Autism Speaks Walk

July 28, 2011

On Saturday, May 21, the staff of CSLOT joined hundreds of others from the Bay Area in Autism Speak’s 2K walk around Kelley Park inSan Jose.  The purpose of the walk was to raise money for Autism research and to raise the public’s awareness of Autism.  It was an inspirational day, filled with people of all ages and from all walks of life.  CSLOT’s staff showed up in white t-shirts with blue lettering which spelled out “We Walk Our Talk,” a reference to CSLOT’s commitment to provide communication and movement to those with Autism. 

Autism Speaks has grown into the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.  Autism Speaks has a website which lists the signs of Autism, the red flags to pay attention to so that help can be obtained.   Bernard Rimland, the founder of the Autism Society of America, another great organization which advocates for individuals with Autism, said to an audience I was a part of, “You can tell if a child has Autism after spending 2 minutes with him.”  The obvious sign is a disconnection from the people around him especially other children, and often there are repetitive hand or body movements which cause him to stand out from his peers.

Autism affects one in 110 children; one in 70 boys, a ten-fold increase in incidence in the past 40 years.  Because many more individuals with Autism are in the mainstream of society today, many of us have had up-close experiences with them, experiences which can range from confusing to enjoyable.   Spending time with someone with Autism can be a rewarding, the key to which is finding and sharing an activity, event, or object that they especially enjoy.  Though the verbal communication may be limited, individuals with Autism often use other methods to communicate such as standing near the door to indicate that they want you to open it.  Especially if the time is spent in doing what they like to do, you can find yourself drawn into their amazing world.

The participants in the Autism Walk were at Kelley Park to support those they knew with Autism.  Their supportive steps translated into financial assistance.  As the Autism Walk drew to a close and walkers dispersed with their loved ones, the organizers announced that over $425,000 had been committed; $2,900.00 of which came from CSLOT.  We are proud to be part of such a supportive community!

Brendan O’Connor Webster, MA, CCC-SLP


Read All About It: Speech, Language, and Literacy!

July 19, 2011

Reading with your child is a great way to spend quality time while also improving his or her speech, language, and literacy skills!  When you read to your child, you help him or her learn new vocabulary words, sentence structure, basic concepts, sound and letter relationships, rhyming, sequencing, humor, cause and effect relationships, how to make predictions, and many other skills!  Every time you read a book (even one you’ve read dozens of times) brings about new concepts and experiences.  This is why many toddlers and preschoolers love hearing the same story repeatedly. 

The main goal to keep in mind when reading with your child is to keep it a positive emotional experience.  If you succeed, your child will return to books with you again and again with pleasure!

Here are some ways to keep book reading a positive experience, which are also rich in speech and language opportunities:

  • Focus on narrating the pictures in the book using short, simple sentence structures rather than reading the words on the page.
  • Let the child guide the reading event.  Comment on the pictures that the child points to rather than asking him or her questions that burden him or her to answer.  Let the child control the page turning, even if he or she is not following the order of the book at first.
  • Include in your child’s library books in a variety of textures, colors, interactivity (flaps, pop-ups, etc.) and sizes.  You can place the books that may be easily damaged by a child in a separate box to be read with you, so you do not have to worry when you are not supervising.
  • Include books that are about routines that your child experiences daily (e.g. bath time, bedtime, getting dressed, toilet-training), and read them around those times of the day.  This way your child would be familiar with the routine and with the book’s message as they reinforce each other.
  • Make book-reading a daily routine, as well as going to the library or bookstore together a weekly or monthly one.  You can build a love of books in your child from a very young age, and make the whole process, i.e. driving to the library, choosing books, reading books there, checking out the books, driving home, a special tradition of your family!
  • Read books in several languages if you speak more than one, and teach your child nursery rhymes, songs, cultural stories, and poems about your culture and his or hers as part of your efforts to raise your child bilingually.  There are many benefits to raising your child bilingually. Please check back for a future blog about this topic.

Shirit Megiddo, M.S., CCC-SLP

Making Sense of Sensory Integration

July 12, 2011

Roller coaster rides are the extreme example of the varying kinds of sensory needs seen typically. What kind are you?

  1. Love the roller coaster
  2. Hate it- will have nothing to do with it, will definitely get sick once I am off of the roller coaster
  3. Am okay with the ride if pushed to go on it

Well if you chose (a) as your answer you are sensory seeking- the thrill of the ride pumps up your brain and you feel alert after the ride. If you chose (b) you are sensory avoiding- just the sight of the roller coaster in the amusement park makes you nauseous.

If you chose (c) you have a typical threshold and if the ride is fun, leaves you feeling good but you can also do without it. The examples above are targeted towards the vestibular input which is received by the brain with the changing of the position of the head and body in relation to gravity.

Let’s talk about some day to day things that we do to fill those sensory needs. Chewing at the end of the pen to concentrate, tapping/shaking your foot to keep yourself awake, needing a stress ball in your hand to focus. All of us have different sensory needs that we learn to feed through appropriate activities. As we are all unique individuals, our sensory needs are unique too.

When children have sensory needs that they are not able to fulfill, the needs are manifested as behavioral responses. These are the children who the parents would describe as completely fearless; love to touch people/objects almost to the point of irritation and have difficulty staying still. On the other end of the spectrum we might have children who have a tantrum every time they need to be bathed or clothed and/or have difficulty when they are in close proximity to other children. Sensory integration trained professionals can help the children and parents identify these sensory needs and ways to fulfill them to support play and learning.

If this topic is of interest to you, please look at the information available at these links:

Vibha Pathak, OTD, OTR/L

How do I make my child talk?

July 6, 2011

Parents of young children are always asking me, “How do I make my child talk?”  Well, there is no way to “make” a child speak, but we can use techniques to keep a child interested and motivated so he/she wants to try to speak.  The most important thing to remember is that a young child’s job is to play and learn.  If a child feels like he is being tested or commanded to speak, chances are he never will.  Keeping playtime fun will naturally encourage your child to stay engaged and communicate with you.  Try some of these tricks and tips when playing with your child:

  • Take pictures of your child and his/her family members doing favorite activities.  Glue these pictures onto sheets of paper, staple the pages together, and voila! You have a book you and your child can enjoy together.  Use simple language to describe the actions in each picture (John is sliding, Throwing the ball, etc.)
  • Avoid asking your child too many questions like “What’s that?” or “What are you holding?”  These types of questions, while sometimes appropriate, when overused put too much pressure on the child and may lead to decreased interest and attention. Instead, narrate your environment (“John has a ball”, “John is throwing the ball”). This will provide your child with an example of language used in different situations.
  • Get down to your child’s eye level when talking to him/her.  If you want your child to repeat what you are saying, you will be more successful if the child can see your face and mouth.  You will also keep a child’s attention longer and more effectively if you are at his eye level.
  • Playfully sabotage toys and objects to create opportunities for your child to communicate.  If your child is putting a puzzle together, put all the pieces in a plastic jar and close the lid.  The child will be motivated to ask you for each piece.  By sabotaging the toys, you are creating a barrier to the child getting what he/she wants, which naturally encourages communication.  Remember to keep it fun! You can ask your child to find the puzzle piece while you hide it in your hands, behind your back, or put it in the sleeve of his shirt (children LOVE this, and if they can’t get the piece out of their sleeve themselves, they will be motivated to ask you for help!).

Remember to be creative and have fun! There is no wrong way to play with your child.  Your child loves you and loves playing with you. If you are engaged and focused on your child, he/she will also stay engaged and focused and is more likely to communicate.  Happy playing and talking!

Julie Manyak, CCC-SLP