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.

 

WHY IS PLAY IMPORTANT?

shutterstock_72711019Play for children is what we do and define as “work” as adults. Children begin to understand how the world works through play. If you ever take the time to watch a child play, you will see them concentrate, ooze with passion and show creative excitement.

Playing with your child is not only fun but it’s one of the most important ways you can nurture their development. There are no rules when it comes to play and you definitely don’t need fancy or expensive toys. You are your child’s favourite toy!

Every child is unique. Your child may have special skills or special needs. Follow your child’s lead. They will let you know what interests them. When they see the pleasures and delight you take in their discoveries, they will want to play more and more. You can benefit too! Begin spontaneous and having fun can relieve stress and create positive memories for both you and your child. Remember, when your child is engage and having fun, they are learning! Play is truly the work of childhood!

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Watch and Wait!

See what your child is trying to do. Provide just enough support for him to achieve his next step towards a new goal. You might bring an object your newborn is staring at closer so he can explore it with their hands. Or, you may encourage our toddler to try a different space where the puzzle piece might fit when they are getting frustrated.

Follow the Leader!

Some children love lots of bells and whistles, and others find a lot of noise overwhelming and prefer to explore with their eyes. Some crave lots of movement, rolling, crawling or jumping. Others are most interested in using their hands to figure out how a toy or object works. Follow their lead, and you’ll discover what kinds of activities are right for her.

CHOOSING A GOOD TOY FOR PLAY

Nowadays, parents will walk into the store and become overwhelmed by the video, computer games, and other electronic toys that claim to make babies smarter. Don’t be fooled by the “make your baby smarter” claims. There is no research that shows that these products boost a child’s brain power. In fact, bowls for filling and dumping, pillows for climbing or making a cave, and old clothing for dress up are great learning tools. Classics like blocks, dump trucks, stuffed animals, and objects that imitate, “real life” such as toy hammers and play kitchens are great for developing the imagination. And don’t forget about books! The more a child has to use his mind and body to problem solve and develop his own ideas, the more he learns.

Birth to 9 months

Toys that engage your baby’s sense, such as mobiles, rattles, chew toys and chunky board books. Toys that help him to learn cause and effect, such as pop-up toys and busy boxes.

Back and Forth

Coo and talk to your baby. You can imitate their sounds and wait for them to respond. Encourage them to copy you. Show them that pushing the button makes the toy dog bark or how they can turn the pages in a book.

Peek-a-boo

Try hiding behind your hands, a diaper or a onesie as you dress your baby. Early on, he may show their pleasure simply by paying close attention. Then they smiles, kick their legs and make sounds. By 9 months, they may pull your hands away from your face to “find” you.

9 to 18 months

Toys that imitate real life, such as plastic tools, play food and animal farms. Problem solving toys that help children learn how things fit together, such as shape sorters and nesting cups. Push and pull toys and balls also let toddlers move their active bodies.

Let’s Do It Again….and Again…and Again…

Through repetition, toddlers figure out how things fit together and work. They might fill and dump a pail over and over to learn about full and empty and in and out. They may want you to read the same book, and sing the same song, night after night. This kind of repetition helps children know what to expect. This gives them a sense of security and control over their world. It also helps them to master new skills, which boosts their self-confidence.

Busy Hands

Young Toddlers love to make things work. They use their hands and fingers for pushing buttons, opening boxes, and turning pages. This allows them to do everything from getting the music box to play their favourite song to exploring a treasured book. Many children also like to finger paint, colour, play with play dough or squeeze water out of a sponge.

18 to 36 months

Materials that help them use their hands to create, such as play dough, crayons, and finger paints. Objects that help children use their imaginations, such as dress-up clothes, action and animal figures, dolls, and stuffed animals.

Say it with Music

“Statue”, “Freeze”, and “Hokey-Pokey” are fun musical games. They offer opportunities to listen and follow directions. They also teach about words and sounds and allow children to move and exercise their bodies. Toy drums, tambourines and other instruments add to the fun.

Act it Out

Encourage fantasy play by providing dress-up clothes and other props. Use items like hats, scarves, backpacks, bowls and containers, music makers, and whatever else you and your child can find. Join the fun! Help them expand their ideas and learn about their thoughts and feelings as they act things out.

Children can learn so much through play. Play is also important because it involves you! Perhaps nothing is more essential and rewarding than the enjoyment your child experiences from the time spent playing with you!

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.

To Rest or Not To Rest: Mental Rest After Concussion

shutterstock_176789375Shake it off. Play through it. Tough it out. This used to be what young athletes everywhere would hear after taking a blow to the body or hit to the head. Thankfully, that is slowly changing as we realize that this is dangerous advice to be giving. We’re all well versed now in the importance of physical rest as part of concussion treatment. However, when home and “resting” you may be unknowingly doing some damage by engaging in some boredom-busting activities that could prolong your concussion recovery or lead to more permanent concussion symptoms.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

The importance of “mental rest” in addition to physical rest as a part of concussion treatment is starting to gain some momentum on the internet. “Mental rest” involves avoiding activities that stimulate the brain a lot, such as doing homework, reading, texting, playing videogames, and watching TV. The logic behind this is that avoiding these things helps save your “brain energy” to use for healing from the concussion rather than being used up on these activities. Health care providers have been starting to add this recommendation to their repertoire of concussion advice; however, a recent study indicates that we may be recommending too much of a good thing.

AVOID EXTREMES

Recent studies in Pediatrics (1, 2) provided some of the first real evidence that “mental rest” is, in fact, helpful during concussion recovery, BUT we need to be careful about how much. The study showed that people doing mild and moderate levels of mental activity recovered just the same as those doing nothing. It was only those who engaged in their full schedule of activities with no restrictions that struggled to recover as quickly and as fully. What this means is that doing absolutely nothing after a concussion isn’t going to make you heal any faster than if you thoughtfully re-engage in your normal activities – if anything, it will just make you fall farther behind in school and lead to increased boredom and restlessness at home.

RULE OF THUMB: EASE BACK IN

So, when it comes to “mental rest” after a concussion, just remember this general rule of thumb: Do as much as you can without triggering or worsening your symptoms. Do as little physical and mental activity as possible for the first 3-5 days, but after that, gradually increase your level of activity as you can. Take advantage of academic accommodations at school like having a note-taker, extended deadlines for assignments, and alternatives to test-taking. If you’re unsure what accommodations you need or how to arrange them, a Speech-Language Pathologist can help liaise with your school to set those in place for you. If symptoms persist beyond 3 months, a Speech-Language Pathologist can also help to come up with and put in place some strategies to help with the memory and thinking problems you may be experiencing that could be negatively impacting your school or work performance.

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.

Should I disclose my acquired brain injury? – Part 3

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BUT WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO BE TREATED DIFFERENTLY?

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.

5 ways to help develop your child’s reading skills

Children can begin developing the skills to prepare them for reading long before they are actually ready to learn how to read.

How Parents Can Help

Parents can ignite this course of development at home. One of the first steps in this process is to promote early language development and vocabulary, by naming objects and talking to your child about what he or she is doing. Another pre-reading activity is to point out pictures and words of interest in the environment (e.g. posters in play centres; stop signs).

It’s Never Too Early to Start!

Books can be introduced at any age! The focus does not have to be on reading. Simply turning the pages, looking at pictures, and hearing your vocal expressions and reactions will help evoke your child’s interest in reading material.

Taking it To the Next Level

Once you do begin reading stories, take time to pause the story and talk about the pictures as you go. Anticipate and predict what might be under the flap or on the next page. Finally, let your child take the lead in selecting books and expressing his or her interests. Beware…this may require reading the same book again and again, for what feels like an eternity. Just remember, you are doing it all to support your little one’s future reading skills.