Products for Children with Special Needs

Parents of children who I work with are always looking for fun and effective products to use with their kids to promote their skills. One of the best catalogues of early intervention products I have found is “Beyond Play.” The products are clearly divided by category–early games, sensory exploration, fine motor, dramatic play, social emotional, cause effect, language, communication and others. 

What I like is that they include specific products geared to children with special needs but also commercial games and toys designed for the typical population that are great for kids with delays and deficits. This allows kids with special needs to play a fun game with typical peers, with everyone engaged in the fun. Since I review mainstream products to be used for children with special needs, I was pleased to see some of my favorites, “Coocoo,” “I Spy,” and “Snails Pace Race.” 

So if you are a parent of a child with special needs or an educator working with kids, take a look at this excellent collection of products for kids to have fun while learning!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Apraxia, Articulation, Autism, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Games, Preschool, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment

Articulation Speech Therapy Games

I find the easiest way to motivate kids working on sounds is to have a cache of fun, motivating games to play with them. Have them say several sounds, words or phrases before a turn and then make a move in the game.

Games need to have simple, discrete actions each turn, that take a short time so you can get back to work! Today I discovered another simple but challenging game to use for this type of therapy, Snap by Gamewright.

There are several levels but I have used it at the most elementary one with 4-6 year-olds. It is a puzzle game, where each player gets an equal number of puzzle pieces and takes turns “playing” their piece by snapping it into the collaborative puzzle. The rectangular pieces have two opportunities for a match on each side and one on each end. If you connect more than one part of a piece you have a double or triple snap and can get an extra turn. With interlocking pieces connecting red, yellow and green dragons, this game provides just enough interest for kids to keep working for that next turn. It works best with children who enjoy puzzles and aren’t challenged with visual motor issues.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Apraxia, Articulation, Elementary School Age, Games, Preschool, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Cute Vests for Sensory Integration Input

Finally,we have a fun way to provide the sensory input that some children need to calm their systems while promoting creative play., provides resources for therapeutic play and education, Children three years old and up can dress up as a fairy princess, ballerina, fireman or policeman in a vest or costume designed with inner pockets to hold optional bean bag weights. 

In my many years working as a speech language therapist in the schools, I was often in meetings where weighted vests were recommended for children with sensory issues. Parents were very reluctant to agree to using a garment on their children that would point them out as “different.” I don’t blame them. I knew the benefits a weighted vest could afford but couldn’t push something that the parents were uncomfortable with.

These costumes and vests offer a wonderful inclusive alternative that hopefully all of the kids will get in line to use!

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Educational TV for Preschoolers, “Sid the Science Kid”

Parents know that I stress creative play and offer lots of suggestions for good educational toys, books and games, particularly for the preschool set to prepare them for school, building strong language skills. In addition, I listen to parents when they offer a quality educational show that their child likes.

Last week, Ian’s mom sent me a note saying how much he likes “Sid the Science Kid on PBS.” Three-year-old Ian said he likes the Sid show because “he is a pretend kid but he does real things like go to real school and plant things in the backyard”.  Ian loves the classroom setting and their different activities.

Produced by The Jim Henson Company, Sid the Science Kid’s characters are computer generated puppets. The main character, preschooler Sid, solves science problems with the help of his classmates, teacher and family. Friday’s shows are designed to review and reinforce the science concept taught that week. 

Be sure to visit the website for games, information and ideas for parents and teachers to promote science study.

What educational shows are your child’s favorites? Let me know in the comment section below.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, TV | 1 Comment

A Clever Preschool Teacher

While I was visiting with a mom today, her 4 year-old daughter was creating a pretend world with her blocks. The blocks had many different shapes, but were the traditional natural wood blocks, without painted villages or people on them. Some might think these blocks are a bit boring by today’s standard of toys. 

Mom picked up on of the bigger blocks and started to talk about the clever preschool teacher her daughter has. She said the teacher glued a picture of each of the children in the class onto the large blocks for play. Now the kids gather, take up their picture block and have conversations at the block area. This clever teacher has added conversation and encouraging language to a typically quieter activity.

Make sure you add people or animals or figures who can talk to your child’s pretend play scenarios. Children hone their conversational skills and social language through play.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, play, Preschool, Preschool Class, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment

“One,” a Story About Bullying and Inclusion

Everyone I have read this book to–parents and kids–wants a copy. That is quite an endorsement.

Through simple blotches of color, author-illustrator Kathryn Otoshi creates a gang of personalities cleverly tied to their hues–quiet Blue, outgoing Orange, bright Green, outgoing Purple and hot-head Red in her book, One. Don’t be thrown off my the apparent simplicity of her drawings and storyline. This book is a winner, rich in language, metaphors, concepts and life lessons.

The colorful blobs of colors maintain their personalities but learn to stand up to the bully, Red, through a courageous peer. The story comes full circle when the diminished bully is asked to join the group to be included. 

Parents, teachers and therapists take notice. This book can enliven a language discussion on many levels. Strategizing on how to deal with a bully, discussing ways to include others, and recognizing feelings are some of the dialogue that can be launched from this story. 

See my full review.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Elementary School Age, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Thank You, Best Children’s Photography

mother holding up her infantI want to thank my youngest son, Peter of, for the use of his beautiful artistic photography on my website. I love using pictures along with my blogs and articles to give life to the words.

Pete captures kids in their rare moments of being funny, mad, silly, mischievous and just being kids!

Do realize that the best pictures on my site are Peter’s and the less professional ones are those that I snapped throughout my day. I actually travel with a camera in my purse now because often I am greeted by kids in costume, or funny situations occur as I visit homes and work with children. One of my favorites, four year-old Chloe, usually greets me in some combination of feathered high heels, a pink tutu and jewels. I guess I should take it as a compliment that my little friends dress up for me!

Here is some of Peter’s work to enjoy.

toddler portrait


preschooler in a bucket

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Preschool | Leave a comment

Children’s Book Illustrators Encourage Reading

Children's book illustratorsHaving blogged about “More Than Words,” our public library’s program featuring four children’s book illustrators, I realize once again the importance of the pictures that tell the story. Mo Willems, famous children’s author and illustrator, grew up with immigrant parents and “read” the illustrations of books when he was young, since he didn’t know the language on the printed page. We know that young children can pay more attention to the illustrations, than to the words and linger on a page to take it all in so we need to be alert to the drawings too.

You can build your child’s language by talking “about” the page, in addition to reading it. Follow your child’s eyes to see what they are looking at and describe the picture. Talk about what you see, how it relates to your child’s life or yours and tell the story through the pictures.  As long as your child seems interested you can continue to discuss the illustrations on the page. Talk about what you like and ask her what drawing she likes. Research has shown that when parents talk “about” the story rather than just read the words (which is also valuable) when children are around 3 years old, their language skills improve at a faster pace. This is called dialogic reading. Exciting illustrations can encourage language development.

That being said, I wanted to share some of my favorite illustrators.  For a birthday gift, my friend, Jean,  gave me Dirt on My Shirt by Jeff Foxworthy, illustrated by Stephen Bjorkman who is a friend of hers. This lively Continue reading

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Elementary School Age, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 4 Comments

The Power of an Older Sibling

preschool boys reading books

When Dad was on duty babysitting, it got a little too quiet. He went searching for the boys and found them both next to the bed reading. Older brother, Will, loves books so that is no surprise but little sibling, Ben, hasn’t showed the same attention to the printed word. He was just mimicking his big brother! 

How fun to be able to take advantage of this admiration of an older sibling and his love of books! Many parents ask me for books that will hold the interest of siblings in spite of the age difference. Choose books with an interesting storyline, but less print so the younger sibling’s shorter attention span will be accommodated. Also, find books with great illustrations, to keep them both entertained while you read. Reading with lots of expression and engaging the kids as you read, drawing them into the story will keep their attention too.

What books do your kids enjoy that you can read to siblings and they stay seated??! Share your favorites in the comments below.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler | Leave a comment

Is TV Good for Infants? Latest Research

preschooler with Teddy RukspinEver since companies like Baby Einstein started marketing to parents of babies, claiming that their DVD’s boost brain power, parents and researchers have been discussing what is truth on the subject. 

The latest study, appearing in the journal, Pediatrics, was conducted by researchers at the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School. They looked at babies who had viewed TV for about an hour a day for the first 2 years of their life. This is actually less than the average, which is unfortunately two to three hours a day.

This latest research found that children under two who watched around an hour of TV a day were not helped or hurt by the screen time. Once again, contrary to many parents’ contention, screen time doesn’t  teach your child and boost his brain power, as many brands would like you to believe. Previous studies have shown that longer periods of time spent watching TV (2-3hours per day), can have detrimental affects on children.

The bottom line is that TV is here to stay and companies continue to market a broad range of programming for young children, many shows of which are high quality. Life is a balance, so be intentional about planning what and how much your young child will watch, keeping in mind that under 2 years of age, this is not “necessary” to help your child learn.

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, Toddler, TV | Leave a comment