Adults With Communication Disorders in the Media

August 30, 2011

Speech-language pathologists have a wonderful opportunity to work with adults that, for myriad reasons, have lost or suffered impairment in their ability to communicate successfully. This population may include people who have suffered from a stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and people who stutter.


Recently in the media, two stories have been portrayed of two rather famous adults with communication difficulties. The first that I became aware of was of former French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a massive stroke that left him with a condition called locked-in syndrome. He was completely paralyzed except for his left eye, could only make minimal head movements, and was unable to speak. He worked with a team of speech-pathologists to create a partner assisted scanning system to communicate by blinking his left eye to identify letters on the scanning system. With this system, Jean-Dominique was able to tell his story in The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, a novel that was published in 1997 and has since become a major motion picture. It reportedly took an average of two minutes to translate each word, and a total of about 200,000 blinks to complete the novel!

The King’s Speech, a 2010 British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler, tells the story of King George VI who struggled to overcome his fluency disorder in a very public arena. He enlisted speech pathologist Lionel Logue to help him improve his speech. As a result of his efforts with Mr. Logue, King George the VI gave a radio address in September 1929, announcing England’s declaration of war with Nazi Germany. His historic speech was powerful and fluent. The King’s Speech went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay.


Seeing how communication disorders affect the lives of adults in the media can provide a sense of community and a sense of hope to individuals and their families who suffer with communication disorders in their day-to-day lives. I encourage you to watch and enjoy these films!

Kim Kallman, MS, CCC-SLP


Books! Books! Books!

August 23, 2011

Research suggests that storybook reading facilitates language development and plays an important role in preparing children for success in school. In addition to enhancing early language development and literacy skills, shared book reading, between you and your child, can provide a positive social interaction.  Reading with your child should start from birth.  At this time, you can read anything to your son or daughter, even The New York Times.  What matters is how you read it.  Read with feeling, show emotion and pause to allow your baby to vocalize back to you. Initially, choose books with a story and meaning.  Reading longer stories during the first months will help to build your child’s attention.  Books like The Three Bears by Byron Barton, Summer by Alice Low and Chewy Louie by Howie Schneider will be fun for you and your baby.

If your toddler has trouble paying attention to a book, try reading when he or she is in the highchair eating, in the car seat while traveling, or just waking up from a nap in the stroller. 

By choosing the right books, you can help target speech and language skills you want to develop. Selecting books with repetitive phrases will allow your child to participate during story time.  Great examples include: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle, and The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski.  Give your child the opportunity to complete the repetitive line, or if he or she is ready, the whole line.  Hopefully, these words will carry over into daily vocabulary.

Rhyming books help children with word prediction, which is crucial for reading development.  Once familiar with a rhyming book, have your child try to fill-in the rhyming word.  Dr. Seuss’ The Foot Book begins: Left foot, Left foot, Right foot, Right – Feet in the morning, Feet at _____ (child should say “night”).

If your child’s speech therapist has determined that understanding and using prepositions is an important goal for your child, use books to reinforce what occurs in therapy.  Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha, Up Above and Down Below by Sue Redding and Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse by Rick Walton are full of prepositions.

A child with more developed language but has difficulty providing details and descriptions may benefit from “reading” wordless picture books to you.  Pictures in the story should be described so that the story makes sense.  Picture books with text can also be used, as long as the pictures are detailed themselves.  (You may cover the text with your hand if your child can read.)  Excellent examples include Knuffle Bunny books by Mo Willems, No, David! by David Shannon, and Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Other favorite wordless picture books include A Boy, a Dog and a Frog Series by Mercer Mayer, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola and The Jack Series by Pat Schories.  If you feel your child leaves out important information, ask an open-ended question (e.g., “Ooo – What’s happening over here?”).  Provide a description if you feel this is too challenging.  Perhaps this will increase your child’s awareness to be more specific and when you sit down to read the book again, the new information will be included.


Parent-Child Joint Reading: An Observational Protocol for Young Children (Kaderavek & Sulzby, 1998)


Sarah Peters, MA, CF-SLP


Navigating Autism and the iPad

August 16, 2011

When I first got my iPad I had to learn how to navigate its basic functions. Once that was out of the way it was time to download some apps. But where to begin and how would I effectively use them in therapy? I took to the app store and just started searching, categories, featured apps, top charts, and most importantly “free” apps. I quickly learned how easy it was to spend hours searching for apps that would be effective in therapy and yet still come up empty handed. It’s not like the app store has an “autism” category or a “speech therapy” section. That would just be too easy.

On my third night of perusing the app store and having only downloaded Talking Tomcat and Angry Birds, I took to google. Not that Talking Tomcat wasn’t a hit with my kids. I saw them share positive emotion with me as they would make ‘Tom’ do something silly and then look at me while they laughed and changed their gaze between me and the iPad. I also saw them engage in conversation with ‘Tom’ as he would imitate everything they said, while it may not have always been intelligible, the communicative intent was there.

I typed in “Autism” and “apps” into the search box. While the results were by no means definitive, nevertheless they aided in guiding my search for apps. It all depends what you intend to use your apps for. If you are looking to use your iPad as an AAC device, then there are apps such as Proloquo2Go and Tap2Talk. If you are looking for visual schedules there is the popular iPrompt. However, it’s important to remember, the same way you might get creative with any other materials or approach you might use, it’s just as important to be creative with your apps as well!


A few examples of how I have used some of my apps.

Peekaboo HD: You touch the screen to reveal a farm animal hiding behind bales of hay. After the animal makes its appropriate animal noise I have the kids guess which animal it is.

Angry Birds: I sometimes use Angry Birds as a reward. I also use it as a language task, asking the child to describe step-by-step what I need to do (I of course do as they instruct) to see if we can pass a level by following their instructions. Emotions: flashcards that display picture of an emotion while a voice verbally labels the emotion. I will use this to play charades with the children, asking them to demonstrate/imitate the emotion they see on the screen. Actions: flashcards that display pictures of actions while a voice verbally labels the action. I also use this app to play charades with the children, asking them to demonstrate/imitate the action they see on the screen.


As daunting as a task as it may seem, it is crucial to be patient and be creative! There are so many apps out there that have the potential to reach our kids in so many different ways, it is just a matter of tracking down what works for you. Here are a few links to help in your search. Happy Hunting! (click on the spreadsheet)


Alana Garcia-Chavez, MS, CCC-SLP


August 12, 2011

In school, we all learned that we discover our environment through the use of our 5 basic senses, but did you know that we have an additional special sense known as the vestibular system?  This complex system is located in our inner ear and consists of gravity receptors that detect linear (such as running straight or swinging back and forth) and rotary (spinning) movements.  The vestibular system allows us to know where our body is in relation to space.  It causes us to keep our balance and make sure that we are safe in our environment.  This system plays a very important role in terms of organizing which sensory input is and is not important in order to have an optimal level of focus and attention.

What might a child look like if they had problems processing vestibular information?  Here are a few things to look for from Jean Ayre’s Sensory Integration and the Child:

Does the child:

  • Generally appear to be developing in a typical way but have trouble learning to read or do mathematics?
  • Seek and/or tolerate movement activities such as swinging, running, and jumping and not seem to get dizzy as readily as others? 
  • Not perform especially well at some aspects of sports?
  • Seem to have trouble sitting upright, or tend to slouch when at a table or desk?

Getting vestibular input is very important in terms of a child’s development.  But you might be asking, “What are vestibular activities that our kids can engage in?”  Good question!  Check out the list below of easy suggestions:

  • Teach your child to push/pull themselves on the swing
  • Encourage activities that require balance (i.e. gymnastics, skating, biking, riding a scooter)
  • Jumping activities (i.e. learning to jump rope,  bouncing on therapy balls, jumping on trampolines)

For more information on sensory integration, please check out Sensory Integration and the Child by Jean Ayres, Ph.D.

Deborah Bae, MS, OTR/L

Early Intervention – An Overview

August 9, 2011

What Is early intervention?

Early Intervention is a term used to refer to services given to young children with special needs from the ages of birth to three years.  Services could include speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy and can be provided either in an office or in the child’s home.  More specifically, early intervention services are designed to meet children’s needs in 5 different areas, including: physical development, cognitive development, communication, social or emotional development, or adaptive development. 

How do I know if my child needs early intervention services?

If you have concerns that your child is not developing as quickly as other children in the above-mentioned areas, ask your pediatrician to put you in touch with the early intervention program in your community.  First, your child will have to be evaluated to determine if he or she qualifies to receive early intervention services.  The evaluation will be free for you and might include a number of professionals, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, vision or hearing consultants, developmental teachers or psychologists.

Why intervene early?

A child is most ready to learn skills between the ages of birth to three.  It is the most crucial stage in a child’s development.  Timing of intervention is important because a child runs the risk of missing an opportunity to learn at a state of maximum readiness.  If this stage of readiness is not taken advantage of, the child may have difficulty learning a certain skill at a later time.  The family of a child with a developmental delay also benefits greatly from early intervention services.  There are opportunities for them to receive education on their child’s development.  Parents spend the most time with their child, so it is important for them to receive education and support.  The hope is that if these services are provided early enough in a child’s life to address delays in development, then services won’t be needed later on.  Don’t hesitate!  If you have any concerns, get the early intervention process started!

Michelle Smith, M.S. CCC-SLP

Information was adapted from:

NationalInformationCenterfor Children and Youth with Disabilities website for a “Parent Guide for Early Intervention”