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3 Ways to Boost Language in a Quarantine Summer

Summer vacation is upon us, but this year looks a little bit different.  As camps across the country announce virtual camps or a modified summer, and public pools state that they will not be opened, parents are left to find activities to entertain their children while staying cool (both mentally, and physically).

I am a firm believer in summer fun.  This is a time for children to pull back from rigorous academics–or in the case of this year, screens–and focus on developing play skills.  These are the problem solving skills that will have the greatest impact on our future, according to this article and the reason why so many schools have focused on developing SEL (socioemotional learning) programs for their students.

So, as a parent, how can you ensure that your child has fun, stays cool, and continues learning this summer? It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1.Ice Digs: These activities provide endless fun for child

ren as young as 2 years old.  To set up the activity, get a large ice cube mold and place a small plastic toy in each mold.  Fill with water and set in the freezer.  You can pop out the cubes and place in a small plastic container.  Now comes the fun part: your child has to try to get the toys out of the ice.  You can provide a squirt bottle or a small cup of water to assist your child with his excavation, depending on how long you would like the activity to take (the squirt bottle method will take much longer). Afterwards, you can play along with your child using the creatures you have freed from the ice.

 

2. The Wet Towel Experiment: There is something about water that is very exciting for children.  In this activity, you can go beyond the water gun fights or water tables to see the different properties of water.  Provide your child with a notebook and pencil to take notes like a real scientist.  Then, take a wash-cloth sized towel to dip in water and one that is not dipped in water.  Place the towels one on each arm.  Have your child compare and contrast what happened with each towel.  As you wait, the water will begin to evaporate.  Discuss this concept with your child and question by asking “why do you think that happened?”

 

3. Neighborhood Scavenger Hunts: Over the past few months, we have spent a lot of time in and around our homes.  Help your child to create a scavenger hunt checklist to look more closely at the things you can find all around you. Summer may bring different plants, trees, or animals to your environment, so now is the time to point them out.  You can create the list using pictures, if your child does not yet read, or words.  Make sure to give your child a marker to check off the items he found, to make it official.  As an added bonus, you could even use a Polaroid camera to snap pictures of the objects you found on the way.

 

This summer, don’t complicate things. It is not a time to stress about all of the unknowns, but rather a time to enjoy your family and your surroundings.  By setting up a few simple activities and adding them to your weekly routine, you’ll be sure to have a good time.

Did you enjoy these tips? Join me on The Mommy Mingle, where I provide daily tips and tricks to help grow your child’s language skills.

You Want Me To Do WHAT?!

These are unprecedented times we are living in. With the global pandemic ever present, many families find themselves at home, together, at all times. This presents challenges in the best-case scenario, but add in a child with a disability and you are doomed—or so you thought, before reading this article.
Fear of the Unknown
Adults and children alike are faced with a new type of anxiety. It is important to recognize this feeling and give it a space to exist. I particularly liked this Brené Brown Podcast, which does a great job explaining why this needs to be our first step. Once we have established that this situation is new and uncomfortable, we are free to explore something new. You may not have ever provided your child’s therapy directly, but you have observed countless sessions and done weekly homework assignments. You’ve got this! Need some more hand holding? Your team is still there to answer questions and guide you—though in a bit of a different capacity.
Take Action: Video tape your child while he is playing and send to your therapist. Ask a specific question, like “how do I get him to use more two word combinations when he is playing with this toy?
 
Take a Leap of Faith
Now that we have addressed your emotional well-being and support system, it is time to get down on the ground and play. You don’t need a bunch of crazy toys, but I bet you have a lot of boxes laying around from all these deliveries.
Take Action: Turn a box into a castle, a police station, supermarket…
You may be worried that your child will lose skills during this crazy time. I see this as an opportunity for children to truly develop play-something we are usually too busy to do. Beginning at about 15 months of age, play becomes so important for the development of cognition, language skills, problem solving, and socialization. Although your child may not have his peers around, you can model appropriate turn-taking, eye contact and questioning so that when this is all over, your child has gained more overall confidence.
 
You are Your Child’s Best Teacher
Although there is something to be said for a trained professional using clinically proven techniques to work with your child, the truth is that the real magic occurs in carryover, behind the scenes, with you.
It’s your time to shine, using everything you have learned from your team, to help your child continue to flourish.
Take Action: It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Choose one area to focus on each week. Do you want to tackle two-step directions this week? Play Simon Says, do a GoNoodle video, make a new recipe. Don’t go crazy—just incorporate the skill into whatever you’re doing.
 
What does the future hold?
As of the writing of this article, there is still no set date for when life will return to normal.  If you were hesitant to try teletherapy in the beginning, it may be time to explore that option.  Surprisingly, telehealth can be just as fun as in-person therapy, with cool games, annotation, and remote control.  The more I learn about this innovative therapy, the more I fall in love with it.
For the time being, be present. Be aware of the gift of spending time playing with your child, and know that you have an entire support network just a text, email, phone call, or Zoom away.

5 Ways to Treat ADD/ADHD (Without Meds!)

As a pediatric speech language pathologist, I hear the words ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) approximately 300 times per day.  In recent years, an ADD/ADHD diagnosis has become quite fashionable, but according to many prominent psychiatrists and researchers, ADD/ADHD is being over-diagnosed, and as a result, many children are over-medicated.

 

What is Attention Deficit Disorder?

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Let’s Play: A Guide to Language in the First Year

During the first year of life, your new baby will take the journey that brings him from a crying ball of mush to his first words.  It is exciting, breathtaking…and nerve-racking as you ponder whether all this is normal.  As part of my new parenting series, I present to you the speech and language milestones and expectations for your baby’s first year.  I have also included activities that you can incorporate to maximize your child’s development at that stage.

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A Guide to Feeding: 0-12 Months

It is an exciting time in the lives of so many of my close friends, and they have each come to me with their most pressing and daunting questions before they become parents for the first time. This month, I will be focusing on the speech, language, and feeding development of children through the first year of life. Breastfeeding_a_baby

People are always shocked when I tell them I specialize in speech therapy with babies.  “But they don’t speak yet! How can they get speech therapy?”  These first months are some of the most important in your child’s life and will set the stage for future development.  Even if your child is typically developing, these tips will help you ensure your child is on the right track. In today’s post, I am going to talk about the most vital of all behaviors—feeding. Read more

5 Reasons Why Your Child Needs Yoga

credit paper moon/flickr creative commons
credit paper moon/flickr creative commons

As a long-time yoga practitioner, I jumped at the opportunity to begin studying with Sonia Sumar, the creator of Yoga for the Special Child.  Through her experiences with her own daughter, who was born with Down Syndrome, Sonia designed a Hatha Yoga program that was modified to meet the needs of children with a wide variety of speech, language and learning disorders, as well as those with physical disabilities and genetic disorders.  She has shaped this practice over the past 40 years, and I have had the pleasure of training with her over the past two years. So, why do I think that yoga is the perfect supplement for a speech and language program?

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The OT-Speech Connection

The longer I work as a speech language pathologist, the more I appreciate my work with occupational therapists.  I checked in with my friend Jill Loftus at Honest OT in Denver, Colorado, to find out How Sensory Processing Impacts Speech Development.

 

Photo via PROLoren Kerns via Flickr Creative Commons
Photo via PROLoren Kerns via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s important to realize that the vestibular and auditory systems work together as they process sensations of movement and sound. These sensations are closely intertwined, because they both begin to be processed in the receptors of the ear.

Audition, or hearing, is the ability to receive sounds. We are born with this basic skill. The ability to hear does not guarantee, however, that we understand sounds. We learn about comprehension as we integrate vestibular sensation. Gradually, as we interact purposefully with our environment, we learn to interpret what we hear and to develop mature auditory processing skills.

Language is understanding what words mean and how we use them to communicate. Receptive language is language which we take in by listening and reading. Expressive language is what we put out by speaking or writing. Language and speech are closely related, but they are not the same. Speech is the physical production of sound. Speech skills depend on smoothly functioning muscles in the throat tongue, lips, and jaw.

The vestibular system impacts motor control and motor planning that are necessary to produce intelligible speech. Because the vestibular system is crucial for effective auditory processing, the child with vestibular dysfunction frequently develops problems with language.

How do these problems play out? Here are some common characteristics of children with poor auditory-language processing:

  • May seem unaware of the source of sound and may look all around to locate where the sounds come form.
  • May have trouble identifying voices or discriminating between sounds, such as the difference between “bear” and “bore.”
  • May be unable to pay attention to one voice or sound without being distracted by other sounds.
  • May be distressed by noises that are loud, sudden, metallic, or high – pitched, or by sounds that don’t bother others.
  • May have trouble attending to, understanding, or remembering what she reads or hears.
  • May misinterpret requests, frequently ask for repetition, and be able to follow only one or two instructions in sequence.
  • May look to others before responding.
  • May have trouble putting thoughts into spoken or written words.

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5 Tips for Language Development

Author's mother with the babies

Recently, I returned to my work with the little ones.  There is really no better feeling than figuring out the puzzle pieces of a little one and watching magic happen!  The great thing about early childhood is that once you solve the puzzle, the magic happens so quickly!  If you want to watch your little one’s speech flourish, follow these tips.

Eye contact is key Always place your child in a way that they can see your face and your mouth.  We have a tendency to place children with their backs propped on us, unless we are feeding.  Babies receive lots of social cues and signals from our eyes and focus on our mouth to try to figure out how we do that thing called speaking.  For a child 0-5 months, I like to sit with my knees bent and child leaning and propped between my knees and my thighs.  For children who are beginning to sit independently, I support the back with the heels of my feet while the child is safely supported by the circle of my legs. Read more

Tongue Tie Mysteries Revealed

Being a new mom is tough! You are getting to know your baby while everyone around you weighs in on what to feed your child, how to care for your child, and how to get your child to sleep.  Now add to this experience the fact that you know something is wrong, but everyone around you insists that you just need to relax.

Meet Kristi, a friend from graduate school and fellow pediatric speech-language pathologist.  Kristi had, like me, received some basic training on tongue and lip ties, but nothing could compare to going through the experience first hand.

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3 Ways to Boost Language in a Quarantine Summer

Summer vacation is upon us, but this year looks a little bit different.  As camps across the country announce virtual camps …

You Want Me To Do WHAT?!

These are unprecedented times we are living in. With the global pandemic ever present, many families find themselves at home, …

A Parent’s Guide to Early Intervention

You’ve heard the words early intervention before, but it seems confusing. Your pediatrician tells you that they are …