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Bubbles. Let me count the ways (I use them). Bubbles basically live in the bottom of my therapy bags and don't ever get put away, because everyone under age 5 is gonna be happy with bubbles and they are a great emergency activity if a session is going off the rails! Here are some different ways I use bubbles to work on speech and language therapy goals for my little clients. I use bubbles to target:

  • Lip closure for the /p/ sound in "pop!"
  • Two-syllable words like "buhbuh!" or "bubbos!"
  • Requesting "more" with a single word or sign
  • Body part vocabulary (e.g., Pop the bubbles with your elbow! Now with your feet!)
  • Prepositions — deciding where to blow the bubbles (e.g., in the bucket, under the chair, on the table, etc.)
  • Present progressive -ing verbs — we use different actions to pop the bubbles (e.g., stomping, clapping, poking, waving, punching, etc.)
  • Past tense verbs (e.g., What happened? It popped!)
  • Turn taking (this sets an early foundation for the back-and-forth of conversation)
  • Pronouns (e.g., my turn, your turn, her turn, etc.)

Bubbles can also be a great way to break up the work of a session (and trust me, while my job may look like playing, my clients are working hard at things that don't always come easily; making brand new brain connections is effortful!). They can also be a valuable tool to help with transitions. Here are some ways bubbles help me have a successful session:

  • Bubble break: If effort is high or enthusiasm is waning, simply taking 3-4 quick turns blowing and popping bubbles helps immensely in getting back on track.
  • Bubble reward: While I don't generally use classic reward systems, some kids really respond well to a structured pattern of doing 3-5 attempts at or repetitions of a skill then getting a very quick turn with the bubbles before the next few attempts.
  • Bubbles for movers: Many toddlers need to move to stay with me, attention-wise. They need to jump up, bounce around, or full-on run across the living room to be able to attend to the next activity. Blowing a huge ton of bubbles and having them pop them as fast as they can is a great way to work movement into a session. So is running while dragging the bubble wand to let the air blow the bubbles for us. The point is to make it fun, quick, and a helpful/regulating strategy that keeps us focused together on our work.
  • Goodbye bubbles: Sometimes my clients are sad to know that I am packing up my bag of fun things and heading out! They just want to play with one more toy or do one more game and, sadly, our time is up. I've had great success helping them transition to saying goodbye by setting up a routine where, at the end of every session, we each get a turn to blow bubbles once I'm standing outside the front door. Just a quick "My turn! Now your turn!" and then I quickly slip the bubbles back into my packed bag and a happy goodbye follows easily.

How do you like to use bubbles in your sessions or with your own child? I'm always looking for new ideas for this versatile toy and I'm sure there are almost limitless variations on how to use them in speech therapy and beyond.

Happy Holidays!

Today officially marks week one of the winter break for me and my kids; and tomorrow is Christmas eve! Hard to reckon with, but here we are all of a sudden. My husband and I had a few precious hours free yesterday (the kids were with their aunt) so we got all our wrapping done in an effort to free up our evenings for relaxation. It was a long slog but totally worth it.

I don't know about you but I can sometimes struggle with the unstructured time that goes with being off school/work. I tend to drift from task to task, often forgetting things or working on something that's not super high priority. What's helping me these days is writing a list of what needs doing and sticking to it. I even include mundane things like "eat lunch" or "shower" to keep me on track (and it helps me feel productive to check those off). Otherwise I'll fall into the black hole of reading the internet or responding to the never-ending chorus of "I'm huuuuungry" from my three little people with no time for the basic self-care pieces. And this break is for me, too, so self-care pieces are important!

I hope all my clients and their families (and anyone else reading) has a restful holiday. Taking time away from the "work" of regular speech therapy sessions gives everyone a much-needed breather and can even help little brains integrate and organize what they've previously learned! It can be fun to start sessions again in January and see what progress has been made after a little down-time.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate! I hope it's lovely!

Colleague Coffee (aka Adulting Together)

Sometimes I feel like I work in a little bubble of my own making. I have my own private practice and set my own schedule and see my clients on my own. Let me assure you, this is wonderful and I really love it. It works for my family and for my sanity and gives me a little hint of work-life balance. Having this kind of autonomy over what I do each week, especially while my kids are young and the running around with/for them is frequent, is a great fit. I am so grateful it's possible for me.

But I do miss having a workplace with colleagues I can chat with in the hall between sessions or vent to about a challenging moment. Colleagues are wonderful. Colleagues make you feel seen, heard, valued, validated, and even challenged. They bring things up you'd never thought of and expand your horizons.

Today I got to have a long-overdue coffee with two colleagues and it was just... lovely. We all work privately and got to share some moments and hear each other's struggles, new developments, questions, concerns, successes, and even some things unrelated to being Speech-Language Pathologists! It's easy to get swept up in working and not make time for this kind of thing but I had really missed it. It was so good to connect and have a small sense of community and being in this thing together, if separately. ❤️

Punished by Rewards

I gave up saying "good job" many years ago. Some of my clients and their families may have noticed I don't use praise in my therapy sessions! The reason: copious research showing that praise and reward systems can actually undermine intrinsic motivation (that's wanting to do something for the sake of it). I want to make it intrinsically motivating to communicate; I want to keep learning fun. And I've learned that praise can actually backfire.

So what do I do instead? I give meaningful, genuine feedback that doesn't have any value judgement in it. I try to keep it framed as a comment about what I observed. I might say "you did it!" or "wow, you tried that!" or "I heard the snake sound!" or "oops, that time your mouth got a little mixed up!". Of course I do this with genuine enthusiasm, smiles, and a sense of humour. I might also ask the child "did you feel that?" to encourage self-reflection and self-assessment. Because I want kids to be able to decide if they think they did a good job, not just try to please me.

If you're interested in learning more about this research, I strongly recommend the book "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn which details this topic as it applies to schools, parenting, and workplaces.


Let's talk vowels. AHHHH!

Did you know most kids are amazing vowel-producers? It's those pesky consonant sounds that are often the ones that trip them up. Think about it: we all know a kid or several who have trouble with making a /k/ or an /s/ sound correctly. But how many do you know who can't make an "ee"? Who say "tuh" instead of "toe"? Not many. Vowel errors are rare in typically developing children, and even in most children with your more run-of-the-mill speech delays and disorders.

The thing with vowel errors is this: they make it super hard to understand a child's speech. And when we hear these errors, we know something pretty unusual is going on for the child in question. So if you're concerned about a child's speech clarity, listen to which sounds they are having trouble with. If it's those vowel sounds (the "ah", "ee", "oh", "ooh", "ow", "aye", "ey", etc.), this will have a huge impact on whether they are understood by others and is often an indicator that they will need speech therapy to help improve! Early and intensive support can make a huge difference.

Twitter Thread on ADHD

I wrote a Twitter thread that explains ADHD and Executive Dysfunction (also common in ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder) and it turns out it really spoke to a LOT of folks! It's been an interesting 24 hours since I hit "post" and it's been hard to keep up with the onslaught of comments/questions and reactions to the thread! Have a look if you're interested in helping your child see what "done" looks like (and actually get started)

A single-webpage version (printer-friendly) is available here:

Current Mood

This might be one of my top 5 potatoes, guys. 4-year-olds are hilarious.

What is ADHD? (Animation)

This is a great little video on what ADHD is. I especially like how he explains that it's not about not being able to pay attention, but about being able to *regulate* attention - hard to pay attention to some things, hard to stop paying attention to others.

The "Wall Clock"

I tell you, I'm jazzed up about executive functioning. This is now in my dining room to help my 8yo son learn how time works. Amazon ships quickly! Also post-it notes are everything.

Thank you Sarah Ward for planting all these beautiful seeds in my brain this week. 🕤

Buy All the Clocks!

What do you do after spending two days listening to the incredible wisdom of executive functioning guru Sarah Ward? You pour over your notes and order two new clocks on Amazon of course. So excited to teach time! What a treasure trove of practical strategies for executive functioning. Blown away. Still processing it all. 🕤 My son, who has ADHD, is gonna be in for it ("it" being incredibly helpful strategies, of course).

Clean Up

The end of my work week = dreaded office clean up. Home visits mean I pack everything out and back in again, which usually ends up in a heap like this. I feel so much better if I get it put away before the weekend but I admit I often procrastinate that option away... Maybe time for some SLP Happy Hour podcast to help me face the dread?

Full up!

And just like that, I seem to have filled my September therapy spaces! But never fear; if you are concerned about your toddler or preschooler's communication please do get in touch. You'll be first in line on my wait list 🙂

September Schedule

I am saying farewell to a couple clients who are moving on to kindergarten this fall. Is your child needing speech, language, or social communication support? Shoot me a message ( and we can chat about September sessions!

Therapy Bag

All packed up for my afternoon home visit. I love using these insulated Costco bags a therapy bags. I have three of them! They are big, sturdy, and zip closed for my inquisitive little clients who want to see ALL THE THINGS! Plus this one comes with a bonus mindfulness message perfect for anyone working with young children: keep cool! 😂

Rocket Ship of the Imagination

A rocket ship can be anything you want it to be. I used this activity to work on social responsiveness with my little pal with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) last week.

I used exaggerated facial expressions and reactions to get him to look to me for eye contact and this means he was learning that people's faces are rich sources of communication and information! And even better: we built a fun-based connection together naturally and without artificial prompts.

I love working on social cognition through goofy play and he did, too! He kept breaking the rocket ship to watch me act dramatically heartbroken and then fixing it to see me act super relieved, looking at me frequently and with joy throughout. It was so great to see! A great reminder that joint attention is the foundation of communication and worth focusing on — sometimes heavily!

Speech Puns FTW!

4-year-olds give the best cards. 🤓

My Jar of Marbles

Here is a resource I am excited to share with you guys. My son struggles with self regulation and I've posted about the Zones of Regulation program here before. We use this language at home and I developed this analogy in a moment of clarity (or was it desperation?) when helping my son work through some anger (the "I hate everything and everything is horrible!" kind). I shared it with an OT friend of mine who loved it. So I decided to write up this little booklet about the Jar of Marbles. The idea is meant to help a child who is an extreme or black and white thinker -- and to illustrate how we all have various emotional experiences throughout the day. Basically, one moment (or marble) in the Red Zone doesn't mean the whole day has been (or will be) an angry or out-of-control one! We all have many different feelings and it's always a mixed bag.


Getting ready to work on she/he/it pronouns with these new big mouthed friends. Empty Lysol wipe and protein powder containers come in handy for these kinds of activities!

Concerned about your child's communication?

Call Jana O'Connor @ 250-588-8747 for a free phone consultation.

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Jana O'Connor, RSLP, is an active member of the following professional organizations:

and a licensed registrant of the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of BC.