Sharing the Love! 5 Easy Tips for Mixed Skill Groups

5 Tips for Mixed Skill Groups! Looks-Like-Language
Quick tips can be so helpful!  Whether the information is new to you, jogs your memory, so you can now apply something you already knew, or helps you to see something in a different light, your students benefit! I hope that something in my IG tip series resonated with you!  

I've circled back around to my topic of mixed groups! It is a reality that we deal with every day, with more success on some days than others.

Books for Mixed Groups! Looks-Like-Language
If your mixed group isn't working, try looking at the combination of student personalities and goals that you have in the group. Maybe an unusual combination will work better for you! For more ideas, check this post.

Books and SLPs go together! Looks-Like-Language
Before you change your schedule around, try using some great books to bring your group together!  

The first time I use a book with a group that has a variety of goals, I read through it and place a sticky note on the edge of the page to remind myself where I can pause to elicit answers from each of the students in the group. As I become more familiar with the book and the various skills I can use it for, I no longer need the sticky notes.

For more ideas, read this post.

Try a little conversation! Looks-Like-Language
Maybe you just need to foster interactions between your students a little more to get a group more cohesive, especially if you have any students with social language needs in the group. 

I regularly start my groups by encouraging them to have to have a conversation. Not only does it give me a few moments to write the attendance and take a quick peek at how they did the previous session, it lets me listen to how they are using their speech/language skills naturally!  For more ideas on how to use interactions between the students in a session, check out this post.

Have a fun back-up plan ready! Looks-Like-Language
When all else fails, have some fun activities that allow for taking turns ready to go at a moment's notice! It may not make the group gel, but you can work on each child's skills separately to get through the session if there is an activity in common. 

Bubbles, playdoh and puzzles will save you with a younger crowd. Elementary to middle school level kids will usually play a board game,  a card game like UNO, or watch a video clip and talk about it. Need more ideas? Read here.

To really make your life easier, get together sets of materials that can be easily used for mixed groups.  Find a central theme with a variety of activities for different skills that can be used during a week or month. You can scrounge the internet to pull together your own sets, but if you don't want to spend the time doing it or need a little help along the way, check out TpT! I will feature some of my sets that work on multiple skills this month to show you how it can be done.

What makes your mixed groups most difficult for you?

7 Speech/Language Therapy Tips for Multiply Impaired Preschoolers

Have you been following my daily tips on IG this winter? If not, no worries! I'm recapping them here. 

Make preschool therapy easier with a week's worth of tips from Looks Like Language!
I've worked with kids from below the 1%ile to the 10th %ile for a while now, but I had a lot to learn when I first got started. Maybe you know all of the information I've been sharing, but I thought there might be some SLPs out there who don't generally work with such impaired students and might like to see what I've learned the hard way!

If you missed the last post about teaching kindness, be sure to catch it here since it was a blog hop with links to lots of freebies you can download!

Be sure to check out the tips for autism and for unintelligibility, too!

Make preschool speech/language therapy easier with these tips!
Now for preschool tips. It has been a while since I worked in the full day preschool, but I loved that population! The kids had lots of needs and took a lot of energy, but they were so cute! It is a vital time to provide therapy since you can have such a big impact!

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!


Preschoolers, in general, don't have very long attention spans. When you combine this with other learning problems, you'd be wise to have a lot of back up ideas for each session!

Bubbles, playdoh, and favorite toys seem to be items that all preschool SLPs keep on hand.

For my main therapy plan, though, I always tried to incorporate a book as my central theme to develop literacy skills while eliciting language. I tried to find books related to my theme with big pictures and simple repetitive text and plan hands-on activities related to the plot as my go to's. It worked!

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!


Having toys related to the story serves several purposes. More practice with the vocabulary, sentence structures, or sounds in the words occurs in a natural way. Playing the plot of the story helps kids to understand the language in the book while building play schemas.

Connecting books with play helps kids see that books are fun, which is helpful for developing literacy skills. When students understand the language and plot, they become more interested in the book and will attend longer! It is a win-win all around.

Have I convinced you yet? Start shopping garage sales, thrift shops and, of course, the dollar bins at Target to pick up hands-on items that relate to your favorite therapy books!

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!


It is so helpful when the books have a repetitive refrain! That is the basic level for understanding and retelling story narratives.  Students will remember the refrain and join in, giving that extra practice for speech sounds and language goals.  It is easy to play, as it often involves one main activity with lots of characters.

Additionally, at this level, the pictures usually match the text exactly, so that your kids will see what they hear and comprehend it more quickly.

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!


If you are working in a home setting, using a central therapy theme of  'around the house' is a no-brainer. It will help the child be able to communicate better with the family and will let you build carryover with the parents so easily by demonstrating what to say to elicit the skills as part of the daily home routine.

In my area, schools switched away from center-based therapy to home-based therapy many years ago just so that the parents could be involved and carry over the skills automatically.

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!


If you are working with young children who go to a preschool, you can't go wrong using seasonal themes. Every preschool I've ever visited uses seasonal/time events as part of their curriculum. So many skills can be worked on through basic season, holiday and category themes. Time is such a difficult concept for students with learning problems to comprehend!

If you really want carryover, try to tie what you are doing in with the theme the preschool teacher is using that week/month.  There will be so many opportunities for practice, and it will help your students be more active participants in the activities!


I touched on play skills before, but I can't stress enough how important it is to look at a student's play skills along with their communication skills. If you see a student with advanced play skills but little verbalization, I would bet you will find that they have more expressive language problems than receptive!

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!
My students in preschool were delayed in multiple areas, so I found it to be a wonderful therapy technique to work on language, articulation and play skills at the same time.  It takes a little practice to figure out what you can elicit with the toys you have on hand, but hands-on activities are so important for little ones!

The iPad has provided a multitude of fun activities that truly capture children's attention, but it is still important to see what level of play skills your student has. Higher level students are not as big of a concern, but students with multiple problems will not gain a variety of cause-effect and higher level cognitive and language skills only from touching or pressing on a flat surface, from my experience. Balance the apps with the hands on!

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!

To CRAFT? Or not?

This one may be controversial to you since we all love our craftivities, but please read on!  Higher level preschoolers, with mild delays in a minimal number of areas, will learn when provided the right kind of stimulation no matter what the activity.

When working with lower functioning preschoolers who have multiple areas of need, making a craft is the icing on the cake that is so fun to use to generalize the skills you have been addressing!

When students are very impaired, all of the fine motor skills involved in doing crafts can involve so much of their attention and processing skills that they are not able to do that and learn the language at the same time.  Having these students do a craft after they have learned to label, request and understand the language forms involved- well, that is fun and a great way to generalize!

Working with preschoolers, you can never have enough visuals! Did you get these FREE room picture labels at my store yet? If not, click here! It is free!

Sharing the Love! Unintelligibility Week Daily Tips!

Tips for Unintelligible Students- Looks-Like-Language
Welcome back to my daily tips to share the love! This past week I was posting tips for treating unintelligible students on IG. Here's my round-up with a little more information! 

Tips for Unintelligible Students- Looks-Like-Language
Often students who are highly unintelligible have patterns of speech errors going on, so working on one sound at a time is a drop in the bucket! *Analyze the errors for problems with phonological processes or errors in sound movement patterns based on place or manner.
*Work on these error patterns using multiple sound targets and a variety of words. If the students are making progress, keep it up! If they aren't, move on to another error pattern and see if it is more stimulable.
*Continue to check back on previous sounds to see if there have been any changes in the students' stimulability.

Tips for treating unintelligible students from Looks-Like-Language
There are no clearcut guidelines from research for how to proceed with this, although the ASHA website has a good overview. Clinically speaking, I've found a few tips to be useful.
*Error patterns that have more visible sounds are often easier to elicit.
*Complete omissions of sounds, unusual phonological patterns and unusual prosody make students very difficult to understand.
*Close substitutions, such as 's' for 'sh', impact intelligibility less than a pattern of substitutions that have very little in common with the error sound.

Tips for treating unintelligible students from Looks-Like-Language
It is not possible to practice all of the words! Especially with more impaired students who have multiple issues and need more repetition to make improvements, we really need to focus on the most vital and functional skills to have an impact in daily life.
*Have conversations when walking to the therapy room and pay attention to words and phrases the students use the most often.
*These become the target list to practice every session as a warm-up activity.
*When they can say the words correctly, have them practice in the conversational phrases they use.
The rest of the session can include practice with words that tie in to the language activities for the day, but the frequently used word list gets lots of practice!

Tips for treating unintelligible students from Looks-Like-Language
Be sure to watch your students as they attempt new sounds or new words! Moving their head when attempting to move their tongue, smiling all the time (even when not happy) and adding additional vowel sounds are a few signals that they could be having problems with jaw stability or grading and moving their articulators independently.

Practicing speech production with some extra stability support is sometimes all that a student needs to get better sound production.

Tips for treating unintelligible students from Looks-Like-Language
I learned so much working jointly with my students' OTs and PTs. Together, we make a terrific team! If you suspect problems with motor planning or stability issues, these are the people you need to speak to first!

If you are interested in reading more about the development of disassociated jaw, lip and tongue movements for speech production, you can get free access to this article that was published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research.

Tips for treating unintelligible students from Looks-Like-Language
Simple books with repetitive refrains that include your students' target sounds are a wonderful way to get lots of practice! Most of my students who were unintelligible also had language needs, so this is a great way to target multiple skills.

Tips for treating unintelligible students from Looks-Like-Language
If your student has to practice many times to gain the skill, be sure to start with some word or phrases that are functional!
*Choose target words to serve a communicative function, like getting a need met, be easy to elicit multiple times by all staff during a typical day. *Include words that have easy to produce sounds along with the the more difficult ones. Build in some success!
*It's best of all when the words can be combined to produce functional phrases after the child can say the words!

Simple artic errors? No problem! But when a child is unintelligible and has multiple needs, it can be overwhelming trying to decide the best way to start therapy. I hope these tips help you make your plan!

Sharing the Love! Autism Week Daily Tips!

Tips for Autism

Did you see my autism tips on Instagram? In case you didn't,  I thought I would share a little more information about each tip here with you! If you don't yet follow me on IG, just search @lookslikelanguage. Easy! See you there!
A week of autism tips from Looks-Like-Language

This week's tips have information I learned while working with low functioning students with autism at an ABA school. I don't really know how much background you get in college now regarding autism, but there was nothing back in the day when I went to school. NADA. 

So, everything I know has come from a combination of watching wonderful special education teachers, reading, taking many inservice courses and practical experience.  

I thought I'd share some of the important take-aways and aha moments I had. Maybe they will be new to you and help you with a student you have. Maybe they will just remind you of what you already knew. But either way, I hope they help!

Tips for autism from Looks-Like-Language

Communicative Functions

In functional behavior analysis terms, what happened just prior is called the antecedent. We look at the antecedent behavior for a variety of reasons, including for figuring out what triggered the inappropriate behavior and how to eliminate it. 

We need to work together as a team in the best interests of our students to reduce or eliminate inappropriate behaviors, but SLPs do have something to add from our specialty in communication. 

While the incorrect behavior needs to be stopped, if there is a communicative intent that the behavior serves, we need to replace that behavior with an appropriate way to get those needs met. Looking carefully at what was going on prior to the behavior can possibly provide us with clues as to what the communicative intent may be.

Tips for autism from Looks-Like-Language
We also must consider what happened immediately after the behavior, called the consequence in functional behavioral analysis. If our student gets something desirable after an inappropriate behavior, that behavior may actually become the way to request the desired item. Again, the behavior needs to be corrected and we need to help the student learn an appropriate way to communicate.
Tips for autism from Looks-Like-Language

Improve Communication

By the way, this always sounds easier on paper and in examples than it hardly ever is in real life, so I'm not even going to bother with an example here. Just keep working at it, readjusting your plan, until there is progress! It is the most important thing you can do!
Tips for autism from Looks-Like-Language

Practice While Calm

Students never learn while they are upset! After you have a hypothesis about the communicative function, work on setting up situations to give the student as many trials as possible to practice the replacement communicative behavior while calm. Work with the team to follow the behavioral program while you are teaching the new communication skill. 

The inappropriate method of communicating did not develop overnight, and the new way won't be learned that quickly either. Careful data can help you tell if you are moving in a positive direction and keep your motivation levels up.

Tips for autism from Looks-Like-Language

Sensory Issues

In my experience, children who are cognitively low functioning with autism usually have some problems with sensory integration. They will have some sensory modalities that they crave- toys and activities that fall in this category can be great for reinforcers and for breaks.  

 week of autism tips from Looks-Like-Language
They also have sensory problems that inhibit them from being able to handle a variety of activities. The child who is sensitive to noises is a prime example. You might see him covering his ears when it doesn't seem particularly loud to you, and he may not even be able to function during a fire drill.  Getting an array of sensory toys will help you determine this pretty quickly, as well as giving you important information to use in planning therapy activities.

 week of autism tips from Looks-Like-Language

Play Skills

My students had a lot of self stimulatory behaviors and very few to no actual play skills. They lacked the knowledge of what to do with the objects around my room and tended to use them as an extension of their favorite stimulatory activity. I found that if my students engaged with objects or traditional toys in any way at all, from looking or touching briefly to actually picking it up and interacting (inappropriately) with it, it meant they were interested. 
a week of autism tips from Looks-Like-Language

I started with the toy that got the most interest and matched their preferred sensory modality to teach them how to play.  When skills are achieved with one type of toy, expand it to a similar toy!

Click here to read more about teaching play.

If you'd like a little more help, click here to check out my free Getting Started with Autism Guide!

Don't miss out on this helpful free guide!

4 Tips to Make the MOST of your Group Interactions

So much goes on in mixed group sessions that sometimes it can feel like a juggling act, especially for new SLPs. The activity, the materials, the behavior, modeling and eliciting the skills, taking data, and watching the clock to get it all completed! How do we get it done?

Part of what helps me out is the organization I set up at the beginning of the year, which provides a firm foundation. Don’t worry if you are already into the school year as the ideas will still help you out! Check out this post.

Once you have a master sheet of the goals you need to address during the year, think about how they can be worked on together to form your groups. While homogenous groups sound great, it is rare to have them, in my experience, and over time I have come to believe that students benefit from interactions with peers at different levels. It takes a bit of brainstorming to figure out specific activities and goal combinations at first, but soon it will be easier to do!

Pair earlier and later skills to provide models
For example, figuring out what happens when (predicting) is an early cause-effect type of skill that students need to make the connection and answer ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. When you ask your first student, “What happened when I …?” you are providing a model for the student who will be asked ‘Why?” or “How?’ next.

SLP: What did I do?
Student 1: You moved it.
SLP: What happened when I moved the wand?
Student 2: You made a bubble.
SLP: Yes! I moved the wand and made a bubble. Student 3, how did I get the bubble to come out?
Student 3: You moved it.

Using group interactions to make your job easier! Looks-Like-Language
Pair goals that work together to form a complete skill

With older students, you can elicit information in turns the same way. Take the example of remembering story details combined with sequencing and telling the main idea. After a short story or video clip, the first student could use story elements to remember different details. The second student could tell the important story attempts in sequence, while the third could sum it all up with the main idea. This way, the students are interacting and providing some of the information needed, freeing you up to take data.

Pair articulation needs with language needs
Students who have good language skills but need to work on carryover of their articulation goals can make great partners for students with language problems. The variety of activities you are using, especially books, for language needs can provide many chances for the artic student to use their speech sounds.

Make a set of the WH question words that your language student needs to answer and let your artic student ask a question that has one of the target sound words in it as well. Sometimes students respond well to the creative questions their peers ask! Once the students have started interacting with each other, they are both practicing their skills in a more naturalistic way, which is great for carryover.

Pair receptive needs with expressive needs
Students can be involved together in an activity when one needs to provide pieces of information that demonstrate comprehension while the other one needs to pull all of the information together to express it. Some examples of these pairings could be:
answering questions-> telling information in a grammatically correct sentence
remembering details-> summarizing information
naming items in a category-> choosing the correct category
describing an object -> making an inference

The basic idea behind of all these tips are to have some of the students supply a piece of the information that will provide models or help out the next student, limiting the amount of separate directions and models you have to provide. Using this strategy gets students interacting and using their skills in a more natural way while freeing up a little of your concentration to take data and manage the activity.

When it works, it can be awesome! Good luck!

3 Easy Tips for Spicing Up Your Games with Mixed Groups

Games! Yes, SLPs love to play games with their students, but there is a good reason for this. Students who come to speech/language therapy walk in the door with a very mixed set of skill strengths and weaknesses, learning problems and strengths, as well as IEP goals, all of which need to be remediated in a minimal amount of time each week.

3 easy game tips for speech/language therapy
There is no curriculum to be taught that ties the group together, unlike their classroom, so a variety of activities are needed that lets each student be part of a group and get enough practice to learn at their own rate. Games, crafts and other activities fit the bill perfectly.

Beyond the planning needs of the SLP is the need to have the students use their newly attained speech and language skills in as natural an environment as possible.  

When students are able to use their skills in a structured activity with lots of feedback, the SLP checks to see if they can continue to use the skill when they aren’t focusing specifically on their speech and language. 

If they maintain it during a fun activity, chances are the teacher and parents may see the skill being used as well.

How to do this? For a new SLP, this often feels like juggling practice. It helps at first to have a group data sheet so you aren’t juggling paperwork while modeling and eliciting speech/language skills, as well as monitoring behaviors in the group.  

If you haven’t found a group data sheet that works well for you, check out this blog post. There’s a freebie download as well as links to other free data sheets on TpT. If you'd like some ideas for monitoring the bigger picture, check out this blog post.

3 easy game tips for speech/language therapy
Board games aren’t the only way to bring a group together and address all of these variables. Kids love games of all types! Some of my most successful games have been ones that I have put together from varied household items and junk that was lying around.


Plastic egg cartons make great open-ended tic-tac-toe tossing games! Pick up some themed erasers, puffballs, or any type of lightweight item to throw. After each response, students get to toss one in, trying to get three in a row!


Go to a yard sale to find some inexpensive building toys. Pictured is a monster set I found. Students get another piece to add on after each correct response. This motivates and keeps little hands busy while waiting for a turn!

Tossing Games!

Packing peanuts are fun to toss because they are surprisingly unpredictable yet won’t hurt anyone. I combined them with a toy hoop and a box to contain the game. Kids love it!

Look around your house and see what you can turn into a game! What is your favorite 'junk' to use?

My Journey to the World of an SLP

How did you decide to become an SLP? I’m joining with The Frenzied SLPs to tell you our stories of what led us to this path in life. I’m sure that there are as many different stories as there are SLPs!

The journey to be an SLP- A Frenzied SLP Link-up- Looks-Like-Language
My interest in speech therapy started at a very young age. I was in elementary school when I had a young cousin who was unintelligible to everyone in my extended family, except for my aunt and I! It got me thinking that maybe I had a special skill.

Time passed, and I remained interested in working with children. I ran a small summer camp for local kids with a friend, babysat and volunteered my time with disabled children while in middle/high school. However, I entered my undergraduate years planning to become a reading specialist, combining my love of books and children. 

Then I realized that there was no undergraduate major for reading, at the same time that I was highly recommended to take an introductory course on speech and language development. I was fascinated with all of the information that I learned that semester, and my major was decided!

Being an overachiever, I took quite a few education classes and double majored in psychology, as well.  When it came time for a Master’s degree, I decided to continue with speech/language pathology. I’m very glad that I did! I must say that, in my long career, at times I have felt swamped with too much to do and overwhelmed with paper work, but I have never been bored!

Each student I have worked with has had me learning as much as I was remediating! Every child is unique, learning in a different way and bringing their individual strengths and weaknesses to the learning curve. From infants to high school and regular education to special needs, I’ve had the privilege to touch many lives for the better!

What is your story? Please share in the comments!

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