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Age Appropriate Toys for Speech and Language Development

With the holidays fast approaching, here are some tips for choosing gifts that also support your child’s development.  The best toys to support your child’s speech and language development are blog-speech-and-language-main-landscapetraditional toys that do not make noises or talk for your child.  Taking batteries out of toys is an option as well. Choosing toys that relate to everyday activities (e.g., kitchen set, baby doll) are great for facilitating language that can be applied to real life situations.

Additionally, toys that are open-ended and can be used in a variety of ways are best.  For example, a basic farm set has more language opportunities than a toy with buttons that makes animal noises.  With a basic farm set, the child can imitate animal noises, label the animal names, practice location concepts (e.g., on, in, under, next to, etc.), answer wh-questions (e.g., “Where is the pig?”), and much more!

Here is a list of basic, traditional toys that are great for expanding your child’s speech and language skills:

  • Wooden blocks
  • Cars/trains
  • Baby doll
  • Potato Head
  • Doll House
  • Bubbles
  • Kitchen set and play food
  • Tea set
  • Farm set
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Stacking toys
  • Puzzles
  • Doctor set
  • Play-doh
  • Wind-up toys

Traditional toys are excellent for supporting speech and language development, but it is also fun to discover new toys/games as well!

Here is a list of new toys/games I have been using in speech and language therapy:

  • Seek-a-Boo Game
    • Great for working on vocabulary, turn-taking, and memory skills!
  • Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pads
    • All of these reusable sticker pads are AWESOME for working on speech and language skills! I particularly like the “play house” one. These are great for answering wh-questions (i.e., who, what, where, when, why, how), labeling actions (e.g., swimming, playing), formulating complete sentences (e.g., “She is playing), and more!
  • Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game
    • Excellent for working on shape identification and turn-taking! Find foods that are in the shape of a triangle, square, circle, heart, and rectangle.
  • Zingo
    • This one is always a favorite with the kids. Great for vocabulary, turn-taking, and asking questions. Play with the family and have your child ask if you need a piece, such as, “Do you need a hat or a bird?”
  • Melissa & Doug “Stamp Sort” Mailbox
    • Great for little ones to practice phrases, such as, “go in,” “put in mail,” “close the door,” “open door,” “put in key,” etc. Put stamps on the letters and ask your child, “Who are we mailing it to?”
  • Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game
    • Work on color identification, matching skills, and turn-taking with this fun game. Ask your child, “Whose turn is it?” to practice pronouns in “my turn” and “your turn.”

There are many great toys/games out there, but these are favorites among speech-language pathologists.  Ditch the batteries and get talking!

Happy Holidays!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Holiday Speech and Language Activities

Here are some examples of how a holiday tradition can be turned into a speech and language activity: blog-holiday-speech-main-landscape

Looking at Holiday Lights

  • For a younger child: Play a silly sentence game. Make a sentence about the light display but put in a nonsense word. See if your child can fix the silly mistake. For example, “The snowman is under the grass.” or “There is an elephant on the roof.” Then see if your child can make a silly sentence for you to correct.
  • For an older child: Create complex sentences. Challenge your child to use the conjunctions and or but to talk about the lights. For example, “The window has a wreath and the garage has a bow.” or “This house has only white lights, but that house has all different colored lights.”
  • For a child working on speech sounds: See if the child can find decorations containing their sounds. For example, if a child is working on /l/, they can practice saying blue lights, yellow lights, snow globe, soldier, and igloo.

Singing Holiday Songs

  • For a younger child: Work on rhyming by starting a well-known carol then substituting a non-rhyming word in place of a rhyming word. For example, “Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh. O’er the fields we go, laughing all the go.”
  • For an older child: Make inferences about song lyrics by asking your child why For example, “Why do you think Santa asked Rudolph to guide his sleigh?”
  • For a child working on speech sounds: Listen to a familiar song and have your child write down every word with their sound. Then go back and practice saying the words they wrote. For example, a child working on final /l/ can listen to “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” and practice saying the words we’ll, all, while, and table.

Decorating the Christmas Tree

  • For a younger child: Teach directional concepts. Ask your child, “Should I put this ornament above the tinsel or below the tinsel?” or “Should I put the star on the top or on the bottom?” while showing them what each directional word means.
  • For the older child: Practice describing ornaments by word features. Have the child say the shape, size, color, material it’s made of, and parts. You can play a guessing game where the child describes clues about the ornament and you guess which one they are describing.
  • For a child working on speech sounds: Pick a word that has a child’s sound in it and have your child repeat the word while decorating the tree. For example, a child working on “ng” can say “hang” every time someone hangs an ornament. A child working on /r/ can say “wrap” a number of times while wrapping lights around the tree.

Making Holiday Crafts

  • For the younger child: Practice requesting. Provide your child with all necessary materials but leave one item out. Encourage them to make sure they have all the items they need and have them ask questions if they do not have everything.
  • For the older child: Work on narrative skills. Have the child pretend they are leading a how-to TV show. Have them use the words first, next, then, and last to give at least four steps. Build the craft yourself and see if the directions are clear enough to be followed and encourage your child to clarify communication breakdowns if needed.
  • For a child working on speech sounds: Create a phrase that the child must use for each part of the craft. For example, a child working on ch can say,” I chose the ____.” A child working on /g/ can say, “I got a ____.”

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, EvanstonLincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Deerfield, Des Plaines, and Hinsdale! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Why Your Child is Making Progress in Speech Therapy, But Not at Home

An articulation disorder occurs when a child produces a distorted sound, such as a lisp (i.e., incorrect tongue placement during /s, z/ sounds) or an /r/ sound with a “flat” or vowelized quality blog-speech-main-landscape(“spiduh” for “spider”). It is worth noting that an “articulation disorder” has become a generalized label used to also describe patterns of errors in speech, for instance, “tat” for “cat” or “wion” for “lion,” which is a substitution rather than sound distortion. Many therapists will address substitution errors using a “sound-by-sound” approach if there are only a few errors. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that speech altogether is a learned movement pattern, just like walking, for example. A motor pathway of nerves in the brain is developed, established, and practiced, at a very early age.

The “give ‘em some time!” myth

Pediatricians and therapists often advise parents to “give it some time” before they seek out the help of a professional, leaving parents wondering why. Professionally, I am a supporter of the “wait and see” approach if the child demonstrates correct productions in some words, but not all, during their conversational speech. A child’s awareness of their speech increases as their gross and fine motor skills also develop and mature. As a result, common speech distortions may resolve with postural maturity, improved fine oral motor control, or exposure to same-aged peers which increases a child’s awareness. However, at the age of 4-years old, a child should be understood by familiar and unfamiliar listeners 90% of the time. Similarly, children who are typically developing demonstrate rapid growth of speech articulation skills in 6-month increments.

I advise parents to ask themselves the following:

  1. Has my child’s speech become easier to understand or made improvements at any time over a 6-month period?
  2. Can my child make the sound correctly at any time in spontaneous speech?
  3. Can my child make the sound correctly after I make the sound?
  4. Can acquaintances understand my child’s speech?

If any of the above answers are “no,” it may be time to consult with a speech-language pathologist regarding a full speech-language evaluation, especially if your child is approaching kindergarten. During the evaluation, the therapist will determine oral-structural abnormalities, evaluate for substitutions and omissions of sounds, and trial therapy techniques to determine the prognosis. The therapist may also hear the impact of reduced speech-articulation on language skills.  In my experience, children typically respond well to treatment unless structural differences (e.g., tongue tie, high palate, cleft palate) exist that impact their ability to produce the sound physically. In that case, a referral to an orthodontist, otolaryngologist, craniofacial specialist, may be warranted.

So, what does articulation therapy look like? Speech therapy for an articulation disorder is focused on creating a new movement pathway in the brain, “weakening,” or just simply not using the distortion pathway. Therefore, intervention should be repetitive and intensive in nature once the correct sound placement is achieved.

The process of articulation therapy includes producing the sound at specific levels of speech:

  • Establishing awareness of incorrect productions
  • Isolation
  • Syllables
  • Words
  • Phrases
  • Sentences
  • Reading
  • Story re-tell
  • Conversational speech

Many parents ask how long it takes to re-mediate an articulation disorder. Progress depends on consistency regarding the child’s attendance, treatment frequency and productivity/number of repetitions during speech sessions and completion of home practice assignments on a daily basis. I often set a goal to help the child achieve the sound hundreds of times per session. Once a child has established a sound by itself consistently, the therapist will challenge the child to produce it in words, phrases, sentences, etc. Many children will use their sound perfectly while practicing their articulation cards but become completely unaware of errors made as they speak spontaneously. Awareness and self-monitoring spontaneous speech is the most challenging part of articulation therapy. I explain this to kiddos I see to remind them that un-doing the speech distortion takes time! We ultimately want the child to use the new motor pathway without the need to actively self-monitor. Therefore, treatment is most effective when the child makes hundreds of productions per session and engages in daily home practice as directed by the SLP.

This is what you can do to work on speech:

  • Pick a daily routine to coincide with repetitive practice: before brushing teeth at night, during breakfast in the morning, on the way to school, etc.
  • Require your child to use correct speech while talking in the car, during dinner time, or while speaking on the phone.
  • Encourage your child to sing their favorite songs or nursery rhymes using their correct sound. For a challenge, make them start over if you catch an error!
  • Play games like “Guess Who?,” “Connect Four,” or “Sorry” and use a target word or phrase with their sound in it each time they take a turn.
  • Combine homework assignments and speech practice into one activity! Encourage your child to read the directions with correct speech, identify/practice vocabulary words that have the sound, or read stories aloud.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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What Exactly is ASHA?

As a parent, do you ever wonder what all those letters mean after your therapist’s name? To a speech-language pathologist, these letters represent years and years of hard work and ultimately they confirm certification to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA). blog-asha-main-landscape

So, what exactly is ASHA?

ASHA is the national organization and governing body for speech-language pathologists, audiologists and speech/language/hearing scientists. In 1926, ASHA became the first organization to initiate the development of national standards for these two professions. Today, ASHA represents more than 181,000+ professionals; 148,105 of which are certified speech-language pathologists (SLP’s), 31,964 of which are certified audiologists and 931 of which hold dual certification as both audiologists and SLPs. These two rewarding professions have shown immense growth over the years and continue to require a governing body to further detail professional standards.

ASHA has been certifying both speech-language pathologists and audiologists since 1952. These standards are established by audiologists and speech-language pathologists, respectively, who are members of ASHA’s Council for Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CFCC). ASHA’s certification standards are based on assessment of academic knowledge, professional and clinical skills by professors, employers and leaders in the discipline of communication sciences and disorders. This certification requires graduate level coursework and clinical practicum within a variety of settings and populations.

These populations span the lifetime and can include:

  • Early Childhood
  • School-Aged Children
  • Adolescents
  • Adults
  • Geriatrics/Elderly

Clinical Practicum explores various settings for an SLP to work including:

  • Schools
  • Private clinics
  • Outpatient Facilities
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Hospitals

In addition, ASHA collaborates with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in developing national examinations for both professions. Both speech-language pathologists and audiologists must obtain a passing score on the Praxis examination.

Now, back to the letters after your child’s therapist’s name. Being “certified” from ASHA means holding a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC). This is a nationally recognized professional credential that represents a level of excellence in the field of Audiology (CCC-A) or Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). Individuals who have achieved the CCC-ASHA certification have voluntarily met academic and professional standards, typically going beyond the minimum requirements for state licensure. In order to maintain their knowledge, skills and expertise to provide high quality clinical service, individuals who are certified with ASHA are required to engage in ongoing professional development courses.

North Shore Pediatric Therapy requires all speech-language pathologists to hold and maintain ASHA’s CCC Certification. This is a crucial aspect of ensuring that all our therapists continue to uphold high standards of clinical service to the clients we serve.

As an organization, ASHA provides an abundant amount of resources. Each year, ASHA holds a nationwide convention and invites professionals to come, attend lectures, network and earn CEU course hours. In addition, the ASHA website contains insightful resources, such as the Practice Portal. This online resource offers one-stop access to guide evidence-based decision-making on a variety of both clinical and professional issues. This resource contains direct research articles and resources on a variety of clinical topics and disorders, as well as professional practice issues.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Play Based Therapy – 5 Things to Consider When Playing at Home

  1. Choose toys and activities a child likes.blog-play-therapy-main-landscape
    • Use toys or objects the child enjoys to increase the likelihood that they will pay attention.
    • Read the child’s cues to determine when or if the attention is waning and provide them with options of other preferred items.
    • It is okay to have them complete “one more turn” before having them clean up.
    • Create a regular clean up routine after play time. Create or use a fun clean up song!
  2. Allow a child to take the lead in choosing toys- but this doesn’t mean you need to give them free rein all the time!
    • Offer acceptable choices- this is a happy medium between letting the child do what they want all the time and the adult determining what the child plays.
    • By providing choices, it gives an opportunity for the child to respond and communicate (and they feel like they are in control!).
    • If possible, choose activities that the child is able to move and does not have to sit still or at a table the whole time moving helps the child to be more attentive or focused!
  3. Imitate a child’s actions and use specific labels to address what the child is doing or attending to at the moment.
    • Over time, it is hoped that the child enjoys the repetition of the words and actions, then will begin to repeat an action he sees you complete (i.e. “Jump, Jump!” “You are jumping!)- Make sure you are face-to-face with the child, so that they know that you are talking about exactly what they are doing.
    • Simply state an object or an event name during the child’s play (i.e. “Ball” or “You found a ball”).
    • Try to stay away from talking too much or narrating too much information (i.e. It looks like you found something. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to bounce or throw it?) Depending on the child’s age, this kind of narration is likely above the language-level for the child.
    • Try to avoid asking the child questions!
  4. Use prompts to elicit attention with verbal visual cues (i.e. Look!)
    • Point to where you want the child to attend or focus.
    • Gaining the child’s attention is the first thing that needs to occur before they are expected to learn anything.
  5. Reinforce attention either naturally or artificially.
    • Pick reinforcements that are motivating for your child!
    • Reinforcing a child’s communicative attempts may include allowing them to play with a toy or finish eating a snack that he/she requested.
    • Depending on the child, stickers or suckers may be just the perfect reinforcement as well!

Reference

Mize, L. (2011). Teach Me To Talk! Shelbyville, KY: Teachmetotalk.com

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Pragmatic Language: An Introduction

Social communication with others requires a complex integration of skills in three areas:blog-pragmatic language-main-landscape

  1. Social interaction
  2. Social cognition
  3. Pragmatic language skills

A social worker often addresses social interaction skills (e.g., understanding social rules, such as how to be polite) and social cognition skills (e.g., understanding the emotions of oneself and others). A speech-language pathologist often targets pragmatic language skills, which are the verbal and nonverbal behaviors used in social interactions.

A social interaction typically requires the ability to understand and use the following pragmatic language skills:

  1. Expression of a variety of communicative functions. Does the child communicate for a variety of reasons, such as attempting to control the actions of others, asking questions, exchanging facts, or expressing feelings?
  2. Use of appropriate frequency of communication. Does the child use an equal number of messages as his or her communication partner?
  3. Discourse (conversation) skills. Can the child initiate conversation, take turns, maintain and shift topics, and repair communication breakdowns?
  4. Flexible modification of language based on the social situation. Can the child switch between informal vs. formal language based on the setting and listeners?
  5. Narrative storytelling. Can the child tell coherent and informative stories?
  6. Nonverbal language. Can the child understand and use body language, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact?
  7. Nonliteral language skills. Does the child understand figurative language, jokes, words with multiple meanings, and inferences?

A child with a social communication disorder, also known as a pragmatic language impairment, may present with difficulties using language to participate in conversations. Impairments in pragmatic language can impact a child’s ability to make and keep friends. It is important that social language skills are viewed within the context of an individual child’s cultural background. A speech-language pathologist can identify and treat pragmatic language difficulties in children.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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How Multidisciplinary Treatment Helps Children with Autism

There are many benefits to providing children with Autism a collaboration of different therapies in addition to Applied Behavior Analysis services. blog-autism-main-landscape

  • Occupational therapy (OT) provides children with skills to help regulate themselves. These skills may help decrease inappropriate stims and help provide children with more socially acceptable skills for regulation.
    • OT can provide children with strategies to help with motor skills.
    • OT can have a different perspective on activities of daily living and as such can provide different and alternative interventions to increase independence on self-care activities.
    • OT improves children independent living skills, such as self-care.
  • Speech therapy can help children with functional communication skills. Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) can provide additional support to the children to develop communication skills.
    • SLPs may also provide education and the introduction of alternatives to vocal communication in the form of augmentative devices or picture exchange communication system (PECS).
  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) develops personal one-on-one interventions for children to develop functional skills.
    • ABA focuses on helping children with social, academic, and behavioral concerns.
    • ABA will also focus on providing children with skills for functional communication.
  • Physical therapy (PT) can help provide children with additional motor function and can help with children who have low muscle town or balance issues.
    • PT can also help with coordination for children.
  • Collaboration of all therapies can help ensure that the most effective treatment is provided to the child in all settings.

Fusion of all therapies will provide children exposure to different strategies and interventions in different settings to help with day-to-day life.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Beyond the ABCs: How to Promote Reading Success Through Phonological Awareness

Parents are often eager to teach and practice the good old ABCs with their children. However, there are other ways that parents can support pre-literacy development, such as fostering blog-phonological-awareness-main-landscapephonological awareness skills, too! Phonological awareness is the understanding that sentences/words are made up of smaller units, as well as the ability to identify and manipulate these units. Research has found that strong phonological awareness skills are predictors of early reading success. One way to understand phonological awareness is to divide it into different levels: word, syllable, and sound. Check out NSPT’s blog ­Phonemic Awareness Skills to learn more about when these skills are acquired.

Each level of phonological awareness is described below, with activities you can do at home!

Word: The concept of a “word” is an important first step in understanding language. Children are constantly building their vocabulary and using these new words in a variety of ways. There are many ways to begin bringing attention to how words work.

  • Clap out the words of a favorite song (e.g. Old – McDonald – had – a – farm) to help children learn that sentences contain separate words. You can also use musical instruments, tapping on the floor or jumping. This is especially important for “function” words that are more abstract, such as “the,” “and,” “do,” etc.
  • Read books that rhyme as a fun and silly way to teach children to recognize that words have patterns. Check out NSPT’s blog Rhyme Time: 10 Books To Teach Your Child Phonological Awareness for children’s books that contain great stories with rhymes.
  • Enjoy tongue twisters to begin thinking about alliteration (e.g. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. What sound do all of these words start with?). Alliteration, or when every word of a sentence starts with the same sound, is another way to bring attention to patterns in words.

Syllable: Words can be broken down into smaller units, one of which is syllables. Children learn to separate these chunks in a similar manner as they do for words in sentences. Knowing how to do this will help when a child is reading and comes across a multi-syllabic word they are unfamiliar with.

  • Make a bean bag toss in which you provide a multi-syllabic word, and the child has to throw a bean bag into a bucket while saying one syllable at a time.
  • Write the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 on a piece of paper and place them in separate areas of a room. Then give the child a multi-syllabic word and have them run to the number that represents the number of syllables in that word.
  • Sort objects found around the house into groups by how many syllables they have.

Sound: Words can also be broken down to their individual sounds. There are several ways we can manipulate sounds, including identifying (e.g. what is the first sound in “bat?”), segmenting (e.g. what 3 sounds do you hear in “bat”?), blending (e.g. what do the sounds /b/ /a/ /t/ make?) deleting (e.g. what’s “bat” without the /b/?), and substituting (e.g. if you change the /b/ in “bat” to /m/, what word is it?). Here are a few ways to begin prating these in an interactive, multi-sensory way.

  • Play “Simon Says.” Give the last word of the direction by segmenting it into sounds. For example, Simon Says touch your /l/ /e/ /g/, or Simon says stand /u/ /p/.
  • Play “I spy” to bring attention to particular positions of sounds (beginning/middle/end of word). For example, you could say “I spy something that begins with a sssss sound.”
  • Modify “head shoulders knees and toes” by providing a multi-syllabic word. The child can touch their head, shoulder, knees and toes (one per sound) as they figure out what sounds are in the word. For example, /b/ (touch head), /a/ (touch shoulders), /t/ (touch knees).

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Is a Lisp Normal in Preschool?

As children begin to develop their speech and language skills, it is important to remember that speech sounds are acquired in specific patterns around approximate age ranges. Therefore, most Blog-Lisp-Main-Landscapechildren go through periods of development where their overall speech intelligibility is reduced.

In order to understand if a lisp is considered normal, one must first understand what a lisp actually is. Lisps can present themselves in a different manner, primarily as lateral and interdental, with misarticulations primarily on /s/ and /z/, though productions of “sh,” “ch,” and “j” are typically impacted as well. In order to accurately produce these speech sounds, airflow needs to be channeled down the middle of the tongue.

A lateral lisp occurs when the airflow passes over the sides of the tongue, which causes significantly distorted production of the targeted speech sounds. The manner of the production will have a “slushy” quality, and lateralized productions of speech sounds can be difficult to correct.

Another common lisp is the interdental lisp, in which the tongue protrudes between the upper and lower teeth distorting the airflow that is forced through the space during speech production. This type of lisp is often heard as a substituted “th” rather than an accurate /s/ or /z/.

In the preschool years, children are expected to have mastery of early speech sounds, and errors on later-developing speech sounds are considered typical. Therefore, distortions of /s/ and /z/ that present themselves as a lisp are often seen in children this age. However, around the age of five when children enter kindergarten, they should be more accurate with their speech sound production skills.

If a child continues to present with difficulty on particular sounds, further assessment may be beneficial. This is particularly true if the child presents with a lateralized lisp, as speech-language therapy is warranted to help re-mediate the place and manner of the errors. Evaluation is also recommended if the child presents with either inconsistent productions of speech sounds, or is significantly difficult to understand, regardless of age.

Read our blog on what to expect in a pediatric speech and language evaluation.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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A Letter I Would Have Written for My Parents When I Was Still Nonverbal

This guest post is from Kerry Magro, a 28-year-old adult with autism who has become a national speaker and best-selling author. Magro is also on the Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism for the Autism Society.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know it’s breaking your heart to see me as I am now. Most of the kids we know are starting to talk while I’m just making sounds. I’m lashing out because I’m struggling. I can’t communicate myNonverbal Feature needs, and things are just not going the way I wish they would. I scream and fight with you every time you try and bathe me because I can’t stand the feeling of water. I cringe anytime I hear thunder, and I don’t like to be touched because of my sensory issues. Even now, as we make all the adorable videos of me dressed up as one of the best looking toddlers of all time, I know things aren’t easy, and we don’t know what my future has in store.

I want to tell you, though, to keep fighting for me and believing in me because without you both — my best advocates — I’m not going to be the person I am today. There’s hope, and you both play a huge part in that. Things are going to get better, and without you that wouldn’t be possible.

At 2 and a half, I’m going to say my first words, and at 4 you’re going to find out from a doctor that I have something called autism. In 1992, it will be something you would have only heard from some of the leading experts in the field and from the 1988 movie “Rain Man.” The road now is going to be difficult, but we’re going to get through it together.

Supports are going to be difficult to come by. The numbers of autism are 1 in 1000 right now and so many people still don’t understand. Life is going to be difficult. Challenges are coming. But here’s why you should fight through the challenges…

By fighting for me every day and helping me go through occupational, physical and speech therapy for the next 16 years, while giving me support at home and in school, I’m going to grow into an adult who is a national motivational speaker and gives talks about autism across the country.

Because if you fight for me right now and never give up, not only will I be that speaker but I’ll have the opportunity to write an Amazon Best Seller, consult for a major motion picture that makes 30 million dollars, and be someone who gives you love every single day. I will grow into an adult who embraces affection.

Love,
Kerry

I hope for any parent who reads this letter — coming from a now 28-year-old adult on the autism spectrum — that you never give up on your loved ones. The autism spectrum is wide and everyone’s journey is going to be slightly different. Become an advocate because by doing what you’re doing now, you not only give hope to your loved ones but you give hope to the autism community. We’re learning more and more about autism every day and more and more answers are coming to help our community progress.

Most important, I hope you take this letter as a sign that all parents of children on the autism spectrum can make a difference. Some days are going to be more difficult than others, but just know that you’re never alone in this community. And if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m just one message away if you click on my Facebook page.

A version of this blog originally appeared on Kerrymagro.com.

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