by Jennifer Dyer
One of the many goals Rachel is working toward in speech therapy is understanding prepositions. For years, I’ve yearned to assist her with language, to use my career experience as a speech-language pathologist to help her, but I usually feel as useful as an empty tube of lipstick.
Today, though, I was able to do something that felt like speech therapy (to me) with her! Or at least I thought I was helping.
As always, things don’t turn out quite “normal” around here.
Since Rachel is highly visual, I thought I would pair the preposition word concepts with a picture card and model the correct usage for her using toys. I was trying to hit all the learning styles I could in one go: visual, tactile, auditory, verbal, and a 3-D representation (that last one is a term I’ve heard used by Kay Giesecke M.S. CCC-SLP).
Sounds like a great idea, yes?
In theory and when done correctly, yes.
I used 1″ square cards from the Boardmaker program that featured a written word along with a simple picture representing each preposition. (See them in the pictures below.) Using some doll house furniture and a Mickey Mouse toy, we labeled one preposition at a time.
On was the easiest for her, so we started there. (See picture below.) I first modeled on by placing the card on the couch and Mickey on the “on” card. “On. Mickey is on the couch.”
I handed Mickey to Rachel. “Put Mickey on.” If she didn’t place Mickey in the right spot, I modeled it again and handed her Mickey to try again.
Rachel wasn’t happy, but she smacked Mickey onto the couch, so I thought … since, the on part went all right, I should keep going!
Yeah, y’all can probably hear the horror film music in the background and at least one of you might be screaming, “Don’t go there!”
But I did.
I threw all the prepositions I had in my arsenal at her. In, on, under, between, in front of, behind…
Rachel grabbed the couch and sat on it.
Then she sat on Mickey too.
And the word cards.
That should have clued me into her emotional state. She was telling me, “Too much, woman!”
But I didn’t listen. I grabbed the couch out from under her and trumped that by adding the doll house bunk beds. She sat on those too. And then hid in the closet, only peeking out so that she could make sure I would notice when she slammed the door shut again.
Yay … score one for mom.
My problem is I sometimes try to accomplish so much at once that I forget to notice the little things. I should have jumped for joy when Rachel got the concept of on. And I should have stopped there, at least for the moment. Perhaps I could have added one more concept, but sometimes it’s best to end earlier than planned with a positive result than to end up with her screaming in the closet.
Just in case you were wondering:
A few days later, we tried again with this set of tiny bears I bought at a dollar store 15 years ago and have used in therapy dozens of times.
But, I’d learned my lesson. I quit trying to be the fabled hare who wins the race with speed. Instead, I followed the path of the tortoise and used only the three prepositions assigned to me by Rachel’s behavioral therapist.
We worked for just 10 minutes. I incorporated only the toys pictured above plus a few more bears. I used the same methods, but much slower, on a small scale, and with much more success. Rachel did hide in the ball pit afterwards, but it she wasn’t upset, just tired.
I started with in only. I put the bear into the house. “The bear is in.” Then I handed her a bear of her own. “Put the bear in the house.” I pointed to cue her for the first few times. After she put the bear in twice, I stopped pointing.
I added on after a few more trials, using the same method. I worked with her using on by itself then added in. Then I randomly asked her to: “Put the bear on.” “Put the bear in.”
I added under, working on it by itself at first. Then I mixed in the other two. Since she had already worked on the concepts with her therapist, I was able to move quickly. If she hadn’t worked on the words, I would have drilled the concepts one at a time in different ways, perhaps using different props, but keeping with only one preposition in a mini session.
If you need picture cards like the ones I made above, I used PicMonkey.