Speech Therapy or a Prosthetic? What is Appropriate for Hypernasal Speech?

When dealing with hypernasal speech, the cause is typically with the velum (i.e., the soft tissue on the top of the mouth located in the back of the oral cavity). The velum may be WEAK or it may be INSUFFICIENT. Knowing the difference between these two scenarios may indicate whether a trial speech therapy period is warranted or if a prosthetic device may be more appropriate.

Treatment for a weak velum:

For a WEAK velum, trial speech therapy is suggested. There are several techniques and feedback tools that a speech therapist can use to encourage oral resonance by increasing the strength and coordination of the velopharyngeal area (i.e., the soft tissue velum and the muscles in the back of the throat) to close appropriately for speech. Specific sound misarticulations can also be coached into correct production.

Treatment for an insufficient velum:

For an INSUFFICIENT velum, however, speech therapy will most likely not aid in increasing the intelligibility of speech as the muscle and/or structure of that velopharyngeal area is not a sufficient size to maintain closure. In this scenario, surgery or a prosthetic device is the most likely course of action. The major prostheses available are speech bulbs and palatal lifts. A speech bulb is a piece that fits to partially close off the space between the velum and the pharyngeal wall to assist an insufficient closing. A palatal lift is a device that fits along the roof of the mouth to close off fistulas (i.e., very small holes in the roof of the mouth) and lift the soft palate up to decrease the effort necessary to close off the nasal cavity. A craniofacial specialist can assist you with determining appropriate options.

Process Reduction Therapy:

Process Reduction Therapy is a combination of the above situations. There is research indicating that using a prosthetic and gradually reducing the size may encourage an increased ability for the nasal cavity to close off.

Speech therapy is an excellent option for many children with hypernasal speech. Determining the cause of the hypernasal speech will provide the appropriate path for the child and help guide treatment. Contact a licensed speech pathologist with questions or concerns.

Understanding Genetically Engineered Foods (GMOs)

The topic of genetically engineered food is hot right now. There is a debate between food labeling advocacy groups and large food industry producers over the need to label foods that are genetically engineered (GE). The term GMO (genetically modified organism) refers to a food that has been genetically engineered. The following points can help clarify what the debate is about and why it may be important to your family to be informed.

What is a GE or a GMO?

These terms are essentially interchangeable. A genetically engineered food has had foreign DNA bred into the plant (or animal, although at this point GMOs are all crops), which results in DNA that would not otherwise naturally occur in that food. The goal of genetic engineering from an agricultural standpoint is to produce crops that tolerate pesticides or to breed pesticides into the crops. Virtually all genetically engineered seeds contain viral or antibiotic DNA (or both). Read more

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5 Tips for Successfully Navigating your School Search

Today’s guest blog is by Laura Gradman, founder of Chicago Preschool Pro.

As a mom, September is one of my busiest months of the year.  It’s back to school, back to activities, carpools, homework and early bedtime.  And if you’re the parent of a toddler, September could mean that it’s also admissions season.  Finding the right school for your child can feel equally exciting and stressful.  If your child is someone who has special needs, that stress multiplies.  Here are my top tips for keeping it simple, staying focused, and finding success in your school search.

 Tips for a successful school search:

  • Do your research to learn your options.  It sounds simple enough, but research can be time consuming and confusing.  In order to stay in the right mindset, streamline your process.  The most important part of any school’s website is their mission statement.  Once you have read that, you should have a good idea of whether or not further research is worth your time. Read more

Gross Motor Skills and Dance

Dance has always been a fun and exciting recreational activity for children of all ages. Along with the enjoyment of dancing to upbeat music and the social experience, dance is also a great way to help develop your child’s gross motor skills. Read on for 4 aspects of your child’s motor skills that can be facilitated with dance lessons and performance of any style.

4 Gross Motor Benefits to Dance:

  1. Balance-Many dance moves incorporate balancing on one leg, standing with feet right next to each other or standing with one foot in front of the other. All of these positions are challenging for your child’s balance systems, which help to strengthen her balancing abilities.
  2. Coordination-While learning to dance, your child will begin by learning different dance moves and positions. Most positions involve different placement of all 4 limbs, which requires a lot of coordination. Also, once your child learns a dance routine with multiple dance positions sequenced together, she will need to coordinate the entire routine. Read more

What to Do When a Teacher Notices Concerns About Your Child

With the new school year well underway, teachers are beginning to gain information regarding their student’s areas of strength and weakness.  Many times teachers are hesitant to bring up concerns to parents.  Also, many parents will want to take a ‘wait and see’ approach in order to help determine whether or not these areas of concern will go away on their own.  Our advice to both parents and teachers is this: Do not wait and act now. 

Advice for teachers regarding bringing up student concerns to parents:

  • Collect anecdotal data to reveal the concern to the parents.
  • Provide the parents with the strategies that have already been tried in the classroom.
  • Provide the parents with specifics as to how the behaviors of interest are impacting the child’s learning or social needs.

Advice for parents regarding handling concerns brought up by teachers:

  •  Do not take the concern as an insult about your parenting or your child.
  • Ask the teacher questions about the frequency and duration of the behaviors.  When are they occurring? Read more

Rhyme Time: 10 Books to Teach your Child Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness refers to an understanding of the sounds of language, specifically in reference to distinguishing subtle differences between sounds. Examples of phonological awareness tasks include detecting rhyme and alliteration, deleting sounds (e.g. “say “bat” without the “t”), and identifying sounds in words (e.g. “what’s the first sound you hear in bat?”). Phonological awareness skills develop sequentially during the preschool years and play a vital role in enabling your child to learn to read. In fact, children who struggle with phonological awareness are at risk for challenges with reading and spelling in school.

One of the first phonological awareness skills to develop is detecting and generating rhyming words, which usually emerges in children between the ages of 3 to 4 years. Using children’s books are a great way to expose your child to rhyming patterns. When reading with your child, discuss rhyming patterns by saying something like, “Hat and bat-they rhyme because they sound the same at the end.” Here are 10 top picks for books to encourage phonological awareness. Read more

Is Going Gluten Free Right for Your Family? (Recipe Ideas Included)

Gluten free eating has gained attention and popularity in recent years. This is probably partly due to increased awareness of Celiac disease, which requires a gluten free diet for treatment. It is also likely due to increased awareness of wheat allergy and wheat intolerance, both in kids and adults. For more information about the differences between these conditions, as well as accompanying symptoms, see my previous blog, Is Gluten Bad for You?

Unless you fall into one of the above mentioned conditions, going gluten free will not necessarily improve health. In other words, eating wheat (which contains gluten) in moderation is perfectly healthy, especially if it is whole grain wheat. Some people wonder if going gluten free can help with weight loss. The answer is, not necessarily. If wheat represents a large part of your family’s caloric intake, then removing wheat without replacing it with other equally calorie-dense foods could result in weight loss. Or if your family’s diet contains a lot of high calorie processed foods made with wheat, and you remove these and replace them with lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and other whole grains, then you will definitely see health improvements. But removing wheat alone will not likely result in weight loss.

In any case, it is always good to eat a variety of foods in regular rotation of family meals. Since wheat is so prevalent in many of our households, it might take some thinking ‘outside the box’ to make gluten free meals. Read more

5 Tips to Help Your Child with Motor Planning

Does your child have difficulty learning or doing a new or unfamiliar task? Does he appear clumsy or avoid participating in sports or other physical activities? Does he have trouble coming up with new play ideas or knowing how to play with toys? If this sounds familiar, your child might have difficulty with motor planning.  Motor planning is the ability of the brain to conceive of, organize, and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions.  If your child needs help with motor planning, read on for 5 helpful tips.

5 Ways to Help Your Child with Motor Planning:

  1. Do activities that are composed of a series of steps (i.e. making a craft, making a sandwich, or creating an obstacle course).  As you do this, help your child identify, plan, and execute the steps to promote the ability to sequence and map actions. Break down the steps to make them more manageable and attainable, which can build self-esteem.
  2.  Determine what aspects of motor planning are a strength for your child (e.g. imitation, following verbal directions, timing, sequencing, coming up with ideas).  Play to these strengths when doing activities with your child to compensate for the areas of difficulty.
  3. Engage your child in activities that involve climbing over, under and around large objects.  For example, playing on playground equipment or coming up with obstacle courses will help your child gain basic knowledge of how to move his body through space.
  4. Encourage your child to come up with an idea for a new activity, or a new way to play with a toy or equipment, to promote motor planning. Read more

What to Do When All You Hear is “No” from your Toddler

It happens all too often.  We spend every minute teaching toddlers to talk and once they do, we can’t get them to stop! Around age one, first words will appear, just in time for toddlers to learn to express their opinions. The word “no” is often one of the first to be acquired and used by this age group.

If you are hearing “no” from your toddler more than you would like, keep this in mind.  First, as difficult as it may be to always hear “no” from someone so small, toddlers should be able to say no in acceptable ways. This is a critical step to learning independence and working collaboratively with others. Secondly, try to see things from your toddler’s perspective; assess WHY he is saying no. It could be he is tired, hungry or not feeling well.  Maybe he is just crabby (it happens to adults, right?). On the other hand, your toddler may be saying “no” because he is nervous or uncomfortable.  Or your toddler may be exerting independence and refusing simply because he can. To hear “no” from your toddler less frequently, try to address the situation first (i.e., give a snack, introduce the stranger, or allow time to adjust to new changes).   Read on for more ways to hear fewer “nos” from your little one. Read more