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

Tips for IEP Review Time

It’s that time of year when we look forward to the coming of warmer weather and signs of spring.  For some, it’s that time of year for the annual IEP review,  which you may not be looking forward to.  Meeting with school staff, hearing updates on progress and reviewing the written plan can be a daunting process for parents. Here are a few tips to help you navigate through it and be sure your child’s needs are being met.

 Mother and child drawing together1.  Prior to the meeting, review your child’s progress over the last 6 months to a year.  Make notes about skills he’s improved in and what skills need to be addressed.  Not sure about skills? Just look at performance and behaviors.  Is homework easier to complete, with less crying or frustration? Is her handwriting more legible? Does he seem happier heading off to school or are mornings difficult at home because he doesn’t want to go?  Write these things down and bring the list, good and bad, to the meeting.

2.  If you notice positive changes and improvements, tell the staff!  Parents often head into a school meeting armed and ready to fight for their child’s needs and rightly so. You are going to spend a lot of time at this meeting working on problems.  Try to identify an area where your child is doing well and has shown improvements. Educational staff want to hear about your child’s strengths, too. They also want to know when their efforts are working.  Notice that a teacher has spent extra time with him to advance reading skills? Tell them you appreciate that effort.

3.   If there are many issues on your mind, choose one or two to focus on for this meeting.   Sometimes a child’s needs are many. Where to start is overwhelming and it’s difficult to address all the needs at once. It can be more productive to focus on the most crucial need first which can then indirectly address other needs.  Look at your list (see #1) and decide which area is of most concern to you. This allows the team to focus on solutions for the problem that will have the greatest impact on you, your child and your family.  Issues not addressed at this meeting can be tackled at another time.

4.  Take notes or bring a scribe along with you.   It’s always important that you write down your understanding of what is agreed on at the meeting.  Listen to the reports being presented and make notes of your questions for later.  Ask for clarification of actions to be taken or follow up needed and write down the responses.  If it is too much for you to take notes while listening and talking, bring along someone who will be able to do that for you.   There is always a lot of information offered up at an IEP review, especially if it happens to be a three year re-evaluation.  Taking notes means you don’t have to try to remember all that is said and will help you organize your thoughts later.

5.  Ask questions, share your ideas.  You are a part of your child’s educational team. While it often seems like a room full of people telling you all about your child, the IEP process is a team event and that team includes you, the parent.  Your role is not just to receive the information from the staff but to give them information that will help them help your child.  By sharing your concerns and helping them understand your child you help the teachers and support staff better meed your child’s needs.  By asking questions about school performance you may find a way to do things better at home.

6.  Make a connection with one or two members of your child’s team.  Sometimes a child’s team may include just a few people but sometimes there are as many as 10 professionals and paraprofessionals supporting your child’s needs.  While it is hard to be in regular contact with everyone, you can reach out to one or two people who may have the best connection with your child or who are in a position to help the most.  This may be the classroom teacher but may also include the special education case coordinator, the speech therapist, OT or social worker (or other staff member) depending on your child’s needs. As a parent you will have a sense of who connects with your child, that staff person who really understands.  Reach out to this person and stay in contact with them after the meeting.  They can help you advocate for your child to the whole team.

 

 

Sensory Awareness Month: Resources and Support

October is Sensory Awareness Month! A great time to share information and advocate for those with sensory differences and sensory processing disorders which complicate participation in daily activities.  If you are looking for information on sensory processing you can follow our blog right here and follow us on Pinterest.  Here are five other places on the internet to find helpful information:

1) Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation:  This is the premier research and treatment center founded and directed by Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR.   The SPD Foundation and the STAR Center offer cutting edge information and support for parents and children coping with SPD.  Explore the latest research, take a webinar or learn more about signs and symptoms of SPD.

2) The Spiral Foundation:  Another great research and learning center with a focus on educating the community and advocating for people coping with SPD and its impact on daily life.

3) Raising A Sensory Smart Child:  The book authored by Lindsey Biel, OTR/L provides comprehensive information on what SPD is and ways to manage SPD in a variety of settings.

4) Angie Voss, OTR, author of Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signalsprovides resources, tips and information to help with better meeting your child’s needs from a sensory perspective.

5)  Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support website offers a parent’s perspective and lots of tips, strategies and equipment suggestions to guide you through the journey of parenting a child with SPD.

While virtual sites and support are wonderful, sometimes we all need a little more face to face support.  In response to our community, STEPS for Kids is pleased to announce our new SPD Parent & Caregiver Support Group that will be meeting at our Yorkville clinic on Tuesday October 28, 2014 from 7:30 pm until 9:00 pm.   The meeting will be facilitated by STEPS for Kids owner/director, Debra Johnson, MS, OTR/L.  The first meeting will be organized around establishing the needs of our community and setting up regular monthly meetings for supporting parents, caregivers,  children and families affected by SPD and related conditions.

No registration is required for this event but seats are limited.                                          Please call us at 630-552-9890 to reserve your seat today!   You can contact our office with questions or sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about events.

We hope you can join us for our first Parent & Caregiver Support Group and look forward to seeing both new and familiar faces!

NEW: SPD Parent & Caregiver Support Group

STEPS for Kids will be hosting the first Parent & Caregiver Support Group on Tuesday October 28, 2014, from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm.  The group will meet at our clinic in Yorkville and will be a source of support and education for parents and caregivers who are interested in knowing more about SPD and related conditions.

Our first meeting will include an overview of SPD and behavioral issues related to sensory disorders.  We will take time to get to know one another and gather information to help shape the focus of the group so that it meets the needs of those attending.  Facilitated by Debra Johnson, MS, OTR/L, the group will offer an opportunity to connect with others who face similar challenges everyday while learning new skills and strategies to make everyday life easier.

This support group is designed for parents, grandparents, extended family members, foster parents/guardians, teachers and daycare providers.  All who are interested and invested in the care of a child coping with the impact of sensory processing disorder are invited to attend.  The group will be meeting the last Tuesday of each month.  We look forward to providing on-going support for our community members.

There is no registration required to attend but seats are limited. Please contact the office by phone (630-552-9890) or email to let us know if you are planning on attending so we can reserve a seat for you.

SPD Parent & Caregiver Support Group

Tuesday October 28, 2014           7:30 pm until 9:00 pm

STEPS for Kids, Inc  1555 Sycamore Rd. Yorkville, IL  60560  P: 630-552-9890

 

Snow Day? ‘Sno problem! (Tips and activities for when it’s cold outside)

The sun did not shine. It was too cold to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, snowy day (to paraphrase Dr. Seuss).  If you have read The Cat in the Hat, then you know how that day turned out! Don’t let your home get turned upside down when the weather doesn’t cooperate with heading outside.  Here are some suggestions for enjoying your forced retreat indoors.

Getting through the day

1.  If your child is accustomed to using schedules at home and school don’t forget to put one in place for an unexpected day at home.  A child who benefits from structure can need it even more on a day when everything is topsy turvy and the usual schedule doesn’t apply. Having the comfort of a picture schedule, the reassuring routines and familiar activities to rely on can make the difference between a meltdown and smooth transitions.

2.  If your child is able to handle a less structured atmosphere then let your routine relax a bit.  Stay in pajamas longer – or even make it a pajama day!  When snow days start piling up you can put some routine back in to the day. While an occasional lazy day with not much of a routine can be a mini stay-cation, too many days without routine can wear on everyone.  Just keeping a list of things that must be done every day can help keep enough structure to help some children stay on track.

3. When making a schedule for the day be sure to allow time for free play (child’s choice), parent time, family time and alone time. When everyone is cooped up together it’s important to remember that even the littlest ones need a little time to retreat and re-energize on their own.  Provide a list of “approved activities” for children to choose from or ask your kids what they want to do. You might be surprised with the ideas they come up with!

4. Relax your expectations for the day.  It’s perfectly fine if you spend the day playing and the laundry doesn’t get done or if your child just can’t focus on the homework due next week.  When there’s novelty in the air (or snow drifting past the window!) it can be hard to stick with what “should” be done.  Relax. It will get done tomorrow.

Activities for Indoor Fun With the Kids

1. Snuggle on the couch and watch a movie you’ve not had time for.

2. Read out loud, share picture books, listen to audio books together.

3. Put on music and sing, dance, jump and shout!  Share the music you grew up with, listen to different kinds of music, make your own music with homemade instruments or just bang on a pot, clang some pan lids or tap spoons together!

4. Write a silly story: One person starts with an opening sentence. Everyone takes turns adding a sentence until the story is complete. Do this out loud with Mom or Dad acting as scribe for the story. When it’s finished the kids can draw illustrations to go with the story!

5. Have an indoor picnic: Involve the kids in making a menu and packing the food up to take it to another part of the house for a picnic.  Pretend you are on a hike and walk around the whole house to find the perfect picnic spot. Spread a blanket and enjoy!

6. Make an obstacle course, play outdoor games indoors, do Olympic training.  Use furniture, cushions, painters tape on the floor, blankets over chairs or tables, to make an obstacle course for the kids to maneuver.  Use the tape to make hopscotch on the floor and use beanbags or checkers for stones. Do strength and balance training with some simple exercises or your video game console.

7. Build a fort! Use your chairs, blankets, clothespins or tape to create a tent. Add tunnels by putting chairs in a line.  If you plan ahead and save some big boxes you can cut out windows and let the kids decorate the boxes then put them together to build a hide out, connecting to make tunnels and separate rooms if you have enough boxes!

8. Make a craft.  Cut out snowflakes, make cards for each other, make placecards for the dinner table, make a collage picture,

9. Play a game. Go through the closet and pull out those board games you haven’t played in years or maybe haven’t opened. Teach your children a simple card game like War.  Show older children how to play old fashioned solitaire.

10. Involve the kids in meal preparation. Take time to let your children participate in making meals at whatever level they are able. Let them experiment in the kitchen; taste raw ingredients, use measuring tools, mix foods together, decorate baked goods, and sample finished products. Find a new recipe and make a new treat or meal.

11.  Play on the internet with new websites, games and activities. There are so many options, many of them free. Take a little time to find something new, research a topic your child is passionate about and find new resources, find the answer to one of your child’s tough questions or play a game together.

12. Skype! Use Skype to connect with family and friends when you can’t get there yourself! My children love to use Skype to chat with their friends and family, sharing conversation, showing things they have made and talking about not much of anything at all. The “face time” is great for staying connected when cold and/or distance keeps you apart.

Childhood Anxiety: Taking the right STEPS

Do you know a child who seems worried, struggles with perfectionism  or relies heavily on routines and rituals throughout the day?  These behaviors could be a sign of anxiety.  Anxiety is a normal part of child development and is typically present at different stages during a temporary phase (think of stranger anxiety or separation anxiety).  Knowing how to navigate these normal phases is hard for parents but the situation is even more difficult when the child suffers from an anxiety disorder.  Please join us on Wednesday November 13th at 7:00 pm to discuss this very important issue and learn how you can support your child through anxiety.

Veronica Lickfelt, LCSW will be at our clinic in Yorkville to talk about the signs and symptoms of anxiety, what constitutes a disorder and what treatments are available for children.  She will present her own approach of taking STEPS to Stop, Think, Evaluate, Plan and Solve the issue.  Veronica is the co-founder of Innovative Behavioral Health in Oswego and Naperville.  She works as a clinician with both children and adults and has an extensive background working with children and teens in both community and school based programs. Veronica’s approach incorporates interventions from a variety of sources and she tailors her services to meet the needs of the child and family.  Veronica understands the needs of children, including those with autism and sensory processing disorders or sensory sensitivities.

Childhood anxiety can be present in many different forms and understanding when troubling behaviors are signs of anxiety is the first step toward getting help for your child and for the family.  Children who suffer from anxiety struggle with participating in daily activities and their behaviors can be disruptive for the whole family.  Sorting out what behaviors might be the result of anxiety and what might be the cause of the anxiety are the first steps to finding workable solutions for coping with anxiety and related disorders. Once you understand how anxiety can be impacting your child then you can take the next steps to provide support and help your child be successful.  Veronica will help to sort through some of these questions and provide some guidelines for how you can help your child at home and school.

Please join us for this last Community Education program of the Fall 2013 series.  The program is FREE but registration is required.  Please contact us by phone (630-552-9890) or email (classes@rightstepsforkids.com) to reserve your spot today for this very important evening!

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

Community Education Spring Series Continues!

It was great to see such a wonderful group of parents and professionals at our program on April 3rd.  We are pleased to be continuing our Community Education programs with two more presentations coming up in May and June.

On May 7, 2013 we will be hosting Dana Burke, MS, Ed, BCBA  from ABC Moms, Inc in Naperville.  ABC Moms provides parenting support for families from the newborn years through teens. Dana is a board certified behavior analyst and specializes in infant care. She also has experience as a speech therapist assistant, educator and parent which provide her with a rich perspective when helping families.   Dana will be speaking about helping children through transitions and offer insights and tips for making changes such as potty training, sleeping in a “big bed”, getting rid of the pacifier, and more.  Read more about the program and call or email us to register!

On June 3rd, Heather DeGeorge, CAC/AADP, PMP will be here to talk about how nutrition affects behaviors and development.  Heather is a health and wellness coach who provides support for individuals and families who are looking for answers to health and nutrition related issues.  Heather brings personal experience, her own journey and that of her son, and a wealth of professional knowledge to the topic of how food and nutrition impact our behaviors, learning and health.  Join us to learn how food can impact the neurological and immune systems, how it can cause health issues and behavior challenges and how you can support your family toward changes that make a difference!  Read more about the program and call or email us to register!

These presentations are FREE and open to the public but space is limited.  Contact us at 630-552-9890, email us at classes@rightstepsforkids.com to register today!

New Community Education Program! Is It Sensory or Is It Behavior?

STEPS for Kids is again offering Community Education programs at the clinic!  Join us on Wednesday April 3rd to explore one of the most often asked questions related to SPD: Is It Sensory or Is It Behavior?   You can read some thoughts on this topic here and learn more about the presentation here.

Geared toward both parents and professionals, our Community Education programs are designed to provide practical information for improving the daily lives of children and their families.  This presentation if FREE to the public but registration is required.  Please register by contacting the clinic by phone (630-552-9890), FAX (630-552-9891) or Email ( classes@rightstepsforkids.com )

Choosing the “Just Right” Toys

‘Tis the season for kids wishing, gift giving and shopping!  Lots of parents at our clinic ask for help in choosing toys.  It’s wonderful when you can find that perfect toy that not only meets the child’s wishes but also supports developmental skills – a magical combination, indeed!  So, just in time for your holiday shopping, here are a few tips for finding that special something for your special someone.

1.  Consider you child’s strengths and struggles to choose toys that are best for his or her needs.  Think about what your child loves as well as how your child is able to play with a toy.  Make a list with three categories: What the child loves (interests, motivators, etc), what the child is good at (skills), and what the child needs to work on (weakness, delays).  Then find a balance by providing toys that address each category.  Be sure your child has toys that can be used easily and independently as well as toys that require a little help and present the “just right challenges” in play without frustrating the child.

2.  Pay attention to recommended ages for toys and consider your child’s developmental levels to get a good match.   Remember that a child’s skill levels may be scattered among different developmental areas. For example, your 6 year old may be incredible at doing puzzles and can handle those indicated for ages 10 and up.  But the same child may  struggle with gross motor skills and do better with those types of toys that are recommended for ages 3-5 years.  Remember to advise family and friends of any discrepancies or needs in this regard lest they generalize that your child needs the same level of toys across the board.

3.  Think about how the toy is used and how much flexibility is inherent in the toy related to what your child enjoys and what you want to encourage developmentally.  The best deals for your money are those toys that offer a lot of flexibility in terms of how it can be used. This may mean that the toy can be adapted for play in different ways (for example, modifying board games to simplify rules) or whether the toy addresses many developmental areas.

4.  Make sure that your child’s toys include a variety that provides for quiet time, social interaction, pretend play, motor skills development (gross motor and fine motor), cognitive and perceptual (visual) skills development.  Sometimes children will get “stuck” and ask for only one kind of toy or toys with a very specific focus, such as trains or a favorite movie. It’s up to us as parents to help guide those choices, providing the right mix of toys that open up opportunities for new experiences and learning.

If you are looking for some resources beyond amazon.com or your favorite department stores, here are four sites I love for toy shopping:

Toys R Us has a wonderful Differently-Abled Toy Guide

Achievement Products has a wide variety of toys and gift ideas for special needs

Constructive Playthings has lists by type of toy, age or skill

Fat Brain Toys are wonderful products and they provide a detailed list of toys for special needs.