A Primer for Parents on Individual Education Plans

One of the major concerns that parents face when they have a child with special needs or neurodevelopmental concerns is working with the school system in order to ensure that the child receives the best accommodations and interventions to help him or her perform to the ultimate potential.  There is legislation created that provides parents and children support and services in the school system.  The main piece of legislation that guarantees certain provisions for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities is the Individual Disability Education Act (IDEA), which had its most recent revision in 2004.  This act creates special education services as known today.

The Individual Disability Education Act has a few main components that provide children and families safeguards in the school system:

  • Concept of Zero Reject:  this states that every child, regardless of disability must be educated.
  • Nondiscriminatory Evaluation:  this requires an unbiased assessment of the child be conducted in order to help determine what special education services are most appropriate.
  • Free and Public Education:  this concept ensures the appropriateness of academic placement as well as the provision of services at no additional charges to the parent or guardian.
  • Least Restrictive Environment:  the child should be placed within the mainstream classroom as much as possible with accommodations and support. Read more

5 Tips for Successfully Navigating your School Search

Today’s guest blog is by Laura Gradman, founder of Chicago Preschool Pro.

As a mom, September is one of my busiest months of the year.  It’s back to school, back to activities, carpools, homework and early bedtime.  And if you’re the parent of a toddler, September could mean that it’s also admissions season.  Finding the right school for your child can feel equally exciting and stressful.  If your child is someone who has special needs, that stress multiplies.  Here are my top tips for keeping it simple, staying focused, and finding success in your school search.

 Tips for a successful school search:

  • Do your research to learn your options.  It sounds simple enough, but research can be time consuming and confusing.  In order to stay in the right mindset, streamline your process.  The most important part of any school’s website is their mission statement.  Once you have read that, you should have a good idea of whether or not further research is worth your time. Read more

What to Do When a Teacher Notices Concerns About Your Child

With the new school year well underway, teachers are beginning to gain information regarding their student’s areas of strength and weakness.  Many times teachers are hesitant to bring up concerns to parents.  Also, many parents will want to take a ‘wait and see’ approach in order to help determine whether or not these areas of concern will go away on their own.  Our advice to both parents and teachers is this: Do not wait and act now. 

Advice for teachers regarding bringing up student concerns to parents:

  • Collect anecdotal data to reveal the concern to the parents.
  • Provide the parents with the strategies that have already been tried in the classroom.
  • Provide the parents with specifics as to how the behaviors of interest are impacting the child’s learning or social needs.

Advice for parents regarding handling concerns brought up by teachers:

  •  Do not take the concern as an insult about your parenting or your child.
  • Ask the teacher questions about the frequency and duration of the behaviors.  When are they occurring? Read more

Rhyme Time: 10 Books to Teach your Child Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness refers to an understanding of the sounds of language, specifically in reference to distinguishing subtle differences between sounds. Examples of phonological awareness tasks include detecting rhyme and alliteration, deleting sounds (e.g. “say “bat” without the “t”), and identifying sounds in words (e.g. “what’s the first sound you hear in bat?”). Phonological awareness skills develop sequentially during the preschool years and play a vital role in enabling your child to learn to read. In fact, children who struggle with phonological awareness are at risk for challenges with reading and spelling in school.

One of the first phonological awareness skills to develop is detecting and generating rhyming words, which usually emerges in children between the ages of 3 to 4 years. Using children’s books are a great way to expose your child to rhyming patterns. When reading with your child, discuss rhyming patterns by saying something like, “Hat and bat-they rhyme because they sound the same at the end.” Here are 10 top picks for books to encourage phonological awareness. Read more

Multi-Sensory Activities to Practice Pre-Writing Shapes

Mastery of the pre-writing shapes is an essential part of a child’s development towards efficient handwriting.

Pre-writing shapes include the following (in order of development):

Pre-writing shape

Approximate age of development

Horizontal lines 2 years
Vertical lines 2.5 years
Circle 3 years
Cross 3.5-4 years
Square 4 years
Diagonal line 4.5 years
Triangle 5 years

Activities to promote appropriate development of pre-writing shapes:

  • Play with Shaving Cream: Cover a surface with shaving cream, and have your child use her index finger to imitate, copy, trace or draw the pre-writing shapes. Try this activity on a vertical plane to add an extra challenge to this activity. For example, write on a mirror or on a tile wall while in the bathtub. By working on a vertical plane, your child uses her shoulder to stabilize the arm movements, creating extra strengthening and increased stability of the arm and shoulder.
  • Finger Paint: Finger painting can be done on a table, easel, or by taping paper to the wall. Have your child cover the paper with paint and then use her fingers to imitate, copy, trace or draw the pre-writing shapes.
  • Use Sand or Rice: Pour a small amount of sand on a table or a plate and have your child create these shapes with her fingers.
  • Use a Chalk Board: Use chalk to create the pre-writing shapes, then use a wet paint brush to trace them. This creates two opportunities to practice! This can be also done without a paintbrush. Instead, dip your child’s finger in water, and then trace the shapes.
  • Play with Play Dough: Use little fingers to mold play dough into various shapes. This can be done by copying a shape, either on top of a shape (imitation) or by memory. This activity also provides an opportunity to address fine motor coordination and strength; have your child pull, pinch, or roll the dough for an extra challenge. A fork and knife can also be used to manipulate the dough while simultaneously addressing feeding skills.

Once the pre-writing shapes are mastered, these same strategies can be used to practice letters! Using a multi-sensory approach to pre-writing shapes increases your child’s awareness, memory and motor learning to learn and maintain these skills. If your child continues to have difficulty with these shapes, please contact a certified occupational therapist.

Our 10 Favorite Speech and Language Apps for Kids

Apps can be a great way for kids to practice a variety of skills.  Read on for information on our top 10 choices for speech and language apps for children!

App Name

Focus

Age Group

Description

Purchase/Download Info

Peek-a-Boo Barn Lite
  • Spatial concepts (in, on, under, next to)
  • Animal sounds
  • Vocabulary (animals names, open/shut, barn)
  • Turn-taking
  • WH questions (what, where)
0-3 Listen to animal noises, then push barn doors to reveal the farm animal inside. Available in 10 languages. Free on iTunes for iPhone/iPad (full version, $1.99). $2.99 on Android

 

Toca Boca Kitchen Monsters
  • Verbs
  • Labeling (foods)
  • Language expansion (practice 2+ word phrases)
  • WH questions
  • Following directions
  • Environmental sounds
2-6 Choose and prepare various foods before feeding them to a Toca monster. Free on iTunes for iPhone/iPad
TallyTots
  • Verbs
  • Two-word combinations
  • Counting
  • Concepts (i.e. matching, size (big/little, on/off)
  • Following directions
2-6 Involves counting 1-20. Each number coordinates with an activity that illustrates language concepts $2.99 on iTunes for iPhone/iPad and  KindleFire/Android
Speech Tutor
  • Articulation
  • Visual cues (what mouth, lips, tongue, etc. are doing) for production
  • Tips for producing the sound
  • Other information about a selected sound
All Ages Watch a virtual mouth as it produces selected sounds. This application also provides tips for producing the sound and age for when we expect mastery of each sound. Free on iTunes for iPhone/iPad
My PlayHome Lite
  • Vocabulary (around the house)
  • Actions
  • Pronouns
  • Following directions
2-6 Manipulate people and things inside an interactive home (i.e. make Mom drink water, put Dad behind the couch, make the boy jump on a chair). Free on iTunes for iPad (full version, $3.99). $2.99 on Android
Articulation Station
  • Articulation
  • Matching
  • Labeling
All ages Speech sounds in words, sentences and stories in all positions of words (i.e. initial, medial and final). Choose from flashcards or matching games. Easy to keep track of accuracy and progress. Free to download on iTunes for iPhone/iPad (additional sounds $2.99 each).
iSequence
  • Sequencing
  • Expressive language (grammar, syntax)
  • Vocabulary
5-7 Put 3-4 picture sequences in the correct order. Includes 100 sequences. $2.99 on iTunes for iPhone/iPad
Blue Whale- NACD
  • Apraxia and articulation (CVC productions only)
1+ Imitate consonant-vowel-consonant (“CVC”) productions. 8 levels of complexity included. $4.99 on iTunes for iPad. Also available for $4.99 for Kindle, Android tablets and Nook.
Describe It to Me
  • Word-finding
  • Categories
  • Salient features
  • Object function
  • Parts
  • Location
5+ Complements EET program (Expanding Expression Tool). App can be used both expressively (e.g. to generate ideas), or receptively (e.g.  correctly select or point to various objects’ categories, function, parts). Customize  vocabulary given child’s needs, as well as skills targeted (categories, parts, etc). $9.99 on iTunes for iPad (free sample on iTunes).
Full Social Skills Builder
  • Understanding emotions
  • Perspective taking
  • Identifying appropriate responses (making comments, asking for information)
5-12 Videos are organized according to age group (school age, adolescent). Watch videos in different environments (school, community). Child answers 3-5 multiple choice questions following video. $14.99 on iTunes for iPhone/iPad (free sample on iTunes).

Click Here to View our Speech and Language Infographic!

*Co-written by Caitlin Brady

5 Tips to Keep Your Child’s Backpack Organized

Ever wonder how your child’s backpack goes from looking like it belongs in a museum exhibit on the first day of school, to looking like there was an explosion of school supplies, snacks and nick-knacks thrown together a few weeks later?  Read on for 5 tips to help your child keep his backpack organized throughout the school year.

5 Tips to Keep Your Child’s Backpack Organized:

  1. Have a designated place for everything.  Work out a system with your child at the beginning of the year (or whenever you realize that the current system is not working), and designate a spot for all materials.  This may mean putting all writing utensils in a plastic box or a carrying case, having different colored folders or using a binder system.  Make sure you have a place for the odds and ends too, such as scissors, rulers, and informational papers to bring home to mom and dad. Read more

4 Back-to-School Resolutions to Promote Speech and Language Skills

With a new school year starting, now is the perfect time to promote and encourage your child’s speech and language skills! Here are some helpful tips in order to set your child up for the greatest success this school year.

4 Back-to-School Speech and Language Resolutions:

  1. Easy Voice: Avoid using a harsh voice, yelling, and shouting.  This can help both parents and children maintain a healthy vocal quality. Modeling your own “easy voice” can encourage your child to keep his voice healthy too!
  2. Build Vocabulary: Targeting and explaining new “back-to-school” words can help to improve your child’s vocabulary. Increased exposure to novel words will reinforce these additions to your child’s vocabulary and will encourage usage.
  3. Read Aloud: Reading aloud to your child is extremely beneficial for language development. When reading stories, emphasizing and reinforcing new words will enhance vocabulary skills, and asking questions while reading encourages understanding. If age appropriate, ask your child to retell the story!
  4. Ask Questions: Talk with your child about the events of his day. Learn what activities occurred in the classroom, in the lunchroom, and at recess. Monitor for sentence structure and grammar, and emphasize accurate productions. For example, if your child says, “I goed to art,” respond with, “You went to art? How was it?” Read more

10 Easy Strategies to Boost Your Child’s Reading Comprehension

Reading is a critical skill for academic success.  Reading allows us to learn from texts and articles, gives us directions on homework assignments and class projects, and opens the world of books.  But what if your child is falling behind?  It might feel discouraging to learn that your child is struggling with reading comprehension.  Not only do you want your child to succeed, but you also want your child to enjoy reading.  There are many things parents can do to help.

10 practical strategies to improve your child’s reading comprehension:

  1. Ask “check-in” questions as your child reads.  Who is in the story so far?  What is the pig’s house made of?
  2. Encourage your child to monitor her own comprehension while she reads.  Do you understand the last sentence?  What’s happened in the story so far?
  3. Have your child reread challenging sentences.  Talk about the meaning.
  4. Encourage your child to restate challenging sentences in her own words.
  5. Help your child build the story as she reads.  Graphic organizers are great tools to use.  For example, make a “character wheel” by writing important traits about a particular character on each spoke.  Or fill in a worksheet that identifies the story’s main events, problem and solution.
  6. Have your child make predictions about the story as she is reading.  What do you think this story will be about?  What do you think will happen next?
  7. Encourage your child to write down challenging vocabulary words.  Have your child make flashcards of each word by drawing a picture of the word and writing the definition in her own words.  Practice using the new vocabulary words throughout the week.
  8. Encourage your child to summarize the story in her own words.  If this is hard, have her use her graphic organizer to recall specific events or details.
  9. Ask your child to identify the “main idea” of the story.  What is the story about?  Why do you think the author wrote it?  If you could give the story a new title, what would it be and why?
  10. Gradually encourage your child to use these strategies on her own.  As your child is more successful, take a step back.  If they have difficulty, help her decide what she can do to better understand the story.

Finally, make reading fun!  Choose material that is interesting to your child.  Keep in mind that reading is not limited to only books.  You might read a movie review from a film your child recently saw, or a recipe your child is excited to try.  Take your child to the bookstore and encourage her to choose a fun book to read before bed.  If you’re unsure what reading level is appropriate, ask your child’s teacher for the latest recommended books for your child’s age.

For more reading help, contact our Blossom Reading Center.

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Is My Child Ready for Preschool?

If your child is approaching the preschool years, you may start to wonder if she is ready to begin a preschool program. Many thoughts and concerns may be circling through your mind when contemplating this idea. Rest assured that these concerns are normal. Answer the following questions to help you determine whether your young child is ready for a preschool program.

Questions to Determine Preschool Readiness for Your Child:

  • Is she toilet trained? It is important to consider toilet training when thinking about your child’s readiness to start preschool. Being toilet trained can make the transition to preschool easier and less stressful. Most children in preschool classes are toilet trained and will not be in diapers. This may cause some stress for a child who has not met this milestone. It’s also critical to know that there are some schools with toilet training requirements, so make sure that you have read the information on this topic if you are considering preschool. Read more