I was fully intending to follow up the previous article on Guitarists called Steve with Captain Jack Sparrow and the Anchoring Bias but some recent Amazon shopping has resulted in my putting the pirates on hold. When I got back from the CSUN 2012 conference in San Diego last weekend, my new set of board books written by Leslie Patricelli had arrived. For those unfamiliar with her work, she has a great web site at http://www.lesliepatricelli.com and I heartily recommend taking a peek. The site includes some cute little games, one of which, called Feed the Baby, allows you to try to test out “yummy” versus “yucky” things. Unsurprisingly, trying to feed a toilet roll to the baby is not “yummy,” but rest assured my grandson thought this was funny and worth getting wrong! iPad folks will have to be disappointed because the games are flash-based but if you are using an Android device, or a Windows-based tablet , you’re good to go.
The set I bought includes Baby Happy Baby Sad, Yummy Yucky, Quiet Loud, Big Little, and No No Yes Yes. Apart from the latter, they’re clearly focused on contrastive adjectives. Physically, they’re big enough and chunky enough for toddlers to pick up and open, with clear, simply, and whimsical images of a baby doings “things.”
So let’s take a look at one of these excellent offerings; Baby Happy, Baby Sad. Each facing page has a picture of the baby in a state of happiness or sadness with the text “Baby happy” or “Baby sad” with the image.
What’s interesting about the vocabulary of the book is that it consists of three words; baby, happy, and sad. All are relatively high frequency items for young kids  and so good for teaching to youngsters with AAC needs. And with just these three words you can work at both phrase level and clause level language.
As Patricelli presents the words in written form, the two-word utterence is a likely representative for the sentence “The baby is happy” with a Subject + Complement clause and an assumed Verb missing.
On the other hand, if you use the words “happy baby,” you’re now talking about a single Noun Phrase that’s a single clause element.
It may seem like a small difference but you are able to use three words in two sequences to teach two different syntactic structures.
Another nice design feature of the books is that there is plenty of space to add picture prompts for clients using AAC devices. Here’s an example below where I added Pixon™ symbols  to the pages so that a kiddo could read along.
You could, of course, use any symbol set you wanted, but it’s always best to focus on prompting for high frequency core words. As a bonus, the last two pages of the book add an extra words to the set: more. This is a very high frequency word – almost as core as it gets. It’s one of the 25 first words used by toddlers as found in the 2003 paper by Banajee, DiCarlo, and Strickland  and appears in all word lists .
If you’re working with folks who have some motor issues, there’s a cheap and easy way to adapt a board book for easier page turning; binder clips.
Depending on the size of the board book and your client’s hand, you can choose the clip size that best suits. Here’s an example of different-sized clips on my Baby Happy Baby Sad book:
The wire handles on the clip can be removed if you only want to use one of them as the actual turning lever. The page below shows a clip with one of the handles removed.
The clips, even without the wire handles, can keep the pages apart, leaving enough space for little fingers to be able to flip the page. You can also attach the clips at the top, side, or bottom of pages, so there’s some flexibility in how you adapt the book.
So, by printing out a few symbols and sticking them in the book, along with using binder clips if a client needs an adaptation, this one book can be used to teach core vocabulary, Adj+Noun phrases, and Subject-Complement clause structure. And that’s without adding the obvious word turn to the mix, incredibly useful if you want your client to direct others to do the physical page turning.
 I can’t resist mentioning that I’m currently playing with a special edition Samsung 12″ tablet running Windows 8 that delegates to the Windows 8 Developers Conference in August 2010 were given by those nice people at Microsoft. The accessibility features of Windows 8 were also highlighted at last week’s CSUN 2012 conference in San Diego, and you can check these out at this link: http://www.deaftechnews.com/2012/02/15/microsoft-introduces-new-accessibility-features-on-windows-8-video/
 They all appear in Raban, B. (1987). The spoken vocabulary of five-year old children.Reading,England: The Reading and Language Information Centre, and in Moe, A., Hopkins, C., & Rush, T. (1982). The vocabulary of first-grade children. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas. Happy and sad are also a good pair of opposites that can be taught together. Sadly the Raban book is out of print but if you contact Bridie Raban directly at the University of Melbourne, she may be able to send you electronic information. If enough people ask, maybe she’ll publish it again as an eBook… 😉
 The Pixon™ Project Kit is available from the AAC Institute at http://www.aacinstitute.org/Resources/ProductsandServices/Pixons/index.html
 Banajee, M., DiCarlo, C. and Stricklin, C. (2003). Core Vocabulary Determination for Toddlers. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 19, 2, 67-73.
 I’m taking a risk by making such a sweeping statement but all the lists I have to hand have more in them, so if anyone can cite a list that doesn’t include it as a “common word,” I’d love the reference.
Nice! We love her books at my house! Great ideas for the therapy room too.
Love the idea for the books. Great for literacy and language development in kiddos 🙂
You guys are always posting great content! Loved the book adaptation! (hmm I guess thats a semantically confusing sentence. It could mean I loved your use of the clips and symbols or that I loved the novel titled adaptation, which by the way was later turned into a great movie with a stunning performance by Nic Cage)
Oooh, thanks for reminding me of the movie. Adaptation! I remember (vaguely) seeing this when it came out and haven’t seen it since. I guess I’ll be finding a use for my BestBuy “Rewards Zone” coupon after all 🙂
good point about the syntax… how do you feel about providing ungrammatical vs. grammatical models? the books look great, but I would prompt for either the phrase level “happy baby” or the sentence level “baby is happy”…
If you model “baby happy” then you are missing either the correct noun phrase order or the verb, both ungrammatical models… (at least for English, perhaps “baby happy” is correct in Pixon symbol grammar?)
In the example where I used symbols, I’m paralleling the words with images and hence paralleling the structure. I could, of course, add an “is” symbol, and even a “the” so as to model a ful sentence, “The baby is happy.” However, if I’m reading the story orally, I’d switch between “Oooh look, the baby is happy” and “Ah, here’s the happy baby.”
The point I was trying to make was that you can be flexible in where you use the actual words that are printed so as to teach how they can be used in different orders, and therefore teach some alternate syntactic structures. The written words sometimes constrain people who think they have to stick to the them, but oral story telling can be much more flexible.
Of course, we could spend some pages talking about how “grammatical” language is in those early 2- and 3-word stages, and teaching telegraphic phrases is not uncommon when working with early learners. I’d be happy with an “ungrammatical” sentence of three words from a client whose previous output was zero!
Thanks for the comment!
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