Language Disorders and Preschool

shutterstock_140772841Communication is language and it is in everything we do. So, when talking about what is affected if your child has a language disorder, the answer is ALMOST EVERYTHING. The word “language” refers to both what a child understands and what they say. Of course, language difficulties don’t affect your physical development or ability to eat, etc., but since we communicate everywhere we go, all areas of a child’s life will be affected if they’re having trouble in this area.

Signs and Symptoms

Some children will have problems with understanding. This is called “receptive language”. If your child has a receptive language disorder, he/she may have trouble with:

  • Following directions
  • Answering questions
  • Understanding what gestures mean
  • Identifying objects and pictures
  • Taking turns talking with others

Some children may have problems talking. This is called “expressive language”. If your child has an expressive language disorder, he/she may have difficulty with:

  • Answering questions
  • Naming objects
  • Putting word together to make a sentence
  • Using gestures
  • Learning songs and rhymes
  • Using correct pronouns like “he” or “they”
  • Knowing how to start a conversation and keep it going

Some children who have a receptive or expressive language disorder will also have trouble with reading and writing such as:

  • Holding a book right side up
  • Looking at pictures in a book and turning pages
  • Naming letters and numbers
  • Learning the alphabet
  • Telling a story with a beginning, middle and an end

What is involved with a preschool language disorders assessment?

Speech-Language Pathologists are usually a part of a team which includes the parent, the child’s preschool teacher and other professionals. This team will be able to decide if your child’s language skills are developing age appropriately. The Speech-Language Pathologist will let you know whether your child would benefit from therapy.  We usually look for things such as, does your child:

  • Know how to play with toys?
  • Use pretend play?
  • Follow directions and routines?
  • Name familiar objects and actions?
  • Identify colours, numbers and letters?
  • Sings songs or copy a nursery rhyme?
  • Look at books and talk about the pictures?
  • Recognize familiar people?
  • Hold a book correctly and turn the pages?
  • Recognize their name?

What can I do as a parent to help my child?

Therapy can definitely help children who have a language disorder. The Speech-Language Pathologist will set goals for therapy and these sessions will increase learning, behaviour, confidence and social skills.  Many children don’t know the unspoken rules of conversation and the social interaction which most of us do naturally. What a child learns in therapy should continue at home. Here are some things that you can do to increase your child’s language skills:

  • Talk to your child a lot!
  • Read to your child every day!
  • Be down at their level and face to face
  • Point to words during the day, such as at the grocery store, library or outside
  • Listen and respond when your child talks
  • Encourage your child to ask questions and give them time to answer
  • Set limits for watching TV and using electronics

AmyWebAmy Grossi is a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, practicing for over 10 years. She has gathered experience working for the ministry and private clinics. Amy enjoys the area of early language, literacy development, apraxia and fluency.

Should I disclose my acquired brain injury? – Part 3



In part 3 of this four-part series, you will meet another acquired brain injury survivor who is struggling to decide whether to share what has happened to them for fear of being treated differently. The details have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor. Melanie’s story highlights the difficulties of choosing to access special accommodations in academic settings.

Acquired Brain Injury: Melanie’s Story

Melanie is 40 years old and has survived two major car accidents in which she suffered brain injuries. Due to her injuries, she was unable to return to her previous job as a restaurant manager due to long hours; the fast-paced environment; the incessant noise; and being on her feet all day. She also experienced changes in her social skills which were the focus of many of her Speech-Language Pathology treatment sessions. Melanie re-entered college, on a part-time basis without accommodations. She wanted to retrain so that she could re-enter the workforce in a more suitable occupation. She was insistent about the school being ‘left in the dark’ about her accident and injuries. Although she could have benefitted greatly from accommodations, she preferred to ‘tough it out’ as she did not want for others to know about her hidden disability, and she definitely did not want preferential treatment.

The Pros of Disclosing

Melanie’s treatment team was eager for feedback regarding her progress in classes and regarding Melanie’s social interactions with teachers and peers. The treatment team was also eager to offer recommendations of a reduced course load, a quieter test environment, and flexibility for deadlines. These accommodations would have been very helpful for Melanie given her difficulties with processing complicated information. The input of her teachers would have been helpful in fine-tuning her treatments. Feedback from the treatment team to the school would have allowed for the required accommodations to facilitate Melanie’s success.

The Cons of Not Disclosing

Due to Melanie’s decision not to disclose any information about her situation, she was left unaccommodated. She missed numerous deadlines resulting in grade penalties. She became overwhelmed and missed classes frequently. Eventually, she decided to drop out of the program.

As mentioned in part 1 and part 2 of this series on disclosing an acquired brain injury, there is no right way to disclose something as personal and significant as surviving a serious accident and sustaining an acquired brain injury. Each situation is very different and should be discussed with your treatment team, including your Speech-Language Pathologist – he or she is the specialist that knows your communication style and needs best.

Are you wondering whether or how to access academic or workplace accommodations for a brain injury or other disability?

BobiTychynskiShimoda-220Bobi Tychynski Shimoda is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than a decade of experience working with neurological communication and swallowing disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient rehab, acute care, community, and private practice. She is highly skilled in assessment and innovative treatment approaches.

Blog Spotlight: Mommy Speech Therapy blog

shutterstock_216947362This week we wanted to share one of the speech therapy blogs that we like to check out!

Mommy Speech Therapy is written by Heidi Hanks, a Speech Language Pathologist with 4 children, who runs therapy sessions from her home in Utah. She has made wonderful contributions to the field of Speech-Language Pathology, including the creation of the “Articulation Station” app.

This blog includes information for both parents and Speech-Language Pathologists about different types of childhood issues, such as articulation delays, language delays and early child development.

One page on her site has a disclaimer entitled, “Read First!”. It reminds the people reading her site that the tips and suggestions on her site are at the BASIC level and that many speech or language difficulties might require more help, specifically professional help from a Speech Language Pathologist or other related professional. We love this, because it reminds parents that if you are concerned about your child’s speech or language development, you should definitely contact a professional in your area for assistance.  This ensures that no children slips through the cracks without getting the help they need!

Heidi’s blog also has a few posts about assistive technology and using apps during speech therapy. It highlights how she has had success using the iPad with some of the children she does therapy with. This is great information for those people who are not familiar with the educational value of an iPad or android device.

My favorite section of her blog is the FREE WORKSHEETS page! Heidi has developed so many pages of worksheets for you to download for FREE!! They are all articulation worksheets and have different levels of difficulty for all word positions (initial, medial and final word positions at word, sentence and story levels). They are colourful and easy to use for both parents and clinicians! Did I mention they are FREE?!?!

Another wonderful section is the “Links” page. It includes a very comprehensive list of other speech and language blogs as well as a long list of websites full of great information. This includes a list for speech related information sites and a list of products that she finds helpful for different speech/language difficulties. Each website listing also includes a short description of what you can find on the website which is incredibly helpful when searching for information!

Check out this great blog, you won’t be disappointed!

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!

Should I disclose my acquired brain injury – Part 2


What if it hurts me to talk about it?

If you read PART 1 of this blog series, you will know that disclosing an acquired brain injury can be very difficult. Today, you will read about another situation in which a young man’s disclosure of his acquired brain injury was complicated by another factor – having to re-live the events which surrounded his injuries. The name and other details regarding the victim have been changed to protect the actual person’s identity.

Acquired Brain Injury: Malek’s Story

Malek is a 52 year old male who survived a car crash which resulted in a brain injury. Malek was severely injured, and a close family member did not survive. Malek has suffered debilitating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of his crash. He avoids talking about his experience as it can trigger horrific flashbacks. Malek avoids bringing up his car crash as people often ask for more details than he is comfortable with sharing (e.g. “was everyone ok?”) He wants to appear and remain positive and upbeat, but the tragedy of his story “brings people down”.

In situations where the death of Malek’s loved one is not shared, others are sometimes begin to share about “so-and-so’s car accident…” Malek has experienced that other people’s car crash stories can be triggering to his PTSD and/or can make Malek feel like the severity of what he has suffered is diminished when compared to other peoples’ mere fender-benders.

Strategy: Redirection

Malek worked on finding ways to ease the conversations about his brain injury by speaking about topics that are in the media. Malek worked on coming up with a ways to a) keep things positive within his conversations, and to b) distance the focus from his accident. These things were accomplished in the following ways:

1) Malek avoided shutting out the other person with conversation-ending statements such as “I don’t want to talk about it” which were distancing Malek from others.

2) Malek redirected the conversation to more comfortable topics (e.g. when Malek was asked about what he does for a living, he responded, “I am not working currently. I am trying out a lot of new activities to see what I enjoy most”).

3) Malek re-directed the conversation to the other person; (e.g. when Malek was asked why he wasn’t working, he answered, “I was in a serious accident and have PTSD.  It’s what some war veterans have when they come back from war. There’s a movie out now about PTSD – American Sniper… have you seen it?”)

Disclosing your injury might not be the right choice for you. There are sometimes ways to skirt the issue to protect yourself from the difficult emotions that may come up.

Have you experienced PTSD as a result of a car crash in which you also suffered an acquired brain injury? How did this impact your decision to disclose your injury?

BobiTychynskiShimoda-220Bobi Tychynski Shimoda is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than a decade of experience working with neurological communication and swallowing disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient rehab, acute care, community, and private practice. She is highly skilled in assessment and innovative treatment approaches.

S. L. Hunter Speechworks Gives Back to the Community

shutterstock_151391255Over the years, S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks has been so thanksful for the loyalty of its clients.  Because of this, Shanda Hunter-Trottier , the clinic owner and director has often reached out to our clients and the community at large in many ways, whether it’s to give back, support our clients, or educate the public about impairments and the help that is available to them.

To give back

In November, many of our clinicians enjoyed the silent auction, delicious buffet and entertaining video presented by the Hamilton Brain Injury Association.

In the spring of last year, the Brain Injury Association of Niagara’s memorable fundraiser “Head for the Hills” 5 km walk lead teams of survivors, caregivers, and therapists through the beautiful trails of St. Catharines. Click here if you’d like to participate in this year’s event! Funds raised from these events go towards many great activities such as support groups for survivors and caregivers.

Last June in recognition of Brain Injury Awareness Month, a Free Workshop for Caregivers of Brain Injury Survivors was hosted in Hamilton.  This event was offered to caregivers at no charge thanks to the generous contributions of many local professionals, including S.L. Hunter.

To support

Our therapists have also attended many fundraising events for one of our pediatric clients. This little one has physical and communication challenges which require specially designed equipment for everything from a chair to a bike.  The funds raised are used for programs and specialized equipment.  Causes like this are so meaningful to S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks as many families with a child with severe disabilities cannot manage to have both parents go back to work. One parent may have to stay home and be a full-time therapy provider, leaving the family with only one income and making it difficult to afford the much needed services for their child.

Relay for Life is a long time recipient of support from our clinic.  The team “Matthew’s Friends” consisting of 5 moms and their children have been participating in the relay for 8 years in honour of a little friend they lost to cancer. S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks has also contributed to fundraising efforts of the Rotary Club in support of the wonderful work they do for our community.

To educate

Last August, S. L. Hunter Speechworks participated in the Burlington Children’s Festival at Spencer Smith Park. The children who visited our booth played games and won prizes. The parents were eager to learn about language development and our services. A few of our clients even stopped by just to say “hello.”

Throughout the year, the moms who attended our Momstown Baby Basics and Toddler Time presentations received information on milestones for play, hearing, speech and language development as well as demonstrations of functional activities to take home. Our Speech Language Pathologists also offered an “Ask  The Expert” night on the Momstown message board.

We also hosted an exhibit at the Autism Canada Show at the Ron Joyce Centre in October of last year. This event was attended by community college students, parents and other professionals. We were able to give out information about different therapy approaches for children with ASD.

If it’s sports you’re into, you may see the S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks name and logo alongside the Burlington Bulldogs Major Bantam A/AA team and the Burlington Blue Jays Soft Toss Baseball team.   With concussion in children’s sports on the rise, we recognize the importance of raising awareness and safety related to prevention and treatment of concussion on any playing field.

From both large and small charitable organizations, to children with exceptional needs, or simply to support a local baseball team,  at S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks we understand what it means to give back. To get involved with any of the causes we’ve talked about, click on the links above to the organizations mentioned.

SandyMastoris-220Sandy is a dedicated professional with 30 years experience serving clients with communication challenges.  She specializes in working with clients who have an acquired brain injury.  Sandy’s expertise also includes planning and implementing  pragmatic/social language programs. Sandy enjoys the successes of her clients and working within a committed and professional team.