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Talk and Play, Everyday!: The Best Things in Life Are Free

April 13th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments »

From time to time, I’d like to post some of my lesson plans for listening and spoken language activities.  For those of you with D/HH children, I’d love for you to try them out and give me your feedback on how they work.  For those of you who are new to AVT/Oral Deaf Education, I hope that these activities will help to give you a better understanding of what this approach is all about! (NOTE: I am a student, not yet a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist/ Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist©.  These ideas are not a substitute for professional services.)

There’s no need to break the bank when it comes to finding good sources of therapy ideas.  The best lessons in speaking and listening can come from things you already have at home.  In fact, I would argue that not only can you find good therapy resources at home, you should!  Children need to learn that listening and speaking are not isolated events, confined a weekly therapy session, but part of living, communicating, and enjoying every day!

  • Magazines and Catalogs are the absolute best source of therapy material.  Think of how much junk mail you receive on a daily basis.  Most of it just gets tossed out (recycled, hopefully).  You’re throwing away an awesome source of pictures to stimulate listening and talking!  I like to go through and cut out pictures that fit in different categories, placing the pictures for each category in their own ziploc bag.  Sample categories could include: food, clothing, school, jobs, transportation, animals, seasons/holidays (especially can be found in seasonal newspaper inserts).  There’s no need to buy pricey articulation flashcards when you have your own “stock photos” just waiting in plastic baggies!  Many advertisements also feature unusual situations or dramatic interpersonal scenes.  These are great for story and conversation starters (“What do you think this girl is saying?  What do you think the little boy is feeling?”, or asking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”).  Sorting the pictures into categories can be used as an activity to talk about same/different, different categories, and matching.  Clothing catalogs can be cut up and then used to talk about various articles of clothing and to make various outfits (“What would you wear if it was cold?” “What do we wear in the summer?” “Can you find the brown, long-sleeved shirt?”).  With furniture catalogs, you can cut out the different items, then draw the outline of a house and its various rooms on a poster board or sheet of butcher paper.  Glue each item of furniture in the room where it belongs, talk about what you do in that room, what sounds the various electronics in that room make, and the different parts of each item (“It’s a sofa.  It can also be called a couch.  The couch has arms and legs, but they don’t look like your arms and legs!” “This couch has three red cushions, they are fluffy” “There are two pillows and a blanket on this sofa”).  And what child doesn’t like to look at a good toy catalog!  So, go to THIS site and sign yourself up for some junk mail therapy materials!
  • Telephone Games are lots of fun, too!  For children learning to use the telephone (a critical skill, for independent living… and for middle school), hide something (or yourself!) somewhere in the house, then call the child on the home phone via your cell.  Give them directions to find the hidden item.  This can also be good practice of prepositions (behind, under, in front of, next to, etc.).
  • Library.  A public library card is free and a powerful key to loads of information.  I highly recommend this article, “Ten Books a Day”to give parents an idea of how important their role as a literacy model is in their child’s life.  The library can also be a source of picture books to pre-teach concepts and vocabulary for other trips out into the community.  Have a doctor’s appointment coming up?  Check out some books.  Going on vacation?  Check out some books.  Almost your birthday?  Check out some books.
  • $1 Okay, so this doesn’t exactly qualify as “free”, but dollar stores are awesome sources of small toys and other things to use for therapy.  Note that I said therapy, NOT bribes.  A toy shouldn’t be the “reward” for sitting through a greuling hour of therapy, it should be part of a fun experience of learning to listen and speak through play!  If what you’re doing is so boring, the child needs an incentive to participate, you’re doing it wrong!  You should have fun, too!  Also, how exciting is it to have your very own dollar to spend on anything you want!  Work with your child on ways to earn extra money through chores, talk about saving and earning money, talk about what he might want to buy before you go, talk about evaluating various options, etc.  Use a digital camera to take pictures for an experience book and add text (“Here I am cleaning my room” “Next, Mommy gave me some money” “After I saved my money for three weeks, I had one dollar” “I took my dollar to the store” “Should I buy a doll or a jump rope?” “I decided to buy the jump rope” “I paid for it and said thank you to the cashier” “Here is a picture of me playing with my jump rope”).

Happy Hearing!

Written by

Elizabeth Rosenzweig MS CCC-SLP LSLS Cert. AVT is a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist. She provides auditory verbal therapy, aural rehabilitation, IEP advocacy, consultation, and LSLS mentoring for clients around the world via teletherapy. You can learn more about Elizabeth's services on her Website or Facebook.


Deaf Person

April 13, 2008 at 4:20 pm

The activities are wonderful. However some deaf parents may not be able to use the activities with their children with HAs or CIs. Will it be possible for you to post any activities that can be used at home? Like using different sounds, etc?



April 13, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Certainly! If a parent who is D/deaf wants to work on listening with their little one who also has hearing loss, here are some suggestions:

1. Books on tape. Many libraries have kits that have children’s books on tape paired with the actual book. You can play the tape as you read aloud (and/or sign) the book to your child. You might not hear all of the tape, but at least it introduces your child to the concept that those funny things they hear through their hearing aids (sounds) actually have meaning!
2. Children’s books that make noise. There are some books that come with a panel of buttons on the side where each button stands for a sound. Each page in the book has pictures that correspond to which button the child should push at certain points in the story. That way, a parent who does not hear, or doesn’t hear very well, at least knows what sound each button is supposed to make and can alert their child to push each one at appropriate times in the story and explain how that sound matches with what is happening on that page. (EX: Look, there’s a cow. Can you push the button for the cow sound? The cow says MOO!)
3. For a very young child, have noise-making toys (probably, even better if you can’t hear them banging away 24/7 on the toy drums!)and when the child plays with them, alert the child to the fact that they are hearing the sound. For example, if he hits the drum and then smiles, point to your ear, point to his ear, and say/sign “I heard that! You heard that! The drum goes bang, bang, bang!” For babies, and any person with hearing loss learning to use their residual hearing/HAs/CIs, the sounds might get to the brain, but it takes constant reminding of “I heard that! It’s a X” to re-wire the brain so it doesn’t just hear… it understands!


April 13, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Elizabeth, we did the special toys thing too. I had a big bucket full of toys that were linked to things like specific sounds, or activities I was working on. They only came out at special times so they were new and interesting and he didn’t get tired of them. The fact that it was actually time spent on specific language targets was lost on my son, he just thought it was special 1:1 play time with mum with some special toys!

April 13, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Thanks Elizabeth, these are all great ideas that even we rebel non-AVT folks can put to good use with our little ones with CIs, too! My little one LOVES cutting dog pictures out of magazines — we can easily extend her ‘habit’ to other animals and images and apply a natural narrative …

Deaf Person

April 14, 2008 at 10:56 am

Thanks for the tips! I will use them all when my son finally gets his HAs. Keep those ideas coming, I am finding some that I can make adjustments for using with my son.


April 14, 2008 at 1:27 pm

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April 14, 2008 at 4:11 pm


Your comment is not only totally unacceptable but also one that I view as a serious threat. If you make any further threats to Rachel, I will report you to the police.


April 14, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Comment #6 has been removed. Please note that threats of any kind will not be tolerated on this site, and are subject to prosecution under the United States of America Department of Justice: 18 U.S.C. § 875 (transmitting communications containing threats of kidnap or bodily injury) (Hobbs Act).

Thank you.


April 15, 2008 at 12:49 pm

The magazine/junk mail pictures work great. I have often made cheap little books tied with yarn which highlight different topics… food, Christmas themes, toys, types of balls, etc. Finally a use for all of the catalogs! I enlist my 10 year old’s help; he enjoys cutting them out and choosing the most “realistic” pictures that our toddler will recognize. Also, if you want them to last, you can take them to be laminated. We’ve made books with photos of our family and trips together which are laminated experience books. Babies and toddlers love books with items that they recognize anyway, far before they “get” a plot!

April 18, 2008 at 12:43 pm

I love the ideas- keep them coming! My little guy only has a moderate loss (and is still an infant), but I file ideas like these and use them as Nolan becomes age-appropriate. Of course, we already read to him (though it currently seems he prefers to taste books rather than look at them)!

Deaf Person

April 18, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Leah L,

Hee hee, my 12 months old son used to seems prefers to taste books rather than look at them! I just kept on reading and let him lick the textured areas where one is supposed to feel then read again to him. I am using ASL right now since both my husband and I are deaf and ASL users. I do use my voice often in the house only. I lost my confidence to use my voice in public after an ugly incident a long time ago. The point is that my son is developing a language (has over 30 expressive words and is starting to make 2 words sentences)and thinking skills. I am using some of the ideas that I adapted to be used with both ASL and voice. That is until we are able to see how much our son benefits from his soon to come HAs such as being able to learn to speak with HAs. We have not yet decided if we will get CIs for him if the HAs don’t do much for him.


April 18, 2008 at 8:51 pm

Thank you all for the wonderful feedback! I love hearing about your own experiences with your children.

For those of you with little ones who prefer touchy-feely books, I highly recommend the “That’s Not My ______” series. Each book (and there are dozens of them) is called “That’s Not My [Teddy Bear, Princess, Doll, Dinosaur, etc.]” and each page says “That’s not my X. His [hair, shirt, ears, nose, etc.] is too [soft, shiny, rough, velvety, etc.]“. There is lots for little hands to touch and feel on each page, and, unlike some other touchable books, these are very durable and don’t have flaps or pop-ups that are easy for little ones to break. They are also very repetitive, which is especially good for babies, especially those with hearing loss! The books can be found here:

These books are also available in Spanish for any Spanish-speaking families out there!

Deaf Person

April 19, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Ohhh, I have those books. My son likes them a lot, sometimes he still licks the textured areas! I really like them because of the repeated structured sentences with different parts (adjectives, nouns, etc). He also has some sign language books that show signs and printed English.