Three P’s: Parallel Talk, Play Therapy, and Priming

parallel talk - a great method for motivating children to talk without the frustration of high demand – the child is given opportunities to engage in activities that he finds interesting, while the caregiver talks about what the child is doing -the caregiver uses language that is at or just above the child’s level – often used in collaboration with self-talk

examples: for a child playing with a plane, say things such as, “You’re flying the plane. The plane is high. The plane is low. You gave the plane to me.”

play therapy – very useful for initiation, social language, turn-taking, sharing – can involve moving child from lower levels of play (such as banging or shaking toys) to higher (such as self directed play, play directed toward others, relational play, and symbolic play) – strategies are taught to caregivers, often involving allowing child to lead play, with adult redirection as necessary

priming – introducing topics beforehand – can involve stories, index cards, explanations, or anything that can quickly familiarize student with upcoming material – can occur immediately preceding the lesson, the prior morning, or the prior evening – especially effective when part of a routine

example: an autistic child’s anxiety increases in response to certain things, such as handwriting, so the morning activities are briefly explained to the child ahead of time each morning, including handwriting

ASHA Autism Conference

Looks like this conference will be focusing on Social Stories…

I just hope they mention a few other autism therapies while they’re at it – Such as the thirty or so on this list.

Two Great Points Concerning Weird Al’s Word Crimes

weird al

The author of this post from the Language Log blog, Ben Zimmer, makes three main points, two of which I really like.  (There’s nothing wrong with the other point, I just don’t think it’s as great.)  The points are in reference to the evident uproar in the linguistic community caused by Weird Al Yankovic’s Word Crime’s video.  The uproar has been caused by Weird Al’s suggestion to everybody who can’t use proper grammar – which is just about everybody – to obtain the services of a linguist for help.  Many linguists, to the contrary, have been fighting for years to get everybody to loosen up their prescriptive shackles, and focus on everyday, more casual language – as pointed out in this article.

The first great point is this:  “…the notion of “Proper English” typically serves to prop up the already-privileged speakers whose native language variety it is (sort of) based on. This puts speakers whose native language variety does not approximate “Proper English” at an immediate disadvantage in society, the same way that privileging Whiteness puts those who are not White at an immediate disadvantage in society.”

The second great point is… “that the view of “grammar” as “you must learn the rules or else be ostracized” just makes grammar no fun at all! Studying language—really digging into it, uncovering its remarkably complex yet orderly structure, investigating what makes it different across speakers and communities—is SUPER FUN! Giving people a list of rules of things to do in order to not be criticized is NOT FUN!”

Right on!

Mand-Model Approach and Milieu Teaching

(note:  this is another installment in an ongoing series on various language therapies)

Mand-Model approach -This is an extension of the incidental teaching model.  The mand-model approach involves the teacher or caregiver modeling and/or manding (requesting) a response from the child.  In modeling, sometimes known as child-cued modeling, the teacher or caregiver observes the focus of the child’s interest (e.g., a ball) and models the correct verbalization (e.g., “that’s a ball”).  If the child makes the correct verbal response the teacher or caregiver then praises the child and provides the object of interest.

example: child reaches for a candy – caregiver keeps candy out of reach, while saying “candy. Say, ‘Candy please!” – caregiver gives candy immediately if child requests, or after a time delay, while modeling correct request if child doesn’t request


Milieu Teaching -As a naturalistic, conversation-based teaching procedure, in milieu teaching the child’s interest in the environment is used as a basis for eliciting elaborated child communicative responses.  Milieu teaching includes other strategies, such as incidental teaching, mand-model, and time delay.  It is based on behaviorism, but rewards are from natural environment.  With incidental teaching the teacher waits for response, while mand-model requires asking (mands) for response.  While often the subject of research, few SLPs seem to actually claim to use milieu teaching.  Maybe it’s the odd pronunciation.

Literature Based Language Intervention

Literature based language intervention involves using books that do not specifically control for reading difficulty to address other skills, such as sentence structure, vocabulary and comprehension.  It saw increasing popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, when language therapy in general saw a shift from skills based intervention to “holistic” “collaborative” models.  Literature based language intervention is effective as one component of an overall approach, especially when the book is determined by the skill.

example: the therapist decides to work on questions, and so chooses the book, “Who’s Your Mommy?” which has repeating stack

Incidental Teaching and Interrupted Behavior Chains

Incidental Teaching – Incidental teaching overlaps or is often used interchangeably with manipulating the environment, naturalistic teaching, communication temptation, and milieu teaching.  It uses changing the environment, or changing the routine, to encourage initiation.

examples:  wear a hat, put the trash can on the table, instead of giving a pencil for a writing assignment give a ruler, walk past an intended door


Interrupted Behavior Chain – This is a type of communication sabotage, or incidental teaching.  A specific routine is identified that the child knows well, and one step is intentionally omitted – intended to elicit protests or requests.

example: child is taught to prepare her own breakfast by getting milk, cereal, spoon, as well as the steps involved – one day one step is “sabotaged,” for example the adult may place the box of cereal out of child’s reach

Graphic Organizers / Semantic Mapping

(note:  this is another installment in an ongoing series on various language therapies)

Graphic Organizers/ Semantic Mapping – I usually think of Venn diagrams, main ideas, and/or details when I think of these, but graphic organizers actually come in tons of different forms.  As opposed to many language therapies, graphic organizers are often for older students. These can be useful for organizing, learning, and/or remembering a variety of language skills, as well as writing, reading, math, etc.  Many great examples of graphic organizers can be found on the Internet, on sites such as and

Semantic mapping is basically using graphic charts to enhance vocabulary or semantic skills. It helps with word associations, categorization, characteristics, describing, and defining.



Venn Diagram

Semantic Map

Semantic Map

Click for blank Similarities and Differences Venn PDF

Click for Similarities and Differences Venn PDF


Three F’s: False Assertions, Following the Child’s Lead, & Focused Stimulation

False Assertions – These may be considered a type of communication temptation.  False assertions are (often) obviously incorrect statements made with the intent to encourage the child to correct.  They’re great for negation, and also underutilized for expanded negation.

example: “Look at the elephant!” when joint attention is on a cow, encouraging child to say “That’s a cow!,” and/or “That’s not an elephant!”

example of expanded negation: “I could have lifted that truck.” encouraging something like, “You couldn’t have lifted that truck.”


Following the Child’s Lead – This occurs when the teacher comments on things a child is looking at, and/or imitates play behaviors.  Following the child’s lead involves observing and listening to the child, and waiting for the child to talk – great for working on initiation.

examples: an autistic child looks at his hands, so you make comments about his hands – a child makes a play noise (such as a car zooming) and you imitate.


Focused Stimulation -The teacher picks a target and attempts to use it over and over again.  In focused stimulation you can use children’s books, songs, blocks, pretend play.  It encourages, but does not necessarily expect child’s production.  Several target words may be combined in a single activity.

example:  the target structures, “off” and “on” may be repeated by the clinician fifty times in a Mr. Potato Head activity in an attempt to elicit the words from the child, such as… “The eye goes on his face.  The hat goes on his head.  I’ll put a different hat on his head.  I’ll take this off his head.”

Expansion and Extension

Expansion and extension are two of the main types of conversational recasting.  Recasting, which is sometimes called, “responsive modeling,” is used to describe a larger category of techniques used to add or correct a child’s utterance without interrupting the flow of conversation.  Imitation and targeted questions are other types of recasting.

Expansion – Expansion takes what the child says, and adds grammar and semantics to turn into a comparable adult utterance.  The point is to keep the communication flow going smoothly, while not making the child realize that he is being corrected.

example: “doggy house” may become “That is the dog’s house.”

Extension – Extension takes what the child says and adds information.  Extension is typically used in conjunction with expansions.

example: “doggy house,” may become “That is the dog’s house. He is a large dog.”  

Expansion and extension are extensively confused.  It helps for me to think of when a balloon expands, it stays the same.  It does not add anything as would, say, an extension on a deadline.

Cycles Approach and Discrete Trials

Cycles Approach – The cycles approach is more a way of structuring overall therapy rather than a specific strategy. The therapist works on one or more specific skills for one or two sessions. Then she works on different skills the next sessions, and then goes back through each skill “cycling” through them, gradually increasing expectations. Goals are added or subtracted as needed for each cycle.  The cycles approach typically requires more intensity, and is good for treating multiple deficits, ensuring that no skills are missed.




Discrete Trials – Discrete trials is a method of intervention common to ABA therapy. Discrete trials intervention breaks up objectives into small repeated steps. This is useful for skills such as attending, imitation, and following basic directions. There are five distinct parts: (1) antecedent/ the set up and/or presentation; (2) the trainer’s prompt, or assistance; (3) the child’s response, (4) the consequence, and (5) a short pause between the consequence and the next instruction

example: Adult shows two cards, one for happy and one for sad. Adult says, “Who’s happy?” Child does nothing. Adult points to the correct card, and provides hand over hand assistance to the child to point to the correct card. If child points to the correct card, adult gives small piece of candy. Adult pauses and repeats and moves on when child no longer needs assistance.

Communication Temptations

Communication temptations are a type of manipulating the environment or incidental teaching that involve caregiver tempting or luring child to talk.  These are good for increasing initiation, social skills, such as asking for help, or asking questions.  Communication temptations often require starting something, pausing, and waiting until child does something.Image

examples: Put a desired object on high shelf, encouraging child to ask for it. Put a desired object in a tight jar. Give child just a few legos and wait for him to ask for more.
“Accidentally” do things, like walk past the room, don’t turn on the light, etc.

Child Directed Speech and Choices

child-directed speech – aka “motherese- uses frequent questions, exaggerated intonation, extra loudness, lots of repetition of key words, slower tempo with more pauses – not “baby talk”

examples: Is that a car? That car looks fast. That car is red. Do you like the car?


choices/ forced choicecan be very specific to a specific child, and so are an excellent teaching tool – great for labeling in general, or for labeling/using specific language skills – ways to make easier or harder…

  • Hold desired object and a non-desired object. “Do you want the cookie…or the paper?”
  • Change the foil. “Is this a pencil or a perpendicularagram?” when you want to make it more obvious that the correct choice is pencil, versus, “Is this a pencil or a pen?”
  • Change the position. “Are you 4 years old, or 20 years old?” versus, “Are you 20 years old, or 4 years old?” It’s naturally easier when the choice is in the last position.
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Salut/Hallo/Hola! After enjoying teaching MFL and leading my department, I've started an exciting new venture this year, as Couse Tutor for the PGCE MFL at Leeds Trinity University. I'm interested in developments in Language teaching and sharing ideas.

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