Choosing the Right Book for Your Child

November 30, 2012

Finding the right book for your child can be a difficult task! With bookstores and libraries full of books, it can be overwhelming. It is crucial to find the book your child wants to read AND make sure it’s at the right reading level for your child. Listed below are some guidelines to help you:

  • Choose topics your child enjoys (e.g., butterflies), or is curious about to keep him or her interested and engaged.
  • Let children choose their own books, from an appropriate selection. This helps build a lifelong love of reading.
  • Consider pictures and words. Younger children enjoy more illustrations and fewer words. For preschool-aged children, you can choose slightly more complex texts with good rhythm, word repetition, and stories.
  • Choose books to help explain an upcoming experience or outing. If your child is anxious about an event coming up (trip to the zoo, a play date), choosing similar themes in a book will help the child to get excited and feel more comfortable with the idea.
  • Choose books that reflect your child’s everyday activities, such as playing with friends, brushing teeth, visiting family, and going-to-sleep routines. They can help you teach valuable lessons and routines.
  • Choose books that reflect your child’s concerns, such as the start of new daycare or a fear of the dark. These books help children realize that their feelings are normal and that they’re not alone. These books also help your child learn how to handle their anxiety in a positive way.
  • Select a wide variety of books and reading materials, including fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, chapter books, graphic novels and comics, folk and fairy tales, and joke and riddle books…this will also help your child build a wider vocabulary.
  • Shared reading time should be enjoyable. If your child does not like a book you are reading together, put it away. Reading is a fun time to share, not a time to fight.

Also remember that your local library is also a great place! The librarian is available to assist you, and may be able to help you find something you are looking for. The library also gives your child a time to explore and find other books that they may find interesting. Many libraries also offer a free story time. Check out your local library schedule for possible upcoming story times!

Katey Sellers, M.A., CCC-SLP

Information was gathered from the following website: http://bblocks.samhsa.gov/family/time/choosing_right_books.aspx


Holiday Fun – Keeping Up our Skills While Trying Some New Ones

November 19, 2012

It’s officially the holiday season and thus begins the hunt for activities to keep our children engaged and learning while having fun during time away from their regular activities. While holiday breaks from school are a time for relaxing, it’s also a time for children to explore activities that they may not be exposed to in school as well as keep up some skills while on break (i.e. handwriting).

Ideas for fine motor activities:

1)      Make macaroni beads: paint and string to make necklaces or garlands to decorate the patio

2)      Make pasta art: use cooked or uncooked painted pasta to create fun scene and pictures

3)      Make sensory pictures: use materials that you can find outside (i.e. flowers, leaves, grass, sand) to make pictures and stories

4)      Write stories: find great story starters and ideas from Handwriting Without Tears ©

5)      Outdoor drawing: use sidewalk chalk to make outlines of the children’s body, make colorful scenes or just practice shapes on the sidewalk

 

Ideas for gross motor activities:

1)      Make forts: use pillows, blankets and furniture (inside or outside) to create hideaways and forts to kids to play in

2)      Create obstacle courses: use rocks, furniture and toys to create outdoor obstacle courses that children can climb over, under, and through

3)      Play outside! Remember all those games you played as a kid? Tag, Follow the leader, Simon Says are great games to play outdoors

4)      Animal Races: crawl like a crab, waddle like a duck, jump like a frog, slither like a snake

 

Ideas for sensory activities:

1)      Water sensory table: this is a great opportunity to play outside with a tub, bucket or pool of water. Splash, swim or watch animals dive.

2)      Sensory cooking: have children help with making cookies and let them squish it through their fingers. Or make Jell-o and let them try out different textures.

3)      Make bouncing bubbles and entertain children for hours

4)      Make coffee can stilts: let children decorate as animal feet or with their favorite colors

5)      Make elephant toothpaste

6)      Make ice cream in a bag: work on strength, attention and have a great treat too!

 

Above all else, have fun! Children with sensory processing difficulties may be hesitant to try out activities at first, allow them time to explore and multiple opportunities to try!

 

-Larissa Ksar, MS, OTR/L


How can parents help their children to develop good social skills? The 4 P’s!

November 16, 2012

As children get older, they become part of a larger social world. They begin to form relationships with other children and adults in school as well as outside of school. Being sociable helps us with resilience (the ability to withstand hard times). Children who are constantly rejected by peers are lonely and have lower self-esteem. Parents can help their children learn social skills so they are not constantly rejected or begin to bully and reject others.

Parents can act as coaches for their children to develop these social skills. Children learn a lot from how parents treat them and when they observe how parents interact with others. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents use a 4-part strategy when helping their children develop social skills; Practice, Praise, Point out, and Prompt. These four steps can be used when parents notice that a child needs to work on a particular social skill. Before using them, however, the parent should point out the problem area sensitively and privately (not in front of others) to the child.

Practice: You can help your child substitute a specific appropriate response for a specific inappropriate one. This might mean brainstorming with the child about different alternative responses and then practicing one or more with the child. Practicing can involve mapping out actual words to say or behaviors to use, role-playing, and using the newly learned skills in real situations.

Praise: Reward your child with praise when the new skills are practiced as a way of helping the skills become habits. This might be a specific verbal statement (“You did an awesome job of X instead of Y when you got angry at the store”), a nonverbal sign such as a thumbs up, or even a treat (10 minutes extra play time before bed).

Point Out: Parents can use opportunities to point out when others are using the desired skill. It might be a specific behavior of the parent, another adult, a child, or even a character in a book or on TV. The idea is to give children examples and role models of people engaging in the appropriate social skill.

Prompt:  Without nagging, parents can gently remind their child to use a new skill when the opportunity arises. This might be verbal (“Now might be a good time to count to ten in your head”) or nonverbal (a nonverbal cue such as zipping the lips when a child is about to interrupt).

Good coaches know that patience is important because learning new skills takes time and practice. It is important to remember that the ability to have good social relationships is not simply about personality or in-born traits. People who get along with others have learned skills to do so, and they practice these regularly.

 

Information gathered from Angela Wiley, Ph.D., “Importance of Teaching Social Skills to Children” and AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics

Sarah Peters, M.A., CCC-SLP


Social-Pragmatic Skills and Autism Spectrum Disorders

November 10, 2012

Social-Pragmatic skills help individuals engage in social interaction with others. Many of us grasped the unwritten rules that govern our behavior in the social environment early on in our lives. However, individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulties learning these rules. In fact, social-pragmatics is often considered a core challenge for these children. The “hidden” social expectations can make social interaction a confusing experience. Therefore, many professionals and parents may want to help children with ASD develop a variety of skills that fall within the social-pragmatic realm. Nonetheless, before we start, we need to first sort out important conversational skills and find ways to assess children’s performance.

Social-Pragmatic skills involve not only one’s ability to communicate intent, but also knowledge of discourse management, register variation, presupposition, and other social skills. Discourse Management involves managing the conversation to keep it flowing and effective. Conversation partners need to agree on turn allocation, which involves identifying turn-taking opportunities and limiting one’s talking to one’s turn. They stay on the topic unless there is a signal by a communication partner that he/she is going to change the topic. Knowledge of topic maintenance includes knowing how to smoothly switch to a new topic. When conversation breakdown occurs, one needs to recognize it and use subsequent repair strategies such as repeat, rephrase, or adding information to aid communication. Register variation includes politeness/social role recognition, as people change their word choices, sentence forms, vocal tone and gestures/body posture to adjust to social roles in various discourse patterns. Presupposition, or perspective-taking,involves making assumptions about what other people know. People learn to understand everyone has different thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and take this into account during the conversation. Paralinguistics refers to the use of prosody, gaze, gestures, and physical proximity to show interest in the interaction, convey different layers of meanings and monitor the nonverbal communication of the partner. Social behaviors involve use of facial expressions, conventional gestures, and social actions that are expected in one’s culture, such as dressing appropriately for an occasion, offering to share something, assisting someone who needs help, patiently waiting for a turn in a game, etc.

Children with ASD may be able to fluently express their intention, but they often face difficulties in their social interaction with lack of proficiency of more than one skill listed above.

Assessing pragmatic skills can be a challenge since conversations are dynamic, and there is no easy way to measure one’s performance via standard tests. Formal assessment which involves static, often pictured situations can be used to establish a starting point, but information collected through observation, interview, and check lists helps us to detect if the individual lacks the knowledge to manage such conversations or is merely experiencing a performance issue. If needed, specific situations can be created to probe particular skills. Information from more than one source is necessary to establish goals and priorities for intervention.

Several key components need to be considered as we develop an individualized treatment program for children with ASD. These include the child’s knowledge about social communication, his/her ability to apply social knowledge in various situations, the cognitive/emotional cost to the child, the need to find right strategies to specific challenges, the co-occurring elements in the planning/implementation stages of social interaction, plans to generalize learned skills, self-monitoring skills that promote independence and flexibility, etc. Interventionists should also consider what skills are easiest/most important to teach, which skills can be paired together, and which skills will make the biggest impact in terms of improving social interaction. Many tools and programs have been developed for improving social interaction in this population. For example, social groups and social stories help children with ASD to experience different social roles and social situations, expand their knowledge of social skills, give them examples of strategies they can use, and offer them opportunities to practice social-pragmatic skills in a low-stress environment. While the SLP may lead intervention, family members and school teachers can also provide additional learning opportunities throughout the day to help children monitor their newly learned skills.

 

Information taken from:

http://www.autismsupportnetwork.com/news/meeting-challenge-social-pragmatics-students-autism-spectrum-887512

 

Chloe Chenjie Gu, MA., Speech-Language Pathology Intern

Kristina Elliott, MA, CCC-SLP


Use of Social Stories for Children with Autism

November 2, 2012

Many children with autism have difficulty knowing what to do in various social situations.  Carol Gray, Director of the Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding, created social stories.  Social stories are short stories used as a teaching tool for children with autism that describe a potentially challenging situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses.  They are written or tailored to an autistic individual to help them understand and behave appropriately in social situations. The stories have a specifically defined style and format.

They describe a situation in terms of relevant social cues, the perspective of others, and often suggest an appropriate response. They may also be used to applaud accomplishments.  It breaks down a challenging social situation into understandable steps by omitting irrelevant information and by being highly descriptive to help an individual with an ASD understand the entirety of a situation. It includes answers to questions such as who, what, when, where, and why in social situations through the use of visuals and written text. Social Stories are used to teach particular social skills, such as identifying important cues in a given situation; taking another’s point of view; understanding rules, routines, situations, upcoming events or abstract concepts; and understanding expectations.  Social Stories can provide information in an accurate but supportive manner, describe an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation, prepare an individual for an upcoming event, or help an individual understand what is going on around them and the expectations of the situation.

The goal of a social story is to reveal accurate social information in a clear and reassuring manner that is easily understood by the individual with an ASD. The improved understanding of the events and expectations may lead to a change in behavior, although it is suggested that the goal of a social story should not be to change individual behavior.

Examples of situations when a social story would be appropriate are: “Going to the grocery store,”  “Going to school,” “Going to the doctor,” or “Riding the bus.”

Prewritten social story examples can be found on: http://www.child-behavior-guide.com/free-social-stories.html.

It is also beneficial to create your own stories with real pictures to help the child relate better.

Information taken from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Stories

http://www.autism-community.com/social-stories/

Michelle Morgado, M.S., CCC-SLP


Early Intervention

November 1, 2012

Early intervention refers to services for children with developmental delays. These services help a child develop functional life skills. In some situations, the therapy a child receives at an early age enables that child to reach developmental milestones on target or close to target. Early intervention can relate to a child’s:

  • Physical development a child’s ability to move, see and hear
  • Language and speech development a child’s ability to talk and communicate
  • Social and emotional development a child’s ability to play, interact and relate to others
  • Adaptive development a child’s ability to handle self-care functions, such as feeding and dressing
  • Cognitive development a child’s ability to think and learn

All parents and caregivers, no matter how busy, want to provide their children with the most stimulating environment for learning and using language. A trip to the supermarket, taking a car ride, playing outside, or doing everyday activities at home provide great opportunities for developing speech and language skills. There are always opportunities to maximize communication and encourage interactions, which are both language-rich and fun! Below are different daily routines with examples of ways we can maximize communication.

Bath Time

  1. Blow bubbles in the water. Talk about the size (big bubbles), speed (slow, fast), etc. as you play.
  2. Practice following simple directions like “kick”, “splash”, and “scrub.”
  3. Let your child tell you which body part to wash or give your child a choice, “Do you want me to wash your arm or leg?.”
  4. Talk about what the bath toys are doing (e.g., going up, down, hiding under, in/out of water, jump off the tub, etc.).
  5. Sing songs in the bath (e.g., “Row row row your boat”, “It’s raining it’s pouring”, etc.).
  6. Use bath toys to hide under a washrag. Allow your child to find the toys and explore hide & seek games.
  7. Talk about bathtime concepts (e.g., water temperature, washing speed, vocabulary related to the bath, etc.).

Resources:

http://www.10minutesfortalking.com

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.

Katey Sellers, MA, CCC-SLP