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Beyond the ABCs: How to Promote Reading Success Through Phonological Awareness

Parents are often eager to teach and practice the good old ABCs with their children. However, there are other ways that parents can support pre-literacy development, such as fostering blog-phonological-awareness-main-landscapephonological awareness skills, too! Phonological awareness is the understanding that sentences/words are made up of smaller units, as well as the ability to identify and manipulate these units. Research has found that strong phonological awareness skills are predictors of early reading success. One way to understand phonological awareness is to divide it into different levels: word, syllable, and sound. Check out NSPT’s blog ­Phonemic Awareness Skills to learn more about when these skills are acquired.

Each level of phonological awareness is described below, with activities you can do at home!

Word: The concept of a “word” is an important first step in understanding language. Children are constantly building their vocabulary and using these new words in a variety of ways. There are many ways to begin bringing attention to how words work.

  • Clap out the words of a favorite song (e.g. Old – McDonald – had – a – farm) to help children learn that sentences contain separate words. You can also use musical instruments, tapping on the floor or jumping. This is especially important for “function” words that are more abstract, such as “the,” “and,” “do,” etc.
  • Read books that rhyme as a fun and silly way to teach children to recognize that words have patterns. Check out NSPT’s blog Rhyme Time: 10 Books To Teach Your Child Phonological Awareness for children’s books that contain great stories with rhymes.
  • Enjoy tongue twisters to begin thinking about alliteration (e.g. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. What sound do all of these words start with?). Alliteration, or when every word of a sentence starts with the same sound, is another way to bring attention to patterns in words.

Syllable: Words can be broken down into smaller units, one of which is syllables. Children learn to separate these chunks in a similar manner as they do for words in sentences. Knowing how to do this will help when a child is reading and comes across a multi-syllabic word they are unfamiliar with.

  • Make a bean bag toss in which you provide a multi-syllabic word, and the child has to throw a bean bag into a bucket while saying one syllable at a time.
  • Write the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 on a piece of paper and place them in separate areas of a room. Then give the child a multi-syllabic word and have them run to the number that represents the number of syllables in that word.
  • Sort objects found around the house into groups by how many syllables they have.

Sound: Words can also be broken down to their individual sounds. There are several ways we can manipulate sounds, including identifying (e.g. what is the first sound in “bat?”), segmenting (e.g. what 3 sounds do you hear in “bat”?), blending (e.g. what do the sounds /b/ /a/ /t/ make?) deleting (e.g. what’s “bat” without the /b/?), and substituting (e.g. if you change the /b/ in “bat” to /m/, what word is it?). Here are a few ways to begin prating these in an interactive, multi-sensory way.

  • Play “Simon Says.” Give the last word of the direction by segmenting it into sounds. For example, Simon Says touch your /l/ /e/ /g/, or Simon says stand /u/ /p/.
  • Play “I spy” to bring attention to particular positions of sounds (beginning/middle/end of word). For example, you could say “I spy something that begins with a sssss sound.”
  • Modify “head shoulders knees and toes” by providing a multi-syllabic word. The child can touch their head, shoulder, knees and toes (one per sound) as they figure out what sounds are in the word. For example, /b/ (touch head), /a/ (touch shoulders), /t/ (touch knees).

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!

Meet-With-A-Speech-Pathologist

The Therapeutic Benefits of Music

Music can be an important part of children’s therapeutic activities! While some children will participate in Music musicTherapy, conducted by a trained Music Therapist, other children will experience music in their speech-language or occupational therapy sessions. Some families will find that music therapy is not often covered by insurance; however, music in therapy may be. When music is incorporated into existing speech-language or occupational therapy sessions, there are numerous benefits for children.

Speech-Language Benefits of Including Music in Therapy:

  • Promotes attention and engagement: Music is a great motivator! Children may be more motivated during sessions and may pay better attention. They may also demonstrate improved engagement with their clinicians during therapy sessions involving music.
  • Builds imitation: Music can help to develop both verbal (e.g. singing) and non-verbal (e.g. gesturing) skills.  Phrases with musical intonation are easier to imitate.
  • Enhances Skills: Frequent repetition in songs can increase vocabulary (e.g. singing Old McDonald Had a Farm to target animal names) and language skills.
  • Encourages peer interactions: Learning age-appropriate songs can help build social skills and strengthen peer interactions.
  • Increases carryover: Children may begin to associate songs they are learning in school, at home, and in therapy in a positive way! Parents can carryover skills learned in therapy as a fun and easy way to maximize their child’s potential at home. Read more

What to do When Your Kid is Too Loud!

All parents have experienced the desire for their child to speak in an ‘indoor voice’ when an ‘outdoor voice’ seems to be all their child wants to use.  Modulating voice is an important skill for kids to learn.  Read on for possible reasons your child may use a voice that is too loud and for ways to help her find a softer pitch.

Strategies to quiet a too loud kid:

Is your child too loud during times of great excitement or frustration? In groups?  In new places?My Kid is Too Loud

If your child’s loudness tends to be predictable and related to a particular time, place or activity, it is possible that her loudness is serving a purpose. You should help her replace volume with a more appropriate way to get attention, expel excited energy, or express frustration.

Is your child able to tell the difference between a loud and soft voice?

  • Some children just don’t know what ‘too loud’ or ‘make a soft voice’ means. These are terms that need to be explicitly taught. Teaching this is really fun. Come up with a list of voice ‘types’ to teach and practice (think silly: monster voice, squeaky voice, baby voice.)
  • Be sure to include the type of target voice you want your child to have-soft, and the voice she’s currently using-loud. Name these voices whatever you like and create a visual to go with it.
  • Practice making each of these voices together and then have your child judge your voices. Once she has them all down, talk about where you hear each voice or where she should use each voice. Then, have your child practice.  Ask her to use a voice for the library, for the playground, or for whatever situation you will be in. Read more

Does Your Child Need Feeding Therapy?

There are a variety of reasons why a child may need feeding therapy. To many of us, it would seem like eating should be a basic instinct. However, eating is one of the most complex activities we do, especially for the developing, young child. Eating involves several processes in the body, including sensory, oral-motor, muscular, neurological, digestive, and behavioral systems. Feeding problems can arise involving any one of these systems, and often more than one of these is implicated.

The following are reasons why a child may have a feeding problem:

  • Sensory processing issuesFeeding Therapy
  • Food allergies or severe reflux
  • Autism
  • Developmental delays
  • Complex post-op recovery course
  • Transition from feeding tube to oral nutrition

Feeding therapy is usually done with one or more clinicians. Depending on the type of feeding problem, therapy may involve a speech language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a registered dietitian, a social worker or behavior therapist, and/or a physician. Read more

Navigating Early Speech & Language Milestones: What to Expect Between Ages 2 and 3

Parents often wonder if their child’s skills are developing typically.  Between gross motor skills, fine motor skills, speech-language skills, social-emotional functioning, and overall growth, there is a lot of information to track!  In fact, it might feel overwhelming.  It is important for parents to remember that every child develops at his or her own rate, with some skills emerging faster and other skills taking more time.  When considering your child’s development, referring to developmental milestones can be an excellent guide.

In Part 1 of this blog, we reviewed speech and language milestones to expect during the first year of your baby’s life.  In Part 2, we reviewed communication milestones you might expect to see between ages 1 and 2.  Part 3 of this series will discuss what to expect from your child’s communication between ages 2 and 3.  If you feel concerned about your child’s development in this area, seek help from a licensed speech therapist right away.  A trained therapist will give you accurate information, ease your worries, and give your child any help they might need.  Read more

What is a Videoflouroscopic Swallow Study?

Many children experience feeding and swallowing difficulties and they present in a variety of different ways. In order to provide the VFSSmost effective and appropriate therapy, it is often that physical or physiological abnormalities of the swallowing mechanism must first be ruled out. In order to do this, a video swallow study – Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study (VFSS) or Modified Barium Swallow (MBS)- must be ordered by a physician. These are extravagant,  complicated sounding words that can be intimidating to parents; they may sound even more intimidating to children. In order to explain this procedure to your child, it is vital that you must first understand it yourself.

What is a VFSS?

In the simplest of terms, a VFSS is a moving x-ray that examines the process of swallowing food or drink from the mouth and down through the esophagus. A Speech-Language Pathologist and a Radiologist will be in the room to operate the x-ray machine, offer barium-based food and drink items and to decipher the results. The x-ray machine often resembles a large, robotic arm that is aimed at the side of a patient’s body. Patients are placed between this machine and a raised table that serves as the ideal back-drop to capture the best view of the swallowing mechanism.

The barium food products are white in color and taste slightly chalky, but they are typically flavored sweetly. An SLP will watch the Read more

5 Things You Didn’t Know a Speech-Language Pathologist Can Help Your Child With:

The title “speech-language pathologist” can be a difficult one to discern. In addition, the shortened “speech therapist” can also be slp reading with a childmisleading. Speech-Language Pathologists work with children and adults on a wide variety of skills that may surprise you. Speech sounds are not the only skill that SLPs work on! The following list is, by no means, exhaustive of the broad scope of practice SLPs are qualified to provide service in, but rather a list of lesser-known areas of expertise for SLPs. It should be noted that, although all SLPs are trained to treat each of these areas, individual therapists do have areas of expertise, therefore, it behooves you, as a parent or educator, to seek out a therapist with training in the specific areas you seek assistance with.

5 Things You Did Not Know A SLP Works On:

  1. Reading
    1. Reading is a cornerstone skill on which academics become progressively more demanding as a child moves on from elementary through high school. Reading is a Read more

Speech Delays and Talkative Older Siblings

Older sibling with younger siblingA parent recently asked me what to do when her child’s older sibling constantly answers for him.  While it’s caring that the older sibling wants to help his little brother, it’s also very important for each child to have his own space to learn and develop, try new things, and make mistakes.  So how can parents help?

What to do when an older sibling compensates for a child with speech and language difficulties:

  • Talk to the older sibling alone. Instead of being reactive, be proactive by talking to your older child about his younger sibling’s needs.  Teach him that it takes time to learn how to talk, and he can help his younger sibling talk by giving him space to try on his own.
  • Use positive language. Instead of telling older siblings what they can’t do, tell them what they can do.  For example, “You can help Jonny talk by being a good listener,” or, “You can be a helpful big brother by letting other people have a turn to talk.”
  • Teach older siblings alternative ways to be a helper. Praise your older child for wanting to help his younger sibling, and then offer him other ways to help. For example, he can help his younger sibling by being a good listener, by giving him time to finish his ideas, and by saying encouraging things (such as, “good job!” or, “thanks for sharing your idea!”).
  • Emphasize “talking turns” between family members.  It’s important for all children to learn conversation rules early on, which includes learning about listening, interruptions, and waiting for a turn to talk.  This can certainly be hard for young kids.  To help, emphasize “talking-turns.”  (“It’s Jonny’s turn to talk. Next will be your turn to talk.”)  You might even use a tangible object, such as a toy microphone, ball, or teddy bear, to pass back and forth when it’s each person’s turn.
  • Play games as a family that promote turn-taking.  You might take turns with a toy by passing it back and forth, play catch with a ball, or play a board game that involves turn-taking, such as Barn Yard Bingo, Candy Land, or Zingo.
  • Encourage active listening. Teach family members what it means to be a good listener. Use concrete examples such as, “You can listen by looking at the person who is talking,” or, “When you are listening, your mouth is quiet.”
  • Set aside one-on-one time for each sibling to play with a parent alone. Language development is enhanced through modeling, practice, and play with caregivers.  To make sure your child is receiving language-rich opportunities, set aside 15-20 minutes each day to play one-on-one with your child.
  • Praise the things that are going well. When you notice positive behavior, reinforce your child right away using very specific language.  For example, “Wow! You let Jonny have a turn to talk. You are a very good big brother when you let other people have a turn to talk.”

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can help your children develop healthier communication habits.  Older siblings have a special role as a “big brother” or “big sister.”  By teaching them about their special role, you can encourage your kids to feel more positive about helping their younger siblings. For more ideas about how to incorporate siblings into your child’s speech and language development, visit the blog, Encouraging Siblings to Help With Speech & Language Practice.

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Engaging Your Newborn Baby: 5 Simple Tips for Interacting with Your Baby

As a new parent, chances are that you have spent countless hours just gazing into your newborn’s eyes. However, between nonstop feedings, washing copious amounts of laundry, all of those diaper changes , and trying to sneak in a nap, some new parents may feel left in the dark when it comes to play time.  As your baby starts to become more interactive daily, you may quietly think to yourself, “Well, now what?”.

mom and infant playing

Here are some simple activities you can do with your baby throughout the day to help lay the appropriate foundation for language development:

Never underestimate the power of a smile

Babies love to look at faces. Even at an early age, they are able to be easily engaged and will focus on exaggerated facial expressions for a brief period of time. Therefore, take moments throughout the day to block off some face-to-face time. You will be amazed at how attentive your baby is during these times, and you will see him/her start to attempt to imitate the facial movements you make (especially with your tongue). They’ll get a kick out of seeing you smile, and how can you resist staring back at that adorable little toothless grin?

Turn bath time into play time

Bath time provides many opportunities for sensory exploration, so help maximize this time as much as you can by offering various textures of objects (washcloth, bubbles, water toys etc.) that contain different sensory properties. Talk about how the items look and feel, and even sing to your child during this time as well. Your baby will be calmed by the warmth of the water and soothed by the sound of your voice. Also, try to time bath time immediately before putting your child to bed in order to establish a nighttime routine.

Introduce books

You will help to facilitate a lifelong love of reading and literature when you introduce books at an early age. Provide your child with plenty of soft books and board books, which contain many bright and colorful pictures. Touch and feel books are perfect for this age, as they allow your child to be more interactive as well. Also, keep the books brief, as your little one is not exactly ready for a novel anyway. Short and simple books containing repetition are perfect for infants.

The importance of exercise

Any PT will tell you about the importance of tummy time, so help make this activity more fun and interactive for your child by providing various toys and objects for them to interact with. Try placing a child-friendly mirror directly in front of them, as your baby will love looking that the “other” baby staring back. Also, help encourage babies to follow your voice by moving to either side of them. Even at a young age, children are able to identify their parent’s voices, so by simply changing your position in relation to your baby, you will be enhancing this skill. You can also play simple games, such as peek-a-boo when facing your child, in order to keep them engaged.

Talk, talk, talk

Talk to your child throughout the day, especially when completing familiar activities such as washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and cooking dinner. Doing so will help to expose your child to the language associated with these activities. Though the “conversations” with your baby will seem very one-sided at first, over time you will notice that your baby will attempt to chime in when you are speaking. You will be able to quickly observe the give-and-take, as your child will quiet when you begin talking, then “comment” after you speak.

As a new parent, it can be completely overwhelming trying to juggle all of your responsibilities, so just remember to breathe! Don’t feel as though you have to do everything right off the bat. As you and your baby settle into a routine, you will notice that you are able to find some extra time to sneak in these activities.  By introducing just a couple of these ideas throughout the day, you will quickly notice that your child becomes more engaged during these times and will start to anticipate the activities as well.  Congratulations and welcome to the exciting world of parenthood!

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Speech-Language Apps Continued

This past summer, North Shore Pediatric Therapy launched its first technology room in the Highland Park clinic! Our tech room is fully equipped with Kinect + Xbox 360, two iPads, and a number of games and apps. With the tech room up and running, I have discovered a number of new iPad apps that my kiddos can’t get enough of! Feel free to contact us if you would like to tour the tech room!

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**How to use My Choice Board [more technical]:

Open My Choice Board and click Start. Click Add Board to start a new choice board. Type in what you want to name the board. Click Save. Click Edit Choices. Select the board you are working on from the list. Click the green plus sign. Click Pick Image on the bottom left screen. There are three image sources: Device Image Library, Google Images, or Camera. Click Caption. Type a very short caption or else there will be a partial caption followed by “…” Click Record Voice. Press the red circle to start recording and the blue square to stop recording. Use the voice recording feature to compensate for the caption length limitations. Click Save.

I’m always looking for fun, new apps to use in my therapy sessions and apps that parents can use at home to promote speech-language development. If you have any must-have apps, please leave a comment below with the app name!

For more app reviews, please visit my previous blogs:

  1. iPhone and iPad apps to Promote Reading and Language Development
  2. Using iPad and iPhone Apps to Promote Speech and Language Development
  3. Facebook, Twitter, Texting: Are They Bad For Language Development?
  4. Speech and Language Apps From Duck Duck Moose