Stuttering Awareness Day is October 22

The Stuttering Foundation of America has provided a list of “Myths about Stuttering” that is so relevant for International Stuttering Awareness Day on October 22. It includes  myths which are not true such as:

  • People who stutter are not smart
  • Nervousness causes stuttering
  • Stuttering can be “caught.”
  • It helps to tell a stutterer to “take a deep breath” before speaking
  • Stress causes stuttering
If you go to their website at www.stutteringhelp.org, you can download the PDF file with the myths and explanations to set the facts straight.
I was recently reminded of the cloud of misconception around stuttering when I was at a dinner party and a person heard that I was a speech therapist. They launched into many questions about what causes stuttering which lead to clearing up some misconceptions.
If we all take on a little bit of the responsibility to educate the public about stuttering, there will be fewer “myths” being circulated about this speech issue.


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The Writing Menu, Assists Speech Therapy

The Writing MenuMany of us speech therapists were trained to rehabilitate oral language skills and leave the written skills to the teacher or resource teacher. I still believe that my main value is in building oral language skills, which can feed right into written language. I work with students to brainstorm ideas, organize thoughts. add detail and descriptive words, transitions and endings. Then they get to work writing their piece.

I was recently in a classroom where the teacher referred to “The Writing Menu” by Melissa Forney. She showed the class a full page of “sensory words” in columns according to touch, smell, sound, taste, and sight. It is an excellent resource to have at your side when writing and wanting to include descriptive words. I ordered “The Writing Menu” and found a workbook of ideas for the classroom teacher to make writing fun. The author’s premise is to provide a “menu” of writing ideas for units of study such as The Rain Forest, Native Americans etc.. The menu gives kids choices according to their abilities–Appetizers are easier projects such as listing or labeling that can be done in one session, Main Courses are projects that involve multiple skills and take several days to complete and Desserts are projects that involve kinesthetic expression such as art or music and take several days to complete. The concept of a menu gives the kids ownership as they make choices based on their learning styles and interests. I know I would pick the dessert!
The author includes writing target skills by grade from first through eighth grade as well as many ideas for writing prompts and lists of words.

If you’re looking for ideas for writing and a new approach, check this out.

What materials do you find helpful to get a child ready for a writing assignment?

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School, Elementary School Age, Language, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Parent Guilt Related to Speech Delay

Grandma hugging toddlerI listen to the parents I work with and one of the moms said to me last week, “You should blog about parent guilt!” Being a mom of three grown boys, I am well versed in parent guilt. When the elementary school called to suggest reading help for my son, I immediately thought, “Didn’t I read to him enough?” Why is it that we always blame ourselves??

I am privileged to have a relationship of trust with many of the moms and dads with whom I work. They share their struggles with guilt over whether they are spending too much time with the child with speech and language delay/disorder versus siblings, if they have “caused” the problem somehow by missing ear infections or not seeing signs early enough to detect disorders.

First of all, the parents I work with are my heroes. They are full-out working on behalf of their child, implementing techniques in my absence to move their child ahead, learning what toys, books and games are best to stimulate language, changing around the playroom for pretend play or going to seminars to educate themselves on the best therapy for their child.

I often tell parents that we don’t have a crystal ball to foresee the future or be able to assign causes for their child’s speech and language issues. For instance, some children with frequent ear infections during the second year when language is developing, lag in their language development, and other children with the same number of ear infections don’t.

My main point to parents is to try not to look back, but garner your energy and use it to move forward and find the best program of intervention for your child and join in as a partner in the process.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Amore Baking Company, Treats with Love

Amore Baking CompanyThe new Promenade at the Brick Walk in downtown Fairfiled, Connecticut,  keeps popping out original stores that add to the personality of our town.

I’ve been waiting for “Amore Baking Company” to open, since its owner, Patti Jonker, told me to be on the lookout. You see, I have been a follower of her biscotti (yummy flavors like Chocolate Almond, Cranberry White Chocolate, Cinnamon Sugar or Toffee Chocolate) ever since I have stopped in at her house on baking day.

My friend and I have “field trips,” where we scout out new stores and happenings in the area. That day we had visited the new consignment shop in Westport, “Second Time Around,” as well as the gift store, “The Goody Shop.” Needing a cup of coffee and a little sweet lift, we stopped in to this “gem” to find Patti baking and waiting on a steady stream of customers. We chose a sampling of her tempting desserts for our dinner party–one, and two bite cupcakes in chocolate and red velvet, and a “Mixed Fruit Galette,” or “Rustic Torte.” Packed with fruit and surrounded by a yummy crust the galette was a hit. We heated it up slightly per Patti’s instructions and served it with ice cream. Grab one for your next dinner party!

Fruit GalettePatti’s cookies and brownies are big sellers but my favorite is the Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin. With a crumbly, crunchy top loaded with chocolate chips, this is a treat.

It’s obvious that “Amore” fills a niche in the market for tasty treats for those on restricted diets. The bakery carries products from Splendid Spoon and Sweet that include items free of peanuts, tree nuts, dairy and egg as well as some that are gluten free. I tasted several of these products and couldn’t believe they were baked without the traditional ingredients. This is a mother’s dream for a place to treat her child who has specific food allergies.

So come and spoil yourself with a little love from “Amore.”

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More Help for Those Who Stutter

One of my readers pointed out another excellent resource for parents, professionals and people who stutter:

“As the mom of a child who stutters, I’d also like to add that the National Stuttering Association has great information for SLP’s, parents, pediatricians, teachers, adults, teens and kids who stutter. The NSA also publishes newsletters with articles often written by adults and young people who stutter that anyone touched by stuttering will find inspiring and educational. You can find the newsletters at –
http://www.westutter.org/stutteringInformation/NSANewsletters.html.”

NSA’s website provides many opportunities to connect with other stutterers, or parents though e-mail discussion groups, the internet, workshops and local chapters.

Take advantage of this resource.

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Speech Therapy Home Practice Ideas

Child's responsibility chartWhen I came to Reagan’s house this week, Mom looked a little disappointed that Reagan had not wanted to practice her speech as she usually did. As we know as therapists, kids that practice in our absence make more progress! So, knowing how Reagan likes crafts, I suggested she make a fun chart and put a stamp on each day when she practiced so I could see it next week when I come.

Mom offered an even better idea. She said, “Let’s add it to your “Responsibility Chart!” She showed me the changeable wooden chart made by Melissa and Doug that hung on the wall. Along with pre-scripted responsibilities like “Brush your Teeth,” “Stop Whining,” and “Hands to Yourself,” there were blank cards to add personal responsibilities specific to your child. Mom immediately wrote “Speech” on the blank strip and we were ready to practice. The circular magnetic discs to fill in when you accomplished your tasks are rewarding to the child as they pick “Way to Go,” “Super,” or “Awesome to add to the chart.

What ideas are you using to encourage your child to practice their speech goals between sessions? Share in the comments below.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Articulation, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Halloween Fun with Books, Speech Therapy

play bugs and Play-dohI shared some of my favorite Halloween books last week and have used them when working with kids with typically developing language as well as those with auditory processing difficulties, and those on the autism spectrum. I had quite a fun time with Aaaarrgghh: Spider! with a little fellow on the autism spectrum that I wanted to share.

Our goals include being attentive to a book and answering wh-questions as well as building pretend play skills. It all came together with this goofy book about a spider campaigning to be the family pet! We started out with my wonderful collection of bugs, including spiders, a jar with a magnifying lid, Play-doh of course, and some little Fisher Price furniture and playground items.

We talked about the spiders, chose different ones to look at under the magnifying glass and then read the book. I pointed out the faces of the family and reactions to the spider’s attempts at winning them over. We copied surprised, scared and happy faces. Then we got out the Play-doh and made a web, stuck the flies and bugs in it for eating, and hung the spider down from the web to dangle over our dinner, as in the book. We copied the reactions of the family at the sight of a spider waving over our food.

Then, much to my delight, my little friend took off in his play. I was holding a fly and he had the spider when he hid the spider under a mound of Play-doh and started counting. I followed his lead of starting a game of hide and seek with our bugs! We took turns searching for each other’s bugs and he created two new spots for hiding–great flexible play. Then I got out my Play-doh oven as an option for a hiding place. After our bugs hid in it, he piled several bugs in and started to lift it up with sound effects. I asked what he was doing and he said, “It’s landing.” When I asked what is was (the oven), he said, “A plane.” Wow! That was an exciting step up in pretend play to assign a different use to an object than what is it intended for. He proceeded to fly his “plane” around the room on its way “to London” before it had to land so the bugs could go home.

Little steps like that make my day.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Autism, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Elementary School Age, Language, play, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 1 Comment

Preschool Speech Therapy, Teaching Imitation

toddler in pumpkin patchI watched a wonderful interaction between mother and child today during our speech therapy session. It is exciting for me to see my little clients improve, but just as satisfying to watch parents learn how to encourage speech and language.

Little two-year-old Sean loves my three dollar plastic pretend microphone. He selected it out of my bag and started to make sounds into it. Mom held the mike and began to imitate Sean. Much to his delight he continued in their “conversation,” offering up new sounds and syllables, waiting for Mom to imitate. Ever so gradually, Mom began to slightly change what Sean was saying. He said “ba” and she replied “ba ba.” Slowly the roles reversed and Sean started to imitate mom so now he was having to match what mom was saying. He was learning the fun of producing sounds, having a conversation and imitating sounds all at once. By the way, Mom was having fun too!

Whenever we teach parents how to stimulate speech and language, they become a big part of their child’s progress.

Posted in Apraxia, Articulation, Birth-3 year-olds, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler | Leave a comment

Study Finds Increase in Autism in U.S. Kids

CNN reported a study published on Monday in the Journal of Pediatrics that found an increase in the number of children with autism and related disorders in the United States. The number is up to 1 percent of children from the age of 3 to 17.

The study is based on the results of the federal government’s 2007 national survey of children’s health, where parents were asked by telephone if a health care provider had ever told them their child had an autism spectrum disorder. In a follow-up question, parents were asked if their child was currently considered to have ASD. Nearly 40% of the respondents said no.

The question is whether the original diagnosis of ASD was accurate since the disorders are not considered curable. To that point though, as therapists we see children who receive massive hours of early intervention after a diagnosis of ASD, and years later they are “undiagnosed,” due to great improvement in their social and language skills.

The new statistics may be accurate and autism may be on the increase or maybe we are better diagnosticians. According to the CNN article,

“The researchers urged caution in interpreting the change, noting that an increase in diagnoses does not necessarily mean that more children have the disorder. It could simply reflect a heightened awareness of the disorder.”

In any case, heightened awareness is good if we can identify children with ASD early and get them the early intervention services they need to make maximum progress.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Autism, Birth-3 year-olds, Speech and Language Delay | Leave a comment

Speech Therapy Halloween Ideas for Autism, Language and Articulation

Toddlers in Halloween costumesHalloween is a fun time of year for kids and an easy theme to introduce into therapy. Today I want to share a few books on that theme that are simple, yet fun and can be incorporated into a language or articulation lesson.

Last week I went to the home of my little friends on the autism spectrum. Books aren’t always his favorite activity and I try hard to find stories with simple, funny, stories linked to his experiences. First we popped popcorn in a pot with a glass lid. What fun to see the kernels pop and overflow, just like the story, Popcorn, by Frank Asch. We took pictures of the steps so we could order them later in re-telling our activity. Then we read the book and took advantage of all the opportunities to ask wh-questions relating to the pictures supporting the story, and describe the action, especially on the party page.

Sheep Trick or Treat by Nancy Shaw begins with “As the Halloween moon rises, sheep are fixing up disguises.” These well costumed sheep go trick or treating through the farm and encounter some wolves on the way home. Good thing they are dressed up to scare their enemies and arrive home safely to eat their treats! Shaw’s clever series of sheep stories in rhyme are great for pre-literacy skills as well as articulation practice with the /sh/ sound.

Aaaarrgghh! Spider! by Lydia Monks is one of my favorites for the season. This tale is about a lovable, persistent spider who wants to be adopted as the family pet. It is a good story to talk about feelings and associated facial expressions of surprise, fear, happiness and excitement.

Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell is another seasonal book that is a simple, concrete story about the experiences of going to the farm and picking apples and pumpkins, and returning home to carve the pumpkin and go trick or treating. This book could be used as a social story for children on the autism spectrum before a fall field trip, pumpkin carving or trick or treating.

If you work with children on the autism spectrum, please let me know what books have been interesting to your little clients. I would like to develop a list to share with other speech therapists and parents. You can comment below or e-mail me directly at sherry@playonwords.com. Thanks!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Articulation, Autism, Language, Preschool, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment