Ideas to support summer speech development

May is better speech and hearing month! Here are some ideas to help your child practice his/her articulation and language skills over the summer.

  1. Read books aloud together
  • Listen for your child’s target sound and have him/her repeat words
  • Ask who, what, where, how, and why questions about the story
  • Ask your child to re-tell the story chapter focusing on event sequencing, main idea, and important details
  • Pick an object/idea from the story to describe (category, function, additional attributes, parts, location, materials, etc.
  1. Drawing pictures together
  • Have your child follow verbal directions using concepts like: first, before, big, small, purple, beside, around, middle, above, several, many, etc. (e.g. first draw a big blue house in the middle of the page, then draw a little yellow flower next to the house)
  • Look for objects within the picture with targeted speech sounds and repeat his/her words
  1. Field trip
  • Draw a map of your neighborhood/town and go on a “field trip”
  • Have your child sequence directions to get from one place to another
  • Follow his/her directions (even if they are incorrect) and see if your child can get to the correct place (this targets problem solving, directional skills, grammar, and descriptive skills)
  • Also have your child practice his/her targeted speech sounds when giving directions (if applicable)
  1. Cooking together
  • Choose a fun recipe to make with your child
  • Decide what supplies are needed, what steps need to be completed, and the order of steps
  • Have your child re-tell the cooking sequence focusing on proper sequence of events, grammar, and targeted speech sounds
  1. Vacation postcard
  • If you go on vacation this summer have your child fill out a postcard (highlighting some of the most important things they did/activities they liked the most)
  • You can do this if you stay home too (have them make your own postcard and write their favorite parts of the summer)
  • You can mail them off to a friend or family member for a fun surprise!
  • Focus on targeted speech sounds, sequencing, grammar, descriptive words, etc.

Nikki Kirchoff, MA, CCC-SLP

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Help Your Kids with Holiday Stress

Families want the holidays to be a happy time for everyone, especially their children.  It is important to take a few moments and recognize that what adults view as the “hustle and bustle” of the season can be overwhelming and over-stimulating sensory input for children, especially those with Sensory Processing Disorder or other neurological challenges.  Here are a few suggestions to help children and adults stay healthy and happy over the holiday season.

Laugh!
Laughter is the best medicine! It’s the quickest way to change everyone’s mood from bad to good. Tell silly “knock-knock” jokes with your kids or watch funny movies together.

Breathe
That’s right, take a deep breath in and let your belly gently expand out. This sends a signal to your brain that it’s okay to relax and unclench those tight shoulders and jaw. Just like a yawn, belly breathing is contagious and your kids will start to copy your deep breath.

Remember Routines
Many routines are disrupted during the holidays and this can be very upsetting for children, causing them to be cranky and complaining. Try to keep naps and meals at the same time every day. It’s okay to say “no” to invitations when your kids (and you!) are on sensory overload. Offer to get together in the New Year, instead. Try using calendars or picture schedules to help your child know what to expect. Predictability helps everyone stay calm.

Enjoy your holiday traditions with your families!

Cindy Clark, MS, OTR/L, BCP, CIMI/L

Back to School!

No More Manic Mornings!

Back to school time can be both exciting and stressful for children and parents. Returning to a faster pace, the morning rush, homework and after school activities can add additional stress to family life. Here are some helpful strategies you can do to relieve back to school stress in yourself and in your kids:

Start Early

Let’s face it — over the summer, most families take their cues from the sun and stay up later. While it is tempting to keep the late-night fun going up until the end, starting your school routine a few weeks early can help ease the transition back to school. Starting the week before the beginning of school, start going to bed and getting up close to when you need to for school and try to eat on a more regular schedule as well. This advice isn’t just for little kids — teens and adults need quality sleep for optimal brain functioning as well, and getting your schedule straight now will help ensure that you all start the school year off more prepared and don’t feel as much anxiety over the start of school that first day.

Do a Walk-Through

It’s a good idea to visit the school before the first day. For kids who are going to be first-timers for kindergarten, first grade, middle school, or even high school, this can help them feel more comfortable with the new place and get a better idea of where to go once they’re there. With preschoolers and young grade-schoolers, take advantage of playing on the school playground. Even for returning students, it doesn’t hurt to know where the classroom is, say hello to whatever staff is there getting ready, and start getting excited about going back.

 

Help your Child Develop Social Skills

Help your Child Develop Social Skills

by Laura Behling, M.S., CCC-SLP

Humans are social creatures. We use social skills every day when communicating with one another. Building children’s social skills is a hot topic these days, but what are “social skills” really?

If you’ve had encounters with speech therapy, the terms “social communication” or “pragmatics” have probably come up. These terms refer to the way a child uses language for a variety of purposes (making requests, greeting, giving information/ sharing) while following basic rules for conversation including:

  • taking turns in conversation
  • introducing topics of conversation
  • staying on topic and maintaining a circle of communication
  • recognizing and repairing miscommunications
  • rephrasing when misunderstood
  • use and understanding of nonverbal signals
  • personal proximity and orientation of body when speaking to others
  • using facial expressions and eye contact/ eye gaze

Weaknesses in social skills create barriers to building interpersonal relationships and communication development.

 

Here are a few things you can do to help develop your child’s social skills:

  • Encourage conversation and imaginative play. Play make-believe with your child. Build on the conversation by adding details that create more interesting story lines.
  • Use puppets to develop question-asking skills. Encourage your child to have puppets ask each other questions like who?, what?, where? and why?.
  • While we all try to limit screen time for our children, if you do find yourself with the TV on, ask your child what is happening during the show. Have them name characters and tell something about them. Describe their clothes. Talk about what they like to do.
  • Encourage your child to talk on the phone to a relative or friend. This helps develop his ability to listen and answer questions.
  • Make specific facial expressions and ask your child to tell you the feeling shown on your face. Talk about what makes you happy, sad, angry, excited, or afraid.
  • Point out how we talk differently in different places. Talk about using inside voices at home, in the library, or in the preschool classroom and outside voices in the park or yard.
  • Build a story together. You start and then have your child add the next sentence.
  • Talk about what your child did at school. If this is challenging, they might need some scaffolding. Try to meet with his educators at pick-up and get a “quick” update on what he did. This will allow for you to prompt your child.
  • Ask your child to tell a family member about an interesting experience. Encourage her to talk about what she saw and did following a visit to the park, museum, or the zoo.
  • Role play greetings you use with different people. Show the difference between talking to an authority figure (using Mr. or Ms.) and talking to a playmate (using his first name).
  • Encourage your child to say please and thank you to people.
  • Talk about how important it is to take turns and share. Talk about things that you share with your family and friends.
  • Play board games with your child. Play a few times where they get to win and you get to win. Winning is fun, but it is okay to lose.

For more information on activities to do with your child or questions regarding social pragmatic language skills, please email Laura at laurabehling@amaryllistherapy.net.

 

 

Back to School

How to choose a backpack for your child

By Cindy Clark, MS, OTR/L, BCP, CIMI/L

Every fall, millions of children head back to school wearing backpacks filled with books, water bottles and school supplies. What many parents may not realize is that if their child’s backpack is too heavy or doesn’t fit properly it can lead to back pain or even injury. Up to half of all students have back pain, fatigue and muscle soreness related to improper fit and wearing. Many students experience ongoing low back pain for more than six months and this can follow them throughout their school years and into adulthood.

How can you prevent this? The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) urges parents and caregivers to consider the following when selecting and wearing a backpack this school year:

  1. Appropriate size – Make sure the height of the backpack extends from approximately two inches below the shoulders to waist level, or fit in the curve of the lower back.
  2. Shoulder Straps – Backpacks should have well-padded shoulder straps that can be worn on both shoulders so when packed with books the weight can be evenly balanced by the student. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms and hands when too much pressure is applied by unpadded shoulder straps.
  3. Adjust the Shoulder Straps – Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain muscles.
  4. Hip belt – Backpacks with a hip or chest belt take some strain off sensitive neck and shoulder muscles and improve the student’s balance.
  5. Right Fit – Just as your child will try on clothes and shoes when back-to-school shopping, experts say it is important to try on backpacks too. “The right fit should be your top criteria when selecting your child’s backpack,” says Karen Jacobs, EdD, OTR/L. “If you order online, be sure that the seller has a return policy just in case the backpack is not quite the best fit for your child and needs to be exchanged.”
  6. Weight – Your child should carry no more that 10% of his or her body weight. For example, if your child weighs 100 pounds, they should carry 10 pounds or less. If their pack is too heavy, check to see if there are items that can be left at school or put in a wheeled carrier. When putting items in the backpack, put the heaviest items at the back so they rest against your child’s back.

Here is a great video to see more information on choosing a backpack.

How to Choose a Backpack

For more ideas and research on backpack safety, go to the Backpack Awareness Council website at: http://www.bacsupport.com/

National Handwriting Day!

National Handwriting Day

is celebrated on January 23, 2015. This day was chosen because it is John Hancock’s Birthday. He was the first person to provide his signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Handwriting is important, as finger movements activate large regions of the brain involved in thinking, memory, and language. The act of physically gripping a pen or pencil and practicing the swirls, curls and connections of cursive handwriting activates parts of the brain that leads to increased language fluency. Writing is, by nature, an opportunity for creativity and personal expression. When writing is incorporated in learning and assessment, there is increased opportunity to produce the ideal situation for active, attentive learning because students value creative problem solving and creative production.

Posture and Places to Practice
There are many FUN ways to practice handwriting, other than sitting at the table with your feet flat on the floor and body up tall!

• In the bathtub – use shaving cream or washable crayons
• In the car – keep clipboards and pencils so kids can write down vehicles, buildings and
people they may see on their ride
• In the grocery store – have a child make a grocery list and check off items while
shopping
• On the wall – tape a large piece of paper or use an easel
• On the move – have a child carry a small notebook in their pocket or backpack to write
down ideas, reminders or draw pictures
• At the breakfast table – have children draw, color or write while you are preparing their
meal
• While watching TV – during commercials kids can write down or draw pictures about
what is going on in the show they are watching
• Next to a computer – it’s always nice to have a notebook next to the computer to take
additional notes
• Lying on your belly – coloring or drawing in this position can be so much fun! Use a slant
board or 3” ring binder to provide a smooth surface

Activities to Practice Handwriting
• Write a letter to a friend, family, the President, a soldier, or someone you admire
• Decorate a cake and have everyone sign their name with frosting
• Write a poem
• Check out books on handwriting at the local library
• Create an autograph book and have people sign it
• Start a journal or diary
• Give the gift of a pen as appreciation
• Create a treasure hunt
• Practice your own signature

Games that Promote Fine Motor Skills
• Pick Up Sticks
• Jenga
• Connect 4
• Yo-yo’s
• Perfection
• Trouble
• Legos, Building Blocks, Erector Sets
• Lite Brite
• Operation/Bed Bugs
• Topple
• Chess/Checkers

Top 10 Fine Motor Tools Under $1
• Clothes Pins
• Stickers
• Playdough
• Shoelaces
• Beads
• Push Pins
• Wikki Stix
• Tweezers
• Hole Punch
• Scissors

5 tips to a more relaxed holiday!

The holidays can be a stressful time for kids and grown-ups alike. Here are 5 tips on ways to help you and your children cope.

1. Do More Physical Activity – It’s easy to allow the TV or iPad to become the entertainment but children who are stressed need some type of physical activity or exercise to release their stress.  Bundle up and go outside, babies and big kids alike.  Too cold to go out?  Play a rousing game of Twister or roll your kids up in a big towel or blanket and turn them into “burritos”!

2. Take a Belly Breath – That’s right, take a deep breath in and let your belly gently expand out.  This sends a signal to your brain that it’s okay to relax and unclench those tight shoulders and jaw.  Go ahead.  Take another belly breath.  Just like a yawn, your kids and other adults around you will start to copy you. Everybody breathe!

3. Remember Routines – Many routines are disrupted during the holidays and this can be especially upsetting for all children (and adults, too!)  Talk about the schedule each day with your child and try to keep meals and naps at the same time.  Calendars and picture schedules are also a great way to help kids know what’s coming next.

4. Laugh – Laughter is the best medicine!  A great way to relieve stress and change everyone’s mood from bad to good.  Make up silly “knock-knock” jokes or have a tickle fest.

5. Rest and Relaxation – Everyone needs a “time out” over the holiday season to re-group and recharge, children and adults alike.  Naps are great way to do that even though your preschoolers might not think so!

Strategies to Relieve School Time Stress

Strategies to Relieve School Time Stress

Back to school time can be both exciting and stressful for children and parents. Returning to a faster pace, the morning rush, homework and after school activities can add additional stress to family life. Here are four helpful strategies you can do to relieve back to school stress in yourself and in your kids:

Start Early

Let’s face it — over the summer, most families take their cues from the sun and stay up later. While it is tempting to keep the late-night fun going up until the end, starting your school routine a few weeks early can help ease the transition back to school. Starting two to three weeks before the beginning of school, start going to bed and getting up close to when you need to for school, and try to eat on a more regular schedule as well. This advice isn’t just for little kids — teens and adults need quality sleep for optimal brain functioning as well, and getting your schedule straight now will help ensure that you all start the school year off more prepared and don’t feel as much anxiety over the start of school that first day.

Do a Walk-Through

It’s a good idea to visit the school before the first day. For kids who are going to be first-timers for kindergarten, first grade, middle school, or even high school, this can help them feel more comfortable with the new place and get a better idea of where to go once they’re there. With preschoolers and young grade-schoolers, take advantage of playing on the school playground. Even for returning students, it doesn’t hurt to know where the classroom is, say hello to whatever staff is there getting ready, and start getting excited about going back.

Have a Family Meeting

One of the best ways to relieve back to school anxiety and prepare for the coming year is to simply talk to your child about what he or she may be feeling. When the subject of school comes up, let your child tell you what’s exciting about school as well as what may be a little anxiety-provoking. If your child expresses some negativity about school, don’t immediately discount his or her concerns; instead focus on validating feelings. Then you can help find solutions or shift the focus to a more positive one like seeing friends and growing up. Create a “social story” about your child going to school that you and your child can read every day. The story can be a few sentences that describe what your child will do and how he or she might feel. If your child is a visual learner, another option is to take pictures or videos of their school that your child can look at on your phone or iPod.

Tap Away Stress

Imagine your stress level rising, or having a problem nag at you, and then being able to decrease your anxiety and relax just by tapping your fingers lightly on specific areas of the body while thinking positive thoughts. This is called the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or “tapping”). This is a surprisingly simple yet very effective technique that both kids and their parents can use to help decrease stress and anxiety. Psychologist Dr. Lynne Namka has written a book about it, Good Bye Ouchies and Grouchies, Hello Happy Feelings, which describes how teachers and parents can use EFT to help children release unhappy feelings.

Following these practical tips can help get the school year off to a healthy, happy start. The main thing to remember in dealing with back to school jitters is to be prepared (mentally, physically and emotionally) as much as possible, and to play up the fun stuff, friends, new supplies, great teachers and growing up. If you show your enthusiasm for what the new school year brings, your kids are sure to pick up on it, and the nervous energy will turn into excitement. Happy back to school!

Hydration!

HYDRATION STATION

Summer is around the corner and so is the HOT weather! It is not just the heat or being active that can dehydrate children. Dehydration can also be caused by not drinking enough water EVERYDAY. From a study conducted in 2012, nearly two thirds of children are not drinking enough at breakfast time to be properly hydrated. Researchers in Sheffield, UK believe the analysis of more than 450 children between nine and 11, showed 60 percent were classified as ‘not sufficiently hydrated’ – the stage just below ‘clinical dehydration’.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children drink six glasses of water on an average day. During activity, however, your child can lose up to a half-liter of fluid per hour. The AAP suggests about 5 ounces (or two kid-size gulps) of water every 20 minutes for an 88-pound child. Kids and teens weighing about 132 pounds should drink 9 ounces every 20 minutes.


Living here in Denver, it is important to drink plenty of water. It is the number one way to help your body function at its best in the higher altitude. The low humidity in Colorado keeps the air dry, like the desert, so you need about twice as much water here as you would drink in other cities.

Water is essential for optimal brain health and function. It enhances circulation and aids in removing wastes. Water keeps the brain from overheating, which can cause cognitive decline and even damage. This is one of the main reasons to encourage students to drink water during exercise. Dehydration most commonly occurs because children go long periods of time without drinking water. When they are thirsty they often choose sweetened drinks instead of water. By the time thirst is felt, there may be a loss of body weight up to 2% from water loss, and a 10% cognitive decline may be present.

Dehydration can lead to fatigue, dizziness, poor concentration and reduced cognitive abilities. Even mild levels of dehydration can impact school performance. It is interesting to note that hydration has been found to affect exercise tolerance. Children who are dehydrated tend to feel tired during exercise and avoid activity, a risk factor for obesity. When students are hydrated well before exercise and drink water during their exercise, they have a more enjoyable experience with less fatigue. Furthermore, children have a different response to exercise than adults, and tend to overheat more quickly, making good hydration essential. Children in classrooms can be given structured water breaks or encouragement to keep a water bottle at their desks to sip throughout the day.

FUN WAYS TO STAY HYDRATED

1.  FRUITS AND VEGGIES: These contain 70-95% water. Try produce like watermelon, cantaloupe, berries, carrots, cucumbers, and lettuce.

Fun idea: Freeze cups of applesauce for an icy treat.

2.  YOGURT: Contains up to 80% water either plain or with fruit.

Fun idea: Blend some frozen berries with plain yogurt for ten seconds for a sorbet.

 

3.  OATMEAL, BEANS, COUSCOUS, & PASTA: These foods absorb more than 50 percent of their weight in water as they cook.

Fun idea: Serve cute pasta shapes: bow ties, wagon wheels, or shells to make it appealing.

 

4.  POPSICLES/FROZEN FRUIT BARS: Get little ones hydrated; using 100% fruit bars, or low sugar are a better alternative.

Fun idea: Puree watermelon, mix with white grape juice and freeze.

5.  WATER BOTTLES: Find a water bottle that works for your child that will motivate them to drink more.

Fun Idea: Have them pick out a straw cup or sports cap bottle that has their favorite character, color, or their name. Make flavored (mint, lemon, lime) ice cubes and put them in the water bottle in the morning to help keep the drink cold and provide flavor throughout the day.

 

6.  FLAVORED WATER: Instead of juices or sugary artificial flavored drinks, make your own tasty water combinations.

Fun Idea: Mint, lemon, strawberry, lime, orange are just a few flavors kids may enjoy! Use seltzer or club soda to create a fizzy treat!

 

Visual Development

What Parents Can do to Help With Visual Development

Vision is such an important part of early development and impacts your child’s learning throughout their life. There are many things parents can do to help their baby’s vision develop properly. The following are some examples of age-appropriate activities that can stimulate an infant’s visual development. Many of these activities can also be used with older children that struggle with eye-hand coordination.

Birth to four months

  • Change the crib’s position frequently and change your child’s position in it.
  • Keep reach-and-touch toys within your baby’s focus, about eight to twelve inches.
  • Talk to your baby as you walk around the room.
  • Alternate right and left sides with each feeding. This helps the eyes cross midline, an important foundational skill for reading.

Five to eight months

  • Hang a mobile or gym and place various objects near the baby to grab, pull and kick.
  • Give the baby plenty of time to play and explore on the floor. This helps develop the muscles of the neck and shoulders, the foundation for eye-hand coordination.
  • Provide blocks, whiffle balls, small plastic cups, or bracelets that can be held in the hands. This stimulates eye-hand-mouth coordination.
  • Play patty cake and other games, moving the baby’s hands through the motions while saying the words aloud.

Nine to twelve months

  • Play hide and seek games with toys or your face to help the baby develop visual memory.
  • Look at and name objects when talking to encourage the baby’s word association and vocabulary development skills. This also helps develop shared attention, an important communication skill.
  • Encourage crawling and creeping by placing interesting toys (and siblings or pets!) just out of reach on the floor.

One to two years

  • Roll a ball back and forth to help the child track objects with the eyes visually. This skill is used later in school to look up at the board and back at their desk.
  • Finger feeding small pieces of food and learning to use a spoon develops both fine motor and visual perceptual skills.
  • Read or tell stories to stimulate the child’s ability to visualize and pave the way for learning and reading skills.
  • Toys like building blocks can help boost fine motor skills and small muscle development.

Adapted from the American Optometric Association, www.aoa.org