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Does My Child Need a Speech-Language Evaluation?

Parents often wonder if their child’s speech and language skills are developing on target. You might have some concerns about your child’s development, but feel hesitant to seek professional help. You might wonder if you’re overreacting, or feel unsure what skills to expect by certain ages. If you’ve ever shared these concerns, you’re certainly not alone. Here are a few guidelines to consider when deciding whether or not your child should see a speech-language pathologist.father and son on pretend phone

When to Seek Help For Your Child’s Speech Development:

Here are a few red-flags that may indicate your child will benefit from speech-language therapy.

If you’re feeling concerned about your child’s development, than seek guidance from a licensed speech-language pathologist right away. Research strongly supports the benefits from intervening
early on, so it’s best not to delay. Rather than wait and let your concerns increase, bring your questions to a trained professional who can give you accurate information and determine any courses of action that may be needed. There is never harm in asking.

What can I expect from speech-language services?

A licensed speech-language pathologist will be able to provide parents with information about their child’s communication, and develop a plan to intervene if necessary. During and after a speech and language evaluation, parents can expect to:

  • Learn whether or not their child demonstrates a delay or disorder in their communication
  • Determine how to help their child’s communication blossom, both at home and in therapy
  • Ask questions and share concerns about their child’s development
  • Learn about typical speech-language development, and what to expect at certain ages
  • Learn strategies to create a language-rich environment that will foster their child’s communication development
  • Gain accurate information by a trained professional
  • Gain information to share with teachers, babysitters, family members, and other important people in their child’s life

For more information about preparing for your child’s speech and language evaluation, see the previous post titled Preparing For Your Child’s Speech & Language Evaluation

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Preparing For Your Child’s Speech & Language Evaluation

Mother and Child looking up resourcesPreparing for a speech and language evaluation can feel overwhelming for a parent. It might feel nerve-wracking to have concerns about your child’s communication, as well as meeting a new health-care provider in an unfamiliar place. If you have already scheduled your child’s speech and language evaluation, then you’ve taken an important step in helping your child grow and succeed. Research has well-documented the benefits of speech-language therapy, as well as the importance of intervening early on.

8 Steps to Prepare for your Child’s First Speech & Language Evaluation:

1. Set aside time to reflect on your child’s speech-language skills

What aspects of communication seem to be difficult for your child? What aspects of communication are easier for your child? When did you first become concerned about your child’s communication? Be as specific as possible, and provide any examples you can think of.

2. Write your concerns down, and bring them to the evaluation

You may even keep a daily log of concerns as they arise throughout the week before the appointment. Your input is extremely important to your child’s speech therapist. During the evaluation, the therapist will spend about 60-90 minutes with your child. While a lot will be accomplished in that time, it’s also helpful for the therapist to learn more about how your child communicates in other settings as well (e.g. at school, at home, during play-dates, etc).

3. Write your questions down. Bring specific questions for your child’s therapist

It may be tough to remember all your concerns and questions during the actual evaluation session, so writing them down will ensure that you get your questions answered.

4. If possible, send any documents or paperwork to the therapist before the evaluation

This includes any reports you might have from previous therapies (e.g. Early Intervention, school IEP’s, etc.) Sending paperwork ahead of time gives your therapist more time to learn about your child and plan the evaluation session.

5. Print out directions to the evaluation

Reviewing directions ahead of time will allow you to plan for traffic, parking, and ensure arriving on time. Arriving late to the appointment cuts into the evaluation time, and results in parents and children feeling stressed.

6. Talk to your child about the evaluation ahead of time

Talk to them about where they will be going, and what will happen. Use positive and upbeat language to put your child at ease. Reassure your child that you will be there waiting for them, and can’t wait to hear all about what they did! If you have any questions or concerns about the transition into the evaluation (e.g. your child is unable to separate, your child has anxiety, etc), contact the therapist ahead of time to plan out the best strategy.

7. Arrive a few minutes early

This will ensure that you have enough time to submit any paperwork, and calmly transition your child into the clinic. Children rely heavily on their parents’ cues about whether or not to be worried. If parents feel stressed or anxious, the children may likely feel stressed or anxious too.

8. Finally, trust your child’s therapist

Remember that your child’s therapist conducts speech-language and feeding evaluations all the time. They are well-trained in their field, and work with a variety of children everyday. Your therapist is there for you and your child, and can’t wait to see your child grow and succeed.

If you are still unsure if a Speech and Language Evaluation is right for your child, please contact us here to talk with a Family-Child Advocate, who can help determine the next best step for you and your family!

 

6 Ways Aquatic Therapy Can Help Your Child

Aquatic therapy is a wonderful activity for children and adults of all ages. If your child likes the bath and is motivated by water, aquatic therapy is aqua therapygreat way to build their skills and confidence.

Below are 6 ways that aquatic therapy can help your child reach their full potential:

1. Gains in range of motion:

After an injury, such as a broken leg or an ankle sprain, joint movement is often limited by swelling or decreased strength to muscles. Aquatic therapy pools are generally set to a comfortable 80-90 degrees, which is warmer then a normal pool. Using the warm temperature of the water, joints will be able to be more flexible and stretch to new limits.

2. Increased strength:

Once proper range of motion is achieved at a joint, proper strengthening is needed in order for the muscle to perform well at its new length. Using the principle of resistance, muscles are able to gain strength by performing simple actions in the water, such as lifting a leg to the side of the body.

3. Achievement of gross motor milestones:

Children have an easier time completing gross motor milestones, such as rolling, walking and jumping in the water secondary to buoyancy principles. For example, a child with cerebral palsy may learn to roll in the water with the assist of a therapist and the buoyancy of the water. Once the nervous and musculoskeletal system in the child’s body learn how to roll in the water, it will be easier to learn on a mat table in the clinic and then transfer to rolling in bed at home.

4. Increased tactile input:

For kids with sensory processing disorders, the water can provide the deep pressure input that they crave. This deep pressure and overall increased tactile input will help a child who has difficulty processing sensory input transfer into a more organized, calm child.

5. Helps with breath support:

For kids with speech issues, aquatic therapy can be very helpful. By using techniques such as holding their breath under water, deep breathing and by raising their arms up and bringing them down with the resistance of water can all help with proper breath support for speaking.

6. Better social interaction:

Completing gross motor activities can often help to decrease social anxiety. Often times, jumping into the water or swimming across the length of the pool can encourage speaking in children who have anxiety. Kids can also learn a swimming stroke from watching each other, share toys and participate in fun games together in the pool setting.

Aquatic therapy can be a great way to help your child reach their full potential. Not only can it help with gross motor skills, but can also help with speech and social interaction. So, if your child is motivated by the water, encourage them to jump on in!

Have aquatic games you would like to share? Leave us a comment and let us know!

How To Motivate Children With Autism Using Reinforcers

Reinforcer SetA common difference between children with autism and typically-developing children is their motivation for social feedback and other natural consequences that occur for learning to take place. Typically, developing children have an easier time learning because they are motivated by social feedback from their parents and teachers. But with a child with autism, it is not always as simple as saying “great job!” to encourage learning. Without motivation, it can be very difficult to gain the attention of an autistic child, and even more difficult for learning to take place.

So, how do you motivate a child diagnosed with autism?

Reinforcers Can Help Motivate Children!

Reinforcers motivate children to learn new skills. Often times, children with autism are not readily motivated by social feedback or other natural consequences received from parents, teachers or peers. Insensitivity to social consequences and signals is a core aspect of the disorder.

How To Find A Powerful Reinforcer: Read more

Basic Principles and Practices for Teaching Children With Autism New Skills

Teaching new skills to children with autism can be very difficult. It is important to first understand the fundamentals of behavior.

Behavior is an important part of teaching because in order to learn a new skill, a child must understand what response is desired and when. A child learns when a response is desired by experiencing a stimulus (i.e. item/request/instruction) and discrimination (Sd- discriminative stimulus).  A child simultaneously learns there is a desired response and discriminates that the response is only desired in the presence of the Sd. For example, if you are teaching a child to say “book” in the presence of a book, the Sd would be the book itself and the desired response would be saying “book.” That child will learn to say “book” only when that book is present. Later on, that child may begin saying “book” in the presence of new books, a pattern called generalization.

So, why is behavior important in teaching a new skill? It is important because a child’s response IS a behavior!

 Descriptions Of Behaviors:

Reflexive Behavior is our bodies’ natural reaction to environmental stimuli (e.g. blinking when someone blows in your eyes, or jerking your leg when someone hits your knee cap). These behaviors are called reflexes and occur without being learned. Read more

Auditory Processing and Language Processing: What’s the Difference?

Understanding Language Processing

Boy in Speech Therapy

Language comprehension…language processing…auditory processing… what does it all mean? The various terminology used to describe a child’s difficulty with listening can be overwhelming to say the least. A first encounter with these terms might feel perplexing as parents search for the best possible help to meet their child’s needs.

A recent surge in public awareness of auditory processing disorders has led to many misconceptions about what this disorder really is (and what it is not). The term “auditory processing disorder” is frequently applied loosely, and often incorrectly, to any individuals having trouble with listening and processing spoken language. However, there are several possible underlying causes for listening difficulty. Read more

Promoting Speech and Language Development During Summertime Fun

Making the most of Summer vacation    

ScrapbookPlay-dates, pool parties and trips to the beach – it’s summer vacation! Sure, we delight in seeing our kids enjoy the leisurely bliss of summer break, but will all the fun come at the expense of our children learning? How can we help our kids make developmental progress and stay on target for school in the fall?  In spite of all the relaxation and play, summertime has potential to be an incredibly enriching opportunity. After all, who ever said that learning can’t be entertaining? In fact, fun experiences are often the very best occasions for your child to learn.

Here are a few tips to keep your child learning throughout the summer:

Plan family outings!  Talk about where you will go, and what you will see there. Whether you visit a museum, the zoo, or a scenic park, a family outing will provide a multisensory experience to enrich your child’s development. Describe what you see during the outing, and introduce your child to new vocabulary words in the process. Read more

Your Child Has Been Diagnosed With Autism, Now What?

What To Do After Your Child Is Diagnosed With Autism:

Several weeks ago Deborah Michael posted a blog about warning signs that parents should look out for regarding Autism Spectrum Disorders.  That blog article got me thinking about the next steps and how to help prepare parents for those important decisions.  The initial diagnosis is often heart wrecking for parents.  Too many times I have seen parents develop a sense of hopelessness once the diagnosis is given.  Autism is a spectrum disorder.  There are children who are really low functioning and will require one-on-one assistance for the rest of their lives.  Yet, at the same time, there are many children who are really high functioning and will be able to lead normal lives, get married, and live on their own.  I was supposed to write a blog article on a checklist for parents as to what they should do once a diagnosis is given.  After thinking about that, I came to the realization that doing so would be impossible and also act as a disservice towards parents.

Therapies Available For Children With ASD

Hand in HandThere are many therapies available for children with a diagnosis along the Autism spectrum.  Children with the diagnosis often require speech/language therapy to develop their pragmatic and social language skills.  These children often benefit from participating in a social skills group in which they are forced to engage in social activities in a safe, non-judgmental environment.  The children often have difficulties with fine motor functioning and sensory regulation and would benefit from woSchedule A Visit To Our Autism Clinicrking with an occupational therapist to develop those skills.
Additionally, the children often would benefit from participating in behavior therapy to focus on increasing positive, on-task behaviors while extinguishing negative behaviors.  However, due to the fact that Autism is a spectrum set of disorders, one cannot say how many hours a week or even what specific therapies are warranted for any particular child.  As a neuropsychologist, I would work with the individual providers to help develop any particular child’s treatment plan.  So, the only checklist of services parents need to seek for their child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder is:  work with the neuropsychologist who made the initial diagnosis to help develop a treatment plan including speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and social work.  Read more

Behavior Vision Therapy? Do your Homework!

Vision

Here’s an excerpt from the Abstract:

Learning disabilities are complex problems that require complex solutions. Early recognition and referral to qualified educational professionals for evidence based evaluations and treatments seem necessary to achieve the best possible outcome. Most experts believe that dyslexia is a language based disorder. Vision problems can interfere with the process of learning; however, vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities. Scientific evidence does not support the efficacy of eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses for improving the long-term educational performance in these complex pediatric neurocognitive conditions. Diagnostic and treatment approaches that lack scientific evidence of efficacy, including eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses, are not endorsed and should not be recommended.

Download Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision here.

This speaks to the importance and necessity of providing parents with information about what treatments and interventions are supported by research.  There is quite a bit of misinformation out there and it may seem overwhelming for parents to try to tease apart what is good for their kids.  As clinicians , It is our job to help parents by stressing the importance of only using treatments that have been found to be effective through research.  Many of these so-called treatments that have been found to not be effective are very costly, it is a disservice to allow parents to spend valuable resources (time, money, energy) on such treatments.