Game Review: Rush Hour Jr.

Thinkfun’s Rush Hour is a fun game in which children navigate through a number of parked vehicles to help the ice cream exit the parking lot. Although the rules seem quite simple, finding a way out is not that easy and requires strong logic and problem-solving skills. The game comes in a range of difficulties (beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert).  There is also an app version of Rush Hour.  

While this product is geared toward younger kids, I have also used it with older students and adults with TBI when working on executive functions. 

How to use Rush Hour to work on SPEECH PRODUCTION GOALS

Working on the dreaded /R/? Rush Hour is an entertaining activity for children learning to produce this sound as many of the words within it contain /R/s. Playing a game is way more enjoyable than using flash cards! Another benefit of using games in articulation therapy is that we hear kids using natural speech (as opposed to the drill-like production in flash cards practice). 

Some ideas for words you can use to practice: 

Initial /R/ words: "red", "rush", "right"       

/R/ blends:  "green",  "brown",  "firetruck", "ice cream", "traffic" 

/AR/ words: "car"

/ER/ words: "purple"

/OR/: "orange"

TIP!
Keep all cars in a bag and hold them away from you child. Have him or her ask for each one or practice talking about where each car goes. Depending on the stage they are at in therapy, kids are to use a single word, a phrase, or to use the/R/ sound in natural speech.  

Check out my blog post for more tips and strategies on establishing the /R/ sound.

How to use Rush Hour to work on REQUESTING

- for children with special needs

In speech therapy sessions, we often change and adapt games to address different treatment goals. I use a modified version of Rush Hour when working with children with communicative impairments such as ASD or developmental delays. Figuring out how to "rescue" the ice cream truck might be too challenging for children with significant communicative impairments, so instead we practice matching the cars on their parking lot to the one in the picture. Matching games are quite fun for kids with ASD, as they are visual learners. Manipulating all the cars on the parking lots requires fine motor skills, so here we go - we have now integrated the occupational therapist's goals in our activity! 

- for minimally verbal and nonverbal children

 Kids who are not able to speak can play Rush Hour, too! I have used it with students working on phase 3 of PECS to construct their first  "I want + phrases". Children using electronic devices can use the game as well. Make sure you spend a lot of time modelling words and navigating between categories hen working with students recently introduced to electronic devices (e.g., home page - transportation folder) to help them learn where words are located. 

In addition, while playing the game the child is going to receive many opportunities to familiarize himself/ herself with the vocabulary within the folder “transportation”, and learn that a “bus”, a “fire truck”, and a “car” are all “vehicles”. 

- to practice requesting using complete sentences

Yet another application of  the Rush Hour game is when working on expanding the number of words used in phrases. For instance, a child who only says a word or two is encouraged to use complete phrases to request the different vehicles in the game (e.g., "I want the school bus"). Whether or not you choose to proceed with the modified version of the game would depend on the cognitive level of each child. 

How to use Rush Hour to work on LANGUAGE COMPREHENSION GOALS

The therapist holds the card while the student completes different instructions (e.g., “Put the firetruck in the top right corner of the parking lot.”, “After you put the firetruck down, take the school bus and ”, etc).  Similarly, use “Rush Hour” to teach spatial terms such as “beside”, “under”, and “over”. Since spatial organizational  is especially challenging for individuals  with TBI this game can be used to work on these goals too. 

Finally, Rush Hour is an excellent reinforcer! Oftentimes, children receive the game at the end of our session. It is their award for their hard work. 

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.

Indirect Language Stimulation Techniques

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Indirect language stimulation techniques are powerful, child-centered strategies to use with your kids to help them learn language. They are appropriate for ALL children (typically developing and those with communicative impairments), and can be used in many different environments. The focus is on the child’s interest and what he/ she is doing, seeing, and feeling. 

Indirect language stimulation does not pressure the child to provide a response. Instead, the adult uses simple, short phrases to describe each action or object while interacting with the child. This helps the child learn the language she/ he will need later to participating in the same or similar game. 

There are a number of  indirect language stimulation techniques, and they are all interesting and worth mentioning. In this post, I will review self-talk, parallel talk, expansion, expansion plus, and recasting. 

Self-talk

In self-talk, you talk about what you are doing as you are performing an action. The focus is on the action you are in the midst of doing. 

Example: 

         Adult:”I am taking my shoes off. My shoes are wet. Where did my umbrella go? Oh, here it is. I found it. It was behind my purse.” 

          “I am washing the dishes. I am using soap. ” 

Essentially, you are pairing your words with the actions, thus providing an excellent model for your little one(s) to learn language. 

These strategies can be used in many different settings: at the grocery store, at the park, at home (e.g., cooking, playing together, doing chores together).   

It is important to use short, grammatically correct sentences when you talk to your toddler. 

Parallel Talk

The difference between self-talk and parallel talk is that in the latter you take the perspective of the child.  

Example:
         
         “You are playing with the cars. The cars crashed.” 

How to use: Use on its own or pair up with another indirect language stimulation technique. In my speech therapy sessions, I often use self-talk and parallel talk in the same activity. 

Expansion

With this strategy, you add to what the child is already saying, making it sound more like how you would have said it. 

Example:
         
         Child: "Baby cry." 
         Adult: "The baby is crying." 

How to use: Expansion works great for toddlers who are learning to combine words. This is a technique I use every day in my practice. It does wonders!

Expansion plus

 Like in the indirect language stimulation technique which was described previously,  the child’s utterance is expanded to make it sound like the adult model. What is different here is that we also add additional information. 

Example: 

         Child: “Baby cry"
         Adult: “The baby is crying. He looks tired.” 

Description

The focus is on the objects the child's engaging with. Take a moment to observe and listen. What does she/he seems interested in at the moment? Use short phrases to describe what the child is seeing. 

Example:           

             Adult:  “Cookies are delicious.” 
                          "This is a big ball."  
                          "This car is fast."

How to use: I usually use description with kids who already have a fairly good vocabulary. What I like about it is that it provides opportunities to teach a bit more advanced words: e.g., feelings, adjectives, etc. 
               
Recast

Recasting helps correct grammatical mistakes in a noninvasive way. Instead of pointing out what the child is doing wrong, we provide a model of what he/ she should be saying. 

Example: 

            Child: “The dog barking.” 
            Adult: “The dog is barking.” 

How to use: I recommend recasting if your children have difficulties using grammatical markers (e.g., if you hear phrases such as “The dog sleeping”, “I goed to the park”, etc.)

I am sure you are already using some of these strategies when playing with your toddler. Which ones do you think would be most beneficial for your child?

Planning to see the indirect language stimulation techniques in action? Remember: there is no need to bombard your child! Choose  one or two of the strategies and spend some time in preparing they will be implemented in play. It might help to jot down some phrases before you start using them with your child. 

Example: Parallel talk ( play activity - playdough)

            Adult: “You are squishing the playdough. Now you are cutting the playdough. ”
                        “You made a horse. Wow!”
            
In order for the “teaching” process to be effective, you will have to dedicate some time to it. Spend 10-15 minutes each day playing while using the strategy. It might take a few weeks to see the effects, but it’s all worth it!  

Happy playing!

Adapted from: Oh Say What They See:  An Introduction To Indirect Language Stimulation (1984). Educational Productions, Portland, Oregon

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/ameriswede/

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.