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!


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.


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.


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.

Healing Through Music and the Power of Song to Promote Recovery of Language Function

The Power of Music

As discussed in the article shared from Harvard earlier this week, music has positive medical benefits for depression and anxiety related to invasive procedures; reduces side effects of cancer therapy; helps with pain relief; and improves quality of life for people suffering from dementia. What’s more, music can help to restore lost speech. These are some of the many ways people experience healing through music.

The Harvard U article indicated that “…music therapy can help people who are recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech. Because singing ability originates in the right side of the brain, people can work around the injury to the left side of their brain by first singing their thoughts and then gradually dropping the melody…”

Healing Through Music in Speech Therapy

Melodic Intonation therapy was developed by Robert Sparks in Boston at MIT. This approach takes advantage of the brains right-sided processing of music to tap into remaining strengths following left-sided brain damage. By using song in sessions, therapists are able to bring out words and phrases that were otherwise “lost”. Helping clients to find these lost words and phrases is empowering! This approach was designed to help with aphasia – a disorder of language function.

Many clients who have arrived to their session depressed have left with big smiles on their faces after singing and getting words out through song. They appear to experience healing through music before my eyes. For some, this was the first time that they produced entire sentences. The sense of hope, progress and well-being should be measured, just like other therapeutic outcomes as these outcomes are equally important.

Healing Through Music for Clients with Speech Difficulties

Many clients with speech disorders (e.g. from stroke, ABI, or progressive conditions like MS or Parkinson’s Disease) have trouble changing their pitch when speaking which results in a flat monotone voice. This makes it hard to interpret the meaning of what they are saying (e.g. is he or she being sarcastic?) In my experience, use of song has provided a way to increase the range of pitches used in speech and has made the person’s meaning more recognizable. This is yet another way client’s experience healing through music.

Do you know anyone that has benefitted from musical approaches within speech therapy? We would love to hear your story.

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.

Speech Melodies Music Program is a Success!

“Yee-Haw!” shouts Matthew. “Go,” signs Jenny.  Jessica choses the bells over the shaker eggs. These are all communication skills that some of the children have shown in our new Speech Melodies music program.

Recently, we created a new partnership with Suzie Sunshine and launched, “Speech Melodies,” an interactive, therapeutic music program leading the way to better communication.

The Speech Melodies music program was such a success for the children in our group that I just couldn’t wait to share how the group gave these children the chance to sing, dance, play, laugh, drum and communicate with each other. Miss Suzie and I always have sore cheeks from smiling and seeing these children beam with such joy once the music gets started. Some of the kids sit in the circle and immediately begin tapping their legs creating a beat to the anticipated ‘Hello Song’, which sings the name of every child in the group.

We were thrilled to see how one child grew to interact, sit on the carpet, take turns with peers, verbally request an item, strum the ukulele, tap the xylophone, create a beat on a drum and fill in words or a gesture to a song.  The child’s skills got better each week making this child now an active participant in the group. What an accomplishment for this little kiddo.

What is the Speech Melodies music program?

The Speech Melodies music program is run by a Speech Language Pathologist and an Early Childhood Music Educator, Suzie Sunshine.  Each group is designed to have a maximum of 5 children. Children with communication challenges will benefit from the small group setting to express themselves to peers in a supported and engaging environment.  While these children are practicing and developing their communication skills, the group also provides them an opportunity to work on their movement and coordination, listening awareness, social interaction and overall communication confidence. Each group is designed with specific speech and language goals. For example, in one group, similar aged children are all working on early communication language skills, whereas another group has been designed to work on the children’s clarity of speech. The Speech Melodies music program is designed to switch between music, song, instruments, and language activities specific to the group’s speech and language targets.

Why the Speech Melodies music program was created

The Speech Melodies music program was created after a few Speech Language Pathologists were talking about how much we sing in our sessions to help develop communication skills.  For some children on my caseload, I was able to get at least 50% more cooperation if I was singing. And little did these children realize, they were interacting and communicating with me while having fun. I started singing in my sessions to demonstrate a strategy I always suggest to parents to encourage vocal productions and words or gestures through any song with actions (e.g. Itsy Bitsy Spider). Pausing and allowing the child to fill in either the gesture or word within the song allows the child a chance to participate in a predictable language routine. I am sure these kids are also proud to show their parents that they can sing too!  From Miss Suzie’s experience, the gift of music gives the children a chance to imitate and echo words or rhythm patterns which improves social interaction, attention and listening awareness. Merging the joy of teaching speech and language skills and music, only made sense to everyone here at S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks and Suzie Sunshine.

To find out if your child would benefit from the Speech Melodies music program or to find out how to register for a group, contact us today!

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.


So winter is here and I’m sure you are all busy shopping and getting ready for the holidays! This is the best time of year for speech and language therapy in my opinion! I often get asked, “What can I do with my kids during the Christmas break?”  Everything about winter is exciting for children; the snow, the holidays, hot chocolate and tobogganing.  There are so many fun things to talk about, but few things are more exciting than a snowman!

Here are few activities to do during the Christmas break that are meant for wintertime learning!


Expressive & Receptive  Sequencing

Tell or read the story of Frosty the Snowman. Christmas break is a great time to read this famous story to your kids. Ask your child to retell the story in their own words, or ask them questions about the story such as, “what made the snowman come to life?”

Bring a hat and have the children pretend they are coming to life, just like the snowman. This activity is adaptable for children with varying levels of expressive language goals. For children with limited abilities, use word strips (see below) and carrier phrases to help. A child with more advanced goals will be able to come up with their own phrases and ideas after your model.

I am a snowman, I am…..



Made of Snow


I am a snowman, I have…..

A carrot nose

Coal buttons

Three snowballs

A hat

A scarf

Stick arms

Talk about how to make a snowman with your child. This is great for children working on expressive language skills, and is also great for sequencing. “First, you take a large ball of snow for the bottom. Next you roll a medium sized ball of snow for the middle, and then a small ball of snow for the head” and so on.  You can further have the child draw a snowman and colour the nose, scarf, and hat after you talk about the steps.

Now it’s time to put those expressive language skills into action! Your child will have a great time building their own snowman. This activity is easy to tailor to their goals. First you can show them how to make a snowman while modeling desired expressive language or sequencing goal. Then they can show you while using their language skills.

Hands On Activity for Descriptive Language

Get a large bowl and fill it with snow from outside, or blend ice cubes in the blender until it looks and feels like snow.  From here the therapy outcomes are endless!

Build a tiny snowman, right there in your kitchen! Have the child play in it, just like they would with sand and describe how it feels. (You might need to use a cookie sheet and have towels close by).

Hide little toys in it and ask them to search for them, using carrier phrases such as “I found a car” or “I found an eraser.”

This is a fun and memorable activity! If you are aren’t up for bringing the snow inside then get all bundled-up and head outside!

Speech Practice

Use the snowman drawing as reinforcement for targeted sounds.  For example, if your child says the targeted sound at the phoneme, word, phrase or sentence level 10 times, they get to begin to draw a snowman.

Read the Frosty the Snowman book or tell the story aloud. As you do, intermittently mispronounce the student’s target sound. When your child “catches” you, he or she can ring a bell.

Using the snow idea above, have your child sculpt the target sound from the snow, then practice saying it.

Get a large scarf and lay it out flat on the kitchen table. Place picture or word cards inside the scarf as you fold it up like an accordion. The scarf will be full of words, and gently hand it to your child. As your child slowly unwraps the scarf one fold at a time, he/she can use ta carrier phrase “I found a ____in the scarf.” This activity can be tailored to your child’s goals, but is especially great for children working on sounds in phrases or sentences.


Lego Lego Lego Time!

Who doesn’t love Lego?! Nowadays, girls and boys have fun with Lego! Christmas break is a great time to have fun with Lego! If your kids love Lego just as much as the kids I know you will definitely enjoy this activity! You can make Lego pieces out of Jell-O by purchases Lego ice cubes trays from your local craft store, Walmart or online. When you have completed the activities below your kids can enjoy a special treat and eat them too! If you can’t find the trays you can do most of the activities listed below with regular Lego pieces and still have fun!

Sort Lego by Colour and Shape

The children can be taught the colours of the Legos and then teach others how to sort them.

Teach Same Vs. Different

Teach your children to describe the blocks and decide which 2 or more blocks have the same or different features. The key feature that differentiates the blocks from each other would be the shape, size and colours.

Teach Adjectives

Describe the Lego’s by talking about their colours, size, shape, how they smell and feel.

Teach Verbs & Verb Tenses

If you make the Jell-O you can introduce the following verbs:

  • Stir, pour, mix, liquefy, spill, separate,      stirring/stirred, poured/pouring

Teach Prepositions

Make a mountain with the Legos and then ask your child to follow directions such as, “Place the robot….”

  • On top of the mountain, beside the      mountain, below the mountain, jump over the mountain

Teach Adverbs

Quickly, slowly, gently

Follow 1 or 2 Step Directions

Mix up the shapes and then pour them out. Have your children:

  • Give you different colours, sizes, or amounts of bricks
  • Stack specific bricks in certain ways
  • Put certain bricks in front of or behind or to the side of each other (works as a preposition activity at the same time)


Your child can help describe the steps that you needed to do to make the Jell-O. You can further take this activity and teach concepts such as, “First, Next and Last” or asking Wh-questions.


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.