Summer Therapy Home Practice

cartoon sunLast week marked the first day of summer and since school’s out for summer, there’s no better time than to capitalize on all that extra time you’re sure to have in between beach trips, cannonballs at the pool, and all that comes with the carefree laissez-faire days of summer.

Nowadays, it seems like the most natural thing to have the kiddos in front of is some kind of “screen” – a TV, a computer, an iPad, an iPhone (which can be great tools as well) – but there are lots of other fun activities that can help your kiddos stay entertained, while garnering some great skills (without them even knowing it’s work). Here are 5 Non-Screen Summer Activities:

1. Go to the zoo. In my work with kids, especially those that are speech delayed, I have seen many begin to talk a lot more around animals, including sounds and names. Giving your child the chance to experience this firsthand is a great way to get them talking some more. Narrate your visit at the zoo by naming the animals, making the sounds they make, and throwing some action words in there, ie. Go lion; Lion sleep; Elephant eat. Or you can also use a carrier phrase, such as “I see lion!” Check out the National Zoo or the Reston Zoo, for starters.

2. Hang out at the park. Your neighborhood jungle gym might be just the ticket, especially when you’re not up for a more crowded location like the zoo. The park is a great place to visit because it is helpful to have kids interact with each other in a social manner. Here, they can learn the skills of turn-taking, requesting, compromise, and general communication with peers. And don’t forget about those gross motor skills! Kids will learn a lot about their bodies as they move about the playground.

3. Create a summer soundtrack. Summertime may be just the right moment to break out the drums (yep, I said it) and jam out with your kids to harness their creative side. Musical toys tend to be a real hit with kiddos. Additionally, introducing a new playlist for your next road trip might be just the ticket to increasing expressive communication. Research has shown that music helps awaken the opposite side of the brain and can often open up a world of possibilities for attention and development.

4. Get moving with yoga. Rainy days are no fun, but we all know when a summer storm is brewing. When you need to bring the kids in from the pool (or maybe just for a deep morning stretch), try playing some silly movement games to get the energy out and get them moving. Yoga is great for this and lots of our occupational therapists use some of these moves in therapy. This is a great strategy to help decrease stress and anxiety, improve self-regulation abilities, and improve overall motor skills. Get those frog, warrior, and tree poses ready!

5. Play ‘I Spy…” This game is great for improving expressive language. I often work with kids who use “thing” and “stuff” to refer to objects. I’m constantly trying to break them of this habit and get them to use more appropriate specific language. When you play “I Spy” or any other clue-giving game (hey there, Jeepers Peepers and HedBanz), your kids will need to picture your words to guess (receptive language) or will need to give you a specific description to have you guess (expressive language). I always try to get at least 3 clues before the other person can guess. “I spy with my little eye, something that is a red food that is juicy and comes from a tree…”

This is just a taste of some screen-free summer activities. Your therapist can always give you additional suggestions. Happy Summer!

Group Therapy

summerThe word group may lead you to think about the opposite of individual. Why pay for therapy that is not personally suited to your child’s needs? However, group therapy makes me think functional and practical.

There is only so much that can be taught to a child when interacting with an adult alone. In fact, many kids in therapy can interact with an adult but when put with a group of their peers, they are challenged and cannot appropriately participate. This is where groups come in, especially in the case of pragmatic language kiddos.

What is pragmatic language? Pragmatic language is thought of as social language – how we interact and communicate with other people. The necessary skills to participate successfully within a conversation include inferencing (making a “smart guess”), auditory processing (being able to comprehend and respond to what you’ve heard someone else say), interpreting language (think idioms and figurative language), understanding word meanings (two/to/too), and much more. Additionally, in the therapeutic setting, speech pathologists can teach individual concepts, such as those put forth in Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking principles. However, a group allows the child to apply what they’ve learned and directly understand “expected” vs “unexpected” behaviors in the moment. Not to mention that groups tend to be less of a burden financially, given the amount of kids in a group.

Summer is the perfect time to participate in group language therapy, given the decreased pressures of academics and the carefree living of the season.

If you’re in the Northern Virginia area, Skill Builders has many language groups, articulation groups, and sensory groups available this summer. Check ’em out!

Perceptions

After the big #dressgate a few weeks back, I got to thinking about perceptions and a favorite old social language concept: perspective taking.

What is perspective taking? In Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking terms, perspective taking is when you have a thought about another person (“I can’t believe she thinks that dress is white and gold!”) and then realize that others have thoughts about us too (“She is crazy if she thinks that dress is black and blue!”). To further think of this concept we must be able to understand how others perceive things and realize that our opinions are not always the opinions of others but that we are always formulating thoughts about those around us whether we realize it or not. Was the dress black and blue or white and gold? Does it really matter? Are we so freaked out by the reality that others can see something differently than we can? And actually in this case, science can explain a lot to us.

duck rabbit 3_18_15This isn’t a new concept, however. Take one of my favorite books: Duck, Rabbit! Do you see a duck? Or maybe it’s a rabbit. But does it matter? The point is that we are able to defend our choices, explain them, and accept that others may not always agree with us. You have a thought and I have a thought – it’s what we do with those thoughts that enables us to form and maintain relationships with others. Often, our kids cannot understand this concept. They usually think because they like Minecraft or learning about black holes that others must like the same. We all find joy in a variety of topics, no matter who we are. And this is the concept I work on with my kids. If you can defend your opinions and accept the concept of agreeing to disagree, then I certainly feel successful. Furthermore, if you can realize that you are not the only one with thoughts (and that others will be perceiving you a certain way based on what you say or do) then we are definitely making progress.

Black and blue, white and gold, duck or rabbit. I can see the argument for any. Let’s work on acceptance of the argument and explaining what YOU think. We could all use a little flexible thinking.

Photos originally from Buzzfeed.com and Amazon.com

Childhood Developmental Milestones

baby 3_17_15As a speech-language pathologist, I am often sought after by friends and family to provide solid information on development. My go-to responses often include: one year-one word, two-word combinations by 18 months, and walking around a year. Early developing sounds include all vowels and consonants /b, p, m, t, d, k, g/ (within the first 2-3 years).

However, this is not a perfect science. In fact, there are several schools of thought in the research about the when of sound development. The Virginia Department of Education uses the Iowa Nebraska Articulation Norms in schools as a guide but then the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation Norms present some discrepancies.

So what do we do? This seems far from NORMal. My rule of thumb is often to use these as a guide. When testing children, we need to have some kind of reference and we can think about early (those named above) vs. late (“th” and “r”) developing sounds.

Another important “milestone” that is a good measure of sound development comes within a child’s intelligibility. I usually think of the following numbers when it comes to intelligibility to an unfamiliar listener (parents and teachers are deemed “familiar listeners”) when context is unknown: by 2 years old a child should be about 50% intelligible; by 3 years old a child should be about 75% intelligible; and by 4 years old a child should be about 100% intelligible. Keep in mind that I don’t think anyone is always 100% intelligible – this will specifically happen on the phone, in a crowded and noisy room, or when someone mumbles. Remember, these numbers are just a guide to get a general idea, as all children develop differently.

In any case, I always recommend visiting a licensed speech-language pathologist to assess articulation if you have the slightest concern. “Mother knows best,” as they say so go with your instincts. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!