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Early Intervention Part V: Assessing Feeding and Swallowing in Children Under Three

  1. General speech and language assessments of children under 3 years of age.
  2. Assessments of toddlers with suspected motor speech disorders 
  3. Assessments of children ~16-18 months of age
  4. Assessments of Social Pragmatic Abilities of Children Under 3

Today I’d like to talk about the assessment of feeding abilities of children under 3 years of age. Just to be clear, in my post, I am not offering tips on the assessment of medically fragile or neurologically impaired children with complex swallowing and feeding disorders such as severe food selectivity. Rather, I am offering suggestions for routine orofacial and feeding assessments of young children with normal swallowing but slightly immature feeding abilities.

First, let take a look at what the typical feeding development looks like in children 0-3 years of age. For this, I really like to use a resource from Dr. Joan Arvedson entitledDevelopmental milestones and feeding skills birth to 36 months from her article Swallowing and feeding in infants and young children which was published online in 2006

Age (months) Development/posture Feeding/oral sensorimotor
Source: Adapted from Arvedson and Brodsky (pp. 62–67).
Birth to 4–6 Neck and trunk with balanced flexor and extensor tone
Visual fixation and tracking
Learning to control body against gravity
Sitting with support near 6 months
Rolling over
Brings hands to mouth
Nipple feeding, breast, or bottle
Hand on bottle during feeding (2–4 months)
Maintains semiflexed posture during feeding
Promotion of infant–parent interaction
6–9 (transition feeding) Sitting independently for short time
Self-oral stimulation (mouthing hands and toys)
Extended reach with pincer grasp
Visual interest in small objects
Object permanence
Stranger anxiety
Crawling on belly, creeping on all fours
Feeding more upright position
Spoon feeding for thin, smooth puree
Suckle pattern initially Suckle  suck
Both hands to hold bottle
Finger feeding introduced
Vertical munching of easily dissolvable solids
Preference for parents to feed
9–12 Pulling to stand
Cruising along furniture
First steps by 12 months
Assisting with spoon; some become independent
Refining pincer grasp
Cup drinking
Eats lumpy, mashed food
Finger feeding for easily dissolvable solids
Chewing includes rotary jaw action
12–18 Refining all gross and fine motor skills
Walking independently
Climbing stairs
Running
Grasping and releasing with precision
Self-feeding: grasps spoon with whole hand
Holding cup with 2 hands
Drinking with 4–5 consecutive swallows
Holding and tipping bottle
>18–24 Improving equilibrium with refinement of upper extremity coordination.
Increasing attention and persistence in play activities
Parallel or imitative play
Independence from parents
Using tools
Swallowing with lip closure
Self-feeding predominates
Chewing broad range of food
Up–down tongue movements precise
24–36 Refining skills
Jumping in place
Pedaling tricycle
Using scissors
Circulatory jaw rotations
Chewing with lips closed
One-handed cup holding and open cup drinking with no spilling
Using fingers to fill spoon
Eating wide range of solid food
Total self-feeding, using fork

Now, let’s discuss the importance of examining the child’s facial features and oral structures. During these examinations it is important to document anything out of the ordinary noted in the child’s facial features or oral cavity.

Facial dysmorphia, signs of asymmetry indicative of paresis, unusual spots, nodules, openings, growths, etc, all need to be documented.  Note the condition of the child’s mouth. Is there excessive tooth decay? Do you see an unusual absence of teeth? Is there an unusual bite (open, cross, etc.), unusual voice or a cough, in the absence of a documented illness?  Here’s an example from a write up on a 2-8-year-old male toddler, below:

Facial observations revealed dysmorphic features: microcephaly (small head circumference), anteriorly rotated ears (wide set), and medially deviated, inward set eyes. A presence of mild-moderate hypotonicity (low tone) of the face [and trunk] was also noted.  FA presented with mostly closed mouth posture and appropriate oral postural control at rest but moderate drooling (drool fell on clothes vs. touching chin only) was noted during speech tasks and during play.  It’s important to note that the latter might be primarily behavioral in origin since FA was also observed to engage in “drool play” – gathering oral secretions at lip level then slowly and deliberately expelling them in a thin stream from his mouth and onto his shirt.

Articulatory structures including lips, tongue, hard palate and velum appeared to be unremarkable and are adequate for speech purposes. FA’s dentition was adequate for speech purposes as well.  Oral motor function was appropriate for lingual lateralization, labial retraction, volitional pucker and lingual elevation. Lingual depression was not achieved.  Diadochokinesis for sequential and alternate movements was unremarkable.  Overall, FA’s oral structures and function presented to be adequate for speech production purposes. 

FA’s prosody, pitch, and loudness were within normal limits for age and gender. No clinical dysfluencies were present during the evaluation.  Vocal quality was remarkable for intermittent hoarseness which tended to decrease (clear up) as speech output increased and may be largely due to a cold (he presented with a runny nose during the assessment). Vocal quality should continue to be monitored during therapy sessions for indications of persistent hoarseness in the absence of a cold.

From there I typically segue into a discussion of the child’s feeding and swallowing abilities. Below is an excerpt discussing the strengths and needs of an 18-month-old internationally adopted female.

During the assessment concerns presented regarding AK’s feeding abilities only. No swallowing concerns were reported or observed during the assessment. As per the parental report, at the age of 18 months, AK is still drinking from the bottle and consuming only puréed foods, which is significantly delayed for a child her age. AK’s feeding skills were assessed at snack time via indirect observation and select direct food administration.  The following foods and liquids were presented to AK during the assessment: 2 oz of yogurt, 18 cheerios, 4 banana and 2 apple bites, and 40 ml of water (via cup and straw). AK was observed to accept all of the above foods and liquids readily when offered.

Image result for toddler biting foodSpoon Stripping and Mouth Closure: During the yogurt presentation, AK’s spoon stripping abilities and mouth closure were deemed good (adequate) when fed by a caregiver and fair when AK fed self (incomplete food stripping from the spoon was observed due to only partial mouth closure). According to parental report, AK’s spoon stripping abilities have improved in recent months. Ms. K was observed to present spoon upwardly in AK’s mouth and hold it still until AK placed her lips firmly around the spoon and initiated spoon stripping.  Since this strategy is working adequately for all parties in question no further recommendations regarding spoon feeding are necessary at this time. Skill monitoring is recommended on an ongoing basis for further refinement.  

Biting and Chewing Abilities on Solids and Semi-Solids: AK’s chewing abilities were judged to be immature at this time for both solid (e.g., Cheerios) and semi-solid foods (e.g., banana). AK was observed to feed self Cheerios from a plate (1 at a time). She placed a cheerio laterally on lower right molars and attempted to grind it.  When the cheerio was presented to AK midline she was observed to anteriorly munch it, or mash it against the hard palate.  Notably, when too many cheerios were presented to her, rather than grasping and consuming them AK began to bang on a plate with both hands and throw the cheerios around the room. 

During feeding, the most difficulty was observed with biting and chewing solid and semisolid fruit (e.g., apple and banana pieces). When presented with a banana, AK manifested moderate difficulties biting off an adequately sized piece (she bit off too much). Consequently, due to the fact that she was unable to adequately chew on a piece that large, manual extraction of food from the oral cavity was initiated due to choking concerns.  It is important to note that during all food presentations AK did not display a diagonal rotary chew, which is below age expectancy for a child her age. Feeding strengths noted during today’s assessment included complete mouth closure (including lack of drooling and anterior food loss) during assisted spoon and finger foods feeding.

Image result for toddler drinking from strawCup and Straw Drinking: AK was also observed to drink 40 mls of water from a cup given parental assistance.  Minor anterior spillage was intermittently noted during liquid intake. It is recommended that the parents modify cup presentation by providing AK with a plastic cup with two handles on each side, which would improve her ability to grasp and maintain hold on cup while drinking.

Straw drinking trials were attempted during the assessment as it is a skill which typically emerges between 8-9 months of age and solidifies around 12-13 months of age (Hunt et al, 2000).  When AK was presented with a shortened straw placed in cup, she was initially able to create enough intraoral pressure to suck in a small amount of liquid.  However, AK quickly lost the momentum and began to tentatively chew on the presented straw as which point the trial was discontinued.

Based on the feeding assessment AK presented with mildly decreased abilities in the oral phase of feeding. It is recommended that she receive feeding therapy with a focus on refining her feeding abilities.”  

I follow the above, with a summary of evaluation impressions, recommendations, as well as suggested therapy goals. Finally, I conclude my report with a statement regarding the child’s prognosis (e.g., excellent, good, fair, etc.) as well as list potential maintaining factors affecting the duration of therapy provision.

So what about you? How do you assess the feeding and swallowing of abilities of children under 3 on your caseload? What foods, tasks, and procedures do you use?

   

 

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Dear SLPs, Here’s What You Need to Know About Internationally Adopted Children

In the past several years there has been a sharp decline in international adoptions. Whereas in 2004, Americans adopted a record high of 22,989 children from overseas, in 2015, only 5,647 children  (a record low in 30 years) were adopted from abroad by American citizens.

Primary Data Source: Data Source: U.S. State Department Intercountry Adoption Statistics  

Secondary Data Source: Why Did International Adoption Suddenly End?

Despite a sharp decline in adoptions many SLPs still frequently continue to receive internationally adopted (IA) children for assessment as well as treatment – immediately post adoption as well as a number of years post-institutionalization.

In the age of social media, it may be very easy to pose questions and receive instantaneous responses on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter with respect to assessment and treatment recommendations. However, it is very important to understand that many SLPs, who lack direct clinical experience in international adoptions may chime in with inappropriate recommendations with respect to the assessment or treatment of these children.

Consequently, it is important to identify reputable sources of information when it comes to speech-language assessment of internationally adopted children.

There are a number of researchers in both US and abroad who specialize in speech-language abilities of Internationally Adopted children. This list includes (but is by far not limited to) the following authors:

The works of these researchers can be readily accessed in the ASHA Journals or via ResearchGate.

Meanwhile, here are some basic facts regarding internationally adopted children that all SLPs and parents need to know.

Image result for demographicsDemographics:

  • —A greater number of older, preschool and school-aged children and fewer number of infants and toddlers are placed for adoption (Selman, 2012).
  • —Significant increase in special needs adoptions from Eastern European countries (e.g., Ukraine, Kazhakstan, etc.) as well as China.  The vast majority of Internationally Adopted children arrive to the United States with significant physical, linguistic, and cognitive disabilities as well as mental health problems. Consequently, it is important for schools to immediately provide the children with a host of services including speech-language therapy, immediately post-arrival.
  • It is also important to know that in the vast majority of cases the child’s linguistic, cognitive, or mental health deficits may not be documented in the adoption records due to poor record keeping, lack of access to adequate healthcare or often to ensure their “adoptability”. As such, parental interviews and anecdotal evidence become the primary source of information regarding these children’s social and academic functioning in their respective birth countries.

The question of bilingualism: 

  • Internationally Adopted children are NOT bilingual children! In fact, the vast majority of internationally adopted children will very rapidly lose their birth language, in a period of 2-3 months post arrival (Gindis, 2005), since they are most often adopted by parents who do not speak the child’s birth language and as such are unable/unwilling to maintain it.
  • IA children do not need to be placed in ESL classes since they are not bilingual children. Not only are IA children not bilingual, they are also not ‘truly’ monolingual since their first language is lost rather rapidly, while their second language has been gained minimally at the time of loss.
  • IA children need to acquire  Cognitive Language Mastery (CLM) which is language needed for formal academic learning. This includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing about subject area content material including analyzing, synthesizing, judging and evaluating presented information. This level of language learning is essential for a child to succeed in school. CLM takes years and years to master, especially because, IA children did not have the same foundation of knowledge and stimulation as bilingual children in their birth countries.

Image result for assessmentAssessment Parameters: 

  • —IA children’s language abilities should be retested and monitored at regular intervals during the first several years post arrival.  —
  • Glennen (2007) recommends 3 evaluations during the first year post arrival, with annual reevaluations thereafter.  —
  • Hough & Kaczmarek (2011) recommend a reevaluation schedule of 3-4 times a year for a period of two years, post arrival because some IA children continue to present with language-based deficits many years (5+) post-adoption.
  • —If an SLP speaking the child’s first language is available the window of opportunity to assess in the first language is very limited (~2-3 months at most).
  • Similarly, an assessment with an interpreter is recommended immediately post arrival from the birth country for a period of approximately the same time.
  • —If an SLP speaking the child’s first language is not available English-speaking SLP should consider assessing the child in English between 3-6 months post arrival (depending on the child and the situational constraints) in order to determine the speed with which s/he are acquiring English language abilities
    • —Children should be demonstrating rapid language gains in the areas of receptive language, vocabulary as well as articulation (Glennen 2007, 2009)
    • Dynamic assessment is highly recommended
  • It is important to remember that language and literacy deficits are not always very apparent and can manifest during any given period post arrival

Image result for speech therapyTo treat or NOT to Treat?

  • “Any child with a known history of speech and language delays in the sending country should be considered to have true delays or disorders and should receive speech and language services after adoption.” (Glennen, 2009, p.52)
  • —IA children with medical diagnoses, which impact their speech language abilities should be assessed and considered for S-L therapy services as well (Ladage, 2009).

Helpful Links:

  1. Elleseff, T (2013) Changing Trends in International Adoption: Implications for Speech-Language Pathologists. Perspectives on Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders, 3: 45-53
  2. Assessing Behaviorally Impaired Students: Why Background History Matters!
  3. Dear School Professionals Please Be Aware of This
  4. What parents need to know about speech-language assessment of older internationally adopted children
  5. Understanding the risks of social pragmatic deficits in post institutionalized internationally adopted (IA) children
  6. Understanding the extent of speech and language delays in older internationally adopted children

References:

  • Gindis, B. (2005). Cognitive, language, and educational issues of children adopted from overseas orphanages. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 4 (3): 290-315.
  • Glennen, S (2009) Speech and language guidelines for children adopted from abroad at older ages.  Topics in language Disorders 29, 50-64.
  • —Ladage, J. S. (2009). Medical Issues in International Adoption and Their Influence on Language Development. Topics in Language Disorders , 29 (1), 6-17.
  • Selman P. (2012) Global trends in Intercountry Adoption 2000-2010. New York: National Council for Adoption, 2012.
  • Selman P. The global decline of intercountry adoption: What lies ahead?. Social Policy and Society 2012, 11(3), 381-397.

Additional Helpful References:

  • Abrines, N., Barcons, N., Brun, C., Marre, D., Sartini, C., & Fumadó, V. (2012). Comparing ADHD symptom levels in children adopted from Eastern Europe and from other regions: discussing possible factors involved. Children and Youth Services Review, 34 (9) 1903-1908.
  • Balachova, T et al (2010). Changing physicians’ knowledge, skills and attitudes to prevent FASD in Russia: 800. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. 34(6) Sup 2:210A.
  • Barcons-Castel, N, Fornieles-Deu,A, & Costas-Moragas, C (2011). International adoption: assessment of adaptive and maladaptive behavior of adopted minors in Spain. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 14 (1): 123-132.
  • Beverly, B., McGuinness, T., & Blanton, D. (2008). Communication challenges for children adopted from the former Soviet Union. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 39, 1-11.
  • Cohen, N. & Barwick, M. (1996). Comorbidity of language and social-emotional disorders: comparison of psychiatric outpatients and their siblings. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 25(2), 192-200.
  • Croft, C et al, (2007). Early adolescent outcomes of institutionally-deprived and nondeprived adoptees: II. Language as a protective factor and a vulnerable outcome. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48, 31–44.
  • Dalen, M. (2001). School performances among internationally adopted children in Norway. Adoption Quarterly, 5(2), 39-57.
  • Dalen, M. (1995). Learning difficulties among inter-country adopted children. Nordisk pedagogikk, 15 (No. 4), 195-208
  • Davies, J., & Bledsoe, J. (2005). Prenatal alcohol and drug exposures in adoption. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 52, 1369–1393.
  • Desmarais, C., Roeber, B. J., Smith, M. E., & Pollak, S. D. (2012). Sentence comprehension in post-institutionalized school-age children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 55, 45-54
  • Eigsti, I. M., Weitzman, C., Schuh, J. M., de Marchena, A., & Casey, B. J. (2011). Language and cognitive outcomes in internationally adopted children. Development and Psychopathology, 23, 629-646.
  • Geren, J., Snedeker, J., & Ax, L. (2005). Starting over:  a preliminary study of early lexical and syntactic development in internationally-adopted preschoolers. Seminars in Speech & Language, 26:44-54.
  • Gindis (2008) Abrupt native language loss in international adoptees.  Advance for Speech/Language Pathologists and Audiologists.  18(51): 5.
  • Gindis, B. (2005). Cognitive, language, and educational issues of children adopted from overseas orphanages. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 4 (3): 290-315. Gindis, B. (1999) Language-related issues for international adoptees and adoptive families. In: T. Tepper, L. Hannon, D. Sandstrom, Eds. “International Adoption: Challenges and Opportunities.” PNPIC, Meadow Lands , PA. , pp. 98-108
  • Glennen, S (2009) Speech and language guidelines for children adopted from abroad at older ages.  Topics in language Disorders 29, 50-64.
  • Glennen, S. (2007) Speech and language in children adopted internationally at older ages. Perspectives on Communication Disorders in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations, 14, 17–20.
  • Glennen, S., & Bright, B. J.  (2005).  Five years later: language in school-age internally adopted children.  Seminars in Speech and Language, 26, 86-101.
  • Glennen, S. & Masters, G. (2002). Typical and atypical language development in infants and toddlers adopted from Eastern Europe. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 44, 417-433
  • Gordina, A (2009) Parent Handout: The Dream Referral, Unpublished Manuscript.
  • Hough, S., & Kaczmarek, L. (2011). Language and reading outcomes in young children adopted from Eastern European orphanages. Journal of Early Intervention, 33, 51-57.
  • Hwa-Froelich, D (2012) Childhood maltreatment and communication development. Perspectives on School-Based Issues,  13: 43-53;
  • Jacobs, E., Miller, L. C., & Tirella, G. (2010).  Developmental and behavioral performance of internationally adopted preschoolers: a pilot study.  Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 41, 15–29.
  • Jenista, J., & Chapman, D. (1987). Medical problems of foreign-born adopted children. American Journal of Diseases of Children, 141, 298–302.
  • Johnson, D. (2000). Long-term medical issues in international adoptees. Pediatric Annals, 29, 234–241.
  • Judge, S. (2003). Developmental recovery and deficit in children adopted from Eastern European orphanages. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 34, 49–62.
  • Krakow, R. A., & Roberts, J. (2003). Acquisitions of English vocabulary by young Chinese adoptees. Journal of Multilingual Communication Disorders, 1, 169-176
  • Ladage, J. S. (2009). Medical issues in international adoption and their influence on language development. Topics in Language Disorders , 29 (1), 6-17.
  • Loman, M. M., Wiik, K. L., Frenn, K. A., Pollak, S. D., & Gunnar, M. R. (2009). Post-institutionalized children’s development: growth, cognitive, and language outcomes. Journal of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, 30, 426–434.
  • McLaughlin, B., Gesi Blanchard, A., & Osanai, Y.  (1995). Assessing language development in bilingual preschool children.  Washington, D.C.: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.
  • Miller, L., Chan, W., Litvinova, A., Rubin, A., Tirella, L., & Cermak, S. (2007). Medical diagnoses and growth of children residing in Russian orphanages. Acta Paediatrica, 96, 1765–1769.
  • Miller, L., Chan, W., Litvinova, A., Rubin, A., Comfort, K., Tirella, L., et al. (2006). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in children residing in Russian orphanages: A phenotypic survey. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 30, 531–538.
  • Miller, L. (2005). Preadoption counseling and evaluation of the referral. In L. Miller (Ed.), The Handbook of International Adoption Medicine (pp. 67-86). NewYork: Oxford.
  • Pollock, K. E.  (2005) Early language growth in children adopted from China: preliminary normative data.  Seminars in Speech and Language, 26, 22-32.
  • Roberts, J., Pollock, K., Krakow, R., Price, J., Fulmer, K., & Wang, P. (2005). Language development in preschool-aged children adopted from China. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 48, 93–107.
  • Scott, K.A., Roberts, J.A., & Glennen, S. (2011).  How well children who are internationally do adopted acquire language? A meta-analysis. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 54. 1153-69.
  • Scott, K.A., & Roberts, J. (2011). Making evidence-based decisions for children who are internationally adopted. Evidence-Based Practice Briefs. 6(3), 1-16.
  • Scott, K.A., & Roberts, J. (2007) language development of internationally adopted children: the school-age years.  Perspectives on Communication Disorders in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations, 14: 12-17. 
  • Selman P. (2012a) Global trends in intercountry adoption 2000-2010. New York: National Council for Adoption.
  • Selman P (2012b). The rise and fall of intercountry adoption in the 21st centuryIn: Gibbons, J.L., Rotabi, K.S, ed. Intercountry Adoption: Policies, Practices and Outcomes. London: Ashgate Press.
  • Selman, P. (2010) “Intercountry adoption in Europe 1998–2009: patterns, trends and issues,” Adoption & Fostering, 34 (1): 4-19.
  • Silliman, E. R., & Scott, C. M. (2009). Research-based oral language intervention routes to the academic language of literacy: Finding the right road. In S. A. Rosenfield & V. Wise Berninger (Eds.), Implementing evidence-based academic interventions in school (pp. 107–145). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Tarullo, A. R., Bruce, J., & Gunnar, M. (2007). False belief and emotion understanding in post-institutionalized children. Social Development, 16, 57-78
  • Tarullo, A. & Gunnar, M. R. (2005). Institutional rearing and deficits in social relatedness: Possible mechanisms and processes. Cognitie, Creier, Comportament [Cognition, Brain, Behavior], 9, 329-342.
  • Varavikova, E. A. & Balachova, T. N. (2010). Strategies to implement physician training in FAS prevention as a part of preventive care in primary health settings: P120.Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. 34(8) Sup 3:119A.
  • Welsh, J. A., & Viana, A. G. (2012). Developmental outcomes of children adopted internationally. Adoption Quarterly, 15, 241-264.
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Assessing Behaviorally Impaired Students: Why Background History Matters!

As a speech language pathologist (SLP) who works in an outpatient psychiatric school-based setting, I frequently review incoming students previous speech language evaluation reports.  There are a number of trends I see in these reports which I have written about in the past as well as planned on writing about in the future.

For example, in the past I wrote about my concern regarding the lack of adequate or even cursory social communication assessments for students with documented psychiatric impairments and emotional behavioral deficits.

This leads many professionals to do the following: 

a. Miss vital assessment elements which denies students appropriate school based services and

b. Assume that the displayed behavioral challenges are mere results of misbehaving. 

Today however I wanted express my thoughts regarding another disturbing trend I see in numerous incoming speech-language reports in both outpatient school/hospital setting as well as in private practice  – and that is lack of background information in the students assessment reports.

Despite its key role in assessment, this section is frequently left bare. Most of the time it contains only the information regarding the students age and grade levels as well as the reasons for the referral (e.g., initial evaluation, triennial evaluation).  Some of the better reports will include cursory mention of the student’s developmental milestones but most of the time information will be sorely lacking.

Clearly this problem is not just prevalent in my incoming assessment reports. I frequently see manifestations of it in a variety of speech pathology related social media forums such as Facebook. Someone will pose a question regarding how to distinguish a _____ from ____ (e.g., language difference vs. language disorder, behavioral noncompliance vs. social communication deficits, etc.) yet when they’re questioned further many SLPs will admit that they are lacking any/most information regarding the students background history.

When questioned regarding the lack of this information, many SLPs get defensive. They cite a variety of reasons such as lack of parental involvement (“I can’t reach the parents”), lack of access to records (“it’s a privacy issue”), division of labor (e.g., “it’s the social worker’s responsibility and not mine to obtain this information”) as well as other justifications why this information is lacking.

Now, I don’t know about you, but one of my earliest memories of the ‘diagnostics’ class in graduate school involved collecting data and writing comprehensive ‘Background Information’ section of the report. I still remember multiple professors imparting upon me the vital importance is this section plays in the student’s evaluation report.

Indeed, many years later, I clearly see its vital role in assessment. Unearthing the student’s family history, developmental milestones, medical/surgical history, as well as history of past therapies is frequently the key to a successful diagnosis and appropriate provision of therapy services.  This is the information that frequently plays a vital role in subsequent referrals of “mystery” cases to relevant health professionals as well as often leads to resolution of particularly complicated diagnostic puzzles.

Of course I understand that frequently there are legitimate barriers to obtaining this information.  However, I also know that if one digs deep enough one will frequently find the information they’re seeking despite the barriers. To illustrate, at the psychiatric hospital level where I work,  I frequently encounter a number of barriers to accessing the student’s background information during the assessment process. This may include parental language/education barrier, parental absence, Division of Child Protective Services involvement,  etc.  Yet I always try to ensure that my reports contain all the background information that I’m able to unearth because I know how vitally important it is for the student in question.

In the past I have been able to use the student’s background information to make important discoveries, which were otherwise missed by other health professionals. This included undocumented history of traumatic brain injuries, history of language and literacy disabilities in the family, history of genetic disorders and/or intellectual disabilities in the family, history of maternal alcohol abuse during pregnancy, and much much more.

So what do I consider to be an adequate Background History section of the assessment report?

For starters, the basics, of course.

I begin by stating the child’s age and grade levels, who referred the child (and for what reason), as well as whether the child previously received any form of speech language assessment/therapy services in the past.

If I am preforming a reassessment (especially if it happens shortly after the last assessment took place) I provide a clear justification why the present reassessment is taking place. Here is an actual excerpt from one of my reevaluation reports. “Despite receiving average language scores on his _______ speech language testing which resulted in the  recommendation for speech therapy only, upon his admission to ______, student was referred for a language reassessment in _____, by the classroom staff who expressed significant concerns regarding validity and reliability of past speech and language testing on the ground of the student’s persistent “obvious” listening comprehension and verbal expression deficits.”

For those of you in need of further justification I’ve created a brief list of reasons why a reassessment, closely following recent testing may be needed.

  1. SLP/Parent feels additional testing is needed to create comprehensive goals for child.
  2. Previous testing was inadequate. Here it’s very important to provide comprehensive rationale  and list the reasons for it.
  3. A reevaluation was requested due to third party  concerns (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, etc.)

Secondly, it is important to document all relevant medical history, which includes: prenatal, perinatal, and early childhood diseases, surgical interventions and incidents. It is important to note that if a child has a long standing history of documented psychiatric difficulties, you may want to separate these sections and describe psychiatric history/diagnoses following the section that details the onset of the child’s emotional and behavioral deficits.

Let us now move on to the child’s developmental history, which should include, gross/fine motor, speech/ language milestones, and well as cognitive and socioemotional functioning.  This is a section where I typically add information regarding any early intervention services which may have been provided to the child prior to the age of three.

In my next section I discuss the child’s academic functioning to date. Here I mention whether the student qualified for a preschool disabled eligibility category and received services from the age of 3+.  I also discuss their educational classification (if one exists), briefly mention the results of previous most recent cognitive and educational testing (if available) as well as mention any academic struggles (if applicable).

After that I move on to the child’s psychiatric history. I briefly document when did the emotional behavioral problems first arose, and what had been done about them to date (out of district placements, variety of psychiatric services, etc.)  Here I also document  the student’s most recent psychiatric diagnoses (if available) and mention any medication they may be currently on (applicable due to the effect of psychiatric medications on language and memory skills).

The following section is perhaps the most important one in the  report. It is the family’s history of genetic disorders, psychiatric impairments, special education placements, as well as language, learning, and literacy deficits.  This section plays a vital importance in my determination of the contributions to the student’s language difficulties as well as guides my assessment recommendations in the presence of borderline assessment results.

I finish this section by briefly discussing the student’s Family Composition as well as Language Knowledge and Use.

I discuss family composition due to several factors.  For example, lack of consistent caregivers, prolonged absence of parental figures, as well as presence of a variety of people in the home can serve as significant stressor for children with psychiatric impairments and learning difficulties.  As a result of this information is pertinent to the report especially when it comes to figuring out the antecedents for the child’s behavior fluctuation on daily basis.

Language knowledge and use  is particularly relevant to culturally and linguistically diverse children. It is very important to understand what languages does the child understand and use at home and at school as well as what do the parents think about the child’s language abilities in both languages. These factors will guide my decision making process regarding what type of assessments would be most relevant for this child.

So there you have it.  This is the information I include in the background history section of every single one of my reports.  I believe that this information contributes to the making of the appropriate and accurate diagnosis of the child’s difficulties.

Please don’t get me wrong. This information is hugely relevant for all students that we SLPs are assessing.

However, the above is especially relevant for such vulnerable populations as children with emotional and behavioral disturbances, whose struggle with social communication is frequently misinterpreted as “it’s just behavior“. As a result, they are frequently denied social communication therapy services, which ultimately leads to denial of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that they are entitled to.

Let us ensure that this does not happen by doing all that we can to endure that the student receives a fair assessment, correct diagnosis, and can have access to the best classroom placement, appropriate accommodations and modifications as well as targeted and relevant therapeutic services.  And the first step of that process begins with obtaining a detailed background history!

Helpful Resources: 

 

 

 

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Parent Consultation Services

Today I’d like to officially introduce a new parent consultation service which I had originally initiated  with a few out-of-state clients through my practice a few years ago.

The idea for this service came after numerous parents contacted me and initiated dialogue via email and phone calls regarding the services/assessments needed for their monolingual/bilingual internationally/domestically adopted or biological children with complex communication needs. Here are some details about it.

Parent consultations is a service provided to clients who live outside Smart Speech Therapy LLC geographical area (e.g., non-new Jersey residents) who are interested in comprehensive specialized in-depth consultations and recommendations regarding what type of follow up speech language services they should be seeking/obtaining in their own geographical area for their children as well as what type of carryover activities they should be doing with their children at home.

Consultations are provided with the focus on the following specialization areas with a focus on comprehensive assessment and intervention recommendations:

  • Language and Literacy 
  • Children with Social Communication (Pragmatic) Disorders
  • Bilingual and Multicultural Children
  • Post-institutionalized Internationally Adopted Children
  • Children with Psychiatric and Emotional Disturbances
  • Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

The initial consultation length of this service is  1 hour. Clients are asked to forward their child’s records prior to the consultation for review, fill out several relevant intakes and questionnaires, as well as record a short video (3-5 minutes). The instructions regarding video content will be provided to them following session payment.

Upon purchasing a consultation the client will be immediately emailed the necessary paperwork to fill out as well as potential dates and times for the consultation to take place.   Afternoon, Evening and Weekend hours are available for the client’s convenience. In cases of emergencies consultations may be rescheduled at the client’s/Smart Speech Therapy’s mutual convenience.

Refunds are available during a 3 day grace period if a mutually convenient time could not be selected for the consultation. Please note that fees will not be refundable from the time the scheduled consultation begins.

Following the consultation the client has the option of requesting a written detailed consultation report at an additional cost, which is determined based on the therapist’s hourly rate. For further information click HERE. You can also call 917-916-7487 or email [email protected] if you wanted to find out whether this service is right for you.

Below is a past parent consultation testimonial.

International Adoption Consultation Parent Testimonial (11/11/13)

I found Tatyana and Smart Speech Therapy online while searching for information about internationally adopted kids and speech evaluations. We’d already taken our three year old son to a local SLP but were very unsatisfied with her opinion, and we just didn’t know where to turn. Upon finding the articles and blogs written by Tatyana, I felt like I’d finally found someone who understood the language learning process unique to adopted kids, and whose writings could also help me in my meetings with the local school system as I sought special education services for my son.

I could have never predicted then just how much Tatyana and Smart Speech Therapy would help us. I used the online contact form on her website to see if Tatyana could offer us any services or recommendations, even though we are in Virginia and far outside her typical service area. She offered us an in-depth phone consultation that was probably one of the most informative, supportive and helpful phone calls I’ve had in the eight months since adopting my son. Through a series of videos, questionnaires, and emails, she was better able to understand my son’s speech difficulties and background than any of the other sources I’d sought help from. She was able to explain to me, a lay person, exactly what was going on with our son’s speech, comprehension, and learning difficulties in a way that a) added urgency to our situation without causing us to panic, b) provided me with a ton of research-orientated information for our local school system to review, and c) validated all my concerns and gut instincts that had previously been brushed aside by other physicians and professionals who kept telling us to “wait and see”.

After our phone call, we contracted Tatyana to provide us with an in-depth consultation report that we are now using with our local school and child rehab center to get our son the help he needs. Without that report, I don’t think we would have had the access to these services or the backing we needed to get people to seriously listen to us. It’s a terrible place to be in when you think something might be wrong, but you’re not sure and no one around you is listening. Tatyana listened to us, but more importantly, she looked at our son as a specific kid with a specific past and specific needs. We were more than just a number or file to her – and we’ve never even actually met in person! The best move we’ve could’ve made was sending her that email that day. We are so appreciative.

Kristen, P. Charlottesville, VA

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Creating A Learning Rich Environment for Language Delayed Preschoolers

Today I’m excited to introduce a new product: “Creating A Learning Rich Environment for Language Delayed Preschoolers“.  —This 40 page presentation provides suggestions to parents regarding how to facilitate further language development in language delayed/impaired preschoolers at home in conjunction with existing outpatient, school, or private practice based speech language services. It details implementation strategies as well as lists useful materials, books, and websites of interest.

It is intended to be of interest to both parents and speech language professionals (especially clinical fellows and graduates speech pathology students or any other SLPs switching populations) and not just during the summer months. SLPs can provide it to the parents of their cleints instead of creating their own materials. This will not only save a significant amount of time but also provide a concrete step-by-step outline which explains to the parents how to engage children in particular activities from bedtime book reading to story formulation with magnetic puzzles.

Product Content:

  • The importance of daily routines
  • The importance of following the child’s lead
  • Strategies for expanding the child’s language
    • —Self-Talk
    • —Parallel Talk
    • —Expansions
    • —Extensions
    • —Questioning
    • —Use of Praise
  • A Word About Rewards
  • How to Begin
  • How to Arrange the environment
  • Who is directing the show?
  • Strategies for facilitating attention
  • Providing Reinforcement
  • Core vocabulary for listening and expression
  • A word on teaching vocabulary order
  • Teaching Basic Concepts
  • Let’s Sing and Dance
  • Popular toys for young language impaired preschoolers (3-4 years old)
  • Playsets
  • The Versatility of Bingo (older preschoolers)
  • Books, Books, Books
  • Book reading can be an art form
  • Using Specific Story Prompts
  • Focus on Story Characters and Setting
  • Story Sequencing
  • More Complex Book Interactions
  • Teaching vocabulary of feelings and emotions
  • Select favorite authors perfect for Pre-K
  • Finding Intervention Materials Online The Easy Way
  • Free Arts and Crafts Activities Anyone?
  • Helpful Resources

Are you a caregiver, an SLP or a related professional? DOES THIS SOUND LIKE SOMETHING YOU CAN USE? if so you can find it HERE in my online store.

Useful Smart Speech Therapy Resources:

References:
Heath, S. B (1982) What no bedtime story means: Narrative skills at home and school. Language in Society, vol. 11 pp. 49-76.

Useful Websites:
http://www.beyondplay.com
http://www.superdairyboy.com/Toys/magnetic_playsets.html
http://www.educationaltoysplanet.com/
http://www.melissaanddoug.com/shop.phtml
http://www.dltk-cards.com/bingo/
http://bogglesworldesl.com/
http://www.childrensbooksforever.com/index.html

 

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Dear School Professionals Please Be Aware of This

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I frequently get  emails,  phone calls,  and questions from parents and professionals  regarding academic functioning of internationally adopted post institutionalized children.  Unfortunately despite the fact that  there is  a  fairly large body of research  on this topic  there still continue to be numerous misconceptions regarding how these children’s needs should be addressed  in academic settings.

Perhaps  one of the most serious and damaging misconceptions is that internationally adopted children are bilingual/multicultural children with Limited English Proficiency who need to be treated as ESL speakers. This erroneous belief often leads to denial or mismanagement of appropriate level of services for these children not only with respect to their  language processing and verbal expression but also their social pragmatic language abilities.

Even after researchers published a number of articles on this topic, many psychologists, teachers and speech language pathologists still don’t know that internationally adopted children rapidly lose their little birth language literally months post their adoption by English-speaking parents/families. Gindis (2005) found that children adopted between 4-7 years of age lose expressive birth language abilities within 2-3 months and receptive abilities within 3-6 months post- adoption. This process is further expedited in children under 4, whose language is delayed or impaired at the time of adoption (Gindis, 2008).    Even school-aged children of 10-12 years of age who were able to read and write in their birth language,  rapidly lose  their comprehension and expression of birth language  within their first year post adoption,  if adopted by English-speaking parents who are unable to support their birth language.

 So how does this translate into appropriate provision of speech language services you may ask?   To begin with,  I often see posts on the ASHA forums  or in Facebook speech pathology and special education groups seeking assistance with finding interpreters fluent in various exotic languages.  However, unless the child is “fresh off the boat” (several months post arrival to US)  schools shouldn’t be feverishly trying to locate interpreters to assist with testing in the child’s birth language.  They will not be able to obtain any viable results especially if the child had been residing in the United States for several years.

So if the post-institutionalized, internationally  adopted child is still struggling with academics  several years post adoption,  one should not immediately jump to the conclusion that this is an “ESL” issue,  but get relevant professionals (e.g., speech pathologists, psychologists) to perform thorough testing in order to determine whether it’s the lack of foundational abilities due to institutionalization which is adversely impacting the child’s academic abilities.

Furthermore, ESL itself is often not applicable as an educational method to internationally adopted children.  Here’s why:

Let’s literally take the first definition of ESL which pops-up on Google when you put in a query: “What is ESL?”  “English as a Second Language (ESL) is an instructional program for students whose dominant language is not English. The purpose of the program is to increase the English language proficiency of eligible students so they can attain academic standards and achieve success in the classroom.”

Here is our first problem.  These students don’t have a dominant language.   They are typically adopted by parents who do not speak their birth language and that are unable to support them in their birth language. So upon arrival to US, IA children will typically acquire English via the subtractive model of language acquisition (birth language is replaced and eliminated by English), which is a direct contrast to bilingual children, many of whom learn via the additive model (adding English to the birth language (Gindis, 2005). As a result, of subtractive language acquisition IA children experience very rapid birth language attrition (loss) post-adoption (Gindis, 2003; Glennen, 2009).   Thus they will literally undergo what some researchers have called: “second-first language acquisition” (Scott et al., 2011)  and their first language will “become completely obsolete as English is learned” (Nelson, 2012, p. 2). 

This brings us to our second problem: the question of “eligibility”.  Historically, ESL programs have been designed to assist children of immigrant families  acquire academic readiness skills.  This methodology is based on the fact that skills from first language was ultimately transfer to the  second language.  However, since post-institutionalized children don’t technically have a “first language”  and  their home language is English,  how could they technically be eligible for ESL services? Furthermore,  because of frequent lack of basic foundational skills in the birth language  internationally adopted post-institutionalized children will not benefit the same way from ESL instruction the same way bilingual children of immigrant families do.  So instead of focusing on these children’s questionable eligibility for ESL services  it is important to perform detailed review of their pre-adoption records in order to determine birth language deficits and consider eligibility for  speech language services with the emphasis on improving  these children’s  foundational skills.

If the child’s pre-adoption records specifically state that s/he has birth language delay then it should be taken seriously (Gindis, 1999) since language delays in the birth language transfer and affect the new language (McLaughlin, Gesi, & Osani, 1995). These delays will not “go away” without appropriate interventions.  “Any child with a known history of speech and language delays in the sending country should be considered to have true delays or disorders and should receive speech and language services after adoption.” (Glennen, 2009, p.52)

Now that we have discussed the issue of ESL services, lets touch upon social pragmatic language abilities of internationally adopted children.  Here’s how erroneous beliefs can contribute to mismanagement of appropriate services in this area.

Different cultures have different pragmatic conventions,  therefore we are taught to be very careful when labeling  certain behaviors  of children from other cultures as atypical, just because they are not consistent with the conventions and behaviors of children from the mainstream culture. Here’s a recent example. A mainstream American parent consulted an SLP regarding the inappropriate social pragmatic skills of her teenaged daughter adopted almost a decade ago from Southeast Asia. The SLP was under the  impression that  some of the child’s deficits  were due to multicultural differences and had to do with the customs and traditions of the child’s country of origin. She was considering  advising the parent regarding requesting  an evaluation by a SLP who spoke the child’s birth language.

Here are two problems with the above scenario.  Firstly,  any internationally adopted post-institutionalized child who was adopted by American parents who were not part of the culture from which the child was adopted, the child will quickly become acculturated  and  immersed in the American culture.  These children “need functional English for survival”, and thus have a powerful incentive to acquire English (Gindis, 2005; p. 299).   consequently, any unusual or atypical behaviors they exhibit in social interactions and in academic setting with other individuals cannot be  attributed to customs and traditions of another culture.

Secondly,  It is very important to understand that  institutionalization and orphanage care have been closely linked to increase in mental health disorders  and psychiatric impairments.   As a result, internationally adopted children have a high incidence of social pragmatic deficits as compared to non-adopted peers as well as post-institutionalized children adopted at younger ages, (under 3).    Given this, if parents present with concerns regarding their internationally adopted post-institutionalized children’s social pragmatic and behavioral functioning it is very important not to  jump to erroneous conclusion pertaining to these children’s birth countries but rather preform comprehensive evaluations in order to determine whether these children can be assisted further in the realm of social pragmatic functioning in a variety of settings.

In order to develop a clear picture regarding appropriate service delivery for IA children, school based professionals need to educate themselves regarding the fundamental differences between development and learning trajectories of internationally adopted children and multicultural/bilingual children. Children, who struggle academically, after years of adequate schooling exposure, do not deserve a “wait and see” approach. They should start receiving appropriate intervention as soon as possible (Hough & Kaczmarek, 2011; Scott & Roberts, 2007).

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Why Developmental History Matters: On the Importance of Background Information in Speech-Language Assessments

Cute Detective Clip ArtLately I’ve been seeing quite a few speech language therapy reports with minimal information about the child in the background history section of the report. Similarly, I’ve encountered numerous SLPs seeking advice and guidance relevant to the assessment and treatment of difficult cases who were often at a loss when asked about specific aspects of their client’s background family history in order to assist them better. They’ve never delved into it beyond a few surface details! Continue reading Why Developmental History Matters: On the Importance of Background Information in Speech-Language Assessments

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What parents need to know about speech-language assessment of older internationally adopted children

This post is based on Elleseff, T (2013) Changing Trends in International Adoption: Implications for Speech-Language Pathologists. Perspectives on Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders, 3: 45-53

Changing Trends in International Adoption:

In recent years the changing trends in international adoption revealed a shift in international adoption demographics which includes more preschool and school-aged children being sent for adoption vs. infants and toddlers (Selman, 2012a; 2010) as well as a significant increase in special needs adoptions from Eastern European countries as well as from China (Selman, 2010; 2012a). Continue reading What parents need to know about speech-language assessment of older internationally adopted children

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Trivia Night Answers and Winners

Thank you all who participated in yesterday’s Trivia Night!

Below you’ll find answers to round’s questions as well as the names of winners for each round.

Round 1: Early Child Development

1. Name at least 3 characteristics of child directed speech

These include: motherese, repetition, modeling speech, simple syntax, slowing rate, using a higher pitch as well as using an exaggerated intonation pattern.

2. What is the critical period hypothesis? It is a time period during which language acquisition takes place

3. Name at least 3 functions of communicative behavior during infancy

These include: obtaining attention, seeking approval, seeking assistance, seeking attachment just to name a few

4. Name 2 types of echolalia: Immediate and Delayed

5.  What is jargon and up until what age is it appropriate in children?  Jargon is not true speech but rather pre-linguistic “nonsensical” vocalizations which involve adult-like stress and intonation patterns.  Jargon usually begins to occur around 10-11 months of age in children and can typically last up until about 18 months of age give or take depending on the individual development rate of the child in question. 

Round 2: Internationally Adopted Children 

1. As related to internationally adopted (IA) children, what does the acronym CLM stand for and what does it mean?

CLM stands for Cognitive Language Mastery. It is the language needed for formal academic learning. This includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing about subject area content material including analyzing, synthesizing, judging and evaluating presented information. This level of language learning is essential for a child to succeed in school. CLM typically takes years and years to master, especially because, IA children did not have the same foundation of knowledge and stimulation as bilingual children in their birth countries.

2. ”The pattern of language acquisition in internationally adopted children is often referred to as a second first language acquisition” (Scott et al., 2011). Why? Because the first language (which is typically delayed and limited to begin with due to adverse effects of institutionalization) becomes completely obsolete as English is learned. So they end up learning L2 literally from scratch. 

3. Why CAN’T we treat Internationally Adopted children as bilingual speakers? Because they are typically adopted by parents who do not speak their birth language as a result of which they experience rapid birth language attrition and forget their birth language very rapidly.  

4. IA children may present with “normal” language abilities but still display significant difficulties in this area of functioning cognitive-academic and or social pragmatic communication (acceptable responses)

5.  Finish the following sentence: Any child with a known history of speech and language delays in the sending country should be considered to have true delays or disorders and should receive speech and language services after adoption.” (Glennen, 2009, p.52)

Round 3: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

1. FASD is an umbrella term for the range of effects that can occur due to maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy which may create physical, cognitive, behavioral, as well as learning/language deficits. It is NOT a clinical diagnosis. Please list at least 3 CURRENT terms under the FASD umbrella (see http://depts.washington.edu/fasdpn/htmls/fasd-fas.htm for details)

  • —Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) 
  • —Partial FAS 
  • ———Static Encephalopathy (alcohol exposed)
  • Neurobehavioral Disorder (alcohol exposed)

2. Name at least 3 characteristics of infants/toddlers with alcohol related deficits

  • — —May show failure to thrive
  • Increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli 
  • —Delayed speech/language milestones
  • Decreased muscle tone and poor muscle coordination 
  • —Poor self regulation

3. Since behavioral problems become more pronounced during the school years, many researchers found that the primary deficit of school aged children with FASD is in the area of (acceptable responses below)

  • —Daily Functioning Skills
  • —Self-regulation difficulties
  • —Problem Solving Issues
  • —Social/emotional problems

4. Finish the following sentence: adolescents with FASD have significant —DIFFICULTY LEARNING FROM Experience 

5. Why is early detection of alcohol related deficits important? Because it can lead to 

  • —Early and Appropriate Service Delivery
  • —Improved Adaptability
  • —Improved Functioning
  • Improved Outcomes

AND NOW THE WINNERS:

Round 1: Kristin Yanchuleff Simmons      
Round 2: Christina Pillar Cook 
Round 3: Kristin Yanchuleff Simmons 
 
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SLP Trivia Night: Round Two

1. As related to internationally adopted (IA) children, what does the acronym CLM stand for and what does it mean?

2. “The pattern of language acquisition in internationally adopted children is often referred to as a second first language acquisition” (Scott et al., 2011). Why?

3. Why CAN’T we treat Internationally Adopted children as bilingual speakers?

4. IA children may present with “normal” language abilities but still display significant difficulties in this area of functioning ___________.

5.  Finish the following sentence: “Any child with a known history of speech and language delays in the sending country should _____________________”.

Place your responses under this blog post and number each response for clarity.

The first person to get all answers correct will have their choice of product from my online store.