In a house full of extreme introverts with a bit of anxiety thrown in, conversation is a skill that doesn’t always seem to come naturally. Those awkward silences at social events can make getting together with friends a lot less enjoyable and can make it difficult to cultivate friendships. This is an area we continually struggle in, so I was thrilled when the opportunity to try out and review Color My Conversation by Northern Speech Services came up.
Written by Rosslyn Delmonico, MA, RSLP, CCC-SLP, a Speech-Language Pathologist with over 35 years of experience, CMC is a social skills training program that uses hands on activities and colorful visuals to help kids connect with others in a meaningful and affirming way. After watching Ms. Delmonico’s videos explaining the how and why of her program, I couldn’t wait to try it out with my kids.
The kit includes the materials you need to complete all levels, except a ball pump (we used a bicycle pump with a pin attachment):
The Beginner Level (ages 5-12) works on the basics of conversation, beginning with the “Yellow Conversation” (our hellos and good-byes), followed by the “Short Conversation” (small talk between friends and acquaintances who run into each other), and finishing up with the “Long Conversation.” You’ll use colorful stepping stones to learn the path of communicating with others, work on nonverbal cues and eye contact, explore different relationships (family, friend, acquaintance, etc.), and identify topics to talk about.
The Intermediate Level (ages 5-12) and the Advanced Level (ages 8-12) continue to refine what has been learned at the Beginner Level. You’ll continue to walk the conversational path, play games, create crafts, use worksheets, and have meaningful conversations about how to communicate and connect with other people. The Expert Level (variable ages) helps with real world practice and transferring what your child has learned with CMC to their everyday conversations.
The program also includes a special lesson for kids with special needs and relevant tips for working with those children throughout.
What’s in the Box?
CMC comes in a sturdy box to stow all the program materials---I love having an easy way to organize and store everything.
- Stepping Floor Graphics (this are foam backed stepping stones that have a colorful, dry-erase top)
- Game Tokens
- Game Picture Cards
- CMC Ball (you will have to inflate this)
- Music CD
- Classroom Poster
- Topic Prompt Cards
- Cloth Ribbon
- Dry Erasable Wall Display Cards
- Dry Erase Markers
- Game Board
- Instruction Manual on CD
- A sheet with implementation instructions, list of contents, and link to training videos
The complete CMC kit sells for $149.
Gulp, that’s a lot of stuff. How do you use it?
This box of stuff might look at bit intimidating at first, but the manual included on the cd-rom explains everything you need to know. I started by reading it through on my computer. Before we start each new lesson, I print a copy, including any necessary worksheets (the manual explains when you need these) and add it to a binder.
Each lesson has a training video that explains how that step works and how to implement it. These short (usually less than ten minutes) videos are a great visual explanation of what you will be doing and why (perfect for a visual person like me!), but you will also need to refer to your instruction manual to fully understand and use the program. You can find a link to the training videos on the CMC product page.
Each lesson is scripted, so it’s possible to just read and follow along, but I do recommend pre-reading the whole lesson ahead so you can make notes, modify if needed for your situation (including consideration for kids with special needs), print any necessary worksheets, and go over the various extension activities to see which ones might work best for your situation. We typically spend about a 30-45 minutes a few times a week between doing the lesson, the worksheets, and some of the extension activities.
The included music cd has songs to help reinforce what the children are learning. The manual also has printable lyrics and it is suggested that older students may prefer to just read the words rather than hear or sing the songs---I admit that my kids are not crazy about the songs.
We began at the very beginning.
I am using CMC with three of my children, ages 8, 11, and 13. With the exception the 8-year-old (who is an extreme extrovert ), we are a family of introverts and many of us struggle in the art of conversation. Listening I can do, but small talk is something have no affinity for.
Just call me a wallflower.
The Beginner Level begins at the beginning and takes about 5 weeks to complete, but you can take longer than that if needed.
Our first lesson was the “Yellow Conversation” (our hellos and good-byes), which is the basis of all conversations. We live a tiny town and have many yellow conversations in a day---every time we go to the post office, or pass someone on the street, or even lift a hand in greeting to someone in a passing car, there’s another yellow conversation.
Conversations can be with or without words and between two or more people. CMC uses foam stepping stones with colorful dry-erase tops that we label and follow along the floor as we converse. This makes it easy to follow the conversational path. We take turns speaking by tossing a soft, yellow ball back and forth.
For the yellow conversation, there are only two yellow stones. One represents our hellos and the other our good-byes. You write possible greetings and good-byes directly on the stones with a dry-erase marker, so it’s easy to look down and read a cue (pictures can be used for non-verbal kids or for kids who aren’t reading yet).
As we progressed from the yellow conversation to the “Short Conversation,” we added the green (start) and red (stop) stepping stones. These represent the verbal and physical cues that people give each other in the conversation to indicate the beginning and when it’s time to wrap things up. The short conversation is like making small talk.
In the “Long Conversation,” we added blue topic stepping stones to serve as cues for things to talk about.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Surely there’s more to it than that?
Yes, the foundation may seem pretty simple, but it’s amazing to me how gently but effectively CMC helps you develop communication skills.
Along the way we have brainstormed different types of greetings and conversations starters. We have worked on making appropriate eye contact (important for my child with anxiety), practiced taking turns, worked on including everyone in a conversation with more than two people, and practiced how not to monologue (also important for that child with anxiety).
We have explored our topics of interest, thought about how different people like to talk about different things, and made topic libraries for things to talk about with different people we know. Worksheets and talking points are provided to help the kids through the process of creating their own Topic Library Posters:
And it’s all been fun and stress-free. That’s a big win.
We have completed the Beginner Level and are ready to move on to the Intermediate Level next. The instructor manual makes it clear that we are not expecting mastery as we work on each step. Conversation is an art and we will be working on mastering that art for the rest of our lives. We will continue to refine what we’ve learned as we move on to things like wh questions, changing topics, and more.
What do we think of Color My Conversation?
CMC is a fun, flexible program that is giving my kids the tools they need to avoid getting lost in the maze of conversation. I really hoped that this confidence building program would help my child with anxiety, and it has far exceeded my expectations!
I’ve watched as this child has opened up more and has begun initiating yellow conversations with people as we pass them on the street or meet them at the park with a smile, a wave, and a hello. Before this child would avoid even looking at people who were not close family or friends, so this is a huge step. I’m definitely sold! I give CMC two thumbs up.
Do you have a child who wants to make personal connections, but is being held back by anxiety or other issues? Check out the videos and samples for Color My Conversation at Northern Speech Services---this might be the answer you’re looking for.
Read more reviews of CMC from my fellow Crew members: