How to Develop Speech & Language skills While Reading

We all have books in our home and most children love to read or be read to. We often forget that books can help our little ones learn many different skills aside from recognizing letters/words and reading.

You can target speech and language skills while reading books as well. Books are fantastic because you can modify them to be appropriate for any age group or skill level.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

One book that many of us, including myself, enjoy reading with our children is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” written by Eric Carle.

This book is great for learning many things: learning food vocabulary, the ‘k’ sound, the process of how a caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly, and the days of the week, to name a few.

How to Target Speech & Language Skills With Your Child

• Have your child label or point to each food as the caterpillar eats through each food item. Talk about whether the food is healthy or not, what category the food belongs in and whether the child enjoys that food or not

• Target the sound ‘k’ with the words in the book (e.g. cocoon, cake, caterpillar). Have your child repeat or say the word on their own, depending on their skill level.

• Have your child retell the story when you are finished. You can talk to your child about the beginning, middle and end of the book. You can prompt your child by using phrases such as, “the little egg was on the leaf, then what happened?” or, “at the end of the book the caterpillar made a cocoon, then what happened?”

• For more advanced levels you can go through the book and use the phrase, “on _____ he ate through one apple,” and have your child fill in the day of the week.

Continue to read with your child and watch their speech and language skills grow each day. Stay tuned for how you can help to develop speech and language with other favorite children’s books.


Speech Therapy for My Child is so Expensive! How Can I Afford It?

These days more and more health services are no longer being funded by the government. Long gone are the days where we can access speech therapy, physiotherapy, massage, and other health services using our trusted OHIP card.

Although there are some government funded speech therapy programs for specific populations (e.g. pre-school children), the waitlists for these programs are often long and exhaustive.

Speech therapy services within the school boards are also sometimes available, but again, the services are limited mostly to assessment with very little opportunity for intensive specialized treatment. With these factors considered and with the cost of private specialized therapies being what they are, parents are often left wondering, “How am I going to pay for the speech therapy my child needs?”

Take a closer look at your extended health benefits

Although most people know that services like physiotherapy and massage therapy are covered by the extended health benefits provided by their insurer, they often don’t realize that these benefits often include coverage for speech therapy as well.

Typically this coverage is listed under the Medical Rehabilitation section of your policy. It may include a lump sum per calendar year (e.g. coverage up to $500 per calendar year) or a maximum amount covered per therapy session (e.g. coverage up to $50 per session). If it’s unclear what is covered in your policy, a quick call to your insurer can answer many of your questions.

Think outside the box

Many insurance policies offer a maximum amount covered per year per claimant. This means that you and your child could BOTH be entitled to that amount of coverage.

Speech therapy sessions for your child sometimes include a component of parent training. This is where the speech therapist teaches you how to target the skill area so that you can practice with your child at home in order to help carryover the skills learned in the therapy session. Parent training may also include individual sessions where you are taught the best way(s) to interact with your child.

What this means is that, if your case fits the criteria, part of the session could be billed/claimed for your child and part of the session could be billed/claimed for you – effectively doubling your extended health benefit coverage.

Stick it to “the man”

Just because the government doesn’t always fund these health services through OHIP doesn’t mean that you can’t get some assistance from the government.

If your child is receiving speech therapy for a chronic medical condition (e.g. brain injury, Autism, etc.), you may be eligible for the Child Disability Benefit. Visit the CRA website for more information on eligibility and how to apply.

Take Advantage of Assistants

Communicative Disorders Assistants (CDAs) can work under the direction of a speech therapist to provide treatment to your child and are a lower cost alternative to treatment with a speech therapist.

However, CDA services are not appropriate for all clients and candidacy for these services is determined by a speech-language pathologist. A speech therapist would still need to complete sessions with your child at regular intervals to monitor progress and make recommendations.

Consider Creative Alternatives

Although nothing can replace the benefits your child would receive from one-to-one treatment with a speech therapist, there are other alternatives to receive some level of help.

Group therapy, where children working on similar difficulties could receive therapy together, is one option to consider as the cost of a session could be shared with the other individual(s). Group-based camps/series can also be a more affordable alternative such as the “Social Language Camps” offered by our clinic.

Again, the caveat here is that there is less “treatment” going on in these larger group scenarios, so the gains made by you or your loved one will not be as great as if receiving individual therapy. That being noted, there is much to be said about the benefit of practicing communication skills with same aged peers!

Whatever your situation, there is often a creative solution to help you provide for your child’s needs!

MelissaKiley-220Melissa Kiley is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist with a special interest in concussion/acquired brain injury as well as literacy skills development. She has been working with clients for over 10 years and is highly skilled in developing functional and innovative treatments. Melissa enjoys educating clients, families/caregivers, and other team members and has been able to take this to new levels through her role as Community Manager at S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks.

Using No-Cook Homemade Play Dough to Target Language: Building Descriptive Vocabulary

Many of the children I see LOVE to play with play dough! You might be thinking, “it’s just play dough, how does that target language?” Well, it’s all in how you use it! I have, and always will, love playing with play dough.

Targeting Language Skills

You get to be creative and silly and there are many language skills you can target, depending on what you use.

One way you can target language is to make different types of play dough to expand your child’s vocabulary through the use of adjectives (describing words), this can then lead to descriptive phrases and sentences. Here is an example of how I did this the other day:

First, gather up all the ingredients, bowls, and instructions on how to make the four different types of play dough.

Next, have your child help make each type of play dough. While making it, you can ask your child what he/she is smelling, what it feels like, what it looks like, etc.

Modelling for your child by saying things like, “Wow, this smells sweet like candy” or, “This play dough feels rough” will help your child learn new words as well as their meaning. Just a tip: Don’t forget rubber gloves for the Kool-Aid and food colouring types, unless you really like rainbow hands!

Here’s how to make your own homemade play dough along with some suggestions for descriptive words you can start practicing with your child!

The Recipe

Sand Play Dough                                                                       Kool-Aid Play Dough

1 cup flour                                                                                            1 cup flour

¼ cup sand                                                                                          ½ pkg. Kool-Aid (mix with wet ingredients)

½ tbsp. of canola oil (or vegetable oil)                                          ½ tbsp. of canola oil (or vegetable oil)

1/3 cup salt                                                                                           1/3 cup salt

1/3 cup warm water                                                                            1/3 cup warm water

Words: Rough, gritty, scratchy                                                       Words: Sweet, smelly, bright


Oatmeal Play Dough                                                                 Coloured, Extra Soft Play Dough

1 cup flour                                                                                             1 cup pastry flour

¼ cup oatmeal                                                                                     ¼ cup sand

½ tbsp. of canola oil (or vegetable oil)                                           ½ tbsp. of canola oil (or vegetable oil)

1/3 cup salt                                                                                           1/3 cup salt

1/3 cup warm water                                                                            1/3 cup warm water

Words: Lumpy, bumpy, chunky                                                       5 drops of food colouring

Words: Soft, silky, smooth, pretty

Keep it Colourful

Mix the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls. Add the dry ingredients carefully to the wet ingredients and stir until solid (if too sticky, add more flour; if too dry, add a little water).

Knead the dough until thoroughly mixed. The Kool-Aid and food colouring can stain clothing and skin when first mixing, use gloves if possible. You can also add food colouring to Sand and Oatmeal play dough to keep things colourful!

Let us know what creative describing words your children came up with!

LynseyWilson-220Lynsey Wilson is a Communication Disorders assistant with experience treating a wide range of clients with varying ages and disorders. She also has her Early Childhood Educator certificate and specializes in working with pediatric clients. Lynsey enjoys working with a variety of age groups to keep her on her toes!


Is your child having trouble processing the information they’re hearing?

You asked your child to do three simple things – “get your coat, your hat and your mitts,” but all they brought you was their mitts. This seems to be a regular occurrence and you’re starting to wonder why they can’t seem to follow through on what you ask them to do.

Hearing what You’re Saying

Perhaps the teacher has also commented that your child has a hard time following classroom instructions. Are they just being defiant or is there something wrong? You had their hearing checked just to be certain that they were in fact hearing what you were saying, but the testing came out fine.

So why does it seem like your child is unable to follow through on what seems like a simple task?

The Challenges

For many children, hearing is not an issue but they struggle to process and act upon what they have heard. These challenges may be more noticeable when the child is in a noisy or busy environment such as a classroom or a living room with the television turned on.

In these situations, it is especially difficult for the child to listen to and hold on to information long enough to act upon it. The result is a child that seems to have difficulty listening.

Signs that your child may be struggling to process what they hear include:

  • Only following through on part of the instructions given (e.g. only getting their math book when they’ve been asked to get their math book, turn to page 91 and complete questions 1 through 3).
  • Mixing up directions (e.g. you asked them to get their red shirt and their blue socks but they got their red socks instead).
  • They often ask you to repeat what you’ve said.
  • Difficulty remembering words or numbers (e.g. trouble remembering phone numbers or a list of words).
  • Difficulty with pre-reading skills such as rhyming, sound blending, playing with sounds in words (e.g. say “cat” without the “c”).
  • Increased difficulty listening when there is competing noise in the environment (e.g. ignoring the radio while listening to a conversation).
  • Trouble listening to stories read aloud and responding to questions accurately or providing a summary of what has happened.
  • Difficulty “reading between the lines” or picking up on subtleties in stories.

There is help for these children. Speech-Language Pathologists help learn strategies to improve their understanding of language and their ability to effectively process incoming information.

The Skills

These skills may include teaching strategies such as note taking, using imagery or visualization (i.e. picturing what is heard), rephrasing what is heard, requesting clarification, or breaking down information into manageable parts.

Additionally, Speech-Language Pathologists can work with you and your child to determine what needs to be done in specific scenarios such as the classroom to facilitate their learning (e.g. looking at changing the seating plan, developing a strategy for dealing with group work, etc.).


For some children, specific training programs such as Fast ForWord or Earobics may be recommended. For other children, using an assistive listening device such as a Frequency Modulated (FM) amplification system may be required.

This kind of system helps the individual focus in on what they need to hear (e.g. the teacher’s voice) while filtering out background noise (e.g. chairs moving, children talking). If challenges with processing are also impacting on other skills such as spelling, reading, or writing Speech-Language Pathologists can also address these skills as needed.

What Is Stuttering?

When a person stutters, we sometimes say that their speech is “dysfluent” because the flow of speech is interrupted. These interruptions may include one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Repetitions – involve repeating a sound, syllable or phrase (e.g. m-m-m-my)
  • Prolongations – involve stretching out a sound (e.g. mmmmmy)
  • Blocks – involve stoppage of the airflow so no sound comes out


These characteristics are often caused by increased tension somewhere within the lungs, throat, mouth, tongue or lips. When people stutter, they often struggle to push the words out as they feel the words are getting stuck.

Unfortunately, this strategy is often ineffective as it results in more tension which can then result in even more struggle. This struggle may be heard in the individual’s speech (e.g. change in pitch or loudness), seen throughout their body (e.g. body movements, eye blinking) or it may come out in other behaviours (e.g. rapid breathing).


Over time, people who stutter may experience negative emotional reactions to their speech (e.g. teasing, bullying, embarrassment, frustration).

Other people’s reactions or the individual’s own negative thoughts may result in feelings of anxiousness or worry about speaking as they fear getting caught in a stutter again. For many, the result is often a cycle of tension, struggle and inevitably more stuttering.

This loop is very difficult to break without intervention. If these feelings are not addressed, the individual may begin to avoid speaking situations in an attempt to keep themselves from stuttering.

Is there a Cure?

People often wonder if stuttering can be cured. Although there is no easy “cure” for stuttering, speech-language therapy can be very effective in helping the individual learn strategies or techniques to help him modify his speech. Speech-language intervention for stuttering often involves the following:

  1. Increasing awareness of stuttering and its related behaviours;
  2. Reducing how often someone stutters;
  3. Decreasing the tension and struggle of stuttering moments;
  4. Working to decrease word or situation avoidances;
  5. Using effective communication skills; and,
  6. Increasing overall communication confidence.

If you have concerns about your speech or your child’s speech, it is always best to get it checked out by a trained Speech-Language Pathologist.

After reviewing the assessment results, the treating Speech-Language Pathologist will work with the person who stutters and/or their family members to set individual treatment goals that will help them become the best communicators they can be.