SpeechWorks Lectures to University of Toronto


On April 23rd, S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks was proud to attend the University of Toronto to lecture to the graduate class of Speech-Language Pathology (class of 2015) in what would be the last lecture of their graduate education. Not only was it a privilege to share our clinical experiences, but it was a fantastic opportunity for the class to hear from two acquired brain injury survivors. The experience was rich for the students and even richer for us as clinicians to watch our clients shine in sharing their presentations! The clinician portion of the presentation was delivered by Bobi Tychynski Shimoda and Shanda Hunter-Trottier. The topic was Acquired Brain Injury Treatment.

A Story of Client Success

We were absolutely delighted to have two of our amazing clients presenting. The first hour of the lecture was the result of two months of preparation with our two clients, JW and BH. The duo spent weekly therapy sessions developing a presentation to share with the U of T class which included a description of the similarities and differences between each of their brain injury symptoms and the therapeutic strategies that have been most helpful to them.

This was an amazing feat for both of these client, and especially one, who reportedly fears speaking with unknown people, let alone speaking in front of 50 students! JW and BH spoke with poise and confidence and the entire class was captivated.

The project enabled the clients to work on communication confidence, verbal articulation and intonation, planning and organization, perspective taking, memory, and self-awareness. It was very meaningful to both clients and they were extremely excited after achieving success in the presentation. One client texted me that evening, “I feel really proud of myself”!

A Bright Future for the Speech-Language Pathology Profession

Once the class was warmed up and thoroughly engaged, we clinicians took over to speak about working within the motor vehicle accident sector and the insurance system. The class was extremely engaged and asked a variety of questions demonstrating their enthusiasm for the topic (thanks to JW and BH).

We are so pleased to have had a chance to connect with U of T’s class of S-LP students. These future clinicians were a bright bunch. We are certain that they will be assets to our profession.

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 practise. She is highly skilled in assessment, and innovative treatment approaches. 

Targeting Language Delays in Young Children


Your child’s first three years of life are the most intensive period for speech and language development. Children learn through modeling, imitation, and most importantly, through play. There are many important strategies that can be used when targeting language delays in young children.


Be Face to Face with your child: If the child is sitting at the table then sit at the table with him/her.  If they are laying on the floor then lay on the floor with them.  Be sure they can see your mouth and eyes.

Keep It Simple: Use simple words, keeping it to 1-2 word phrases. Use a variety of different words such as action words, nouns, location words, and descriptive words.

Label,  Repeat and Interpret: Label all objects and actions while playing, reading books, driving in the car, playing at the park, or giving your child a bath. Repeat each label multiple times so the child is exposed to the words numerous times during a single activity. It is important to target language during all daily activities/routines.

Reduce Questions/Ask Good Questions: Always label an object instead of asking a child “what is that?” If you are unsure what the child wants then you can ask them “what do you want?” or “what are you looking for?” If you already know the answer to the question then you should not ask the question.

OWLing – Observe, Wait, Listen: Observe what the child is doing, wait to see if the child will respond with a word or a sound or gesture, listen for any attempt at an approximation to your model.

Turn Taking: A turn can be a physical turn with a game or a toy or it may be that the child makes eye contact with you when it is their turn.  A turn may be a gesture, a word or a single sound.  Anytime the child responds in any way to you, it can be considered a turn.

Example Activities

Bath Time

Words you can use are, water; while running the bath or putting water on the child, splash; when splashing in the water, wash; while washing the child,  soap; while getting ready to wash your child,  duck (label all the toys in the bath), swim; make the toys swim in the water.

Playing at the park

Swing; have child take a turn by either saying “swing” or an approximation or making eye contact or making a swinging motion with their body, slide; child may point or attempt to say slide after you model it for them,  push; use this on the swing,  fast; use this on the swing or when running around the park,  up & down; use on the swing or the slide,  wee; Can be used on any of the equipment, climb; can be used on the slide,  stop; can be used on the swing or the slide, stop the child half way down the slide then have them attempt to say “stop” when you stop them and “go” to go down the rest of the way or use on the swing.

Reading a book

Label all of the pictures and what noises the animals make (if there are animals in the pictures) Describe the objects in the book eg. Big dog, small duck, colors; yellow duck, brown dog etc.

Dinner time

Have child help you set the table and label utensils, eat; have the child label what everyone around the table is doing, color of food, yummy, label drinks etc.

Driving in the car

Label other vehicles or things you see when driving.

The more language a child is exposed to the more chance that this will enhance their vocabulary and language development.  So keep these easy strategies listed above in mind and watch your child’s language and vocabulary blossom!

Note:  These strategies taken from Hanen programs.

GwenBlackburn-220Gwen is a Communicative Disorders Assistant with more than 17 years of experience working with a diverse client base.  Her experiences have provided her with the wonderful opportunity to be associated with adults suffering from brain injuries, those that have experienced a stroke, children with articulation and language difficulties and children who have a limited word repertoire.




Daily Activities to Help Build Language Skills

shutterstock_147345410The best opportunities for your children to learn language are through daily routines. You can learn how to model language and make a simple routine (e.g. changing a diaper) into a teaching opportunity. It’s easier than you think. Start to model words in your child’s environment. Pausing to encourage repetition is a great first step. Check out the activities below to encourage interaction and communication.

Building Language Skills

Here are 7 different daily activities that show you how teach your little one new words. Let’s model the concept words, “up” and “down”


  • Read the book “Up, Up Down” by Robert Munsch
  • Combine finger play with language. This is an easy book where you can use your fingers/hands to climb “up, up, up” and “fall down” along with your voice climbing up or down with the text. The actions and finger movements are often fun adult-child interactions.
  • After, you read the book a few times, say the line “She went……”, and look with anticipation at your child. They may participate by filling in “up, up” either with their fingers or with words.

Getting Dressed and Undressed

Think about how many times a day you dress and undressed your child or even change a diaper. Instead of making this a dreaded task, think of it as more time to model language and engage your child. Here are some target language phrases to teach  concepts “up” and “down” when changing your child:

  • “Sit down
  • “Foot up” – to get sock on/off
  • “Stand up
  • “Zipper goes up” or “Zipper goes down”
  • You can take turns zipping up and down a zipper on either your coat or the child’s coat. You zip up the coat. Before zipping it down, PAUSE, wait with an excited expression, then model “ZIPPER DOWN”, and do so.

Climbing the Stairs

Even a simple routine of climbing the stairs can have you teaching and exploring language with your child. As you climb the stairs say, “Up, up, up” or “down, down, down.”

  • You can pause at the first step and offer a choice, “go up or down?”/
  • You will know if they understand the concept words if the follow direction by pointing or use the concept words.

Meal time

While at the dinner table, sing a song. It is a great time to be the child’s eye level for face to face contact.

  •  Sing action songs and repetitive rhymes which are great for encouraging communication.
  • Pause at the end of a well-learned song or rhyme, and look with anticipation at your child.
  • Example: “The itsy bisty spider went …”

Getting into the car seat/driving in the car

Think about how many times are you driving to the store, daycare, or to visit family and friends. This is a perfect time to model the concepts up and down.

  • “climb up”
  • “jump down”
  • Children love when you roll the windows up and down. Put the window midway and offer a choice, “window up or down?”

Bath time

Bathing the children and teaching language, now that’s what I call multitasking!

  • During your bath time routine, put toys on the bathtub and say the words, “fall down” as you push the toys in.
  • Keep the mess in the tub! Blowing bubbles is another fun activity to learn language. Blow a bubble and say, “bubbles go “up, up” or “bubbles fall down.”
  • Pause before you blow a bubble, and look with anticipation at your child.


Here are some more examples of using the concepts up and down while being silly with your children.

  • Farm animals and a barn. You model.  “Pig marches “up, “up” “up” the barn, “Fall down”
  • Cars and a car ramp.  You model, “Car goes up and car goes down”
  • Lift your child up in the air, say the word “up” over and over again. Lift your child up with your feet or knees while lying with your back in the floor. Repeat the words, “up” and “down”. Pause before you lift your child, and look with anticipation at your child.

Things to Remember

Remember it is important that you pause only to the point at which you give the child time to process a communication attempt, not to the point of a power struggle… then MODEL the expected response, and continue the activity.

Once you get the hang of it, change the language concepts and continue to facilitate communication during these and other every day routines.

TeriLynam-220Teri Lynam is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist with ten years of experience working in the field of communication disorders. She has a special interest in early language, literacy development, acquired brain injury, motor speech and resonance disorders. Teri is committed to providing individualized family-centered therapy in a fun and supportive environment.

Autism Awareness

shutterstock_173517206As Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, it is the perfect time to encourage ongoing understanding and insight into autism the whole year through. World Autism Awareness Day was April 2nd and support was clear all around the world. This included everything from large structures lit up in blue to community school events.

With the growing awareness of autism around the world, comes the challenging task of  understanding autism, which is a complex journey due to varied definitions, changing criteria and new research findings.


The definition, according to Autism Ontario, is: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a life-long neurological disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to the people and world around them. ASD can affect behavior, social interactions, and one’s ability to communicate verbally. ASD is a spectrum disorder, which means that while all people with ASD will experience certain difficulties, the degree to which each person on the spectrum experiences these challenges will be different.

The definition put forth by the Autism Society is: Generally speaking, individuals with ASDs have varying degrees of difficulty in social interaction and communication and may show repetitive behaviours and have unusual attachments to objects or routines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer the following definition: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less. A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.


I recently read a book called Autism Breakthrough which really resonated with me. According to author Raun Kaufmann: “autism is not a behavioral disorder where we have to stamp out the autistic behaviors and train in the other behaviors. Autism is rather a social relational disorder. It’s basically a difficulty in all of these kids – whether they’re old or young, verbal or not verbal – in creating interpersonal relationships and communicating with people and relating to people.

Recent research from the University of Columbia has raised the idea that there are in fact many types of autism due to various gene mutations, and that no two autisms are exactly alike.

Research on autism is extensive and one could easily spend hours reading up on changes in prevalence, risk factors, diet modifications, treatment approaches, etc. As a Speech-Language Pathologist who works with children on the autism spectrum, as well as a mother of child with a diagnosis, the information out there is educational and stimulating; however, ultimately our work focuses on treating children based on their individual needs. Treatment may focus on one particular area or incorporate various domains ranging from verbal expression, motor speech, understanding of language, following directions, social communication and alternative/augmentative communication. This list is by no means an all-inclusive, and typical speech-language assessment and treatment planning will begin by identifying the main parental concerns related to speech, language and/or communication, and then developing goals based on the individual child’s strengths and weaknesses.

AmandaBrown-220Amanda Brown is a Speech-Language Pathologist with 7 years of experience providing assessment and treatment to clients both in clinic and community settings. Amanda enjoys working with clients of all ages with speech, language, cognitive-communication, and feeding/swallowing difficulties. Amanda applies a strong client-centred approach to her therapy, balanced with family/team collaboration.