Thursday, April 13, 2017

Improving Communication Skills with Color My Conversation {A TOS Review}

I need to admit something. I have always had a problem with being able to communicate. I struggle to know the right thing to say when in a conversation. I thought this would get better as I got older, but it seems to have gotten worse. One of my big concerns is that, because I struggle with communication and knowing how to be involved in a conversation, I am not really able to teach my children how to communicate properly. This, along with some concerns friends have raised about the younger children, prompted me to ask for the opportunity to review Color My Conversation from Northern Speech Services

Color My Conversation (CMC) is a multi-sensory program that helps children learn face-to-face conversation skills. This program is appropriate for those with high-functioning autism, Asperger syndrome, LLD, language delayed, ADHD, mild intellectual disabilities, as well as children in the general population. It was developed by Rosslyn Delmonico, M.A., RSLP, a Speech-Language Pathologist, starting in 2006. She desired to make working on social conversation skills both fun and exciting. Through this program, she has broken conversations down into basic elements and patterns to help demystify them. 

CMC comes packed in a sturdy 16 x 13 1/2 inch box. There are quite a few elements necessary for implementing the program, and all of them (minus the computer, CD player, and something to inflate the ball with) are included. Here, let's take a look:

We received:
  • 12 "Conversation Path" Stepping Floor Graphics
  • 100 Topic Prompt Picture/Emotion Cards
  • 50 Game Tokens
  • 50 Dry Erasable Wall Display Cards
  • 2 Dry Erase Markers
  • Cloth Ribbon (approximately 9.5 ft in length)
  • Foldable Game Board
  • Yellow Color My Conversation Inflatable Ball
  • Classroom Poster
  • Instructional Manual on CD
  • Color My Conversation Song CD
  • Additional Reproducible Worksheets and Activities
There are also online training videos that you are given access to upon purchase. 

How is Color My Conversation organized?

Color My Conversation is divided into four different levels:
  • Beginner Level - Age 5 to 12 years (5 weeks)
  • Intermediate Level - Age 5 to 12 years (6-8 weeks)
  • Advanced Level - Age 8 to 12 (3-5 weeks)
  • Expert Level - Variable Ages
These Levels are then divided further into lessons:

Beginner Level:
  • Lesson 1: The Yellow Conversation
  • Lesson 2: The Short Conversation
  • Lesson 3: The Long Conversation
Intermediate Level (Take It To The Table):
  • Lesson 4: "Wh" Questions: Who, What, When, Where, and Why
  • Lesson 5: Interrogative Reversals = Yes! No! Maybe so!
  • Lesson 6: Making Comments Count
  • Lesson 7: Topic Changer Pro
  • Lesson 8: Speaking Loud and Clear!
  • Lesson 9: Beading
Advanced Level (Topics of Conversation):
  • Lesson 10: Shared Topics - My Topic - Your Topic
Expert Level (Carry Over + Customize):
  • Lesson 11: Field Assignments
  • Lesson 12: Customized Conversations
There are different teaching strategies that may be used while implementing CMC. They include: Color Coding, Movement, Sign Language, Gestural Communication, Meaningful Eye Contact, Pictures-Symbols-Photographs-Drawings, Beadwork, Songs-Rhyme-Clapping Routines, Interactive Games, Role-Plays, Audio Recording, Worksheets, Video Recording.

Okay, so how exactly did we use Color My Conversation?

It was recommended that I, as the "Conversation Coach," read through the manual that is on the CD we received. The CD includes an Introduction, the 12 Lessons, a section called Beads Beads and Special Needs, and a Supplementary Section. I also needed to watch the training videos. These were very helpful as they showed the lessons actually being implemented. These training videos allowed me to feel comfortable starting the program without reading the entire manual. I made the point of thoroughly reading the introduction and the information for Lesson 1: The Yellow Conversation before I began. However, we were eager to get started and I felt I could not take any longer reading through the more advanced lessons. 

Once I understood how to implement CMC, I printed out the lesson portion of the file for The Yellow Conversation (this is also the portion I printed out for the next lessons). This contains an introduction, basic training (which is the scripted portion of the lesson that helps you explain to the children what the lesson is all about), practice run and role-plays (which is also a scripted potion where you practice the conversation more and take turns), helpful hints, wrap up and homework challengekeep it fun, and discussion section.

We pulled out the yellow stepping stones, dry erase marker, and the ball, and we got to work. The words the coach is to say are in bold font, while the actions are in parentheses. It was slow going at first as I recited what I was supposed to say, but tried to read ahead to make sure I was doing the correct action. During this lesson, we explored ways to say "hello" and "goodbye," as this is what a Yellow Conversation is. It is the quickest of conversations that can happen anywhere. The Yellow Conversation helps to acknowledge the other person (or people) you come across, though you may not have time for a longer interaction. This conversation can also take place with just body language as you go about your day, or see someone somewhere where talking is not possible. 

I had a Yellow Conversation with each of the children, and then they took turns together. 

A couple of things we are working on, besides learning what to say during a conversation, are making eye contact and waiting until it is your turn to talk. That is why I love the idea of the ball during these lessons. The person who has the ball is the only one who is to be talking.

As you can see, the conversation stones are glossy and are made to be written on with dry erase markers. 

We worked on the Yellow Conversation a couple of times before moving on to the next lesson. It is recommended for each lesson to either be one 45-minute session or two 30-minute sessions. I admit, I do not know exactly how long our sessions are lasting. I didn't think to time them. I just work my way through the lesson and we repeat the lesson a second day. 

For a Short Conversation, which is what you could consider "small talk" and goes a little beyond a simple greeting, we pulled out the green Conversation Starter stone and the red Conversation Stopper stone. As we did with the Yellow Conversation, we thought of different ways to start a conversation and different ways to end one.

We actually spent longer on the Short Conversation than we did on the Yellow Conversation. I am trying to get the children to be able to easily flow through the conversation. They tend to spend a lot of time trying to think of something to say. So, we will be moving on to the Long Conversation soon, where we will be adding Topics of Conversations stones.

In addition to the role-playing activity, there are songs to sing and worksheets to complete. One of the at-home activities is to have the children make their own stepping stones so they can practice. As we are using Color My Conversation at home, we have no need to make additional stones. However, I decided to have the children make Conversation books, where they made the stones and glue them onto paper.

I have to say, I am quite impressed with all the components that are included in this program. The stepping stones are a glossy top with a foam type bottom that has a non slip surface.

Color My Conversation from Northern Speech Services is really helping the children to think about the conversations they can have. It has also helped the children work on their eye contact and taking turns, though we do have a way to go there. I'm looking forward to getting in to the Long Conversation with the children. I have also found that I am consciously making an effort to make eye contact more and have more conversations with my acquaintances and friends. 

I can't wait til we get into the more advanced lessons and get to use the other items that came with the program, such as the game board and the topic prompt and emotion cards. There is so much to this program and I am really excited about it. The children and I really have been having fun coming up with ways to have Yellow and Short Conversations. 

You can purchase Color My Conversation for $149 from Northern Speech Services. 

You can find Northern Speech Services on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram. There is also a Facebook page specifically for Color My Conversation.

Don't forget to click the banner below to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Color My Conversation

Color My Conversation {Northern Speech Services Reviews}

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