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.

 

Group Therapy: The Intangible Benefits for Acquired Brain Injury

Friendships after Acquired Brain Injury

Nancy, Felix, Ted and Alex* shared more than their acquired brain injuries. They were all isolated from friends after their acquired brain injuries. Socializing was too much work. Friends didn’t understand. Friends stopped calling. It was hard to initiate a conversation with someone new. We heard the stories again and again. They were different faces, but the same stories. They all attended group therapy to help with their communication disorders.

After Group Therapy

We heard new stories: “Group is one of my most important appointments”, “When is the next one?”, “It was really great”, “Do you have Ted’s number?”, “She inspired me because if she could do all that with all her physical problems on top of her brain injury, and with a kid, then I can do it too.”

Our clients establish a new sense-of-self linked with renewed abilities to interact successfully with peers. We have seen so many positive changes in our clients. They have developed relationships with each other outside of sessions. Clients meet before or after sessions to continue the relationships that began in the sessions. Recently Felix (an extremely shy person since his acquired brain injury) participated in a presentation that was made possible through a relationship formed through group. The other group member inspired and encouraged Felix to get involved. Ted obtained a bus pass for the first time ever, as a direct result of wanting to attend group independently. This goal was not one that Ted had ever expressed before. Alex plays in a band and now Nancy has become inspired to try to play guitar again, “Alex is really good and he learned after his brain injury”.

Group Therapy offers more than just Practice

Friendships aren’t made overnight and having an acquired brain injury can make that dynamic even harder. Group therapy helps build confidence by allowing clients to practice important skills in a safer environment, and provides emotional support by way of a client realizing that he or she is not alone. The skills to make and maintain relationships are practiced, but there is So. Much. More.

Do you need some help getting back into socializing? If so, check out our groups online, or call us to discuss your individual needs. We would love to hear your story and see which of our groups is the best fit for you.

*names and some details have been changed to protect our clients’ identities

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.

 

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.

I’ve had voice loss for 2 weeks! What Can I do?

Losing your voice can be a scary thing.  Voice loss or laryngitis happens when your vocal cords become inflamed from overuse, infection, or irritation.  If you’re wondering about the severity of your voice loss, the Mayo Clinic has excellent information on symptoms and causes.

If you experience voice loss (laryngitis) for 2 weeks or longer, you should seek medical advice from an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT) to examine the cause of the persistent voice loss.

Short-Term Tips for Managing Your Voice Loss

Below are some tips to help reduce the strain associated with voice loss while awaiting your appointment with the ENT:

  • Vocal rest- try not to use your voice as much as you typically do, however, do not whisper as that can be more harmful than shouting.
  • Avoid calling out and yelling- walk to the person who you are talking to
  • Drink lots of water- keep hydrated
  • Manuka honey and ginger are great for the voice and soothing to have when the voice is not at its best.
  • Avoid singing and throat clearing as they can be harmful to the voice when it is already in a weakened state.

What if the ENT recommends speech therapy for the voice loss?

If speech therapy is recommended for the voice loss, you will be referred directly to a qualified speech pathologist with experience in voice disorders.  The speech pathologist will complete an assessment and set goals to get your voice back on track.

Exercises may focus on the following areas depending on your specific type of voice loss:

  • Reduction of tension in the larynx (area where the vocal cords are housed)
  • Improving the tone of the voice (may sound rough, raspy, hoarse when you are experiencing voice loss)
  • Improving the pitch of the voice (how high or low the voice is)
  • Altering diet to reduce symptoms of acid reflux
  • Reducing hard contacts of the vocal cords when voicing, so that the voice starts easily and gently
  • Relaxation exercises to help alleviate stress and strain

How long will it take to improve my voice loss?

Everyone is different with respect to their vocal use and musculature, so it is tricky to put an exact time frame to the therapy.  Typically you will see vocal improvements in 6-10 sessions; you may need some maintenance sessions to keep up with the new strategies and improved way of using your voice.

At SpeechWorks, we have a fully equipped voice lab with videostrobscopy analysis to view your vocal cords when you are speaking and computer equipment that allows us to track your progress in therapy.  Call us or check out our voice lab for more information! We would be happy to help you with your vocal needs.

LindaSaarenvirta-220Linda 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.

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.