My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child's Language Development {A Book Review}

Saturday, February 28, 2015
I love how social media allows us to meet, communicate, and connect with so many other talented professionals in our field. Over the past few years, I have made so many friends and learned so much through networking and communicating with fellows SLPs online. A few weeks ago, Kimberly Scanlon and I connected on Facebook. If you haven't heard, Kimberly is the author of the book, 
Kimberly was kind enough to send me a copy of her book and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on this book with you all. 
Kimberly did provide me a copy of this book, however, all opinions expressed in this review are mine. This post also contains Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience. 
When I first received this book I was thrilled that it was not huge. I love to read, however, with a child of my own and a second on the way, my leisure reading time is so limited these days. I know that this is also the case for many of the parents and families that we, as therapists, work with. Most of the families I see have multiple children and many with special needs. So easy, straight to the point material is what is often preferred and that is exactly what this book is. 
This book starts off with an introduction and an explanation of how to use this book. I loved the part where Kimberly explains how to incorporate play time into the child's daily routine and that 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted play is ideal. I think that many parents often get overwhelmed and are not always sure how to balance playing with their children, answering work emails, and cooking dinner. They feel like they should be spending hours playing with their children daily when in today's world, with working parents and busy schedules, that's not always possible. 
Next, Kimberly explains language modeling techniques and elicitation strategies. This chapter is perfect for those parents that desperately want to play and learn with their child, but don't really know where to start. She gives examples of self-talk, parallel-talk, sentence completion tasks, how many questions are too many, and how to give choices. Also included in this book are troubleshooting techniques, tips, and things to avoid when playing with your child. 

Next comes my favorite part: Activities! Kimberly lists 19 toy activities and 6 arts and craft activity ideas to do with your child. These activities incorporate toys and/or items most people probably already have around their house such as, puzzles, PlayDoh, dolls, chalk, Mr. Potato Head, puppets, and stickers. For each activity, Kimberly explains the materials you need, how the play routine should begin, what should happen in the middle, and how to wrap it up. She also includes language techniques and tips to keep in mind while using the activity. These activities are amazing for parents, but as a therapist, I enjoyed learning some fun, fresh ideas for my littlest students in this chapter, too! 
In the back of the book, Kimberly includes some charts to help parents track their child's growth, some songs to include in play routines, language development information, tips, and a section to take your own notes. Guess what?! There is also a free Word Tracker app that goes along with this book! You can download that in the iTunes store here!

This book is a dream come true for parents of small children that may need a little extra help with their communication. As therapists, these are often things we know and take for granted. We don't always have the opportunity to stop and explain to our students' parents what we are doing, why we are doing it, and what we will do next. This book however does. I know so many parents that would love to have this book as a guide for helping their toddler communicate!
You can purchase this book on Amazon by clicking on the link below:
But guess what!? Kimberly was so generous that she offered to send another copy of this book to one of you! Enter the giveaway below, I will announce a winner on Friday!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

What I Have Learned About Feeding Therapy in the Last Year

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
For those of you that do not regularly follow my blog, let me give you a little background on myself. My first job out of grad school was in a school setting. I always knew that I wanted to be a school based therapist because I love the school setting. I spent 4 years there until my daughter came along. Luckily in our field, we have many options for work settings. I decided that private therapy was the best option for our family because it allowed me more time with my daughter while still getting to do what I loved. However, being a therapist in a school setting, I was not exposed to many types of therapy, feeding therapy being one of them. Over the last year I have been working with patients that have feeding disorders. This was not an area that I thought I would ever like to practice in, but guess what, I really enjoy it. I wanted to share some things that I have learned through experience over the last year providing feeding therapy because, let be honest, this is not a subject that is touched on enough in grad school. I feel like the things I have learned over the last year can be very helpful to parents dealing with picky eaters at home, which is what this post is all about!
 Before I get started, I want to make a small disclaimer: I am not by any means an expert or feeding therapy pro. I am still learning and have lots of training to complete. Also, I have been working with children that demonstrate feeding aversions.  All children with feeding concerns should be evaluated by a professional to make sure they are able to safely eat. 
The child pictured in this post is my daughter. Please do not copy or use these photos without permission. Last but not least, Amazon Affiliate links are provided in this post for your convenience. 
#1: Feeding Therapy is More than Just Eating!
When you are working with a child that has a feeding disorder, you can't just jump in and expect them to take food from you because you said so or because you will reward them with a sticker. You have to make the child comfortable with food- even to the extent of just being in the same room as certain foods.
Therapy needs to be fun! Color pictures of food. Make food out of Play-Doh
Try incorporating plastic or wooden food into your sessions. Have your child pretend to feed his favorite teddy bear. Contrary to what we all learned growing up, it is OK to play with your food!! 
#2: Patience and Baby Steps are Key!
I have learned that feeding therapy is a marathon type of therapy. Unfortunately, parents are usually so incredibly stressed and worried about their child when therapy first begins. They want immediate results, but it is so important to stress to them that this is a slow process. Like I said earlier, with many children, you just need to make them feel comfortable being around food first. Start with simply touching the food, then moving it to another bowl, followed by giving a piece of food a kiss. All of this may take weeks before the child is comfortable enough to even take a lick or small bite of the food.
Baby steps. 
#3: Bye Bye Bowls and Happy Bowls!
It's very important for kids to trust you when introducing new foods. Having a "bye bye bowl" on the table is so helpful. Once a food is placed into the "bye bye bowl" the child does not have to touch the food again. This is a great way to get the child to make contact with a new food yet trust that you are not going to make them eat it. Tell him that if he licks the food, he can then put it in the "bye bye bowl." This will lower pressure in a stressful situation for the child.
Now "happy bowls" are another story! I like to present small amounts of different foods to my patients in separate bowls. If the child finishes all of the food in one of the bowls, it is a "happy bowl!" Celebrate this happy bowl like it is New Years Eve and the ball just dropped! Happy bowls have been huge motivators for my kiddos, but this is something that gets worked up to after the child is beginning to accept a variety of foods and you are working on increasing the quantity. 
#4: Give the Child Some Control in Their Meal Choices
I have an awesome FREE app on my iPad called Sounding Board that I normally use as an AAC tool with my non-verbal kids in therapy. I have used this app with my feeding kiddos with great results. Take pictures of food options that are readily available and let him/her choose what he/she wants to eat. This way the child feels like he/she has some control over the situation and is more likely to eat what they chose rather than what you put in front of them. 
#5: Food Chaining is AWESOME!
Have you heard of the food chaining theory? I bought the book, Food Chaining: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Feeding Problems, and Expand Your Child’s Diet
 after it was recommended to me by another therapist when I was struggling with getting one of my young patients to try any new foods. This book was written by a team of doctors, SLPs, and OTs. It's based on the theory that you find a similar characteristic in the food(s) that the child already eats to introduce new foods. I learned so much from this book and highly recommend it! 
#6: Parent Support is a MUST!
It doesn't matter how much success you have in a therapy session if the parent will not continue what you are doing at home. All therapy is important for parental involvement, but feeding therapy is critical. Many of these children are underweight and malnourished. It is so important for parents to be involved in the therapy process so they can see what you are doing and how to carry over the consistency into their homes. Also, explain to the parents that food should be something that the child sees more frequently than just in the high chair. Taking their child to the grocery store is a great way to let them help choose their own food and get more exposure. Let him/her help with the cooking. Getting the ingredients out of the fridge, mixing the ingredients together in a bowl, and even setting the table. The more fun you can provide in the whole feeding process, the better it will be for both the parent and the child.

In My APPinion: Sequencing Post Office

Thursday, February 12, 2015
Appy Thursday! A few days ago I posted an app review on a sequencing app by SOAR. Well, today I am back with another sequencing app, Sequencing Post Office by Virtual Speech Center.  I am super excited to share this app review with you because I am sure I am not the only one that could use some new ways to practice sequencing goals. 
Virtual Speech Center did provide me with a copy of this app, however, all opinions expressed in this app are my own. 
Let's get started!
When you first open the app, you are brought to the screen shown above. From this page, you can get information about the app, view student reports, adjust the app settings, or just get ready to play!
Once you hit start, you are prompted to add or choose the students that are working during that session. I really like the fact that this app allows for multiple players, very fitting for school based therapists. 
After you choose the students, you are then prompted to choose which activities your student(s) will complete. You can choose as many or as little as your would like out of the 65 activity options. A few examples include: making a sandwich, brushing teeth, taking a bath, playing baseball, and buying groceries. 

Once you choose your activities and hit next, you are shown pictures that are out of order for an activity. You are able to decide how many sequencing steps you want the student to compete at the top of the screen (2, 3, or 4)  The student is to drag the pictures at the bottom of the screen into the correct numbered order. If the child puts the pictures in the correct sequence order, he/she earns one stamp. 
Once enough stamps are earned, the student(s) get to play a game! A screen shot from the game is pictured above. 
Once your session is completed, the app stores your students' data for future reference. This information can also be emailed, which is great for parent and teacher communication. 
My students and I enjoyed this app. I thought it was a great way for me to both teach and assess sequencing skills. Since it's on the iPad, the kids were excited to work on this skill. They especially loved the fact that they got to play a game once they earned enough stamps. You can download this app for only $4.99 in the iTunes store here!
Thank you Virtual Speech Center for the chance to review this app!

Articulation Necklaces!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015
I feel like I am always on the search for a fun, new way to practice articulation goals with my students. I love doing crafty activities in speech, so when I come across those I feel like I found gold. The kids enjoy them,  crafts seem to elicit a lot of language, and they get to take their hard work home. What's better than that? I created these articulation necklaces as a way to get crafty and allow the kids to wear their hard work to share with others! 
Check out my little Kenzie girl sporting some of my /r/ charms!
I currently have necklaces available for /r/ and r-blends, and /k/, /g/ sounds… but more are in the works! Each packet contains black and white charms with both the word and a picture. I chose to only use black and white pictures to both allow the kids to personalize their necklaces as well as save us all on some color ink!
You can find this growing series of necklaces in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here!
What sounds would you like to see added next?

Valentine's Week in the Speech Room {Giveaway!}

Monday, February 9, 2015
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.
Ohhh love is in the air! It's another week filled with Valentine's Day activities. Check out what we have been up to!
 I cannot let a holiday or theme be celebrated in speech without a book to go with it. 
All of the kids just love Curious George, and this book was no exception. The book contains fun flaps that are great for predicting!
After we read the story, we made Valentine's Day bracelets! I picked up the beads and pipe cleaners in the dollar section at Joann's. I love to stock up on these crafty items because you can use them year round to target so many goals. The kids created their own bracelets (or decided to make them for someone special!) as we targeted their individual goals. For my articulation kids, they got to put on one bead for every 3 targets practiced. For my language kids, they could put a bead on for every item they named in a category, every correct pronoun they used, every question they answered, etc. Really- any goal can be addressed with these! This is always an activity that gets requested again and again. Even the boys like it- most of my boys wanted to make bracelets for their moms or sisters (I know, so sweet, right?!) We got so much skill and drill practice in without them even knowing it! Keep this activity in mind for a data day.
To keep with the monkey theme, we used my Monkey Love Valentine's Day Articulation Unit! This packet is filled with articulation cards, a board game, and homework sheets… that all have an adorable sock monkey theme! 
Want this packet to add to your Valentine's Day bag of tricks? You can download it from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store here or enter the giveaway below!I hope you have a very happy Valentine's week and so much fun celebrating while you make a difference in these kids' lives!

In My APPinion: Step By Step by SOAR Therapy LLC

Thursday, February 5, 2015
Appy Thursday! I hope you all have had a great week… it's almost Friday! I wanted to share a new sequencing app with you called, Step By Step. I have had quite a few students on my caseload with sequencing goals. One problem that I have frequently run into is running out of sequencing activities. I don't want to use the same cards every week with my students because they start to memorize the order the cards go into. So when I was contacted  by SOAR Therapy to review this app, I was very interested in seeing what kind of sequencing activities this app had to offer. 
A copy of this app was provided to me, however, all opinions expressed in this review are my own. 
When you first open the app, you are welcomed by this screen. You are able to create a log in account or continue with the one you are logged into.
From there, you are prompted to choose KIDS or ADULTS. Depending on what category you choose, will determine the sequencing activities you are able to complete. For example, if you choose kids, you are prompted with activities such as: buying a candy bar, cleaning your room, carving a pumpkin, painting a picture, etc. If you choose adults, you are prompted with activities such as: doing laundry, locking a door, ironing a shirt, and telling time. This app comes with 2 activities for both kids and adults. You can purchase additional activities for .99 a piece. 
Below is a screen shot from the Getting Dressed activity. To complete this activity, simply drag the pictures into the correct order to complete the sequence. 
Once your student finishes the activity, he/she is prompted with a score and the option to Try Again or See Results. 
Below is a screen shot from the results page. 

This app was very easy to navigate and figure out without having to watch a video tutorial. I like that there are multiple activities divided into adult and kid categories. The graphics will not make an adult client feel like the are using a child's app, which is a big deal for SLPs working in hospital/rehab settings. I also like that this app keeps a history of each user and their scores. This is great for paperless data collection. Adding a notes section to record specific information about how the client did would be helpful. If you think this app would be something you would like to try, download a free copy from the iTunes store here. Like I said earlier, the free version of this app contains 2 activities for adults and 2 activities for kids. However, if there are specific tasks you want to work on with a student, each additional activity is .99 or $9.99 for a whole category (still very reasonable.) My students love when they have the option to working on a skill on the iPad. Thank you SOAR Therapy for the chance to review this app!

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