At 27 months old, Jake began speech therapy with our local state program. Each week the SLP would come to our house for thirty minute sessions and she would sit across from him on the floor and she’d attempt to capture his attention. Sometimes she whipped out a toy from her own bag of tricks, but sometimes she would dig in our own toy box if Jake seemed uninterested in what she had to offer. When she first started giving him therapy, to be quite honest, I was a little confused. I didn’t understand how “her” playing with him was any different from how “I” would play with him.
Many questions flooded my mind at the time: Is this what speech therapy is all about? Do SLPs sit on the floor all day and play with toys? Would he ever be able to talk? Jake was completely non-verbal at the time and she would talk to him in an over-pronounced, enthusiastic voice while she rolled a car or stacked up blocks and he would just stare at her. He wouldn’t attempt a word. He wouldn’t even move his mouth. In fact, he spent most of his time running away from her. After all, this was his territory. If he was going to play he wanted to run.
Much of that thirty minutes each week was spent with me running after Lil’ Man, coaxing him to be obedient. I spent much of that time in those three months worth of sessions feeling lost, confused, and wondering if Jake would ever speak.
One thing that did interest him and made him at least think about trying to speak was puzzles. It’s also one of the many valuable beginning speech builder skills that I learned in those early days. Here’s the concept:
- Take all puzzle pieces and hold them away from the child.
- Ask the child a question that requires a one-word answer about each piece. Examples: “What piece do you want?” “What does the dog say?” “What kind of animal says woof woof?” “What shape is this?” “What color is this?”
- Once they say an approximation or word, they get the puzzle piece.
That’s the perfect world. If only it were that easy with the apraxia monster! At two years old Jake couldn’t say words like square, triangle, or goldfish and still to this day, his approximations for these words can be a little questionable. Instead, during those early days he learned to point to himself and say “me” for each one of those puzzle pieces. And as he got a little older, he said his first sentence of “I do it” when he was tired of SLP #2 holding his puzzles pieces for ransom.
Jake still loves puzzles and while I still have all those toddler ones, I also have an awesome puzzle I’d like to share with the bigger kiddos …
My neighbor, the Pre K-4 teacher, who is always stocking my shelves with cool products that she likes, gave me this puzzle. We’ve done it a few times and Jake is really digging it. The object of the activity is to find the item in the puzzle that is being described by a set of thought-provoking clues. The box says it’s for ages six and up, but mainly because 1.) It’s 100 pieces and 2.) The clues are not easy. This is such an easy activity to modify, however, and was a great speech exercise. As we were searching for the pieces, some of my clues went like this:
- Me: “What is this?” as I pointed to the picture of the witch. / Jake: “Bitch” / Me: “No, witch. Give me your circle mouth. Let me hear the /w/ sound.”/ Jake: “Witch”
- Me: “What is this?” as I pointed to the picture of the deer. / Jake: “Dog” / Me: “No, it has antlers. What is it?” / Jake: “Deer”
- Me: “What are these growing in the grass?” / Jake: Approximation for “flower,” but without a strong /f/ sound. / Me: “I didn’t hear the /f/ sound. Let me hear it. Blow it out.”
Here’s the finished product …