Monday, February 8, 2016

More on Nurturing Pretend Play

I’ve always been interested in poems/songs that support emerging pretend play skills. Miss Polly’s Dolly and Baby What’s Wrong? are two resources that are up to the challenge! Both resources are available on the Teachers Pay Teachers site in three formats: Regular (no symbols), SymbolStix (n2y) and Picture Communication Symbols (Mayer-Johnson/Dynavox).

Miss Polly’s Dolly is a sweet poem about having a sick dolly, needing to call the doctor, having to get a prescription for medicine, putting your dolly to bed and bracing yourself for the inevitable bill.  Baby What’s Wrong targets a broader range of pretend play babycare skills and reinforces words that reflect important physical states (sick, tired, cold, thirsty, hungry, wet) that every parent wants their child to be able to communicate instead of fretting or crying. And …what parent doesn’t want their child to understand the phrase ‘right now!”  e.g., Give that baby a bottle … right now!   : )

I like to conduct both activities with props, inviting the child to ‘act out’ what they just heard or saw after reading/animating a page together. 

Miss Polly's Dolly Props                                                                            Baby What's Wrong? Props        

If you have a symbol-supported version of the song, you already know that the necessary symbols appear after the page animations are complete and are conveniently available to conduct Aided Language Stimulation. For more information on Aided Language Stimulation visit  If you are using your ASbyS on an iPad the pinch-zoom feature can be used to enlarge symbols allowing crucial aspects of the symbols to be made more recognizable as a result of enlargement.  Please visit a previous post, Utilizing the ‘Pinch Out to Zoom in’ Feature of the iPad for additional information.

Both pretend play songs lend themselves beautifully to AAC collaboration either non-electronically or using a voice-output device. When conducting Baby What's Wrong as a ‘mini play’, for example, one child might be assigned the sound effects coded green (whaa whaa, brrr, brrr, cough cough, yawn yawn, sing sing); another might be assigned the physical states coded blue (hungry, thirsty, burping, wet, sick, tired, cold); while a third child is assigned the needed objects coded red (bottle, cereal, back, diaper, medicine, bed, blanket). These color-coded printed words have been incorporated to help students recognize when it’s their turn to add their voice to the unfolding song/poem/play.  

Please refer to a previous post Using Poems as a Mini Play  and Using a Planning Sheet to Assign Roles  for further clinical suggestions.

While some children will be using poem-specific communication displays to collaborate, others might be using those same displays non-electronically as a memory device/ organizing prop.  So last year you created some song-specific communication displays to support a child using a classroom communication device, this year those same displays might be used non-electronically as an organizing or memory aid for a child with emerging speech!

Children with emerging speech can often benefit from using a flip book version of the slot-filler items in the poem/song to support their roles when using an ASbyS. These flip books present key words (more specifically the slot-filler words) sequentially in a flip book arrangement.

This works especially well when used in conjunction with a sequential voice-output communicator such as the Step-by-Step Communicator by AbleNet ( (

This ‘sequential communicator’ (generic term) is also perfect for children undergoing switch training, especially when used in conjunction with a Y-cord that makes the process errorless. For more information on the use of the Y-cord please visit,  

As an aside, I also find these flipbooks to be a great addition to the child’s bedtime routine allowing you to sing the song with expectant pauses that invite collaboration. 

I think these two pretend play songs are especially useful when working with ‘students on the spectrum’. They embody many of the features that seem to be appealing to this population of children …  electronics, music, props, predictable structure, sound effects …. and best of all there is a lot of fun to be had with these two resources!

…’til the next post …  (new posts every Monday)

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©2016 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator