GingoTalk is celebrating its first anniversary

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On the first anniversary of the GingoTalk, Petra and Meta share with you a personal confession of how they found themselves where they are now. They are dedicated with all their heart and soul to creating and passing on knowledge in the field of speech therapy. They say it is slowly getting far, which is often told to parents of children who have speech and language problems.

Why did you create this innovative product?

The co-founders of the GingoTalk are speech therapists who work in speech therapy clinics for children.  It’s known that that up to 30% of preschool children have problems in one of the areas of speech and language development and the percentage is still rising. We noticed with this problem during our everyday practice and we are both want to contribute our part to resolve this problem or at least stable this growing trend.   

Based on the needs of daily practice, we firstly made Slovenian speech therapy cards “VEM-POVEM” and dedicated instruction manual for proper work with them. Each package includes 300 cards, arranged according to the individual voice of the Slovenian language. The cards are aimed to reinforce in-game communication, set-up sentence structure  and promote phonological awareness. With “VEM-POVEM” cards we also touch the problematic of development disabilities and these cards can be also the base for augumentative and alternative communication.

The creation of this professional accessory is supported with an attractive, playful green mascot called “Gingo”. As it has been shown in practice that children cooperate better during games, we decided to develop a very special doll with a long tongue and a moving mouth, through which we can encourage children to repeat movements that are appropriate for promoting oral-motor skills movement.

We tested our idea, our puppet on a random sample of children and   responses were really fantastic. We also added cards with written and visual exercises to strengthen the motor skills of speech (in three languages: Slovenian, English and German), which provide parents and professionals with insights into the exercises and allow them to guide them during the excercises. The puppet effectively guide and encourage the child to repeat movements and exhalations that are important for the utterance of certain voices.

Photo: Children playing with Gingo (Photography: Foto Travnik)

How does your innovation work in practice?

At the backside of Gingo puppet is openning in which we insert our hand and move its mouth, and at the same time we can also insert a finger into the tongue, through which the tongue becomes movable.

The puppet can initially be used to make contact with the child (e.g. a child with an autism spectrum disorder has difficulty in directing attention to the eyes, mouth and face), the child can explore Gingo’s mouth, examine teeth, the puppet responds – the child may sting, he laughs out loud or makes a “aaa” sound with his mouth wide open. If the child shows a desire to continue the activity, we can set as a goal any interaction between the child-puppet or a possible encouragement to vocalize “aaa”.

Gingo can be represented as being very hungry and wanting to eat. Since it is green, I would like to eat a lot of green. We thus encourage the child to look for green things through concrete material, name them, and put them in its mouth. Of course, Gingo chews a lot and because he has soiled his teeth, it has to clean them. But he forgot to buy a toothbrush! That’s why he performs “cleaning” with his tongue – with oral-motor exercises.

A puppet is a great tool for overcoming distress and emotional problems when a child is overly restrained in a group or individual therapy. Gingo is such a fun character that it often falls, gets hit, often makes mistakes, can be sleepy or extremely happy (e.g. when we want to lift a child’s mood and overcome fear).

Gingo can also be a character who loves to exercise, but not with his arms or legs, but with his “tongue”. So he starts to show how he learned to lift his tongue to his nose, but he may fail on the first try, so he tries two, three more times… unsuccessfully. So he encourage the child to show him who has a bigger tongue, who can lift it and do similar things. With Gingo we can show also the things, which he/it is not able to do them, o’course always as funny thing. Sometimes, however, he only succeeds, especially when a child successfully shows him an exercise.

Children identify with Gingo, because they often cannot repeat all the exercises, especially if they have major speech problems. In the following part of practice, we present to the child the story that they will now exercise together – the accompanying exercise cards are a guide for both adults (parents and professionals) and children.

How has it been spreading?

We presented the Gingo puppet mainly by parents, educators, teachers, special pedagogues and speech therapists from Slovenia. In recent months, we have noticed the interests for our Gingo also on other markets, especially in Croatia, Germany, Spain and Norway. We are pretty sure that children all over the Europe can benefit from our innovation and we want to expand it worldwide.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

Get in touch with us. Check out our website www.gingotalk.com, FB or IG GingoTalk profile. We are ready to cooperate with educational as well as health care institutions, individual therapists, teachers and other professionals. If you have an idea of how we could cooperate, we are open to questions and suggestions. Don’t hestitate to contact us!

The Use of Puppet in Speech Therapy

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Puppets are excellent therapeutic and didactic tools that can also be used in speech therapy when working with children. There are several reasons for using a puppet during the communication and language development in children.

1. It’s easier to establish contact with a child

A child’s first contact with a speech therapist may be difficult since speech therapy usually takes place inside an infirmary in a less natural, unfamiliar environment. The child may feel less relaxed or even uncomfortable because of the presence of an unknown adult. It also may be difficult for the child to understand what is expected of him/her during the course of the therapy. For that reason, it is a good idea to introduce a puppet as a speech therapy assistant in order to reduce child’s anxiety. With the help of a friendly and likable puppet, in a relaxed atmosphere, you can explain to the child how the process of the treatment, therapy, or a particular exercise will look like. This way, it will be easier for the speech therapist to establish a trusting relationship with the child, which in turn has a positive effect on the success of the therapy.

2. It’s easier to clearly explain and demonstrate to the child how to arrange the speech organs (articulators) for appropriate speech production

A hand puppet with teeth, mouth, and tongue is ideally suited for the demonstration of articulation exercises, as well as to show to the child how he/she should arrange the speech organs to pronounce a given sound. At the next stage, we can swap the roles. The child can explain to the puppet how to pronounce or practice the pronunciation of a particular voice correctly. This way, by engaging the child in interesting exercises, he/she acquires the necessary knowledge to achieve better results in speech therapy.

3. Children are more likely to mimic the puppet than an adult

Younger children, in particular, find it easier to identify with a toy that is plush, cute, and colorful, than with an adult. The puppet increases the child’s interest, attention, and motivation. Therefore, the puppet helps not only with the articulation of individual sounds but also at the stage of their fixation into syllables, words, and sentences. Additionally, it effectively encourages the child to follow and repeat exercises.

4. The puppet encourages more spontaneous and relaxed speech and language communication in children

No other speech therapy tool encourages the child to act spontaneously and thus promote the vocabulary development and improvement of talking capabilities as effectively as puppets. When “speaking through the puppet” the child may feel more comfortable and at ease. Supporting such spontaneous activity is particularly important when working with children with delayed speech development or with speech disfluencies (e.g. stuttering).

5. Speech therapy turns into fun

The involvement of the child in speech therapy exercises is the key to effective progress. The hand puppet as a cheerful, colorful and cute “speech therapy assistant” helps us achieve this effect. First and foremost, therapy should be professional, but also dynamic and fun, since that is the only way to achieve the desired goals.

6. Using the puppet in the home environment

Parents can also use puppets or other similar toys to encourage speech and language communication through play in everyday situations. It should be used as a tool when the child is younger and speech production is still developing or when it’s observed that the child’s speech is delayed. We can animate the child with the puppet by telling fairy tales, flipping through books, or just talking. With the help of a puppet we encourage the child to increase the number of communication exchanges, to use a certain term more often, and to pronounce it even better. After the age of 3, children can already use the puppet in solo play while expressing themselves emotionally and developing imagination. If a child attends speech therapy, parents can use the puppet as a great motivational tool.

Using the puppet in speech therapy, everyday life or while playing with the child is one of the most effective tools for stimulation and development of manual skills, imagination, emotional expression. It also enables the child to relive certain events and helps with the general mental development and development of speech and language communication.

Written by Meta Dolinar, prof. special and rehabilitation pedagogics, speech therapist

REFERENCES

Sowula, A. 5 reasons to use puppets in speech therapy. Retrieved on 27.11.2018 from http://www.moowi.eu/5-reasons-to-use-puppets-in-speech-therapy/