pet doctor

The iPad and Beyond – Pet Doctor Inspires Collaborative Play

The iPad and Beyond – Pet Doctor Inspires Collaborative Play

We love using apps in therapy and in our Social Adventure Groups but we are all too aware of how kids can get over-focused on them. We have taken to using some of them as inspiration for play. One of our favorites is Toca Boca Pet Doctor. This adorable app introduces kids to some unexpected pet problems, such as a beaver who needs his teeth brushed and a bird who is stuck in gum. Playing this game for a few minutes before we start dramatic play can really get the kids thinking.

Once the kids have some ideas about what could go awry with their pets, we give them some time to work together to pick equipment to represent a house, a pet doctor’s office and an ambulance. Then the fun begins! Kids never get tired of taking turns calling 911 about their pet problem, riding in the ambulance to the pet doctor of course using all of the fun doctor kit items to take good care of that pet.

Just a few minutes with this wonderful iPad app leads to many more minutes of creative, collaborative dramatic play!

Do not push

Stop Pushing!


Recently in our group we attempted to help our kids understand the concept of “pushing buttons,” or doing something purposely to make others mad. We have written on this twice before. You read those entries here and here. This was happening a lot in our group, and taking away from our time to address other social concepts. We realized that they were pushing buttons for the obvious reason of getting a reaction but also because they often didn’t know what to do instead. How else could they interact or make their friend think positively about them? In came some role-playing and visual supports to the rescue.

First we established what pushed each others buttons. The funny thing was it was easy for the kids themselves to tell us what bothered others! They were usually spot on. Great perspective taking activity on its own. We talked about how we could tell it bothered them (i.e. body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, etc.) We wrote these behaviors out and added a picture using Lessonpix, to help our non reading friends as well as to help with understanding. For example, B can’t stand when other kids tell him what to do. We found a picture of a teacher on Lessonpix and placed it next to B’s name under a column with a “mad” face. We then brainstormed what we could do instead of telling him what to do? How about asking him vs. telling him? “Do you wanna be a policeman?” Vs. ” You’re the policeman, I’m the bad guy!”   We role played this several times, used our visual and catch phrase from Social Adventures App “Teachers tell, friends ask” (found here) and found an image from Lessonpix of a child asking. We placed this image next to the “telling” picture and under the column with a ” happy” face.


This seems simple enough, yet it was critical to make these concepts concrete and visual. We did this for the entire group for different behaviors that “pushed” buttons such as using too loud of a voice, to shouting out who is first in line. We generated alternatives to make friends happy instead of mad. The visual chart is now in our group room for reference and a copy was sent home with each kiddo so they could discuss with their families and review before group. Families report that they were able to carry over this concept at home too with button pushing of siblings.

We have had much less button pushing and more time for fun!

Photo by: Les Chatfield

Submitted by: Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP


Ellen DeGeneres’ App is Great for Social Skills and Language

Ellen Degeneres makes me happy. I’m pretty sure she makes everyone happy. Usually she entertains me at night after work when I watch her show that I DVR. But lately, I’ve been getting to enjoy her during the work day. She created an app called Heads Up that is a speech pathologist’s dream. It’s a lot like the popular traditional speech and language game Headbanz…but it’s on the iPhone/iPad which gives it lots of awesome features. Basically you place the phone, screen facing out, on your forehead. Whoever you are playing with then must describe the given word that is on the screen. If you guess correctly you quickly move the phone forward and back up to your head and a new word appears. If you need to pass because you don’t have a good guess, you move the phone backwards over your head. This is a great feature for many of my students.

There are various categories you can choose from for description, from animals to food. There is a new “kids” deck as well which is obviously filled with kid friendly words (including characters like Runaway Ralph and Zac Efron). The best part about the game is the video recording feature. While you are describing a word…the phone/ipad is recording you. You can watch the video after which is great for a good laugh, as well as an opportunity for some discussion around the child’s performance. (Ellen, can you provide a “pause” button for the video? That would be great for us therapists to breakdown the performance for some teachable moments!). 

I’ve used it with a number of kids for lots of different goals and objectives.

Here are some ideas:

Use in a social group.

  • Great for working together as a team. How many words can you describe and get your team to guess together?
  • It’s a game you CAN’T play alone (like our Bag Game App). Get kids interacting and laughing.
  • Great for body language. Make it more challenging by requiring no words – just body language to describe. This is awesome to watch back and point out on the recorded video. Can kids change their bodies if their friends aren’t getting it? Can they problem solve and think flexibly?
  • Great opportunity for perspective taking from positioning the iPhone/iPad so others can read it, to thinking about saliency (what’s the most important thing) for others to know about something to help them guess
  • Have kids watch the video and give feedback to their friends. Can they give a compliment for what was helpful and/or creative that helped them guess it correctly? What could they have done differently? Can they provide this feedback with appropriate tone of voice and word choices?

Use for individual therapy.

  • Use for description. Pair with the  EET and encourage thorough description. Discuss the importance of starting with the most important/salient information. Especially since this is a timed game
  • Use for generalization of speech production work. Can students use their targeted speech sounds under pressure? At the sentence and discourse levels?
  • Use as a “reward” for completing challenging work within a session. A great language based game to play for fun!

Thanks Ellen for finding another way to make us all happy, even while at work:) 

By Meghan G Graham, MS, CCC-SLP



Every now and then on a Friday we like to post one of our favorite blogs.  This week we thought it would be fun to share this one:


The tag line for our web site is “Collaborative Tools and Technologies” and I am bursting to write about a collaborative tool that is not based in technology. Our group of 5 year-olds just finished an 8-week project that brought much delight to the kids (and, therefore the group leaders). After playing several different board games that involved dice, cards, and spinners, the kids decided they wanted to make a dice-based game. They talked about all kinds of activities and other things they liked until they happened upon something they all enjoyed – pets. We used the side of a cardboard box to draw a game board. The kids made marks on several spaces that served as the “bad things happen” spaces. The “bad things” were a T-Rex, a cage, a dark cave, and a fire-breathing dragon. Each child chose a “bad thing” which they drew and colored on the game board. It didn’t matter that the drawings were roughly depicted. The kids knew what they were supposed to be and encouraged one another.

Pictures of animals were cut out and glued around the game path to keep things cheery. Game pieces were made by stringing small beads on pipe cleaners and closing them in a circle to become pet collars. The kids talked about making a “good thing” square so they glued a star on the board. If you landed on the star, you got to jump to the other star placed further along the path. They decided that everyone should be able to finish the game, so when they reached the end, their pieces were placed on a “bench” drawn by one of the kids, to watch and wait until everyone completed the game.

Pride, simple joy, companionship, feeling supported, being supportive, winning gracefully, losing gracefully, fun, successful, and happiness are all words that come to mind as I picture the little faces of the kids as they played their original game. Oh…and let’s not forget collaboration!

This 8-week Collaborative Project is one of 4 outlined in our Social Adventures Apps. Find our more HERE.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

play tent

Bag the Plan and Let the Creativity Begin!

I have been an OT treating children for (gulp!) 25+ years and still enjoy thinking about my clients and planning the “perfect” session. Sometimes, it seems that the best sessions are the ones that happen if I am willing to let go of MY play. Yesterday was one of those days in our Social Adventures group.

Karen and I planned to continue working on the skills we emphasized the previous week with our 5 and 6 year olds. However, when 2 of the 6 children were out sick, the make up of the group changed. In addition, one girl spontaneously began crying and couldn’t tell us why and another tents boy explained that he was tired while a third child suddenly had to leave to go to the bathroom. Karen and I decided to let the kids have “buddy play” time in the gym rather than follow through with our plan since the kids all seemed to need to experience some freedom and success.

I don’t know how, but a camping theme emerged as each child began creating their “tent”. When the girls chose the play tent, the boys began finding items around the room to build their tents. Cardboard blocks, blankets, furniture, and mats all magically became. The kids found items to use for a campfire ring, fishing rods, butterfly nets, and a lake for swimming. They picked berries and cooked, swam and climbed. They worked alone or in pairs at times but always called the others over to share a meal or activity. When it was time to sleep, they made sure everyone was ready to sleep at the same time and to wake up together. The planning, organizing, sequencing, and sharing of all these actions, and using their bodies in space while moving constantly around each other was fantastic! Practice using objects representationally and
sometimes miming as in charades was so helpful to these kids who struggle with visualization and imitation.

Conflicts arose as they usually do when kids play together, however, these conflicts gave us the perfect opportunity to work on all of their goals. We worked with the kids on initiating interactions, helping them ask to join another child’s activity if they didn’t know what to do. We worked with them on advocating and compromising when 2 kids wanted to use the same materials or tent space. The kids practiced negotiating space, as their swim noodles became fishing poles. Throughout the session, each child seemed to need some time alone. We worked with the others in respecting their friend’s need assuring them that the friend would come back when he or she was ready… and they always did! Theory of mind was tackled often from both the cognitive and emotional perspectives. Why is that child mad? Why do you think that friend went to be alone? What do you think that friend wants? We frequently heard, “But I was just going to use that!” and
needed to talk about how other people don’t know what you are thinking.

We could not have planned this activity. The kids generated and executed the plan, which resulted in a tremendous amount of creativity, collaborative play, and feelings of competence. There is nothing like pretend play! Without planning too much, I hope we can do it again next week!

submitted by:  Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

*Like the ideas in this post? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

Photo by: Lars Plougmann


Kimochi Means “Feelings” in Japanese

Months ago we purchased a set of 12 Kimochis to use in our groups and
individual therapy.

Kimochis® are an engaging and effective way to introduce the
fourth “R”—reading, writing, arithmetic, and RELATIONSHIPS—into a
child’s life.

Each little Kimochi is a stuffed circle made out of soft material, bearing the name
of a feeling such as happy and sad along with the more elusive emotions such
as brave, proud, embarrassed, and the ever important, silly. On the other side
of these stuffed circles, you will find simple line drawings of facial expressions
depicting the emotions.

We use these little Kimochis for our action-emotion game. Kids choose a
Kimochi from a bag and a card with an action written or drawn on it. They then
combine and act out the emotion with the action while the other kids watch and
guess; similar to charades. We have observed sweeping sadly, embarrassed
jumping, and frustrated eating. Needless to say, this game becomes a little silly
but it has been a non-threatening way for the children to talk about, practice
assuming and reading facial expressions, and recognize body language as a way
to express emotion. It’s also a motor planning challenge to show emotion with
the body and facial expression while also executing a simple action.

I bought a couple large Kimochis recently as well. These stuffed animals have a
whole personality attached to them. Bugs is a shy caterpillar with wings tucked
in pockets behind his back. His wings can be pulled out to reflect bravery. I
have used this particular Kimochi with a little girl who has constitutional shyness.
She couldn’t look at or even talk to another person in the clinic. After carrying
Bugs around, she has been able to show me without using words, when she is
feeling brave enough to talk to another child. She has been able to interact, play,
and negotiate with another child in the gym for several weeks now with the help
of Bugs.

There is so much more to these appealing stuffed characters. I encourage you
to check out the web site, educator’s tools and products at

As we all work to support the social and emotional health of our young children,
it’s great to have tools such as these to use and enjoy!

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

For more therapist-curated toys, please click over to our Amazon Store so they know who sent you.


What, So What, Now What?

The theme of the first group with our 3rd and 4th grade Social Adventurers was change; how difficult it can be, how resistant we can be to change, and yet, how important it is to learn how to manage ourselves in the midst of these transitions. Change is a fundamental part of each new school year… new teachers, different classmates, new room, new rules, new everything! And our students have a really hard time with change! When I googled “resistance to change” I came across a business presentation that used the words: “What?” “So What?” and “Now What?” as a model for introducing change within an organization. I found it rather fascinating and decided to try it with our group. We use what we call, “Social Catch Phrases” to help our kids remember important principles of social interaction so these simple words fit right in with our typical style.

Meghan and I introduced a group project using the three small questions:

WHAT?: What are we doing? We are building ONE tall structure as a group using clay and tooth picks.

SO WHAT?: We are doing this activity to practice working together as a team. It is important to learn how to do things with other people, how to listen to our friends, respond to our friends, appreciate their ideas, be flexible, and take turns. We want our friends to do the same thing for us and all this takes practice. We are doing this activity to practice these skills in a fun way.

NOW WHAT?: Now we need to plan. What are the steps? How are we going to accomplish this goal?

Then we set the kids loose. There were a couple kids trying to direct everything but basically, each child began building a structure directly in front of themselves with their own materials. We held up the “WHAT?” card and reminded them that the activity was to build only one structure. As they continued to work and become frustrated, the question emerged, “Why can’t we just build our own structure?” We then held up the “SO WHAT?” card, reminding them that they were learning how to work together as a team, to be flexible, etc. The kids began to work together which resulted in some heated discussions over where to put pieces, whose creation would be on top, and where to add elaborate pieces (that did not in fact lead to the ultimate goal of creating a tall structure). The kids’ attention was directed to the “NOW WHAT?” card as they were asked to pause and talk about how they could use what they have already built to produce a tall structure. Is it important that one child’s piece is on top or that the pieces below could support the top and have it stay up? What could they do now to accomplish the goal?

There were a few tears along the way, and definitely some frustration but in the end, the kids accomplished the goal and all seemed pleased with the result.

by Jill Perry, MS, MHA, OTR/L

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.


Getting the Hang of Social Timing, Part I

Today, we are posting over at Special-Ism.  This post is the first in a series of 4 posts which will introduce some strategies for promoting a better sense of Social Timing.  Social Catch Phrases like, “Hey, guess what?” can be powerful tools for supporting those with social learning challenges.  Head on over to Special-Ism now to read this first post HERE and then stay-tuned for more on the 23rd of each month.  While you are there, be sure to browse around this fantastic eMagazine!


Easi-Speak USB Recorder Pumps Up the Drama

In our Social Adventures Groups, we are often looking for motivating activities for addressing “tone of voice”.  One of the games we play is one we call “My Voice Says it All.”  During this game, we have kids choose two cards, one from the “Emotion” pile and one from the “Phrase” pile.  We then ask them to say the phrase with the chosen emotion and friends provide feedback.  Sometimes, we have the speaker choose the cards in private and then the rest of the group is asked to guess the emotion used.  (See our Social Adventures Apps for detailed instructions and Parent Tips)

This game has always been fun, but with the addition of the Easi-Speak USB Recorder, each child’s inner drama king/queen came right out!  Something about holding such a realistic-looking microphone helped the kids really get in the mood.  Not only did their tone of voice more closely approximate that of the chosen emotion, but so did their body language.  It was really incredible!  Gotta love a great prop!

But that’s not all… this microphone is also a digital recorder.  It saves audio files right on the microphone, so we were able to record each of the kids as they took their turn.  If the kids were having trouble determining a friend’s emotion, we were able to stop the game, playback the phrase and talk with the group about what changes in tone of voice would better convey that emotion.  The kids LOVED listening to themselves on tape, so they were much more motivated to keep trying until they got it right.

Many of us have also used this microphone in our individual sessions to motivate kids to generate narratives.  Just the other day, one of my kids who doesn’t typically string more than 2 sentences together narrated an entire Berenstein’s Bear book.  He held the mike and described each picture while I flipped the pages and smiled a great big smile.  Then… we plugged the mike into the USB port of my laptop and sent the recording to his mom who was, needless to say, thrilled!

Finally, we have used this recorder during evaluations.  Again, it increases kids motivation to speak, records with excellent quality and is super user-friendly.  So, we give the Easi-Speak USB Recorder a definite “thumbs way up”!  If you are asking, “Is there anything that could make it even better?” then we would say that it would be really cool if the Easi-Speak offered an amplification option.  And they do… it is called the Easi-Speak Sound Station. We will be using this mike and sound station a LOT in our individual and group therapies!!

Check out other products from Learning Resources, follow them on Facebook and Twitter

By Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP

Disclaimer:  this device was given to all4mychild free of charge with the express purpose of providing a review.

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.


I Am Love



At first glance I wasn’t so sure I’d find this yoga app useful but when I tried it out with our 6-year-old group kids, I was pleasantly surprised.  Presented in a story format with water color illustrations, the I Am Love app shows 2 children going on an adventure in Egypt, looking at mountains, flying like laughing doves, finding sea turtles, riding dolphins and so on until the final relaxation.

Several aspects of this app were particularly interesting for our kiddos and me.  First, the story is continuous, connecting the poses to each other.  This creates opportunities for fluid movement rather than assuming one pose and then another.  For example, the “mountain” pose turns into the “laughing dove”, diving down and “kissing knees” before landing at the bottom and seeing a “thirsty lizard”.  Secondly, the story itself is a guided visualization.  We have only had the opportunity to use this app once in group but I am eager to try it several times to appreciate the effect of the guided imagery with repetition and familiarity.  Thirdly, each page contains little added extras in 3 corners of the page.  Click on the “pose” corner and children demonstrating how to assume the pose will be revealed along with verbal instructions.  Click on the “Breathe” button in the upper left corner and the page actually breaths with you, as the picture gets smaller and larger.  Click on the “Guess What?” button in the lower left corner and facts about nature and the body are explained.

Returning from active play is always a tough transition for kids who struggle with self-regulation.  Often, I find that moving directly into yoga is not effective, as it requires the kids to shift sets a little too quickly.  The I Am Love app proved to offer the just right level of activity, cognitive interest, visual stimulation, and slowly winding down movement to ensure an easier transition.  I am looking forward to using it again soon.

Kidsyogajourney website

Jill Perry MHA, MS OTR/L

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.