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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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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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Child with iPad

Tips To Improve Transitions

“The only constant in life is change” – Heraclitus

Does your child struggle with ending activities, trying new things, or engaging in non-preferred tasks/demands? Transitions can be difficult especially when a child is not expecting the change. Advanced preparation, knowledge of perceived consequences, and balanced thinking can all aid in smoother transitions and overall compliance with directives.

Plan Ahead

Whether your child is anticipating a new ballet class or only has 20 minutes for the iPad, providing your child with clear expectations will help them transition. Having a conversation with your child a couple weeks in advance to identify any worries or fears regarding the new class, as well as identifying the positives, can help the child feel more in control and ready for something that doesn’t seem so “new.” Visiting the space, meeting the staff, and purchasing cute leotards can all challenge negative thinking and help the child view this new task as positive and familiar. In the event of transitioning from one activity to another, using a visual clock or kitchen timer as well as periodic reminders can assist your child in preparation to leave the iPad when it’s time.

Easier said than done…

Help your child create more balanced thinking by incorporating cognitive flexibility skills so they don’t feel like the world is over when you take away their preferred item.

Problem solving: help your child to come up other alternative solutions to the problem.

Ex: “When the iPad is over we can identify another time either later today or tomorrow you can use it” or identify another fun thing you can do if the iPad is not a choice (i.e. reading, TV, coloring).

Identify the positives in what will come next.

Ex: “I’m hungry for dinner, glad that’s now”, “going to the dentist so my teeth can be clean and healthy.”

Identify the size and severity of problem.

Ex:  “Getting off iPad is a small problem compared to getting sick and missing my birthday party or a highly anticipated concert or baseball game.”

Have your child evaluate the potential consequences of their actions.

Ex:  “If you don’t get off when I ask, what will happen…”

“I will lose dessert, I won’t be able to go on iPad the rest of the week. I might miss sleepover this weekend.”

Encouraging your child to evaluate the consequence of their choice prior to action and to engage in cognitive flexibility skills can aid your child in a smoother transition.






 

 

 

Smartphone Technology and Language Development: Pros and Cons

iPads, iPhones and apps.  Today’s buzz is all about Smartphone technology and what “apps” will benefit development and academic skills in children.  Parents frequently request recommended apps to best address their child’s speech and language skills.  After all, we want to take advantage of the latest learning tools and most cutting edge technology to help our kids succeed.  However, use of Smartphone technology should be approached with caution.  Like all good things, moderation is key.

Here are a few important points to consider before integrating Smartphone children on phonestechnology into your child’s daily routine:

Pros: What are the positive benefits of Smartphone technology?

  • Smartphone apps provide excellent “drill” style activities to teach specific skill sets, such as vocabulary building, phonologic awareness, articulation skills, and learning new concepts.
  • Devices such as tablets, Smartphones and iPads expose children to modern day technology, improving their computer literacy and ability to navigate such tools.
  • Smartphone apps provide a fun and entertaining activity for children. This can be excellent choice for breaks from homework, rewards or car-rides.

Cons: What are the negative effects of Smartphone technology?

  • Smartphone apps promote passive learning and provide little opportunity for creativity, social interaction, problem-solving, sustained attention, ideation, and make-believe. All of these skills are foundational to development in children by promoting motor skills, language learning, problem-solving, and social skills.
  • While Smartphone apps may encourage children to talk or practice sounds, they do not encourage children talk to an actual person. Language is a reciprocal social system, intended for communication between people. It’s critical that children learn to communicate with others in a reciprocal context.
  • Smartphone apps do not promote the use of novel language.  A critical part of language development includes the ability to arrange words into combinations, building sentences to communicate their thoughts and ideas.
  • Smartphone applications offer little opportunity to learn social skills. Social skills include interpreting nonverbal cues, making eye-contact, initiating conversation, and responding to others.
  • When it comes to learning, practicing skills in context is critical. So even though Smartphones might teach children new skills, they do not offer opportunities for children to generalize these skills in a real-life context.

So what can parents do?

Here are a few practical steps as families navigate their child’s use of tablets, Smartphones and iPads:

  • Think moderation. Limit your child’s use of electronics, and set boundaries ahead of time so your child knows what to expect.
  • Encourage activities that encourage creativity, social interaction, problem solving, sustaining attention, ideation, and make-believe. A few good choices include blocks, dress-up, play-doh, books, pretend food, and baby dolls.
  • Spend face-to-face time with your child every day. Encourage your child to participate in play with you and encourage their use of their language, facial expressions, eye-contact, and engagement.

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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

How To Set Technology Rules

In the past few years, Ipads, Ipod touches and other tablet devices have given children the ability to text, talk, and surf the web younger than ever before. Children as young as 5 and 6 are using electronic tablets and Ipod Touches to not only play games, but also to take pictures, make videos as well as face-time and send texts using apps such as text-free or text-plus. These devices are opening a whole new world to children, but parents must be aware of how their children are using these devices and also create rules to ensure the children are using this technology safely and appropriately. As a teacher, I have put together a list of guidelines that may help your family create rules about the use of technology in the home.

 Technology Guidelines For Children:

Texting: Set specific hours and times that texting may take place. For example, texting is allowed after school until 7pm. Phones, ipods and tablets need to be turned off at night. Be nice with texts.girl on computer You may not send mean messages or use texting to talk about other people in a mean way. Remember, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all-this rule applies to texting, too!

No texting times: No texting during dinner and family time, and no texting during homework time. Parents need to also follow these rules and model appropriate behavior such as not texting while driving.

Videos/Photos: No sending videos or photos without permission. This helps children understand that they cannot just send anything to anyone. Children may think it is funny to take a picture of a friend in an awkward position and then send it on to a friend, but may not realize that the picture can then be sent to many more people or even posted on the web.

Facetiming/Skyping: Ask a parent before facetiming or video chatting with a friend. Remember, when we Skype or Facetime we invite another person into our home. We need to be sure that our house is “open for visitors.”

Internet: Ask permission before searching on the web. This includes Googling and searching on You Tube. It is best to keep the family computer in a central location to monitor what your children are viewing on-line. Limit use of wireless devices behind closed doors. If your child has an Ipad or Ipod you can go to the Apple store or call Apple customer service to have certain restrictions put on their device to prevent them from looking at inappropriate websites.

You Tube: Tell mom or dad before going on this site. It has become popular for kids to post on You Tube and other similar sites. You may want to limit this or make it a “no” item in your house. A similar rule can be applied to Facebook or other social media sites even those geared to younger children such as Club Penguin.

Account sign up: Do not sign up for anything, give emails or other personal information to any site on line. Do not order apps or other software without permission. Children learn emails and passwords quickly. It is important to explain to them the danger of giving out personal information or typing personal information into the computer. They may not understand that this information can be used by other people to do harm.

Technology has grown dramatically in the past few years and our children have access to many wonderful devices; however, this new technology is presenting a whole new parenting issue. Parents need to be aware of how their children are using these devices and help them to understand the dangers as well as the benefits.

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Benefits of Limiting Screen Time

We currently live in a world revolving around electronics with computer screens, tv screens, phone screens, tablet screens, video game screens, etc. While many electronic programs geared towards children are educational, there are also benefits to turning the power buttons off and playing within a child’s physical world.

As an occupational therapist, I prefer to use real board games in my sessions rather than their electronic counter-parts because of the skills that are developed while playing board games.

Benefits of playing board games versus video games includes developing:

  • Visual-motor skillsvideo game controller
  • Fine motor skills
  • Sensory-motor experiences
  • Motor planning
  • Coordination
  • Social engagement with others
  • Turn taking skills
  • Organization
  • Self-monitoring skills

For example, board games such as Angry Birds or Rush Hour differs from video games because the video game already has each piece in place and no set-up is involved, whereas the board game requires the player to plan how to place pieces onto the board exactly as shown from a card in order to successfully begin the game.

Many board games also require significantly more motor planning, dexterity and upper extremity control than their video game counter-parts. Think of playing a game of solitaire on the computer which requires one motion of clicking the mouse and moving the mouse exactly where you want it to go in order to move the cards versus playing the same game of solitaire with a deck of cards which requires fine motor skills, motor planning and dexterity involved with shuffling the deck, turning the cards over and picking up only one card in your fingers at a time. Other benefits also may include counting the cards to ensure you are starting with a full deck and the planning, sequencing and organization that is involved with setting up the game.

In conclusion, I encourage a healthy balance between screen time and playing in the physical world, as there are many benefits to turning off the electronics in order to learn through play.

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iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch Apps to Teach Kids Social Skills

As a licensed clinical social worker, I have worked with hundreds of kids and teenagers since 1994. For many, social skills do not simply come Child with iPadnaturally; they need to be taught, just as they need to be taught spelling, reading, mathematics, social studies, and science. Kids with ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders often find learning social skills to be especially challenging.

Throughout time, kids have learned through play. Kids as young as one year use pretend play to learn about their world. And, as any kid will gladly tell you, kids like to learn when we make it fun for them. When I was growing up, video games were emerging, but now the tiniest little ones can be observed effortlessly playing with their moms and dads’ iPhone, iTouch, and iPad.

Since the kids are interested anyway, why not teach them something while they play? There are many apps that teach kids social skills in a non-threatening, engaging manner.

The following is a list of some apps to help children with social skills:

1. Model Me Going Places– Free is a visual teaching tool to help children navigate common challenging locations in their community. Each location incorporates a photo slide show of children modeling appropriate beahvior. Locations include: hair salon, mall doctor, playground, grocery store, and restaurant.

2. Responding Social Skills– $0.99 teaches how to listen and respond to others, give directions, understand others’ feelings and perspective-taking.

3. Initiating Social Skills– $0.99 includes practice in greetings, starting conversations, giving information, and introducing oneself.

4. Everyday Social Skills– $0.99 Teaches basic social skills needed for everyday activities in the child’s community, including common activities like walking down the street, using a public restroom, waiting in line, asking for directions, asking for information, and joining a group.

5. Personal Social Skills– $0.99 Teaches responsibility, dependability, accepting consequences, maintaining personal hygiene, grooming, dressing, and more.

6. Hidden Curriculum for Kids– $1.99 Real-life scenarios spur conversations about the many unwritten social rules that we encounter daily that can often cause confusion and anxiety for those who cannot read these cues well.

7. Small Talk App– Presents conversation fillers for those awkward social moments, allowing users to choose between conversation: starters, jokes, factoids, “would you rather” questions, etc.

8. Look in my eyes– There are a series of apps that address eye contact as a social skill. Choose one of high-interest to the child: restaurant, car mechanic, undersea, dinosaurs, etc.

9. How would you feel if…–  Allows children to discuss their feelings about a variety of situations to promote emotion awareness.

10. Eye contact toybox app–  Helps kids practice eye contact while earning fun rewards.

11. Body language app–  Offers full-body illustrations of body language to help kids become aware of gestures, postures, handshakes, and other body cues.

12. Conversation Builder– Teaches elementary-aged children how to have multi-exchange conversations with their peers in a variety of social settings.

13. Social Skills– $6.99;  Offers social stories complete with photographs and sound to help children with social skills such as: attention, non-verbal communication, greetings, structured game play, turn-taking, imitation, and classroom rules. For the iPod Touch, one will need an external microphone to record the sound.

14. Super Duper What Are They Thinking?– Children can listen to 180 entertaining “thoughts” or answer “what are they thinking?” questions to teach perspective taking.

15. Stories2Learn– $13.99 Offers social stories that can be personalized using photos, writing, and audio messages. This allows stories to be created that show targeted social cues.

New apps are added frequently and as this industry grows, we will update you with the latest technology and apps.

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*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).  Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses.  No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT  to people submitting questions.  Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

Using iPad and iPhone Apps to Promote Speech and Language Development

As we all know, technology has become a part of our daily lives.  iPad and iPhone application developers have createdChild with iPad both motivating and meaningful applications that target many of the areas within the speech and language discipline.  The apps are multisensory; they tap into the senses of sight, sound and touch. The high resolution graphics used in the apps are visually appealing to all children. While there are TONS of applications out there, here are a few apps that can be used to improve and/or maintain vocabulary, articulation, pragmatic and language skills.  

iPhone and iPad Apps To Help Develop Vocabulary:

App Name

Appropriate Age

Description Benefits of the App
Clean Up: Category Sorting (free)

 Any

Game

Helps children make associations and strengthen categories and sorting skills

Preschool memory match (free)

3-5

3 different levels (easy, medium, hard) and 5 categories to choose from including: Transportation, Musical Instruments, Animals/Bugs, Food, and Objects

Good for very basic vocabulary. Just a basic memory game.

Mini reward follows the end of each game.

ABA Flashcards (free)

2+

Flash cards are specifically created to stimulate learning and provide tools and strategies for creative, effective language building.

Benefits to both visual and auditory learners. There is classical music with visual reinforcement built in to the app. Great tool for promoting the mastery of new words, building vocabulary and conveying new concepts.

Animal Fun (free)

 Any

Animal learning program. Children learn about animals by seeing and hearing the sounds an animal makes. Help builds vocabulary

 

iPhone and iPad Apps To Help Develop Articulation: Read more