Mommy Mondays: Reading to Your Child

Monday, January 20, 2020
Reading books is a staple in our nightly routine. It's just something we have always done and always loved. In fact, reading for 20 minutes each night is the only homework assignment my kids receive on a regular basis. Research has shown that kids that read 20 minutes each day score higher on tests and are exposed to more vocabulary than those who don't. Children learn almost half of the words they are exposed to during shared book reading. A study in 2017 showed that children learn just as much from books read to them by their parents as they do from books read to them by a teacher.

As a therapist, when parents ask me what they can do at home to improve their child's language, I always say to play and to read. Reading exposes children to language rich experiences. Lots of new vocabulary, dialogue, social skills, letter names, letter sounds, and problem solving situations.... just to name a few. 

To some of us, reading a book to our kids is something that comes easy. Our kids love reading and snuggling up with a good book. But for others, it's a battle. Either the child doesn't want to sit still long enough to read or the parent is a little intimidated about how to read to their child. But here is a little secret... to start your child's love for books, you don't have to always read the book. Simply let them hold the book, flip through the pages, look at the pictures, and talk about what you see. Eventually your child will have the attention span to enjoy an entire story, but if he or she is not there yet, it's ok!

I created a cheat sheet that will hopefully give you some useful tips and tricks to use while reading with your little ones! Included in the handout is information on book orientation, vocabulary, ideas to make reading fun, as well as information on asking and answering questions (with age appropriate suggestions). I hope you find this helpful. Happy Reading!!
       

You can download a copy of this FREE handout, here!








Why You Should be Crossing Midline in Speech

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
One of the things I love about our field, is the ability to work so closely with other professionals. Over the past 10 years I have worked very closely with occupational therapists and the children we share. I have learned SO much from them and love watching them work. It's always fun to me when I am co-treating with another OT, seeing one of the activities they do with a student and thinking AH HA! I will add that in with (insert speech activity here) next week! I feel like I am always learning and growing from our OT's!
One of the things I learned from occupational therapists (and those fabulous COTA's) is how important crossing midline is to development. If "midline" isn't a term that's familiar to you, it's basically an imaginary line from your head to your toes, right down the middle of your body. Kids who avoid crossing midline often have learning and motor difficulties because of the lack of integration between both sides of the brain. This is a really great blog post from the OT Butterfly about how midline develops, why it's important, and how to tell if your child isn't crossing midline.

Adding activities that allow kids to cross midline during speech therapy isn't hard. In fact, it gets them moving and adds a lot of fun to therapy sessions while encouraging integration of both sides of the brain. Here are a few ideas to add this skill to your bag of SLP ticks!


  • If you're using articulation cards in therapy, put them on the left side of the child but have them reach for each card using his or her right hand. The same concept can be used with blocks or toys. Purposeful placement of items that will get their trunk rotating is key.



  • Exercises! Incorporate exercises into your therapy sessions that cross midline (side bends, windmills, etc.) Do these as a fun warm up before each session or get creative and incorporate some speech activities with these exercises.



  • When I searched Pinterest for some inspiration for activities, many came up that incorporated a figure 8 shape. Whether it's tracing the shape or driving cars on a track that's shaped like an 8, it gives great opportunities to cross midline. Place some articulation cards, vocabulary words, or wh-questions on the track, and work on the goals as you add this important motor skill.



  • When doing cut and paste activities or sorting activities, put the items they need on both sides of their body. Encourage them to cross midline as they reach for the items they need to complete the activity.



  • If you're working in a group, put two students back to back and have them pass a ball (or any object) back and forth. You could easily incorporate speech and language skills into this activity. As the child passes the ball, have them describe the object being passed, name a synonym/antonym for a word given, name items in a category, practice articulation words... there are so many things you could do here!


One important tip I like to give to my interns and SLP's-to-be is to take advantage of the professionals you work with. There will never be a point in your career where you know everything. Stay humble. Learn something new everyday. Take advantage of asking good questions. Use  opportunities to observe. And take what you have learned and incorporate it into your sessions. I know I have said this before, but it takes a village to raise successful kids. Let's use that village to help them reach their goals!!



2019 Our Year in Review

Wednesday, December 18, 2019
I know we say it every year, but I cannot believe another year has come and gone. We just got our family pictures back so I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the past year.
January started out a little scary. Kenzie had been bruising a lot. Large, dark bruises. And we didn't know where they were coming from. We ended up taking her to the pediatrician to get her checked out. They sent us to the local children's hospital for some tests. Scary tests. Thankfully I am close friends with our pediatrician and she didn't tell me all of the tests they were going to run. When all of the the results came back negative (cue the tears of joy) we came to the conclusion that Kenzie had something called childhood idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (or low platelet count). She had to have regular tests done and be followed by the oncology center at All Children's Hospital, but everything was going to be ok. The doctors guessed that a bad virus she had in December attacked her platelets and left her with this condition that caused her to bruise and bleed easily. 
    
        
Thankfully the year was looking up after January. In February, Kameron had his ear tubes removed (if any parent is on the fence about getting tubes, do it. It helped Kameron so much with ear infections, balance, and communication!) Kenzie went to two daddy daughter dances, one with Kevin and one with grandpa & pop pop. And my incredible grandpa turned 90 years young!
In March, Kevin and I were baptized. 
In April, Kenzie turned 7. 
In May, she lost her first tooth!

In June Kameron turned 4, both kids performed in the dance recital this year (gracing the same stage I had years ago), and we visited Cincinnati for our God daughter's high school graduation. She is now living here and is a USF Bull!! 

In September, Kenzie finally mustered up the courage to get her ears pierced! But of course, in true Kenzie fashion, it came with a huge audience and lots of tears. 


In October I turned 35. This year I have learned a lot about myself. I finally feel comfortable in my own skin and have more confidence now than I ever have. I learned that's its okay to ask for help and it's okay to not be okay. After a retinoid toxicity in April, I have tried really hard to detox our home and our lifestyle (not counting the wine and white claw, of course!)  For me, 2019 has been a lot about essential oils, yoga, reading (I actually accomplished my goal of reading a book a month!), and learning how to say the word, "No." 


Kevin is killing it at work. His radio show consistently comes in rated at first or second place. He also does a hysterical YouTube channel and radio show called Three Dads & a Minivan. Kenzie had so much fun this year with Girl Scouts and dance. She was chosen to be in a dance calendar for a local dance wear company. Kameron participated in both t-ball and soccer. 
This year we have been blessed, to say the least. I cannot wait to see what 2020 has in store for us. Thanks for being a part of our journey! Happy Holidays from my family to yours.... see you in the new year!!


Photography credit: Photos by Erika Johnson

Articulation Cut & Paste!

Thursday, December 5, 2019
Raise your hand if you have a lot of students on your caseload that need hands on activities to keep themselves focused during speech? I try to incorporate movement and fine motor opportunities as frequently as I can in my therapy sessions. Research has shown that movement increases blood and oxygen flow which positively affects cognitive development. Plus, how many little ones can sit still at a table for 60, 45 or even 30 minutes?
 Because of all the wiggles I was getting, I decided to create a new cut and paste articulation packet for my students. Each page has a visual for mouth placement for correct production. I find this very helpful during sessions to point to as a reminder during practice. 
 Each page has 10 target words for each articulation sound. I purposely chose 10 words to make it easier to get to 100 repetitions before the activity is finished! (Research has shown that a high number of trials is needed to have success in therapy sessions) Have your student practice the word 5 times before they color it and 5 more times before he/she pastes it. You can even add 5 more in there before the child cuts the pictures out!
 There is a version of this activity for readers and a version for non-readers. The reader version includes words and pictures. The non-reader version is pictures only. This will help your students feel a little more independent when completing this! 
 This packet can be used in individual therapy, group therapy, or even sent home for homework. I have it available in my TpT store now. I can't wait to hear what your students think of it!
Click on the image below to see this activity in my store!

Carrying Over Goals to Every Part of Your Students' Day!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Let's chat goals today. The expected (hoped and prayed for) end result for all goals is always carryover into real life situations. We want out student to be able to take what they have learned out of the speech room and into the classroom. Use at lunch. In music class. At baseball practice. But how can we really do our best to make sure that carryover happens?

In 2012 I attended a summer workshop that discussed the idea of an embedded goals chart. The idea behind this is that a child's goals are cross referenced with every activity in their day to see where they can carryover these goals outside of the speech room.

Here is how it works:
A table is created that has all of the child's speech goals listed down the side. Across the top of the table, all of the classes/activities that the child is involved in is listed. Put a check mark or an X in every box that would allow the child to somehow carryover that goal during that activity. This chart is something that can easily and discreetly be kept on a coach's clipboard or in a troop leader's folder. The idea is not for the coach to find ways to address these goals at practice, but just to be aware of what he/she is working on. We don't want to create more work for anyone, just create awareness!
How awesome would it be to pick your daughter up from Girl Scouts and hear, "Oh wow, Kenzie really used great /r/ sounds tonight while sharing with the group about her vacation!" or "Amy came up and independently asked me for more paint during our craft activity tonight." This chart can be so powerful and so helpful to our kids with their progress in real world experiences. There are so many missed opportunities to practice what was learned in the day. Even more missed opportunities to celebrate what has been accomplished!

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  I say we use that village to reach goals!
You can download a FREE copy of my chart, here



My August/September Amazon Favorites!

Monday, October 14, 2019
October is here and I am so excited! This is my favorite time of the year. So many fun holiday activities and the weather is just beginning to change. With the start of the school year about 2 months behind us, I finally had time to sit down and compile a list of my recent Amazon favorites for your viewing pleasure! This month was mainly personal items but quite a few that can also be used in therapy... check it out :)
This post contains Amazon affiliate links for your convenience. This means if you purchase something using my link, I may make a small commission. 

First up is this Melissa and Doug cash register. Last week I posted about our grocery store that my kids created in their playroom. This is the cash register I bought them for their store. It works like a real calculator and comes with dollar bills, coins, and a credit card. You can check the whole post out, here.

Next up is a weighted blanket, a chewy jewelry necklace, and a visual timer. Would you believe that none of these items are for work? These 3 items were all purchased for Kenzie, my daughter. She seems to have some difficulty with sensory processing, especially lately, so I bought all of these for her. The necklace is great because it doesn't look like the traditional chewy jewelry. She isn't embarrassed to wear it because there is an adorable unicorn on it! So far it has really helped her at school. 
The Time Timer has been used in the morning when getting ready for school. It's helping both of my kids understand the concept of time better and getting them ready quicker. They know that once the red is all gone on the timer, it's time to get in the car and head to school. They always want to watch TV in the morning so now they can better independently manage their morning without me constantly giving them a countdown. 

Weighted blankets have been proven to help both kids and adults sleep better and reduce stress/anxiety because of the deep pressure it gives. I read a ton of reviews before deciding which blanket to get. I love this one because it comes with a super soft cover and at $39 the price is incredibly reasonable. Kenzie doesn't like it to sleep, but she uses it before bed when reading to calm down and relax before lights out. 
I have still been trying hard to keep my new year resolution of reading a new book a month. This month I have been reading What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst. In this book, Lysa talks about walking in faith and embracing the path He has for you. They say when you make plans, God laughs. It's so true. I am trying to release the control I have on my life and follow the path meant for me. 

Anyone else leopard obsessed right now? I am loving leopard print. Last month I added these leopard sneakers to my leopard collection! They are Dr. Scholl's brand so they are incredibly comfortable. I get compliments on them every time I wear them! 


And last but not least, who doesn't need a wristlet keychain? I was always losing my keys in my therapy bag, so this was my solution! My husband thinks it's ridiculously large but I love it! 

Thanks for reading! If you have any awesome Amazon finds, please share in the comments :)



DIY Grocery Store FUN!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


In a time where tablets, television, and video games are taking over, I love seeing my kids get creative when they play. A few weeks ago, Kenzie had a friend over and they created a grocery store in the back playroom. It was simple and consisted of a sign, some plastic food, and Kameron's tool stand. Over the past few weeks that grocery has grown leaps and bounds. I am so excited to share it with you!

    
Since the day that the grocery store was born, Kenzie and Kameron have been on a constant hunt for more items to add to their store. When the kids were little, we frequented a local children's museum. One of their favorite parts of the museum was the pretend Publix grocery store. The museum used recycled boxes of real grocery store items... anything from cereal boxes to laundry soap. They would wrap them in clear packing tape to give it a little more durability. That inspired me to start saving boxes of food after they were used up. I taped them up a bit and let the kids stock their own shelves! This is a great opportunity to talk to your kids about recycling and how to reuse items at home. 

    
As they got more and more into having their own store, I started looking for items for them. I started sharing their excitement for this mock supermarket! I found a great Melissa & Dough cash register on amazon. It works like a real calculator and comes with play money. I thought this would be a fun way to stat introducing different kinds of money, how to buy with cash (they usually see me using a debit card) and how to make change. A sweet friend of ours spotted this mini shopping cart for us (pictured above) at a local consignment shop and we snagged it right up! (Here is a link to the original one.)
What do you need after you have your grocery store all set up? Customers! The kids created a commercial and had me send it to their grandparents. Wouldn't you know that within the hour the kids had their first customers over shopping away! 
 While creating this grocery store with my kids I couldn't stop thinking about how great this would be for a speech room, a classroom, or for parents to make with their kids at home. It doesn't have to cost a thing, just save up your old food containers and set up shop on the floor or at the table. I love any opportunity I get to share with the families I work with that they don't need fancy, expensive materials to give their kids amazing language opportunities. This grocery store provides a TON of fun learning experiences through PLAY!
- Vocabulary
- Nutrition lessons
- Creating a grocery list
-Memory skills/following directions ("mommy needs cereal, oranges, and juice.")
- Asking questions ("Do you have any....?" "Where is the....?"
-Answering questions
-Social skills (greeting other, asking questions, engagement, etc)
- Food groups
-Health vs unhealthy choices

 Whitney, from WhitneySLP on TpT and the Let's Talk blog created an adorable Grocery Store Dramatic Play printable set that is perfect!! It includes name tags, coupons, signs for each food category, Employee of the Month signs (my kids quickly added their own photos to that one!), grocery lists, open signs, and more!! You can check it out, here.

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