Preposition lessons with Rachel.

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.



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Mom: Put on your big girl pants and keep ‘em there!

by Jennifer Dyer

Motherhood/parenthood isn’t for wimps. Can I get an Amen?

Sadly, I am a wimp. There I said it… Ugh.

Parenting Rachel with all the issues produced by autism and apraxia has been more challenging that I ever imagined possible. Plus, the style I need to adapt with her often goes against my natural personality leanings to nurture and keep the peace.

This week I had a “poor me” MOMent. I was so stressed. And angry. And tired. And overwhelmed. And defeated. When her therapist asked me if I had bought her some high top shoes to start trying to teach Rachel to keep her shoes on, I broke down and cried. I didn’t want to do it.

At first, I said it was because I didn’t think they would be cute enough. Then I said I hadn’t found any I liked. Then I didn’t know what size to buy her (I had actually tried), then it was the money, and on and on. But come on… Really?

No, the truth was I knew it was going to be another battle. Another long, drawn out screaming fit of doom with me biting the inside of my cheek so I don’t go off the deep end. I knew that the battle would be much harder for me than for Rachel, and I would be the one left scarred. Again.

So, I prayed. I thought over the matter. I was honest with myself about the excuses and the reality. And I came to some conclusions.

  • First, one battle at a time is enough for me.
  • Two, even though this kind of confrontation is tough, distateful even, to me, I have to do it for Rachel’s own good. In Brenda’s words, “We have to pop some of her bubbles. Rachel has been catered to and that is not setting her up for success in the real world. She has potential and I want to see her reach it.”

What I had to ask myself is, Am I willing to go the distance, to sacrifice my own self and desires and energy in order to accomplish what is best for Rachel?

Yes. Gulp. At least, on my good days.

So, in the words of Brenda, it’s time to put on my big girl pants. And keep them on.

And as soon as we are finished with the shoe battle, we are going to fight the battle of pants with Rachel, as in getting her to keep her pants on.

Cover me, friends, ’cause I’m going into battle.

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Resist the cuteness!

by Jennifer Dyer


My daughter Rachel is cute! I think she has figured that out and uses it to her advantage. Because of her apraxia speech issues and autism, I fear I often underestimate her or feel sorry for her and give into her desires.

The other day I was trying to brush her hair, and we wound up in the usual triathelon of craziness: over and around furniture, Up and down the stairs, over the dog, and hand-to-hand combat. While it keeps me in shape, it does get tiring. Rachel’s ABA therapist was here, and she put down her therapist foot. “You have to resist her cuteness and stop giving into her. You allow this to be a game. When you tell her something mean it.”

I wanted to play innocent. “Who, me?”

Therapist wasn’t falling for my innocent wide eyes. “You have to stop thinking of her like a little girl. She’s a big girl. Stop doing everything for her and make her be responsible. Just because she has a difficult time talking and communicating doesn’t mean she isn’t aware of everything going on around her. I cannot stress to you enough how smart Rachel is. She knows she is cute and uses it.”

But…Cuteness “Wrong Wrong”

Gulp. I felt as though caught doing something naughty, but it’s nice to have someone advocate for Rachel and believe in her intelligence and potential.

She also told me to beware using that sweet little voice I often adopt when I talk to Rachel. She said to talk to Rach like I would any other eight-year-old. Otherwise people might not treat her with as much dignity.

She had a point. “Okay.” I wondered how I got stuck in thinking of Rachel as a little one. With eldest I made a natural procession from little kid to big kid. Perhaps she demanded it. Perhaps her verbal skills required more adult conversation. All I know is that I must be more mindful… It’s good to have people like Rachel’s therapist to help nudge me along.

So, I must resist when Rachel resists me with that adorable little smile on her face.

Dot’s I’m Cute song

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Moving and my war with control.

Ever tried to sell your hone while living in it? With children? If so, then that little 3-word phrase “on the market” may cause you to shudder. It does me…

So, this morning was just another typical day. Ha. Ha. As I rushed around scrubbing surfaces and sending Robbie the Roomba on errands, I kept thinking, “If I just get this done, then we can go to that get together.”

Except one thing led to another. I stepped into my bathroom to FINALLY brush my hair and…my old nemeses were back. The ants! I’ve told them I just want to be friends, but they’re not getting the hint. They won’t go away and let me sell my house in peace.

While I battled the ants, Rachel wandered into the bathroom behind me. She babbled her normal sounds and played in the closet, but I didn’t pay much attention. Meanwhile eldest was having a fit because her hair feathers were sticking up. Grr.

I finished the clean up, along with feather control, then turned to see…Rachel playing with her new sticker collection. You know the kind–the ones labeled Always.

Meanwhile the phone rang. My friend was waiting to say farewell to me, but I was going to miss her because of the ants and mess. Tears pressed behind my eyes. I couldn’t keep up with everything!

I chased after Rachel to confiscate the “stickers,” and found she had also been crumbling cheese on her sister’s bed. Ack!

We managed to stumble out the door, but I never did find those “stickers…” Hopefully that will not be the first thing someone viewing the house sees.

My day went on in similar fashion until Rachel’s dentist appointment. We made it to Children’s Hospital early and had time to ride up and down the glass elevators. Rachel laughed and hugged me. I had it under control. Finally, something was going right.

All was well until she sat on the chair. Rachel lolled over to the side and revealed she had left an essential part of her wardrobe in the car. The part that covers her hiney. And we had ridden in a GLASS elevator.

“Oh my,” said the lady helping us. Oh my, indeed.

I sat back and laughed. Control is such an illusion. Even when I think I have it together I don’t. I might as well accept that and learn to laugh more, ants and all.

Of course, acceptance doesn’t mean I won’t put down the ant baits I just bought. That war is still on, my friends!

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