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5 Chicago Performing Arts Programs to Encourage Speech and Language Development in Children

Performing Arts programs provide an excellent avenue to encourage speech and language skills in children.  LearningChicago performing arts happens best during fun and engaging multisensory experiences, such as acting out a story, dancing to music, or singing a new song.  Through performing arts programs, children gain opportunities to socialize with other children, follow directions, engage in pretend-play, further develop creativity and imagination, build narrative language skills and cultivate expressive language skills.  This blog highlights 5 top performing arts programs in the Chicago area for children of all ages, including a program designed for children on the Autism spectrum.

5 Top Performing Arts Programs in Chicago for Speech and Language Development:

  1. Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop: Dream Big offers a variety of performing arts camps and classes for children ages 2 through 18.  Classes encourage children to explore dramatic play, creative movement, music, team-work, self-expression and creativity while having fun singing, dancing, and playing games.  Classes are separated by ages: “Spotlighters” (2 years), “Mini Showstoppers” (3-5 and 4-6 years), “Moving Stories” and “Creative Drama” (3-5, 5-7 years).  Programs also include customized, age-appropriate parties that include singing, dancing, theatre games and other drama fun! Read more

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

The Role of the Speech Pathologist in Treating a Cleft Palate

It can be scary and heartbreaking to watch your child with a cleft palate struggle.  When treating a cleft palate, a multi-cleft palatedisciplinary team approach is the best way to provide the highest level of care to your child and your family. Allowing multiple team members to communicate often and coordinate approaches will result in a more comprehensive plan of care overall.  One indispensible member of this team is the speech pathologist.

How a Speech Pathologist Can Help Your Child with a Cleft Palate:

A speech pathologist is a critical part of your child’s cleft palate team.  Speech pathologists provide support from the early days by assisting with feeding and into childhood as your child masters speech with the continuous changes they will undergo the first few years of life.

From birth, feeding a child with a cleft palate may be a concern for parents. A speech pathologist will be able to provide strategies for adaptive techniques and useful tools to ease this difficulty. He or she will work closely with nutritionists and nursing specialists to provide the most effective care for your child and to ensure your child can maintain adequate nutrition orally.

As your child grows and develops, regular, consistent assessment of your child’s articulation skills is critical to determine if any production errors are the result of structural difficulties or compensation for your child’s weak/insufficient muscles.  The cleft palate team will determine if your child’s speech and language is appropriate for development.  A trial period of speech therapy may be suggested prior to an additional surgery. A speech pathologist will also screen for hearing impairments, which may co-occur with a cleft palate.  This can cause difficulty with understanding and/or acquiring sounds and language.

Finally, the role of advocate is also a critical piece to the team offered by the speech pathologist. The speech pathologist can assist you by providing information regarding useful websites, helpful publications and information regarding local school districts and the care that is available to you and your family.

Helping your child with a cleft palate can be a difficult journey, but with the right help, your child will overcome the challenges of this condition.

Do you have more questions about helping your child with a cleft palate?  Click here to learn about our speech pathology program or call us at 877-486-4140.

3 Outdoor Activities to Promote Speech & Language Development

Summer is finally here!  Take advantage of this time of year, and enjoy the time outdoors with your child with these 3 speech and languageeasy activities to promote speech and language skills outside.  Remember, learning and development don’t always happen at the table.  In fact, learning and development are often best accomplished in the context of engaging play and multi-sensory activities.  So take the learning outdoors and enjoy spending time with your child in the summer sun!

Outdoor Speech and Language Activities:

  1. Plan a nature scavenger hunt.  Write 10 clues on a brown paper bag (or present the clues verbally if your child is not yet reading), and encourage your child to find each of the 10 items.  For example, a clue might be “I am green, and I grow in the ground” or “I am all different colors, and I smell very good.”  If you live in the city and have limited access to nature items, use a digital camera to capture items on the list.  This activity promotes reading, listening, categorization, and memory. 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

Speech and Language for the Adopted Child

The number of foreign adoptions in the US continues to grow every year. Children who are adopted may be at greater risk for speech and/or language difficulties. Occasionally, this is secondary to a congenital disorder and, at times, the difficulties are secondary to the abrupt change in the child’s primary language. It is important to be aware and know what to expect with an adopted child.  

When Should An Adopted Child Start Speaking? adoption and speech

Speech/language should be closely monitored for the first 12 months. This is approximately enough time for a child to “catch-up” with their native speaking peers if adopted before age 2-2 ½. Adopted children that are older than 2 ½ will often catch up quickly as well; however, it may take a longer period of time to acquire the language.

How “Age” At Adoption Makes An Impact On Speech:

The orphanage conditions have an impact on the exposure and quality of language and interaction that your child received during these very important years, therefore, the longer the child was exposed, the longer amount of time the child may require to readjust. Unfortunately, some research by Gunnar & Quevedo (2007 ) indicates that prolonged exposure in these orphanages may have permanent effects on stress that can impact the memory storage and retrieval areas of the brain associated with language. The younger the child is when adopted, the better outcomes predicted.

Children adopted during the preschool years have minds that are uniquely prepared  to absorb language, regardless of their birth language. In other Read more

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month! Many children may have difficulties with one or more aspect of speech and/or language, andBHSM according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), early detection and intervention can often be the most effective.

Below are some helpful tips parents can use to promote speech and language skills at home:

  • Communicative temptation: create situations where a child needs to gesture, vocalize, or verbalize to have his or her needs met before giving desired object (e.g., puzzle pieces)
  • Imitation: having a child imitate you helps him or her to produce words and sounds at appropriate times (e.g., saying “hi” to animal toys as you take them out of the box)
  • Expanding: using a child’s language and expanding it to make it more complex (e.g., child says “ball,” adult can say, “that is your ball!”)
  • Build vocabulary: target and explain relevant new words (e.g., seasonal words ) to help build vocabulary Read more

How to Elicit the /m/ Sound in Your Child’s Speech

Every sound of speech has a place of production, manner of production and can either be voiced or voiceless sounds. Place of letter mproduction is the accurate placement of articulators. Manner of production is the restriction of airflow in the oral cavity. A voiced sound has the voice box on versus a voiceless sound when the voice box is off.  The phoneme /m/ placement of articulators is lips together, the manner is airflow through the nose or a nose sound and your voice box is on. When working with your child on how to produce the /m/ sound, you can refer to it as the humming sound.

Ways to Elicit /m/

Place of Production:

  1. Draw attention to pressing the lips together. This can be accomplished by using your child’s fingers and thumb to hold their lips together.   Read more

When is Stuttering Normal?

Stuttering or non-fluent speech productions are quite common to hear during speech and language development in children when stuttering childthey are between the ages of two and six. At this time, the amount of new language that children are taking in is so vast that several theories suggest that it overwhelms the body’s speaking mechanism and, consequently, the child exhibits “stuttering”.

Stuttering may take many forms. The most common stuttering is full- and part-word repetitions (ex: “Can-can-can I go?” or “Ca-ca-candy for me”). Less common errors include prolongations (“ssssssssssounds like this”) or silent blocks in which sound is not released and tension in the face/neck may be present.

The facts are as follows: 50% of stuttering toddlers will spontaneously catch-up with their peers without therapy. Many more children than that will make a complete recovery into fluency. A small percentage of these children may continue to stutter throughout their entire life.

In order to determine if your child requires a speech-language evaluation for stuttering, here are some red flags that indicate an “at-risk” child:

  • Any family history of speech/language/fluency disorders Read more

How Sign Language, Singing and Reading Help Toddlers Learn to Communicate

Parents often ask if things like singing, sign language and reading will be effective in helping their child learn to communicate. The short sign language answer is, yes, yes and yes! Sign language, singing and reading to a child are all excellent ways to encourage a toddler’s expressive language. This blog will describe why and how each of these activities will benefit toddlers as they develop speech and language.

How sign language can encourage spoken language:

Language is a symbolic system, requiring the exchange of “symbols” that have meaning. For example, the word “ball” is a symbol for a round object that bounces. When children have an expressive language delay, sign language is a very effective (and well-researched) way to reinforce that symbolic system in the temporary absence of words.

Here are a few important things to consider when using basic signs with your child:

  • Pair the sign with the spoken word to ensure your child makes a connection between the two.
  • Keep in mind that communication goes far beyond spoken words; it also includes gestures (e.g. pointing, waving), facial expressions, eye-gaze and tone of voice.
  • reinforce and encourage other methods of intentional communication, while we do want children (if they are able) to eventually use speech, it’s equally important to encourage other ways that they can communicate.

How singing can encourage spoken language:

Children learn language primarily through hearing and imitating. Singing is a fun and engaging way for children to hear and imitate Read more