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Speech in the Schools

Foamy, Fuzzy, and Bumpy Books!

Published October 26, 2011 8:30 AM by Valerie Lill

A couple of blogs ago, I wrote about several new therapy techniques/strategies/programs that I was trying with my students this year. Now that it is nearly the end of the first marking period (Friday!), I think I've had enough time and experience trialing these programs to give you my opinion of each in this blog. One of the four new methods I'm using is by far my absolute favorite, so I have to share this one first!

At the ASHA convention last year, I attended a workshop by Linda Schreiber entitled, "Building Literacy in Students with Moderate-to-Severe Disabilities Using Stories." The presenter discussed adapting books to make more meaningful literacy experiences for students with severe and/or multiple disabilities  (for ASHA members who want more information on this presentation, do a search for the title on their website, and you'll get a link to the pdf containing the PowerPoint slides and a blank lesson planning page.) 

I thought this was such a great idea to try, as I had sat through many story readings in a mixed life skills/multiple disabilities class in which the most severe students were really limited in their ability to participate, and in all honesty, get anything functional out of the stories! This school year, when my elementary school opened a new class strictly for students with multiple disabilities (I'll refer to this as the MDS class/MDS students for convenience sake), I knew that I had to try adapted stories with them!

An excellent resource for adapting stories is from the actual program on which the ASHA presentation was based. It is called "Building With Stories" and is published by Attainment Company. I will admit, I do not own the actual program; however, I use the basics when adapting books and sharing them with my students. There are some excellent video clips on their website showing how to adapt a book and what a lesson in class looks like. These videos demonstrate the program better than I ever could explain it!  See this link:

I don't necessarily use this approach 100 percent how it is recommended, designed, or intended -- don't we all modify therapy to suit our students' needs? I currently have six MDS students in my language and literacy group. The paraprofessionals in the MDS classroom are all present for the lesson.  It takes about 30-45 minutes from start to finish for me to preview the story, read it through once, have the students help me tell the story, and then answer questions and wrap things up. 

When adapting books for the six students in my group, I need to consider the following: three have moderate to severe visual impairments, one has severe motoric impairments, and all of them are non- or minimally verbal and use no-, low-, and/or high-tech AAC to communicate.

I've attached some pictures so you can get an idea of what my adapted books look like:

  1. Highlighted title -- with glitter glue -- I should note, the kids loved this book the best out of all of them so far!
    Cover Page
  2. Multi-sensory page -- fuzz balls for each monster, raised/textured numbers.
  3. Text-pointing page -- raised/textured dots.
    Pointing Page

How would an average SLP working in schools with students with moderate to severe disabilities begin using this approach in literacy activities? A few things I've done in the last few weeks that have made implementation of this approach easier:

  1. Ask around for books! I put out an "all call" email to all the teachers in my building asking if anyone had any picture books that they don't need/wouldn't mind if I modified. Sure enough, within minutes, a first grade teacher told me about the mountains of books she inherited when she got her current classroom and showed me the location of the boxes/stacks of books!
  2. Do not be concerned if you lack artistic ability. I cannot even draw stick figures, but I've managed to be "artistic" enough to adapt books!
  3. Go to a dollar store for inexpensive crafting items. I've found glitter glue, feathers, foam shapes, fuzz balls ... you name it! Think outside the box, too -- when I needed leaves for a particular page, I went out my front door and pick some off one of my plants to glue onto it.
  4. Get yourself a hot glue gun! Very handy for gluing on page turners (I've been using an ancient box of clean, non-wrapped tongue depressors that I found when I moved offices for my page turners).
  5. Choose books that have vocabulary that can be functional for your students. So far in the books I've chosen, we've focused on yes/no, sunny/rainy (since they do the weather at circle daily), and numbers.
  6. Don't hesitate to repeat books. Even typically-developing kids love to hear the same stories over and over. I've adapted three books so far -- I've repeated two of them and will be repeating the third this week. Share your books with your students' classroom teacher! My intent has been to present the book on the day I'm in the room and have the teacher re-read the same book each day for the rest of that week.

The best advice I can give anyone who thinks this might be a good approach for their students is do and have fun! I absolutely love adapting books and thinking of ways to make the pages multi-sensory. I love sharing the stories with my students even more! It's amazing to see how engaged the students are in the literacy activities with this approach. Feel free to post on ADVANCE's blog page or their Facebook page with any questions, comments, or personal experiences with adapted books!


Thank you for the ideas - I am new to MDS and excited to try adapting books for my students.

Kris VT, Speech - SLP, IU November 7, 2015 8:46 PM
Etown PA

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About this Blog

    Speech in the Schools
    Occupation: School-based speech-language pathologists
    Setting: Traditional and specialized K-12 classrooms
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