When I saw Northern Speech Services on the list of vendors for the Crew this year, I was immediately intrigued. Xav has been in speech therapy and Merrick needs it. I was sort of hoping the product we were offered would be for speech articulation or stuttering, but I was just as excited when I learned about Color My Conversation, 2nd edition. This is definitely one of those products you didn't even know existed, but completely fills a need in your home. Northern Speech Services also offers seminars, online courses, and many products for speech and language pathology. They've been in business for 45 years, providing speech pathology services that whole time and SLP training and products later.
Most people need to engage in some form of conversation every day. For those who struggle with this skill, their relationships can be seriously impacted. Rosslyn Delmonico authored the Color My Conversation program to help both special needs and mainstream children develop the art of conversation to the best of their abilities. Rosslyn has been an SLP for over 35 years and began developing CMC in 2006. CMC uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching social language skills.
- Dry Erasable Stepping Stones
- Dry Erase Markers
- Game Tokens
- Picture Cards
- Dry Erasable Wall Cards
- Instruction Manual on CDRom
- Music CD
Also, training videos are available online. These short videos explain the entire program and guide the facilitator through the process involved in each lesson.
Personally, I did not care for having the Instruction Manual on CDRom. I understand the company wanted to be "environmentally responsible," but each lesson has as many as ten PDFs. While some of those files were reproducibles, which makes sense to have on a CD for easily printing and keeping them looking professional, I thought the actual instructions should have been printed and bound. Give me the complete program in my hands (or at the very least, one single PDF) so I can flip through it easily. I did print *some* of the pages. Several times, I actually dragged along my laptop with me so I could read over the manual while I waited in the car for one of the punks to finish up at lessons. It wasn't ideal, but I didn't have to try to figure out which pages I might/might not get to while I was gone and find myself limited to only the pages I had printed.
|Even five year old Merrick did the worksheets. Sort of.|
The reproducible pages consisted of parent letters with editable fields, activities for the children to use "at home" :) to reinforce the lesson, and a worksheet for them to complete. Song lyrics and chants are also in each section.
The stepping stones are holding up very well to regular use by my punks. I'm impressed by the quality of all the program components, and I think you will be, too. The surface is suitable for dry erase markers and the bottoms are similar to, but thicker than, a computer mouse pad. (One of the boys made that observation, so I went with it!) We write the appropriate words on each stone, but you can even draw pictures for pre-readers. There are two yellow (hello and goodbye), one green (conversation starters), one red (conversation stoppers - and no, not the embarrassing kind of conversation stoppers!), and four blue (topics) stones.
The cute, yellow Color My Conversation ball arrives deflated, but can be inflated with any ball pump. Or you can select another ball to use. Some balls are easier to catch than others, so just take that into consideration before deciding what to use. We have used bean bags, beach balls, a textured ball (easy to catch), and a round, stuffed toy.
The game board is huge and very sturdy. It's a nice, thick bi-fold game board with the stepping stone conversation path on one side and four games on the alternate side. The game tokens are plastic and come in a handy drawstring bag.
The song CD is simultaneously goofy and cool. The music is fun, maybe even a smidge hip (Is it still hip to say "hip?" I'm probably too old and uncool to know!). The lyrics are typical, goofy kid song type lyrics. A couple of my boys really liked them. If we listen often enough, I'm relatively sure they will become some of the random songs that make up the soundtrack of their lives.
The lessons covered are divided into Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert levels. Everyone should start in the Beginner level, even though the time spent on one level will be reduced. Some older kids may find it silly, but I think it's a good idea to have this solid footing all along the conversation path.
Beginner lessons focus on greetings and farewells, conversation starters and stoppers, and adding topics, appropriate questions, and topic changers. Eye contact and body language are important parts of communicating and some gestures and signs are incorporated. Examples of ways we can be perceived as rude/disrespectful to others and how to avoid that are also covered.
Intermediate and Advanced level topics focus on adding to the skills already learned. Conversation Coaches will focus on teaching WH questions (who, what, where...) and being able to ask a variety of questions related to a topic, as well as comment appropriately. Speaking loudly and clearly, and carrying these techniques over into other conversations are covered as well.
I want to be totally transparent here when I tell you this. Two of the boys have been struggling with school. I won't name names, but it is becoming quite stressful for us. There has been some whining and short tempers. While the punks sometimes feel self-conscious about role playing, we have had so much fun with this program. We have smiled and laughed and never felt the tension that has become such a part of our regular school day. The looks on their faces when I walked out the door the first day, closed it behind me and *knocked* was priceless!
A fun game that we played was called Wynnie’s Wakootabonga Lightning Challenge. In this game, one of my guys selects picture cards and quickly must decide, based on the picture, what the conversation topic will be. Then he asks one of us three questions about the topic. Once he finishes that, he chooses another card. He earns game tokens for asking all three questions and can count up the tokens at the end to see how many cards were played and (sneaking in a bit of math) multiply the tokens by three to determine how many questions he asked.
All the activities are being done as a group, but I decided to take advantage of having Mal all to myself one day while his brothers were playing. I didn't time us, and we went through 16 cards together. Completely uninterrupted! We had several detailed conversations besides the Q&A-type format. He was attentive and I think he enjoyed the focused time on him as much as I enjoyed spending it chatting with him.
Merrick likes looking at the sturdy facial expression cards. They're so cute. The game I play with him involves deciding what emotion the face shows us and seeing if we can make the same face. He just made that up with me one day and we talked about feelings and worked through the whole deck.
I noticed the words we wrote on the conversation stones often wore off between uses (obviously, because they're dry erase). Construction paper in the appropriate colors made a nice place to list our hellos, goodbyes, and other stone contents. All we needed to do was pull out our expanding lists and rewrite them on the stones.
The guided path is fun to pull together and easy to follow. Merrick loved making short conversations with Daddy when he got home. He walked his dad to move through the conversation stones. "Now you move to the next one." Mal also taught his community coordinator how to play on one of her visits. And, gravy! we had a blast coming up with Hellos and Goodbyes. I did need to point out to them that some of them would be goodbyes you would only say to friends or maybe family members. Teachers, co-op parents, and acquaintances would require goodbyes that were more respectful.
Have fun stormin' the castle!
In fact, CMC opened up worlds of training for us. I often thought about the troubles the boys have with making conversation, we talked to them about it. I just didn't think about *showing* them and *training* them in the art. Conversation *is* an art. While some people are naturally capable conversationalists, social language does not come easily to everyone. I've noticed that there are plenty of people (not just those with special needs or young children) who struggle with
- Monopolizing a conversation.
- Not recognizing when a topic isn't of interest to the listener.
- Giving monosyllabic responses. (Some people are so adept at this, you don't even have to ask them a yes/no question!)
- Searching for an acceptable topic.
- Ignoring someone who says "Hello!"
- Making eye contact.
I actually struggle to make small talk myself (see? transparent, here.). I often feel awkward around people I don't know especially well. Working through Color My Conversation with the punks has been a confidence booster for me as well. I feel like I have a small repertoire of topics and techniques stored up.
Color My Conversation is suggested for ages 5-12. I think it is a great tool for people of any age who struggle with the mechanics of social language.
Social Media Links: