Speech and Language Milestones: Ages 3 to 5

We’re concluding our discussion of typical language development and red flags for communication difficulties for children ages birth to 5! Below you will find a list of age-appropriate speech and language skills for children 3 to 5 years old (36 to 60-months). If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language development, feel free to contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439 to set up an evaluation.


Kelly Fridholm, MCD, CCC-SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech and Language Milestones: 30-36 Month Development

We’re continuing our discussion of typical language development and red flags for communication difficulties for children ages birth to 5! Below you will find a list of age-appropriate speech and language skills for children ages 30- to 36-months. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language development, feel free to contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439 to set up an evaluation.

Stay tuned: “Speech and Language Milestones: Ages 3 to 5” is up next!

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

ADHD and the Classroom: Strategies for a Successful Day

An Environment for Success

How can teachers setup their classroom to create a positive learning environment?

An organized classroom promotes organization habits among students and makes the teacher’s job easier.

  • Ensure that the children’s chairs and desks are arranged in a way that allows for flexibility to fit group instruction as well as small group work.
  • It is helpful for students to have a supply center, which allows them to independently prepare and manage their materials. It may contain items such as scissors, hole punchers, pencil sharpeners, etc. Provide visual cues for gathering materials needed for projects. Keep containers, such as shower caddies, handy to transport materials back and forth to the supply center.
  • A homework center allows for a designated area where homework-related activities to be centralized and turned in.

Homework Management

How can teachers develop effective systems for managing homework?

A clear routine and system for assigning, collecting, and storing homework will make managing homework assignments easier.

  • Designate a regular place for recording homework, whether a portion of the chalkboard, whiteboard, or online so that it is easily accessible to all students.
  • Establish a regular time for assigning homework. It may be beneficial to assign homework at the beginning of a lesson, so that students are not writing the assignment down as class is ending. This also allows for time to answer any questions regarding the assignment and can greatly increase homework completion rates.
  • Keep a master planner and homework log in which all assignments are recorded by the teacher or a responsible student. This can be a class resource for students who are absent or are missing assignments.
  • Extra handouts can be kept in a folder, a file organizer, or online. This way, students who miss or lose assignments have the responsibility of obtaining the necessary papers.
  • Designate a physical structure, such as a paper tray, to collect homework rather than using class time to collect papers.
  • Establish a regular time for collecting homework. Consider using a “5 in 5” reminder, requiring students to complete 5 tasks in the first 5 minutes of class, such as turning in homework and writing down new assignments.
  • File graded work in individual hanging folders to decrease class time devoted to handing out papers.
  • To encourage organization, have students designate sections of their binder for (1) homework to be complete, (2) graded work, (3) notes, and (4) handouts. Consider periodic checks and provide feedback.
  • Have students track their grades on grade logs to provide them with the opportunity to calculate grades and reflect on performance.
  • At the end of a grading period, encourage students to clean out their binders, and discuss which papers are worth keeping and why. Encourage them to invest in an accordion file or crate for hanging files to keep important papers.

Time Management

How can teachers structure classroom time efficiently and teach students time management skills?

  • Timers (such as the Time Timer or sand timers) provide students with a concrete visual reminder of the amount of time remaining for a task. They are a great tool for group work, timed tests, or silent reading.
  • Post a daily schedule in a visible place to establish the day’s plan. Present the schedule to the students, and refer to the schedule when making modifications to model time management skills.
  • Display a monthly calendar to provide students with regular visual reminders of upcoming events. These calendars are also beneficial for modeling backwards planning.
  • Carve out time for organization. Devote a short amount of time for students at the end of the day to reflect on their learning, manage their materials, prioritize homework assignments, and make a plan for their completion.

Materials Management

How can teachers help students manage their materials?

  • Designate a short amount of time once a week for students to dump out and reorganize backpacks and clean up lockers.
  • When students finish tests or tasks early encourage them to use the downtime to organize their materials.
  • Have students use labels, racks, or dividers to keep items clean and organized.


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


Rush NeuroBehavioral Center. (2006, 2007). Executive Functions Curriculum.

Apraxia vs. Phonological Disorder: How can I tell the difference?

“Help! My child has a lot to say, but only his father and I can understand him. What’s wrong with his speech?”

“My three-year old understands everything we say, but she rarely makes any sounds at all! What’s going on?”

Pediatric speech-language pathologists spend a lot of time working with families who have these same questions. The answer to these questions is likely that your child has a phonological disorder or a motor speech disorder. But, what’s the difference between the two? Read on.

Phonology is the sound system of a language. Oftentimes, as a kiddo’s speech is beginning to develop, they will use a series of phonological processes to simplify word production. These kiddos may consistently substitute one sound for another, they might make all the sounds in their words the same, or they might delete certain sounds and/or syllables in a word. These speech sound substitutions are tricky because they can often result in significantly decreased intelligibility. For example, a child with a phonological disorder might consistently substitute his “t” sound for a “k” sound. So, “cat” becomes “cack.”

Unlike phonological-based disorders, childhood apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder. This means that a child is having difficulties transmitting a speech signal from their brain to their mouths. A child who is diagnosed with apraxia of speech may produce frequent vowel distortions, speech sound distortions, and inconsistent productions of the same speech sound. Speech production for these children can additionally be characterized at perseverative and effortful.

Diagnoses of either a phonological disorder or a motor speech disorder should only be made by a speech-language pathologist. If you have concerns regarding your child’s speech sound development, please contact PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. for a comprehensive speech-language evaluation.

Julie Euyoque MA CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Joint Attention: How to Engage in Joint Attention with Your Child

Joint attention uses shared gaze and/or behaviors to communicate with a social partner. Joint attention is an important developmental skill that helps develop a child’s social language. This social developmental skill shows that a child is not only interested in objects in their environment, but in people too.

Joint attention usually first occurs between a child and their caretaker. A child can indicate, to their caretaker, their interest in an object or activity through gaze. A child can also use gestures such as pointing to engage their social partner in communication.

Social referencing: occurs when a child looks at an object, then back to the caretaker to see their reaction to the object

Milestones of Joint Attention

  1. 2 Months: taking turns with looks, noises, and/or mouth movements
  2. 6 Months: following caretakers gaze
  3. 8 Months: pointing
  4. 9 Months: gestures and social referencing
  5. 12 Months: point intentionally
  6. 12-14 Months: direct attention through pointing and then looking back at caretaker

Tips for engaging your child in joint attention

  • Follow your lead: Use vocal engagement to have your child share enjoyment with you. Pointing to an object such as a ball or a toy will teach your child to share in your enjoyment.
  • Establish your child’s interest: experiment with different toys, books, or movement activities (ex: tickling). Discover which activities seem to get your child’s attention best.
  • Reinforce Proximity: reinforce your child’s interest by engaging them in an activity. Place the toy or walk away from the activity a couple of feet. To reengage the child wait for them to come towards you and engage you before beginning the activity again.
  • Level of engagement: have your child increase their level of engagement with you
    1. Looking directly at you or the object
    2. Reaching for the object
    3. Pointing for the object
    4. Pointing at the object and looking at you
  • Increase the amount of time the child is engaged
  • You choose: Interest your child in a variety of activities and toys to open their interest in an activity that is something of your choosing.

 Rachel Weiser, MS, DT

Developmental Therapist

Additional References:



Typical Speech-Language Development (24-30 months) & Red Flags for Communication Difficulties

Children vary in their development of speech and language, however they follow a natural progression for mastery of speech and language skills. The table below outlines speech and language skills that are typically developed between 24-30 months of age as well as red flags for communication difficulties. If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, it is recommended that you consult with a speech-language pathologist or your child’s pediatrician.

Coming up next: Typical Speech-Language Development (30-36 months) and Red Flags for Communication Difficulties. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language development, please feel free to contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or (773) 332-9439.

Claire Kakenmaster, MS, CCC-SLP

5 Dog Days of Summer Activities!


As summer nights grow longer I’m sure some families are looking forward to the start of the school year (or just tired of the same outdoor games). While handing over a tablet is a quick fix, Jessie highlighted research in her latest blog connecting increased screen time with expressive language delays.


Here are some ideas to incorporate Developmental Therapy into your summer games. (hint: you don’t need to buy all brand-new toys, use what you have!)

  1. Bubbles are great for everyone! Blow bubbles and talk with your child about size concepts (large and small). This is also a great opportunity to engage your child in joint attention and practice turn taking with the bubbles.
  2. Sights and sounds; take a trip to the zoo and make a family day out of learning. If you’ve already checked the zoo off your summer list, take a walk and discuss what you see and hear (dogs, birds, trucks, cars, and construction equipment).
  3. Lake Michigan; with our close proximity, this allows countless summer activities to enjoy with your family. Sand sculpting increase creativity, tactile sensory building, and hand-eye coordination. Building with friends and family also supports teamwork and promotes positive social interactions. Include pretend play during sand time, the more enthusiastic you are about playing the more your child will want to play! Have a kiddo who wants to keep their feet on the ground? No problem…. try boat, car, busses, and truck watching. Have discussions with your child about what you see to develop vocabulary and increase word retrieval. Incorporate colors, sounds, sizes, and anything you can think of. Don’t forget the SPF!
  4. Sprinkler/water table; a kid favorite to keep cool all summer! Grab the sprinkler out and let the kids play for gross motor and body awareness. Water table activities are great to improve fine motor skills, promote cause and effect awareness, and sensory regulation. Incorporate different objects into the table along with different friends to practice social emotional play and turn-taking. If you don’t have a water table…no problem! Use any size plastic storage container, fill it with water, and let the fun begin!
  5. Pretend play is something that can be utilized anywhere: driving in the car, playing at the playground, and at home. Use themes that your child already enjoys and has an understanding of (pirates, dragons, PowerRangers, princesses, anything!) Be enthusiastic…if you aren’t excited to use a hairbrush as a phone your child won’t be either. Don’t be afraid to talk out loud and explain what you are doing to your child (they won’t know what you are using the props for unless you tell them). Use concepts they know already, have them take their toy car and drive around to pick up grandma to make cookies in the kitchen. Using empty household items makes a child feel accomplished and proud to take part in family routines.

Kelly Scafidi, MSW, LCSW, DT

Typical Speech-Language Development (0-24 months) & Red Flags for Communication Difficulties

Children experience so much growth with regard to speech and language in this relatively short amount of time. It can be difficult to know what is expected and when. Use the chart below as a guideline to review your child’s progress or to see what skills might appear next!  If your child presents with red flags for communication difficulties, it is recommended that you seek guidance from a speech-language pathologist or your child’s pediatrician.

For those of you with children over 2 years of age, stay tuned! And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns regarding your child’s development.

Ana Thrall, MS, CF-SLP

5 Therapeutic Yoga Poses and Their Benefits for Your Child

Many adults think of yoga as a fun form of exercise or a way to promote relaxation and balance in their busy lives. However, yoga can also be an incredibly useful and fun activity that can aid in your child’s therapy, maximize functional skills, and help your child reach his or her full potential! Yoga poses can help children build strength, increase body awareness, promote development of fine motor skills, and provide a sensory experience to calm or stimulate the nervous system.

Here is a list of yoga poses and their benefits for you to try with your child. Be sure to try yoga poses on a mat or other soft surface, like carpeting, to avoid slips and falls!

Downward Dog

Downward Dog requires weight-bearing in the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles and feet. The pressure put on each joint sends information to the brain about where the body is in space. The sense of knowing your body position in space is called proprioception. Proprioception increases body awareness, which can help children to navigate environments without bumping into people or things.  Body awareness also helps with the ability to plan a movement and correctly sequence and perform each step of the process. For example, more body awareness may help your child better plan and complete the action of getting on a bicycle. For many children, proprioceptive play has a calming effect on the nervous system.

Downward Dog also inverts the head, which challenges a child’s sense of balance. Our sense of balance is also called the vestibular system Children who enjoy spinning and swinging will love the feeling of being upside down in downward dog! Many parents find that children have an easier time focusing on tasks after vestibular play.









Bridge Pose

This pose builds core and hamstring strength. Building core strength promotes fine motor development, as children need to be able to keep their trunks upright when moving their arms and hands away from the body to accomplish reaching tasks. Increasing core strength will lay the foundation for the development of complex fine motor skills that require the arms to be moved away from the body, like handwriting. Hamstring strength helps with your child’s overall stamina for skills like running, jumping, and climbing. This makes participation in the park or on the playground much easier!





CAUTION:  Children with Atlantoaxial Instability (AAI) or any condition associated with neck instability should not attempt this pose.



Cobra Pose

This pose requires children to weight bear through both arms, increasing their ability to coordinate using both arms at the same time. This is called bilateral coordination, and it is necessary for many school tasks. For example children need to coordinate both arms when using one hand to stabilize paper and another to form letters or cut with scissors.

Additionally cobra pose helps to build shoulder stability and strength. Shoulder stability needs to present before fine motor skills that require hand dexterity can emerge. Examples of skills that require dexterity include shoe tying, and buttoning/unbuttoning clothing. Pretending to be snakes and hissing in this pose is a fun way to practice deep breathing!





Note: Encourage your child to engage his or her abdominals by saying “try to make your belly button touch your back!” This will help keep pressure off your child’s lower back.



Plank Pose

In addition to engaging muscles to increase core strength and shoulder stability, this pose requires the child to bear weight through a flat palm. Bearing weight through the palms strengthens the intrinsic muscles of the hand. The intrinsic muscles are essential for grasping and pinching skills. Activities that require strong intrinsic muscles include grasping handwriting feeding utensils, buttoning and zipping clothing, and tying shoelaces.  Stronger intrinsic muscles can help your child to hold a pencil, spoon, or zipper in an age appropriate way, making these functional skills easier!









Easy Pose

Easy pose can be excellent for providing relaxation, practicing deep breathing, and putting new trunk strength to use! You can tell children to pretend their heads are balloons reaching for the ceiling, and that their hips are rocks. Then explain that their spines are connecting the rocks to the balloons. This will promote good posture and increase sitting tolerance. Postural stability is the ability to sit up straight for an extended amount of time. When the trunk muscles are strong and able to maintain posture easily, children spend less energy on simply sitting upright at their desks. This helps children be less fatigued while sitting at a desk or table, so they have more energy to spend on learning!

While in this position, ask your child to take slow deep breaths. The child can pretend to smell a birthday cake while inhaling, and blow out birthday candles while exhaling. Try to encourage your child to focus on this type of breathing for at least 1 minute with the child’s eyes closed. Deep breathing can be a great “calm down” strategy for when your child is overwhelmed!









Natalie Machado, MS, OTR/L


Heffron, C., & Drobnjak, L. (2017). Therapeutic benefits of yoga for kids. Retrieved

from http://www.kidsyogastories.com/therapeutic-benefits-of-yoga-for-kids/

Spencer, J. (2016). The therapeutic benefits of yoga for kids. Retrieved

from http://mamaot.com/therapeutic-benefits-of-yoga-for-kids/

Attention: What is Appropriate?

All parents are concerned with their child’s attention span. As therapists, we always hear “His attention is so short!” “She bounces from toy to toy all day long!” “He is just so busy!”So, what really is a typical attention span?

Below is a loose guide to think about when considering attention in small children when they’re playing independently. They should be expected to attend for a bit longer when engaging with an adult, as we help keep their attention!

0-12 months: The littlest of babies should be able to play with a single toy for at least a minute or two (if you’re lucky!). Remember, they’re soaking in their new environment, so they’ll have the shortest of attention spans!

12-24 months: These exploring toddlers should be able to attend to a toy or activity for at least two minutes. As these new walkers start to explore and get into EVERYTHING, this may be a bit shorter, but two minutes can be expected once they’re sturdy on their feet.

24-36 months: These older toddlers should be able to attend for three to four minutes. Again, this should be longer when playing with peers or an adult.

3-5 years: These kiddos should be able to attend and play for about five to ten minutes without adult supervision.


Tips on increasing attention:

  • Encourage structured activities* at least once a day…after some movement!

Get those wiggles out before a structured activity! The best time to complete a learning activity would be when the child is well regulated. Being expected to sit all day and focus is difficult for an adult – it’s even harder for a child wanting to explore this whole new world!

*A structured activity is something that has a clear beginning and end: reading a book, completing a puzzle, or simple board games.

  • Limit distractions

No wonder these kids bounce around the room – many children’s toys tend to take over the ENTIRE room! Help your child clean up and put things away to limit distractions of other toys. You may need to hide away highly preferred toys, as needed, while completing your structured activities.

  • Turn off the TV and limit use of tablets and phones!

Screens aren’t the enemy- however many tv shows and videos on YouTube are so fast moving, the children don’t want to slow down for toys. Not only do screens impact children’s language development (see Jessie’s blog from last week!) but it also impacts their attention span.

For more information on attention and TV exposure: https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/educate/college/healthscience/articles/20040411.htm

  • Is a task too hard?

Is the activity at hand too difficult? While it is up to us as caregivers and your child’s first teachers to introduce new activities and skills, we need to build upon the skills they already possess. A child can’t be expected to sort objects by color if they are unable to match colors! Take skills they already have mastered and just push a little more, providing modeling, as well as visual and verbal cues.

  • Children should want to get up and explore!

It’s perfectly normal for small children to not want to stay in one place for a long time – period. They are curious, want to explore, and move – this is how they start to learn about the world! Just like anything else in life, balance is key. Get out there and explore with them!

Kimberly Shlaes, MAT, DT
Director of Developmental Therapy Services