Talking About Talkies®
With only a month left to go in this school year, I thought I better get back to a blog I wrote way back at the beginning of the school year. I had talked about four new approaches/therapy models/interventions that I'd be using this year —
so far I've only blogged about two of them (Behavior Management Through Adventure and using the concepts of the Building with Stories® program with my students with moderate-severe disabilities). The final two topics I have yet to blog about are getting an iPad to use in therapy (I will be receiving it later this week, so I'm not sure if I'll have enough time/experience to blog about it before the end of the year) and how I'm using the Talkies® program with my students this year.
Last summer I had attended a training in Lindamood-Bell's Talkies® program. I had a two-day training in their Visualizing and Verbalizing® program a few years prior to this training, which I think really helped me understand and get more out of the Talkies® program, though it certainly isn't a pre-requisite or required in anyway. Rather than me trying to give a thorough explanation of the program (impossible to do within the context of this blog), you can read more about the Talkies® program here. The program follows a specific set of steps and procedures to improve mental imagery for language.
I will admit it, I'm not a fan of "canned" or "step-by-step" programs. I'm all about the "ecletic" approach, taking bits and pieces of programs, trainings, and research and using them together to enhance my students' language skills. In the case of Talkies®, I found it very easy to incorporate principles and language from the program into what I was already working on with my language groups. Four goals are listed for the program on the website. Two of them are what I've found it to be very beneficial for — to increase oral vocabulary and to improve language comprehension.
I'm currently using the parts of this program with my students in the primary (K-2) and upper elementary (3-5) Life Skills classes. These students chiefly have moderate disabilities, a variety of diagnoses, and a range of language skills. Currently all of the students I have using parts the program have some means of expressive communication — mostly spoken language but also a few students who use augmentative communication to support/enhance their spoken language. Students range from using single-word utterances up to sentences of 5 or more words in length. All of them benefit from direct instruction in the areas of receptive and expressive language, thought they all have stronger receptive than expressive language skills.
Both of these classes utilize high-frequency words as a part of their instruction. I found that for my primary students, the words and concepts being taught and used in their classroom go along nicely with the "structure" words of the Talkies® program. The structure words are: what, color, size, shape, number, movement, where. These words are the concepts that students are supposed to visualize and talk about when using this program. I've made laminated index cards with these words and pictures representing what these words means on them that I use quite often in pull-out therapy and when I go in for language lessons in the classroom setting. I find using the structure words is very helpful for expanding utterance length.
For example, if a child labels a "what" such as dog, I'll use the visual cards as cues for expansion and say, "Add a color word." The students will then expand their utterance and say, "Brown dog." Kids really enjoy touching the cards as they are saying the words. I find it really helps them know the number of words to say and the pictures let them know the kinds of describing words to use. My students use the structure words to expand the number and type of words used in their phrases (since most of them are great at labeling nouns but struggle with using other parts of speech) plus it reinforces curriculum-based concepts (color recognition, simple opposite concepts, prepositions, counting).
With my upper elementary students, we work on using the structure words to enhance verbal descriptions. Often if I show students a picture, I'll get a single word response, such as, "girl," even though I know the students are able to use much longer utterances. I think they don't often know what to say or know what is important when describing. The structure words provide a nice framework for enhancing descriptions and increasing use of salient details. With the addition of the Talkies® structure words (and the cue cards I've made) I can get students to produce sentences such as, "The girl is riding her pink bike down the street" (What + Movement + Color + Where) vs. "girl" (What).
For next school year, I plan on continuing to incorporate the structure words from the Talkies® program into my language groups. I've even spoken to the primary Life Skills Support teacher about using the picture cue cards I use for the structure words on her word wall as a way of grouping words (i.e,. put all of the "size" words under the "size" structure word card). I've found that teaching and using the structure words of the Talkies® program another valuable tool in my box of speech-language therapy approaches!
Have any of you been trained in the Talkies® program? If so, how are you using in your language sessions? Are there any other language programs you like to use with your early spoken language users? Feel free to respond on Advance's blog page or Facebook page!