How to Provide a Functional Home Environment for your Sensory Seeking Child

May 30, 2012

Have you ever asked yourself what type of environment can help your sensory seeking child pay attention and behave more appropriately? The following strategies can help increase your child’s attention, facilitate appropriate behavior, increase organization, and prevent over-stimulation.

Proprioceptive: Make tools available for heavy work activities such as a climbing a rope or riding a bicycle.

Tactile: For tactile sensory seekers, organize your environment so that items the child uses routinely provide tactile stimulation such as textured bath mats.

Vestibular: Make equipment available that provides purposeful movement requiring an organized response such as a swing. Have your child swing and aim for a target.

Visual: Maintain organization by labeling drawers, placing toys in containers to minimize clutter, and using muted colors. .

Auditory: Provide a steady background of quiet sounds such as classical music.

Oral: Provide foods with intense tastes.

If you have any questions, please contact an occupational therapist at CSLOT who can assist you with making environmental changes in your home to support your child.

-Anna Lisa Matudio, M.S., OTR/L


Miller, L.J. (2007). Sensational Kids. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Group, Inc.


What is Early Literacy Development and How Does it Tie to Language Acquisition?

May 22, 2012

Children start to learn language from the day they are born. As they grow and develop so do their speech and language skills. They learn to understand and use language to express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings to communicate with others. During this stage of early speech and language development, children also learn skills that are important to the development of literacy skills (reading and writing). This is known as Emergent Literacy or Early Literacy. This begins at birth and continues through the preschool years.

Children are exposed to print (e.g. books, writings on the grocery list) in everyday situations (e.g. home, daycare) well before they enter elementary school. Parents can see their child’s appreciation for print grow as they begin to recognize words that rhyme, scribble with crayons, name some letters in the alphabet, and eventually combine what they know about speaking and listening with what they know about print indicating their readiness to read and write.

The Development of Print Knowledge

Children start by making guesses:

  1. Understanding what symbols mean
  2. Making inferences based on the size and length of the print
  3. Making inferences based on their unique design
  4. Directionality
  5. Oral/Written Language Correspondence
  6. Understanding how letters relate to sound

Warning Signs

The experiences with talking and listening learned during the preschool years prepare children to learn to read and write during early elementary school years. This means that children who enter school with weaker verbal abilities are much more likely to experience difficulties in learning literacy skills than those who don’t. Children who are at risk may exhibit these warning signs:

  • Persistent “baby” talk
  • Absence or lack of interest for nursery rhymes
  • Absence or lack of interest in joint book readings
  • Difficulty understanding simple directions
  • Difficulty learning or remembering names of letters
  • Failure to recognize or identify own name

What can you do?

Children need to engage in learning about learning literacy through meaningful experiences. You, as a parent, can help your child develop literacy skills during regular activities without adding extra time to your day. Show them reading and writing is part of everyday life and can be fun and enjoyable. Activities for children include:

  • Talk to your child and name objects, people, and events in their everyday environment
  • Repeat what your child is saying, including babbling (e.g. “dadada, bababa”) and add to them
  • Talk to your child during routine activities (e.g. bathtime) and respond to their questions
  • Draw your child’s attention to print in everyday settings such as traffic signs, store logos, and food containers
  • Introduce new vocabulary word during holidays and special activities such as outings to the zoo, park, etc.
  • Engage with your child in singing, rhyming games, and nursery rhymes
  • Read picture and story books that focus on sounds, rhymes, and alliteration (words that start with the same sound, as found in Dr. Seuss books).
  • Reread your child’s favorite book(s).
  • Focus your child’s attention on books by pointing to words and pictures as you read.
  • Provide a variety of materials to encourage drawing and scribbling (e.g., crayons, paper, markers, finger paints).
  • Encourage your child to describe or tell a story about his/her drawing and write down the words.

-Michelle Smith, M.S. CCC-SLP & Chary Liz Macasero, B.S. – Student Intern


Roth, F., Paul, D., & Pierotti, A., (2006). Emergent Literacy: Early Reading and Writing  Development. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).  Retrieved May 14, 2012, from          literacy.htm.

Dobbels, D. (2003). Using what we know to enhance early literacy programming: An  SLP’s guide to early literacy development & practices [PowerPoint Slides].  Retrieved May 14, 2012, from

Early Intervention: Speech & Language

May 1, 2012

Early intervention (EI) refers to services, education and support provided to families with children, birth to three, with disabilities, delays or at risk of developing a disability that can affect their development or impede their education. The goal of early intervention is to provide support to families to help their children grow to their greatest potential.  The services are designed to identify and meet a child’s needs in five developmental domains, including: physical development, cognitive development, communication, social or emotional development, and adaptive development.  Although services vary by state, they can include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, educational services and family counseling.

Early intervention programs and services can be received in a variety of settings.  However, these settings must be considered a natural environment, such as in the home or in the community, where children without disabilities or delays can participate and are embraced.

In order to be considered for early intervention services, which are provided to families at no cost, a child must first be evaluated prior to age 3.  After their third birthday, they are no longer eligible for early intervention services.  If services are still needed after three years, a transition in services will occur and it is then the school district’s (special education team) responsibility to determine eligibility and appropriate services.

Often times, parental concerns initially rise due to their child “not talking” or having a limited expressive vocabulary.  If there is any concern regarding your child’s development or meeting developmental milestones, it important to talk to professionals such as your pediatrician.  Talking to your child’s pediatrician and requesting a referral for an assessment is the first step!  Research shows the learning takes place at a faster rate between birth and 5 years of age.  Unfortunately, parents who take the “wait and see” approach, 75% of their children with communication difficulties go undetected until they enter kindergarten and are 5 years old.


Research Findings

Studies examining the effectiveness of early intervention found that

  • Early childhood programs can benefit children on intelligence quotient (IQ) and demonstrate sizable long-term effects on school achievement, grade retention, placement in special education, and social adjustment.
  • Late talkers have demonstrated gains in expressive vocabulary size and use, utterance length and socialization skills.
  • Between 25 and 50% of children receiving intensive EI will move into general education by Kindergarten and many others will need significantly less service provision in future years service provision in future years.

How do I support my child’s communication development?

Birth to One Year:

  • Check your child’s hearing ability pay attention to ear problems and infections, especially when they are reoccurring.
  • Reward and reinforce your baby’s communication attempts by looking, listening and imitating their vocalizations.
  • Teach your baby to imitate facial expressions, actions such as peek-a-boo, clapping, blowing kisses and waving.  These games teach turn-taking which facilitates later developing skills to engage in conversation.
  • Talk about what you and your baby are doing, such as bathing, feeding (e.g., “Mommy is putting on Marie’s socks”; “Marie is eating a banana”).
  • Teach animal sounds (e.g., A sheep says ‘ba ba’”).

One to Two Years:

  • Talk while doing things and going places.  For example, point out and label familiar objects like a cat.  Provide language that is simple and concrete.  “I see a cat.” “A cat says meow.”
  • Use simple speech, phrases and sentences that can be understood and imitated by your child.
  • Expand on words.  If you child say’s “baby,” respond by saying, “Yes!. The baby is crying.”
  • READ, READ, READ!!!  Find books with large print and pictures.  Name the objects and describe the pictures. Use simple phrases on sentences on each page.  You don’t have to read the actually text (It may be to long or use abstract language).
  • Ask your child to point to named pictures.
  • Ask your child to name the picture. If they don’t, name it for them!

Two to Three Years:

  • Model clear and simple speech and easy enough for your child to imitate.
  • Attend to your child and show that you are interested in what he or she has said and expand on it.
  • Repair communication breakdowns.  Let your child know that what have said is important and ask them to repeat information you could not understand.
  • Expand your child’s receptive vocabulary by labeling objects and pictures in books and providing synonyms for familiar words.
  • Sing songs, tell nursery rhymes and play finger games.  These activities introduce rhythm and the sounds of language as well as promote literacy development.
  • Look at family photos and describe what is happening. Write simple and appropriate phrases under the pictures.  This helps your child understand that reading is spoken language print.
  • Give the child choices and use open ended questions rather than asking yes/no questions.  For example, ask “Do you want juice or water?” or “What do you want?” rather then “Do you want juice? Do you want water?”

Barnett, W. S. (1995). Long-term effects of early childhood programs on cognitive and school outcomes. The Future of Children, 5(3), 25-50. Retrieved April 25, 2012, from

Eichten, P.  (2000).  Help me talk: A parents guide to speech and language stimulation techniques for children 1 to 3 years (2nd ed).  Richmond, VA: PI Communication Materials, Inc.

Chelsea Collins, M.A., CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathologist