Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to get my infant to talk: Tip #3!

It's Tip Tuesday and since I receive questions about facilitating and eliciting language in very young children often from parents all over the world I thought I'd do a series offering tips and techniques I have done (and still do) with my own kiddos to get them talking!  You will notice there will be very few speech pathology terms used here as the goal of this series is to speak directly to parents.  However this information can be used by SLPs, early interventionists, or early childhood educators as well.  These tips are targeted for children 0-3 yrs (or cognitive equivalent).

Here's Tip #3 (you can find Tip #2 here).

Bring attention to your face.  So much verbal and nonverbal communication is done with our faces.  Bringing attention to the central source of communication when your child is just learning the ins and outs of social skills, provides a simple way you can feel connected with your child while modeling the many things you can do with just your face.

How can I bring attention to my face?  What should I be doing?  You can really do anything that is entertaining to your baby and encourages sustained attention.  So, make silly faces, open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue, play with early developing sounds "ba", "ma", "da", "wa", etc.  Repeat these sounds with a variety of intonation illustrating a conversation.  I call this playing "face games" with your baby.

Tip:  The easiest way for me to do this with my own children is to lay my babies down on my lap so they when they are looking up they have no choice but to be looking at me and focusing on my face rather than on toys or the surrounding environment.

Why it works?  By bringing attention to your face you are showing your baby there are things we can do with our faces (seems pretty logical, right?).  When acting silly, your baby will find enjoyment in your face and in this type of play.  When producing sounds, you are modeling the babbling that is to come from your baby as he/she develops.  You are showing him/her that he/she can talk too and that talking is fun!  It's also imperative to have these moments of social connection with your infant as it teaches your child joint attention as well as a number of other nonverbal language skills such as making and maintaining eye contact, social smile, oral motor imitation, etc..

Tip:  I often tell parents that I work with, if this feels unnatural for you to do, take a few minutes every day after you brush your teeth or get out of the shower and make silly/funny faces to yourself in the mirror, while pretending you are talking to your baby.  After four or five days of this, you'll be ready to play face games with your baby.

Stay tuned for Tip #4 coming next week!

Happy talking!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How to get my infant to talk: Tip #2!

It's Tip Tuesday and since I receive questions about facilitating and eliciting language in very young children often from parents all over the world I thought I'd do a series offering tips and techniques I have done (and still do) with my own kiddos to get them talking!  You will notice there will be very few speech pathology terms used here as the goal of this series is to speak directly to parents.  However this information can be used by SLPs, early interventionists, or early childhood educators as well.  These tips are targeted for children 0-3 yrs (or cognitive equivalent).

So here's Tip #2 (find Tip #1 here).  You hear this all the time and if you want a child with strong communication and problem solving skills, good inferencing abilities and a large vocabulary, this is the way you make it happen.

Read often and Read repeatedly.  Read books to your child EVERY day!  Be sure to read and re-read the same books, over and over to your child.  I know it will seem tedious and monotonous at times, but it is very important to offer repeated readings of the same book to your child. As your child grows and begins to request books, it will become apparent which books he/she really enjoys. However, during the infant stage it will be up to you as a parent to remember to re-read books to your little one.

A word of caution when choosing books:  do not limit yourself to only picture books or very simple stories.  Even if your infant cannot yet talk or understand language, exposure to rich vocabulary, variations in prosody and intonation, and various narrative structures, will aid in further development of your child's auditory comprehension skills.  (Side note:  Also remember over time to change up books that your child has available to him/her so that he/she experiences various types of narratives.)

I remember when my oldest was 9 months old, he fell in LOVE with the cadence of the "Gingerbread Man" and he would knock over his basket of books, push all his other books out of the way, just to find this book for me to read.  Although he didn't understand every word, he loved hearing that book over and over and over again.  I must have read it 1000 times over the next 2 or 3 months, but he just couldn't get enough of it!  (And five years later, he still loves it!)  Don't get me wrong, as a mom, I desperately wanted to hide that book and if I ever had to read it again, it would be too soon. However, I knew it would help him in the long run and it just gave him such pleasure to hear it, that I couldn't say no.

Simple tip on how I foster daily reading:  Some parents like to schedule a set time (morning and night, or before nap time and bed, etc.) that they like to read to their children and if you are one of those parents I say, keep it up!  I like to do things a little differently.  I leave baskets/buckets of books around my house so that no matter where we are, I have immediate access to books.  I do not set up a time of day that I read with my boys, we just naturally gravitate to the book basket(s) as we play.  When my, now 8 month old, seems interested in his books by looking at them or by beginning to pull out books from his basket, I just snuggle with him and read some books.  We do this until he shows me, he is done by climbing off of my lap and heading for a new toy.  If he comes back, I read some more.  Some days he is more interested in books than others but because he has access to his books at all times, we never go a day without reading.  Oh, and I change our books every few weeks or so, while still keeping some of his favorites around.
Here is one of the book buckets we have around our house. This one has books for my 8 month old but my older child will often times read them to my little guy.

Why does it work?  Repeated readings has been shown to have a positive affect in the areas of vocabulary development, recalling story details, sequencing of a story, pre-literacy skills, early reading skills and much more.  So, I'd say it's worth the monotony!

Stay tuned for Tip #3 coming to you, next Tuesday!

Happy talking and reading!

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Monday, June 15, 2015

How to get my infant to talk: Tip #1!

It's Tip Tuesday and since I receive questions about facilitating and eliciting language in very young children often from parents all over the world I thought I'd do a series offering tips and techniques I have done (and still do) with my own kiddos to get them talking!  You will notice there will be very few speech pathology terms used here as the goal of this series is to speak directly to parents.  However this information can be used by SLPs, early interventionists, or early childhood educators as well.  These tips are targeted for children 0-3 yrs (or cognitive equivalent).

So here's Tip #1.  It's probably the easiest to do and possibly the most obvious of them all but research will show you time and time again that it works.

What do you have to do to get your infant talking?

Talk to them.  Yes, it really is that simple sometimes!  Talk to your newborn!  Of course they cannot understand you, yet but how else will they learn?  Sometimes, as parents, we have so much going on in our heads, so much planning and organizing that we don't realize just how quiet we really are with our babies.  We tend to have conversations in our heads while our infants watch on, and we may in fact, be quieter than we thought we were.  I'm not pointing fingers here, as I have caught myself doing this very same thing.  However, the question we need to really ask ourselves is "How will my child see the value in making any sounds, if I don't model it first?".

You may be asking yourself, "So what do we talk to them about?".  Well talk about anything and EVERYTHING.  Talk about what you are doing (in the speech world this is called "self-talk"), what they are doing (in the speech world we call this "parallel talk"), what they are wearing, where you are going.  Share with them your grocery list.  Explain to them how you separate white from dark clothes prior to washing them.  Illustrate how you match up the same colored socks when folding the laundry. Show them how you crack an egg and whisk cake batter together before you pour it. Talk to them at home, in the car, in the grocery store.  Talk to them in your smooth loving way, and be sure to use your "motherese"/"parentese" (what experts call the sing-song way parents naturally speak to young children to capture their attention).  I understand talking to a baby that cannot or does not respond (yet), may not be a comfortable thing for all parents to do, but it is necessary.  I promise once you start doing this, it will become more and more natural within a few days.  Just remember, it really doesn't matter what you talk about, it just matters that you talk and talk often!

Why does it work?  You are your child's first communication partner so you are their model and their closest social connection to the world outside of themselves.  By your model, you are showing them there is a purpose to verbal communication.

If your baby is very quiet, simply ask yourself, "How much am I talking to (child name)?".  Remember talking in the presence of your child is not the same thing as talking to your child.  You may be talking to your spouse or your other children often but if you are not talking to your infant, your infant will not realize there is an expectation that he/she eventually use vocalizations (i.e. sounds, noises) to communicate.

Stay tuned for Tip #2 next week!

Happy Talking!

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tip Tuesday: Going Places (book review)

I found this book at our local library and read it to my son. I fell in love with it and found it to be a perfect book not just for my own child but also a great book for speech therapy for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the book is quite interesting for both boys and girls and it has great illustrations. But beyond the obvious I really like this book as a means to target social skills and higher level reasoning skills.

The book is about a boy who teams up with a classmate to make a special creation in order to enter into a race. The book encourages discussions about: teamwork, cooperation, compromise, personal inspiration, inventions and "outside of the box" thinking. The end of this book provides students with an opportunity to use context to predict what invention they will create next and through illustration only can a student determine if their "prediction" is correct. What a great way to work on predictions and inferences with our children with ASD!

In addition, there is a moment when a fellow classmate criticizes the two main characters' creation. What a great opportunity to target social skills and talk about the ways in which we are different from each other and how we can accept others with our differences!

This is a simple book but one worth checking out at your local library.

Happy talking and reading!

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Tip Monday: Finishing the Year Strong!

So today I'm linking up with The Frenzied SLPs page to discuss what get's us through the tough times of work!  I have a few tricks I use when times get tough to get me through the bad days and here they are (not in any particular order):

1. CHOCOLATE!: Yes, yes, I know you are saying "Duh!" but seriously, always have some types of sweets on hand for the stressful moments!  Take five and have a bite.  Let those endorphines release inside your brain to help take away some of that stress!

2. 5 mins of darkness: I have done this several times when I feel a stress migraine coming on.  I just close my laptop, turn off my light and shut my office door.  When it was really bad I used to lay on the floor b/c it's cooler on the floor and helps with the dizziness that accompanies my migraines.  If the door was shut, most people knew not to disturb!

3.  Christmas Music:  WHAT?  I know this sounds crazy, but Christmas carols just put me in a good mood. I've always LOVED the season and when all else failed, I'd pop in a trusty Christmas CD (that I keep on hand all year long for such occassions!), and play it loud enough just for me to enjoy!  It's reminds me of the time of year when people are generous, happy, understanding and compassionate to others.  I love it!  Christmas music not your thing? I understand.  Pick whatever CD or type of music you'd like.  Just remember to keep it on hand for these moments because sometimes a GREAT day turns badly very quickly when you have a terrible IEP or staff meeting!

4.  Pep talk: The last think I recommend doing is giving yourself a pep talk.  Keep nice parent notes or teacher emails handy and when you feel the world is pushing you down, read these things. Remember your toughest cases and how well they succeeded.  Remember why you are in this profession in the first place.  And always tell yourself, "you'll never have this day again".  How great does that feel to remember that you'll never have to go through the pain and stress of this day again? Or remember that this day isn't over and you can still do something to make it great!  Either way it's a win-win.

Good luck. I know the end of the school year is crunch time!  Just take a breath, grab some chocolate, hum a little bit of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (or your musical choice) and I'll see ya' on the other side!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

An SLp's Role in RtI: My Story!

I'm happy to be linking up to Speech Language Literacy Lab's monthly link up about RtI for Better Speech and Hearing Month!

Many, many years ago, when RtI was in it's infancy, I participated in one of the most effective RtI teams of which I have ever had the opportunity to be a part.  So what made it work?  First and foremost the number one thing that made this team work was that we had a strong administrator. Our principal had a vision and she brought it to fruition by making all involved in RtI accountable.  Allow me to explain how it worked.

The RtI team was ran by the reading specialist.  The principal believed that the reading specialist should not just be there to educate staff on how to teach reading but to actually teach reading to the younger, at-risk students.  What a novel idea, use the most qualified person to teach these students! So here was the process:

1.  Teachers who had concerns with a student's classroom performance (either in reading or math) would have to contact the reading specialist (via email usually) to request their student be discussed at one of the RtI meetings.

2.  The reading specialist scheduled the students on a first come first serve basis and the RtI team met every Tuesday afternoon 3:00-3:30 (the time at the very end of the day when other teachers and aids could help take students out to their buses/parents waiting).

3.  The RtI team was comprised of:  The reading specialist (leader and note taker), an administrator (usually the principal but sometimes the vice principal), a special education teacher, the SLP (yours truly), the school psychologist (if she was there which she usually was b/c Tuesday was also our IEP day), a specials teacher (music, PE, art teachers rotated), and 2 regular education teachers (one for lower grades and one for upper grades).  (The regular educators volunteered at the beginning of the year as one of their mandatory committees).

4.  As each student was discussed, the student's classroom teacher would also be present and it was MANDATORY that the teacher bring data regarding the student's strengths and weaknesses EACH time we met on that student.  IF the teacher did not provide data, the administrator had no other choice but to determine that the teacher did not take data, and therefore we could not effectively determine if various strategies trialed worked or if the student was in fact not responding to intervention.

5. Upon every meeting, we followed these steps: a) teacher discussed child's strengths, b) teacher addressed concerns and shared data on current weaknesses (if this was not the 1st time we've met on this student this would be the time that the teacher also provided the data she/he took when using the suggested strategies from the previous RtI meeting to determine if the student was making progress and what strategies were working or not working), c) brainstorming possible strategies/accommodations to trial in the classroom, additional interventions as needed (these were discussed and agreed upon by the team), d) strategies were written down on the RtI paperwork and teacher signed and recieved her/his own copy with a follow-up meeting date (6-9 weeks later depending on the schedule).

So that was the basic process of RtI.  But what was my role as the SLP?  Well I worked hand in hand with the reading specialist to determine if an at risk student demonstrated phonological awareness issues that were affecting progress in reading.  So the reading specialist tackled sight words, decoding strategies and fluency and I tackled phonological awareness.  Sometimes we both noted deficits in both areas, and sometimes a student had great phonological awareness but did not use decoding strategies correctly or lacked memory skills for sight words, etc.  So the reading specialist would take over in that area.

I also enjoyed being part of the critical thinking portion of the RtI process, throwing out accommodations and strategies I've used on my language delayed or speech delayed students. You'd be surprised how helpful our suggestions can be for kiddos struggling with reading and math, especially math word problems.  To me, participating in RtI, always felt like 1) it was interesting to determine the best way each student learned, and 2) I got to know these students better ahead of time so that if I did end up having to test them for various communication deficits, I felt I already had some good background knowledge on some of their strengths and weaknesses.

Another thing I was grateful for, was that my administrator really deferred all speech and language questions and decisions to me!  This means there was never a student inappropriately referred for testing or overlooked.  Often times, I would question comprehension (auditory or reading) long before the classroom teacher.  I think I was one of the few SLPs they ever had who offered to perform classroom observations and quick screenings to determine if further testing was required.  This also helped me with furuer teacher cooperation as I think, teachers felt as though their concerns were being heard through this RtI process.  I did not overtest and I never left a student of concern untested.

The result of this cooperation from the team is that the number of at-risk students decreased significantly as the year went on!  The students identified early in the year (K, 1st-2nd grade) were often times no longer requiring any intervention from myself and very little if any intervention from the reading specialist by mid-spring.  The students who continued to struggle were the ones who went on to receive additional testing and often times were labled with some type of disability and recommended to receive special education services.  Fourth and fifth graders were not brought to RtI that often.  By that age, most students were either identified or appeared to be developing at a comprable rate to that of their peers.  If a student was in 4th or 5th grade and brought to RtI, it was usually a transfer student  who as new to us that year.

So that was my best experience with RtI and I really saw, via this team and based on the data, it worked for at-risk students.  It worked because our administrator held all of us accountable to take our data and present it.  It worked because it was organized.  It worked because the administrator was smart enough to use the most qualified people to address the needs of each child!
I hope you too, have had a great RtI experience and have seen it change lives!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Giveaway: Learning to Read is a Ball

You have read my review of this amazing book on Tuesday.  Now it's time for a giveaway!  Kimberly Scanlon will generously be giving away one copy of her latest book, Learning to Read is a Ball, for FREE to one lucky winner!  All you have to do is comment below and tell me why you want to win this book.  

You have until midnight tonight to comment.  I will use a random numbers generator (corresponding each comment by the number in which it is received; e.g. first comment is number 1, second comment number 2, and so on.) to choose which person will win a free copy.

The winner will be announced ON THIS BLOG POST TOMORROW, Saturday May 16th, 2015.  So come on back tomorrow to find out if you are the lucky winner!  Good luck!

May 16, 2015 Update:

Before I announce the winner let me just say for those of you who have not won, you can still grab this awesome book at a GREAT deal but ONLY during BSHM!  It's on sale for UNDER $10 on Amazon.com and the kindle version, under $4!!!!  GRAB IT before it goes back to regular price.  Ok now to announce the winner!

Ok I added in all the comments that I received until this morning.  I noted that one comment was added twice below so that was counted at 1 single comment.  The total number of comments were 8 for this giveaway.  I used the number generator at random.org and, our winner is....

Comment #6!!!  Congratulations to Stephanie!  I need you to either reply below or email me (at communicationstationspeechtx@gmail.com) with  your email address so I can pass it along to Kimberly Scanlon to get in touch with you regarding your prize!!!

Thank you to all who entered the giveaway!  

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