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Guest Post: Simple Activities to Help Your Child with Language Impairment

If your child has been identified as having a language impairment, there are simple activities you can do at home that facilitate language development. These activities work in conjunction with your child’s formal therapy sessions and the activities he or she may participate in at school, either in the classroom or in an adjunct therapy session.

Such activities have three characteristics:

  • They are fun.

Therapy is almost always more effective for small children if it’s fun. Observe the therapist and note that almost all of the activities during the session are based around something that your child already likes to do.

  • They are part of “ordinary” interactions.

While formal therapy sessions are important, the activities at home don’t need to resemble therapy. Instead, they should be built into the normal course of everyday interactions to facilitate language skills naturally.

  • They build receptive language and vocabulary.

As you help your child develop language at home, the process becomes a natural part of your day together. Instead of being singled out as “language impaired,” your child is a loved and “normal” part of your family, and building his or her language skills becomes something that you do with your child just as you would with anyone. In addition, the interaction as you work together to strengthens your bond as you communicate.

Some simple activities to help your child include:

  • Reading aloud

Every child loves to be read a bedtime story; it’s a special time to snuggle with Mom or Dad and to hear a favorite story, again and again. Children find this repetition comforting; it also helps build both receptive and communicative language because as they learn the familiar words – both what they mean and how to say them – they can repeat them as you read the story together. This is perhaps the most perfect activity to help your child because you can do it every day. In fact, your child will look forward to it and probably even demand that it be done.

  • Telling stories, repeating rhymes, and asking your child to “complete the sentence”

Nursery rhymes and familiar stories are additional fun ways to expose your child to both communicative and receptive language. These activities develop language skills in a playful and non-stressful manner. For example, as your child develops familiarity with a rhyme, story, etc., simply pause at the end of a phrase and have him or her complete it.

  • Singing and listening to songs

Music is a wonderful facilitator of language too, and great to include in activities to help your child with language impairment issues. Spend some time each day singing together or listening to songs while driving, for example.

  • Playing the game, “What comes next?”

The “alphabet song” is a good example of how to play the game, “What comes next?” with your child. Since this song helps most children learn the alphabet, begin by singing the song together, and then as your child learns the alphabet, drop out so he or she sings the next letters alone.

“What comes next?” can also be played with days of the week, months of the year, counting, and more. The beauty of “What comes next?” is its applicability to anything language-based. Customize it to suit your child’s likes and dislikes, and it never gets boring.

  • Providing appropriate language modeling

Among the best activities to help your child is modeling correct language during conversations. Your child will watch, learn, and ultimately respond correctly, with gentle prompting at first.

About the author:

Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., is Vice President, Strategic Growth at Progressus Therapy, a leading provider of school-based therapy and early intervention services.

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In Case You’ve Missed it – Multisensory stimulation: using edibles to enhance learning

Last week one of my posts was a part of Speech Snacks Blogiversary . In case you missed it, read below some of my suggestions on how to creatively use edibles to enhance learning.

There are times when we (speech-language pathologists) encounter certain barriers when working with language impaired children. These may include low motivation, inconsistent knowledge retention, as well as halting or labored progress in therapy. Consequently, we spend countless hours on attempting to enhance the service delivery for our clients. One method that I have found to be highly effective for greater knowledge retention as well as for increasing the kids’ motivation is incorporating multisensory stimulation in speech and language activities. Continue reading In Case You’ve Missed it – Multisensory stimulation: using edibles to enhance learning

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App Review and Giveaway: Speech Therapy for Apraxia – Words

A little while ago I reviewed “Speech Therapy for Apraxia” by Blue Whale Apps. You can Find this post HERE. I liked that app so much so I asked the developer to take a look at the next level of this app “Speech Therapy for Apraxia – Words”.

Similarly to Speech Therapy for Apraxia, Speech Therapy for Apraxia-Words is designed for working on motor planning with children and adults presenting with developmental or acquired apraxia of speech. Continue reading App Review and Giveaway: Speech Therapy for Apraxia – Words

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App Review and Giveaway: Speech Therapy for Apraxia – NACD Home Speech Therapist

Recently I got the opportunity to take a look at the “Speech Therapy for Apraxia – NACD Home Speech Therapist” by Blue Whale Apps.

According to the developer the app is applicable to

• SLPs with individuals with apraxia (both children and adults)
• Parents working with children with apraxia
• Traditional articulation practice (drills)

Developed by the National Association for Child Development (NACD) by an SLP, the Apraxia app provides choices of different phonemes to target and gradually increases the levels  of difficulty to improve motor planning for speech. Continue reading App Review and Giveaway: Speech Therapy for Apraxia – NACD Home Speech Therapist

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To Speech Buddy or Not to Speech Buddy: That is the Question?

A few weeks ago I received my new gleaming set of Speech Buddies for the purposes of review.  So today I’ll be describing my experiences using speech buddies in speech therapy with several clients. My client’s ages were 3.5, 4.5, 8, and 9. Prior to initiating the use of the speech buddies I have posed a number of questions for myself including:

  1. Does the use of a particular speech buddy really shorten the time needed to attain sound mastery? (Since on their intro page a chart shows them to be twice as faster in eliciting correct sound production)
  2. How does the use of a speech buddy compare with the use of a “traditional” oral placement implements (e.g., bite block, tongue depressor, cotton tip applicator, etc)
  3. Do the speech buddies justify their cost? Continue reading To Speech Buddy or Not to Speech Buddy: That is the Question?
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In case you missed it: How to Successfully Address Client’s Inattention, Impulsivity, and Hyperactivity in Therapy Sessions

Last week I did a guest post for The Speech Bubble Blog. In case you missed it,  below are my recommendations on how to address aspects of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity in your therapy sessions.

In recent years, with the ‘back to district trend’ sweeping our schools, more and more speech language pathologists find themselves working with children who present with behavioral deficits in conjunction with speech-language delays and impairments. A significant portion of work with these children in therapy involves successful management of a number of behavioral difficulties, which often interfere with successful objective completion and goal attainment. Continue reading In case you missed it: How to Successfully Address Client’s Inattention, Impulsivity, and Hyperactivity in Therapy Sessions

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App Giveaway: Are you Sleeping?

Today Thanks to the generosity of Lavelle Carlson of SpeechPathologyApps.com I am giving away multiple copies of their newest app “Are You Sleeping”.

Continue reading App Giveaway: Are you Sleeping?

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Book Review and Giveaway: My Toddler Talks

 Today it is my pleasure to review a book written by a NJ based, fellow SLP, Kimberly Scanlon of Scanlon Speech Therapy LLC entitled “My Toddler Talks“.

What it’s NOT! As Kimberly points out this book is definitely NOT a replacement for speech language therapy. If you are a parent and are concerned with your child’s speech language abilities you should certainly seek appropriate consultation with a qualified speech language pathologist.

What it is! A nice and functional collection of suggestions on how caregivers and related professionals can facilitate language development in children between 18-36 months of age (give or take). Continue reading Book Review and Giveaway: My Toddler Talks

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My new article was published in January 2012 issue of Adoption Today Magazine

My article entitled: Speech Language Strategies for Multisensory Stimulation of Internationally Adopted Children has been published in the January 2012 Issue of Adoption Today Magazine

Summary:  The article introduces the concept of multisensory stimulation and explains its benefits for internationally adopted children of all ages.  It also provides suggestions for parents and professionals on how to implement multisensory strategies in a variety of educational activities in order to stimulate interest, increase task participation as well as facilitate concept retention.

References:

Doman, G & Wilkinson, R (1993) The effects of intense multi-sensory stimulation on coma arousal and recovery. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation. 3 (2): 203-212.

Johnson, D. E et al (1992) The health of children adopted from Romania. Journal of the American Medical Association. 268(24): 3446-3450

Ti, K, Shin YH, & White-Traut, RC (2003), Multisensory intervention improves physical growth and illness rates in Korean orphaned newborn infants. Research in Nursing Health.  26 (6): 424-33.

Milev et al (2008) Multisensory Stimulation for Elderly With Dementia: A 24-Week Single-Blind Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias. 23 (4): 372-376.

Tarullo, A & Gunnar, M (2006). Child Maltreatment and Developing HPA Axis. Hormones and Behavior 50, 632-639.

White Traut (1999) Developmental Intervention for Preterm Infants Diagnosed with Periventricular Leukomalacia. Research in Nursing Health.  22: 131-143.

White Traut et al (2009) Salivary Cortisol and Behavioral State Responses of Healthy Newborn Infants to Tactile-Only and Multisensory Interventions. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing. 38(1): 22–34

 Resources:

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Speech-Language Activity Suggestions for Multisensory Stimulation of At-Risk Children

In recent years the percentage of “at-risk children” has been steadily increasing across pediatric speech-language pathology caseloads.  These include adopted and foster care children, medically fragile children (e.g., failure to thrive), abused and neglected children, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds or any children who for any reason lack the adequate support system to encourage them to function optimally socially, emotionally, intellectually, or physically.

At times speech-language pathologists encounter barriers when working with this population, which include low motivation, inconsistent knowledge retention, as well as halting or labored progress in therapy.

As a speech-language pathologist whose caseload consists entirely of at-children, I have spent countless of hours on attempting to enhance service delivery for my clients. One method that I have found to be highly effective for greater knowledge retention as well as for increasing the kids’ motivation is incorporating multisensory stimulation in speech and language activities.

To date, a number of studies have described the advantages of multisensory stimulation for various at risk populations. For example, in 2003 a study published in Journal of Research in Nursing and Health described the advantages of multisensory stimulation for 2 week old Korean orphans who received auditory, tactile, and visual stimulation twice a day, 5 days a week, for 4 weeks. This resulted in significantly fewer illnesses as well as significant gains in weight, length and head circumference, after the 4-week intervention period and at 6 months of age. Another 2009 study by White Traut and colleagues published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, found that multi sensory stimulation consisting of auditory, tactile, visual, and vestibular intervention contributed to a reduction of infant stress reactivity (steady decline in cortisol levels).   Moreover, multisensory stimulation is not just beneficial for young children. Other studies found benefits of multisensory stimulation for dementia (Milev et al, 2008) and coma patients (Doman & Wilkinson, 1993), indicating the usefulness of multisensory stimulation for a variety of at risk populations of different age groups.

After reviewing some studies and successfully implementing a number of strategies I wanted to share with you some of my favorite multisensory activities for different age-groups.

Before initiating any activities please remember to obtain parental permissions as well as a clearance from the occupational therapist (if the child is receiving related services), particularly if the child presents with significant sensory issues.  It is also very important to ensure that there are no food allergies, or nutritional restrictions, especially when it comes to working with new and unfamiliar clients on your caseload.

Multisensory stimulation for young children does not have to involve stimulation of all the senses at once. However, there are a number of activities which come quite close, especially when one combines “touch ‘n’ feel” books, musical puzzles as well as paper and edible crafts.

Here’s one of my favorite speech language therapy session activities for children 2-4 years of age. I use a board book called Percival Touch ‘n’ Feel Book to teach insect and animal related vocabulary words as well as talk about adjectives describing textures (furry, smooth, bumpy, sticky, etc).  As I help the children navigate the book, they get to touch the pages and talk about various plant and animals parts such as furry caterpillar dots, shiny flower petals, bumpy frog skin, or sticky spider web.   We also work on appropriately producing multisyllabic words and on combining the words into short sentences, depending of course, on the child’s age, skills, and abilities.   With this activity I often use animal and insect musical puzzles so the children can hear and then imitate select animal and insect noises.

Also, since all of Percival’s friends are garden insects and animals, it’s fairly easy to turn the book characters into paper crafts. Color paper templates are available from free websites such as www.dltk-kids.com, and range in complexity based on the child’s age (e.g., 2+, 3+ etc).  While looking innocuously like simple paper cutouts, in reality these crafts are a linguistic treasure trove and can be used for teaching simple and complex directions (e.g., after you glue the frog’s arm, glue on his foot) as well as prepositional concepts (e.g., glue the eyes on top of the head; glue the mouth below the nose, etc).

So far we have combined the tactile with the auditory and the visual but we are still missing the stimulation of a few other senses such as the olfactory and the gustatory.  For these we need a bit more creativity, and that’s where edible crafts come in (inspired by Janell Cannon’s ‘Crickwing’).  The child and I begin by constructing and gluing together a large paper flower and dabbing it’s petals with various food extracts (almond, vanilla, raspberry, lemon, root beer, banana, cherry, coconut, etc).  Then, using the paper flower as a model, we make an edible flower using various foods.  Pretzel sticks serve as stems, snap peas become leaves while mango, tomato, apple, peach and orange slices can serve as petals.  After our food craft is finished the child (and all other therapy participants) are encouraged to take it apart and eat it.  The edible flower is not just useful to stimulate the visual, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory senses but it also encourages picky eaters to trial new foods with a variety of textures and tastes, as well as serves to develop symbolic play and early abstract thinking skills.

It is also important to emphasize that multisensory activities are not just for younger children; they can be useful for school-age children as well (including middle school and high school aged kids). In the past, I have incorporated multisensory activities into thematic language and vocabulary units for older children (see resources below) while working on the topics such as the senses (e.g., edible tasting plate), nutrition (e.g., edible food pyramid), the human body (e.g., computer games such as whack a bone by anatomy arcade), or even biology (building plant and animal cell structures out of jello and candy). From my personal clinical experience I have noticed that when I utilized the multisensory approach to learning vs. auditory and visual approaches alone (such as paper based or computer based tasks only), the children evidenced greater task participation, were able to understand the material much faster and were still able to recall learned information appropriately several therapy sessions later.

I find multisensory stimulation to be a fun and interactive way to increase the child’s learning potential, decrease stress levels, as well as increase retention of relevant concepts.  Try it and let me know how it works for you!

 References:

·         Doman, G & Wilkinson, R (1993) The effects of intense multi-sensory stimulation on coma arousal and recovery. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation. 3 (2): 203-212.

·         Ti, K, Shin YH, & White-Traut, RC (2003), Multisensory intervention improves physical growth and illness rates in Korean orphaned newborn infants. Research in Nursing Health.  26 (6): 424-33.

·         Milev et al (2008) Multisensory Stimulation for Elderly With Dementia: A 24-Week Single-Blind Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias. 23 (4): 372-376.

·         Tarullo, A & Gunnar, M (2006). Child Maltreatment and Developing HPA Axis. Hormones and Behavior 50, 632-639.

  • White Traut (1999) Developmental Intervention for Preterm Infants Diagnosed with Periventricular Leukomalacia. Research in Nursing Health.  22: 131-143.

·         White Traut et al (2009) Salivary Cortisol and Behavioral State Responses of Healthy Newborn Infants to Tactile-Only and Multisensory Interventions. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing. 38(1): 22–34

 Resources: