3 Easy Ways to Build Language Skills Every Day!

Taking time to sit and read with your child is highly recommended by all the current research. Reading to your child improves cognitive and language skills while also strengthening social, emotional and character development.

Children also learn from watching, listening and engaging with others throughout the day. Scheduling time to read and engage with your child is crucial, but don’t miss out on these easy ways to support your child’s learning and language skills during everyday activities. Research shows that simply talking and listening to your child is vital to development of language and cognitive skills.

Incorporating these strategies takes a bit of focused effort at first, but with time you’ll discover it’s easy to take advantage of these “teachable moments” and notice your child’s language improving as well as your relationship!   

  1. MEAL TIME: Have your child in the room with you while you are preparing meals so they can watch and participate in the activities. Use this time for conversation and focused language practice: . 
  • RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE ACTIVITIES: Depending on your child’s age and ability level, they can work on following directions when you ask them to get out certain items (for example: “get out your green cup”, “put the napkin on the table”) or you can give 2-step directions such as “get the green cup and put it on the table”.  If your child is younger, you can hand him/her the napkin and help them put it on the table while you are telling them the directions.  
  • VOCABULARY ACTIVITIES: While you are working in the kitchen and preparing meals, talk to your child as much as you can.  Explain what you are doing, label the items/foods/actions you are doing while you are doing them, talk about colors and sizes of things you are using, and work on sequencing by talking through the steps you are taking to prepare the meal.  
  • EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE ACTIVITIES: Ask your child questions while you are working in the kitchen.  You can ask him/her to label items, ask him/her to tell you where things go, given him/her an object and have him/her tell you about it (size, color, etc), or ask your child to tell you what you are doing as you do things (washing, cutting, cooking, etc). 

 

2.  BATH TIME: This is another great time to get some language and conversation going with your child.  As with the meal time ideas, you can work on vocabulary by labeling objects, actions and the steps to getting bathed (before, during and after).  You can ask questions to work on that expressive language at whatever stage your child is at (labeling, combining 2-3 words, producing sentences).  Receptive language can be addressed by asking your child to point to body parts, follow 1-2 step directions (ie., give me the blue toy, put the toy in the cup and give it to me, etc), or asking your child questions about what you are doing.  This is also a great time to sing songs and have your child help you by filling in the words/phrases he/she knows in the songs.  

3. MORNING AND NIGHTTIME ROUTINES: These routines are a great source of language and interactions for you and your child.  This is another time where you can work on vocabulary related to the routine, sequencing the steps you take to get ready, asking who/where/when questions about the routine and objects involved (“Where do you keep your toothbrush?”, “Who should brush their teeth first?”, “When do we put on our pajamas?”) or asking your child about their day.  Encourage expression by asking for specifics such as “Tell me something you had fun doing today” instead of asking “what did you do today?” Remember that listening to your child is as important as speaking to your child! 

Tammy Masciola, Speech Therapist

Sometimes as parents we get caught up in “getting through” the daily routines and all of the things we have to do that we forget that these are opportunities for quality time with our children.  We can make these times more enjoyable for ourselves as parents and help our children develop many skills as they participate in or watch the routines we go through during our day. Be creative, have fun and enjoy your time with your child as they learn and communicate with you! ~ Tammy Masciola, MA, CCC-SLP/L

Winter/Spring Social Skills Groups now open!

Enrollment is now open for  social skills groups! For children from 5-10 years old, Social STEPS for Kids will meet for 4 weeks, February 21 through March 14th followed by a 6 week session from April 4 through May 9th.   Led by a speech-language pathologist, this group is a great way to help your child build confidence and skills for social interactions. Check out the details then contact us to enroll your child today!

Social STEPS for Kids Group A: For ages 5-7years

Session 1A: Saturdays, 10:00-11:00 am; February 21 through March 14, 2015

Session 2A: Saturdays, 10:00-1100 am; April 4 through May 9, 2015

Group B: For ages 8-10 years

Session 1B: Saturdays, 11:00-12:00 am; February 21 through March 14, 2015

Session 2B: Saturdays, 11:00-12:00 am; April 4 through May 9, 2015

Cost per 4 week session 1A or 1B :  $120

Cost per 6 week session 2A or 2B: $180

Please note: Social Skills groups are not billable to insurance. Payment is due in full prior to the first session. No refunds on individual missed sessions or after the date of first session. STEPS for Kids reserves the right to reschedule sessions missed due to therapists’ absence or other extenuating circumstances.  

Groups will be led by Amy McDowell, MS, CCC-SLP/L. Amy has experience in clinic, home and school settings, providing both individual and group therapy to children from infants to adolescents. Amy uses play based therapy to facilitate speech and language skills development. She recognizes the individual differences of each child and tailors her approach to best meet each child’s needs within the group setting.

To register for a social skills group, please contact our office at 630-552-9890 or email us at info@rightstepsforkids.com with the subject line “social skills”.

NEW! Story Time Language Group

Our newest group is now enrolling!

Designed for children who are in Pre-K or Kindergarten, the Story Time Language Group meets one time a month to help children develop language skills through reading and themed activities. Each month will include reading a story together and then completing social and craft activities related to the theme that help develop language skills such as phonological awareness (rhyming and sounds), sequencing, categorization, vocabulary,  following directions and more.

Story Time Language Group is led by Amy McDowell, MS, CCC-SLP/L, speech language pathologist. Amy has over three years experience working with children in clinic, home and school settings.  She has special interest in literacy and language skills as well augmentative communication. Amy provides speech therapy services at STEPS for Kids and also runs our social skills groups.

This group meets on Saturday mornings from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm (see full schedule below) and enrollment is available on a monthly basis. Sign up for one, two, four or all nine group meetings!

2014 Dates/Themes

September 20:  Fall Fun

October 25:  Halloween

November 22:  Thanksgiving

December 13: Christmas

2015 Dates/Themes

January 17:  Winter Fun

February 14: Valentine’s Day

March 14: St. Patrick’s Day

April 18:  Springtime Fun

May 16:  School’s Out for Summer

NOTE:  Children must be able to communicate their needs independently (with assistive device if needed) and must be able to attend to group activities without one-on-one supervision (unless parent stays for duration of the group meeting).  Group enrollment is 3 minimum (for each session to run) and 6 maximum.  No refunds are provided for missed sessions.  STEPS for Kids reserves the right to reschedule meeting dates/times due to therapist absence or extenuating circumstances such as inclement weather. 

Group Cost:  $20 per group meeting;  $160 for all nine sessions

Payment is due in full at time of registration.

Call the office at 630-552-9890 or email info@rightstepsforkids.com with the subject line “Story Time” to register for Story Time Language Group today!

Kids at Work: What OT for kids is all about

April is National Occupational Therapy Month; a time to raise awareness of what OT is all about.  OTs work with persons with disabilities to improve functional skills and participation in daily tasks.  Pediatric occupational therapy is a specialty area of practice that addresses child development, activity participation and performance skills so that children with disabilities can achieve their highest level of independence and success in daily activities.

Occupational Therapy derived its name from the use of “occupation” to refer to the roles, routines and activities that we engage in.   A child’s primary occupations include those of family member (son/daughter, sibling, etc), student or learner, friend and player.  A child may also have occupations such as athlete, musician, artist, caregiver for a pet, babysitter and so forth.  Occupational therapists evaluate a child’s developmental skills and assess strengths/impairments related to their ability to participate in daily activities.  Treatment is designed to help develop skills, adapt the environment, educate caregivers and improve participation in daily activities through the use of purposeful activities that are related to the occupations of the child.  The goal of OT is to help the child progress developmentally and participate in daily occupations to their highest potential.

To the casual observer, a child engaged in occupational therapy may appear to be doing nothing more than playing.  This is because a child’s primary occupation is that of “player.” It is through play that young children learn about their world and develop skills for living.   An OT session might involve use of gross motor play like navigating through an obstacle course of climbing, crawling, jumping, swinging and rolling.  Play activities are chosen to address the needs of the child and could include fine motor activities (handling small game pieces), visual motor activities (doing puzzles, drawing), or social interaction (turn taking in a game, compromising to choose play activities).  An OT is trained to analyze tasks or activities and choose those that will be motivating to the client, can be adapted to the “just right challenge” and meet therapy goals for improving skills and function.

OT includes using treatment activities to improve skills, teaching family and other caregivers about the child’s needs, educating others about environmental modifications or task adaptations to support the child’s participation and empowering the child and family toward self-advocacy for future needs.  Therapy goals are always directed toward increasing independence not only in a specific task but in the child and family being able to meet their own needs when direct treatment is over.  Treatment in a clinic setting should always be focused on helping the child to attain a level of function where they are able to participate in home and community activities in a more effective manner so that natural developmental processes can take over.

While children may receive OT services in the school setting under an IEP or 504 Plan, it is important to note the differences between OT in an educational setting versus a clinical setting.  In the school, OT is provided to support the child’s participation in school related tasks and all services must relate directly to the child’s needs in the educational setting. Services in the school are likely to target specific skills such as handwriting or producing written work or regulating behaviors and social skills in the classroom.  This is in contrast to clinic based or “private” OT services which are not limited in the same manner. Many children receive school based services but also require additional OT services to address all of their needs.

At STEPS for Kids, our occupational therapists specialize in providing comprehensive developmental services focusing on a child’s strengths to support their skill development in other areas.   Focusing on functional outcomes as identified during the evaluation through assessment and parent interview, our OT staff uses developmentally appropriate activities to engage children in motivating play that encourages active participation and skill acquisition.  We provide parent education and support for understanding the child’s needs, accessing resources and empowering families for the future.

Wondering whether your child may benefit from occupational therapy? STEPS for Kids offers free screenings that will help you know whether a full evaluation is needed.  Please contact us to schedule a screening or ask about our services.  We are happy to discuss your concerns any time.

Looking for more information? The American Occupational Therapy Association has more information about OT as well as tips for many aspects of child development and daily activities.

Happy PT Month! Meet our staff: Julia

October is National Physical Therapy Month! Please take a moment to meet our very own pediatric physical therapist: Julia Slocik.  Julia has been with STEPS for Kids for 2 years.  She is a very valuable member of our staff who brings experience, knowledge and fun to her therapy programs.  Julia is passionate about working with kids and families and especially enjoys working with infants and toddlers!

Julia, PT brings smiles to Physical Therapy at STEPS for Kids

Julia, PT brings smiles to Physical Therapy at STEPS for Kids

Julia graduated from Marquette University with a BS in Physical Therapy in 1992.  Over the last 20 years, Julia has worked in a variety of settings with both children and adults in the fields of orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation.  She has specialized in pediatric rehabilitation for over 5 years and has focused her interests especially in working with infants and toddlers.  She has advanced training in treating the conditions of torticollis and plagiocephaly in infants and is a Certified Infant Massage Instructor.  Her expertise is well utilized when working with young children who have congenital anomalies, birth related orthopedic conditions and generalized developmental delays related to physical development.

Julia’s practice is not limited to babies and toddlers as she also enjoys working with older children who have both orthopedic and neurological conditions.  She has experience working with children who toe walk, have cerebral palsy, show signs of balance and coordination disorders or have hypotonia.  Whether the child was born with a condition that limits physical function or has an acquired limitation due to illness or injury, Julia is able to thoroughly assess performance and address the underlying issues limiting the child’s success.

Julia believes that physical therapy can improve a child’s quality of life by treating the conditions contributing to developmental delays and impeding functional independence. She uses treatment approaches that facilitate full recovery when possible with a goal of returning the child to full activities when there has been an injury or illness.  Her treatment focuses on maximizing abilities within limitations due to chronic illness or condition while helping the family and the child learn how to be proactive in offsetting future issues in physical skills and development.

When working with children, Julia recognizes the importance of treatment designed to meet the needs of both the child and the family. This includes therapy activities that are age appropriate and play based, home activities that are manageable and adapted as needed, referrals to community based services when appropriate and support for concerns that may arise after the child has been released from PT.

If you have concerns about your child’s physical development you can contact your child’s physician and discuss a PT evaluation or contact the clinic to schedule a screening.  We can be reached by phone (630-552-9890) or email (info@rightstepsforkids.com) and we look forward to working with you and your child!

Community Education Series: Fall 2013

We have a great line-up of topics and speakers this fall that you won’t want to miss! FREE programs packed with information for you to put to use immediately with the children in your life!

Next week we are pleased to be hosting Crystal Hoffert, OD and Samantha Hoffert, OVT discussing Vision, Learning and Behaviors.  Dr. Hoffert will be explaining what a developmental vision examination includes, how motor control of the eyes and visual processing impact learning, motor skills and behaviors and what vision therapy is.  She and Ms. Hoffert (vision therapist) will be answering your questions about vision and how to determine whether visual problems may be contributing to your child’s difficulty at home or school.

October 8th we will be presenting our “Is It Sensory or Is It Behavior?” program, back by popular demand! This program presents an overview of sensory processing disorders, an introduction to “A Secret” that can help you address sensory processing issues during daily activities and challenge you to think about your child’s behavior from a new perspective.  Wondering if your child is having a tantrum or meltdown? This program is for you!

November 13th we are excited to host Veronica Lickfelt, LCSW presenting on Childhood Anxiety.  Ms. Lickfelt will be providing parents and professionals with an approach to Stop, Think, Evaluate, Plan and Solve the issue to help your child through difficult times.  If you suspect or know that your child struggles with anxiety you won’t want to miss this talk!

Contact us by phone (630-552-9890) or email (classes@rightstepsforkids.com) to reserve your spot today for these presentations!

If you know someone else who would benefit from this information forward a link to our website (rightstepsforkids.com), share our Facebook page (facebook/rightstepsforkids.com) or print off and share the flyer!

The “eyes” have it! Vision, learning and behavior, oh my!

When it comes to reasons why your child might be struggling with reading or writing, having poor attention in school or exhibiting decreased eye contact, vision problems are an often overlooked possibility.  All children, especially children under the age of 5 years old, should have a developmental vision examination to determine if vision is a part of or even the source of the issues.

We are excited to begin our Community Education Program Fall 2013 Series with a presentation on this important topic.  Dr. Crystal Hoffert of Brenart Eye Clinic in Yorkville will be at the STEPS for Kids clinic on Wednesday September 25th to provide important information about vision.   Dr. Hoffert will talk about common childhood vision problems, how they can impact on learning, behavior and motor development and what can be done to address these vision problems.

Joining Dr. Hoffert will be Samantha Hoffert, Vision Therapist at Brenart Eye Clinic. Vision therapy provides structured exercises and activities designed to improve a person’s ability to control fine movement of the eyes, selectively focus on visual targets, use the eyes together in a coordinated and functional manner and process visual information more accurately and efficiently.  Vision therapy is sometimes prescribed as part of the total plan for remediation of visual deficits which may also include prescription glasses, patching either eye during activities, home exercises and activities and sometimes coordinating efforts with Occupational Therapists and teachers to support the child’s success in learning.

If you would like to learn more about vision and how it may be affecting your child then please join us on September 25th at 7:00 pm for this information filled program.  This program is offered by STEPS for Kids as a community service and is FREE for parents and professionals. Space is limited so registration is required.  Download or print a flyer for more information and to share with others.

Contact us by phone (630-552-9890) or email (classes@rightstepsforkids.com) to register and reserve your spot for this program.  We look forward to seeing there!

Nutrition, Behaviors, Learning and Health

Back in June we had the pleasure of hosting Heather DeGeorge, CHC/AADP, PMP at the clinic talking about how what we eat really does matter.  The information she shared with us brought new meaning to the old saying “you are what you eat.”  I am looking forward to having Heather back in the future to talk more about this topic but for those of you who missed her presentation, here is an overview of how nutrition can impact development, learning, behaviors and health.  I’ve used some of Heather’s information and added some from other sources.  This information is provided as an educational tool only and you should consult with your physician before making any dietary changes for you or your child.

1. FOOD MATTERS!

Physical growth, development, emotional balance and well-being are driven by what we eat.  How our body uses and responds to the food we ingest influences all aspects of our being.   Some people experience reactions to food that may or not be true allergies but influence our health significantly.  Food intolerance can trigger immune system responses and metabolic disorders or disruptions can result in the body’s inability to use food efficiently for energy and growth.  Sometimes our bodies are unable to handle the food substance but sometimes it is related to what has been added to the foods when processed.  Understanding how one’s body reacts to various foods or additives is imperative to understanding how to correct the issue.  Allergy testing may be inconclusive or inaccurate and is not typically recommended for young children.  Assessment through elimination diets can be helpful and other testing can be completed by your doctor.

2.  Nutrition issues can produce or contribute a wide variety of symptoms.

The following behavioral and developmental challenges are worth attempting to correct through modifications to diet or nutritional supports.  You should consult with your physician if you believe that any of these issues present in your child may be influenced by dietary concerns.

3.  Changes to dietary intake and nutritional supports can sometimes improve symptoms. (Always consult with your physician prior to making dietary changes)

  • Eliminate the problematic food ingredient, whether naturally occurring or added through processing.  The most common irritants are diary, soy, gluten and food preservatives and dyes.
  • Use dietary changes to balance blood sugar. Improve the balance of fats, carbohydrates and proteins in each meal (including snacks) for better metabolism and use of food energy.
  • Use dietary supplements when appropriate to address nutritional deficits.

When we are trying to determine how to support behavioral, learning and developmental challenges, it is important to consider the food we eat as one possibility influencing these areas.  While food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances are not always the answer for every case, they can be one part of the puzzle.  Often overlooked and underestimated, the impact of food should always be considered when assessing our children’s developmental challenges.  Changing diet and helping picky eaters is the next challenge. We’ll talk about that soon!

Eating right for behavior, learning and development

Please join us on Monday June 3rd at 7:00 pm for a presentation on healthy eating and how food can impact behaviors, learning and development.  We are happy to host Heather DeGeorge presenting “Healthy Eating for Developmental and Behavioral Challenges” and invite you to join us for this information packed evening.

Heather DeGeorge, CHC/AADP, PMP has worked in private practice as a health and wellness coach and is committed to helping individuals and families improve their health and change their lives by addressing nutritional issues.  Heather has followed a long personal journey into health, first with her own needs and then with those of her developmentally delayed son.  Drawn to learn more about the impact of nutrition on overall health, Heather now teaches others about how true it is that “you are what you eat.”

On June 3rd, Heather will be talking about the complex relationship between food, digestion, allergies, neurological system function and the immune system. She will discuss researched based ways to put changes in place that can help your child eat healthier and change their behaviors while supporting healthy development.  Come learn how food may be influencing your child from within and, more importantly, how you can make changes for the better!

This class is FREE but registration is requested. Please contact us at the clinic by phone or email to register today!  630-552-9890  OR  classes@rightstepsforkids.com

Toddlers, Tantrums and Transitions

One of the biggest challenges in parenting young children is helping them move smoothly from one developmental stage to the next.  Change can rock anyone’s boat, especially for children who may not have the skills in place to handle the demands of change.  When your child has exceptional needs, the challenge for parents includes adapting your techniques to fit each child’s needs.  Parents often discover that what worked for one isn’t working for the next.  A daunting task, indeed. Who said parenting was going to be easy?!

If you are looking for support and guidance to navigate the milestones of giving up a pacifier, moving your toddler into a “big bed”, potty training and more, we have information just for you!  We are pleased to welcome Dana Burke, M.S.Ed, BCBA of ABC Moms, Inc presenting on Tuesday, May 7th, 7:00 pm at the clinic on this very topic.  Leading Through Life Transitions will focus on the importance of routines and give you practical strategies for helping children cope with the changes brought on by growing up.

Dana has presented at STEPS for Kids before, sharing insight and wisdom about the most important tips for parenting.  With a professional background in speech/communication, special education and behavior management, and her own parenting experiences, Dana’s presentations are chock full of strategies and techniques that are immediately applicable in your “every day.”  Dana will share proven ways for you to maintain a calm and cooperative atmosphere in your home.

This program is part of our Community Education Spring 2013 series and is FREE to both parents and professionals.  Registration is requested as space is limited. Please call or email us to register today!  630-552-9890  OR  classes@rightstepsforkids.com