I think my child needs help with speech and language – What should I do?

May is Speech and Hearing month and there’s no better way to celebrate than to offer $20 screenings! S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks is offering $20 speech and language screenings for the entire month of May. You can call us today to book yours now!

WHY SHOULD I HAVE MY CHILD CHECKED?

Speech and language development is important for learning, literacy, and communicating with others. Early assessment and treatment of speech and language difficulties makes a big difference in a child’s prognosis for improvement.

Speech and Language screenings are a helpful tool used to determine if a child is developing within the “average” range when compared to other children his or her age. Screening tests identify areas that may need further assessment and are an important part of increasing your awareness of your child’s needs, strengths, and weaknesses.

WHAT DOES THE SPEECH AND LANGUAGE SCREENING INCLUDE?

At Speechworks, our speech and language screenings will look at the following areas of your child’s language:

  • Comprehension
  • Verbal expression
  • Articulation and Phonology (speech sounds and processing of speech sound patterns)
  • Early Literacy
  • Voice
  • Resonance
  • Social Language Skills
  • Fluency (stuttering)

Screenings are performed through play activities; discussion with parents, and observations made during the session. Screenings are completed in approximately 15-20 minutes.

What Happens If My Child Does Not Pass the Screening?

Depending on the difficulties noted by the SLP, you may be provided with strategies and tips to work on at home with your child, with follow up recommended in a month or so. If your child has notable difficulties that are not developmental in nature, then further assessment and evaluation will be recommended to develop a plan for treatment.

Visit our website for more details about our services or call us to book your child’s speech and language screening today!

Linda Saarenvirta is a speech-language pathologist who has been practicing for over 20 years in the healthcare field.  She has worked with a variety of communication disorders and clients of all ages.  She is extremely passionate about voice therapy and enjoys helping clients achieve their vocal needs.  Her client centered approach to therapy ensures all clients maximize their potential and achieve their goals.

 

Difficulties with Social Skills and Autism

Throughout my career as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I have always had an interest in the role that social skills play in the social, emotional and academic successes of children and teens.  Over time, I started seeing more and more people who struggled with social confidence and social skills. Most of these children and teens had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and some simply felt or been told that they didn’t do well in social situations. This is definitely a common challenge faced by all people with autism no matter what their language or cognitive skills. No two people will share the exact same pattern of difficulties with social skills. This is why autism is now commonly referred to as a spectrum disorder which represents a large range of abilities and difficulties found with those who have autism.

Difficulties with Social Skills Across the Ages

Preschool   

Most social difficulties for many children with autism can be identified in early childhood or even infancy. Some of the earliest signs are:

  • Limited eye contact
  • Responding to their name
  • Sharing attention
  • Difficulties with imitating

These above signs can become worse and children might shy away from social situations or avoid them all together. On the other hand, some signs may go undetected because they are similar to the behaviours seen in typically developing children going through the regular tantrums or being defiant.

School-Age

For children who are unable to access early social intervention, the problems tend to develop as their social demands increase. They often have limited play skills and show little interest in playing with friends. Or, if there is an interest in engaging with other children, they may not have the appropriate skills to:

  • Initiate play
  • Respond to the play invitations to other children
  • Or to learn play through observations of other children
  • Attempts at social interaction is immature

When they do have friends, their friends tend to be very accommodating children who adjust to their need to control play. Difficulties with social skills and maintaining friendships as they get older can be very challenging given that typical children become less accepting of the one-sided nature of these friendships.

Teens

As children with autism age and move into high school, they continue to have difficulties with social skills and are likely to feel isolated from their peers. Schools often try to create an environment for acceptance and inclusion to help increase the potential for friendships. Often those who have high language abilities may have great self-awareness of their differences and a greater motivation to want to fit in. But, that being said, teens by this point may have faced social rejection and are more comfortable communicating with adults who encourage them in their specific interests or spend more time on their own.

What can you do to help someone with difficulties with social skills?

There are many different social skills interventions out there such as, video modeling, social stories and activity-based intervention to name a few. Cognitive Behavioural Training (CBT) can be used in teaching social skills, which involves increasing knowledge about the social world and at the same time increasing awareness of thoughts and feelings. One specific type of CBT is Social Thinking!

What is Social Thinking?

Social Thinking is what we do when we interact with people.  The Social Thinking approach (based on the work of Michelle Garcia Winner) focusses on helping individuals think strategically in social situations. It helps them to observe and consider their own and others’ thoughts and feelings.  It bridges the connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviours, paving the way for social skills that can apply to many situations.

Social Thinking also sheds light on academics; children who struggle in conversation, struggle to understand literature – not due to a lack of core skills in reading fluency and decoding – but rather, in perspective taking. Its main focus is on teaching individuals to think about how others perceive them.

When individuals are unable to interpret others’ perspectives, they may struggle with developing meaningful relationships. Social Thinking breaks down social concepts so that we can convey them in ways that are practical and logical.

Social Thinking is a language-based approach for individuals with social learning disabilities, not just specific to individuals with autism but anyone that may have ADD, ADHD, Nonverbal Learning Disabilities and/or Language Disabilities, ages 4 years through to adulthood.

For more information on Social Thinking or if you are interested in programming using Social Thinking contact us today about our March Break/Summer Camps or individual sessions!

AmyWebAmy Grossi is a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, practicing for over 10 years. Amy enjoys the area of early language, literacy development, apraxia and fluency. She has a passion for working with children with multiple developmental needs and implementing creative and interactive treatment sessions.

Using Visual Schedules with Your Child

What are visual schedules?

Visual schedules use a series of pictures to communicate a series of activities or the steps of a specific activity. They are often used to help children understand and manage the daily events in their lives. They can be created using pictures, photographs, or written words, depending upon the ability of the child.

Who uses visual schedules?

Visual schedules can be used with any child; however those children who are visual learners will benefit most from it.  Visual schedules are used frequently with children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Why should I use visual schedules with my child?

There are many benefits to using visual schedules including:

  • Allowing child to see what is coming next in the routine
  • Decreasing challenging behaviours
  • Making transitions smoother
  • Promoting independence
  • Increasing receptive and expressive communication
  • Is a great reminder of verbal directions given

How to make visual schedules:

Materials:

  • Scissors
  • glue stick
  • Bristol board
  • Velcro
  • pictures (can be created with a camera or on a computer depending on the level of the child)
  • Pen/marker to label the picture (if not creating them on the computer),
  • laminating paper (mactac)

Instructions:

  1. Gather materials listed above.
  2. Choose pictures for the schedule you wish to create. Create them using a computer or real life objects (depending on the stage your child is at).
  3. Cut pictures and pieces of Bristol board the same size
  4. Glue the pictures on Bristol board squares or simply laminate for durability.
  5. Velcro pieces of Velcro on the back of every picture. Be sure to use the same type of Velcro on all your pictures so the opposite type of Velcro will be on your board. If you are creating a permanent schedule then simply glue the pictures on the Bristol board strip that is created in the next step.
  6. Create a strip to hold the schedule. Cut out Bristol  board long enough to hold all the pictures for the block of time you are creating a schedule. For example, you may be creating a schedule for an entire day or just for one routine, such as brushing your teeth.
  7. You may create a pocket at the bottom/end that represents “all done” for removable pictures.
  8. Velcro the pictures to the schedule in the order they will occur.

How to use visual schedules

Teach your child how to use the schedule by explaining and modeling how to use the pictures. As you move through the schedule you can remove the picture from the schedule, and place it in the pocket with the words “all done” on it. Keep the schedule located in a convenient place at the child’s eye level, to promote consistent use. Use the schedule as part of your daily routine.

When you first start to use the visual schedule, an adult will need to go through the schedule daily with the child.  Once the child becomes comfortable with the routine they can go through the schedule on their own.

Create your own visual schedule and watch your child’s independence, self -esteem and communication blossom!

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.

How Music Helps Language and Literacy

There are lots of ways you can enrich your child’s language and literacy skills. Music is one of them. It is hard to deny that children love music. So it will be easy to boost your child’s language and literacy development by engaging them in any kind of music. Here are some ways to promote language and literacy skills through music.

How music helps language skills

Songs introduce new words and concepts to children. For example, basic concepts such as ‘in’ and ‘out’ displayed in the action song, “Hokey Pokey,” (i.e. you put your right hand in and you take your right hand out) are taught by pairing it with the actions. I encourage you to have some fun with the song and sing it when putting on your child’s winter gear. Here are some examples:

  • As you are putting on their jacket you can sing, “You put your right hand in; you put your right hand out; you put your right hand in and you shake it all about; you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around that’s what it’s all about!”
  • As you are putting on snow pants, “you put your left leg in; you put your left leg out….
  • As you are putting on boots, “you put you right foot in and you put your right foot out…

Tip: Always offer your child a turn to participate in the song by saying or pointing to which item to put on next (e.g. “boots or hat”?)

Now that your child understands the concepts, “in” and “out”, you can introduce new vocabulary. One idea is to change the words of the song, ‘Hokey Pokey’ from using body parts to vehicles. For example, “Put the red car in, take the red car out, then a blue truck, yellow airplane, green train etc. Repeat the song and use it again while playing with a toy garage or for the dads in the group, the real thing. Move the car in and out of the garage while singing the song with the new vocabulary. All it takes is a little creativity to a well-rehearsed tune and the opportunity to use music to introduce new vocabulary will provide endless fun for your child.

How music helps literacy skills

Another opportunity to teach language and literacy skills as you children get a bit older is through song books. Song books put the lyrics of the song to text. Using a song book allows children to sing along to their favourite song while using their finger to follow along in the book. You can model this technique to your child first by pointing to the words as they sing than you sing and they point to the words. At first, you can always assist them by guiding their hand. Songs repeat words and create predictability similar to the song books. The repetition of the words will be repeated in print form which allows children the ability to learn new vocabulary. Some song books include, “Wheels on the Bus”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.”

Children can learn rhyming patterns and sound patterns through the songs. Singing provides them with the opportunity to learn how to manipulate word and letter patterns. As research illustrates, it is these rhyming patterns in songs that will help your child develop decoding skills.

Tip: Try singing songs that allow your child to not only listen to the words that rhyme but also to generate words that rhyme. For example, one song which allows for a bunch of giggles while creating rhymes is the song, “Down by the Bay.” Check out this website for a list of more songs that promote the recognition and production of rhymes.

Did you know? We offer a music group aimed at promoting language skills for 2-3 and 3-4 year olds? Click here to find out more about our Speech Melodies program!

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.

Singing and Language: How to help build language at home through song

SINGING IS AN ESSENTIAL TOOL TO PROMOTE LANGUAGE SKILLS

As a speech-language pathologist working with toddlers and children who have speech and language delays, I am constantly looking for one more tool that will help children develop their language and communication skills while having fun at the same time.  I have found that singing and language are a perfect pair! I have seen how well children respond to singing and how their vocabulary and language grow through song.  Singing and language development are even supported in research. It shows that signing songs with babies and toddlers enhances vocabulary, language development and helps develop literacy skills.

Whether a child is developing typically or showing delays, music can be used at any age to enhance speech and language skills. It doesn’t matter to your child if you can’t sing well as your baby will enjoy your singing and develop his language skills at the same time. You can use singing and language anywhere and anytime, building singing into all of your daily routines.

WHEN SHOULD I SING?

Any time is a good time to add singing and language into your daily routine with your baby or toddler. Take advantage of daily routines as daily routines happen regularly and can provide many opportunities for your child to hear the lyrics in the songs and see the actions over and over again.

Examples of daily routines are bath time, mealtime, getting dressed, getting in the car, cleaning up toys, etc.  Using singing and language during routines can also make a less desirable routine more enjoyable for babies/toddlers.

HOW TO USE SINGING AND LANGUAGE AT HOME 

Here are some great tips for using singing and language with your child:

  • FACE YOUR CHILD – Whenever possible try to sit face to face with your child. This makes it easier for your child to make eye contact with you and see your facial expressions, words and actions in the songs.
  • SLOW DOWN – Your child will have an easier time learning the words and copying the actions when you take your time and slow down.
  • REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! – Sing the song over and over again with your child. This will help him learn new words while having fun at the same time. The repetition will help him to understand the meaning of the words.  Children love hearing songs over and over again.
  • PARTICIPATION – Make sure you have your baby participate – This will depend on your child’s age and stage of development. It can be as simple as eye contact, a facial expression, a sound, banging on a drum, filling in with a word and/or copying the actions.
  • PAUSE AND WAIT to give him the opportunity to participate in a predicable language routine. To help your child know when to take his turn in the song you can pause and wait during certain parts of the song. When singing with babies/toddlers, I like to pause at the end of the line of music. You can pause before you say the last word and see if they fill it in. For example, when singing “The Wheels on the Bus” you can pause before saying “town” and see if they fill in the word. I like to look expectantly and lean in while I am waiting so they know it is their turn to fill in that part of the song. If I have waited for 5-6 seconds and they have not filled it in I will fill it in for them and try again the next time. They may start to copy an action in the song before they fill in a word such as actions for “round and round”, “beep beep” and “up and down” during the “Wheels on the bus” song.

TIPS WHEN CHOOSING SONGS

  • Keep it simple and choose songs that are repetitive
  • When singing, be sure to pick songs with actions or make up some simple actions that go along with the song
  • Make up songs that involve your child’s interests or that you can sing during your daily routines
  • Put new or important words at the end of the lines in the song – this will make these words stand out, and make it easier for your child to try to sing these words
  • Be sure you let your child participate through eye contact, facial expressions, actions, sounds or word approximations and words
  • Most importantly HAVE FUN!

LIST OF SONGS TO GET YOU STARTED

  • Body parts – Head Shoulders, Knees and Toes, If you are Happy and you Know it, Where is Thumbkin
  • Animals – Going on a  bear hunt, Old McDonald, Down by the Bay, Farmer in the Dell
  • CountingFive little Ducks, Five Green and Speckled Frogs, Ants go Marching, Five Little Monkeys

Did you know? We offer a music group aimed at promoting language skills for 2-3 and 3-4 year olds! Click here to find out more about our Speech Melodies program!

CarrieWebCarrie Rosler is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist who has been practicing pediatric speech pathology for over 14 years. Carrie is committed to providing individualized family-centered therapy in a fun and supportive environment. Carrie has a special interest in Motor Speech Disorders and Auditory Verbal Therapy.