Toy Review: Cariboo

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If I were to choose the game every speech-language pathologist loves, I would go with “Cariboo”.  It is a treasure hunt game in which finding all balls is awarded with seeing a treasure chest opens. Unfortunately, this game is no longer manufactured, but it can be purchased on sites like eBay and Amazon. I did my happy dance (twice!) after finding mine in a neighbourhood second store toy store. There is a newer version of this game - "Cranium Cariboo Island"- which is almost as fun as the original one. 

Who is it for: Preschool-aged children (ages 3-6), but I have to admit I have used it with some older kids, too.  

Aim of the game: The goal is to find all the balls hidden under each door. Once this task is accomplished, the balls are rolled down a small tunnel. And as soon as the sixth balls goes down the slot, the treasure chest opens. Ta da! What's inside? 

What makes "Cariboo" so amazing? This is a game I can use in speech therapy sessions to work on so many different speech, language, and social interaction goals.  And all kids love it! It's a total SLP bliss!

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How to use "Cariboo" to work  on requesting

Working on requesting? “Cariboo" is great choice to support this goal. 

First,  we have to choose the words we are going to use to request. The word “key” works well as a target word since the child needs the key to open each door. There are lots of doors that we need to unlock, so the child will have many opportunities to practice requesting using this target word. 

Another word to use to work on requesting is “ball”. Note: The adult has to hold the balls, or there is no need to request anything!

Once the child starts to independently use single words to request, you can start expanding his/ her utterances to short phrases (e.g., “I want the ball” or “I need the key”).  

How to use "Cariboo" to work  on taking turns

You can also use “Cariboo” to teach your child to wait for his/ her turn and take turns with another person. Not necessarily an easy goal to work on, but well worth the effort. “Waiting” is especially difficult for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and developmental delays; however,  it is an important life skill that everyone needs. Learning to wait is also important for the process of the maturation of the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for executive functions (e.g., planning, organizational skills, attention to details, problem solving,  etc). 

You can make this process less frustrating by :  

1. Creating an expectation for waiting within the game. How long do I wait for? Your child will show how long he can wait for or take turns for. 

2. Playing on your own with the child to start with. Making your little one wait for each family member to take their turn is not realistic early on, and will not end well. 

3. Progressing quickly through the game. 

4. Concentrating on taking turns. Forger all other language goals for now!

5. Following through, and finishing the game, even if the child is seemingly upset (of course, I don’t mean a full-blown tantrum). 

Remember: you control the pace of the game. Try to keep the pace consistent even though it might seem like the child is hardly sitting still.  

6. Playing the game again and again while increasing the amount of time in between each turn. 

Everything going smoothly? Then it’s time to make tasks more challenging. There are couple of ways to do that: by introducing another family member or friend or having your child wait a little longer before taking her/ his turn.  

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How to use "Cariboo" to work  on grammar

Another use of this game could be to help your child learn adding an /S/ for regular plural nouns (e.g., “cats”, “dogs”, “buses”). Regular plurals are among the first grammatical markers (or grammar words ) children acquire and are important as they carry important information. 

Typically developing children start using plural “s” sometime between their second and third birthday (27-33 months). Children with language delay and disorders often have trouble using plural /S/.

Here is a simple way to teach this concept using “Cariboo”: 

1. In the early stage, focus on teaching the contrast between a singular and plural noun. Say each word and exaggerate its  ending as you play together (e.g., “Oh, look, it’s a cameL”, “Let’s open the busES. I see three busES). Sometimes all it takes is to “hear” the difference! Make sure the child understand the difference between a “book” and “books” before moving to the next phase. 

2. In the next phase, the child is going to be expected to use plural /S/ in her/ his sentences while playing the games (and in no other situations). I try to be as gentle as possible when correcting children’s production. Simple modelling correct production or using statements such as “Oh, I think you meant ”applES”. I see two applES.” works better than telling them they were wrong or asking them to repeat. 

3. Once this phase is mastered, you will have to monitor the ability of the child to use plural /S/ in natural speech. It usually takes a few months before the child start using this grammar concept spontaneously in natural speech.  

Happy playing! 

Denitsa Getsova

Denitsa graduated from the Master’s program in Speech-Language Pathology at Sofia University, Bulgaria. In her practice, she has worked with preschool and school-aged children with a wide range of communication difficulties – speech (articulation, phonology, motor speech), fluency (stuttering), language, preliteracy and literacy skills, cognitive-communication (social communication, executive functions). Denitsa has completed the It Takes Two to Talk®and More Than Words®family-focused intervention programs designed for parents of children with language delays and social communication difficulties/Autism Spectrum Disoders (ASD). Additionally, Denitsa has received training in the PROMPT system(for motor speech disorders), DIR®Floortime Model (child-centered approach for children with ASD) and PECS (augmentative/alternative communication program for nonverbal or minimally verbal children). Denitsa incorporates new technology and uses an iPad in her sessions both as a way to support her clients’ communication needs and a tool for language learning. She provides assistance to parents in the process of selection of educational iPad applications for home practice.

What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication?

Technology’s changing our lives and has given us the means to do what was thought to be impossible - to give voice to others. 

In this video, Stephen Hawking, discusses his new communication system with a BBC journalist.

Stephen Hawking is an AAC user. 

So,  what is AAC?

ASHA’s definition: "Augmentative and Alternative Communication is  Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write."

Smiling when talking to a friend, inserting an emoticon when sending a message, raising shoulders to express uncertainty are all examples of AAC. 

Who benefits from AAC

AAC systems are designed for individuals who are not able to use functional speech temporarily or permanently. For example, a child might use a low tech system while his/her speech and language is developing. When an AAC system is put in place permanently, it is seen as the individual’s primary method of communication throughout his/ her life. 

Additionally, AAC systems are sometimes appropriate to supplement individuals whose speech is difficult to understand. In these cases, verbal speech remains the main method of communication, and AAC system is only used as a means to clarify communicative breakdowns.  

Most often, Augmentative and Alternative Communication is prescribed for children with acquired communication disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Developmental delay, Apraxia of Speech, which result in significantly compromised communication skills. 

Some individuals with acquired conditions, like stroke for example, result in loss of communication skills later in life, and may also be candidates for AAC. 

Individuals suffering from progressive disorders (e.g., Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Huntington’s Disease) may also benefit from AAC.  

Selection

The process of selection of communication system is the combined effort of a team of professionals: a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, a physician, an engineer, a vision specialist, a learning specialist as well as the AAC user and her/ his family.  

AAC systems

Unaided Communication Systems - rely only on the individual’s body to convey the message. Gestures, sign language, and nonverbal communication are all examples of unaided systems.  

Aided Communication Systems - rely on additional materials and/ or equipment to convey the message and involves visuals, communication books, and speech-generating devices. 

The biggest advantage aided communication systems have over the unaided ones is in the transparency of their messages. Everyone knows that a red stop sign means we have to stop, whereas only a limited number of people know sign language and understand the meaning each sign represents. 

The benefits of using AAC systems

Social Interaction

Studies show 30-50% of all children with ASD don’t develop functional speech. Many children with developmental delay also rely on AAC to communicate. AAC provides a way for individuals to participate in routines, games, and learning. 

Behaviour

The relationship between behaviour and communication has been well documented in the research literature. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the implementation of AAC systems often leads a decrease in maladaptive behaviours (e.g., screaming, hitting, pinching, etc).  

Communication

AAC systems support the development of expressive, receptive language, and speech production skills. 

Universal

AAC systems can be adapted to match each child’s cognitive and language level. There is no expectation that children would need a certain set of skills in order for AAC to be introduced.

Literacy

Through AAC systems, children severe expressive language delays can be introduced to grammar and literacy at the same age their peers learn these skills. 

Recommended readings: 

Millar, D., Light, J., & Schlosser, R. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with developmental disabilities: A research review. Journal of Speech Language Hearing Research, 49, 248-264.

Beukelman D. , Mirenda P. (2005). Augmentative and alternative communication: Supporting children and adults with complex communication needs. (3rd Ed.)

Denitsa Getsova

Denitsa graduated from the Master’s program in Speech-Language Pathology at Sofia University, Bulgaria. In her practice, she has worked with preschool and school-aged children with a wide range of communication difficulties – speech (articulation, phonology, motor speech), fluency (stuttering), language, preliteracy and literacy skills, cognitive-communication (social communication, executive functions). Denitsa has completed the It Takes Two to Talk®and More Than Words®family-focused intervention programs designed for parents of children with language delays and social communication difficulties/Autism Spectrum Disoders (ASD). Additionally, Denitsa has received training in the PROMPT system(for motor speech disorders), DIR®Floortime Model (child-centered approach for children with ASD) and PECS (augmentative/alternative communication program for nonverbal or minimally verbal children). Denitsa incorporates new technology and uses an iPad in her sessions both as a way to support her clients’ communication needs and a tool for language learning. She provides assistance to parents in the process of selection of educational iPad applications for home practice.