Friday, August 24, 2012

Ideas for Practicing Spatial Concepts “In/On/Under”

Our speech-language pathologists often help children with the spatial concepts "in," "on," and "under." Here are ways to practice the words with your child at home:

1.) Clean Up: While cleaning up toys, put toys in, on, and under the box. Sing a modified version of the clean up song:

 “Clean up, clean up,
Everybody everywhere,
Clean up, clean up,
Put the (name of toy) in/on/under the box.”

You and your child can take turns telling each other where to put the toy. Then you can ask your child where the toy is. This can be a silly game since you are putting toys on and under the box when they are supposed to go in the box.

2.) Hide and Seek: take turns hiding your child’s favorite toys. Hide the toys in, on, and under various locations at home. Then find the toys and talk about where the toys were hidden. Also, you and your child can take turns hiding yourselves in, on, and under various places at home.

3.) Be silly: Whenever the opportunity arises in which an item (food, toy, garbage, etc.) is supposed to go in, on, or under, be silly and pretend that you are going to put it in the wrong place. For instance, when throwing away garbage, say that you are putting the garbage under the garbage can because that’s where it’s supposed to go. No! Where does it go? It goes in the garbage can!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ideas for Practicing Pronouns “I/You” in Daily Routines and Play

Here are some strategies and activities to try at home to help your child practice the "I" and "you" pronouns.


  • Model the language that you want your child to use; speak from his/her perspective. 
  • Use a pointing gesture.  At first, take your child’s hand and have him/her point to himself/herself while you say “I.” Make his/her hand point to you while saying, “You.”
  • Fade out the models/cues over time.  For instance, have your child independently point to himself/herself while saying “I” and independently point to you while saying, “You.” Later fade out the pointing cue altogether.
Activities to try at home:

1.)    Have a picnic/teaparty with pretend food. Set up bowls in front of you and your child. Take a single food out of the bin and ask, “Who wants ______?” For example “Who wants a banana?” Your child says either “I do,” or “You do.” Model what your child should say and use gestures.  For instance, take your child’s hand and have him/her point to himself/herself while you say “I do.”  Take his/her hand and have him/her point to you while you say, “You do.”

2.)    While reading a book, pause each time before you turn a page. Ask, “Who will turn the page?” Your child responds either “I will,” or “You will.” Give him/her a choice between the two options.  For example, ask him/her “I will or you will?” Hold your child’s hand and point to him/her while saying, “I” and make him/her point to you while saying, “You.”

3.)    When making a puzzle, take out all of the pieces and put them in a container.  Your child decides who gets to pick out a piece.  Ask your child, “Who picks a piece?”  Your child responds, “I pick” or “You pick.” Again, model the responses and use gestures.

4.)    Share a snack, such as crackers, from the same container.  Ask your child, “Who wants a cracker?” Have your child respond either “I want one” or “You want one.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Home Fluency Recommendations: A Parent's Guide

Wondering how you can help improve your child's fluency at home? Here are some strategies you can use:

One factor which may affect fluency is the rate at which the child and those around him talk. Often times, children try to talk fast to keep pace with the adult’s rate of speech. When children hurry, especially if they are only two, three or four years old, they often repeat and hesitate because their tongues, lips and jaws simply cannot move as quickly in a coordinated manner. That said, if the adult attempts to slow their rate of speech, your child may naturally slow his rate to match that of the adult. 

Young children’s disfluencies have been known to increase with the more questions they are asked. Much of adults’ verbal communication with children is question-asking in nature. Questions put children ‘on the spot’ to elicit a response. That said, try to reduce by the number questions you ask by 50%. Rather, try “commenting” on what your child is doing. For example: Wow, that ice cream must taste so good! Rather than, “Is that ice cream good?” Also, be sure to leave silences, rather than feeling the need to talk consistently.

Avoid putting your child “on display” by asking them to perform for others. Examples include: “Tell Grandpa what you got for your Birthday,” Or “Tell Mom what we did today.” Alternatively, you might retell the story and allow your child to contribute when/if he wants.

For children as young as three, disfluencies may decrease on occasion if adults echo a portion of what they have just said rather than engage them in a conversation. Please note: if your child stutters, simply echo fluently what he said without calling his attention to the stuttering. The suggestion would be that only the two parents do some echoing and plan to stop the echoing gradually in one to two months. However, if the child responds negatively to the echoing or considers such to be teasing, discontinue this strategy immediately.

Children’s disfluencies may increase when they try to get us to listen to them. Many young children want us to look at them and want to be able to see our eyes when they talk. They do not want us to continue with our activity of the moment, such as fixing a meal or reading as we listen. They would like 100 percent of our attention. If it isn’t possible to give your undivided attention at the moment, ask your child to wait a moment.

For some children ages 2 to 4 years, disfluencies appear to occur to their stage of language development, at least in part. The child is learning new words and linking them together in sentences. Children often are disfluent at this stage of vocabulary acquisition and language formulation. Your goal as a parent is to reduce language development pressure. You can enjoy being together without trying to “teach” or “direct.” For example, try table top crafts or sand box activities, or an activity that lends itself to ‘doing’ without feeling a need to talk constantly. Therefore, the focus is shifted on the activity itself, rather than the speech.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pragmatics - Social Language Use and Tips

A child may have perfect articulation and grammar but still have a communication problem if he or she has not mastered the rules of pragmatics, or social language use.

Taken from an ASHA article on the topic:

"Pragmatics involve three major communication skills:

1. Using language for different purposes, such as:
  • greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)
  • informing (e.g., I'm going to get a cookie)
  • demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie)
  • promising (e.g., I'm going to get you a cookie)
  • requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please)
2. Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as:
  • talking differently to a baby than to an adult
  • giving background information to an unfamiliar listener
  • speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground
3. Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as:
  • taking turns in conversation
  • introducing topics of conversation
  • staying on topic
  • rephrasing when misunderstood
  • how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
  • how close to stand to someone when speaking
  • how to use facial expressions and eye contact
It is not unusual for children to have pragmatic problems in only a few situations. However, if problems in social language use occur often and seem inappropriate considering the child's age, a pragmatic disorder may exist. Pragmatic disorders often coexist with other language problems such as vocabulary development or grammar. Pragmatic problems can lower social acceptance. Peers may avoid having conversations with an individual with a pragmatic disorder."

Here are some pragmatic language tips for caregivers, also from ASHA:
  • Ask questions or make suggestions to use language for different purposes:

  • Desired Language Function
    Suggested Question or Comment
    Comment"What did you do?"
    "Tell me about..."
    Request"Tell your friend..."
    "What do you want?"
    Question"Ask me"

    • Respond to the intended message rather than correcting the pronunciation or grammar. Be sure to provide an appropriate model in your own speech. For example, if an individual says, "That's how it doesn't go," respond, "You're right. That's not how it goes."
    • Take advantage of naturally occurring situations. For example, practice greetings at the beginning of a day, or have the individual ask peers what they want to eat for dinner or request necessary materials to complete a project.

    Changing Language for Different Listeners or Situations

    • Role-play conversations. Pretend to talk to different people in different situations. For example, set up a situation (or use one that occurs during the course of a day) in which the individual has to explain the same thing to different people, such as teaching the rules of a game, or how to make a cake. Model how the person should talk to a child versus an adult, or a family member versus a friend of the family.
    • Encourage the use of persuasion. For example, ask the person what he or she would say to convince family members or loved ones to let him or her do something. Discuss different ways to present a message:
      • Polite ("Please may I go to the party?") versus impolite ("You better let me go")
      • Indirect ("That music is loud") versus direct ("Turn off the radio")
      • Discuss why some requests would be more persuasive than others

    Conversation and Storytelling Skills

    • Comment on the topic of conversation before introducing a new topic. Add related information to encourage talking more about a particular topic.
    • Provide visual cues such as pictures, objects, or a story outline to help tell a story in sequence.
    • Encourage rephrasing or revising an unclear word or sentence. Provide an appropriate revision by asking, "Did you mean...?"
    • Show how nonverbal signals are important to communication. For example, talk about what happens when a facial expression does not match the emotion expressed in a verbal message (e.g., using angry words while smiling)."

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    The Mealtime Environment

    The structure of the mealtime environment can have a major impact on a child's eating behavior. Overall, strive for a positive environment that is predictable and supportive. To optimize the environment, implement the following:
    • Schedule regular meals for the family. Have everyone remain seated at the table for the duration of the meal.
    • Avoid grazing.This means only offering water between meals and snacks. This supports a regular hunger-satiation pattern and may lead to increased daily food consumption. 
    • Create regular routines related to mealtime. For instance, have the family wash hands together or set the table together.
    • Try starting and ending mealtime with a positive experience, such as washing your hands while singing a favorite song or allowing your child access to a preferred food.
    • Have your child seated at eye level to others at the table. This may require use of a booster seat or highchair. 
    • Be sure that your child's seating allows free use of hands for self-feeding.
    • Minimize auditory and visual distractions at mealtime by turning the television off and keeping toys away from the table.
    • Have everyone in the family eat the same foods at mealtime. Avoid short order cooking for picky eaters. 
    • Model positive feeding behaviors for your child throughout the meal.
    • Try limiting meals to 30 minutes and snacks to 10-15 minutes. 
    • Avoid distraction as a tactic for getting your child to eat. Also, avoid sneaking in bites of food. These tactics may work in the short term, but in the long term they will not facilitate acceptance of foods which leads to improved eating behavior. Additionally, negative associations with foods and mealtime will be created. The ultimate goal of a meal should be creating positive experiences with food.
    • Do not rush through meals. Your child may need extra time given developing self-feeding skills. Additionally, mealtime is meant to be a social experience. Talk with your child about the food you are eating, ask him questions about his day, or discuss his favorite things.

    Parent's guide to feeding strategies & positive mealtime behavior
    Chatterboxes feeding therapy
    Feeding therapy FAQ

    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    Super Cute Recipes for Kids!

    At Chatterboxes, we recommend that you get your child involved in mealtime preparation in any way possible.  This may include helping cook the food or set the table. Cooking with children increases comfort level with a variety of foods, prepares them for what foods are to come at the meal, and can be fun family time!

    Check out this fantastic blog, "Cute Food for Kids," for easy, fun, and adorable recipes that you can make with your child! Here's a small sample of our favorite foods on the blog!

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    Signing with Your Baby

    At Chatterboxes, we use the Baby Signs® program, which teaches children to use simple, easy-to-do gestures for communicating with their parents and caregivers. These gestures or "signs" represent an item or concept, like "cat," "eat," or "all gone." Using signs gives babies a way to communicate with their parents before they can speak. Babies can communicate about the world around them, long before they have mastered their verbal speaking skills. This empowers the baby and reduces any frustration the child may have from a lack of communication.

    The benefits of baby signing include:
    • Promoting the development of language skills - some babies who begin by signing end up speaking earlier than babies who do not sign
    • Reducing frustration and tantrums that baby's inability to communicate can provoke
    • Encouraging the use of resolving problems through communication, not tantrums
    • Increasing speed of spatial reasoning development
    • Developing understanding of language for communication of emotions
    • Developing a higher IQ
    • Creating feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment
    • Increasing creative thinking
    • Developing excellent  language skills later on, including an increased ability to learn a second language
    • Increasing early literacy skills
    • Teaching babies how to participate in a conversation
     To learn more about the Baby Signs program, check out its website:

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    New study shows 1 week of therapy may reorganize the brain and reduce stuttering

    According to a new study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, just one week of speech therapy may reorganize the brain, helping to reduce stuttering.

    Read the press release here:

    "The study involved 28 people with stuttering and 13 people who did not stutter. Fifteen of the people with stuttering received a week of therapy with three sessions per day. The other stutterers and the controls received no therapy. Therapy involved the participants repeating two-syllable words that were spoken to them and then reading words presented to them visually. ... The average scores on stuttering tests and percent of stuttered syllables improved for those who received the therapy. There was no change in scores for the stutterers who did not receive therapy."

    “These results show that the brain can reorganize itself with therapy, and that changes in the cerebellum are a result of the brain compensating for stuttering,” said study author Chunming Lu, PhD, of Beijing Normal University in China. “They also provide evidence that the structure of the pars opercularis area of the brain is altered in people with stuttering.”

    Wednesday, August 8, 2012

    Strategies for Promoting Early Language Development: A Parent/Caregiver Tool

    The way you interact with and speak to your child can have an impact on his or her speech and language development.  Strategies include:
    • Get on your child’s level.  This may mean sitting on the floor so that you and your child can be face to face.
    • Follow your child’s lead; tune into your child’s interests.  Your child will be more motivated to communicate when engaged with something that interests him or her.  This can be anything. It does not need to be a toy and can be something as unconventional as opening and closing a box or shaking a crayon.
    • Simplify your language; match it to your child’s language.  Use language at or slightly above your child’s level. 
    • Add melody to your speech to make it more fun and interesting.
    • Imitate what your child does or says to keep the interaction going.
    • Repeatedly model simple words or fun sounds for your child to imitate.
    • Teach your child to use signs. Pair signs with words to facilitate development of single words.
    • Teach your child the power of communication: require him or her to communicate in order to get what he or she wants.  This could be simply making eye contact, signing, or saying a single word.
    • Expand on your child’s utterances to help him or her get to the next level.  For example, if your child says “more,” you can add another word, saying, “more juice.”

    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

    It Takes Two to Talk Workbook and DVD for Parents

    Our therapists work very closely with parents to encourage the carryover of newly acquired skills in therapy. One of the home programs we employ is “It Takes Two to Talk” by Hanen. The program is designed particularly to help parents boost their child’s language and uses the following principles:
              1. Learning happens naturally - Children learn language best during everyday routines and conversations with the important people in their lives
              2. Parents are their child's most important language teachers
              3. The earlier a child receives the extra help he needs, the more his language skills will improve
    The guidebook and companion DVD work together to supply parents with information and strategies for improving the child’s language and communication. Videos on the DVD correspond with the chapters in the guidebook, allowing the parent to see real-life uses of the strategies listed in the book.

    Here are some sample pages from the book:

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    Mobile Speech and Language Apps

    Mobile Speech and Language Apps

    Chatterboxes' Speech-Language Pathologists often integrate iPad applications into therapy sessions in order to target specific speech, languge and articulation or communication goals. Children often find the technology of the iPad apps to be extremely motivating. Many of the apps used in therapy sessions can be used at home as well for increased carryover of newly acquired skills!

    Educational, speech & language based apps can transform the iPad into a language-learning tool, a augmentative communication device, a series of flashcards for articulation drills, or an interactive story book just to name a few!
    Apps often used in our therapy sessions include:
    Tips for Using your Device with Your Little One
    More Recommended Speech, Language & Learning Apps:
    • Autism Apps - Free (clearinghouse listing of apps for Autism/communication)
    • Kiddie Countdown - Free - visual timer
    • DbVolmMeter - 99 cents- visual tool for increasing/decreasing vocal intensity during structured/unstructured practice activities.
    • Speech Tutor- 9.99- Can record and view spectrograph of clinician's vs. Pt's production. Great visual measure of progress & accuracy. Allows Pt. to view cross section or forward facing production of the sound.
    • Beginning sounds- 99 cents- Initial phoneme identification skills
    • Rhyming words - Free- Rhyming matches
    • Letter School- $2.99- Letter recognition (upper and lower case), phoneme-grapheme correspondence, & letter writing practice (in scaffold way).
    • Phonics Tic Tac Toe- Free- Phonological awareness activities
    • Toca Hair Salon- $1.99- Great for work with various language concepts, question forms, pronouns, feelings, etc. (Also see: Toca store & Toca Kitchen)
    • Fun With Directions HD- $9.99- Listening, following directions, memory, & basic concept comprehension.
    • My Play Home - $3.99- Interactive play surface including rooms of a house. Allows Pt. to move items around, make things happen, give directions/explanations, etc.
    • Toontastic- Free- Can use to create short stories, commercials, cartoons (great for social skills, storytelling, articulation & expressive language).
    • IThoughts HD- $9.99- A graphic organizer tool which targets curricular concepts, problem-solving, narrative mapping, etc. Maps can be printed/e-mailed.
    • Booksy - Free- Early literacy support.

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Go Away, Big Green Monster! Storytelling Puppet Kit

    Engage expressive and receptive language skills with this adorable Green Monster StoryTelling puppet kit. As children follow along with the story, skills such as body parts, prepositions, descriptive language and WH questions can be naturally incorporated! This hands on story is always a hit!