Moving to our Website


Milestones and Benchmarks has moved to the Brightsong website.  Please take a minute to check out our new location.   Thank you!

How to Make and Use a Visual Reward Board

reward board 3
Written By:  Elizabeth McMahon, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Visual boards are a great way to help children learn and complete targeted activities.  Sometimes, children may need to have a visual board as a reward system.  For example, in the picture above, the child has to earn 3 stars in order to play bubbles.  The way they earn the stars can vary and is up to the adult.  It could be completing specific activities, following directions, etc.   Here are some easy ways to make and use a visual reward board.

  1. Laminate a piece of construction paper or cardstock.  I like to use cardstock because it’s a little sturdier and doesn’t bend as easily.   You can find a basic laminator at any craft store.  I found one at Costco and it works really well.
  2. Place a line of Velcro on the laminated cardstock.   This is your visual board.
  3. Find pictures to use as the reinforcing object.  This is something that your child will work for.  What do they like?  What’s their favorite toy, food or activity?  You can find pictures online or take a picture of the object with your camera.  If your child is working with a speech pathologist, they may have the computer program called Boardmaker and can print some pictures for you.
  4. Laminate the pictures and add Velcro to the back.
  5. Introduce the visual reward board to your child.
    • Provide your child a few objects and find out which one is motivating to them.  Then, place that picture at the end of the board (e.g. bubbles).
    • Tell your child they have to earn 3 stars to get that object.
    • Tell your child how they can earn the stars (e.g.  “write your name on your paper, follow directions, put the puzzle piece on the puzzle, etc”).
    • After they complete the task, give them a star picture and have them place it on the visual board.  You may need to do hand-over-hand assistance the first few times to show your child where to place the star picture.
    • After your child adds the 3 stars, immediately give them the desired object and let them play with it for a few minutes.

The visual reward board can be used throughout the day at home, during therapy sessions and in the classroom.  You will need to change the desired object in order to have something motivating for your child.

Now It’s Your Turn:  Have you used a visual reward board with your child?  How did it go?

5 Tips for Playtime



As adults, we sometimes forget what it was like to be a kid.  It’s important to spend time playing with your child.  Some of us may need some guidance in how to “play.”  Here are 5 tips for playtime with your child:

1.  Be silly.  Don’t be afraid to make funny faces or act goofy.  Your child will love it and you’ll probably hear some laughs and giggles.

2.  Follow their lead.  Most children will make choices and show you what they want to play.  If they want to play cars, play cars.  If they want to play blocks, start building a tower.  Following their lead will show them that you care about them and their interests.

3.  Get down on their level.  If you are physically able to, sit on the floor with your child.  If you can’t get on the floor, then adapt your play to the table or couch. Children will play everywhere and anywhere, but it’s important to be able to be on their eye level and be truly engaged with them.

4.  Talk about what you and your child are doing.  While playing, there is a lot of language stimulation happening.  Don’t forget to talk and use language while playing.  Each toy and activity has its own vocabulary words.  For example, think about how many words are used while playing blocks.  Words like “on top, block, fall down, uh-oh, so big, big tower, big block, little block, etc.”  You are using a lot descriptive words and building your child’s language skills.

5.  Take turns.  It’s important for kids to play with others.  This builds social skills and peer interactions.  While playing, use words like “my turn, your turn” and “may I play?” to assist your child when they play with others.

Take some time to play with your child.  You both will benefit from playing together.  They will learn so much from you.  You will not only learn about what a cool kid you have, but you will be reinforcing and establishing a positive relationship with them – one they’ll remember well beyond their childhood years. Oh – and don’t forget to have fun!

Now It’s Your Turn:  What’s your favorite game or toy to play with your child?

Spread the Word to End the Word


Written By:  Elizabeth McMahon, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

In February 2009, the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign was created by the Special Olympics and Best Buddies.  This campaign has been influential in using people first language and to show others how hurtful the “r-word” is to those with special needs.  March 6, 2013 is the annual day of awareness and there are special events going on all over the country.  Please check with organizations in your community for more information.  In Memphis, Best Buddies and DSAM will be at the Old Navy at Wolfchase to spread awareness and encourage people to sign the pledge banner.

In October 2010, Rosa’s Law removed the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education and labor policies and replaces them with people first language such as “individuals with an intellectual disability.”  This law is a significant milestone to promote people first language and acceptance for all people with intellectual disabilities.  Since then, several states have also updated their policies and have implemented positive, people first language.

Using positive language is important.  The way we talk and the words we choose say a lot about what we think and value.  As a society, we must move forward with our thinking and views of those with special needs. We must pledge to be advocates for the acceptance and equal rights for everyone.  We must work towards creating an environment with positive language, an environment of love and acceptance for everyone.  Take the pledge with me.  Spread the word to end the word in order to show inclusion, respect, unity, dignity, acceptance, friendship and unconditional love.