Baby Sign Language: Does It Delay Speech Or Increase It?

Baby Sign LanguageYour one-year-old child looks up at you, and you wonder when their first words are going to start so that you’ll know exactly what they’re thinking. Or maybe the child is starting to cry, and you can’t wait for her to tell you what she wants instead of leaving you to figure it out.

There might be a way to speed up the process – baby sign programs have been introduced to encourage early language with infants. But the important question is, do they work?

Reasearch Of Baby Sign Language:

Existing research for baby signing is inconclusive. It wavers from not having a significant difference for the child’s language to increasing a child’s vocabulary and helping spoken language emerge.

Before beginning a baby sign program, consider the following questions:

• Is the program designed to teach a child American Sign Language, or to teach Baby Sign for encouraging spoken language? Make sure the program you are using fits your need.

• Is the program researched-based?

• Does the person teaching the program have extensive knowledge of American Sign Language or another sign language?

• Does the program use developmentally appropriate signs? For example, teaching the sign for “milk” may be more appropriate for beginning baby signs than teaching the word for “flower”. Signs may be simplified in the same way that spoken language may be simplified when speaking to an infant. Read more

Developmental Skills While Playing With Cars

Pediatric therapy sessions typically involve a lot of play time! Why? Children learn about their world through play and child playing with car imitation of adults, and play is much more motivating than sitting at a table completing worksheets. When a child plays with a car, here are a few of the skill areas that are targeted:

Cognition while playing with cars:

• Experiencing cause and effect relationships, such as when a car drops down a ramp

• Labeling basic parts of a car

Fine Motor or Hand Skills while playing with cars:

• Strengthing hand-eye coordination skills and improving hand dexterity while building a toy car. Consider building a visual model for your child to copy

• Improving hand coordination and hand dexterity while repairing a car using toy tools. Facilitate this by placing your hand on the child’s and physically moving his hands if necessary

• Practice using both hands simultaneously while turning a steering wheel Read more

Strategies to Improve Homework Success

boy doing home workAfter a busy day, the last thing you want to do is fight with your child about finishing his homework. Turning in an assignment or performing successfully on a test should feel like a great accomplishment for you and your child, not a constant battle. Every child prefers different organizational and environmental strategies to help him focus and stay on task; and different strategies may work in different days depending on the child.

Homework Seating Tips:

• Exercise ball: By replacing a typical chair with an exercise ball, the child automatically receives more input to their body. He is now required to keep his feet flat on the floor, his shoulders down and relaxed, and his trunk erect with his muscles constantly firing as he keeps hjs body in an upright position. This extra input gives him increased attention and focus during fine motor and tabletop activities.

**Note: Exercise balls used as a chair are not appropriate for children who have poor postural control and weak core muscles, as this will cause them to focus on keeping their body stabilized on top of the ball, as well as on the task at hand. This may lead to rushed or sloppy work because their attention is on the exercise ball, noton their homework. Talk with an OT or PT if you have questions about the best seating for your child. Read more

What’s The Difference Between Positive and Negative Reinforcement?

Reinforcement is used to help increase the probability that a specific behavior will occur with the delivery of a stimulus/item immediately after a response/behavior is exhibited. The use of these procedures has been used with both typical and atypical developing children, teenagers, elderly persons, animals, and different psychological disorders. 

There are two types of reinforcement: positive and negative. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two.

Positive Reinforcement:

This is a very powerful and effective tool to help shape and change behavior. It works by presenting a motivating item to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future.

The following are some examples of positive reinforcement:

• A mother gives her son candy for cleaning up his toys.

• A little girl receives $5.00 for doing chores.

Negative Reinforcement:

This is when a certain stimulus/item is removed after a particular behavior is exhibited. The likelihood of the particular behavior occurring again in the future is increased because of removing/avoiding the negative stimuli.

It should not be thought of as a punishment procedure. With negative reinforcement, you are increasing a behavior, whereas with punishment, you are decreasing a behavior.

The following are some examples of negative reinforcement:

• Billy hates when his mom nags him to do the dishes. He starts to do the dishes immediately after finishing a meal to avoid his mother’s nagging.

• Lisa always complains of a headache when it is time to start doing her homework. Her parents allow her to go to bed without doing her homework.

Always remember that the end result is to try to increase the behavior, whereas punishment procedures are used to decrease behavior. For positive reinforcement, try to think of it as adding something positive in order to increase a response. For negative reinforcement, try to think of it as taking something negative away in order to increase a response.

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Tummy Time and Infants

Tummy time is an essential activity beginning in the first month of a baby’s life. It is a way to develop strength and coordination and to give your little one a head start in gross motor development. tummy time

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that healthy babies should be put to sleep on their backs. This resulted in a dramatic decrease in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and made many parents anxious about placing babies on their tummy at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics then launched the “Back to Sleep-Tummy to Play” campaign, which reminded parents that good gross motor development starts with putting babies on their tummy during supervised play time.

Below are some tips to introduce your infant to tummy time:

• Place the infant on your chest and encourage head lifting by using eye contact and singing to your baby. The higher you sit up, the easier it will be for your baby to push up.

• Get down on the floor yourself with your baby or use a small mirror in front of them to get your baby to interact with the environment at eye level.

• A rolled-up towel placed under the baby’s chest or a boppy pillow can be used to help shift weight from the upper body to encourage head lifting.

• As the baby gets older, playing airplane in different positions, such as over your legs or supporting the baby by holding on to their abdomen and hips, helps to strengthen the back, neck and shoulder muscles.

Tummy time is a very important step during a baby’s first year of life. Although healthy babies should be placed on their back to sleep, placing a baby on his tummy to play a few times a day is recommended.

Occasionally, babies will become fussy when placed on their tummy, so parents should increase the intervals the child in on their tummy to play and utilize the tips above to make tummy time fun. When gradually encouraged, most babies will learn to enjoy tummy time and will reap the benefits of better head control, arm and back strength and fine motor and sensory development.

Children who skip the crawling milestone and go directly to walking can have problems with their coordination, weight shifting during walking, and with fine motor skills. Healthy gross motor development begins early on in a baby’s life, and tummy time is an essential way to provide total body strength and coordination.

Click here to watch a 2 minute webisode about Tummy Time

 

 

 

Successfully Surviving Spring Break at Home with Your Kids

It’s spring break and you are home with your kids: kids drawing at home

What does that mean? It means that kids are completely ecstatic and simply can’t wait for this vacation from school! For them, it means: no homework, no alarm clocks (aka sleeping in), and no racing to the bus before the sun has truly risen for the day. Some parents are thrilled with these benefits and add the many benefits spring break allows for the parents: no packing lunches, no driving from school to school trying to pick up carpools and race to after school activities, and getting to spend some quality time with your kids. Yet, for many parents, spring break evokes a feeling of sheer panic:

WHAT WILL WE DO ALL WEEK WITH ALL THE KIDS HOME TOGETHER, AT THE SAME TIME, WITH NO SCHEDULE, AND NOTHING TO DO?!!!

As a parent myself with 3 school-age children, I can see both sides of the spring break debate. Yet, I’m here to tell you that you can survive staying home during spring break with your kids. Even as I write that, I’m still stricken with the panic myself. But, as I take some deep breaths, I will walk you through some survival tips for the next 7 days.

Spring Break Survival Tips:

1) Have a plan: The worst words a parent can hear from children over break is, “I’m bored!” Ok…that, and the fighting words between siblings. But, the bored part is within our control, at least for a little while. The fighting words between siblings will most likely be addressed in another blog, not to worry. Anyway, back to “have a plan”. If you have never had a family meeting in your household, here’s a great place to start (and a great topic). Call to order a family meeting to discuss possible activities that can be done during the week off from school. Everyone should have a chance to give input.

2) Engage your kids in the plan: Kids like to feel that they have choices and that their opinions count. And, what better time to allow them to have those choices than spring break when the week is full of possibilities? Write down all the ideas the kids have for activities, places they’d like to visit, friends they’d like to see, etc. Even if one of your kids wants to play Wii and relax, there will be time for that and it’s good for the kids to have some downtime. Perhaps that can be the “family game night” activity one night this week.

3) Make a calendar of possible activities: This will allow you (and the kids) to see what the plan is for each day. Whether it’s playdates or a trip to the museum, the kids can see what is planned. It allows them to see that their ideas are put into action and also teaches them the art of negotiation. For example, “Yes, we are doing the activity that Jake chose tomorrow morning, but we are doing your activity on Tuesday when your friend Emily and her mom are free to join us.” Of course, the calendar can be changed, if need be.

4) Be careful not to over-schedule: You’ve heard of not over-scheduling kids’ activities, playdates, etc during the school year, but the same is true for vacations. Be sure to give breaks throughout the day, so the activity chosen is still enjoyable for the kids (and for you). This is especially true for children who have difficulty with transitions. For example, if you’re going bowling in the morning, maybe some game time or an art activity with just the family is good for an afternoon activity, rather than another outing or high-energy excursion. And, it’s ok to have some “screen time” (as we call tv, computer, and video games in our house) to give tired moms and dads a break too.

5) Schedule a grown-up night out: Yes, I did say “schedule”. As parents, it’s easy for us to forget about adult time and especially time for ourselves. So, before you get caught up in the calendar of all the kids’ activities from morning until night, make sure to add a “grown up night” to that calendar. Phone an in-law, a parent, or a sibling and see if they would be willing to watch the darlings for a couple of hours so you can have some grown-up time with your spouse or significant other. Or, see if a friend would be willing to sit for your kids one night and you can sit for theirs another night. Or, if finances allow, hire a sitter! I promise this will be a great addition to your spring break plans. If your spouse travels or you can’t go out together one night during this week, make it a grown-up night with some friends.

Some ideas for spring break kid-friendly activities that won’t cost a fortune:

• local libraries often have free passes or discounts to local museums and attractions-check that out! Or, just spend some time at the library.

• parks (if the weather permits). Try one that you’ve never seen before- maybe in another town and have the kids make a comparison list: what they like best at each park.

• take a train ride

• visit an animal shelter and bring newspapers. They always need newspaper for training

• volunteer at a local nursing home or get a group of kids together to do a talent show of sorts

• rent a movie about something the kids learned about in school-making popcorn helps them forget they’re learning while they watch

• take pictures when you go on activities and even make a scrapbook at the end of the week

Navigating Speech & Language Difficulties in the Classroom

The relationship between language skills and academic performance is well-documented by research. Speech and language skills are critical to successfully navigating the classroom, from following directions to verbally expressing ideas to building relationships with peers. For children with speech and language difficulties, these everyday occurrences can feel daunting, and at times, can become roadblocks to success.

Children with speech and language difficulties often require individualized assistance to succeed in a classroom setting. For teachers, this presents a challenge amidst very demanding schedules and class sizes of thirty or more students, each with varying needs. Any hand-tailored strategy can easily be applied in a one-on-one setting, but within an entire class of students, it’s not always so easy.

This blog is dedicated to teachers and educators, in hopes of offering practical strategies that can be readily incorporated into the classroom on any given day despite the rigorous demands of a school schedule. Natural opportunities to encourage speech and language are threaded throughout each day, and my hope is to shed light on these moments. Additionally, I hope to offer guidance in troubleshooting those more challenging moments, and in the end, see our students with speech and language difficulties thrive in the classroom setting.

Is it a Speech & Language Disorder? Discerning the Red Flags:

A handful of students in your classroom may already be identified as having a speech and language disorder. Other students, however, may remain undetected. Here are common red flags to identify speech and language difficulties within the classroom:

Speech Red Flags In The Classroom:

– difficulty following directions that are spoken or read

– difficulty comprehending a story that is spoken or read Read more

Gifted Children And What It Means To Be Advanced

gifted childI was asked to write a blog on giftedness in children – specifically, how to access it and how to ensure that a child with cognitive strength is able to reach his or her potential. This has proven to be a hard topic to write about. I don’t like the term “giftedness” for several reasons, but before I divulge those, I need to discuss what it means to be “gifted.”

A quick review of basic statistics is necessary in order to understand how we assess children has demonstrating superior ability. Traditionally, when we think of giftedness, we are thinking of a child’s IQ score. The vast majority of IQ scores used standard scores. A standard score is a statistical term in which a score of 100 is solidly average (50th percentile) and a standard deviation (the spread of scores from the mean of 100) of 15. In layman terms, scores between 85-115 are considered to be average.

When you are talking about giftedness, we see scores with at least two standard deviations greater than the mean (meaning an IQ score of 130 or higher). So, gifted children are those children that have IQ scores of 130 or higher. Pretty easy to identify, right? Wrong. One of my major critiques of giftedness is that parents and some academic folk rely way too much on the overall IQ score to determine if a child is gifted.

What Are IQ Measurements For Children?

The current gold-standard IQ measure, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition (WISC-IV) came out in 2003. On the WISC-IV, children attain a Full Scale IQ score, which is comprised of several factors: verbal reasoning and comprehension, nonverbal reasoning, immediate attention and memory, and processing speed. Here lies one of the concerns in assessing giftedness. Which score should one use? Read more

Speech & Language Development in Twins

Twin BabiesAccording to the 2006 National Vital Statistics Report, about 32 twins are born per 1,000 births in the United States. For expecting parents, the prospect of twins can be incredibly exciting. But it can also be just as overwhelming, with double the responsibility and half the time. Raising twins differs from raising singletons in several ways, requiring parents to carefully plan and prepare. Knowing what to expect can reduce anxiety and empower parents to handle their new role with double the confidence.

Are twins more likely to be delayed in Speech?

Studies have documented that twins are more likely to demonstrate delays in speech and language skills, with males typically showing a six-month greater lag than females (Lewis & Thompson, 1992). However, studies have also documented that twins typically catch up in their speech and language development by three to four years of age (Lewis & Thompson, 1992). Language delays are typically characterized by immature verbal skills, shorter utterance lengths, and less overall verbal attempts.

There are several possible causes for speech and language delays in twins, including unique perinatal and environmental factors. For example, premature birth and low birth weight are more common among twins than singletons (Bowen, 1999). Additionally, twins may receive less one-to-one interaction time with their caregiver, as both infants are competing for time and care.

Although it is more common for twins to be delayed in language development, there is danger in assuming that they will catch up down the road. Twins who have true speech-language disorders may not catch up, and will benefit greatly from direct intervention. If you are concerned about your twins’ speech-language development, it is best to seek guidance from a licensed speech-language pathologist.

Do twins have their own language?

“Twin language”, often called idioglossia or autonomous language, is a well documented phenomenon among twins. One study found twin language to occur in 40 percent of twin pairs (Lewis & Thompson, 1992). Read more

10 Tips To Get Your Students To Sit Quietly In Class/Circle Time

Girl Sitting LearningIt can be hard to get children to sit still in circle time or at a desk. Ideally, we can take the time to see why a child may be having trouble. For those that are young, fidgety or distracted, we need to know they are not doing it to bother us, and we need to have strategies to help them be more attentive. Remember, some children can sit still longer than others. Others children need to fidget or move because their nervous systems just are made that way.

Here are some ideas and strategies for assisting restless kids:

#1-Use a visual cue. For example, if the teacher is reading Spot, the children can hold beanbags, and every time the teacher says Spot’s name, the children have to toss the beanbag into the bucket. This keeps him attentive!

#2-Use carpet squares or bean bag chairs. Space the kids out so they are not on top of each other!

#3-Some kids can not sit unsupported (and unless you are super strong in your core, you can’t, either!). Make sure you identify these kids, and lean them against the wall, let them lie down, or give them a chair with feet on the ground.!

#4-Have the kids stand up, sit down, get involved with the story, and listen for some name or place in the story to stay attentive.

#5-Use a checklist so that kids follow and check off as things are said or done.

#6-Use multi-sensory teaching strategies. March around while doing multiplication tables, have the children stand up while speaking, and develop fun routines during the day to that will get the kids moving around. Read more