left hemisphere controls language comprehension (receptive language) and Broca’s Area controls expressive language. However, research in fact confirms that both hemispheres work together to process and learn new information. See Jensen (2000) and Leaf (2007) for references at the bottom of this entry. The interactive processing or comprehension of information is more related to the various styles of learning or multiple intelligences that can assist a student to comprehend academic content and not just understanding if  they are a left brain vs. right brain learner.
This is supported by the theory of multiple intelligences that explains that
people have different cognitive strengths and contrasting cognitive styles. This theory proposed that there are seven types of intelligences that are of equal importance and include: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.
As a speech-language pathologist, I have experienced working
with students who perform best when they are allowed to practice specific
skills through oral language practice (interpersonal/intrapersonal
intelligence), using visual cues/organizers (spatial intelligence), and with hands on activities (kinesthetic intelligence).  Because the students I work with have
language based learning disabilities, their linguistic intelligence (e.g. reading/writing) is often their weakest skills. Therefore, these students have to use their other
strengths or intelligences to learn new skills.Many students who identify with being “right-brain learners” may benefit from the use of pictures, integrating singing academic lyrics, playing background music, or participating in kinesthetic/hands on activities to learn a particular skill.

The bottom line is that students often learn best when they are exposed to more than one learning style to encode the information into their brain. When this is done, they effectively transfer the information into short term memory and then long term memory. Although people may have their own preferences for learning, both sides of the brain work together to effectively process and learn new information.

I will provide additional resources on this blog about
learning styles, brain-based learning, and specific resources that can help all students learn.
Tamara Anderson, Ed.S., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Jensen, E. (2000).
Brain-based learning. The new science of teaching & training. San Diego,
CA: The Brain Store Publishing.

Leaf, C. (2009). The
switch on your brain 5 step learning process. Dallas, TX: Switch On Your Brain USA.