Imaginary Friends: The Facts on these Fictitious Characters

I cannot think about imaginary friends without thinking of one of my favorite 90’s movies, Drop Dead Fred. In this particular comedy, a woman imaginary friendenduring a mid-life crisis is visited by her childhood imaginary friend as she copes through the termination of her marriage and the ending of her career. Although this funny flick is geared towards garnering laughs, there is a lot of truth to the plot. Yes, imaginary friends can seem silly and irrational at times but they all serve a purpose. According to an article in Psychology Today entitled “Imaginary Friends, Any in Your House?”, “For some children, imaginary friends assist in a child’s coping with a life change or acquiring a new skill. For others, their pretend friends or creatures are simply fun. Whatever purpose they serve and whatever form they take, fantasy friends indicate a fertile imagination that is as likely to belong to a child with [siblings] as to one without siblings.” Imaginary friends are a functional component of childhood growth and development and are not just indicative of the being an only child.

What Causes A Child To Have An Imaginary Friend?

Any changes that occur during a child’s life may present itself for the emergence of an imaginary friend. For instance, the birth of a new sibling may cause a child to feel less attended to or confused as to what their role is in the family. The companionship of an imaginary friend can provide an age-appropriate outlet to play out the child’s fears or insecurities. This creative medium allows the child to express the feelings and emotions that they may never get a chance to process since they do not have the vocabulary. As the child develops a new identity and gets acclimated to having a younger sibling, the presence of an imaginary friend may or may not dissipate. The creative aspects of play and exploration towards gaining a greater understanding of their environment can lengthen the duration of the imaginary friend.

Should I Be Worried If My Child Has An Imaginary Friend?

Imaginary friends are not to be worried about unless they interfere with your child’s daily functioning. If a child is having trouble interacting with other children, encourage them to incorporate their imaginary friend into their peer group as a tool to transition them into real-life social interactions. Allow your child to decide how much they want you, the parent, to engage in their fantasy play. Imaginary friends are a normal part of childhood development and can provide the voice to address troubling situations that could not be communicated in other ways. So, parents, do not neglect the imaginary friend. Pay attention to the content in which the imaginary friend appears as it can provide clues into the social-emotional world of your child.

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Smartphone Technology and Language Development: Pros and Cons

iPads, iPhones and apps.  Today’s buzz is all about Smartphone technology and what “apps” will benefit development and academic skills in children.  Parents frequently request recommended apps to best address their child’s speech and language skills.  After all, we want to take advantage of the latest learning tools and most cutting edge technology to help our kids succeed.  However, use of Smartphone technology should be approached with caution.  Like all good things, moderation is key.

Here are a few important points to consider before integrating Smartphone children on phonestechnology into your child’s daily routine:

Pros: What are the positive benefits of Smartphone technology?

  • Smartphone apps provide excellent “drill” style activities to teach specific skill sets, such as vocabulary building, phonologic awareness, articulation skills, and learning new concepts.
  • Devices such as tablets, Smartphones and iPads expose children to modern day technology, improving their computer literacy and ability to navigate such tools.
  • Smartphone apps provide a fun and entertaining activity for children. This can be excellent choice for breaks from homework, rewards or car-rides.

Cons: What are the negative effects of Smartphone technology?

  • Smartphone apps promote passive learning and provide little opportunity for creativity, social interaction, problem-solving, sustained attention, ideation, and make-believe. All of these skills are foundational to development in children by promoting motor skills, language learning, problem-solving, and social skills.
  • While Smartphone apps may encourage children to talk or practice sounds, they do not encourage children talk to an actual person. Language is a reciprocal social system, intended for communication between people. It’s critical that children learn to communicate with others in a reciprocal context.
  • Smartphone apps do not promote the use of novel language.  A critical part of language development includes the ability to arrange words into combinations, building sentences to communicate their thoughts and ideas.
  • Smartphone applications offer little opportunity to learn social skills. Social skills include interpreting nonverbal cues, making eye-contact, initiating conversation, and responding to others.
  • When it comes to learning, practicing skills in context is critical. So even though Smartphones might teach children new skills, they do not offer opportunities for children to generalize these skills in a real-life context.

So what can parents do?

Here are a few practical steps as families navigate their child’s use of tablets, Smartphones and iPads:

  • Think moderation. Limit your child’s use of electronics, and set boundaries ahead of time so your child knows what to expect.
  • Encourage activities that encourage creativity, social interaction, problem solving, sustaining attention, ideation, and make-believe. A few good choices include blocks, dress-up, play-doh, books, pretend food, and baby dolls.
  • Spend face-to-face time with your child every day. Encourage your child to participate in play with you and encourage their use of their language, facial expressions, eye-contact, and engagement.

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Books to Encourage Speech in a 1 Year Old | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a Pediatric Speech Pathologist introduces us to the best type of books to help encourage speech in a 1 year old.

For more on your baby’s speech read these blogs: “Speech Milestones from birth-1yr”  and “Encouraging Speech and Language Development in Infants and Toddlers” 

In this video you will learn:

  • What types of books are best for a one year old
  • How can the books help a baby’s speech and language
  • What content the books should contain

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman. I’m sitting here today with a Pediatric Speech and Language
Pathologist, Megan Grant. Megan, can you show us some books that help
encourage speech in a child who is a year old?

Megan: Sure. Being a parent, it can be completely overwhelming walking into
the children’s section of a library or a book store. These are two great
tips when searching for books for your little one. First and foremost, you
want to make sure the size is appropriate. They should be smaller in size
that is perfect for little hands to hold. And also make sure that they are
board books. Board books are essentially just thicker cardboard books with
heavier pages. Not only are they easier for the kids to turn, but that way
they won’t rip them. And kids this age like to chew on books from time to
time, so you definitely will not destroy the books. So the size is
definitely key.

The second thing to keep in mind is make sure that the books are
interactive. They should have lots of bright, colorful pictures and pages
for the kids to look at. They should be attractive to the kids, and
essentially, too, you want to look for books that have the touch and feel,
so different textures of books, and also lift-the-flap and peek-a-boo books
are perfect for kids this age, as that will keep their interest as well. So
introducing books early on is definitely key, and you’re going to help
instill a lifelong learning of reading for kids, and that’s a wonderful
thing.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, Megan, and thank you to our
viewers. And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

3 Signs Your Child May Have Dyslexia | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, an Academic Specialist explains ways to determine if your child has dyslexia.

Click here to learn more about dyslexia and find out more signs and characteristics to look for.

In this video you will learn:

  • What is dyslexia
  • How do children develop dyslexia
  • What are common signs in children with dyslexia

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host Robyn
Ackerman. I’m sitting here today with Elizabeth Galin [SP], an academic
specialist. Elizabeth, can you tell us three signs to look out for that a
child may suffer from dyslexia?

Elizabeth: Absolutely. And to start, dyslexia is a learning disability
characterized by an inability to decode words. So kids who have dyslexia
show trouble with spelling, with reading fluently, reading with accuracy.
It’s a deficit in the phonological component of language. So the first
thing that is a sign that your child may have dyslexia is a lack of
interest in reading. Most young children really enjoy reading and look
forward to that time but dyslexic kids, it’s difficult so they might run
away and hide. They’re not interested. Second is a lack of understanding
that letters make a sound, the phonological component again. So each letter
has an associated sound and that’s a really difficult association for
dyslexic kids to make. And lastly, dyslexic kids, when they begin to read
once they get a little bit older, they often make reading errors that
really just don’t even connect to the word at all. It’s different sounds.
Dyslexic kids often have a hard time sounding out words, and they have a
hard time with even the most basic of sight words. So if you’re seeing any
of those in your child, it might be worth a look.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Elizabeth, and thank you to our
viewers and remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

Speech-Language Apps Continued

This past summer, North Shore Pediatric Therapy launched its first technology room in the Highland Park clinic! Our tech room is fully equipped with Kinect + Xbox 360, two iPads, and a number of games and apps. With the tech room up and running, I have discovered a number of new iPad apps that my kiddos can’t get enough of! Feel free to contact us if you would like to tour the tech room!

[table id=7 /]

**How to use My Choice Board [more technical]:

Open My Choice Board and click Start. Click Add Board to start a new choice board. Type in what you want to name the board. Click Save. Click Edit Choices. Select the board you are working on from the list. Click the green plus sign. Click Pick Image on the bottom left screen. There are three image sources: Device Image Library, Google Images, or Camera. Click Caption. Type a very short caption or else there will be a partial caption followed by “…” Click Record Voice. Press the red circle to start recording and the blue square to stop recording. Use the voice recording feature to compensate for the caption length limitations. Click Save.

I’m always looking for fun, new apps to use in my therapy sessions and apps that parents can use at home to promote speech-language development. If you have any must-have apps, please leave a comment below with the app name!

For more app reviews, please visit my previous blogs:

  1. iPhone and iPad apps to Promote Reading and Language Development
  2. Using iPad and iPhone Apps to Promote Speech and Language Development
  3. Facebook, Twitter, Texting: Are They Bad For Language Development?
  4. Speech and Language Apps From Duck Duck Moose

3 Signs your Child is Ready to Read | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode, an academic specialist introduces us to the 3 top indications a child is ready to start reading.
Click here to read our blog titled “10 Signs of a Reading Disorder

In this video you will learn:

  • What factors determines the child’s desire to read
  • What is phonemic awareness
  • Signs in the child’s behavior indicating his readiness to read

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and I’m sitting here today with Elizabeth Galin [SP], an academic
specialist. Elizabeth, can you tell us what are three signs to look for
that a child may be ready to read?

Elizabeth: Absolutely. The first sign to look for when your child is ready
to read is motivation. You’re looking for your child looking forward toward
that reading time, sitting down with you, understanding that books open and
close, they turn pages right to left, that the words and the pictures on
the storybook tell us something, tell us the story.

And as children get older, the next thing you’re looking for, the second
thing you’re looking for, is letter recognition. Children begin to
understand the letters of the alphabet, specifically letters in their name
or maybe, letters in a brand that they recognize, Thomas for Thomas the
Tank Engine or stop like a stop sign, and then they begin to associate
sounds with those letters and that’s called phonemic awareness.

The third thing that you’re looking for in a child being able to read is
print awareness. So they begin to realize that letters on the page come
together to form words. Those words form sentences. Those sentences tell us
the story that we’re listening to. And you may find a young child being
interested in imitating writing. They can’t form the letter but they make
pretend letters.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, Elizabeth. Those are some great
things to look out for, and thank you to our viewers. And remember, keep on
blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

Get your Child Ready for 1st Grade

For many children going to 1st grade is a huge milestone.  More hours spent in school, higher expectations for academic, behavior,  social skills, and more peer pressure.Child in First Grade

Here are some tips to parent these kids as “right” as you can before 1st grade:

Academics

  • Prepare your child with some online fun academics, flash cards, or any workbook for 1st grade readiness;  but make it fun!  10 minutes per day is enough! You can even try KUMON math and reading to get them strong in basics for math and reading.  This will also prepare them with homework.
  • Strengthen up any weaknesses your child may have in academics. If they need a little reading help, use the following tips in this blog. If they need some number work, try flashcards, or try a tutor, but even just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in their self esteem about academics.
  • Get your child tested now if you detect any challenges. Don’t wait for the teacher to say something at conferences!  Go get a good neuropsychological exam and you will know what strengths and challenges your child has and have an opportunity to grow them.
  • Use a daily schedule even in first grade for time management and learning appropriate skills.

Behavior

  • Make sure your child knows how to follow rules, understands boundaries, and knows the expectations of first grade children.  This includes raising hands, taking turns, staying quiet and getting involved/participation, etc.
  • Get your child some support if behavior is an issue.  There are social groups, social workers, books, all kinds of tools to help out there!
  • Your child needs to know what YOU expect of him and what your consequences  are at home.
  • Make sure your family gets proper sleep and food daily.

Social skills/Peer Pressure

  • Make play dates for your child and help model proper 1st grade skills.
  • Join a community playgroup/social group at a local clinic, park district or religious organization.
  • If you suspect something is still off about his social skills, get him evaluated and he can practice his skills with the right support.
  • Make sure to keep your child engaged and talkative with you so you can help him through the tough and great times of 1st grade.

Good luck!

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A Checklist for Language Based Reading Difficulties

Learning to read is such a monumental milestone for children in early elementary school, but it can also be a source of stress for concerned parents or for children who don’t seem to “pick it up” as easily as others. Since reading is a fundamental skill which only increases in importance as students move on to later grades in school, early identification of at-risk readers is key to ensuring academic success for all children.

Listed below is a checklist which can be used to identify children (in kindergarten – first grade) who may benefit from further evaluation by a speech-language pathologist:

Speech sound awareness:Child with reading difficulties

  • Does not understand or enjoy rhymes (may have difficulty clapping hands/tapping feet in rhythm to songs or rhymes)
  • Does not recognize words with the same beginning sound
  • Has difficulty counting syllables in spoken words
  • Difficulty learning sound-letter correspondences ( the letter ‘b’ says ‘buh’)

Written language awareness:

  • Does not orient book properly while looking through books
  • Cannot identify words and letters in picture books

Letter name knowledge:

  • Cannot recite the alphabet
  • Cannot identify printed letters as they are named or name letters when asked.

Word retrieval:

  • Has difficulty finding a specific word in conversation, uses non-specific words (thing, stuff) or substitutes a related term
  • Poor memory for classmates names
  • Halting speech- pauses and filler words used (“um” or “you know”)

Speech production/perception:

  • Difficulty saying common words with difficult sound patterns (i.e. cinnamon, specific, library)
  • Mishears and then mispronounces words/names
  • Frequent slips of the tongue (says “brue blush” for “blue brush”)

Comprehension:

  • Only responds to part of a multi-step direction or instruction or requests multiple repetitions for instructions
  • Difficulty understanding spatial terms (in front, behind etc.)
  • Difficulty understanding stories

Expressive language:

  • Uses short sentences with a small vocabulary, little variety
  • Difficulty giving directions or explanations, little detail provided
  • Disorganized story-telling or event recall
  • Grammar errors (“he goed to the store”)

Literacy motivation:

  • Does not enjoy classroom story-time (wanders, does not pay attention when teacher reads stories)
  • Shows little interest in literacy activities (looking at books, writing)

If your child or a child you work with can be described by many of the items on this checklist, further evaluation of their language skills is warranted to ensure appropriate intervention is provided and continued literacy learning is encouraged. There are many professionals (teachers, reading specialists, and speech-language pathologists) who are trained to assist children in acquiring early literacy skills or supporting children who exhibit difficulty in this area. However, areas of expertise vary and depending on the needs of your child, the appropriate professional to help can be identified.

This checklist is modified from H. Catts’s 2002 publication in Languge, speech, and Hearing Services in Schools as presented in Rhea Paul’s Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence.

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10 Signs of a Reading Disorder

Many people believe that reading is a natural process that comes easily to children, especially in homes that value literacy.  This assumption can be frustrating and heartbreaking to a parent of a child with dyslexia or reading comprehension problems. Approximately 1 in 5 children have dyslexia, which is defined as trouble recognizing and decoding words, most likely due to a deficit in the phonological component of language.  Here are several things to look for in developing readers that may signal dyslexia or a reading comprehension problem:

10 signs that your child may have a reading disorder: Little girl picking behind a book

  1. An intense dislike and avoidance of reading time
  2. A lack of understanding that words can be broken down into smaller parts
  3. Difficulty associating letters with sounds
  4. Inability to sound out simple words
  5. Imprecise language
  6. A family history of reading problems
  7. Reading errors that are not connected to the sounds of the letters in the words
  8. Difficulty finding the right word or coming up with a verbal response
  9. Mispronunciation of long words
  10. Lack of fluent speech

Dyslexic children are bright and talented in many ways, and there is help for dyslexic readers.  The Orton-Gillingham method is a systematic, multi-sensory approach that helps dyslexic children break the reading code and succeed.  If you worry that your child may have a reading comprehension problem, schedule a consultation with one of our Orton-Gillingham trained academic specialists.

For more information on Dyslexia Treatment, please click here.

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Handwriting Quickies: 5 easy ways to work on your child’s grasp and letter formation for handwriting

Handwriting involves many different components, such as using an age-appropriate grasp, stabilizing the paper, and identifying and forming uppercase and lowercase letters.  Luckily, there are lots of simple strategies to boost your child’s confidence and performance.

Here are a few brief suggestions to try at home:

Child practicing handwriting skills

  • Hold a marble:  Have your child hold onto a marble with his ring finger and pinky finger against his palm.  This will help him to keep his “extra” fingers out of the way, and better promote a tripod posture on the writing utensil (pencil is held between the thumb and index finger, with the pencil resting on the middle finger).
  • Varied grasp Place the writing utensil between your child’s pointer finger and long finger to promote a variation of the tripod posture.  This is a good option if your child is older and has an incorrect grasp which cannot be corrected, or to provide a “break” for your child if he fatigues easily during handwriting activities.
  • Use a golf-sized pencil A small pencil works well for small hands (approximately 6 years and younger).  This will offer your child more control over the writing utensil, and may require less strength and endurance as it is lighter.
  • Practice letter recognition:  Have your child trace letters onto your back, or trace letters onto your child’s back.  This will help him practice recognizing the shape and formation of the letters, and also feel the letters, providing tactile input.  Similarly, you and your child can take turns drawing letters in the air (make movements extremely large and exaggerated); again, this will help your child see the lines and curves of the letters and feel them as well.  (Note:  during the summertime, sparklers are a fun way to practice forming letters/words in the air for others to guess!  Just make sure that children are monitored by adults for safety purposes)
  • I spy with my little eye Change up the game “I spy” by incorporating spelling.  For example, “I spy with my little eye, something that starts with the letter S.”  This will help your child sound out which letter the object starts with.  To make the activity harder, ask your child to spell out the entire word at the end of each round.

Handwriting and learning to recognize the alphabet can feel like daunting tasks to parents, as there are many components to think about in order to best teach your child.  However, as stated above, there are many “tricks” to provide your child with greater success and, therefore, increased confidence.  Try one of these strategies today, and watch your child blossom!

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