Last Friday, I spoke with my daughter’s speech therapist about Isabelle having more trouble than usual, lately, getting her words out. This has been going for about three weeks and isn’t getting better. Therefore, her SLP asked me to bring some wordless picture books to today’s speech therapy session. Of course, I waited until last night to look for the books, which meant I was tearing up my house trying to find Flotsam by David Wiesner after Isabelle went to bed. I couldn’t find it. Thankfully I knew of the origin of Aaron Becker’s Journey, which I intended to bring along with Flotsam. But one wordless picture book didn’t seem like enough. Therefore, I grabbed two other picture books Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans and Tubby by Leslie Patricelli Isabelle knows well in case her SLP wanted to work with Isabelle on those.
I handed over Journey, Madeline, and Tubby to her SLP at the start of the session and explained she knew the latter ones very well. (Even though the average person might not be able to understand Isabelle’s recitation of Madeline, I can tell you that if she didn’t have CAS her “reading” would be spot-on!) After they worked on some sequencing cards to determine how often and when Isabelle would have trouble saying her words, she asked Isabelle to read the books to her. First, they did Tubby. As I sat outside of the one-way mirror listening with headphones, I was pretty impressed with Isabelle’s “read” of the book. She only had trouble stating what was happening on a couple of the pages. Madeline, the book she knows backwards and forwards, was much harder for her. I couldn’t imagine why she was having trouble since we’ve read it COUNTLESS times in the past couple of months. And then it dawned on me: it was her CAS that was preventing her from getting her words out.
After Tubby and Madeline, they entered the world in Journey. Her SLP told me, in advance of today’s session, that many kids with CAS don’t like wordless picture books since it requires them to do a lot more of the work. The words aren’t right there. There is no one right answer. Therefore, it requires them to do a lot more talking since the answer has to come from within them. As a result, I noticed she only demanded that Isabelle tackle five page spreads from Journey with her today. She asked Isabelle very general questions like “What’s happening here?” or “What’s going on?” or “Where is she going?” Most of Isabelle’s answers made sense, but she did state that the girl was going to go to Chocolate World through the red door. (Thankfully she revised her prediction on the following page!)
At the end of the session, I debriefed with her SLP to talk about what they did. Essentially they were working on prosody and sentence structure. She feels it’s important to model the speech to help expand Isabelle’s language. Therefore, if we have to spoon feed things to Isabelle when she cannot get out the words she wants to say for the next few weeks, then so be it. Her speech therapist reminded me to vary responses with word-based and wordless picture books so that Isabelle doesn’t think there’s just one response for a given picture or on a page. Since we’ve spent so much time teaching her to say what we see, we (i.e., me and her SLP) need to be more creative with our responses. This reminds me of when I’ve taught students how to use conversational prompts in discussion groups and then they become too reliant on one or two prompts. Children need a variety of things to help them talk in a discussion. And Isabelle needs a variety of ways to respond so she doesn’t rely on just one or two ways to start sentences (which becomes easy to motor plan, which is why she uses the same phrases over and over again).
I have my work cut out for me in the next few weeks. I’m going to rely on wordless picture books to help me to do this work, rather than books she knows well, so she doesn’t feel confined by the words. However, I need to find a variety of wordless picture books for this purpose. I started searching over at the Nerdy Book Club today and found a post with top ten wordless picture books. I need to research them so I find the ones that will be the best fit for my kiddo. I’m open to more suggestions. If you have a favorite wordless picture book that would be perfect for my three year-old, please leave the title and author/illustrator in the comment section of this post.