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February 26, 2013

Nifty Little Counters

Today I'm sharing something I've found very useful in my treatment sessions over the past year.  I call them "Nifty Little Counters."  I use them for just about everything!  Well, anything that needs to be tracked, that is.

Basically, they are strings of beads attached to a piece of laminated card stock.  Some have only five beads on the string, but others have 20.  As you can see, the 20-bead counters have two groups of 10 beads, strung in a pattern of alternating colors for easy visual tracking.

So, what do I do with these???

1.  Initially I created these to be used with one of my tongue thrust kiddos.  We used it as a self-monitoring device to track correct swallows.  The student placed the bead counter on the table in front of her and moved one bead from left to right after each correct swallow.  It worked so well in our sessions, that I sent one home with her to track her swallowing during meals at home.

2.  I made the short one with the sports beads for the mom of a three year old.  She needed a nifty little trick to entice her child to work with her at home, which up until that point had been a challenge.  She pulls out the counter and five picture cards and tells him it's talking time.  After he says a target word (once or whatever the criteria she chooses) he gets to move a ball from one side to the other.  It is an easy way for him to see how many balls are left on the string to move, giving him some idea of the length of the activity.  She does this several times a day, and gets several short bursts of concentrated speech sound work.  Her child has become much more willing to "work" with her, knowing what the expectations are.

3.  I use this A LOT to help kids self-monitor resting posture.  I like to do what I call "interval training" with my kids who are learning new resting posture.  Typically I have them hold their tongue in the correct resting posture while engaging in an activity (such as doing homework, building a lego structure or drawing a picture) for a period of 5-10 minutes.  I run the stopwatch on my phone and tell them that I will ring a bell at 30 second intervals.  If their tongue is in the correct position when the bell rings, they can move a bead from left to right.  We set a goal of the number of beads to be moved beforehand, and when the goal is reached, we take a break.

4.  Sometimes I use a Nifty Little Counter to help track behaviors.  I have a chronic interrupter who will ask a question, and then interrupt me with a new one while I'm answering the first.  He gets to move a bead if he actively attends and listens to my answer without interrupting, and is rewarded after meeting a specified goal with a fun game or favorite activity at the end of the session.

5.  I have a second grader who shares an aide at school with another child.  His mother complains that he is not getting his work done at school or during homework time without constant input to stay on task.  We're using a Nifty Little Counter to help him to learn to be more independent.  Last week, I gave him a reading comprehension worksheet similar to one he would be given at school.  I explained that he was to read the passage and answer the 6 questions by himself.  I also explained that he could move a bead after reading the passage, and then one for each question as he completed them.  We separated 7 beads to one side of the counter so he had a visual representation of the length of his task.  I set a timer for 10 minutes, and then left the table.  I monitored him from my desk, occasionally checking back in with him to keep him moving forward.  He wasn't able to complete the task completely independently, but I think we're on the right track. The beads seemed to give him a sense of urgency to complete the task in a set amount of time.

Here is a picture of him making his own Nifty Little Counter.  I cut a 3" by 8 1/2"  strip of card stock and laminate it.  I punch a hole in the middle of each end, about a half inch from the edge.  Then I cut a 12" piece of plastic lacing string and stick one end through a hole, securing it to the back with a piece of tape.  We choose our bead sets, usually 4 different colors, and string them onto the plastic lacing.  After the beads are strung, I feed the plastic lacing through the other hole, securing it to the back with another piece of tape.

Here's one I just made this morning with just one bead:

I used this one to illustrate the production of final consonants in single CVC words.  Using the segmentation technique, the child said the CV segment of the word as she slid the turtle bead to the bucket and then said the final consonant when the turtle reached the bucket.  I just placed the target picture cards above the counter, moving the turtle back and forth for each one.

So that's it!  Easy and oh-so-useful.



  1. I LOVE this. Thank you!

    1. You're welcome! If you make one, please let me know how you use it...I love to hear others' ideas!

  2. LOVE! Possible replacement for my token board (where I'm always losing the dang tokens!!)

  3. This is such a great idea! Thanks for sharing! I'm thinking of all of the ways I could use this in OT sessions....each time the student holds the pencil correctly, passage of time until the next movement break, number of times any movement is done correctly....the possibilities are endless!

    1. Thanks, Abby! Hardly a day goes by that I don't pull a Nifty Little Counter out for some purpose or another. I'm glad you found this post helpful! Let me know how it works for you if you do try it.

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