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Information About the Communication Continuum
Speech, Language, Literacy
Park Slope Communication & Learning Center Newsletter
Issue 5 - May, 2011
You can sometimes make words using the letters in a larger word. For example, from the word "tube" you can make "be," "bet," "but," and "tub." Now onto a harder one: how many words can you make from the word "flower?" (Hint: we found 24.)

Riddles for Kids: Fun in the Mail
Q: How is a stamp like a peppermint stick?
A: They both should be licked!
Q: What travels the world, but stays in one corner?
A: A stamp!
Q: What do you get when you cross a letter holder with a puppy?
A: A mail boxer!
Q: What two words have a thousand letters in them?
A: Post office!
Q: Why did the boy jump up and down on his mail?
A: He heard that you had to stamp letters!
Q: What do you call it when everybody goes to the Post Office at the same time?
A: A stamp-eed!
Q: What did the stamp say to the envelope?
A: I'm really attached to you!
Q: What starts with E, ends with E, and has just one letter in it?
A: Envelope!
Q: How can you send a turkey through the post office?
A: Bird class mail!

Answers to WordsInWords
Elf, few, flew, flow, foe, for, fore, fowl, fro, lore, low, lower, of, or, ore, owe, owl, roe, role, row, we, woe, wolf, wore.

In This Issue

  • Monthly Feature: Phonic Engine Reading Method & KidsVoyager Online: What happened in April?
  • June's Story: The Origin of "I've Been Working on the Railroad"
  • PECS: A Communication System for Children on the Autistic Spectrum
  • Enriching Your Child's Vocabulary
  • For Fun: Trivia Quiz
  • For Fun: Some Interesting Events in May!

In Upcoming Issues

  • Links to Literacy: Websites You Can Use with Your Child
  • What is the connection between word retrieval (language) and reading (literacy)?
  • What is the connection between auditory processing disorder (language) and reading (literacy)?
  • Development of Conversational Skills
  • Testing Procedures for Speech, Language, and Reading Disorders

Summer Programs

You may be interested in our 2011 Summer Speech Camp and Summer Reading Program. Click here to view and print out the registration form.

You're receiving this newsletter either because you have requested it, or because you're a current or former client or associate of Park Slope Communication & Learning Center. If you do not wish to receive any further newsletters, please click "Unsubscribe" at the bottom. You'll have the opportunity to "opt-out" with every e-mail.

Our ongoing goal is to keep you informed about all matters related to the Communication Continuum: Speech, Language, and Literacy; to keep you updated on our seminars and other matters of interest; to answer questions you may have, and also provide some fun activities for your child, created by us, by colleagues, as well as syndicated content.


Please submit any questions you have regarding Speech, Language, and Literacy, and we'll be happy to reply in an upcoming issue of CC-News. If you do submit a question (to news@parkslopecc.com), be sure to let us know if you'd like your name (first and/or last) to appear, or if you'd prefer it left out.


In the past, we've held seminars and discussions on: Stuttering, Auditory Processing Disorders, How to Help Your Child Develop Reading Skills, Early Speech and Language Development (0 - 5), Speech/Language/Feeding Developmental Milestones, Using the Phonic Engine® Reading Method to Facilitate Reading, Writing, and Spelling. Please let us know if you'd personally like any of these repeated, or have other topics that you'd like to hear about.

Monthly Feature: Phonic Engine Method & KidsVoyager Online: April, 2011

As some of you may know (we mention this in each issue, as it may be your first), we utilize our Phonic Engine® Reading Method, and its accompanying software, KidsVoyager® Online — which may be used at home as well as at our center — to help children catch up with, or enrich, their reading skills. The lives of many children we have worked with have been turned around using this method. In each issue of CC-News, we will be highlighting activities and successes from the previous month, with the intention of informing, and promoting this novel, transformative approach to the teaching of language arts which, we believe, can have a highly positive effect on children well beyond this practice. If any reader knows of a school or practice in a disadvantaged area, where the practitioners are dedicated, and willing to learn, we are more than happy to work with them at no cost.

(We are, by the way, trying to make the Phonic Engine Reading Method more widely available, and are preparing a "white paper" for that purpose. If you're interested, you can view a draft of this paper. It describes the technology in depth, discusses reading techniques in general, and provides links to some of the enabling patented methods which have helped so many of the children we have worked with.)

The month of April included a long break from school, so we had far fewer sessions this month and some of the groups were just one student which is always an interesting change. Weather-wise, we were still waiting for spring to start!

Our Monday 4th and 5th grade group met to continue reading "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." It appears that some children love this book, some kids appreciate it but are not really enjoying this reading experience, and then others do not like it at all. The children that love this book, however, do a nice job describing what is happening as they read through the chapters. As we talked about last month, even though the vocabulary is very hard, because they read along with Merlin, the KidsVoyager Online animated text reader, the children who are continuing are enchanted by this wonderful story. This is true, even if they don't stop to look up every word that is new to them. These students have been making great use of context. We decided that since one of our goals for all of our students is to turn them into enthusiastic readers, we will switch stories for those that wish to read something else.

Almost all the children who come to our center have difficulty with spelling. Spelling difficulty can be caused by a variety of factors. Often, spelling rules (like i before e, except after c) are not internalized. With some children, just breaking up the words into their component sounds and then matching those sounds to a letter or letters is the problem. With most poor spellers, it generally comes down to making an orthographic image of words. This is seeing in your "mind's eye" what a word looks like. This is essential because many words (approximately 13% of English words — although this number is debated) are not phonetic (or entirely phonetic), and without this skill it is impossible to read fluently. We frequently use the Phonic Engine beginning/ending sound encoding method to produce words in order to investigate orthographic combinations. In this case, the kids were asked to select the initial sound /p/ and ending sound /s/, and to find 2 words in the KidsVoyager beginning/ending phoneme word grid that contained the /long e/ sound. They found the homonyms "peace and "piece." These activities were done with all the groups. For the second graders, it became a contest to find the word first. The earlier we can get kids exposed to correct spellings, the faster they will make that "orthographic image" and retain it as well.

We did some spelling practice using graded lists (available on the Internet) and then navigated to websites that offer online "fun" spelling games. For example, at the Gamegoo website, there is a game called Fearless Frieda; (see, i before e). She is on a surfboard, and if you spell words correctly you get points and a surfboard trick. When words are spelled incorrectly, she falls into the water (happily, she gets right back up). This game focuses on both vowel blends and consonant blends. It has been an ideal activity to do with our kids to practice carry-over of spelling skills.

The 2nd graders read a story by Artie Knapp called "No More Car Wash Blues." This is a very sweet story about two elephant friends who work in a car wash but have higher aspirations. One of them wants to be a singer and the other wants to be a chef. The story is about how they figure out a way to make their dreams come true. Artie Knapp's work is at various websites, but this one also includes sequencing pictures, a word search and a jigsaw puzzle.

The 3rd to 5th graders read a story at stuartstories.com called "Growing Up in Kalapana". It is told in the first person and it starts out with our narrator in the water. In all the groups, the children were asked, "Who is the narrator?" "Keep reading," those that weren't sure were told. Our narrator finally makes it out of the water and is firmly entrenched in terra firma and talking about seeing progeny all around. So who is the narrator? It was a coconut! We talked about the author's intent in this story; to entertain of course.

The children then had to think about this topic; if they could plant an object to grow an imaginary tree, (as in planting a dollar and a money tree growing as a result), what would they pick? The kids had to finish writing up their ideas at home. One boy said he would plant a superhero gummy candy, and when the candies grew on it he would eat one, and have SUPERPOWERS! Very cool idea, eh? These kids have great imaginations, but they often need probing to get them out. If you're helping your child, and he or she has "writer's block," give choices for what to write about. Your child will either pick one of those choices or maybe, just maybe, your ideas will help your child come up with good ideas of his or her own. The kids in our reading program use KidsVoyager Animated Storywriter, making it so much easier for them to write up their very interesting ideas and even have them spelled correctly; which means they will hear them back pronounced correctly (usually).

We also had great fun using Wacky Web Tales, an online Mad Libs kind of site. The kids pick a title from a list of titles. Then they fill in the words and it is a terrific way to work on parts of speech. If they forget what a noun is, for example, they can click on a box that reminds them of the definition. After filling in the words (we go around the room, taking turns) we listened to Merlin read the story. The stories were hilarious! Interestingly, it was the youngest kids that used the grossest words.

We want all of our students to have a firm understanding of both parts of speech and tenses. We have so many tenses in English. For example, here is the conditional perfect progressive: "I should have been reading my book." We need to help our students understand what these tenses mean and how they communicate nuanced differences from other tenses. So the sentence above tells you that I am talking about an ongoing activity. Typically, we learn these meanings through verbal interaction and through, of course, reading! Some of the students got fill-in worksheets to work on sentence structure and we will continue to practice using these in our written work.

Finally, we want to share a wonderful story written in Storywriter from a student who comes to our center for speech therapy. This very sunny and delightful girl came in one day and talked about the songs her class sang in school. One of them was "I've Been Working on the Railroad." We laughed at how catchy it was and how it got "stuck in our heads." When it was suggested that we read and write about where this song came from, June jumped at the idea. Our research gave us some very surprising insights into this American classic. We printed out a graphic organizer to put all of our 'wh' questions and answers down. The story behind the song is very interesting, and below is that wonderful story, composed by June.

Even though June reads above grade-level, KidsVoyager Online Animated Storywriter was used for the purpose of feedback and self monitoring. In other words, June could hear the words she wrote and make sure that they sounded just right.

As we mention on our home page, speech, language, and literacy all lie along what we refer to as the Communication Continuum. They are all interrelated, each affecting the other.

I've Been Working On the Railroad

No one knows for sure where "I've Been Working On the Railroad" came from. We do know that it was originally from two different songs. The "Dinah" part was written in the 1830s and may have come from London. It was about a woman who was poor, so she worked on the train in the kitchen. She worked very hard. The "Railroad" part was written around 1894 and was about the men working really, really hard "all the livelong day." It was originally called the "Levee Song." It is funny that the melody is the same melody as a Japanese nursery rhyme about trains. One thing is for sure, "I've Been Working on the Railroad" is one of the best songs about the railroad. I love this song!

PECS: A Communication System for Children on the Autistic Spectrum

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an augmentative communication system developed to encourage spoken language in individuals with autism and related spectrum disorders. Augmentative communication is an alternative way to help clients with language disorders develop both expressive and receptive language. This system uses a behavioral approach to develop language that is self-initiated, rather than imitative. PECS also follows the typical steps of speech and language development as the client moves through the different levels of the program.

Many parents express concern that the pictures will become a linguistic crutch for their children; they fear their children will point to the pictures rather than use verbal language to communicate. However, to quote from healingthresholds.com, "In one study of 18 preschool children with language delays, some of whom were diagnosed with autism, PECS generalized across communication partners and environments. These children were able to use PECS to communicate throughout their school days, not just during the training sessions. Further, almost half of these children stopped using PECS and started using natural speech within a year. One parent commented that "PECS turned on the light for communication" in her child. Similar results were found for two smaller, but still well-designed studies." Thus, in the autistic and similar population, PECS training seems to facilitate not only comprehension, but also the inclination to communicate verbally.

The basic premise of PECS is that by teaching a child to exchange a picture for an object they find to be highly desirable, gaps in communication skills can be bridged. The child is asked to give the picture to the person working with him/her, who is called a communication partner. The child is then given immediate gratification by granting the child the specific request, while also giving them verbal praise. As the stages of PECS continue, the linguistic tasks become increasingly complex. PECS is composed of five stages. This article will briefly discuss the stages and what you can expect your child to gain from mastering each phase.

Phase I does not require the youngster to be able to discriminate between picture cards. The goal of this phase is "initiation" – so the student must "go first." The therapist or communication partner shows the child the reinforcer (highly desired object) and a second therapist or communication partner prompts the child to pick up the corresponding picture. Hand over hand prompting is used to make the exchange of picture for object. These prompts are eventually faded out as the child progresses to greater success.

Phase II is entitled "Distance and Persistence." The goal of this phase is to have the picture cards or communication book further from the child and for the child to become increasingly motivated to find the pictures and bring them to the communication partner and to initiate this exchange. The pictures may, at first, only be a few inches from the child. This will increase to a foot, several feet, being across the room, etc. The child learns to navigate to the therapist/communication partner when they are highly motivated to ask for a desired object.

Phase III is broken down into Phases IIIA and IIIB. The goal of this phase is for the student to learn to discriminate between the picture cards. Phase IIIA helps the child learn the difference between preferred and non-preferred items. For example, the child would be shown a picture of a paperclip and of a Koosh ball. If the child chooses to exchange the picture of the paperclip, the theory is that they will learn this is not the object they desire. They will then choose the Koosh ball by default, therefore learning the meaning of this picture card. Phase IIIB focuses on discriminating between preferred items. We informally call this phase "teach to the reach" – the student reaches out to exchange an icon, we then immediately give them the item that corresponds with the picture card. They are unable to get this exchange "wrong" – this is also known as "errorless learning." Phases IIIA and IIIB typically take the longest to master, as with children on the spectrum, it is often difficult for them to learn to discriminate between the pictures and to understand the concept of navigating through a variety of pictures to complete the exchange. However, because this is "errorless learning", the student does not experience frustration and/or have negative feelings towards the treatment protocol. Very specific data is taken to ensure the child has reached mastery of this phase.

Phase IV introduces the idea of a sentence strip. The child learns the meaning of the "I want" icon, for instance. It is placed on the strip in conjunction with a preferred item. The child then removes the sentence strip and exchanges the entire strip with the communication partner. The sentence is then modeled for the child and immediately reinforced. For example, the child places an "I want" icon next to a "ball" icon. He or she then gives the entire sentence to the therapist. The therapist models "I want the ball!" – and immediately gives the child the ball. Enthusiastic verbal praise is given immediately, as well. It is not necessary, but encouraged, for the child to repeat or imitate the sentence verbally. Over time, many children learn to say these words in conjunction with the therapist.

Finally, Phase V introduces attributes or descriptive words to the sentence strip. Rather than saying "I want the ball," the child would create a sentence such as "I want the red ball." Eventually the child will learn to use PECS for commenting, particularly by using an "I see" icon. For example, "I see the dog." Other comments could include "I smell," "I have," and "I like."

While PECS can be a time-consuming process for many children on the autism spectrum, it has been proven to be one of the most highly effective ways to promote communication and initiation of language for these youngsters. As a child increases his or her ability to go through the phases of PECS, research shows a positive correlation with the number of spoken words they will have acquired throughout this time. Generalization and carry-over of these skills have also been shown to increase over time within various environments and settings and with different communication partners. Thus, The PECS approach to teaching language to those on the autistic spectrum is an excellent technique for developing receptive-expressive vocabulary, grammatical structure and for facilitating interaction with others.

Enriching Your Child's Vocabulary

Most children begin to say words at around the age of 12 months. By 18 months, most children have a vocabulary of about 50 words. Many parents would like to know how to help their child acquire and use more words. What is essential, is to make a word meaningful, relevant and salient to your toddler.

So how do we accomplish this? We know that children need consistency. In other words, use the same word for the same object, action or event. If you always use 'cat' to label your pet, without switching to 'kitty', 'pussycat' or 'meow', your child will learn the word 'cat' more readily. If your baby is eating, use the word "eat", rather than switch it with different verbs, such as "chew", for example.

In addition, we need to use lots of expression in our voice. Let's say your toddler is reaching up, as if to say, "Pick me up." If you say "up" with your vocal inflection going up, that will help your child learn the word. Try to use the word a few times, first alone and then paired with another word, as in "(your child's name here) up", with that same rising inflection. Or you could say "Pick baby up", with (you guessed it), that same rising inflection.

You might notice in the previous paragraph that there is a lot of repetition of the word "up", which leads me to one of the most important things your child needs to acquire words, and that is, lots of repetition. When your toddler hears a word frequently and it is used in conjunction with the object, action or event, it is more likely that your child will learn the word and learn how to use it.

Another way to increase your child's use of single words is to use gestures whenever it is appropriate. Pointing up as you say "up", pointing to your stomach as you say "hungry", flapping your arms as you say "fly", helps your toddler learn and acquire new words.

Last, but definitely NOT least, talk to your toddler as much as you can and whenever you can. (Not only will your child's vocabulary bloom, so will your relationship.) Don't be surprised if your hear new words every week!

Trivia Quiz: May is National Smile Month.

It is said that your smile is your best asset. Test your smile knowledge with this trivia quiz.

1. True or False: All snakes have teeth.
2. How many teeth will an average shark grow during its lifetime?
3. Before there were dentists, what profession was responsible for curing aching teeth?
4. The first patent for chewing gum was granted to Dr. William F. Semple, a dentist, in what year?
5. The first dental chair was designed in 1790 by the first native-born dentist of which country?
6. In 1937 toothbrushes began to be manufactured with what material?
7. In World War II American Army soldiers were for the first time ordered to do what to their teeth?
8. How many types of toothbrushes have been patented to date worldwide?
9. How many miles of dental floss do Americans purchase each year?
10. True or false: Animals rarely get cavities.


1. True.
2. 20,000.
3. Barbers.
4. 1869.
5. America.
6. Nylon for the bristles.
7. Brush them.
8. Over 3,000.
9. Over 3 million miles.
10. True.

May 2011 Holidays and Events

Arthritis Awareness Month
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month
Awareness of Medical Orphans Month
Better Hearing and Speech Month
Creative Beginnings Month
Ecodriving Month
Family Wellness Month
Fibromyalgia Education and Awareness Month
Freedom Shrine Month
Get Caught Reading Month
Gifts From the Garden Month
Haitian Heritage Month
Heal the Children Month
Healthy Vision Month
Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month
International Business Image Improvement Month
International Civility Awareness Month
International Internal Audit Awareness Month
International Victorious Woman Month
Jewish American Heritage Month
Latino Books Month
Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month
Motorcycle Safety Month
National Allergy/Asthma Awareness Month
National Barbecue Month
National Better Hearing Month
National Bike Month
National Good Car-Keeping Month
National Hamburger Month
National Hepatitis Awareness Month
National Meditation Month
National Mental Health Month
National Military Appreciation Month
National Moving Month
National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month
National Photo Month
National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
National Preservation Month
National Salad Month
National Salsa Month
National Smile Month
National Stroke Awareness Month
National Sweet Vidalia Onion Month
National Vinegar Month
Older Americans Month
Personal History Month
Revise Your Work Schedule Month
Strike Out Strokes Month
Teen CEO Month
Tennis Month
Ultraviolet Awareness Month
Women’s Health Care Month
Young Achievers/Leaders of Tomorrow Month

1-7 Be Kind to Animals Week
1-7 Flexible Work Arrangements Week
1-7 Kids Win Week
1-7 National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week
1-7 National Family Week
1-7 National Hug Holiday Week
1-7 National Pet Week
1-7 Teacher Appreciation Week
1-7 Update Your References Week
2-8 Children’s Book Week
2-8 Dating and Life Coach Recognition Week
2-8 National Wildflower Week
2-8 Spring Astronomy Week
2-8 Work at Home Moms Week
6-12 National Nurses Week
7-15 National Tourism Week
8-14 National Nursing Home Week
8-14 Reading is Fun Week
8-14 Salute to 35+ Moms Week
9-13 National Etiquette Week
9-15 National Stuttering Awareness Week
15-21 International New Friends, Old Friends Week
15-21 National Dog Bite Prevention Week
15-21 National Police Week
15-21 National Return to Work Week
15-21 National Transportation Week
15-21 World Trade Week
21-27 National Safe Boating Week
23-30 National Backyard Games Week

1 Executive Coaching Day
1 Law Day, USA
1 Lei Day
1 Loyalty Day
1 May Day
1 Mother Goose Day
1 National Dance Day
1 National Infertility Survival Day
1 New Home Owner’s Day
1 School Principals’ Day
1 Stepmothers Day
2 Melanoma Monday
3 Childhood Depression Awareness Day
3 Garden Meditation Day
3 Lumpy Rug Day
3 National Specially-Abled Pets Day
3 National Teacher Day
3 National Two Different Colored Shoes Day
3 Paranormal Day
3 World Press Freedom Day
4 Great American Grump Out
4 International Respect for Chickens Day
4 National Day of Prayer
4 Star Wars Day
5 Cartoonists Day
5 National Day of Reason
5 Totally Chipotle Day
6 Military Spouse Appreciation Day
6 No Diet Day
6 No Homework Day
6 No Pants Day
7 Join Hands Day
7 Mother Ocean Day
7 National Babysitters Day
7 National Homebrew Day
7 Spring Astronomy Day
7 World Fair Trade Day
8 Mother’s Day
8 No Socks Day
8 World Red Cross Day
10 World Lupus Day
11 Donate a Day’s Wages to Charity Day
11 Eat What You Want Day
11 National Nightshift Workers Day
11 National Receptionists Day
11 National School Nurse Day
11 National Third Shift Workers Day
12 Limerick Day
13 Blame Someone Else Day
14 International Migratory Bird Day
14 National Train Day
14 Stay Up All Night Night
14 Underground America Day
15 Peace Officer Memorial Day
15 International Day of Families
16 Biographers Day
17 World Telecommunication and Information Society Day
18 International Museum Day
18 Turn Beauty Inside Out Day
18 Visit Your Relatives Day
19 May Ray Day
20 International Virtual Assistants Day
20 National Bike to Work Day
20 National Defense Transportation Day
20 Weights and Measures Day
21 Armed Forces Day
21 “I Need a Patch for That” Day
21 National Waitstaff Day
21 World Day for Cultural Diversity For Dialogue and Development
22 National Maritime Day
22 Neighbor Day
22 International Day for Biological Diversity
23 International World Turtle Day
24 Brother’s Day
24 Hug Your Cat Day
25 National Missing Children’s Day
25 National Senior Health and Fitness Day
25 National Tap Dance Day
25 Towel Day
27 National Wig Out Day
28 International Jazz Day
29 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers
30 Memorial Day
31 World No-Tobacco Day
31 What You Think Upon Grows Day (WYTUG)

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