Your Child’s Voice

Your child’s voice helps them communicate effectively. Help them take care of it!

  1. Encourage them to use a gentle voice or indoor voice. They should avoid yelling or screaming, and even talking loudly. Surprisingly, they should also avoid whispering!
  2. Reduce background noise. If you are in a noisy place, encourage them not to talk. At sports games, use noise makers instead of loud voices.
  3. Get them to avoid making animal or car noises with their voice. When you play with them, talk quietly and gently to encourage them to do so, too.
  4. Teach them to get people’s attention by approaching them and tapping them.
  5. Teach them to avoid talking a lot for extended periods of time.
  6. Make sure they eat well and get enough rest and sleep.
  7. Ensure that they eat at least an hour before bedtime.
  8. Make sure their posture is good and that they breathe well.
  9. Get them to drink water to keep their vocal folds hydrated; hydration is essential for a healthy voice.
  10. Reduce the amount of caffeine they consume – this includes chocolate and pop.
  11. Get them to rest their voice when they have a cold.
  12. Encourage them to cough gently or avoid coughing by sucking on a lozenge or a candy.
  13. Encourage them to swallow instead of clearing their voice.
  14. Avoid having them talk in dusty or smoky places.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s voice or your own voice, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. SpeechWorks offers Speech-Language Pathology services in Manitoba, in Ontario, on Prince Edward Island, in the Northwest Territories, in the Yukon and in Nunavut.

Halloween and Language

Holidays make it easy to find something to talk about! If your child has trouble talking, here are some things you can talk about:

Costumes

Look at photos of costumes. There are lots of costumes online. Talk about what kind of costume your child wants to wear. Will you buy it or make it? Before your child starts talking, point at costumes and name them. “Look! A pumpkin!”

Take turns coming up with different things you could dress up as at Halloween.

Put costumes into categories. Is that a superhero or an animal? You can ask kids to name another item in the category: What’s another superhero costume?

Play a guessing game with Halloween costumes. Describe a costume and see if your child can figure out what the costume is. Then it’s your child’s turn to describe a costume for you to guess. It’s also a lot of fun to play 20 Questions or Guess Who with Halloween costumes.

With older children, you can have a discussion about what makes a good Halloween costume. You can compare two different Halloween costumes, and talk about their similarities and differences. Describe the costumes with words like “scary” or “silly.” Talk about how to make a costume, or about the steps involved in buying a costume. You can talk about the advantages and disadvantages of making your own Halloween costume. You can even discuss what you will do with the money you save by making your Halloween costume! Talk about the kinds of costumes that are best for little kids, and why.

Look at different costumes and talk about how they make you feel.

6 tips for talking to people with Aphasia

Imagine not being able to tell your sweetheart that you love them. Struggling to read a picture book to your grandchild. Having trouble understanding when your friend asks you out for coffee. Failing to write down a phone message.

A stroke or other brain injury can leave people struggling to find their words. This loss of language is called aphasia. Aphasia can make it difficult to speak, understand, read or write, and often causes all of these problems at once.

When people cannot communicate easily, we often think that they are not intelligent. That is simply not true! Aphasia is often described as a problem that masks intelligence – the problem is getting information in and out. Imagine the frustration of knowing what you want to say, but not being able to say it. Add to that the feeling that your family and friends don’t realize that you are still just as intelligent as ever.

Difficulty communicating affects every aspect of life – relationships, work, learning, leisure – it’s all a struggle. The good news is that communication skills can improve – even years after a brain injury. Speech-Language Pathologists can help improve communication skills so people can live life fully; they can also teach family and friends how to support communication.

Here are some tips for talking to people with aphasia:

    • Be patient. Give them time to understand and respond. People with aphasia work really hard to understand and express themselves.
    • Use simple words and sentences. Slow down your speech a bit, but keep it natural. Reduce distractions, especially background noise like the TV, the radio or appliances.
    • Write down main words and use pictures, maps, calendars and other visual supports to improve understanding.
    • Make sure they have something to write with so they can write or draw if that helps. Pay attention to their gestures, too.
    • If they have trouble answering a question, ask a yes/no question or give a choice of answers.
    • Some people prefer to try to find their own words, and some people prefer you to jump in and supply words if they are struggling. Ask them what works better for them.

This article was first published in MedicAlert econnects. You can see it here.

For more information about aphasia, consult my collection of links to information about aphasia.

If you or someone you love has difficulty speaking, understanding, reading, writing or swallowing, please consult a Speech-Language Pathologist.

SpeechWorks Inc. offers private Speech-Language Pathology services for children and adults in Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Nunavut.

Children With Hearing Impairment

Hearing is essential to understand and use spoken language. If your child is behind in learning to talk, please have their hearing tested. If they have ear infections or fluid in the ear, please make sure that they get medical attention. If they have difficulty hearing, because of a permanent or temporary hearing impairment, and are learning to use spoken language, these tips may help:

  • Face your child and look at them. Make sure they can see your face – keep your hands and other objects away from your face, and keep beards or moustaches well-trimmed. Make sure your face is well-lit – if there is a window, stand opposite it, not in front of it.
  • Move close to your child. Avoid talking to them from another room.
  • Get their attention before you speak to them.
  • Speak clearly, and use a slow but natural speech rate.
  • Use a loud enough voice for your child to hear, but avoid shouting, since shouting distorts your speech.
  • Make sure only one person speaks at a time.
  • If they don’t answer right away, be patient. It may take longer to understand what you said.
  • Watch closely for signs that they don’t understand. Use different words, gestures, pictures or writing to show them what you mean. Over time, encourage them to tell you when they don’t understand.
  • Reduce background noise, such as noise from a TV, radio, or appliances, especially when you are talking. If you cannot shut off something noisy, move away from it or move it away from your child.
  • When you go out, try to choose a quiet place and time to go. You can phone ahead to restaurants to find out when they are likely to be quiet.
  • Sit at the front of the room when you go out to plays or to a worship service.
  • They may need more rest because listening with any degree of hearing difficulty is tiring. Let them have breaks from listening.

If your child has a speech or language delay for any reason including hearing impairment, please consult a Speech-Language Pathologist.

SpeechWorks Inc. offers private Speech-Language Pathology services for children and adults in Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Nunavut.

Coordination for Speech – Help Children to Move Their Mouths!

Some little children seem to know what they want to say, but it is really hard for them to get their mouths to cooperate! They say few words, and the ones they say are pretty difficult to understand. This may be due to a difficulty coordinating the movements for speech. See if these suggestions help:

  • Pick a few words and short phrases to model during an activity.
  • Say them as often as you can.
  • Say them slowly. Occasionally say them very slowly.
  • If your child makes a sound, repeat it. If they say a word, repeat it correctly.
  • If they say a few words, do activities that encourage them to say those words. If they say “Mom” and “Dad,” look at photos of “Mom” and “Dad” together. If they say “eyes,” look at lots of creatures together, pointing to their eyes.
  • Reduce pressure to talk. One way to do this is to ask fewer questions.
  • Start sentences for your child to complete: “Oh look! It’s a _____” is easier and more encouraging than “What’s that?” for many children. If you don’t get an answer you can finish the sentence yourself and keep playing.
  • Pause frequently, so that your child can choose whether or not to take a turn.
  • Watch them closely and interpret their gestures and sounds. Model what they seem to be saying, without asking them to say it.
  • Sing songs, do nursery rhymes and read simple books – the same ones as often as possible, and as slowly as possible. Slowing down reduces pressure and makes it easier to coordinate the movements for speech.

Remember that children need some down time to relax and consolidate their learning. If they are not having fun, it’s time to stop!

I hope that this article is helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist.

SpeechWorks Inc. offers private Speech-Language Pathology services for children and adults in Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Nunavut.

Learning Colours

Learning colours takes time.

Around 3 or 4 years old, children can usually name the primary colours: red, blue, yellow and green.

At 5 years old, children can name colours like purple, grey and brown.

But it’s important to remember that children don’t learn colours at the same rate, and children sometimes don’t name colours correctly before kindergarten.

 To help children to name colours correctly :

  • Comment on colours in your environment: talk children about the colour of their clothes, of their socks, of the couch, etc.
  • Teach one colour at a time; once children understand and name a particular colour, introduce the next one. 
  • Play games: cut out pictures of objects or foods that are the same colour and glue them onto cardboard.
  • Have fun finding all the objects that are the same colour in a room and then name them and their colour (“I found a red pillow! I found a red sock! I found a red shirt!”)
  • When you read together, show children the colours in the pictures and emphasize them: the sun is yellow and the crocodile is green.

written by Dounia Askafi, Speech-Language Pathology practicum student at SpeechWorks Inc., and translated from French by Stephanie Harvey. Thanks, Dounia, for all your work. Good luck with your studies!

I hope this article was useful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. SpeechWorks Inc. offers SLP services in Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and Nunavut.

Taking Care of Your Voice

Your voice is essential for communication – take care of it!

  1. Always use a gentle voice and talk slowly.
  2. Talk loudly enough, but not too loudly.
  3. Avoid talking in noisy places: where there is loud music or in public places.
  4. Avoid imitating animals or cars with your voice.
  5. Do not talk a lot for extended periods of time.
  6. Rest well and eat well.
  7. Make sure your posture is good and breathe well.
  8. Drink water to keep your vocal folds hydrated; hydration is essential to keep your voice healthy.
  9. Rest your voice when you have a cold.
  10. Cough gently or avoid coughing by sucking on a lozenge or a candy.
  11. Swallow instead of clearing your voice.
  12. Avoid talking in dusty or smoky places.
  13. Avoid whispering.
  14. Adopt eating habits that are healthy for the voice : do not eat spicy food and avoid having too much coffee.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your own voice or your child’s voice, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. SpeechWorks offers Speech-Language Pathology services in Manitoba, in Ontario, on Prince Edward Island, in the Northwest Territories, in the Yukon and in Nunavut.

Voice Volume

Children sometimes have difficulty with voice volume. Some speak too softly and some speak too loudly. Here are some suggestions to help children speak at a regular volume.

  • Use a 5-point scale to tell the children how loud they are and how loud you want them to be. “You are talking with a ‘5’ – a ‘very loud voice’. Please talk with a ‘3’ – a ‘regular voice’.” Here is an example of a 5-point scale for voice volume:

  • The 5-point scale helps many children to understand voice volume because it is colourful and concrete. Numbers are sometimes easier to understand than abstract labels such as “very quiet.” It also helps children to understand that there is a whole range of volume, not just “loud” and “quiet.” In addition, assigning numbers and colours to different volumes seems less judgemental than some labels, and this can help children to stay calm when they are getting feedback.
  • You can find more information about the 5 Point Scale, developed by Kari Dunn Buron, here.
  • If children are usually too loud, point out all the times they are using a “very quiet,” “quiet” or “regular” voice. Point out their successes lots of times before pointing out their difficulties. Once you have labelled a “regular” voice for them lots of times, you can say “That is very loud. Try using a regular voice!”
  • If children are usually too quiet, point out all the times they are using a “very loud,” “loud” or “regular” voice. Once you have labelled a “regular” voice for them lots of times, you can say “That is very quiet. Try using a regular voice.”
  • Give them lots of feedback about voice volume. Tell them “That’s very loud. It hurts my ears,” or “That’s very quiet. I can hardly hear you. I want to hear all your good ideas.”
  • Do lots of activities in which children take turns using different voice volumes. You could ask them to name animals, for example” “Tell me an animal that swims. Use a ‘very loud voice’.” Then you can also give lots of information about the effect of the volume: “That is so loud. I could hear it across the room! It could wake someone up!” “Tell me an animal that has wings. Use a ‘regular voice’.” “Wow – you used a regular voice! It is easy to hear you, and it doesn’t hurt my ears!” Show the children the 5-point scale while doing these activities to give them more visual and concrete support. This is especially fun with a whole group of children.

I hope that this article is helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language (including voice volume or social use of language), please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist.

SpeechWorks Inc. offers private Speech-Language Pathology services for children and adults in Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Nunavut.

SLP for Adults

This article was originally published in the October 2016 The Leaf as “Let’s Start Talking”

When you think of speech therapy, you may think of children who need help with lisps or who say “wabbit” for “rabbit.” You may even remember seeing a speech therapist when you were a child, to help you to talk. It’s true that lots of children benefit from speech therapy, but did you know that some adults need speech therapy services, too?

Speech therapy can help adults with a wide variety of speech, language, memory and cognitive difficulties, and even with swallowing! Therapy can help adults to speak clearly, which is important for work and for relationships. In fact, difficulty making yourself understood makes all sorts of daily activities more difficult, from ordering food in a restaurant to expressing opinions. Speech therapy also helps adults who have difficulty finding their words, or whose language is affected by memory or reasoning impairments. In addition, voice therapy can help adults with vocal fatigue, voice disorders, or gender transitions. Adults sometimes seek help with social language – especially the social language skills needed to get along in the workplace. Speech therapy can help adults learn to make small talk, use effective nonverbal communication, and express ideas and opinions well. These are only some of the skills that Speech-Language Pathologists can help to improve.

Lifelong challenges, such as Down Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders, can continue to cause communication impairments in adults. Common causes of adult-onset communication impairments are strokes, traumatic brain injuries, or degenerative diseases. Adults with long-standing communication impairments sometimes seek professional support to better match their adult needs. My friend Kevin, who I met in university, did just that. Kevin had a stroke when he was a teen. Despite both his speech and language being affected, he completed a university degree and has been working as the Supervisor in the Computer Writing Lab for Rhetoric and Communications for many years. He recently won a Stars of Spence Street award for his dedication to the students he helps. Thirty-five years after his stroke, Kevin sought a tune-up for his speech and participated in a 10-week therapy program. Kevin benefited “immensely” from therapy – he reads more quickly, remembers what he is saying better, and sees himself as more knowledgeable and engaging. He even looks at people’s faces more when he talks to them and participates more in conversation. For some adults , speech therapy can result in a dramatic improvement in quality of life!

We used to think there was a small window to treat speech and language impairments, especially impairments caused by brain changes. In the case of stroke and other brain injuries, after 6 months or a year, we told people that they had recovered as much as possible. More recent research suggests that the brain can keep healing and improving for years, even decades, after an injury. In fact, supported by up-to-date therapy and modern technology, recovery can be lifelong. The key is finding a Speech-Language Pathologist who will work with you to help you reach your goals.

Speech-Language Pathologists do more than many people realize!

If you or someone you love has difficulty speaking, understanding, reading, writing or swallowing, please consult a Speech-Language Pathologist.

SpeechWorks Inc. offers private Speech-Language Pathology services for children and adults in Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Nunavut.

Help Children to Participate in Conversation

For some children, difficulty communicating makes it hard to participate in conversation. Other children are hesitant to participate in conversation because they are introverted, shy or anxious. It’s important to encourage children to participate in conversation – by participating more they improve their conversational skills and become more comfortable conversing.

Here are some ways to encourage children to participate in conversation:

  • Develop your relationship with them. This will make them more comfortable talking to you.
  • Talk to them as often as possible. Talk about things that interest them, or what they are doing or looking at in the moment.
  • Place yourself at their level, or even a little bit lower than them.  This can make them feel more comfortable. It’s usually best to face them, but some children feel more comfortable sitting next to an adult.
  • Use a soft, inviting voice.
  • Pause often to let them talk, but do not pressure them to do so.
  • Make lots of comments, since comments invite children to participate in a conversation without pressuring them to do so. Limit questions, since some children feel lots of pressure when we ask a lot of questions. Avoid telling children directly that they have to say something (Say “please” / Tell grandma what happened yesterday.)
  • Some children will finish your sentence if you start a sentence and pause before the end (I love cookies! You love…)
  • Reduce the stress of answering questions by giving choices. (What would you like to drink – water or milk?)
  • Support the child’s communication by accepting all of the ways that they communicate – gestures, sounds, words, drawings. When children look at an object or point to it, they are telling us something and it is our job to try to interpret the message.
  • Provide pictures or visual supports, such as pictures of past events or a 5-point scale, to help them participate in a conversation.
  • At the same time, say what they would say if they could. Do not ask them to repeat. Just model words and sentences for them as often as possible.
  • Avoid criticizing them or criticizing the way they talk.
  • Look for situations in which they feel comfortable talking, and increase these situations. They may like playing board games, looking at pictures in books and naming them, singing songs, or talking about their friends. Increase their opportunities to do the things that motivate them to talk.
  • Consider enrolling them in a social communication group, such as SpeechWorks’ Connect & Communicate groups. In these groups, we provide a caring environment with lots of support. We teach communication skills using direct instruction, and then we practice the skills in fun activities.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help. Contact us today!

Are they just being lazy?

When children (and sometimes adults) have difficulty speaking, people often ask if they are just being lazy. It does look like laziness – after all, in articulation practice, they can say 250 /l/ words correctly in a row, yet they keep using the wrong sound in conversation. It’s so frustrating! If only they’d try harder!

But changing your speech is actually very difficult. Try saying a word with an /s/, but change the /s/ to an /l/. It’s not too difficult, is it? Now try counting to 10, and do the same switch. Could you do it? Was it easy? Most people forget to change the /s/ sound at the end of “six,” even though they concentrate and slow down their speech. (Karen Stroszka Denby, SLP).

Speaking while thinking about how you produce sounds is “like climbing a mountain with a 100 pound pack on your back compared to no pack. Those that have to climb with the pack may look lazy, because it takes so much more effort.” (Debbie Schantz, SLP).

Having difficulty speaking sometimes means that you have to repeat everything constantly so that people can understand you. If it were easier to get it right the first time, they would! (Cat Wood, SLP).

Speech difficulties are not an issue of laziness, but of the way the brain processes speech sounds, coordinates the movements for speech, and develops automatic abilities. Automatic abilities seem effortless – so for an adult with no speech difficulties, speaking seems like a very easy task. But changing your speech is going against an automatic default system.

Here is more information about articulation and stuttering, what to do when you don’t understand a child’s speech, some suggestions for practice and integrating movement into speech practice.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

 

 

 

Repetitive Questions – What to do when your child asks the same thing again and again

There are lots of reasons why a child might ask the same thing over and over. Understanding why can help you figure out what to do about it. Children may ask questions repetitively because

  • Other people use lots of questions to interact with them.
  • They have trouble saying what they want to say.
  • They have trouble knowing how to get someone’s attention, or how to start or continue a conversation.
  • They need to know the answer to the question. They may not remember the answer you have already given.
  • They feel more secure when they hear the answer again, and it hasn’t changed.
  • They feel more capable since the question itself lets them show their knowledge.
  • They can avoid doing something else by asking this question!

We can help children not to ask the same thing over and over!

  • Make lots of comments about what you see and do together, to model other ways of communicating.
  • Teach your child to talk about more topics. Looking at photos together is a wonderful way of talking about a variety of topics.
  • Use visual schedules and other visual supports to help your child feel secure.
  • Remind them of the answer and then make a related comment.
  • If they repeat excessively, tell them that they can only ask a question x number of times. After that you will ignore the question. Reduce the number gradually.
  • Occasionally, repeat the question to give your child a chance to answer the question instead of asking it again.
  • Do an activity together that makes it easy for your child to participate, such as a simple game with pictures to support their participation.
  • If your child reads, write the answer on a paper. Then you can show them the answer if they ask again.
  • Tell them that you already answered that question, “but we can talk about ____________.”

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help. Contact us today!

I am not you! Pronoun Use

I recently posted these suggestions on FaceBook when asked how to help a child use pronouns correctly. The child has Autism Spectrum Disorder and is using “you” for “I” and “she” for “he.” I thought they might be useful for lots of children!

  • Use photos of the child, myself and other people, which makes showing the child how to use “I” and “you” easier. You can use speech bubbles to write out what each of the people in the photos is saying. Videos can also be really powerful, especially if you can get the child to use pronouns correctly and videotape them doing so – children with ASD learn better by watching a video of themselves doing something successfully than a video of someone else. Lots and lots of gestures help too.
  • To target the distinction between “he” and “she,” you could add lots of photos of girls and boys but make them really explicitly boys and girls – some kids on the spectrum are not very aware of gender. Playing turn-taking games (I like the Peaceable Kingdom ones) gives lots of opportunities for practice.
  • You can encourage the child to use “I” by just telling them directly, but then give lots of opportunities for practice. Cues (hints) that give less support lead to more spontaneous language use: from least to most support I use commenting, asking a question, giving support, giving a hint, making a suggestion, and telling your child exactly what to say.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help. Contact us today!

Social Communication

IMG_0285Social communication helps people to have conversations, get along with peers, have good relationships and succeed at work. Social communication can be difficult for people diagnosed with Social Communication Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Delay, or Non-verbal Learning Disability. Some people have no diagnosis, but come across as shy, awkward, or even rude. They may start a conversation in an unusual way, such as “What colour is your car?” They may talk a lot but only about a subject that interests them. They may have difficulty looking at people when they are talking. Or they may just walk away abruptly at the end of a conversation.

Social communication skills come naturally to most people. If they don’t come naturally, they can be taught! It helps to teach the skills directly with visual support, followed by an in-person or video demonstration. Practicing the skill is key to being able to use it in day-to-day life. Group programs give the opportunity to learn with peers, to have fun, and to get lots of practice. Volunteers add to the fun and provide even more opportunities for practice.

I love running our Connect & Communicate groups for children, teens and adults to work on social communication! I also see clients individually to work on social language.
Call us today at 204-231-2165 to find out more!

Books about Autism Spectrum Disorders

Books about Autism Spectrum Disorders by people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet
Painted Words and Paper Words by Judy Endow
Parallel Play by Tim Page
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
Thinking in Pictures and The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin
Nobody Nowhere and Somebody Somewhere by Donna Williams
Aspergirls by Rudy Simone

Books about Autism Spectrum Disorders
Uniquely Human by Barry Prizant
Autistic Logistics by Kate C. Wilde
The Autism Acceptance Book: Being a Friend to Someone with Autism by Ellen Sabin
Alone Together: Making an Asperger Marriage Work by Katrin Bentley

Books to Help You Help People With Autism Spectrum Disorder
More Than Words by Fern Sussman of the Hanen Centre
Talkability by Fern Sussaman of the Hanen Centre
Asperger’s Syndrome and The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood
Asperger’s and Girls by Tony Attwood, Temple Grandin, et al.
Comic Strip Conversations and The New Social Story Book by Carol Gray
Just Give Him the Whale by Paula Kluth & Patrick Schwarz
The Incredible 5-Point Scale by Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis
Asperger Syndrome and Anxiety by Nick Dubin
Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments by Brenda Smith Myles and Jack Southwark
Social Skills Success for Students with Autism/Asperger’s by Fred Frankel and Jeffrey Wood
Visual Techniques for Developing Social Skills by Rebecca Moyes
The Hidden Curriculum by Brenda Smith Myles
The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job by Brenda Smith Myles, Judy Endow and Malcolm Mayfield
The Social Success Workbook for Teens by Barbara Cooper and Nancy Windows
Floortime Strategies to Promote Development in Children and Teens: A User’s Guide to the DIR(R) Model by Andrea Davis, Lhahela Isaacson and Michelle Harrell
Movie Time Social Learning by Anna Vagin

Children’s Books about Autism Spectrum Disorders
Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap by Clay Morton & Gail Morton

Halloween and Autism

Halloween is tons of fun! Dressing up, trick-or-treating, and getting candy all add to the excitement. It can be tricky, though, for children with autism.

Halloween is special – it’s different from any other day! Children dress up, go door to door, and yell “Trick or Treat!” For some children, this may be too far from their regular, predictable routine. They might not know what we expect them to do, which can be stressful. On the other hand, they may know exactly what to do – so long as everyone does what they expect. Not everyone follows the same script on Halloween though. Some people give out toothbrushes instead of candy! This might confuse or upset some children.

It’s fun when children come to the door and yell “Trick or Treat!” Most people also like it when children say “Thank you,” and even chat a bit. Children don’t often stay long enough to have a good chat, but it’s still fun to exchange a few words. Some children have trouble communicating, though. Some speak like younger children. Others use a device to speak. Some don’t understand spoken language. Some can talk to people they know, but find talking to strangers stressful.

Halloween is a treat for the senses. There are lots of unusual sights, sounds, and sometimes even smells. Yet this isn’t always fun. Some children have trouble making sense of what they see, hear, smell, feel and taste. Costumes are sometimes itchy. Some children hate to wear masks. Others cannot tolerate makeup. It’s hard to find a costume that is not too hot or too cold. If that is not enough, the other children yelling “Trick or Treat” may be too loud. Some houses have loud, scary music or noises, as well.

Changes in routine, problems communicating, and sensory differences can all make Halloween tricky. If we plan ahead, we can make Halloween less of a trick and more of a treat for all children. Here are some tips that might help your child:

Help them know what to expect

Talk about what will happen on Halloween. Show your child what to expect using photos, pictures or even videos. Read books and do Haloween-themed activities. Relate Halloween to a favourite activity – if your child loves to colour, then give them Halloween colouring sheets. If they love cooking, make some Halloween treats together. If they’re fascinated by maps, look at the planned route for Halloween.  You could even pick a costume related to something they’re passionate about.

Write about Halloween from your child’s perspective, and read it with them at least a few times. This lets the child rehearse what will happen, much as an athlete mentally rehearses before a big game. Try to use “I” sentences, and use language at your child’s level. Describe what will happen, when and where, who will be there, and how and why it will happen. Write about what your child should do, keeping the language positive. Describe how they might feel. Stories that are written in your child’s voice to help them figure out social situations are called social storiesTM (or personal stories). You can find out more about social stories from Carol Gray, who originally developed them, or from Autism Canada. Speech and Language Kids has a blog post describing how to create a social story for Halloween, with a sample story that you can modify for your child.

If your child has trouble communicating, practice what they will say on Halloween. If they can talk, practice yelling “Trick or treat” and saying “Hello” and “Thank you.” If they don’t speak, think about how they will communicate when they go door-to-door. Do you need to program some Halloween phrases into their communication device? Should they hand people a card that says “I can’t talk but I wanted to say ‘thank you'”? You can find business cards that explain ASD here. This can help children even if they usually can talk to people, since they may have trouble talking in such a novel situation!

Consider having a couple of practice runs before Halloween. Your child can dress up and go to one or two friends’ houses. This will help prepare your child. You might also find out more about what is tricky about trick-or-treating, so you can be better prepared for the real day.

Make Halloween simpler

Consider trick-or-treating at the mall. It is helpful for children who find bulky costumes uncomfortable. It also helps those who are afraid of the dark – let alone the witches and vampires out there!

Another possibility is going to a small number of houses. Ask friends to make it easier for your child – let them know about your child’s needs. If you are going to more houses, think about putting a note in mailboxes with your child’s photo and some helpful hints to make Halloween a joyful, fun time.

If your child is not ready to go door-to-door, you could trick-or-treat at home! Pretend each room is a different house. They can practice knocking on the door, saying “Trick or treat!” and being polite, but in the comfort of their own home with familiar people. (Thanks to Amy Lorraine Davidson for the home trick-or-treat suggestion!)

Another option for staying home is handing out treats to kids who come to the door. What a great opportunity to practice greetings, compliments, and sharing. That could be especially helpful for children who need predictability and control, or for those who have trouble going up and down all those steps. It’s something you can do together, too.

Let your child wear a costume that is comfortable for them. This may take some creativity! Some children do better with makeup, others with decorations stuck to their regular clothes.

Help your child stay safe

Make sure that your child knows how to be safe. Here are some Halloween safety tips adapted from Manitoba Public Insurance:

  • Cross at stop signs or lights.
  • Avoid crossing where there are parked cars.
  • Look all ways for traffic before crossing the street.
  • Wait for traffic to stop completely. Make sure drivers see you before crossing.
  • Always walk across the street.
  • Be extra careful when it’s wet or icy. Traffic cannot stop quickly.
  • Make sure you can see and be seen. Wear a light-coloured costume. Avoid masks that make it hard to see.

Celebrate success!

Take lots of photos of your child having fun. Let them know what they did well, and remind them of the fun they had. That way, trick-or-treating will be even less tricky next year!

Happy Halloween from all of us at SpeechWorks Inc!

Stephanie Harvey, RSLP, MA, SLP (C)

Stephanie Harvey, RSLP, MA, SLP (C), is a Speech-Language Pathologist at SpeechWorks Inc. She runs Connect & Communicate groups to help children, teens and adults to develop social language skills, and provides individual speech and language assessment and treatment in English and French. Contact her today at 204-231-2165 to book an appointment.

 

 

Voices from the Spectrum

Temple Grandin

Judy Endow

John Elder Robinson 

Sophie Webster

Amy Sequenzia

Ally Grace

Autism Women’s Network

Books by people on the spectrum:

Born on a Blue Day – Daniel Tammet

Painted Words – Judy Endow

Parallel Play – Tim Page

The Reason I Jump – Naoki Higashida

Thinking In Pictures – Temple Grandin

SLP and ASD: a FaceBook conversation about what Speech-Language Pathologists do

Parent I’m curious about what speech pathology has to do with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Do many children with ASD have speech difficulties?

Stephanie Harvey Children with ASD have a broad range of communication abilities, ranging from having subtle social language difficulties to being non-verbal. Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) treat all communication disorders. Most of my work with kids with ASD involves working with social language difficulties. These include skills such as starting, continuing and ending a conversation, knowing how to play with other children, paying attention to other people, and expressing emotions. The ideal way to target social language is in a group setting, with lots of opportunities to practice with different people. I run groups for little kids (5-8), kids (8-12), and teens (12-16), and even an all-girls’ group. Most are run in conjunction with an occupational therapist (OT), Jen Fisher. As an SLP, I focus on communication skills. With an OT involved, we can also target thinking flexibly, self-advocacy, sensory integration, emotional regulation, self-awareness and independence. I love doing the group intervention. I want to start one for young adults (18-21) and a francophone group next. I do also work individually with children who have very little speech, and children who have delayed speech or language.

Parent Who knew all that was involved in speech therapy!!? Thanks for all the info, Stephanie! I’d love to know when you have a group for young adults! The poster reminds me of Michelle Garcia Winner. My son and I were at her recent conference and both really liked her. Are you familiar with her work? She was SO spot-on!

Stephanie Harvey Yes, we integrate social thinking into our groups. I love Michelle Garcia Winner, too. I attended her conference – and bought a pile of books there! Jen and I both have years of experience, so we integrate different treatment approaches into our work, depending on the needs of the participants. Our groups for little kids are more active – it’s amazing how many skills can be targeted with an obstacle course! Our groups for teens have more discussion and practice having conversations.

Parent It sounds like you love your work.

Stephanie Harvey Yes, I do!

Movement Can Help

Some children learn more easily if they move. Sometimes, sitting at a table and naming cards or playing a board game is not the best way to work on speech or language. Here are some ways to integrate movement into working on speech or language:

  • Get your child to jump  – each time they jump, they say a word or sentence.
  • If they are playing on a slide, get them to say a word or sentence before going up the stairs.
  • If they are on a swing, face them and catch them once every few swings. Get them to say a word or sentence before you let them go.
  • If they enjoy throwing things, have a container with balls (or even scrunched up paper) that they can throw into a basket. Get them to say a word or sentence before giving them a ball.
  • If they enjoy hiding, get them to say a word or sentence and then hide. Or you can hide objects or pictures of the word you are targeting.
  • Get them to say a word or sentence, and each time they do they get to do a movement. This is more fun if you make some movement cards and mix them up. Movement cards could be things like “Jump 3 times.” “Walk to the wall and back.” “Touch the floor.” This also works with yoga cards.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

Bilingual Language Development

Research is clear that speaking more than one language with a child does not cause language disorders. In fact, some areas of language develop more quickly if children speak more than one language. However, some children hesitate to talk in a language even if they understand it. Here are some suggestions to help children to express themselves in your language:
  • Take every opportunity to speak your language to your child. Speak about what interests them.
  • Face your child and place yourself at their level. Make lots of comments and minimize questions, because some children feel lots of pressure when we ask questions.
  • During conversation, repeat back what your child has said, but in your language. Do not make your child repeat, because that may embarrass or frustrate them.
  • Avoid criticizing your child’s way of talking, and avoid criticizing others when they are speaking your language. 
  • Expose your child to as many people as possible who speak your language. It is helpful if they are exposed to the language in many different contexts.
  • If your child is just beginning to express themselves in your language, give them choices verbally, and at the same time, show them an object or a picture for each choice. While you ask “Would you like cereal or toast?” show them the cereal and the toast so that they can point to the one they want.
  • Start a sequence such as counting, saying the days of the week, saying the months of the year, and pause to allow your child to say the next item.
  • Say a sentence and pause before the last word to allow your child to complete the sentence.
  • Look for activities that your child enjoys in your language, such as games, reading or singing.
  • Repeat the same books, songs and finger plays often.
  • Photographs are a wonderful tool for developing language. Make a book of photos (You can use printed photos or use an app to add text to photos). Most children enjoy looking at photos of themselves or their family. Adding text allows you to repeat words and phrases, which makes it easier for your child to remember them.

If you are interested in more technical information about bilingual language development, here is a nice article:

Myths About Early Childhood Bilinguilism

Help Children to Organize Their Language

We can help children to organize their language, whether written or oral. Many of these suggestions are particularly helpful for condensing language when the child uses lots of extra words and sentences.

1. Graphic organizers – let her use a visual template to help organize her ideas before writing them down. This can be used for oral language too. There are lots of good ones in Success for all Learners, which is available from Manitoba Education and Training, or you can make your own.

2. Provide examples before asking her to do her own work.

3. Repeat – if she is talking and uses a lot of words to say something simple, repeat it back in as few words as possible. This will model of more succinct language and will encourage her to organize her ideas more concisely.

4. Use the same questions to do the same kinds of activities. For example, you can ask her to describe her day:

  • What happened first?
  • What happened next?
  • And then?
  • What happened last?

or to describe an activity:

  • Who were you with?
  • Where were you?
  • What did you do?
  • What was the best thing about it?
  • What was the worst thing about it?

Using the same set of questions over and over will help her to organize her language.

5. Practice being brief – ask her to write something, but set a limit on the number of words or sentences.

6. Barrier games are great for teaching more organized language. To do a barrier game, supply two sets of material. In partners, each person tries to make the same thing without seeing what the other person is doing. For example, both draw the same thing or colour a picture the same way. A barrier between the partners stops them from seeing each other’s drawing, and forces them to use words to describe the drawing to the other person.

How to help a child to speak fluently

If your child gets stuck trying to get words out, these suggestions may help:

  • Take time every day to talk to the child. Look at books together or play together. Talk about what you are doing. Do not put pressure on the child to talk, but make comments followed by pauses to give him the opportunity to talk.
  • Pay attention to what the child says and not to the way he says it.
  • Maintain eye contact – when you look at the child when he speaks, you show that you are interested in what he says and that you like to talk to him.
  • Avoid interrupting when he talks.
  • To help him to talk slowly and calmly, talk slowly and calmly yourself.
  • Use simple language – if the child tries to imitate a complicated language model, he may have difficulty imitating it fluently.
  • Reduce time constraints. Overly busy schedules put pressure on the child to talk quickly.
  • When the child is less fluent, talk less. If necessary, you can play a non-verbal game. When the child is more fluent, do activities that involve more talking.
  • Replace direct questions with comments. For example, instead of asking “What would you like for breakfast”, you can say “For breakfast, you can have cereal or toast.”
  • Model information or answers that you would like the child to give you. Avoid asking him to speak on demand.
  • When you correct the child’s errors, repeat what the child said, but correctly. Do not ask the child to repeat the correct production.

Please do not:

  • Finish the child’s sentences. If you supply the words, you increase the child’s feeling that he is not able to talk for himself.
  • Make suggestions such as: Slow down, breathe, relax. The child needs to think about what he is saying and not about how he is saying it.
  • Pretend to understand what a child has said.
  • Use the words « stutterer ». It is more helpful to use words to describe the difficulty the child is having: “It was hard to get that word out,” than to label the child.
  • Ask the child to express himself in public. Speaking under pressure is particularly difficult for many children.
  • Ask a child to answer unexpected questions, to explain a disagreeable event or to explain why he did something wrong.
  • Ask a child to express himself when he is very emotional, especially when he is crying.
  • Criticize the child for lack of fluency or rewarding him for fluency.
  • Discuss the problem in front of the child.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

Help Me Talk Better

Some children talk like younger children. Some make lots of mistakes when they talk. There are some simple ways we can help them develop their language skills.

Talk to them as often as possible. Talk about what they are doing at that moment. If they are playing, talk about what they are playing with. If you are looking at pictures together, talk about the pictures that catch their eye. If it is dinner time, talk about what they are eating and what their favourite foods are. Use sentences that are the same length as theirs, or a little bit longer. If your child uses 2 to 4-word sentences and you reply using 12-word sentences, they may lose interest! Likewise, you can use new words but not too many at a time.

If they say something, but incorrectly, repeat it back correctly. This way they hear the correct form of what they just said. If they say something correctly, repeat it back to reinforce their good language skills. You can also add a word or two to what they just said, to help them use longer sentences.

If they make the same mistakes often, you can teach them the correct way of saying it by using the structure you want them to use. If they say “he” for “she,” you can make lots of sentences about a female family member using “she.” (“Oh, look! Mom’s home. She is back from work. She looks tired. She looks happy though. She is happy to be home.”) To an adult, this may sound boring and stilted, but to a child it can simplify language enough to make learning to talk a little easier.

To give them the best chance of benefiting from your language models, face them and place yourself at their level. If they are a lot smaller than you, you might put them in a bigger chair and take the small one for yourself. Eliminate background noise, or reduce it as much as possible. Speak a little more slowly and clearly than usual. It is also important to pause often, to allow them to participate in the conversation.

One activity that is especially helpful for language development is looking at photos together, especially photos of events in the child’s life. Most children love looking at themselves and their family! You can label the photos so that they hear a consistent language model each time they look at the photos. When the label gets too simple, you can replace it with more advanced language. One family I know has a blog with lots of photos of events in their life. There are also apps available for tablets such as the iPad that help put photo albums together, such as Story Creator and Pictello. They make it easy to label the photos for consistent language stimulation.

The most important thing about activities for language learning is that they have to be fun. Children learn best when they are enjoying themselves.

I hope this article was useful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. SpeechWorks Inc. offers SLP services in Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and Nunavut.

Word Finding

Some children have lots to say but they seem to have trouble finding their words. They might use general words such as “that thing” instead of more specific ones. They may use related words, such as “dog” for “cat.” They may use gestures instead of words. They may describe what they are talking about instead of naming it: “You know, the round thing that you bounce.” They may take a long time to express themselves. Children who have word-finding difficulty often have difficulty answering questions, even though they know the answer. They may be very frustrated by their difficulty accessing words.

We can help them! Sometimes we know the word they are looking for. However, if we are too quick to say the word for them, they do not make the brain connections that help them find the word the next time. Here are some things that help make those brain connections, and that therefore help in the long term:

  • Wait a moment to see if they can come up with the word on their own.
  • Give them a choice between 2 words. You can slowly increase the number of words you get them to choose between.
  • Say the first sound or syllable of the word.

If we don’t know the word they are looking for, we can re-start their sentence – just repeat what they just said and then pause. Sometimes this is enough to help them find their words. If that doesn’t work, we can ask them to show us – draw it, mime it, or take us to something that will help us figure it out.

When words are well-organized in the brain, they are easier to find. They are also easier to find when they are connected to lots of other words. Therefore, the following activities may also help:

  • Name as many items in a category, such as animals, as possible.
  • Sort items into categories, such as fruit and vegetables.
  • Think of things you need to do different activities. What do you need to play hockey?

It is no fun getting stuck on words, but try to have fun with the above activities. Children learn best when they are having fun.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

 

 

Transitioning With ASDs

I saw a really sweet little girl with autism today. We had a great time playing with this ball. Her mom had the brilliant idea to take a photo of the ball so that when they come back, she can show her the photo. Then she’ll remember the fun we had, and want to come back. This is a great example of using visual supports for children with autism, and also of transitioning towards the next activity instead of emphasizing stopping the current activity.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

Working on Articulation

Lots of young children have difficulty with speech sounds. The most difficult sounds to produce are /s/, /z/, /sh/, /ch/, /j/, /r/ and /l/. These sounds often take longer to develop, and can make it hard to understand some children. Imagine how frustrating this is for the child and the person they are talking to! Here are some things that may help:

  • Slow down your own speech, so that your child slows down too. This may help them to place their tongue and lips in the correct position, or it may just give you more time to figure out what they are saying.
  • Face them and place yourself at their level physically to allow them to see the mouth movements you are making, and eventually to produce them.
  • Do activities that support your ability to understand your child’s speech – where the context makes it easier to figure out what they say. For example, look at a book with one big picture on each page with your child.
  • If you do not understand what they just said, ask them to repeat, slow down or show you. Sometimes it helps to ask them to say it a different way.
  • If you understand part of what they just said, repeat the part that you understood.
  • If you understand what they just said, repeat it correctly.
  • Practice any sounds that your Speech-Language Pathologist suggests daily. Practice them for a short period of time. Sometimes it helps to practice easier sounds such as /t/, /d/, /n/ or /l/ in order to get a more precise position for the tongue – this will help to develop more difficult sounds such as /s/ and /z/.
  • In general, you will practice sounds in isolation, then in syllables, then in words, then in sentences, and finally in conversation, but this will vary according to your child’s difficulties and what the Speech-Language Pathologist suggests for your child.
  • Practicing in front of a mirror makes it easier to see the movements required to produce the target sound.
  • Make it fun. If you can, integrate drill into games so that your child keeps wanting to practice. Working on speech may be a long-term commitment. Keeping your child interested and motivated is important.

Here is more information about what to do when you don’t understand a child’s speech, some suggestions for practice and integrating movement into speech practice.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help. Good luck!

Speaking Spontaneously

I see a number of children who can talk, but they repeat what they have heard other people say. This is called echolalia. Here are a few things that you can do to help a child who echos but doesn’t speak spontaneously:

  • Break apart the chunks – if they repeat a sentence often, say different parts of it back to them. If they say “Have some milk,” you can say “Milk. Mmm, milk is good. I want some milk. I’ll have some milk now.”
  • Accept any communication – gestures, sounds, echolalia. Pay close attention to what your child is telling you. Respond to their message. At the same time, model how to say it in words.
  • Say things as you would like your child to say them. This teaches your child to communicate in a way that other people understand.
  • Model language that is a bit more advanced than your child’s spontaneous communication. If they only echo, and don’t have any spontaneous phrases or sentences, model 1 – 3 word phrases.
  • Spend lots of time interacting with your child.
  • Do the same thing your child is doing, and talk about it.
  • Play the same game several times, and then stop part way through. This encourages your child to communicate that they want you to continue.
  • Put some preferred objects out of reach, or in clear but in tough-to-open containers. This encourages requests.
  • Make funny or interesting changes to your child’s surroundings. Wear a funny hat or put a shoe on the table. This encourages comments.
  • Work on lots of different reasons for communicating: to keep a game going, to refuse, to ask for more, to request an action, to request an object.

In the past, people discouraged children from echoing, but now we know that it can lead to spontaneous language. Encourage all speech!

I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

Talking More

Some little children seem to know what they want to say, but it is really hard for them to get their mouths to cooperate! They say few words, and the ones they say are pretty difficult to understand. This may be due to a difficulty coordinating the movements for speech. See if these suggestions help:

  • Pick a few words and short phrases to model during an activity.
  • Say them as often as you can.
  • Say them slowly. Occasionally say them very slowly.
  • If your child makes a sound, repeat it. If they say a word, repeat it correctly. If they take another turn, keep it going as long as you can.
  • If they say a few words, do activities that encourage them to say those words. If they say “Mom” and “Dad,” look at photos of “Mom” and “Dad” together. If they say “eyes,” look at lots of creatures together, pointing to their eyes.
  • Reduce pressure to talk. One way to do this is to ask fewer questions.
  • Start sentences for your child to complete: “Oh look! It’s a _____” is easier and more encouraging than “What’s that?” for many children. If you don’t get an answer you can finish the sentence yourself and keep playing.
  • Pause frequently, so that your child can choose whether or not to take a turn.
  • Watch them closely and interpret their gestures and sounds. Model what they seem to be saying, without asking them to say it.
  • Sing songs, do nursery rhymes and read simple books – the same ones as often as possible, and as slowly as possible. Slowing down reduces pressure and makes it easier to coordinate the movements for speech.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help. We provide services in English and French for children and adults to help with speech, language, swallowing and memory.

The Link Between Paying Attention and Learning

Some children have difficulty paying attention. Sometimes they have difficulty staying in one spot for longer than a few seconds. Sometimes they get so focused on what they are doing that they have trouble shifting their attention. They may miss much of what you say. They may miss the beginnings of sentences or words. Here are some suggestions that will help small children to pay attention:

  • Follow your child’s focus of attention. Talk about what interests them. This helps them connect your language to their actions.
  • Speak slowly. Repeat new words in a few different sentences.
  • Minimize distractions. Shutting off appliances, shut off the radio, and shut off the TV. Have only one or two toys available at a time.
  • Do not get your child to shift attention too often. If you direct their attention to something else, give them time to shift their attention before talking about it.
  • A gentle tap on the shoulder may be a better way of getting them to shift their attention than just talking.
  • Talk to your child face to face, at the same level. It is much easier to pay attention to someone who is “in your face.” If you are holding an object and talking about it, bring it close to your face so that your child can pay attention to it and to you at the same time.
  • Use lots of gestures and facial expression as well as an animated voice to get your child’s attention.
  • Use what your child is interested in to capture their attention. For example, many small children like to open and close containers. Put small objects or pictures into clear containers with lids – then talk about them as your child opens and closes the containers.

I hope these suggestions were helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help. We provide services in English and French for children and adults to help with speech, language, swallowing and memory.

Speaking Clearly

I just saw a little boy who was delayed starting to talk. Now he is communicating a lot, but he is still having difficulty with sounds and he seems to be saying only one or two words at a time because he has difficulty making himself understood if he says more. Some things that will help him to keep improving his communication are:

  • Talk to him as often as possible. Talk slowly and clearly.
  • Turn off anything that makes noise so he hears you more clearly.
  • Get down to his eye level so he gets more visual and auditory information about how to produce the speech sounds.
  • Talking in front of a mirror may be fun, too!
  • Repeat everything he says, but with the correct sounds. Repeat it slowly.
  • If he says something correctly, add a bit to it. If he says “man,” you can say “Hi, man! Bye, man!” Try to put together words that you  have heard him say correctly.
  • Sometimes he will repeat what you say and keep repeating it as long as you do. This is excellent practice for him sequencing sounds. Keep him going as long as you can!

The most important thing is to have fun, so that he keeps enjoying talking!

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

Early Language Stimulation

It is easy to talk to a chatty child who engages in conversation easily. It’s a lot harder when children don’t talk much – and especially if they don’t talk at all.

If they don’t talk yet, you can use single words and short phrases to talk about what they are interested in. Observe what they are looking at or what they are doing. Talk about that! Getting down to their eye level will help you to know what they’re interested in, and will also help them to see and hear you better. I like to sit in a smaller chair and put my little clients in a bigger chair, so that we can see eye to eye. With some of my smallest clients, they sit facing me while I lie down on the floor!

It helps to speak slowly and to pause often, to give them more time to understand and respond to what you say. Switch off anything that makes noise so that they can hear you clearly. Repeat the same words often to give them more chances to learn words and sentence structures.

They may already communicate by using gestures or noises, like pointing to what they want. You can imitate what they are doing to encourage them to keep using gestures and noises, and to let them know that they are effective communicators. You can also use a word or phrase to say the same thing. It is always helpful to model language that is just a step more complex than they are using. Don’t get too complex, though – you may lose their interest!

If they are starting to talk a little, pay close attention to what they say and respond to it. Repeat what they say as well, adding a word or two. Short, simple, correct phrases help. Give them lots of opportunities to use the words that they already say. For instance, if they can say “uh oh,” take turns dropping things on the floor and saying “uh oh.”

It’s tempting to pressure a child to talk, but pressure often makes children less likely to talk. It’s important for children to feel relaxed for their brains to work optimally!

Is “baby talk” helpful? Talking to children in an animated way, with lots of facial expression and a voice that captures their attention, is definitely helpful. It tells them that you are talking to them! And it gives them information about the sound system and helps to highlight important words, too. One word of warning, though – some people change the sounds of the language when they use “baby talk.” It is always best to model correct speech and language for children.

Hearing is crucial for language development, so if you have concerns, get your child’s hearing checked. Even fluctuating hearing loss from ear infections can affect a child’s ability to learn language. Talk to your doctor about a referral to audiology as a first step to making sure your child can hear well.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.

 

When you don’t understand a child’s speech

Some children are so difficult to understand that even their parents have trouble understanding them. They may ask “What can I do when I don’t understand my child’s speech?”

It may help to ask your child to repeat what they said. You can say “I didn’t understand. Tell me again, please.” This gives you another chance to hear the message. If you understood part of it the first time, you can repeat the part that you understood to your child and pause for them to continue. If you did not understand a single word the first time, you can still ask for a repetition. Watch your child carefully to catch any gestures or facial expressions that may give you clues to help figure out what they mean. If you still do not understand, ask your child to show you. They can take you to something to support their communication, or draw or gesture part of the message to help you understand. Having pictures of some of the things your child often talks about may also help.

Some children have unusual ways of making themselves understood. One little boy I know cannot name some objects, but he can say all of his colours. His parents encourage him to tell them the colour of the object he is asking for! Encourage your child to use whatever they can to tell you their message. Tell other people they spend time with what works for them. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a chart saying what the child says or does, what it means, and how you should respond to it.

Once you do understand, always repeat the message slowly and clearly, so that they hear the correct way of saying it. Don’t ask children to repeat your correction – just model it for them to hear. Most children find it frustrating to be constantly asked to repeat.

It is important for children to have lots of success communicating. It may be helpful to play with toys selected to make what they say more obvious. For example, puzzles with one picture per piece make it easier to figure out what a child is saying. Songs, nursery rhymes and simple books can also provide a chance to speak without the pressure of making a message understood. To encourage your child to sing along, sing slowly and use lots of gestures. To encourage a child to participate in a familiar nursery rhyme or book, you can stop every so often and let them say the next word.

Children do get easier and easier to understand with time, but if you understand less than 50% of what they say by age 2, 75% by age 3 or 100% by age 4 (although they may still make some errors with later-developing sounds such as “s”. “r” or “th”), please consider consulting a Speech-Language Pathologist.

If you live in or near Winnipeg, Manitoba, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help! SpeechWorks Inc.  provides services in English and French for children and adults to help with speech, language, swallowing and memory.

Starting a New School Year

Transitions can be difficult for anyone, and especially for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Asperger Syndrome. The new school year is a major transition – even more so if a child is changing schools.

Many children with ASDs have areas of intense interest. Whether they are trains, LEGO, fireworks, primates, or art, their interests can help the new school year get off to a great start. Paula Kluth and Patrick Schwarz describe how to use special interests to achieve a variety of goals in Just Give Him the Whale, an excellent resource book. Some ideas to try:

  • Paste photos related to an interest in the child’s agenda and in notebooks or binders.
  • Use magnets to post pictures related to the interest in the child’s locker.
  • Work the interest into lessons.
  • Ask questions about the interest during class, to give the child a chance to shine and to be known.
  • Ask all the children in the class to make a short presentation about anything that interests them.
  • Let the child start a club related to the interest.
  • Have materials related to the interest handy to help the child to calm down in times of stress.

Simply asking about their interest can help you connect with the child, and get the new year off to a great start. We often hesitate to let a child talk about their interest, because we want them to talk about other things, too. Show an interest in what is important to the child, and they will more easily show an interest in others.