The Language Fix

A blog for sharing language and learning information


language therapy

Types of Tasks – Language Use

This is it!  The culmination of all that hard work.  When your student has achieved use of a language skill – without cues – at age appropriate level – that kid can be said to have achieved the goal.

use task examples

Here is the complete description, with examples, in Doc and PDF forms.


Types of Tasks – Language Labeling

Labeling tasks can be thought of as more equal combinations of receptive and expressive language than either identification or use.  Typically involving one word or phrase, labeling a discrete language skill is both easier than using it, and more difficult than identifying its correct or incorrect use.

labeling task examples

35 Language Therapies!

With this list no one can ever again say, “I don’t have any ideas for teaching language.”

Long description pic:      35 language therapies long pic


Long description pdf:  35 language therapies pdf

Short description pic:   35 language therapies shortened pic


Short description pdf:  35 language therapies shortened pdf

Mand-Model Approach and Milieu Teaching

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

Mand-Model approachThis 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.

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.”

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.

The Language Fingerprint

Earlier I composed a short commentary on what I called the “Language Fingerprint” – each person’s unique language profile.  It went like this:  Each child demonstrates a unique “fingerprint” when it comes to the units in their language repertoire.  Just as no two fingerprints are alike, no two language profiles are alike.  Kids learn words, word parts, and word combinations that they’ve realized are important in their own lives, and so there are as many different language fingerprints, or language profiles, as there are word learning environments:  approximately 300 million in the United States alone.  The emphasis is that each one is unique.  The implication is that the most effective language teaching paradigm would account for this individuality.

The notion of a language fingerprint supports why language therapists continue to use pull-out therapy in the face of mounting opposition and pressure to go into the classroom.  Pull-out works because this is the only time in school that many of kids with language problems feel compelled to speak.  When one person is speaking to twenty or thirty children feedback is hard enough to come by anyway.  When one of those children has difficulty speaking feeback from that child becomes near impossible.  Language impaired children often compensate for weak language by developing excellent skills of quietly blending into their environment.

The fewer kids there are in any given teaching situation, the greater is the possible feedback for each kid.  Because kids don’t have the same language fingerprint, the more individually tailored the feedback, the greater the potential that specific needs are being addressed.

Studies have been done comparing pull-out versus classroom based models of speech and language therapy.  While many of these studies have been inconclusive or incomplete (McGinty and Justice, 2006)*, the trend has been toward greater use of classroom based intervention.  Justification for this trend has been supported by increased carryover, providing a natural environment for learning goals, and increased teacher involvement. (Al-Sa’bi, 2004). *

Two points seem to be missing, however.  1)  While the classroom is a natural environment when compared to other classrooms, this sort of situation is relatively rare outside of school.  And the setting where one leader encourages constant feedback and participation from a group under her care is uncommon even as classroom populations advance into secondary school and college.  2) Language impaired children have few times for one on one interactions with a language professional as it is.  Compare the 30 or 60 minutes weekly usually given for language therapy to the thousand or more minutes during the week that the child is in class.  Classroom intervention may have it’s merits, but why should it come out of the 30 or 60 minutes rather than the other large chunk of time?

Many normally developing kids have their own personal language therapist – their parents.  That some parents are so effective in this role should fit right into the notion of a language fingerprint.  Attentive parents know at just the right time when a word that appears in the life of their child is one not well known.  These parents automatically know when a word is new to their child because they are around their children much more than teachers or any other adult.  There is no better time to learn new words than in the course of everyday life.  For instance a child may play hide and seek and when found (after closing the always open bathroom door) may ask “How did you find me?”  An attentive parent may instinctively say, “You left evidence,” knowing that he will have to ask what evidence is in order to understand the answer.  Examples like this add up exponentially over time.

Individual attention doesn’t just work well at home.  What should be obvious, though, is often disregarded for reasons other than the best welfare of children.

A Few Facts About… Verb Tense

Tense allows us to more effectively communicate information related to when something occurs, occurred, or will occur, as well as more effectively understand if the occurrence has been completed, is in progress, or will occur continuously.   Some key points include:

  • Research suggests that omission of tense marker (zero marking) is the most prevalent kind of tense error in children with SLI (Marchman, Wulfeck, Weimer, 1999). 
  • Different languages use various techniques to express differences in tense.  Latinate languages, in particular, use a variety of morphological endings to express when something happens (David Crystal, 1995). 
  • English only uses three morphological endings:  -s, -ed, and -ing.  Other tenses are communicated through irregular forms, auxiliary verbs, and adverbs.

Continue reading “A Few Facts About… Verb Tense”

Some Specific Language Therapies

What follows are some very general descriptions of popular language therapies, used primarily with younger children.  Much of this information has been taken from Roseberry-Mckibben and Hegde’s An Advanced Review of Speech-Language Pathology.

Recasting – When an adult repeats what a child says, altering it to make it grammatically correct.  Two types of recasting are  1)  Expansion – simply making the utterance correct; and 2) Extension – making the utterance grammatically correct and adding information.  Some examples are…

  • Expansion – Child:  “That ball.”;  Adult:  “That is a ball.”
  • Extension – Child:  “That ball.”;  Adult:  “That is a big red bouncy ball.”

Focused Stimulation – The clinician models target structures to stimulate child to produce these specific structures.  This is usually done in a play activity.  For 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.  Several target words may be combined in a single activity.

Joint Book Reading – Involves reading high interest stories repeatedly over several sessions.  When children are familiar with the stories, they are expected to fill in target words.  For example, the clinician may say “The woman was _______”, to attempt to elicit -ing verb “driving.”

Self Talk – The clinician describes his or her own activities while playing with the child.

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