Spring Break Speech and Language Opportunities

As spring break approaches, parents frequently ask what they can do on their various trips so their children don’t fall behind and they can help maintain progress in speech. Without their house full of toys, they are often at a loss on how to play and incorporate speech and language practice. The short answer is, pretty much everything involves language and ordinary activities can easily be turned into a targeted speech and language opportunity! With a new environment, it can present lots of new opportunities for increasing vocabulary and new ways to use language they already have.  No matter where you find yourself, from airplanes to hotel rooms, beaches to mountains, there are lots of opportunities to talk with your kiddo. Here are some specific examples:   

  • Identifying/Labeling: There are bound to be a lot of familiar as well as new and exciting things to see wherever you go. Depending on your kiddo’s goals, give them specific things to look for and identify or have them label things they see for you to look for. Make an “I Spy” game out of it for some back and forth fun that can be played in the airplane/car or exploring the new scenery.
  • Imitating actions: This can be a great opportunity for teaching new verbs. Have your kiddo imitate your actions and then see if they can identify/use them when they come up again. Whether it be swimming or building sand castles, hiking/climbing mountains, riding new rides, or even licking an ice cream cone, there are countless activities they will engage in that will present opportunities for practicing language.
  • Follow directions: Whether you’re doing it intentionally for language practice or simply trying to keep everyone together at a theme park, there will likely be novel directions given (and hopefully followed!) wherever you go. Take this opportunity to practice directions at whatever level your kiddo is practicing/performing (i.e. simple commands, one-step directions, two-step related or unrelated directions, etc.) Remember to use language at their level and one level above to ensure they understand and can be successful. Make a game out of it to make it fun while they’re still practicing goals!
  • Use your imagination! Whatever the trip entails, there are always ways to encourage language. Don’t forget to label what else you see throughout your trip to give them a language model of these new and exciting things in their environment!

Therese Schmidt, MS, CCC-SLP

Is My Child Ready for Potty Training?

All parents are looking forward to the day that diapers are no more! You may be ready for your child to be using the toilet, but is he? Here are a few things to keep in mind when asking yourself “Is my child ready to lose the diapers and start using the potty?”

  1. Your child indicates that their diaper is dirty. Whether it is touching/pulling at their diaper or saying “poop!” after a bowel movement, your child needs to be able to show you that they are aware of the uncomfortable feeling “down there”.
  2. Their diaper is dry for longer periods of time (at least two hours) and their bowel movements are predictable. This shows that they are starting to have bladder and bowel control. If your child is dry after a nap, they are demonstrating bladder control during this time (overnight may take a little longer!).
  3. Your child shows an interest in your toileting. Children love imitating adult behavior! Just like playing dress up in your clothes and going to “work” or pretending to talk on the phone, they may show an interest in what you do in the bathroom. Use this to your advantage! Answer questions and allow them to join you in the bathroom.
  4. Your child can follow multistep directions. There are a few steps that go into using the toilet (go to bathroom, pull down pants, sit on potty…). Once your child demonstrates that they can follow a few directions (“pick up your toy, put it in the toy box, close the lid, and come back!”), they may be receptively ready to start potty training.
  5. Your child can pull their pants down and up (it’s ok if they need a little help!) This one is a little more obvious – if they cannot pull their pants down, they will have an accident! While you’ll be there to help at first, the goal is for your child to meet their own needs. But beware – once they figure this out, you may have a little nudist on your hands!

Remember, every child is different! It is a normal process in child development and we all move at our own pace. If you push it and your child is not yet ready, it may backfire and they may fight you on it! Look for their signs that they are ready…not your idea of when they “should” be potty trained!

Kimberly Shlaes, MAT, DT
Director of Developmental Therapy Services

Targeting Early Language Skills with Plastic Eggs!

Plastic eggs are a spring-time favorite! There are so many fun ways to play with plastic eggs, below are a few of my favorite activities with speech and language targets!

  1. Practice target words or labelling common objects: hide small pictures, stickers or objects within the eggs and have fun finding each egg and practicing the target word before racing to the next egg! Target words of “open,” “shut/closed,” “stuck,” or phrases of “Egg, where are you?” or “I found it!” are great to practice! Eggs come in all kinds of sizes, talk about fun shapes, big/small, colors or how many eggs you found!
  2. Practice early location concepts: early location concepts include “in, on, under.” Hide one egg and tell your toddler where it is using simple location concepts (“Look IN your shoe!”). You can work on following directions by telling your child where to hide the egg (“Put it ON the chair”) and have another person (sibling, friend, family member) find the egg.
  3. Practice simple questions: “Where is the egg?” “What did you find?” “Is it a cat?” If answering questions is still tricky for your child, model the question and the appropriate response, such as “Is this a cat?” “NO! It’s a dog!”
  4. Following directions: provide directions on what objects to place in the egg or where your toddler should hide it. For example, “Put the flower (sticker) in the egg!”
  5. Asking for help: plastic eggs can be difficult for tiny hands to open or close, take advantage of this moment to practice requesting “help!” “Open” or “Shut/closed.”

There are so many ways to play with plastic eggs, get creative! Please remember to monitor children with small plastic eggs and toys, as these can become a choking hazard.

Jessie Delos Reyes, MA, CCC-SLP

Language Fun & Paper Plate Farm Animals

Looking for a fun spring craft? Check out these fun paper-plate farm animals and get to work!

Incorporating speech and language into arts and crafts is a great way to target goals! Try discussing animal sounds and names. Label what you’re doing (i.e. cutting, pasting, pushing, coloring, drawing, etc.). Take turns with the crayons, appliqués and model pronoun use (I do, my turn, your turn.) Point to animals and have your child do the same (“Here’s the sheep. Can you show me the horse?”) Describe the way things look and feel (“The sheep has a soft, white coat.”) Is your child engaging in pretend play? Have the animals pretend to “eat” or go through a bedtime routine. Working on a specific speech sound goal? See if your child can say a target five times before taking a coloring turn.

Follow up this fun craft by visiting the farm at the Lincoln Park Zoo or by reading a farm book to review! I especially love any touch-and-feel farm books for a bonus sensory activity.

Contact us if you have questions about how to incorporate your child’s goals into arts and crafts!!

Credit for craft idea:

http://www.messforless.net/crafts-for-toddlers-paper-plate-baby-farm-animals/
Caitlin Brady, M.A.,CCC-SLP
Director of Speech and Language Services

Do you have a picky eater on your hands?

Mealtimes can be stressful for parents when children refuse to eat the food on their plate. It is common for parents to worry about their children not eating, which often means parents will try to accommodate the children by making more than one meal. Children grow up and learn how to exercise their power by making their own decisions. With this easy-to-follow food chart, children will not only be able to choose their meals but will lend for a more consistent schedule for the entire family.

Weekly Meal Chart:

Start by creating a weekly chart including each day of the week. Begin by picking one meal to chart, which can include the most difficult meal for the child. Parents can then print off a number of foods, with the pictures, that the child enjoys. For example, if the family chooses breakfast, the parents can print out pictures of foods that the child usually eats, including oatmeal, cereal, fruit, etc. At the beginning of each week, help the child pick out which food to put on each day. This action will give the child the power of choosing the food and give the parents a visual reminder of what food will be eaten on each day.

Once the chart is filled out, put in on the refrigerator as a visual reminder for the entire family. Parents should make sure to stay consistent with the chart and only offer the food listed for the day. If the child refuses to eat the meal presented, put the food aside and allow the child to take a break. The child may become upset and need some time to calm down with some toys. Once calm, parents can remind the child that he/she can eat the food when ready. Usually, children will give in to the food after they see that the parents are only offering the one meal without other choices. It may be difficult for parents and child to adjust to the chart in the beginning, as the child is used to getting more options, but the more the parents stay consistent with the system, the faster the child will learn the routine.

Brittany Hill, MS, MSW, LSW, DT

Using Play-Doh to Target Early Language Skills

One of my favorite toys that I like to use in therapy sessions is Play-Doh. The possibilities are endless and kids tend to have so much fun! The following are several goals that can be targeted while playing with Play-Doh with your children:

1) Imitation of Play Actions: Typically, kids learn to imitate our actions before they learn to imitate our sounds and words.  You can use Play-Doh to target this early imitation skill! Demonstrate different actions with the Play-Doh and praise any attempt your child makes to do what you do. Examples include squishing, rolling, making a ball, dropping, patting, etc. You can also bring in other props such as a rolling pin and cookie cutter to make different shapes. You could also incorporate other toys such as cars and have the cars roll over the Play-Doh, run into the Play-Doh, etc. You could even pretend that the Play-Doh is a car or a train and make it move across the table. Again, the point here is for your child to attempt to imitate what you do with the Play-Doh so praise them for all attempts!

2) Requesting via signs or words: My favorite requests to use in sessions include “more” and “help”. Encourage your child to request at their current level.  If they are able to verbally request encourage them to use their words. If they are currently able to sign that is great too! Even if they are just reaching for more Play-Doh you can model the word and honor their request. To target “help” give your child a closed container of Play-Doh and encourage them to ask for help before you open the container for them. To target “more”, give them a small piece at a time and encourage them to request “more”.

3) Teaching Action Words: Model action words while playing with the Play-Doh. My favorites include open (while opening the container), take out, roll, smash, drop, squish, cut, push, put in, close (while closing the lid), etc. Any word that you can think of to model with the Play-Doh would be great to use here!

4) Following one step directions: Tell your child what to do with the Play-Doh and see if they can follow without a model. If they do not understand the direction, model for them and then ask them to do it again without the model. You can get silly with this and ask them to put the Play-Doh on their head or nose. You could also give your kids directions to make your own recipe!

The possibilities are endless so have fun with it!

Resources: Laura Mize, Teach Me To Talk

Katie Dabkowski, MS, CF-SLP

Early Pronouns: When They Should Be Acquired and How to Teach Them

Your child’s pronoun usage can be very difficult to understand and even more difficult to teach! Many parents – and therapists alike–  struggle teaching this concept to their little ones. First, you need to have a basic understanding of when each pronoun should be acquired. This way, you’ll know what is appropriate to teach and what isn’t! The research varies slightly with regard to pronoun acquisition; however, all research agrees that I and it are the first to emerge, followed by you.

Approximate Age of Acquisition:

12-26 months – I, it

27-30 months – me, my, mine, you

31-34 months – your, she, he, yours, we

35-40 months – they, us, her, his, them, her

41-46 months – its, our, him, myself, yourself, ours, their, theirs

47+ months – herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves

Sources: Adapted from Haas & Owens (1985); Huxley (1970); Morehead & Ingram (1973); Waterman & Schatz (1982); and Wells (1985).

Now for the tricky part – teaching pronouns! Many children with language delays, auditory processing issues and echolalia struggle with correct pronoun use. Yet, parents often don’t understand how to practice the skill at home and facilitate generalization. Pronouns by nature are ABSTRACT, and therefore, difficult to “see” or conceptualize, thus difficult to teach to children.

Here are a few tips and activities for targeting pronouns with your toddler at home:

  • Use GesturesAlways pair pronouns with gestures! This provides a great non-verbal cue for the child to understand who you are referring to and what each pronoun represents. Point to yourself for “I” and tap your child’s chest for “you.” When you are modeling what, you want your child to say, take his/her hand and use it to pat their own chest for “I” or “my.”
    • Raise your intonation to emphasize the pronoun as you gesture to help the child make the connection
  • Modeling – Providing frequent models is important! Often times, parents and therapists simplify language and use proper nouns instead of pronouns. For example, “Mommy is eating” or “Ms. Lisa is going bye-bye.” This strategy is great for babies who are not talking or who are just learning to talk because it improves understanding and attaches meaning to the words. However, once your child is talking, it is important for them to hear you modeling the correct pronouns! For example, “I am eating” and “I am going bye-bye.”
    • Don’t worry if you forget! Simply follow-up with an emphasized model: “Mommy is eating. I am hungry.”
  • One at a time – Focus on just one pronoun at time. This can be challenging because it is natural to want to use them together. “I have blue and you have green.” Although, it may seem helpful, it can actually be quite confusing for your little one!
    • It takes time and maybe a slow process. That is okay!
  • Prompt with how the child should say it – Rather than saying, “Do you need me to help you?” prompt your child with a model of what he/she should be saying. So, for example, you would simply model, “Help me.”
    • This can be challenging because our tendency is to prompt with phrases such as, “you say” or “tell me,” which may only lead to more confusion and repetition of the wrong pronoun!
  • Look for opportunities in everyday play and routines – pronouns are best taught during normal play and interactions. Model, gesture/point and emphasize the pronoun by raising pitch, intonation and volume. Provide lots of opportunities for repetition and practice!
    • “Mine” – If your child produces the /m/ sound, mine is a great place to start! Model the word as you hold a toy (or part of a toy). Be sure to keep it light and fun and always give the object right back! It’s important for your toddler to know that you are not there to take their toy. You are simply being playful and having fun (while teaching a pronoun).
      • Tip: Do not do this with your child’s favorite toy. They will not like you saying, “mine” and will likely become very upset. If you see that your child is getting frustrated or upset, stop working on it and try again later!
    • “Me” – Look at family pictures (printed or on your cell phone) and ask, “Whose that?” Model, “me” while pointing to a picture of yourself and tapping your own chest. Model “me” again and use hand-over-hand assistance to help your child touch his/her own chest.
      • Selfies – Children love phones and they especially love taking pictures on phones. Take a few “selfies” with your child for extra engagement, motivation and fun, then use the pictures to model me!
    • “I”
      • Choosing items – Lay a few objects out in front of the child and say, “I want banana” or “I want car” as you take the object. Exaggerate “I” as you take the item.
      • Snack time – Ask, “Who wants ____?” Help your child touch their own chest while modeling “I do! I do!”
      • Actions – Use actions to practice the pronoun “I.” Children love gross-motor and movement activities and this is the perfect opportunity! Pair “I” with simple actions (i.e. I run, I jump, I hop, I sleep, I laugh, I cry, etc.) as you act out the action. For example, “I laugh” and then crack-up laughing or “I cry” and pretend to cry. Have fun and get into it! The more you are enjoying it, the more your child will too.
    • “You”
      • Playful commands and help scenarios. Create “you do it” situations where you need to ask your child for their help.
        • Roll a toy car under the table and say, “Oh no! Oh no! You get it.”
        • Wrap a toy in Play-Doh or putty a say, “Oh no! Stuck! You do! You!”
        • Think of the key phrases, “You do,” “You go,” “You get,” “You eat,” etc.
      • My” vs. “Your”
        • Practice with clothing, body parts or food. “My pants” and “Your pants” while gesturing.

Resources: Laura Mize, Teach Me to Talk

Kelly Fridholm, M.C.D., CCC-SLP

How can I encourage my son/daughter to practice their “speech homework” outside of therapy?

If your child receives therapy for their articulation or phonological skills (i.e. how they produce specific sounds), intervention focuses on repeated practice of the target sounds at different levels. Your therapist structures the session to be highly motivating and engaging for your child so that they are motivated to participate in the repetitive nature of the task. Additionally, your therapist most likely assigns homework to work on in between sessions to help with generalization of your child’s articulation skills—but here’s where the challenge lies! Most kiddos are reluctant to practice their ‘speech homework’ outside of therapy because it is challenging and because it is not the most exciting work. However, daily practice of articulation skills is necessary for both acquisition and maintenance of these age-appropriate articulation skills. Here are a few tips and activities to encourage your child’s home practice:

  • Choose the same time each day to practice—on the way to school, after dinner, right before bed, etc. Creating a routine makes it easier to incorporate practice into daily life.
  • Set attainable goals—45 minutes of articulation practice per day is not going to fit into your daily routine, and it doesn’t have to! 10 to 15 minutes of directed practice per day is all you need to ensure that your child does not lose the progress that he/she has made in therapy.
  • Provide the correct cues for target sounds—Your therapist will create articulation goals based on your child’s current level of functioning. Talk with your therapist to determine if your child is working on targets at the syllable/word/phrase/sentence level and support their production of target sounds at that level.
  • Make practice fun! – Articulation homework does not have to be ‘drill’ work; you can use your child’s speech targets in a variety of fun activities, such as:
    • Sound scavenger hunt
      • Cut out pictures of your child’s target sounds and hide them around the house. Go on a scavenger hunt to find the missing words!
    • I-Spy
      • Try to find objects that start with the target sound while in the car, on a walk, looking through books, etc.
    • Adapt age-appropriate crafts
      • Making a spider for Halloween? Cut out 8 target words/pictures and attach to the spider’s legs
      • Winter crafts? Make a penguin out of an old Kleenex box and ‘feed’ it your target words
      • Jewelry? Put one bead on each target word and practice the word before adding the bead to your bracelet/necklace
    • Snack time!
      • Cover target words/pictures with one piece of a favored snack (cheerios, popcorn, fruit loops, nuts, raisins, cheddar bunnies, etc.); practice each word 3 times before eating the snack
    • Do-A-Dot
      • Say target words for X-number of dots per page

 

**Remember to consult your speech-language pathologist to make sure you are providing the appropriate level of prompting for your child’s goals

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

Executive Function: Tools for Success in School

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 chair 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.
  • A homework center allows for a designated area where homework-related activities to be centralized.

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 where either the teacher or a responsible student records all the assignments. 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 their 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?

  • Time 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.

Resources:

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

Monica Zajaczkowski, OT

 

Jen Brown, M.S., OTR/L

My Child Overstuffs During Mealtimes…. What Can I Do To Help?

Let’s face it… all kiddos, especially our toddlers, over stuff their mouths during meals or snack from time to time. Typically, this happens when our overzealous little ones are beginning to transition to solids or when children can’t get enough of their favorite food or snack. Some kiddos, however, stuff their mouths during every mealtime and snack causing a great deal of concern to parents and caregivers. If your child is a frequent stuffer, here are a couple of tips to help!

  1. Pace him! Provide your child with small portions of food at a time – aim for only a few pieces of food during each offering. Make sure these pieces are small and can be easily managed. Also, you can encourage sips of a beverage between bites to help pace your little one.
  2. Wake up his mouth before mealtimes. Sometimes, kiddos over stuff during mealtimes because it takes more for their little mouths to feel the same thing that your mouth or my mouth may feel. To account for this, we want to “wake up” their mouths before a meal. You can give them a sip of ice cold water or tart lemonade before they start eating. Brushing your child’s tongue and insides of his cheeks with a toothbrush or a vibrating toothbrush can also serve as a sensory wake up before a mealtime or snack.
  3. Alternate tastes/textures during mealtimes. Just as we want to wake up a child’s mouth immediately before a mealtime, we want to continue waking up his mouth during the meal, too. Consider providing meals that contain a variety of spicy, crunchy, cold, or carbonated food and beverage items. These 4 sensory inputs can help a child become more aware of their mouth and organize oral movement more effectively. Foods such as pickles, raw carrots, and spicy dips can be included in the meal. Spices can be added to other foods. Cold, carbonated water can be sipped between mouthfuls. Add lemon to the carbonated water for extra sensory input if the child will accept it. Add ice to other liquids.
  4. Use a mirror. Provide your child with a mirror during mealtimes to give them additional visual feedback. They’re watching themselves eat and this can help to increase their awareness about how full their mouth is getting!

**Remember, before trying these tips at home, always consult with your speech-language pathologist to determine the best course of treatment for your child!

Julie Euyoque, M.A., CCC – SLP