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5 Best Apps to Work on Speech and Language at Home

  1. My PlayHome by PlayHome Software LtdBlog-Speech-Apps-Main-Landscape
    • A digital doll house that lets your child use everything inside. You can fry an egg, feed the family pizza, pour drinks, feed the pets, and more! This app does not specifically target speech
      and language skills; however, there are many ways it can be used to work on speech/language at home. While playing with the doll house, you can work with your child on pronouns, identifying actions (e.g., cooking, sitting), present progressive –ing (e.g., drinking), plurals (e.g., two apples), vocabulary (around the house), formulating complete sentences, etc. I also like to use this app as a motivating activity for children working on speech sounds. For example, I will say, “Tell me what the doll is doing with your good ‘r’ sounds.” There is also My PlayHome Hospital, My PlayHome School, and My PlayHome Stores.
  2. Articulation Station by Little Bee Speech
    • This app is fantastic for children working on speech production skills. The whole app is pricey, but beneficial for a child working on more than one speech sound. It is also possible to download individual speech sounds to target a specific sound at home. This app is motivating and excellent for home practice!
  3. Following Directions by Speecharoo Apps
    • Excellent app for working on following directions. Choose from simple 1-step directions, 2-step directions, or more advanced 3-step directions. These funny directions will have your child laughing and wanting to practice more.
  4. Peek-A-Boo Barn by Night & Day Studios, Inc.
    • My favorite app for toddlers working on expressive language skills. First, the barn shakes and an animal makes a noise. Have your child say “open” or “open door” before pressing on the door. You can also have your child guess which animal it is or imitate the animal noises. When the animal appears, have your child imitate the name of the animal.
  5. Open-Ended Articulation by Erik X. Raj
    • This app contains over 500 open-ended questions to use with a child having difficulty producing the following speech sounds: s, z, r, l, s/r/l blends, “sh”, “ch”, and “th”. It is great for working on speech sounds in conversation. Have your child read aloud the question and take turns answering. The open-ended questions are about silly scenarios that will facilitate interesting conversations.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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Parenting vs. Technology: Helpful Strategies to Combat Electronic Overload

Chromebooks, iPads, Nooks, oh my! It would not be surprising if your child has access to more than one piece of technology in your home. With that said, the struggle to balance technology needs for school with the games and activities that take over your child’s night and weekends is real. BlogParents-vs-Technology-Main-Landscape

Although it may be frustrating to accept that technology is not going away, it’s important to recognize these moments as learning opportunities and a way to become a more creative parent.

Below are some helpful strategies to implement when combating technology:

Reward Responsibility – Create a system in which your child can earn ‘technology minutes’ for completing chores. Similarly to earning an allowance, this can be a great way to get your child more active in helping around the house.

Limit Bingeing Behaviors – Allowing your child to play on technology for multiple hours at a time on the weekend will likely make shorter episodes more difficult to transition out of. When your child has more time available, limit play to 30 minute or 1 hour increments, with other family activities in between.

Practice Transitions – Turning off the iPad, Xbox, or computer is a great opportunity to practice transitions. Provide your child with time warnings, clarify expectations, and work with your child to plan for the next opportunity to use electronics. Remotely turning off the family Wi-Fi can also be a helpful way for children to recognize that their time is up.

Become a Minecraft (or fill in the blank of which game your kiddo likes) expert! – Many of the games and activities your child plays can be a great way for you to spend quality time with your child in “their world.” Ask questions about the games. Read up on the latest news. Show interest and join in!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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Autism and Pokémon: Go?

A new mobile game is igniting some sparks in children with Autism. Pokémon Go, is a mobile based Pokémon Gogaming application which uses GPS and reality to encourage users to “Catch them all” throughout neighborhood and local areas. Many children with Autism, who already gravitate to video games and electronics, are certainly interested in the craze.

Although the game and its effects has not been thoroughly researched, below I will list some possible benefits to introducing your child to Pokémon Go:

  • Pokémon Go Encourages Preferred Play in New Environments and Combating Rigidity – Many children with Autism are already highly interested in video games. However, often times, children with video games are able to enjoy this reinforcement in insolation whether it is in their rooms or in a small corner in the living room. Pokémon Go is sending users to areas outside the home such as the local park, the neighbor’s house, and dare I say it, Home Depot. The child who never wants to go to the park is now begging to go to the park!!
  • Pokémon Go Encourages Social Interactions – The amazing phenomenon to come from Pokémon Go, is its adaptability to all types of users: typical and children with Autism. Children are linking in random places, all trying to catch a Pokémon. Very meaningful conversations can arise from these meet-ups: “How many Pokémon do you have?” and “Have you found Pikachu yet?” Unlike most video games, Pokémon Go heavily relies on the knowledge of other users who are playing the game as well to find out the most popular places to catch Pokémon and thus encourages interactions with individuals whom children with Autism may otherwise have nothing in common with. They are all simply trying to “Catch them all.”
  • Pokémon Go Encourages Parents to Learn More About Their Child’s Needs – Parents often struggle with how to speak to their children’s world. Pokémon Go encourages bonding opportunities, especially with younger children, because parents need to supervise the outings. Parents are having opportunities to see their children shriek and smile like never before. In addition, learning the pragmatics of the game can help parents to seek out other alternatives and strategies to try with their child that have the same function and may yield similar results.

Lastly, while Pokémon Go can possibly yield answers to the Autism Community on how to get our children out of the house and interacting with the outside world.

Here are some important Pokémon Go tips for parents:

  • Children should not be allowed to roam neighborhoods or public places alone.
  • Teach your children whom it is safe to speak Pokémon with and whom it may not.
  • Talk to your children about safety at Pokéstops; avoid dark and isolated places
  • Encourage Poképlay in small or large groups of friends.

Oh, and did I mention, children are learning some pretty cool Pokémon names in the process…

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Video Games That Get You Moving

Getting your child off the couch and active can be challenging. With video games and iPads, it can be hard to pry your child away from the screens. But what if the screens can work for you? There are many video games on various systems that get your body moving, heart rate up, and can be a lot of fun!

Here are a few games on different systems that will surely make your child break a sweat while having a great time!Blog-Video-Games-Main-Portrait

  1. Xbox – Kinect Sports

Kinect Sports uses a sensor to track your body movements while playing fun sports games including soccer, volleyball, baseball and more. Unlike other systems that only track your upper body, Kinect Sports also tracks your legs for a full body workout!

If you are looking for more intense activities, try Track and Field. Go for the gold in sprints, hurdles, the long jump, and discus – you’ll feel like you’re in the Olympics!

  1. Wii Sports

Wii Sports uses a wand controller to simulate the real game. This systems features games like baseball, golf, tennis, boxing and bowling. The greatest part: you can play against a friend!

  1. PlayStation Move + Eye

The PlayStation Move is a wand controller that works with the PlayStation Eye camera to track the player’s movements. Because some of the games use both the wand and the Eye, you will be put into the game, literally! The PlayStation Move features games such as soccer, tennis, bowling, golf, dancing, and more.

  1. Just Dance – Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation

Just Dance is compatible with many systems that use a camera to track your movements. You can dance with three of your friends to today’s top hits and yesterday’s classics. This is my personal favorite to have fun and exercise in a creative way.

Now that you have a list of some awesome, fun games for your home system, it’s time to get active and move your body!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Smart Technology Guidelines for Kids

Like it or not, our world has changed especially in the realm of digital technology and our kids are the pioneers of this new adventure. Technology guidelines are becoming more and more important. I have had parents ask if they are “bad parents” for letting their kids have screen time and I am here to tell you that: Blog-Technology Guidelines-Main-Landscape

You most certainly are not a bad parent!

Like most everything, moderation is the key to having success in building children’s much needed strength in digital technology while still keeping them involved in school, making friends, finding a talent and being an active part of the family.

Here are some easy to follow technology guidelines for families:

  1. Have family discussions about screen time and internet safety
  2. Limit screen time. Set a limit before your kids plug in and stick to it!
  3. Create rules about technology usage. Technology is a large part of how kids now socialize but they still need our help to develop the skills to think before acting. Here is a great contract to use with older kids.
  4. Be the example. Your kids will notice if you don’t walk the walk. Be aware of your own technology use and find balance in your own usage and family engagement.
  5. Have technology free zones. Two examples of having technology free zones are at meal times and bedtime. Direct your child towards content that engages them while using as many senses as possible.
  6. Approve the Apps! In 2014 there were 1.3 million apps in the Apple app store. Help your child choose apps that promote learning and create mindfulness rather than mindless play. There are tons of reviews for guidance on age appropriate/suitable content to find online! It is okay to make an unpopular decision about an app or video!
  7. Most importantly, be involved! Talk to your kids about internet safety, the family rules about technology and which apps they are choosing. Talk to your kids about what they are playing! Ask them to show you their latest creation or how they beat a level in their favorite game. The more your child feels comfortable talking with you about their technology usage the more you will know and hopefully there will be more communication and less fighting!

More Technology Guidelines Tips for Preschool Aged Children:

  • Create limits on usage and be consistent!
  • Play games and or watch together! Make sure to ask questions and have conversations about content. There are great learning and discussion opportunities to be had.

More Technology Guidelines Tips for Elementary Aged Children:

  • Kids this age are more able to download and access more, making it more difficult for parents and increasing the need for limits and increased discussion about content and meaning.
  • Filter sites and internet content, such as YouTube, using age appropriate guidelines.
  • Remember those limits that are set and stick to them.
  • Model limited use

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Best Apps to Reinforce Occupational Therapy Concepts

Within our day and age, technology can be used in many ways to facilitate daily functional skills. In regards to occupational therapy, there are many apps that can be used to facilitate and reinforce occupational therapy concepts at home with your child. The following apps are great for facilitating listening skills, transitions, attending to tasks, self-regulation, body awareness and handwriting skills. Blog-Occupational-Therapy-Concepts-Main-Portrait

These apps are easy to use and can be used anywhere and at any time to reinforce occupational therapy concepts:

Metronome App

  • Importance and benefits of using a metronome:
    • Help develop and improve rhythm
    • Improves listening skills
    • Facilitates the ability to attend over an extended period of time.
  • Population:
    • Any child with difficulties following directions, attention, and rhythm.

ASD Tools

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Helps with transitioning from one activity to another, attending to specific tasks, as well as, following directions.
  • Features:
    • Visual schedule
    • First-then visual
    • Timer with a visual
    • Reward system
  • Population:

Brainworks

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great and easy way to develop activities for a sensory diet.
  • Features:
    • Organizes all the activities into what would be best for your child.
    • Provides 130 sensory activities with pictures and descriptions.
    • Provides activities that can be completed at home, school, in the community, or at a table or desk.
    • Allows you to choose whether your child is feeling “just right, slow and sluggish, fast and stressed, or fast and hyper”- a list of sensory activities will be provided based on how the child is feeling.
  • Population:

Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great app that allows children to practice handwriting.
    • Provides multisensory ways to practice correct letter formation.
  • Features:
    • Capital/lower case letters, and numbers on a chalkboard with double lines.
    • Has a left-handed setting.
    • Reports errors for extra guidance.
  • Population:
    • Helpful for children with poor handwriting skills including letter formation and sizing.

Zones of Regulation App

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great app for developing self-regulation strategies.
    • Helps children develop skills to assist in regulating their bodies, emotions, and behaviors.
    • Helps children acknowledge how they feel and acquire the skills to create strategies to cope with their emotions.
  • Features:
    • Mini games to help facilitate learning the zones of regulation and develop strategies to facilitate emotional control and self-regulation.
  • Population:
    • Helpful for children who have difficulty with emotional control and self-regulation.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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The Best Apps For Struggling Readers

The Best Apps For Struggling Readers

Technology is everywhere, and if you are one of the many who own a device that utilizes applications (apps), you may be thinking of ways to make those great tools educational. Apps are great for a number of reasons: kids love them, they are right at our fingertips, they travel well, and they make learning more interesting and motivating. There are plenty of apps on the market targeting a wide variety of skills, including vocabulary, reading, reading comprehension, grammar, geography, and other school subjects. I myself use apps in therapy from time to time, and have favorites for certain speech and language skills. However, one area that I lacked a depth of options in was reading. More specifically, apps for struggling readers that focus on phonics and the foundational skills of reading.

Here are 6 apps that caught my attention for struggling readers and earned a spot on my device:

  1. Marbleminds Phonics: In this app, pictures are presented with the word at the bottom of the
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    screen. The child must identify the missing first letter of the word. There is a free version, but as always, purchasing the app allows for more pictures and exercises.
  2. Wordmonsters: This app focuses on books for beginning readers targeting short vowel sounds. The free version includes one book with the ability to purchase additional ones. It has read-on-your-own and read-to-me settings, as well as activities that go along with the book. Activities include story details, phonics fun, and word works. Each word is highlighted as it is read when choosing the read–to-me option. The cute, interactive graphics that label objects as they are touched only add to the app’s appeal!
  3. Bob Books: This app is built for beginning readers. The child is presented with a picture and a sentence at the bottom of the page (“Dot has a hat”). The sentence is broken down and each word is segmented for the child to blend together. There is a free version available with add-ons that can be purchased.
  4. Wordplay: This app has charming graphics and audio, which makes it instantly appealing. It focuses on word families and consonant-vowel-consonant words. There is a free version as well as the option to purchase additional levels. The kids blend words together and drag letters where they belong in the word.
  5. Phonics Genius: I’ll admit it, this app is not the most entertaining for children. However, in addition to being free, it has a large inventory of sounds, blends, vowels, and vowel teams presented in a flashcard format. You can have your child or student read the word on their own, and then have the app read the word to check for accuracy. The app also has a record feature, so the child can record themselves reading the word. Game formats are included where the child identifies the word said aloud from a customizable group of words. All in all, I think it’s a great resource for words that are organized according to phonetic rules.
  6. ABC Pocket Phonics: This app incorporates sound identification and letter tracing. The sounds are then blended together to make words, with the child identifying the letter needed according to the sound produced by the app (app says /s/ and the child finds the letter /s/). There is a free version with the option of purchasing additional features.

Hopefully these apps will motivate your child to practice their reading skills! If you feel your child may need further intervention, seek the guidance of a neuropsychologist today.

Click here for 10 great apps to improve speech and language skills.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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How to Handle Cyberbullying

With all the various forms of social media and online communication that children have access to, how does a parent serve as a gatekeeper to keep them away from cyberbullying and ensure positive peer interactions? Just like the conversations that occur about pro-social, appropriate behaviors that occur in real-time, proactive boundaries about expected behaviors should set with the initiation of online privileges.

Tips on How to Handle Cyberbullying

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Cyberbullying

Let your child know that periodic checks of their account will be monitored to ensure compliance. Outline for your child what can be viewed as expected behaviors (positive/supportive commentary, asking questions about homework, making plans, etc.). It is equally imperative that you also describe to your child the behaviors that are not tolerated as acceptable, such as bullying. Bullying online might look very different than bullying in real-life since there may not be any physical threat of harm. Therefore, re-define with your child what bullying means. Bullying can mean using verbal threats to compromise the harm and safety of others, using negative commentary to make fun of another, and any behaviors that can have a negative effect on a peer’s self-esteem or feelings.

Once you have set up the parameters for expected online communication, also provide your child with the potential consequences of non-compliance such as lose of online privileges, reduced interactions with other negative peers, apology procedures for engaging in bullying behaviors (call victim and/or victim’s parents to apologize), etc.

Set your child up for success by arming them with appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and what they can face if they don’t follow family-defined protocol.

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Switching The Gaze From iPhones To Eye Contact: Reconnecting With Your Teen

With the iPhone 6 now available, it is no “news” that our culture is influenced by and—at times—is all about technology. There are of course numerous reasons why technology,  and phones that also serve as computers are helpful, entertaining, and at times necessary. However, there are also a handful of reasons why these ‘computer phones’ can be burden—a key reason being they take away from the quality time that children and teens spend connecting with their siblings and family.

Set Technology Limits and Reconnect with Your Teen:

Setting limits on the amount of time your teen spends on their phone/iPad/laptop may help you reconnect with your switching the gaze from iPhone to eye contactteen. Your teen may have some initial resistance to this plan, however if the time spent without the device is spent in a meaningful and positive way, she will eventually open up to (and possibly even look forward to) the ‘tech free time’.

The following activities are ways to make ‘tech free’ time meaningful and positive:

  • Have a heart-to-heart discussion
  • Cook/bake together
  • Play a board game
  • Go for a walk or bike-ride
  • Invite your teen to suggest some ideas of what to do during this ‘tech free time’. This will be another way for this time to be enjoyable. Also, inviting them to suggest ideas is another way for you to reconnect and learn about your teen—you can learn new things about her when asking her to share what she would like to do with you.
  • Or do anything that would be enjoyable for both or all people involved—as long as it provides for some face-to-face and eye-to-eye time.

Similar to teens, adults and parents are also at times immersed in their phones and tech devices. It is important that the adult and teen disconnect for a set period of time. Providing specific praise as to how meaningful the time is, and how much you love and appreciate your teen will also be an important way to reconnect with her and show your teen how much this time—and she is valued.

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Is Direct Speech-Language Therapy Really Necessary?

 

 

 

In the wake of recent news articles espousing a position that speech-language therapy can be implemented at home through apps and other forms of technology, many parents may wonder, Do I really need to bring my child to the clinic? The answer is: YES!
Apps and other activities can be helpful to supplement and support individualized intervention. However, they should not be used as a substitute for one-on-one speech-language therapy. Oftentimes speech-language pathologists (SLPs) will incorporate apps into therapy sessions to serve as motivators and to provide new materials.

See below for the top 5 reasons that direct speech-language therapy is best:

1) Individualized approach: Direct intervention conducted by a licensed SLP is tailored specifically to each child’s individual needs. Clinicians determine each child’s goals and create treatment plans to target these goal areas. Apps rely on a “one size fits all” approach, and while that may be helpful for some children, others will continue to struggle. If children, for example, are working on an /r/ sound, apps won’t teach the various ways to make an /r/, they will provide word lists and sentences for practice. A licensed SLP can determine which manner of production works best for an individual child and then use apps to create word lists.
2) Diagnostics: SLPs evaluate every new child prior to starting therapy. This process may assess speech, language, or both, in order to determine areas of need. Parents may not be aware of typical speech and language milestones and at what ages they should be concerned. A thorough evaluation conducted by an SLP can outline a course of treatment and determine goals for therapy sessions.
3) App selection: With millions of apps available, it can be daunting to pick the best apps to target specific goal areas. Incorporating apps out of the clinic to increase carryover of skills can be a great way to practice target words in a fun and motivating manner. In order to ensure that apps are appropriate and target areas of need, an SLP can provide families with suggestions and explicit instructions on how to use them. For example, apps for articulation are often broken down by sound into initial, medial, and final positions. If a child is working on initial /s/ at the word level (e.g., sea, soup, sink, sand, etc.), it may be too challenging to practice /s/ sounds at the sentence level (e.g., Sally sells scissors at the sea).
4) Feedback & cueing: During sessions SLPs are constantly modeling appropriate production or language for clients to imitate. When clients, for example, produce a distorted /s/, SLPs are able to provide verbal, visual or even tactile cueing to help with accurate tongue placement. This feedback ensures that children don’t practice sounds in error, further hindering progress.
5) Expertise: SLPs are master’s-level educated individuals who work with children (and adults) to improve communication. SLPs are licensed both by the state in which they practice and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). This expertise allows children to receive evidence-based treatment and helps to educate parents throughout the therapy process.
The benefits of combining technology into therapy sessions and supervised home programs are immense. Apps and other technologies can serve to motivate children, track progress, and provide accessible ways for parents to help build skills!

Click here for a list of great speech and language apps to supplement your in-clinic therapy service!