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.

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


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.


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.


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.


  • 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!


  • 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.


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.

Raising Bilingual or Multilingual Children: What’s “Normal” and What’s Not?

Statistics Canada states that 11.9 % of the population speaks a language other than English or French at home. There are many benefits to raising bilingual children, but the question that often comes up is: How do I do it?

How do children learn two languages?

  • Two at once – this is when a child is exposed to both languages from birth or before age 3. Until about age 3, the child will use elements of both languages at once.
  • One after the other – this is when a child learns the second language after age 3, (when first language has already been learned).   Children will likely imitate and memorize short phrases or sentences in their second language before they start to create their own.

Don’t Worry!

There are some worries or concerns that parents might have about trying to teach their children more than one language, but they are not the case.

  • Bilingualism does not cause a language delay!
  • It is not necessary for a child (or adult) to be equally as fluent in each language

Also, some things parents may observe while raising bilingual or multilingual children can make them feel concerned that they’ve made the wrong decision; but, not to worry! They are really just a normal part of developing multiple languages:

  • A child learning more than one language may say their first word later than a child who is only learning one
  • A child learning a second language after the first might go through a period where they only use their first language even though they’ve been exposed to the second
  • A child learning a second language after their first also might go through a ‘silent period.’  Younger children may stay in this phase for longer and it could last several weeks to several months
  • A child learning more than one language will “code switch” or “code mix” by using sentences that have a mix of both languages

Red Flags for Language Difficulties in Bilingual Children

That being said, there are some things to watch for to make sure that your child is developing both of their languages well. If you notice any of the following, there may be cause for concern:

  • Child is not making the “p”, “b” or “m” sound by 2-6 months of age
  • At 6-15 months of age the child is using less than one new word per week
  • Less than 20 words (both languages combined) by 20 months
  • No word combinations (e.g. more juice) by 30 months of age
  • Child is not meeting developmental milestones in his/her first language
  • Imitation is echolalic (i.e. automatic “parroting” without thought/engagement)
  • Silent period is prolonged
  • Child is experiencing word finding difficulties

How Can I Make Learning Two Languages Easier for my Child?

One Parent, One Language

There are many suggestions about how to raise a bilingual child.  While studying second language acquisition at the University of Western Ontario, my professor suggested that parents employ the “one parent one language” strategy (each parent speaks a different language). I have made this suggestion to clients, friends and family, and have gotten positive feedback from them about how well it works.  I think the reason it worked so well is because one parent spoke English as his first language and the second parent spoke a different language as her first language.  Speaking your first language comes more naturally, so one language, one parent is likely more natural and comfortable.  If a parent is more comfortable or fluent in his first language he will then be providing a better (and likely more grammatically correct) model to his child – and we all know well that children learn the most from the models we give them!


One Parent, One Language is only one way to go about raising a bilingual child. Experts suggest that a child should be able to acquire two languages no matter how they are presented (both parents speak both languages, one language at home, one at school, etc.).  The key is CONSISTENCY!  You will likely be more consistent in establishing these patterns if it feels natural, so do what works best for you and your family.

If you are concerned about your child’s language acquisition, consult a speech language pathologist for more information!