How to Explain a Language Disorder to a Teacher

Of all the categories available under IDEA law, language impairments are often one of the most difficult to understand. It is not a surface level issue and is often lost in the shuffle. Explaining what a language disorder is and how it will impact your child to a teacher can be tricky. Here are some tips.

How to Explain a Language Disorder to a Teacher:

  1. Language disorders come in a wide variety of cases. Each child will present differently and as an advocate, you need to do your best to describe your child’s needs specifically. Language disorders can impact a child’s ability to verbally express themselves efficiently, effectively and with appropriate grammar. It can result in difficulty understanding sentences, following directions, asking/answering questions or in a number of other impairments.
  2. Enlist the school Speech Language Pathologist. Ask for help in explaining the disorder to the teacher and ask for ideas. Discuss options for adjustments and supports for your child like a visual schedule, repetitions of the directions or having him repeat the direction back to the teacher to ensure comprehension. Many school districts or state programs have materials and resources that can educate teachers on strategies to ensure better classroom learning.
  3. Remind the teacher to notice how your child interacts socially. Teachers will be able to identify a child that is isolating themselves from peers secondary to trouble communicating with them.
  4. Discuss the difference between listening, understanding and attending. One of the biggest complaints of teachers will be “He’s not listening to me!” As often as not, your child does not understand the direction provided and is not complying simply because he does not know what is required of him. It can be very frustrating to have difficulty communicating effectively and patience will go a long way.
  5. Know your child’s IEP or 504 plan and take the opportunity to discuss it with the teacher. Be specific about the types of services and accommodations he will receive and what they will look like in the classroom.

Remember, be proactive and provide as much information up front about your child and his diagnosis to avoid potential difficulties. Refer to this page from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities for 8 Tips for Teachers who have students with speech and language issues in the classroom.

Tips for Teachers: Developing a Positive Teacher-Student Relationship

The teacher-student relationship is one of great importance, but all too often today with increasing class sizes, over-extended roles required by teachers, and an ever-growing focus on assessment-driven learning, this can sometimes be overlooked.

However, the fact remains that a high-quality teacher with whom students share a positive relationship cannot be overstated.  I remember those teachers in my life who really took a genuine interest in my learning, development, and experience in school.  Unfortunately, I also recall those who tended toward curt remarks and unapproachable attitudes.  Nonetheless, it was those caring teachers who made school and learning enjoyable, attainable, and worthwhile. Read more

School Readiness: What Does it Take for Your Child to Succeed in School?

In today’s world, expectations for your child’s academic performance are higher than ever. Occasionally, the requirements for school are actually above the developmental norms, causing even typically developing children to have trouble in school. Luckily, we know more than ever before about how to best support early development.

Speech and Language Skills Come First:

Good speech and language skills are the foundation for learning to read. Difficulty in this area will lead to further difficulty down the road. If children cannot say the sounds correctly, they have more trouble associating them with the correct sound. If children have difficulty with the content and grammatical aspects of language, they will have trouble comprehending the concept of how to read and how sentences are constructed. Read more

Who’s putting the “Work” in “Homework?”

Many parents can relate to the struggles that homework can create each and every night. Although, at times, it may seem more frustrating than anything else, homework provides an opportunity to practice and integrate what your child has been learning. It also lets the teacher see how your child is doing…so resist doing it for him! 

What is your role as the parent during homework time?

Your child has a better chance of being successful during homework time if he feels you are interested in what he is doing. It lets him know that what he is doing is important. You can show your support by doing the following:

  • Demonstrating organizational skills
  • Doing your own work with them (i.e. paying bills, reading, etc.) Read more

Accommodations on the SAT and ACT

Many high school students with learning disabilities or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder require additional assistance and accommodations when they are required to complete lengthy examinations such as the SAT and the ACT.  These adolescents often are unable to complete the examination within the time frame allotted to them or exhibit difficulties with certain aspects of the examination because of their learning disability.

It is important for parents and academic staff to be aware that the testing boards are clamping down on allowing accommodation on these examinations.

There are several factors that need to be met in order for an adolescent to qualify for accommodations:

  • There has to be documented evidence of a learning disability or medical condition that impacts the individual’s performance.
  • There has to be school evidence that the symptoms from the condition have an impact on the adolescent’s academic performance.
  • There should be a ‘paper trail’ established in which the individual has a history of accommodations and interventions within the academic setting.

Once the necessary requirements for accommodations have been met, it is then important to help determine what specific accommodations the individual would necessitate for the examination.

Accommodations are created based upon the individual’s specific needs; however, a list of possible accommodations that many adolescents with ADHD and/or learning disabilities may benefit from include:

  • Extended time under a minimum of time and one half conditions
  • Small group testing
  • Ability to type responses as needed
  • Ability to write in the test booklet as opposed to having to transfer responses to a separate bubble sheet or scantron form

The most important thing for parents to understand is to not wait.  If you speculate that your child might need accommodations on formal testing, have an evaluation completed as soon as possible in order to help establish the needed diagnosis and paper trail.  Visit our Neuropsychology Diagnostic and Testing Center for more information on formal testing.

Top 5 Toys for Speech and Language Development: School-Aged Edition

With Hanukkah only a few weeks away and Christmas right around the corner, parents need to be on the lookout for fun and educational gift ideas. If your child’s speech and language development is one of your concerns, read on for our list of the top 5 toys/gifts for enhancing speech and language skills in school-aged children.

Parents can also help develop these skills by playing with their children and modeling appropriate language, encouraging turn taking, and requesting. Parents can also help children with articulation difficulties through play by modeling accurate speech sound production and correcting their child’s inaccurate productions.

Top 5 Toys for Enhancing Speech and Language Skills in School-Aged Children:

Toy

Function

Apples to Apples
  • Appropriate play with peers
  • Turn taking
  • Direction following
  • Same/different (e.g., explain why the cards go together)
Board Games (e.g., Candyland)
  • Turn taking
  • Direction following
  • Articulation (e.g., say a word before you take your turn)
  • Appropriate play with peers/parents
  • Sequencing steps to play
HeadBanz
  • Word finding (e.g., object description)
  • Object function (e.g., “you sleep on it, and it is soft”)
  • Asking/answering “wh”-questions (e.g., “where is it used for?”)
  • Articulation (e.g.,  monitor sound production, target specific sounds)
Memory Games
  • Turn taking
  • Direction following
  • Memory skills
  • Articulation (e.g., can use pictures of target words)
Story Cubes
  • Sequencing (e.g., story building, temporal relationships)
  • Verb tenses (e.g., make the story in present/past/future tenses)
  • Turn taking
  • Opposites (e.g., say the opposite of what is on each dice)
  • Auditory comprehension (e.g., retell a peer/parent’s story)

Tips for Improving Your Child’s Social Skills

Why don’t they just get it? When it comes to appropriate social interactions, it can be surprising when a child does not innately posses the tools and skills to foster successful conversations and peer relationships. This should not be alarming, as social skills can be acquired like any other skill; we all go to school to learn math and science, and without assistance one might not understand these concepts. Social skills function the same way – without education and practice, children may struggle in social situations.

It is important for children to understand the rules of language (e.g., using language, changing language, and following rules) in order to succeed in various social environments. Using language comprises greeting (“Hello”), informing (“I am watching TV.”), and requesting (“Can I watch TV?”). Children also need to learn to change language, depending on the environment. Children will adjust their message depending on their needs, the needs of their communicative partner, the age of their partner (e.g., talking to a baby differently than talking to your principal), and based on their environment (e.g., yelling on the playground is acceptable, however yelling in the classroom is not). Children will learn to follow the rules of conversation as well, including taking turns, staying on topic, reading verbal and non-verbal cues, and understanding personal space boundaries. If your child is struggling with any aspect of social language, the tips below can help!

Tips for Improving Your Child’s Social Skills:

  • Ask questions: Model how to ask peers or adults questions. Examples may include the following: asking how someone’s day is going, asking likes/dislikes, or asking communicative partners to elaborate or repeat phrasing in order to aid in listener understanding. Utilizing these strategies will help children better interact in social situations.
  • Answering questions: Talk with your child to help him learn that answering questions can help further a conversation and will allow for the back-and-forth flow of an interaction.
  • Topic maintenance: Children will often change the topic to something of interest to them. Help your child practice topic maintenance skills by each taking turns picking the topic and see if you can each make 5 questions/comments for a non-preferred topic.
  • Role playing: Pretend that you and your child are in different social situations and adjust your tone of voice, volume, and message based on each scenario. Different scenarios include talking to a teacher, explaining a favorite game to an adult, asking a peer for help with homework, ordering in a restaurant, and not getting your way.
  • Non-verbal skills: Alter your non-verbal skills when your child is telling you a story. This will help your child to pick up on signs of confusion, frustration, boredom, and anger. Explaining that non-verbal skills are integral parts of social interactions can help children to learn to maintain eye contact and use whole-body listening.

For further information, please read Social Skills: Improving Social Skills to Enhance Socio-Emotional Health or click here for more information from a licensed speech-language pathologist or a licensed clinical social worker.

Co-written by Ali Wein

What is a 504 Plan?

I have received several telephone calls over the past few weeks from anxious parents about their child’s school wanting to create a 504 Plan in the academic setting.  Many times parents are not informed about what this means or about possible benefits that might be exhibited from such a plan.

What is a 504 Plan?

Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation act of 1973 which was designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in any facility that receives federal financial assistance.  What this means for a school age child is that the school is unable to deny academic services to a child because of a specific disability.  These plans were originally established for children with medical concerns such as being confined to a wheelchair or having a medical condition such as a seizure disorder.  Today, it is quite likely that the main reason 504 Plans are offered to children are from diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

 How do 504 Plans and IEPs Differ?

There are a few major differences between a 504 Plan and an Individual Education Plan (IEP).  A child with an IEP has significant academic concerns in which he or she requires intervention from either a learning resource teacher, or specific therapist such as a speech and language therapist.  The 504 Plan should be thought of as accommodations within the classroom setting to help address the specific concerns that a child may exhibit.  These accommodations are designed such that the child’s academic demands are the same as his or her peers but there is assistance given such that the child can reach his or her academic potential. Read more

Terrific Toys for Speech and Language Development

Below is our list of the top 10 toys for promoting speech and language development in preschoolers. Parents can help their preschoolers through play by describing and labeling items (e.g., “the brown horse”), modeling (e.g., “my turn”), expanding utterances (e.g., “oh, you want MORE blocks?”), and asking questions during play (e.g., “do you want the red truck or the blue truck?).

Toy

Function

Animals/farm
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., animal names, animal sounds)
  • Requesting (e.g., “I want the dog”)
  • Location concepts (e.g., “the cat is UNDER the tree”)
  • Following directions (e.g., “put the cow next to the pig”)
  • Functional play
Balls
  • Turn taking (e.g., “my turn, your turn”)
  • Requesting (e.g., “can I have the ball?”)
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., throw, roll, bounce, kick, catch, toss, pass)
Blocks
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., “up,” “fall down,”)
  • Location concepts (e.g., on top, next to)
  • Turn taking
  • Requesting (e.g., “I want more blocks”)
Books
  • Asking/answering “wh”-questions (e.g., “what did brown bear see?”)
  • Vocabulary building (labeling items)
  • Requesting (e.g., “turn the page”)
  • Sequencing
Bubbles
  • Requesting (e.g., “I want bubbles,” “more bubbles”)
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., “pop bubbles,” “blow bubbles”)
  • Oral motor development
Cars/trucks/trains/bus
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., labeling toy items, increased use of verbs, fast/slow concepts, environmental sounds)
  • Requesting (e.g., “more cars”)
  • Turn taking (e.g., “my truck”)
  • Location concepts (e.g., “car is ON the track”)
Mr. Potato Head/doll
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., body part labeling, labeling clothes, learning colors)
  • Requesting (e.g., “can I have the hat?” or “I need help”)
  • Functional play
“Pop up Pal” (cause/effect toys)
  • Requesting (e.g., “I need help”)
  • Learning if this happens, then that happens (e.g., “press the button, to open the door”)
  • Direction following
Play food
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., naming food items, colors)
  • Requesting (e.g., “I want more”)
  • Direction following (e.g., “put the banana on the blue plate”)
  • Functional play
Puzzles
  • Requesting (e.g., “more,” “help please”) to earn more pieces
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., shapes, letters, animal names) depending on puzzle
  • Functional play

Read here for helpful apps for speech and language development.

8 Great Apps for Kids with Autism

Parents often ask me if I have suggestions for applications to download on their iPads, iPhones or other devices for their children.  I do!  I have TONS of apps that I use in my work with children with Autism daily.

My 8 favorite apps to use with kids diagnosed with Autism for iPhone/iPad users are the following:

  1. 123 Token Me– This app is a visual token board that can be used for one child (free version) or unlimited children and unlimited behaviors ($9.99).  This app gives you the versatility to choose background color, various token choices, and graphs and visually displays data for you. This is the most motivating token board I have used with my kids because it is interactive.  Also, one of the token options shows a picture of the child, which they all love!
  2. First Then Visual Schedule HD– This app is 2 applications put into one; it is both a visual schedule and a choice board.  It allows you to show the child “first ___, then ____.” with the ability to make choices from a visual field.  It also allows you to make more complex, multiple-step, visual schedules.  It is a bit on the pricey side at $14.99 but totally worth it if your child struggles to make choices verbally or would benefit from a visual schedule.  It is much easier to carry around than a paper schedule or choice board, because you can update it on the fly using the camera function or Google images.
  3. Duck Duck Moose, Inc.- (includes Wheels on the Bus, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old MacDonald and many more).  All of the Duck Duck Moose apps are a big hit with all the kiddos I work with as they are interactive, the characters move, jump and dance, and they all play familiar kid’s songs.  The apps range in price from free versions up to $3.99 each. Read more