Tag Archive for: Reading

Tips For Getting Your Child To Focus

Feeling frustrated that every time you turn your back, your child has once again escaped the kitchen table so nicely decorated with math workbooks, spelling words and other scattered assignments? Practicing these tips to enhance focus and attention will foster greater independence with homework completion and other tasks that require a calm body and mind.

1. Recognizing on- vs. off-topic thought content

One way to regain focus and attention is through gaining insight into the nature and content of our thoughts. If we are supposed to be doing math homework, our brains need to be thinking of math-related topics. This is called on-topic thinking. If you are doing math and thinking about what you are going to eat for dinner or your next Lego creation then you are experiencing off-topic thinking as these thoughts are unrelated to the task at hand. Getting refocused is as simple as switching your thoughts to support on-topic material. If you see your child glazed over, doodling, or getting up to engage in an alternative activity, call their attention to their thought process, have them recognize if they are on- or off-topic, and encourage them to think of thoughts that would support on-topic thinking.

 2. Deep breathing and muscle relaxation activities

If your child is having a hard time sitting still and attending to their homework, a family conversation at dinner, or on a directive, encourage them to engage in these fun activities:

Deep breathing. Encourage your child to take 10 deep breaths. This will slow breathing, cancel out other “noise” and regain attention to the here and now.

-Following deep breathing, encourage your child to do a series of tightening and loosening of their muscles 10 times (this can be a body scan, going through the muscles one by one to tighten and then loosen, or squeezing the whole body tightly and then releasing after 10 seconds)

-Whole body listening. Making sure that the body is calm will aid in focus and attention to the task at hand. Feet are calmly on the floor, hands are calm and not fidgeting, eyes are looking at the material, mouth is closed unless it is their turn to speak, ears are listening, and brain is thinking about on-topic thoughts.

3. Setting a timer

This will increase autonomy over homework and reduce parental frustration as the timer is an objective tool that the child can refer to keep them on task. You can set the timer for various increments of time and it can also provide options for necessary movement breaks. You can set the timer to delineate the amount of time needed to focus on work and/or set the timer for a series of movement breaks that may help the child get through longer tasks. For example, if your child has 45 minutes of homework, you can have the child do 10 minutes of work with a 5 minute break, 10 minutes of work, 5 minute break, etc. this will allow your child to get through their work with the intention of getting a chance to move around so that homework doesn’t seem daunting and their “breaks” give them a chance to refocus.

4. Repeat directions.

Encourage your child to repeat back directives to ensure that they have heard your message. Make sure that your child is engaging in whole body listening to really encourage focus and attention. Redirect your child into whole body listening if they are not to ensure that they are focusing on your message.


5 Fun Ways to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary During the Holidays

During the holidays, children are off of school, families are spending time together, the weather is changing, and everyone is eating delicious food! Parents can use this time off as the perfect time to do vocabulary building activities.

5 Fun Vocabulary Building Activities:

  1. Make Lists: Creating a list of items can help increase your child’s vocabulary. If you create lists with your child of grocery items, gifts needed, or even locations, it can help to promote language development and thought organization. Children can begin to associate new words (e.g., stuffing, cranberries, gravy) with the holidays and may be more likely to use these words appropriately.
  2. Words in Context: Targeting and explaining new winter words in context can help to improve your child’s vocabulary. Saying things like, “look at the snowman,” “the icicle is hanging from the tree,” or “look at those children sledding,” will reinforce the new words and encourage usage. When children use new words appropriately praise them, and if necessary model a different use.
  3.  Read Aloud: Reading aloud to your child is extremely beneficial for vocabulary building.  When reading stories, emphasizing and reinforcing new words will enhance vocabulary skills, and asking questions while reading encourages understanding (e.g., what did the Polar Bear see?). If age appropriate, ask your child to retell the story (or part of the story). This will allow him or her to use new vocabulary words in context.
  4. Stress: Exaggerating words or concepts can help children identify information that may be new or unknown. By putting stress on new vocabulary words, children will learn appropriate times to use these important new words. When emphasizing, try changing volume (louder/softer) or even try singing to make word learning more fun!
  5. Get Crafty: Making decorations for your house around the holidays can be a great way to target vocabulary. Your children practice new words with a practical application by making turkey decorations, carving pumpkins, coloring a menorah, making ornaments, or even popsicle picture frames. Hanging and displaying your child’s artwork will not only give them a sense of accomplishment, but will also reinforce new vocabulary words!

Happy Holidays!

Click here to view a copy of our Speech and Language Milestones Infographic!

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

Signs of Reading Disability Across Grades

Reading Disability (also known as “Dyslexia”) is a disorder of phonology at its base.  It affects reading, writing, and sometimes other skills such as memorization of math facts and language expression.  We know that Reading Disability is persistent but also highly responsive to the right interventions.  Taken in part from the book Overcoming Dyslexia, written by Sally Shaywitz, M.D., I have put together the following list of common signs across grade levels that a child may be struggling with reading.  The presence of one, or even many of these clues, does not by itself warrant alarm of a problem.  However, if you suspect your child is struggling with reading, please seek an evaluation to determine the nature of the difficulties and to make sure that your child is given a fair chance in reading. 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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Help Your Child Learn to Sequence

Whether we know it or not, we are constantly sequencing throughout the day. As we tie our shoes, we sequence the steps. When we complete a project, we plan the order tasks will be accomplished. As we talk with friends, we organize our thoughts and ideas into a logical order. For some children, however, sequencing can be challenging. 

You might notice your child having difficulty verbally expressing herself. Her ideas might appear fragmented or disconnected. She may leave out important information while including irrelevant details. Or you might notice your child forgetting important steps when completing daily tasks, such as going to the bathroom. She might forget to close the door or flush the toilet. If you find this is a problem for your child, fear not. There are many ways to practice sequencing with your child.

5 fun activities to help your child develop sequence skills at home:

  1. Retell a favorite storybook. Read a book with your child. Afterwards, retell the story together while thinking about three important things that happened. This may be challenging for your child, so simplify it by using pictures as you retell the story. Photocopy pictures from the book (choose just a few important pages as opposed to every page), and have your child tape pictures on the wall in the correct order.
  2. Plan a fun recipe. Plan out the steps you will need to complete the recipe. Based on your child’s age and level, you might write the steps out or draw pictures of each step. After you’ve completed the steps to make the recipe, encourage your child to share it with others. Have her describe how she made it.
  3. Make a scrapbook from a family outing. Plan a fun outing and take pictures throughout the day. Afterwards, have your child put the pictures in the correct order (limit it to 3-5 pictures, depending on your child’s level). Glue each picture in a construction paper book and help your child write a sentence to go with each picture (first…then…etc.). Encourage your child to share her book with others and tell them about her fun day.
  4. Have your child be the “teacher” while you play a game. Choose a favorite board game, and pretend you forgot the rules. Encourage your child to be the “teacher” and tell others how to play. Guide her language by writing or drawing pictures of each step while she explains the rules.
  5. Talk about various sequence concepts. Concepts might include first, then, second, last, before, or after. Line up your child’s stuffed animals and encourage your child to find the animal who is “first.” Or you play “Simon Says” while encouraging your child to follow directions in the correct order (“Simon says first___, then___”).

Most importantly, have fun! The best kind of learning is often when your child doesn’t know she’s learning at all. By choosing fun activities, you can enjoy time with your child while still helping her learn and grow.

Do you want to learn more about sequencing?  Click here to learn about the difference between sequencing and memory.

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

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How Fast Should My Child Be Reading?

Reading is fundamental to academic success. Children spend hours from preschool to third grade learning how to read. From third grade on, childrenreading speed spend hours reading to learn new subject material. As a Pediatric Speech Therapist, I’ve been asked the following question: My child is an accurate reader, but seems to read more slowly than his peers.  Should I be concerned?  For reference, Hasbrauck and Tindal (2006) published reading norms for grades 1-8. The following is a general rule for the number of accurately read words produced in a minute by a young reader by grade.

Reading Norms | Words Read per Minute by Grade:

  • By the end of Grade 1, your child should be reading approximately 53 words correctly per minute.
  • By the end of Grade 2, your child should be reading approximately 89 words correctly per minute.
  • By the end of Grade 3, your child should be reading approximately 107 words correctly per minute.
  • By the end of Grade 4, your child should be reading approximately 123 words correctly per minute. Read more

Activities to Promote Eye Tracking

Visual tracking is defined as efficiently moving the eyes from left to right or focusing on an object as it moves across a Visual Trackingperson’s visual field. This skill is important for almost all daily activities, including reading, writing, drawing, and playing.  This skill typically emerges around the age of five.  Once your child begins to be able to visually track, there are ways to aid in the development of this skill.

Activities to promote eye tracking:

  • Complete puzzles.
  • Draw or paint pictures.
  • Find as many things as you can see of a certain shape (circle, square, rectangle, triangle) in the room.
  • Imitate a series of motor movements made by someone else.
  • Perform dot-to-dot pictures.
  • Find the mistakes in “What’s Wrong with this Picture?” pictures.
  • Sort playing cards in different ways (color, suit, number), or use playing cards to find two with matching numbers.
  • Solve mazes.
  • Play “I Spy.”
  • Play balloon toss.
  • Use tracing paper to trace and color simple pictures.
  • Play flashlight chases.  Do this by getting a flashlight for you and your child.   Lie on your backs on the floor, and have your child chase your flashlight beam with his.
  • Have your child go through a page of print (according to reading level) and circle all the a’s, b’s, c’s or any letter he chooses.
  • Use a slant board for reading. Read more

3 Outdoor Activities to Promote Speech & Language Development

Summer is finally here!  Take advantage of this time of year, and enjoy the time outdoors with your child with these 3 speech and languageeasy activities to promote speech and language skills outside.  Remember, learning and development don’t always happen at the table.  In fact, learning and development are often best accomplished in the context of engaging play and multi-sensory activities.  So take the learning outdoors and enjoy spending time with your child in the summer sun!

Outdoor Speech and Language Activities:

  1. Plan a nature scavenger hunt.  Write 10 clues on a brown paper bag (or present the clues verbally if your child is not yet reading), and encourage your child to find each of the 10 items.  For example, a clue might be “I am green, and I grow in the ground” or “I am all different colors, and I smell very good.”  If you live in the city and have limited access to nature items, use a digital camera to capture items on the list.  This activity promotes reading, listening, categorization, and memory. Read more