Language Milestones for Children with Down Syndrome (Birth to Five)

Birth to five years of age is a critical period for language development for all children. Each child progresses at his or her own rate, and each presents with his or her own strengths or weaknesses. The same applies to children with Down syndrome. However, children with Down syndrome tend to develop language skills at a slower rate than their typically developing peers. This blog will aim to answer questions regarding language development in children with Down syndrome by comparing language milestones to those of their typically developing peers.

While the milestones above are based on general trends, it is important to note that language development will vary for both typically developing children and children with Down syndrome. Speech therapy is recommended for children with Down syndrome, starting younger than one year of age to target feeding and oral-motor skills and after 15- to 18-months of age to target speech and language skills. Common early speech and language targets for children with Down syndrome include verbal turn taking, vocabulary acquisition, use of simple signs and gestures, following simple routines-based directions, use of age-appropriate speech sounds, and more.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions about language development in children with Down syndrome, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Jill Teitelbaum, MS, CF-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Reference: Layton, T. (2004). Developmental Scale for Children with Down Syndrome.

Photo Credit: yulia84 via pixabay.com

Employee Spotlight- Becky Clark

  • What do you love most about being a Developmental Therapist?

I love how Developmental Therapy allows me to look at the big picture to see how all the various areas of development and environment affect the others. I also enjoy the focus on a child’s social and emotional development in that bigger picture.

  • What is your favorite children’s book?

When I was a young child, it was The Berenstains’ B Bookby Stan and Jan Berenstain, much to my parents’ chagrin. Now in my sessions, I love using Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?by Bill Martin Jr. I guess there is a bear-theme in my reading choices!

  • What do you enjoy most about living in Chicago?

I enjoy Chicago’s diversity the most. It’s one of its richest assest. I also love how Chicago incorporates nature and green spaces into the cityscape.

  • What is your favorite childhood memory?

I went to a summer camp for many years in North Carolina, and each summer was a blast, but I especially remember the summers I went backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. I picked wild blueberries, pet wild ponies, and enjoyed gorgeous views.

  • Mountain or beach vacation?

Mountains, hands down!

  • Share a proud “therapy moment” with one of your clients.

I had a client diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and he had been working for months on regulating his body enough to engage with others in the room. I walked in one session and knelt down to say hello and he calmly walked to me, let me take his hands, then he kissed my forehead. It was the sweetest “hello!”

  • What is your hometown?

Archdale, North Carolina

  • What do you like to do in your free time?

I work once or twice a month at the Chicago Children’s Museum and enjoy working with different populations and ages. When I’m not working, I’m going for walks to my neighborhood beach or hanging out with family and friends.

  • Fun fact about yourself?

I have been to three continents other than North America: Europe, Africa, and Oceania. I would love to see a couple more!

  • Favorite therapy toy?

Songs and books!

Becky Clark, MS, DT
Developmental Therapist

Let’s Play! The Stepping Stones to Verbal Communicators

If you are a parent of a toddler receiving speech and language therapy, you may have noticed your child’s therapist playing games such as peak-a-boo, and wondered to yourself, “What do these games have to do with learning to talk?” While learning to talk is of course the ultimate goal in speech and language therapy, there are actually many skills a child needs to develop before they are ready to start talking. Some of these skills include joint attention, turn-taking, and responding to people and their environment, among others. One of the best ways to support acquisition of these pre-linguistic skills is to engage in social games with your child.

What are social games and why are the important?

Social games are people-based in that they are interactive games between you and your child rather than the use of toys. Examples include peek-a-boo, songs with corresponding actions, hide and seek, tickles, etc. Engaging in social games with your child will help to develop their interaction, communication, and social skills. Through social games, children learn to pay attention to others, anticipate what will happen next, and imitate actions. Additionally, through these games children learn important skills such as how to take turns and connect with others. These pre-linguistic skills are the foundation of verbal language. For example, a child who has difficulty using joint attention, which is shared attention with another person, will not have as many opportunities to learn about their environment from the people around them. Additionally, a child who is not using turn-taking will have difficulty understanding the back and forth nature of conversation. Through acquisition of these pre-linguistic skills a child becomes ready for communication and verbal language use.

How to play and what to look for?

You will want to engage in social games repeatedly so that your child learns the routine. For example, if you play peak-a-boo with your child play it over and over again and look for your child learning the game. You may notice that they have learned the game once they start to smile or laugh in anticipation of you saying, “boo!” Over time, you might see your child’s initiation skills emerging when they cover their eyes with their hands or cover themselves up with a blanket to request playing a peek-a-boo game with you. Eventually, you can try to pause after “peak-a…” and see if your child can fill in the word, “boo!” Once your child has learned the routine they will be able to anticipate what is going to happen next.

When thinking about your child’s language development it is important to remember that there are many steps that come before talking and children must master pre-linguistic skills before they can be successful with verbal language. So, when think you are just “playing” remember that you are actually teaching your child foundational skills to become an active learner and communicator!

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about the importance of social games and your child’s language development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Claire Hacker MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

Photo Credit: from Pixabay

Min, Mod, and Max Cues: What does it all mean?

 

When a child begins therapeutic services, long-term and short-term goals or objectives are developed as a way to guide therapy and gauge progress. If your child is already partaking in speech, occupational, physical, or developmental therapy, you’ve probably seen the words “minimal,” “moderate,” or “maximal cues” written in his or her goals. Amongst sometimes “wordy” goals, it can be difficult to interpret meaning of the specific objective, let alone understand what exactly a “cue” means.

What is a cue?
When helping a child reach his or her therapeutic goals, a “cue” is simply something that is going to aid in that child’s success. When I am providing speech therapy to a child, my goal is ALWAYS for that child to be successful; however, the number and type of cues that child needs to be reach his or her goal may vary. Think of a cue as a hint; as a child becomes familiar with the goal, he or she is going to need less “hints” to be successful and, thus, will become more independent. As a child progresses in therapy, the quantity of cues required for a child to effectively complete an objective will decrease. This is one way that therapists gauge a child’s progress.

What types of cues are there?
Generally speaking, many therapists use tactile, visual, or verbal cues in therapy tasks. Each category of cues has several variations:

Tactile cues: Tactile cues are used when a therapist uses physical touch to guide a child towards successful completion of a therapy objective. In speech therapy, this may be demonstrated by gently touching under a child’s chin in an attempt to help produce the /k/ or /g/ sound, or gently tapping a child’s hand to help him or her produce the correct number of syllables in a word. In occupational or physical therapy, the therapist may tap a child’s arm/leg to remind a child to use that specific body part.

Visual cues: Visual cues are used when a therapist provides a visual reminder that helps the child complete his or her task. In speech therapy, this may be as simple as drawing a snake to remind a child to use his “snake” sound to produce /s/; the therapist may tap the picture if the child omits this sound. Gestural cues are a specific type of visual cue; when targeting this same sound, the therapist may run her finger down her arm to demonstrate the long, fluid motion of /s/. Have you ever used a sticky note to remind you to complete a specific task? That’s an everyday example of a visual cue!

Verbal cues: Verbal cues are used when a therapist provides a verbal reminder that helps the child complete his or her task. Using the same /s/ example as outlined above, the therapist may say, “don’t forget your snake sound!” One specific example of a verbal cue is called a phonemic cue. If a child is working on asking for “more,” the therapist may cue the child by vocalizing “mmm.” A carrier phrase is another form of a verbal cue. Instead of using the phonemic cue, “mmm,” the therapist may say, “I want ____” to encourage the child to finish the phrase. A verbal model may be provided if verbal cues are simply not enough at that time; in this example, the therapist may model the word, “more” before handing the child the desired item.

What does “min,” “mod,” “max” mean?
Now that you have a better understanding of the types of cues used in therapy, what does “min,” “mod,” and “max” mean?

“Min,” “mod,” and “max,” stand for minimal, moderate, and maximal. When developing goals, therapists determine how much cuing a child realistically needs to reach his or her goals. Ideally, the level of cuing necessary decreases as a child participates in therapy. While the criteria of minimal, moderate, and maximal is fairly subjective, many therapists determine that minimal cues are used approximately 25 percent of the time, moderate cues are used approximately 50 percent of the time, and maximal cues are used approximately 75 to 100 percent of the time. Therapists may also report using “faded” cues, which means a child may have required moderate cues as the session started, but required minimal cues as the sessions progressed.

Can I “cue” my child at home?
Of course you can! In fact, you’re probably already cuing your child and you may not even realize it. When your child is about to do something undesirable, do you ever catch yourself counting, “one, two, three…?” You just gave your child a verbal cue, which helped him or her to reflect on his or her behavior and (ideally) change it accordingly. If your child is currently receiving therapeutic services, ask his or her therapist for ideas to best cue him or her to reach his or her goals.

Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s therapeutic goals, please don’t hesitate to ask his or her clinician for more information. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Sarah Lydon, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Photo Credit: Heriberto Herreravia via freeimages.com

Teaching Mindfulness to Kids

As an increasing number of adults explore the practice and benefits of mindfulness, you may begin to wonder if this technique can benefit kids as well.

The simple answer?

ABSOLUTELY!

But how do we teach our kids to practice mindfulness in a way that is both age-appropriate and effective? Let’s start by reviewing what mindfulness is, and then take a look at some tips for teaching mindfulness to kids.

Mindfulness: What is it and why is it helpful?

Mindfulness is most often defined as one’s personal awareness of present feelings, thoughts, experiences, and environment. It is a mental state in which a person becomes purposefully conscious of what is happening both inside and outside of his/her body at any given moment. This state of awareness involves acceptance and is free from judgment. Mindfulness is the practice of recognizing what is happening right now, without labeling thoughts as “right” or “wrong” and without trying to change anything. Numerous studies find the benefits of mindfulness to include a decrease in stress, depression, and anxiety as well as an increase in focus, attention, and self-regulation. Performing a mindfulness exercise will not only bring about a sense of calm in one specific moment but will also better prepare your body and mind to react more calmly in future moments of stress. With regular practice, mindfulness can eventually lead to improved coping skills and an overall increased sense of daily contentment.

Tips for teaching mindfulness to kids

  1. Model mindfulness
    • As a parent, you are your child’s best teacher! By committing to the practice of mindfulness yourself, you will not only help your child to learn these new skills, you will also begin to feel the benefits within your own life.
  2. Practice mindful breathing
    • One of the best ways to begin exploring mindfulness (for adults and children) is to practice mindful breathing. Find a quiet space to sit with your child and take a few moments to just pay attention to your breath. Set an expectation that together you will take five big breaths and you will both try very hard to pay attention only to those breaths. Help bring your child’s awareness to his/her breathing with questions such as: Where can you feel it? Does it make any sound? What parts of your body move when you breathe?
  3. Take a mindful walk
    • Just as with the breathing exercise, it will be helpful to set expectations before taking part in this practice. Tell your child you will take a walk together and during this walk you are going to pay close attention to what you see, what you hear, and what you feel. You can even turn this into a game to make it more fun: “Let’s see how many birds we hear while we are walking today!”To help your child focus during this practice, talk as you walk: “What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel?”It is also helpful to draw your child’s attention specifically to things you notice. “I hear a dog barking. I feel the wind blowing on my arms. I see three ants walking on the sidewalk.” As you walk, try not to linger too much on any particular feeling or sensation. Identify what you notice, pause, and then move on.
  4. Stay simple
    • Be sure to practice mindfulness at a level appropriate for your individual child. Young children will benefit from language that is more familiar than “mindful” or “conscious.” Instead you can use words such as “listen,” “look,” or “notice.” The focus of this practice is not on the specific language used but on the awareness in a particular moment. Start with simple words and as your child grows (in both age and mindfulness knowledge) you can start to add in more complex language.
  5. Make mindfulness part of your routine
    • Set aside a set amount of time each day to practice mindfulness with your child. You can start by setting the goal to practice mindfulness for 5 minutes each day—adding this time before or after something that is already part of your daily routine. Perhaps mindfulness can become part of your bedtime routine, or maybe it is something you can try every day before dinner. Remember: mindfulness is not just a tool to be used in times of stress. It is most beneficial when incorporated regularly throughout your family’s daily routine. Practice until it becomes habit!

More resources

Check out this website (Guided Meditation for Children) for some freeguided meditations for children and more information on mindfulness!

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your mindfulness or your child’s development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Stephanie Wroblewski, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Reference: Wedge, M. (2018, September 18). 7 Ways Mindfulness can Help Children’s Brains. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/

Photo Credit: khamkhor via pixabay.com

Tips for a Successful IEP Meeting

Whether your child is transitioning from the Early Intervention program to the public school system, or they have recently qualified to receive services through the school, it is important to set them up for success by advocating for them at their annual Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting.

What is an IEP?
An IEP, or individualized education program, is designed to create a plan to ensure your child receives a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment (LRE), as is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A meeting is held once a year at your child’s school to create, review, and or adjust this plan to best serve your child’s learning needs.

What can I expect?
There may be several professionals at the meeting including your child’s teacher, the special education teacher, your child’s therapists, the principal, and a representative of the school district. The team (which includes you!) collaborates and shares your child’s present level of development and what progress has been made in the last year. They discuss goals for the coming year and what services and accommodations may be beneficial and necessary.

What can I do?
1. Ask questions if you do not understand something. Every profession has their specific jargon, and it is easy for professionals to slip into the alphabet soup (IEP, LRE, IDEA, OMG!). Read over your copy of your rights that they provide and have the team review any portion you do not understand. Understanding the jargon and knowing your rights sets you up to successfully advocate for your child.

2. Bring ideas with you to the meeting about what you want for your child. This will help keep the goals relevant to your child rather than using goals that are too generic. You are a valuable and necessary contributing member of the team since you are the expert on your child. They need more from you than just your signature on forms. They need your input about your child’s strengths, areas of challenge, and what has or has not worked in the past.

3. Voice your concerns. This applies to during the meeting and also throughout the year. If you feel something is not working after an appropriate amount of time, ask to brainstorm other strategies and approaches. Remember that the laws say your child should lean more towards inclusion in a typical classroom (LRE).

Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s IEP meeting, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Becky Clark, MS, DT
Developmental Therapist

Reference: Cheatham, G.A., Hart, J.E., Malian, I & McDonald, J. (2012). Six things to never say or hear during an IEP Meeting: Educators as Advocates for Families. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 44(3), 50-57.

Wrightslaw (2007). IDEA 2004 Roadmap to the IEP, IEP Meetings, Content, Review and Revision, Placement, Transition & Transfers.http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/art/iep.roadmap.htm

Photo Credit:Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Speech and Language Opportunities on the Road

Looking for some ways to work on your child’s speech and language while in the car?

Stuck in gridlocked traffic is not fun, but you can make it a little more interesting by working on your child’s speech and language skills while in the car! Below are some easy ways to work on your child’s speech and language development that do not require a phone, iPad, or any physical toy. Reduce the noise in the car and tune into your child during your next drive!

12 months to 24 months

-Sing songs! Some great songs to sing include Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Row, Row, Row your Boat, Old McDonald, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, BINGO, Baby Bumblebee,If You’re Happy and You Know It, andBaby Shark.” As your child gets older you can leave out words at the end of phrases (“…Twinkle twinkle little _____”) to see if your child can fill them in!

-Model environmental sounds like “wee, woah, uh-oh, vroom, beep-beep” while driving. Make your sounds exaggerated and silly to capture your child’s attention!

-Name things you see during your car ride! Label objects you see as you pass them by.

-Phrase “Ready, set, ____ (go)!” when you start/stop at a red light

-Make silly sounds as you drive to see if your child can imitate you

24 months to 36 months

-Continue to name things you see during your car ride! If your child labels something they see as you are driving you can expand on what they say. For instance, if your child said “truck” you can model “red truck.”

-Model simple location phrases such as “in, on, under.” For instance, “doggie inwater” or “car onroad”

-Target basic concepts:

-Model the words “open/close” and “in/out” as you open and close doors and get into or out of the car

-Model a variety of action words as you drive such as “go, stop, drive, park, turn”

-Look for and identify objects that are “big” vs. “small”

-Work on quantity concepts as you drive, such as onecloud vs. manyclouds in the

-Talk about the colors of cars around you

-Talk about the types of cars you see (e.g., semi-trucks, cars, construction vehicles)

3 years to 4 years+

-Play “I spy” to work on labeling and naming things that you see and drive past

-Model more complex adjectives and more advanced location concepts as you drive.

-Ask your child a variety of wh-questions while driving such as “Where are we going?, What are we doing?, When did we leave?, What are we doing when we reach our destination?, What is mom/dad doing?, What are we making for dinner? Why are we going grocery shopping, etc.” If your child responds with a single word see if you can give them two choices or model a longer phrase. If they use vague and non-descript language such as “this, that, right here, etc.” provide them with two choices to see if you can promote your child’s use of more descriptive language.

-Play the Grocery Storegame: Have an adult start. “…I went to the grocery store and I bought _____ (apples). See if your child can repeat the item just said and add one to it. For instance, “I went to the grocery store and I bought apples and stickers.” You can provide hints if you don’t think your child can recall what was said last. When it’s too hard start again from the beginning!

-If your child is working on speech sounds you can practice their sounds in the car! Pick several words with the target sound and say it every time you stop at a red light or every time you see a certain object or item such as a tree.

-Tell your child that you’re thinking of an object that starts with a certain sound such as “b.” See if your child can think of things as you drive that start with that letter.

-Promote appropriate grammar and sentence structure. If you notice that your child made a grammatical error model their sentence with correct grammar and sentence structure.

-Talk about letters or numbers you see on license plates

-Talk about categories (e.g., types of transportation that you pass, types of weather, types animals you see, etc.)

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Samantha Labus, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Photo Credit:Sandy Millar via unsplash.com

DR. DR., Give Me The News: What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

A neruo what?! Why does my child need this? Does that mean my child will have a diagnosis? What are they testing for? How long will it take? Will my child need medication? A neuropsychological evaluation can raise many questions and concerns for families. The information below can help provide some clarity about what a neuropsychological evaluation is and if your child would benefit from one.

What is a neuropsychological evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation is a test completed by a licensed clinical psychologist and may include additional providers, such as an occupational therapist or social worker, from a multi-disciplinary team approach. The team will interview the child’s parents, in addition to any other adults that may be able to provide feedback about the child (e.g. therapist, teacher). The evaluation is a series of tests, both written and verbal, which are completed over the course of several sessions and all appointments can vary in length of time. These tests help to better understand the brain development, strengths, and weaknesses of that individual.

What does/can it test?

The evaluation is recommended for children over the age of five. The initial and primary concerns will determine the exact tests administered throughout the evaluation. Generally, tests assess academic functioning, attention and executive functioning skills, and motor functioning. These skills are essential for children to establish and develop in order to fully function in a classroom setting independently. The evaluation also monitors the child’s sensory profile in addition to their social-emotional development.

What about the diagnosis?

It is possible that your child might receive a diagnosis after the evaluation (e.g. ADHD, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder). Any diagnosing information will come from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5ThEdition (DSM-5). This information can often be difficult for families to accept and understand what it actually means. Receiving a diagnosis does not always mean that your child will have that diagnosis forever; however, many neurological disorders are often influenced by brain structure. A diagnosis can provide answers, information, and recommendations for your child and family. The information can better support your child’s care team to provide an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) within the classroom setting and additional therapeutic services which may only be available through insurance. If your child is recommended medication at the evaluation, talk with your current treatment team of providers and your child’s primary care doctor, to see if and when beginning medication is the right step for your child.

Who can it help?

These evaluations can help provide the child, family, and support teams with a detailed description or a “blue print” of how the child’s brain works. These reports include specific recommendations for each child at home, in the classroom, and within the community as needed. Sharing your child’s neuropsychological report with their school, doctor, and therapists will ensure your child’s care team is working collaboratively to achieve the targeted goals.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s diagnosis, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

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

Photo Credit: Berzin via pixabay.com

Parent Question: How does developmental therapy support speech and communication skills?

“The initial evaluation team recommended developmental therapy for my child but my concerns are with her speech. How can developmental therapy help support her speech? I thought that it focused on preschool readiness skills?” — Concerned Parent

Developmental therapy (DT) focuses on the whole child and often addresses different areas of development, including speech and communication. DT can often be used to complement and support speech therapy by helping your child learn pre-communication skills. These skills include sharing joint attention, attention span, imitation of gestures and play ideas, and general play skills and are essential in learning how to speak! This blog will explain these skills and how you as a parent can help your child with their pre-communication skills.

Pre-communication skills
Joint attention: Joint attention is when two people share attention with an object or activity. This can be demonstrated by sharing eye contact, using gestures, and/or other non-verbal and verbal communication. While children can learn some skills from toys and objects independently, they absolutely need to be able to share joint attention with another person to learn language and how to communicate with others.

Attention span: In order to learn any new skill, one must have the attention span to attend to an activity. On average, a child is expected to attend to a single activity for – at minimum – one to one-and-a-half minutes per year of age. And as they age, a child should be able to attend to several activities in a row.

Imitation of gestures: Imitation of gestures always comes before imitation of words. It is important for your child to learn that they can imitate what other people are doing! Once your child is consistently imitating familiar gestures (such as waving or clapping), novel or play gestures (feeding the baby a bottle, for example), and “invisible” gestures (this is a gesture that you can do but not see yourself do, such as sticking out your tongue or tugging your ear), we know that your child is on track to using sounds and words to communicate.

Play skills: A child’s “work” is play! It is important for your child to engage in functional play with toys to learn the concept the toys are targeting. Engaging in functional play provides your child opportunities to use language to communicate. Play is also a great measure of a child’s cognition!

How can parents support pre-communication skills?
Joint attention: Engage in a preferred activity that your child has mastered – we want to make sure they can focus on learning the skill of joint attention and not forcing too many cognitive demands at once. For example, if your child does not yet match, you would not use a puzzle for this activity. Activities with lower cognitive demands – such as popping bubbles – is much more appropriate for a joint attention activity (but if your child has mastered matching, feel free to use a puzzle!) After blowing bubbles a few times for your child, pause the activity. Give him or her the opportunity to come to you and show you that they want “more” by using eye contact or gesturing to you what they want. If they only look at or touch the bubbles, bring the bubbles near your face to encourage eye contact. Once they look to you, provide praise and blow more bubbles! Continue this routine as long as your child will tolerate.

Attention span: Toddlers are notorious for having a decreased attention span! Everything is so new and interesting to them, no wonder they want to bop around the room and get into everything! Make sure you create a learning and play space that is conducive to attending to activities. Having a large number of toys available at all times or always having the television can create many distractions for your child.

When starting to work on increasing your child’s attention span, your goal should be to complete one activity – that’s it! An activity with a clear beginning and end, such as a puzzle or book, are great activities to start with. Engaging in symbolic play with a baby doll, for example, would be considered an open-ended activity that can be finished after one minute or ten. And again, you want to choose something that they have mastered so they are not expected to complete an activity that is new or particularly challenging.

Imitation: To work on a child’s imitation skills, you can start by imitating them! If they bang a toy on their highchair, you do the same. Encourage your child to do the gesture again before imitating it again. Once you go back and forth a few times, change the gesture – rub an object on the highchair instead for example. If your child does not imitate this gesture, do it again. If they continue to not imitate this gesture, provide hand over hand assistance to show them exactly how to imitate this gesture.

Play skills: Sometimes, children need to be taught how to play functionally with objects! Just like any other skill, play needs to supported and taught and it is up to the child’s first teacher – their parents – to show them just that. Parents should be modeling appropriate play with toys and encouraging the child to do the same (this is also where those imitation skills come in handy!) Help your child master functional play by setting aside a few minutes every day to provide your child your undivided attention and PLAY!

Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s pre-communication skills, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Kimberly Shlaes, MAT, DT
Director of Developmental Therapy Services

Reference:

Teach Me to Talk. (July 30, 2018). Sorting Out the 11 Prelinguistic Skills… Retrieved April 25, 2019 from http://teachmetotalk.com/2018/07/30/sorting-out-the-11-prelinguistic-skills/

Photo Credit: PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Feeding our Senses: What is a Sensory Diet?

Does your child love to run, swing, and jump? Engage in messy play with finger paint and shaving cream or seek out hugs and cuddles? Or perhaps they prefer to watch other children navigate the rock wall at the playground or quickly wipe their hands clean when dirty? Our sensory systems are responsible for how we take in sensory stimuli from our environment, process and interpret the information internally, and produce appropriate responses. We rely on proper functioning of eight senses (yes, eight!) to maintain a regulated state, in which we are better able to understand, interact with, and grow within our environments.

What are the eight sensory systems?

  1. Sight: helps us process what we see
  2. Hearing: helps us detect and process sounds, beats, and frequencies
  3. Smell: helps us detect and process scents and odors
  4. Taste: helps us process and distinguish between different tastes
  5. Touch: helps us process and understand how things feel on our skin, such as soft or hard, hot or cold
  6. Vestibular: provides us with a sense of balance, movement, and an awareness of orientation in space
  7. Proprioception: provides information about position and movements of our muscles and joints, including pushing, pulling, and deep pressure sensations
  8. Interoception: provides an internal sense of how our organs feel, such as hungry or thirsty, our sense of temperature, our feelings of pain, and when we need to use the bathroom

What happens if our sensory systems do not process stimuli correctly or efficiently?

When our brains are unable to make sense of the information our bodies receive, we often respond to the environment in inappropriate or unexpected ways. While the reactions formed in this disorganized state, often referred to as deregulation, present differently for every child and depend on both the type and number of sensory systems affected, responses often aim to find more of (seek) or stay away from (avoid) input. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Sight: excessively looking at moving, spinning, or shiny objects; appearing bothered by bright lights
  • Hearing: appearing to ignore people when spoken to; becoming distracted in noisy settings; covering ears in response to loud noises
  • Smell: showing heightened sensitivity or aversion to scents and odors; may impact feeding routines
  • Taste/oral: preferring a limited variety of foods; difficulty trying new foods; excessive drooling
  • Touch: difficulty tolerating having nails trimmed or wearing certain clothing textures; refusing to touch or play with various textures, such as grass, sand, finger paint, or Play-Doh; wiping hands clean immediately after getting dirty
  • Vestibular: appearing to excessively enjoy or look for movement opportunities (running, jumping, rocking, etc.); seeming clumsy; appearing fearful of ordinary movement, such as when both feet are off the ground (e.g. swinging)
  • Proprioception: biting or chewing on non-food items; excessive bumping into, pushing, or hitting peers or objects in the environment
  • Interoception: not feeling full after eating; missing the urge to use the bathroom at the appropriate time

These sensory responses may lead to overarching difficulties with a child’s ability to attend to academic activities in the classroom, maintain balance and coordination, plan and sequence novel tasks, build social relationships, perform self-care activities, such as dressing and feeding tasks, and participate in family routines and schedules.

Sensory diet: what is it and how can it help?

A sensory diet is a carefully designed series of sensory-based activities in which a child is encouraged to participate to increase regulation and attention throughout the day. Much like we eat healthy foods to give our bodies the nutrients they need, sensory diets are made to meet the specific sensory needs of each child. While sensory diets typically incorporate touch, movement, and proprioceptive input, strategies targeting any sensory system can be included to promote optimal regulation. Sensory diets are often organized into schedules based on a child’s daily routines, activities, and family plans to maximize participation and success and can be easily modified as the child’s needs change over time. See below for an example of a sensory diet:

If implemented correctly, sensory diets provide consistent access to specific amounts of sensory input needed throughout the day and result in more appropriate responses to environmental stimuli over time. When successful, children are better able to participate in meaningful activities and daily routines, develop important foundational skills, and more effectively understand and engage in the world around them.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about whether your child may benefit from a sensory diet, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Caitlin Chociej, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

References:

Bodison, S., Watling, R., Kuhaneck, H.M., & Henry, D. (2008). Frequently Asked Questions About Ayres Sensory Integration. American Occupational Therapy Association. Retrieved April 14, 2019 from http://www.aota.org/Consumers/WhatisOT/FactSheets.aspx.

Smith Roley, S., Mailloux, Z., Miller-Kuhaneck, H. & Glennon, T. (2007). Understanding Ayres’ Sensory Integration. OT Practice 12(7).

STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder. (2018). Your 8 Senses. Retrieved April 14, 2019, from https://www.spdstar.org/basic/your-8-senses.

Photo Credit: Sharon McCutcheon via Pexels