New Speech Therapy App for Preschoolers, Speech Blubs

As you know, I like to occasionally feature great products or new ideas to help SLP’s deliver the best services possible to improve the speech and language of our clients. Below is a guest blog by the team at Speech Blubs introducing their new app:

Speech Blubs we get it.

Your child isn’t speaking on the same level as his/her peers.

The Speech Blubs app is interactive, educational, and fun tool that helps pre-school kids jump start their speaking. This SLP-approved app is based on the science of mirror neurons and video modeling to get kids speaking.

Parents also like because it offers quality smart screen time. Speech Therapists (SLPs) recommend it because parents can: engage with their child, let him/her be in charge, practice with them on a regular basis, role play like there’s no tomorrow, take lots of pictures, and bribe their child with digital candy!

Speech Blubs has 25 sections with over 1,500 activities (including new words weekly, building sentences, numbers, colors, songs, etc.), and most importantly, it includes children in the videos.

SLP’s say “The student is more engaged using this for speech activities than if I was to model the sounds myself,” and “The use of children in it to model sound and oral motor sounds is much more engaging for a young student.”

The practical ways parents use it include: drawing the words with your kid; singing songs; finding the words in your toy box, in the kitchen, in the playground, etc.; using it on the go; and even creating a before-going-to-school routine.

You’ll see, kids become very engaged! Speech Blubs will help turn your child’s vocalizations into babble (we call them “blubs”J), and then into words!

To download the app click here.



Posted in Apps, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Language | Leave a comment

Great New Picture Books, PAL Award Winners about Dragons, Beach and Twins

One of my favorite things to do is hang out in a neighborhood book store and check out the new picture books. As a matter of fact, when my husband asked what I would like to do on my recent birthday (besides getting the best donut in town and coffee), I suggested hanging out at the little book store in town that we had just discovered, Pomegranate Books, curl up on their comfy chairs and read new picture books. Here are some great new finds for home or the classroom:

How to Light Your Dragon by Didier Levy and Fred Benaglia

“Has your pet dragon’s fire gone out?” This dragon’s persistent and ingenious owner is up for trying everything to relight his friend who can’t produce “even the tiniest flicker of flame.” From lifting the dragon’s back legs and giving a shake, bouncing up and down on his tummy, tickling him with a feather duster under his arms, or offering him a cake full of candles to blow out, this persistent owner can’t seem to get his pal to blow fire again. Giving up he sits down and remembers all the fun adventures they have shared, and comes to the conclusion that he loves and will always love his dragon, fire or not! He can’t help but plant a big kiss of acceptance on his dragon’s nose which brings about a delightful ending to the story. Filled with large print and capital letters, this book invites new readers to move through the colorfully illustrated pages. A perfect read-aloud for the classroom or bedtime story time, this book invites kids  to predict the next attempt to get the dragon to breathe fire or even invent their own solutions, building reading and writing skills.

Available on Amazon. Click here

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers

I love a story about a child discovering the wonder of the beach. It begins “Jamie and the sea are friends. Jamie hums. The waves swish.” She collects rocks, shells, sticks, seaweed and feathers and explores the tide pools creating figures, animals, sand towers and designs from her finds. Absorbed in her pretend world, passersby each question her about what she is making and how long until she’ll be finished. “Hum Swish,” She doesn’t know, but continues to create. Finally someone arrives who understands the mind of an artist in residence, setting up her own palette, brushes and paint and doesn’t question or name Jamie’s miniature world in the sand. This beautiful book celebrates the child who loves to explore and discover using nature as her setting and props, drawing the characters from within herself, needing no input from others! That is how good storytellers are born.

Available at Amazon. Click here

Fern and Horn by Marie-Louise Gay

“Fern and Horn” is a delightful story about twins who are play companions whose similarities diverge when their imaginations take off.  Fern leads the way in play as she loves drawing flowers, butterflies, birds, bees and caterpillars, but Horn is every bit as imaginative. A step behind, Horn tries to keep up. Borrowing Fern’s crayons,  trying to duplicate her cheerful drawings, his flowers look like purple pancakes and caterpillars like striped socks! Fern’s stars cut with scissors became confetti when Horn attempted to make them. Finally Horn starts to follow his own creative path. Fern “builds a magnificent castle with turrets and a dark dungeon” from cardboard boxes and a gold fish bowl for the moat. Horn sneaks out in a fire-breathing dragon costume to attack the fort. Peace is restored with a picnic of cookies shared by the dragon and the king. This story if filled with opportunities for discussion, describing the brilliant, lively illustrations as well as what it means to follow your own creative path and enjoy another’s by your side! This was a fantastic read-aloud at my grandson’s kindergarten. Whenever Horn failed to copy Fern, “He has another idea.” The kids in the class started to call that phrase out in unison as if cheering him on to forge his own path. This would be a wonderful  book for a teacher to read to the class before a writing assignment, encouraging kids to be confident in their own ideas, and celebrate the differences in classmates’ stories.

Available at Amazon. Click here





Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Elementary School, Elementary School Age, Language, Preschool, Preschool Class, Reading, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Strategies to Enhance Language, writing | Leave a comment

Speech Teletherapy vs. Traditional Speech Therapy

After more than 40 years practicing in my field of speech language pathology, I am still energized by my role in helping my clients as well as my profession. As a group of SLP’s, we are constantly revising, improving and perfecting how we deliver our services particularly through evidence-based practices. I love to meet fellow entrepreneurs in our field who are branching off into related businesses that provide useful research, “the Informed SLP”,  create daily therapy materials for school-based therapists, design speech-language targeted,  effective toys and books and most recently speech teletherapy. I was contacted by a new teletherapy company, Expressable, led by speech language pathologist and founder Leanne Sherred. Since I find speech language pathologists both intrigued and somewhat skeptical about this method of delivery of services, I thought it would be good to hear from Leanne about their approach:

What inspired you and your colleagues to start Expressable teletherapy?

As a certified speech-language therapist, I spent many years watching the transformative effect therapy can have on a person’s social, emotional, academic, and professional development. Unfortunately, I also witnessed first hand the challenges conventional speech therapy can present to both clients and therapists. On the client side, many families struggle to afford speech therapy. Insurance companies don’t classify speech therapy as “medically necessary” so coverage is often denied or services are limited, making paying out-of-pocket prohibitively expensive. In addition, speech therapists can earn more than the national average with flexible hours working from home.

What speech disorders/delays would teletherapy be most successful with? (Articulation, Aphasia etc.) Which would be most challenging? (For example, how does this work with an antsy toddler where we are used to “hands on” therapy?)

Teletherapy offers many of the traditional speech therapy services found in a practice or school-based setting, including apraxia, stuttering and fluency, reading readiness, language disorders, speech sound disorders, voice disorders, and accent modification. Of course there are some cases in which it’s preferred to have an in-person therapist working directly with a client. One example is a medically-complex or severe swallowing disorder. Another might be a tongue thrust, where tactile cues are particularly helpful. 

Teletherapy is also a wonderful option for families with toddlers or children that are prone to being antsy or inattentive, due to the opportunity for parent involvement (well supported in evidence based practice), a comfortable environment within the home vs. clinic or school, and taking advantage of stimulating and engaging interactive tools that kids enjoy.

What do you as a therapist find most positive about this mode of delivery compared to the traditional in person model?

Personally, as an SLP, online speech therapy is much more conducive to my lifestyle, allowing therapists to work full or part time, or supplement their their 9-5 jobs. It’s a savings of time and money and I can work from home. Since teletherapy companies aren’t paying for a physical location, administrative tasks, or insurance overhead, these cost savings are passed on to the client as well as the therapist. Our therapists earn more money than the national average.  

What can you accomplish during therapy with this model that you can’t with traditional therapy?

It’s affordable,  accommodates a frenetic schedule, utilizes familiar and ever more pervasive technologies, delivers to the comfort of a client’s home, and offers parent involvement.

What is the cost of therapy?

Teletherapy with Expressable starts at $49 a week for a half hour session.

Is online speech therapy as effective as traditional therapy?

One of the landmark studies that supports Speech teletherapy as an effective delivery method was conducted by Kent State University researchers. They compared school students receiving speech language therapy in a traditional setting to those receiving teletherapy. According to the report: “Student progress reports indicated that the children made similar progress during the study whichever treatment method was used.” In addition, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recognized teletherapy as a valid means of service delivery based on a strong body of evidence.


Thank you to Leanne Sherred and Spencer Magloff from “Expressable” for sharing your new venture with us. I look forward to future insights on how teletherapy is going, with real life examples of those aha moments when you see where this model is uniquely effective with clients and gratifying as a speech language pathologist! Particularly as an SLP who has specialized in pediatric therapy,  I will be interested to see how it works with our littlest moving targets around 15 months of age. I found those little clients the most intense physically to work with as I have memories of every few minutes having to pull out a new toy, play in the sink,  slide down a slide, or take a walk outside to elicit sounds and words in play therapy.  But I am ready to learn something new so please return with your successes and failures (I learn the most from mine!) so we can learn and grow as SLP’s.


Posted in Speech and Language Delay, Speech Therapy, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment Presents Their Fall PAL Awards

We’re excited to share our Fall PAL Awards–Best Toys, Games and Media that Spark Language Development Through Play.

I continue to be fascinated by the impact parents’ play with kids has on language development, a concept reinforced by recent research. What parents say and how they talk during play can make a difference. By simply using a strategy called “Toy Talk” where parents talk about the toys and give the toy a name, they up their grammatical models to their child and improve the growth trajectories of certain areas of their child’s language development. Toys are the tools for a child’s play which is why I’ve spent my career calling out the toys with the best language learning potential and coaching parents on how to play with their child to maximize learning.

Check out our winners and add them to your holiday shopping list because kids, parents and educators think they are great!

Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Birth-3 year-olds, Book Review, Elementary School Age, play, Preschool, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddlers, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

How to Write the Best Toy Review

First of all you have to play with the toy or game to be familiar with it. When I was doing speech therapy I had a whole group of kids I could play with, while working on their speech goals and making the session fun and engaging. Now I volunteer in a preschool and first grade classroom as well have a fun gang of kids in my neighborhood and family who gladly help with toy reviews. I love how some brothers round the corner past my patio and yell, “Hi Sherry! Have any new games??” Kids teach you things that you wouldn’t know unless you play with them.

In my opinion a great toy review will have the following:

  • Clear, concise description of how to play a game or play with a toy, calling out the learning features, e.g. builds vocabulary, inspires conversation, negotiation, critical thinking, verbal collaboration, builds auditory memory, requires naming emotions and recognizing them in others etc.
  • Quotes from kids, parents, grandparents and/or teachers regarding the value of the toy. Heard from a first grade teacher, “Wonderhood building sets”  are the first toy the kids grab during our free play time.”
  • How did the kids play with the toy? How much conversation, discovery, imagination was evident and how was it displayed? Include quotes of storytelling using the props associated with the toy. How did this toy inspire creativity and storytelling?
  • Include informative pictures if you get permission to post.
  • Tips on how parents can play with their child and the toy to maximize language learning. For example, “This train has lots of accessories and features to describe  and name as your toddler is playing, which will increase their language learning as you narrate play.”
  • How much does it cost? Age range and number of players required? Link to where you can purchase the product
Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toy Reviews, Toys | Leave a comment

PAL Award Toys Featured on FOX6 Milwaukee

Talking Points FOX6 Real Milwaukee 6-27-19

Toys that Will Allow Your Little Ones to Play Their Way to Brilliance

Background on Sherry:

Sherry Artemenko, Speech Language Pathologist and Toy Expert is here to share super fun toys to build language skills through creative play and storytelling, keeping brains sharp over the summer break.Today I am featuring some of the PAL Award’s latest winners that spark smart play. Information on all these toys is on my website,

Jet Duck Family by Yookidoo, 3 years and up ($29.95)

  • Kids saw Firefighter and were begging for a bath!
  • Add accessories to fuel the imagination and story
  • Water shoots out fire hydrant,  spins the duck around soaking everyone
  • So popular in family of 4 kids, had remove it until they could share
  • Flexible, open-ended play toy, kids become the story tellers


Spark Cards by Spark Innovations, 4 years and up, ($26.99)

  • Sequencing is valuable language skill, break down events into logical steps/recall past experiences or logically formulate own stories
  • 8 themed stories tell familiar events: library, plant flowers, beach
  • 6 picture cards encourage description, interpretation, problem solve
  • SLP developed, excellent questions-> predicting, analyzing, reasoning, build grammar, concepts

Click here

First Words Baby Babble Training Trumpet by People Toy Company, 7 months and up, ($8.99)

  • Kids love to make noise with their trumpet
  • As they can grab and shake, rattle of balls and can suck in to whistle
  • When babies and toddlers round their lips to attach to the trumpet, exercising important oral motor muscles for speech: u, p, b, m
  • At 2 and 3 years kids can blow out so this becomes a little musical instrument and pretend toy, became “milk” ad “water bottle”

Available at People Toy Company

Topper Takes a Trip by Peaceable Kingdom/Mindware brand, 2 years and up, ($17.95)

  • Topper the pup is going to take a trip, choose destination card-grandma’s house, beach, sledding hill
  • Pack your suitcase with appropriate items in that category
  • Don’t forget, book, backpack, apple, lunchbox, crayons
  • Close up suitcase, “travel” to destination and engage in some pretend play
  • Learning vocabulary in a category, matching, sequencing, pretend play and storytelling

Available on Amazon

My Peek-a-Boo LapPup by LeapFrog, 6 months and up, ($14.99)

  • Kids loved this, called it their “Puter” took it everywhere, sat down
  • Learn by imitating adults, type on colored crayon keys and move mouse
  • catchy phrases, rhyming songs, learning numbers, colors, shapes

Available at Target.

Under Sea Figure 8 Railway by Hape, 18 months and up, ($29.99)

  • Kids love trains so now littlest engineers can hop on an underwater railway
  • Magnetic train cars, movement, flexible track, bubbling fish
  • Learn cause-effect in connecting train, passing over ocean floor, fish and crab dance and swim along,
  • Parents have lots to narrate a child plays and configures their story, feeding child language associated with their play

Available at Hape

Dinosaur Island by Bigjigs Toys Ltd, 3 years and up ($74.99)

  • Grab a dinosaur and go back into prehistoric times
  • 4 scenes, several kids play at once, change story as they move
  • Stegosaurus making tracks through mud, cave “graveyard,” hid behind waterfall, mamas and babies, eggs
  • Hot lava integral in story
  • Collaborate on storytelling
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment Featuring Spring PAL Award Winners on FOX6 Milwaukee Today

Toys and Games to Keep Kids’ Learning Sharp Over the Summer

Background on Sherry:

Sherry Artemenko, Speech Language Pathologist and Toy Expert is here to share super fun toys to build language skills through creative play and storytelling, keeping brains sharp over the summer break.Today I am featuring some of the PAL Award’s latest winners that spark smart play. Information on all these toys is on my website,

Lily Pond By SimplyFun, 4 years and up, ($34.00)

  • wonderful reading/spelling game, good teacher gift
  • each child gets 3 word cards to spell
  • roll the die, hop your frog that many lily pads to reach the letter you need
  • use letter tracker to see where you are in sequence
  • watch other players, land on the letter you need, you advance tracker
  • practice letter recognition, spelling, sequencing, vocabulary, matching, reading

Gotta Word by Cortex Toys, 10 years and up ($19.99)

  • Draw a funny definition card, like..
  • Everyone chooses 2 word-parts from their hand of cards that matches the definition
  • Assigned Wordmeister decides which combo best matches the definition
  • Another name for chili cheese fries..PYRO-FACE
  • Lots of laughter as the judge uses the words in a sentence
  • Search for associated word parts that represent a specialized person, situation, object or emotion

Guess it, Get it, Gumballs by Peaceable Kingdom/Mindware 4+($15.95)

  • This is a game of faces and feelings
  • Spin, slap the gumball grabbing mirror and and make a face
  • stretch your face to look scared, silly, ,mad, excited, sad or happy
  • When did you feel that way? What makes you feel____
  • EQ, emotional quotient is a hot topic these days, parents and educators know the value of teaching kids to identify and manage emotions
  • Can increase EQ which is the strongest indicator of success in life

Gravitrax Trampoline, by Ravensburger, 8 years and up, ($24.99)

  • Recommend Gravitrax sets for kids 8 and up
  • Design and build 3D interactive marble run and construction set-gravity, magnetism and kinetics
  • Love to watch kids build, modify, collaborate, solve problems
  • New trampoline accessory has angled tiles that launch marble onto tramp
  • “That’s why they’re so cool!”
  • Perfect storm between STEM and Language skills

Summer Big Fun Workbooks by Highlights, K-1st Grade ($12.99)

  • Parents often ask how to keep skills sharp over summer
  • Perfect set of activities targeting skills aligned with school standards
  • Designed to get kids ready for K-2nd grade
  • Focused on letters, reading, writing, addition, subtraction, measuring
  • Can divide the summer into 8 weeks/8 chapters
  • I love “It’s Time to Rhyme search for star in jar, or stork with a fork
  • Reward stickers and activities to take learning outside

Snow Leopard Cub and Robot Puppet by Folkmanis, 3 and up, ($59.99, $55.99)

  • Grandma said, “It looks real!”
  • Folkmanis always teaching the next generation about endangered animals, information that kids learn and use in their role play
  • Robot story based on a folk tale, boy entered contest to make robot out of nuts and bolts, sister gave heart for good luck
  • Puppets encourage kids to talk, role play, converse, building confidence and essential language skills

Pop Up Shop by Hape, 3 and up, ($149.99)

  • I love pop up shops because element of surprise-where will they show up? kitchen, patio, or playroom
  • Kids take on roles, taking orders, adding up purchases on calculator, write out daily specials practicing reading and writing
  • Parent said, “It could turn into a Farmer’s Market
  • Children learn more language as they imitate events in their everyday life
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New York Toy Fair 2019 Toy Trends, Learning Through Play

Just walking into the New York Toy Fair got my heart pumping to the beat of the drums as the parade of characters assembled to lead the opening of my 11th Toy Fair. You can feel the air charged with excitement, innovation, creativity and novelty as brands bring their newest and best toys, games and entertainment products to life. Each year it is gratifying to see more companies valuing language learning and therefore integrating it into games, STEM projects and play, calling out the language skills on their packaging.

I’m always interested in the toy industry’s trends (Unboxing, Compound Crazy, Throwback Toys) but I choose to look at the trends through a learning lens, providing parents, grandparents, caregivers and educators a peek at the newest products that inspire learning through incredibly fun play.

Here are my 2019 Toy Trends:

Fun Food Prep:  Combine food and pretend play to create a rich language learning environment as kids act out scenarios common to their everyday experiences,  whether selecting ingredients at a the Fresh Market, or creating in the kitchen, at a crepe cart or barbecue grill. Favorites this year include Hapinest’s “Make and Bake Cooking Sets”  as kids lead the playful learning in their little fox, snowman, bunny or unicorn aprons, roll out the dough to the perfect thickness and use the 5 themed cookie cutters. Kids can head out to Leap Frog’s “Smart Sizzlin’ BBQ Grill,” adding pretend corn or a hot dog to the rotisserie initiating a silly song, while learning colors, vocabulary and counting integrated into the play.  Add a message of kindness, and inclusion to your food prep with Plan Toys’ imperfectly shaped “Wonky Fruits and Vegetables.”  Carl Carrot, Adam Apple and Tommy Tomato Heart become wonky pretend play heroes in their campaign to fight food waste. Flag down your little friend at Janod’s Crepes & Co. as they roll the cart to offer waffles and donuts, my mainstays, as well as fruit and check you out at the cash register.

Take Note of Toddlers: Personally toddlers are some of my favorite little people to play with because of their curiosity, boldness and hunger for learning. Parents are often stumped when it comes to finding appropriate toys. Wonder Forge’s “Mickey’s Snuggle Time” game, designed for a bedtime activity, is a fun introduction to following directions and learning colors as kids move their animal down the path, arriving at the barn before the sun sets.  Fold and tuck the blanket game board  to make a pillow. Nite,  nite! Want a rich learning environment with no pick up? Oribel’s VertiPlay Wall Toys, are a series of cause-effect toys, “Slidey Spidey” (Itsy Bitsy) , “Old MacDonald” or  “Jack and Jill” that rely on gravity as they attach to the wall and move top to bottom, while kids can sing or narrate the rhyme. Rubber Ducky in the tub just got more fun with Yookidoo’s “Jet Duck Family”, as kids dress up their duck with 15 push in accessories to match their duck’s character, Pirate, Mermaid or Firefighter. Think Mr. Potato Head goes for a swim while firing his water cannon and charging around the tub. Perfect for story telling and creative play. Join 2 year-olds for a game of “Topper Takes a Trip” by Peaceable Kingdom, a company that knows their audience and kids love their games. Choosing the right clothes and items to pack in the suitcase for Grandma’s house or sledding etc. is a terrific language learning activity involving categories, vocabulary and story telling.

STEM + Story: I’m passionate about including literacy linked to STEM products because that is how kids are learning in the classroom. Science and math involve  problem solving, critical thinking, evaluation and drawing conclusions, all essential language skills. This trend is getting stronger as I see new STEM products calling out a story integrated in their build. E-Blox’s  “Story Blox” sets take kids on an island, city or cave adventure with Seymour and his robot Robyn, building models with circuit blox throughout the story. For the younger set, Thames and Kosmos’ “Robot Safari”  pairs a cartoon story book with 8 cute animal robot builds associated with the Omega family’s search to find their lost robotic teddy bear. Kids love building their setting with magnetic blocks while adding illustrated clips from the story with Geomagworld’s “Nursery Rhymes.” Their sets were favorites in the classroom last year. hand2mind’s “Air and Water Mechanics” led us through injecting air into a tube to power a K’NEX model digger with written questions to build critical thinking related to the project.

Tech-Free Learning: There was a buzz around the Toy Fair this year of “Where are all the drones?” In the past you had to duck to miss them. Yes, I believe there is a swing back to non-tech toys with classic play. Who didn’t hide in a home made fort of their own making (or a big brother in my case) when they were younger? A favorite discovery in the Launchpad section housing first time exhibitors was the Densters, a set of flexible rubber toy monsters, each with a unique personality and function (hooking, clamping, gripping, clipping, curling and tucking–hey that’s a great vocabulary lesson!) for holding kids’ play tents or forts together, attaching sheets and blankets to walls and furniture. Enter Schleich’s world of Horse Club where kids can act out living in the “Large Horse Stable” (a dollhouse for horse owners) and relax with a coffee or cupcake at the “Rider Cafe.” Crayola offers some of the most extensive and comprehensive science kits for kids. Their newest offering, “Color Chemistry Arctic Lab” takes kids through 50 winter science experiments. Thankfully dolls were one of the strongest categories last year as they provide pure child led play. National Geographic has collaborated with Mattel’s Barbie dolls to create a wildlife conservationist, astrophysicist, polar marine biologist, wildlife photojournalist and entomologist to inspire young girls to explore new professions.

Hide Away Play: This year we saw some ingenious toy designs that capitalize on utilization of space.  Sharingland’s cardboard playhouses have drawn kids into delightful pretend play worlds of space, castles, a farm and teepee. Now they offer a slightly downsized model that can easily be folded and put away after play. Sago’s “Pillow Playsets” have added a vet and doctor’s  office to their kitchen playset that unfold from a throw pillow to transform your couch into a scene from the office complete with scale, cast, eye exam chart and so on with plush accessories to give your teddy or pet a happy physical. When the story ends, fold up the office and pack it in the pillow for repeat portable play.  Short on room? Pull out a folding chair and slip on Kangaroo’s Pop oh Ver Ice Cream Shop filled with inspiring design to start our little storytellers. Hape’s “Pop Up Shop” opens up for play with plenty of room to display your products as well as a scanner and calculator for speedy purchases, then closes up for later play.




Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Games, Language, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment Announces 2018 Top 10 PAL Picks, Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again to start your holiday gift list. I know a lot of grandmas and moms who take this with them when looking for a toy or game with lasting and enriching play value. Congratulations to the amazing companies who work hard to make learning fun. Here are the PAL Top 10 Winners 2018.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs: The Pros and Cons

From time to time I like to feature guest posts by either Speech language pathologists or those in other fields working to positively impact kids and parents. Today I want to introduce you to Jackie Nunes, from Jackie is a former pediatric nurse who has first hand experience educating her child with special needs through homeschool. Here’s her helpful advice:

There’s a special anxiety that comes with sending your son or daughter with special needs off to school. You hope more than anything that the other kids will be kind, the teacher will be firm but patient, and there will be plenty of resources and support. But that isn’t always the case. It can be gut-wrenching to see your child come home unhappy and know things aren’t going well – especially if your child can’t tell you why.

Homeschooling has a lot of advantages for kids with special needs. You can really focus on their strengths and weaknesses, design lessons that interest them, take breaks when needed, and create a comfortable, sensory-friendly learning environment in your home. Your child benefits from the individual attention and you can plan your school day around doctor appointments, therapy, or family obligations without racking up absences. Another huge win is waving goodbye to meltdowns during drop-offs and not having to worry about playground bullies.

Unfortunately, there are resources available in a public school system you no longer have access to if you teach your child at home. It’s hard to replicate the structure of formal learning, athletic fields, science labs, access to a full-time nurse, and the insights of an entire teaching staff in your living room. Many districts have full-time speech therapists and reading specialists who work with students who have disabilities.

Before pulling your child out of school, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of homeschooling your child with special needs. We’ll also look at the experience from the perspective of a child with cerebral palsy, blindness, autism or another learning difficulty. When daily tasks are mentally and physically challenging, it’s easy to see how frustration and other emotions can take over once in a while.

Advantages of Homeschooling Children with Special Needs

The biggest benefit of homeschooling is flexibility. While it’s important to have a routine, if your child is having a bad day, you can cut your lessons short. If a teachable moment arises, you can take advantage of it. It’s OK to double-dip in your parent and teacher duties. Go ahead and turn measuring ingredients for dinner into a science or math lesson. A trip to the dentist can quickly incorporate a lesson on different types of teeth and their purposes. Alternately, bring a reading book along so that you don’t lose the time. Here are some of the many benefits of home learning:

  • Reduced anxiety. Basically, homeschooling your child with special needs decreases anxiety thanks to a quieter environment in a familiar setting. Removing performance pressure decreases frustration and outbursts.
  • Hone in on strengths. If you’re used to reading remarks at the end of the day or week that highlight your child’s unusual actions, it will be refreshing to document progress from the perspective of their strengths. You are there for every win and can comfort them if anything goes sideways.
  • Set the pace. Spend as much time as you need on concepts or skills that are hard for your child.
  • Be creative. Children have different learning styles and sometimes music or movement are better than sitting still and listening. There are different teaching approaches you can use. Find the one that works best for your family.
  • Quality social opportunities. You can join local groups that encourage kids to related to one another on their own terms. One mom talks about her positive homeschool experience and gives 101 reasons it works for her child.

Disadvantages of Homeschooling Children with Special Needs

Of course, there are challenges to consider before deciding to homeschool your child with special needs. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Less structure. You probably won’t be able to replicate the structure of a traditional school environment. Children with special needs thrive on predictable routines and can become easily upset or frustrated over small changes. Some kids might benefit from remaining in the more structured public school. Unfortunately, the only way to find this out is to give it a try and constantly reassess what the best environment is for your learner.
  • Fewer resources. School districts never have as much money as they’d like, but they do usually have accessible facilities, art and music equipment, gymnasiums, sports fields, auditoriums, media centers, science labs, and more. They employ professional educators, coaches, special education experts, and school nurses.
  • Less peer interaction. Even if you arrange playdates and get-togethers on a regular basis, your child will have less contact with same-age peers. Those peers also will miss out on the chance to learn alongside a person with a disability and benefit from exposure to special needs.
  • Parental isolation and burnout. Parents who homeschool sometimes find that they never get a break. They are “on duty” from morning until night – serving as parent, teacher, coach, chauffeur, cook, therapist, referee, and more. It can be exhausting.

Focus on Things You Can Fix

There are things that you have much more top bitcoin casinos control over, but you still can’t control everything that might go wrong in a homeschool environment. Instead of thinking about the resources that aren’t available to your homeschooled child, think about how you can fill in the gaps and gain valuable skills.

  • Go online. There is an astonishing abundance of high-quality lesson plans, curricula, and special needs teaching aids online – much of it free. You can also stock up on basic craft supplies and take advantage of Pinterest and YouTube to find art project ideas.
  • Network with other families. Check out homeschooling organizations and connect with parents in your area who also homeschool. Try to arrange joint field trips and perhaps partner for lessons.
  • Participate in after-school activities. Most communities have after-school art, music, and drama programs. You can sign up for karate, swimming, youth sports, or more through local groups or Special Olympics. Many homeschooled children also participate in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.
  • Prepare for emergencies. Although there’s no nurse’s clinic to send your child to, you can keep a well-stocked first aid kit and take a CPR class to help you feel confident in case of an emergency.

Create an IEP

Each public school child eligible for special education has an Individualized Education Program (IEP). As a homeschooling parent, you may not have to have one at home, but it’s a good idea to set goals at the beginning of the year and monitor progress over time. An IEP can also help you communicate with specialists. There are free tools that can help you generate your own.

Know Yourself and Your Child

Your child with special needs could thrive under your tutelage if you have the patience and courage to lead the way. However, not all children and parents are cut out for homeschooling. Take into account your own need for self-care and your frustration threshold in general. If you’ve thought it through and think it could work for your family, do it! If it doesn’t work out, you can always return to a traditional school setting.

Jackie Nunes is a blogger at She is a former pediatric nurse and now a full-time homeschool educator. She and her husband have three children. Their middle child suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was 4. Now 11 years old, she is hearing impaired and uses a wheelchair. Jackie and two other moms created Wonder Moms as a project to share real talk, helpful information, and practical advice with parents of kids who have intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, language and speech delays, deafness, chronic illness, and traumatic brain injury.


Posted in 12 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment