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BY Marla

Spring Cleaning with Your Special Needs Child

How spring cleaning can help with Speech and Language

Do you ever feel like there just isn’t time to work with your child on speech and language?  With your busy schedule, several jobs, and tons of errands and chores, the day slips away before you know it.

Here’s a way to check two things off your list, while also having a great time with your child.

Spring Cleaning Skills

Spring cleaning time is a wonderful opportunity to help your child learn the precognitive skills of matching, sorting, classification and organizing. All that, and a clean house, too! Development of these skills lays the foundation that future language can be built upon.

Spring cleaning will help:

  • Teach your child to visually scan their environment, looking from left to right
  • Pay attention to things that are similar and different
  • Place items according to a single attribute, function, or class
  • Aid in the building of their particular vocabulary (lexicon).

This information becomes stored in the child’s memory for later recognition and recall.  With a better storage system organized, things are more easily accessible when one tries to respond or formulate thoughts into words.

We all know how much easier it is to find what you are searching for if you put it in the same place each time. The same could be said when developing vocabulary.

Step One: Gather Containers

First, assemble a method to organize the physical items you intend the child to sort.  Round up containers like boxes, bins, bags, totes, stacked drawers or any system that allows items to be grouped and contained.  Even old shoes boxes will work.

Step Two: Create Categories

Determine which items will be matched or sorted. The options are numerous.  Depending on the age of the child, select concrete classes (animals, vehicles, foods, clothes, etc.) before moving on to concepts that relate to attributes, functions, or more advanced classifications (things that have legs, things that cut, baking items, outer space).

Step Three: Visuals

To develop and build pre-reading skills, make labels that pair a written word with a picture or symbol of what goes in the container.  You may want to keep a list of all the items within that particular box as well.

Form scripted sentence boards (a _____ is an animal, a ____ can cut,   a _____ has legs) which can be used when taking items out or putting them back in, creating a time to build expressive language. Target word retrieval and short-term memory skills immediately following the sorting, asking the child to tell you items of that particular class, without the visual support: “Tell me an animal.”

Step Four: Start sorting

Bring out the items to be sorted.  Pay attention to the number of items within the field, starting small and building up.  It’s important to start with items that belong to that particular group.  Once the child understands the task, add in items that are not members of the sorting task, like including a banana in the animal group.  This teaches the child the concepts of inclusion and exclusion, necessary skills for sorting.

The child can do basic sorting by class, such as putting all of the animals together, or you can increase the difficulty by sorting by related sub classes of animals, such as zoo, wild, sea, forest or pets. To further challenge the child, ask if they can sort into tougher categories, such as crustaceans, mammals, marsupials, etc.

Organization of materials and knowing where their favorite items are will aid the child in indicating choices.  In addition, organized containers help the child learn to begin and finish a task, while helping for smoother transitions between jobs.

Isn’t everyone’s life a bit simpler when we learn to put all of our things back neatly in the same place?

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Written on March 12, 2012 by:

Marla Zerbib, M.A., CCC/SLP is a Speech Language Pathologist at the Kafuman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-Motor & Social Connections, Inc. Marla has an undergrad degree from the University of Windsor and earned her master’s in speech and language pathology from Wayne State University. She has worked with children for over 14 years, in both private practice and school settings.

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