Self-Care for Caregivers: Do you recharge your phone more than you recharge yourself?

If you are asking yourself that question, then it is probably time for some much needed, self-care. With hectic schedules, homework, and snow days, everyone needs a break once in a while, and yes, a screen break too! Allow yourself to fully disconnect and recharge your batteries.

 Self-Care ‘Splurges’ Suggestions:

*Plan a ‘You retreat’, whether it’s for a few hours, days, or weekend getaway filled with relaxing activities you enjoy (massage, manicure, museum).

*Join a fitness group/gym/exercise hobby you enjoy. Working out relieves stress and can be your ‘recharge’ time.

*Go shopping for a few new items to spruce up your wardrobe, even if you buy yourself new socks. Buy something for yourself that you want.

*Begin weekly therapy sessions for yourself to just talk about ‘life’.

*Plan a night out/vacation with your favorite adult.

We are a society that is constantly go, go, go! It is important we take some time for ourselves, to slow down, and really appreciate each day for what it is. Check out this link below for some easy daily accommodations to challenge yourself and make time for you. Happy self-caring!

Simple Self-Care Tips

Kelly Scafidi, MSW, LCSW, DT
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Developmental Therapist



Skill Building and Repetition

“It feels like we’re doing the same things over and over, why hasn’t my child learned this by now?”
“We’ve tried that and it didn’t work.”
“My child said that once, but hasn’t said it again since.”

CareyHope/Getty Images

Toddlers with language delays often learn along the same developmental path as “typically” developing children, they may just require more time to learn skills, more repetition of models, more cueing or help, more practice with each new concept, word, or skill, etc. Often times, children with language delays don’t just pick up words overheard in adult conversation and they don’t repeat things they have heard within full sentences. They require more direct teaching of each word or concept, which often includes a lot of exposure to each target, keeping things simple and concise, and a lot of repetition and practice before it truly becomes part of their repertoire. Some children may process a new word after five repetitions, some may require 20, some may require 50 or more, it all depends on the complexity of the concept or word, their interest level in said concept or word, what cues or aids they have when being exposed to this concept or word (e.g. pictures, physical objects, models of actions, etc.) and a variety of other factors. Just as we as adults often need practice or multiple exposures to be good at something new, children’s brains, oral motor mechanisms, and bodies need a lot of repetitions to efficiently learn and use new skills.

At times it may feel like our toddlers are not listening or intentionally refusing to do or say something we’ve seen or heard in the past, but it’s important to be aware that just because we’ve heard something or seen it done once, twice, or even a handful of times, does not necessarily mean it’s been mastered; therefore, we cannot necessarily always expect it done. Until each new skill is used consistently, children need continued repetition and practice. Oftentimes, we will hear some children in the initial phases of learning to talk repeating words to themselves for seemingly no apparent reason, but they are practicing when there is no pressure to perform!

Once we’ve seen a new skill or heard a new word, resist the urge to move on to the next new thing. Elicit this over and over to help your toddler practice! Make it a game to perform the action or repeat the word again and again. Make it functional so the child has more motivation to keep trying or participating. For example, saying “Say ___. Say it again. ____. Say ___,” is not a functional use of this new word. While it seems to be the quickest, easiest way to get high repetitions of the word in a short period of time, they will quickly lose interest, in addition to not necessarily equating this new word with it’s true meaning. Instead, with each target word, give a little at a time so the child is motivated to use to the word again in order to receive the desired output. For example, give one piece of the snack until your child uses the word again to request more of it, give one piece of a desired toy until they use the word again to get another one, or perform one silly action and pause until they use the word to request another performance. It may feel redundant, but modeling or eliciting a new concept, skill, or word with high repetition is key to your toddler’s acquisition of it. Once children find something they like, they will attempt to get it over and over again anyways, so you might as well use it as an opportunity for repetitive exposure and practice!

Therese Schmidt, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Self-Stimulatory Behaviors (“Stimming”) in Children

What is stimming?

“Stimming” is a term which is often used to refer to self-stimulatory behaviors in children. These are repetitive behaviors that children engage in to stimulate their various sensory systems. Common forms of stimming may include hand flapping for increased proprioceptive (body awareness) input, rocking back and forth for increased vestibular (movement) input, lining up toys or staring at spinning objects for increased visual input, and humming or making other repetitive noises for increased auditory input. In extreme instances, stimming behaviors can be self-injurious (such as head-banging, self-scratching, or biting).

Self-stimulatory behaviors are often used by children to help them regulate their bodies and make them feel calmer or more engaged in certain situations. When children under-stimulated by their environments, they often participate in self-stimulatory behaviors for extra sensory input that may help them feel more engaged in the moment. When overstimulated, repetitive stimming behaviors can provide extra sensory input that many children find calming.

Is stimming bad for my child?

Self-injurious behaviors can be dangerous and may require you to intervene to physically stop the behavior before your child hurts him or herself. However, most self-stimulatory behaviors are simply socially inappropriate. In these situations, you can try to meet your child’s sensory needs through other activities, so he or she feels less of a need to seek out additional sensory information.

What can I do to help?

For children seeking out extra visual input, try playing with bubbles, balloons, or other toys which are easy to visually track. If your child seeks out additional proprioceptive input through hand flapping, you can try wheelbarrow walking, encouraging the child to sit on his or her hands, or providing hand squeezes to provide extra pressure in his or her joints. Try playing music, using a white noise machine, or playing with bubble wrap if your child engages in auditory stimming behaviors. If your child rocks or spins, try swinging in a blanket, climbing playground equipment, or rolling on the ground for increased vestibular input.

Natalie Machado, MS, OTR/L

When to Skip the Sippy Cup

Many parents love sippy cups- they are great for “on-the-go” days and avoiding spills and messes! However, the problem with sippy cups is that prolonged and frequent use can impact a child’s development of speech and feeding skills. Below are three reasons why you may consider skipping the sippy cup:

  1. Tooth decay: Constantly sipping on anything that is not water can lead to tooth decay because the child does not have the opportunity to rinse away the sugars from the juice or milk with their own saliva. The acid from the drink may break down the tooth enamel leading to tooth decay. If you are going to use sippy cups for anything besides water, it is best to limit to only meal times and to take breaks with water to rinse your child’s teeth.
  2. Oral-motor delays: At around 12-months, a baby’s swallowing pattern matures from a front to back swallowing pattern to a more advanced swallowing pattern where the tongue raises to the top of the mouth and starts a wave-like motion for swallowing. It is important for babies to move to this new swallowing pattern as it allows them to transition from soft solids and liquids to more advanced foods and textures. When using a hard-spouted sippy cup, the sprout rests on the front of the tongue impeding the ability of the tongue to elevate to the top of the mouth. When a child uses a hard-sprouted sippy cup for a prolonged period of time, it can impact their ability to develop a mature swallowing pattern necessary for chewing and swallowing age-appropriate foods.
  3. Speech and language delays: Prolonged use of a sippy cup can impact a child’s ability to develop a mature swallowing pattern which means that their oral-motor skills may not be well-developed. Decreased oral-motor skills may lead to a greater likelihood that the child has difficulty saying and imitating certain sounds.

Other options? A great alternative to the sippy cup is a straw cup. There are some great options for spill-proof straw cups at most stores. Straw cups can offer the same “on-the-go” convenience of a sippy cup while still promoting appropriate oral-motor development!

Claire Kakenmaster, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

Toys: How Many Is Too Many?

“It is a happy talent to know how to play,” -Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Toys help foster children’s play development. Toys are one of the first opportunities that a child has to explore and interact in their environment. They open up a world of learning opportunities through education of play. Toys provide developmental growth when it comes to cognition, language, motor skills, and social interactions (plus many more). They create opinions, reactions, and fun experiences. These experiences allow a child to engage independently and socially. Toys must be introduced and used interactively with another social/ communitive partner (i.e. an adult or parent). A child must learn how to functionally play with a toy in order to use a toy to the fullest.

Although toys have many benefits for toddlers and preschoolers, having too many toys can feel overwhelming and distracting. A toddler can feel distracted by the overload of toys and not use the toys to their full potential. A toy must be introduced to a toddler first to learn the functionality of the toy. Too many toys can distract a child from focusing their attention on one toy at a time. Many children will pick up toy bins/containers, dump them out, move them around, the room, instead of using them for their functionality. Using a toy functionally with adult assistance will help a toddler use the toy to the fullest. After a child is done using a toy having them clean up and move on to the next activity will help with the growth of their attention span. Having too many toys does not encourage the growth of their attention span.


  • When your child gets a new toy engage with the toy together first! Get on your child’s level (one the floor) and look at the toy together! Talk about what the toy is, what the toy can do, and play with your toddler and the toy.
    • Example: “Wow look at your new red car! I love how shinny it is. Vroom Vroom let’s see how fast the car goes!”
  • Select toys that have multiple developmental benefits. For example, find toys that can be used to benefit cognition and language growth.
  • Organize your child’s toys into bins to help your child organize what they are playing with.
    • Use pictures to highlight what toy goes in which bin
  • Switch out the toys and the bins to keep things fresh.
    • Example: don’t have all your toys out at reach for your child at all times. Put some toys out of sight so that your child can focus their attention on the toys in front of them.

Have fun playing!

Rachel Weiser, MS, DT

Developmental Therapist


Playing with Books!

Children’s books can be used at any stage of development to facilitate improvements in both expressive and receptive language skills. Today, we will be focusing on building preverbal skills and eventually eliciting first words by playing with books. Before children begin to use words, they use gestures to communicate. They then begin to pair these gestures with vocalizations to obtain desired items or actions, and eventually use animal noises, exclamatory phrases, and sound effects in play.

Books are filled with a variety of age-appropriate pictures that are easy to pair with gestures and sounds. Pick one or two pictures per page so that your child can start to do them spontaneously. If they are not copying your gestures right away, do not be afraid to take their hand and help them “beep beep” on the truck or “tickle tickle” a baby’s feet.

Below, I have attached a table with examples of common pictures found in children’s books and what I might do when I see them.

Once your child builds their imitation of gestures and sounds, they might begin to fill in routine phrases, which come up often in repetitive books. As your child becomes familiar with the book, you can pause and have them fill in a word. For example, in Brown Bear Brown Bear, each page ends with, “What do you see?” You can set the child up to fill in that phrase by saying, “what do you…” and looking at your child in anticipation.

Have fun!!

Ana Thrall, MS, CCC-SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist

Toddlers in the Classroom: Strategies for Teachers

Are you a teacher of two- or three-year-old children? Do you struggle with feeling like your classroom is hard to manage at times? You’re not alone! Many teachers strive to create an environment in which the class is following their direction, but aren’t sure what strategies to put in place to help maintain control.

The following are some easy tips to really make a difference in your classroom:

Tip #1:
When children understand exactly what is expected of them, it provides much-needed consistency. Setting expectations also frees you to engage with the students more, rather than attempt to “put out fires.”

• Print and laminate a visual aid, such as pairs of feet, for the children to line up at the door.
• Create a job chart to hang on the wall with the children’s photos pasted onto popsicle sticks – they can choose their job for the week and move their stick to the correct spot during Monday’s circle time.
• Make sure that all of the children have the same rules, and follow through as best as you can. For example, if one child gets to perform jobs throughout the week, they should all have jobs. Please do not remove any children from group activities such as circle time in order to perform special jobs with the teacher – consistency is key!

Tip #2:
Use words and non-word prompts.

• Tell the children what will come next as they are engrossed in an activity. For example, as they are having snack, tell them, “Ok, everyone, when you are done with snack, you can go to the ____ (or play with ____) before we start ______.
• Use a NON-WORD prompt for transitioning; such as a bell or a certain part of a song, rather than frequently telling them “Time to clean up! Time to line up!” Breaking out of the pattern of consistently telling them with words generally encourages children to pay attention to those non-verbal cues.

Tip #3:
Help the children decrease impulsivity and learn to attend to task.

• Some children really benefit from sensory input while they are attending to a seated task. Examples include: a sit disc or cube chair at circle time, an exercise band wrapped around their chair’s legs (so they can kick or stretch against it), and fidgets for keeping hands busy during reading time.
• Allow for plenty of options for independent and teacher-led movement throughout the day. Examples include: animal walks during transitioning, teacher-led songs or activities such as Simon Says and “Going on a Bear Hunt,” reducing sitting time throughout the day.

With these strategies in place, your classroom will be calm rather than rowdy!

Jen Brown, MS, OTR/L
Director of Occupational Therapy Services

Can Prolonged Pacifier Use Affect My Child’s Speech and Language Development?

Sucking is a postnatal reflex and is a natural part of your child’s development. So it is no wonder that a large majority of infants and toddlers use pacifiers to help them self-soothe throughout their daytime and nighttime routines. Pacifiers may be helpful for comforting your child in stressful situations, distinguishing between a fussy and hungry infant, and also as a sleep aid. But how old is too old for pacifier use? And are there any negative affects from prolonged use of pacifiers?

Pediatricians recommend that babies be weaned from pacifiers around four- to six-months of age. Pacifier use is no longer needed as a calming strategy after six months, primarily because the sucking, or “rooting,” reflex has disappeared. Prolonged use may result in the pacifier becoming a habit and therefore more difficult to wean.

Speech-language pathologists also recommend discontinued pacifier use by 12 months of age for many reasons. First, your child’s oral development is changing rapidly during the first few years of life. Prolonged sucking may in fact create a raised or indented palate, resulting in an oral cavity that is too large for typical articulation. This may manifest as a speech disorder around four to five years of age, often requiring therapy to remediate. Additionally, sucking on a pacifier encourages an immature suck-swallow pattern, resulting in possible feeding difficulties and articulation concerns.

Pediatric dentists recommend that pacifier use be discontinued by 24 months of age at the latest. The constant sucking on a foreign object beyond 24 months may cause the palate, gums, and teeth to develop atypically. This is primarily seen in the atypical eruption of permanent teeth, leading to crowding and/or gaps in the teeth.

If you are ready to tackle the job of weaning your child from his/her pacifier, there are a few strategies that can ease the transition. It is not recommended to go ‘cold turkey’ at first; rather, tell your child that the pacifier is for sleeping only and keep it out of sight during the day. Once you have established this routine, remove the pacifier from nap times and eventually from bedtime. It is helpful to offer a brand new comfort item (such as a new blanket or stuffed animal) that your child can use as a replacement for self-soothing. The most important thing to remember for weaning your child from a pacifier is to remain consistent with the rules you set in place!

While there is variability in the recommended age for weaning your child from a pacifier, general consensus is that pacifiers should not be used at any time (day or night) after 24 months of age. Consult your speech-language pathologist or dentist if you have any questions about your child’s pacifier use, as well as for recommendations and support for weaning your child from the pacifier.

Autumn Smith, MS, CCC-SLP
Director of Speech-Language Services

Let’s Get Cooking!

The benefits to getting your picky-eating toddler in the kitchen!

Cooking with your little one can be so much fun and can help with picky eating! Having your child even in the kitchen while you are cutting veggies, fruits or making toast is a GREAT way to introduce them to new foods and give them a no-pressure look at what you are making! Kids in the kitchen get to SEE, SMELL, and TOUCH their food. It is a great time to label foods, actions (stir, cut, eat, cook, flip), talk about simple sequences (first cut, then cook), and kitchen safety (hot, sharp, adult-only)!

Here are some simple steps to get your toddler in the kitchen!

  1. Place your toddler in the kitchen with you! Booster seats or step stools are great for little ones to see what is happening on the counter. You can give your little one pretend food to “practice” with you if you are using heat or sharp knives. Talk about what you are making, the ingredients and the steps!
  2. Get little ones involved! Help your child make their snack plate, let them place foods onto plates and bowls to carry to the table. Give them a spoon to help you stir batters, butter knives to make toast or sandwiches, or place different fruits and veggies into your blender to make a smoothie!
  3. Start with something FUN and PREFERRED! Your picky eater likes anything tan? Try making toast together and getting out multiple spreads to try! Kids are much more likely to try something when they feel in control. If they get to choose the topping or help spread it on the toast, it may be more rewarding to eat. Cooking is great for experimenting and trying new things! Box brownies or cookies are great for cooking with toddlers! They usually require few ingredients and you can place each ingredient in a bowl for your toddler to pour into the big bowl and help you stir.
  4. Keep it simple! Your toddler likely does not yet have the attention to watch you make a gourmet meal, but may have the attention to make a snack or a simple pasta dish. Keep it simple so you and your toddler can enjoy your time together.
  5. Give choices! Let your child take some control with cooking! Deciding what kind of sandwich, pick the dip for veggies, or decide on fruits and veggies for smoothies! Cookie cutters are a fun way to change the shapes of sandwiches, jello, rice crispies or even sliced veggies!

Some fun, kid friendly recipes are below!

English Muffin Pizzas:

Ice Cream in a Bag:

Trail Mix:

Actor Misha Collins shares his adventures cooking with his son:

Jessie Delos Reyes, MA, CCC-SLP

Family Time: Helps kids grow!

During the holiday season, many families have the pleasure of spending time together, increasing their daily family time. There are many fun family activities that you and your child can do to promote their cognitive development.

Winter scavenger hunt: Create a winter themed scavenger hunt around your home and outdoors.

  • Tip:
    • This is a great way for children to work on their picture concepts, matching skills, and helps them in making associations.
  • Activities:
    • Indoor Hunt: Hide items around your home related to winter and have your child find them (e.g. hat, coat, gloves).
    • Outdoor Hunt: Talk about the different things your child might see while walking outdoors during the winter (e.g. snow, snowmen, shovels). Go on a “hunt” to find these items while spending time outdoors.

Organization/ laundry: Have your child help you organize your home and take care of daily chores.

  • Tips:
    • This is great for categorization of colors or sizes.
    • Learning where items go around your home will help further develop spatial relationship knowledge.
  • Activities:
    • Turn this into guessing game around your house.
  • Examples:
    • Narrate what you are doing and have your child join along: “Hmm, I wonder where I should put away Jon’s toys.”
    • Make a mistake and have your child catch/correct it: “I should put the pillows away on the kitchen table.”

Singing songs: Singing songs is a great way to work on your child’s engagement and imitation songs.

  • Tip:
    • Using songs that your child has interest in will help maintain their attention span and further work on their engagement and imitation skills.
  • Activities:
    • Sing together: Listen to music around the house and in the car. Select music that your child shows interest in. Model singing and dancing along with the music.
    • Finger play songs with gestures (i.e. “If You’re Happy and You Know it”, “Wheels on the Bus”, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”): Model gestures for the song and encourage your child to imitate the gestures. Use hand over hand assistance if needed to help your child imitate the gestures.

Pin up pictures: Put pictures around your child’s room or in your home to practice picture identification.

  • Tips:
    • This activity helps your child work on word associations and improve memory.
    • You can pick pictures of your family (especially those that you will see during the holiday season) or your child’s favorite things (e.g. favorite toy, blanket, food item).
  • Activities:
    • First go around the house and label the pictured items for your child (i.e. “Look, there is a picture of your train set.”). Point to the pictures while labeling them out loud, then start asking your child to label the pictures themselves.
    • Turn it into a game! After you feel your child can identify specific pictures ask your child to retrieve specific ones.

Winter crafts: Arts and crafts are a great way to engage with your child in creative ways. These activities help them practice their fine motor skills, their color concept knowledge, and their concept knowledge.

  • Tips:
    • Talk about the characteristics of the paint (e.g. the color, temperature).
    • Work on color identification. Label the colors for your child and have them work on labeling them independently.
    • Work on number identification. Count the cotton balls with your child. Have your child work on giving you “one” cotton ball at a time.
  • Activities:
    • Ice paint: Put food coloring into an ice tray with water and a popsicle stick. Freeze the “paint”. Once frozen, take tray out and have your child paint with it on paper
    • Painting the snow: Use food coloring and a spray bottle. Fill the spray bottle with a few drops of food coloring and water. Take the snow paint outdoors and have them spray the snow.
    • Cotton ball snow man: Draw the outline of a snow man on a piece of paper for your child. Have them glue cotton balls inside the snowman to make it look like snow.

Have a great winter season!

Rachel Weiser, MS, DT

Developmental Therapist