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 Can I Help Pay for Speech Therapy?

It can be a scary and confusing time when you or a loved one is dealing with a chronic illness such as stroke, brain injury, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease.

The lack of publicly funded rehabilitation for the difficulties that come along with these illnesses can leave families feeling desperate and wondering who will help foot the bill for the therapies they or their loved ones need to recover.

In a cruel twist of fate, these illnesses often occur at a time in life when people are now needing to live on reduced income (e.g. retired and on pensions).

Take a closer look at your extended health benefits

Although most people know that services like physiotherapy and massage therapy are covered by the extended health benefits provided by their insurer, they often don’t realize that these benefits often include coverage that can help pay for speech therapy as well.

Typically this coverage is listed under the Medical Rehabilitation section of your policy. It may include a lump sum per calendar year (e.g. coverage up to $500 per calendar year) or a maximum amount covered per therapy session (e.g. coverage up to $100 per session).

If it’s unclear what is covered in your policy, a quick call to your insurer can answer many of your questions.

Think outside the box

Many insurance policies offer a maximum amount covered per year per claimant. This means that you and your spouse could BOTH be entitled to that amount of coverage.

Speech therapy sessions for you or your spouse can often include a component of caregiver/spouse training. This is where the speech therapist teaches you how to target the skill area so that you can practice with your partner at home in order to help carryover the skills learned in the therapy session.

What this means is that, if your case fits the criteria, part of the session can be billed/claimed for your spouse/caregiver and part of the session can be billed/claimed for you – extending the amount of coverage you can access to help pay for speech therapy

Stick it to “the man”

Just because the government doesn’t always fund these health services through OHIP doesn’t mean that you can’t get some assistance from the government to help pay for speech therapy

If you are receiving speech therapy for a chronic medical condition (e.g. brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, etc.), you may be eligible for a Disability Tax Credit.

Visit the CRA website at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/316/pply-eng.html for more information on eligibility and how to apply.

Take Advantage of Assistants

Communicative Disorders Assistants (CDAs) can work under the direction of a speech therapist to provide treatment to you or your loved one and are a lower cost alternative to treatment with a speech therapist.

However, CDA services are not appropriate for all clients and candidacy for these services is determined by a Speech-Language Pathologist. A speech therapist would still need to complete sessions with you or your loved one at regular intervals to monitor progress and make recommendations.

Consider Creative Alternatives to Help Pay for Speech Therapy

Although nothing can replace the benefits you or your loved one would receive from one-to-one treatment with a speech therapist, there are other alternatives to receive some level of help.

Group therapy, such as our brain injury groups, where people working on similar difficulties can receive therapy together, is one option to consider as the cost of a session could be shared with the other individual(s). Support-Focused groups can also be a more affordable alternative, such as the supported communication group offered by our clinic for adults with brain based communication impairments (e.g. stroke, dysarthria, brain injury, etc.).

Again, the caveat here is that there is less “treatment” going on in these larger group scenarios, so the gains made by you or your loved one will not be as great as if receiving individual therapy. That being noted, there is much to be said about the benefit of practicing communication skills with others in more natural contexts!

Although it may be frustrating to consider the lack of OHIP funded therapy, no matter what your situation, there is often a creative solution to help you provide for you or your loved one’s needs!

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.

A student’s experience of a group for acquired brain injury

As an intern at S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks, I have witnessed the powerful role group treatment can play in a person’s recovery from a brain injury.  The SpeechWorks’ group for acquired brain injury provides opportunities for members to relate to one another, receive feedback from a trusted Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), build communicative confidence, and practice their communication goals in a safe setting. I value the work being done in these groups and I hope the following blog post will provide you with a small glimpse into a typical group therapy session at S.L Hunter SpeechWorks.

All about a Group for Acquired Brain Injury – Checking In

“Let’s begin with our check in,” Bobi, the group’s SLP announces. A circular chart filled with emotion words is passed out. “I’ll begin,” chimes a group member. The group’s attention turns towards this member. She glances at the chart and begins to state the emotions that fit her current circumstances. “I’m upset but also thankful,” she explains. As the member begins to expand on the hardships and joys of her past week, other members smile and nod in agreement as if to say, “I’ve been there too.” As the check in continues, I am struck by the comfort group members are able to bring to each other. When a member expresses concern, others are quick to relate by sharing a personal story that caused them to have the same feelings. This group for acquired brain injury is more than just a source of emotional support – it offered the members a chance to work on goals that could carry over to conversation with others.

As check in continues, another group member begins to express her feelings of frustration. I watch as the SLP listens attentively before asking, “Why do you think your brother reacted that way?” While the member considers the question, I reflect on the SLP’s ability to ask questions that require each member to carefully work through their personal goals such as the ability to take another person’s perspective. After the member responds to the question, the SLP responds with encouragement, “You did a really good job taking your brother’s perspective there.” I notice how the SLP’s encouragement provides this member with feedback specific to her goal of being able to take another person’s perspective. I am amazed by the progress I see occurring in such a natural conversation.

After the check in period concludes, the SLP leads the group through a discussion of non-verbal communications. During this time, group members share their own experience and knowledge regarding this topic. In addition to learning how to interpret non-verbal communication, I notice how each member appears to be building confidence in their communication skills. I watch as members who first appeared to be hesitant in the group begin to participate with greater ease. This group for acquired brain injury appeared to build confidence of its participants before my eyes.

A Safe and Supportive Environment

As the group begins to near an end and members fit in their final stories or discussion points for the day, I reflect on the group’s safe environment. Each member has communication goals and therefore no member needs to feel singled out by the challenges they face. Because of the safe environment, I notice how members are able to receive feedback from both the SLP and each other without any feelings of embarrassment. This group for acquired brain injury definitely offered emotional support!

Although the group has ended, I notice members are staying behind to continue their conversations. I hear laughter echoing through the hallways as I walk further away from the room. After attending just one session, I can already identify a strong sense of community within this group.

We offer groups for our own clients as well as those working with SLPs from other agencies. Please click here for more information on our communication groups for people who have survived ABI.

Grad PictureRebecca is a recent graduate from the Speech-Language Pathology Program at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through her internships, she has gained experience working with toddlers, school aged children, and adults with a variety of communication disorders. While Rebecca enjoys working with kids and adults, she has a special interest in working with kids who have language disorders.

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.

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.