Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

December 15, 2015

What is Theory of Mind?

By: Lauren Foster, MS, OTD, OTR/L
  • Theory of Mind is the ability to understand another person’s thoughts, plans, perceptions and feelings.
  • People with autism often struggle with understanding what another person is thinking.
  • When people struggle with Theory of Mind they may have challenges understanding social nuances, situations, and relating to others.

Autism is on a spectrum with a wide range of characteristics that vary from person to person. According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), autism is characterized by deficits in social communication, restricted/repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities.

Some children with autism may also struggle with what’s called, “Theory of Mind,” or the ability to take another person’s perspective. Researchers suggest that Theory of Mind develops within the first five years of life. From a very early age, children learn to think about what others are feeling by watching facial expressions, engaging in back and forth play, and listening to the words they hear.

People with autism can learn to understand what others are thinking if they are provided with enriching and focused activities to work on this skills.  One specific intervention is “social stories.”  Social Stories (developed by Carol Gray) help children with autism understand their social world. Social stories are stories that describe social situations using visuals and words. The stories aim to describe a specific situation and provide clear directions to children, so they can understand what is expected of them.

Parents can also use strategies in their daily activities to foster Theory of Mind development for their children.  Strategies include: 1) talking about what you are feeling, 2) talking about what others may be thinking and 3) providing “rich” environments to foster pretend play.

Other activities for young children include:

  1. Playing “hiding” games (hide-and-seek or peek-a-boo)
  2. Sing songs that include imitation and copying
  3. When creating Social Stories or Social Narratives, make “thought bubbles” that show what the people are doing and thinking.
  4. Play games that require turn-taking
  5. Read books and tell stories – talk about how the characters in the story are feeling
  6. Use language such as, “I have a thought; You have a thought; I feel; etc.”

For specific suggestions for different age levels, check out a great resource HERE.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. Association, A. P. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Astington, J.W. & Edward, J. (2010). The development of theory of mind in young children. Retrieved from:

Autism Speaks (2015). Executive Function and Theory of Mind. Retrieved from:


December 15, 2015

Technology Tuesday – Noisli

noisli logoNoisli is a fascinating website and app that can be great for the whole family.  This program provides various noises and sounds help relieve stress, calm anxiety, be productive, or work on dealing with background noise.  The sounds include: thunderstorm, lightening storm, white noise, brown noise, pink noise, wind, forest sounds, coffee shop sounds, and more!  There are pre-programmed sound “sets” also included that have been shown to improve relaxation or productivity.  You can also create your own unique sound “set” that is most pleasing to your child’s ears.  The white noise portion might be helpful to help some kids block out extra noise when doing homework.  Other programmable sounds, such as “Coffee Shop,” may help kids work on dealing with background noise in their own home to help them practice adjusting to similar sounds at school.  You can use the website HERE, and you can download the iPhone/iPad app HERE.

Photo credit

December 8, 2015

Trick of the Trade from Brianna Craite, MS, CCC-SLP


I recently did a little reflection on how much I use visuals to help me get through my daily activities. I use visuals on my phone at least 15 times per day. I find myself using my calendar to remember important dates.  My clock to keep me on time.  My timer sand hourglassto track how long something takes. Then, I thought, how would I ever be able to remember all the things my phone does for me if I didn’t have it?

This is when I realized why visuals are so important for everyone – adults and children. Visuals help us remember where we need to be, how to complete tasks, and can give us important clues about a situation. One I love in particular is a visual timer.  I use a visual timer as a foundational skill for most of my clients. It helps children pace themselves, learn to wait, and even gives opportunities for sufficient break time. Instead of just saying “One more minute,” set a timer, see what the visual does for you and your child. Check out our previous blog HERE for this FREE visual timer.

Photo 1



December 8, 2015

How to Go Out to a Restaurant with Kids

By: Ashley Glasser, MS, OTR/L
  • It is possible for everyone in the family to enjoy a meal out at a restaurant with minimal stress!
  • Crayons, games, and books are great options.
  • There are many fine motor skills you can work on with some simple restaurant items.

It’s a Friday night, and after a week of slaving away over your stove, the last thing you want to do is break out the skillet yet again. So, you do your research and find a family-friendly restaurant close by. You arrive and get settled at your table, but before the waiter comes by to get your drink order, your kiddo is already restless and saying they’re bored. What’s a parent to do? Rather than resign yourself to home-cooked meals until they’re old enough to entertain themselves or always falling back on using your phone, here are some ideas to help you get through a quick meal out:

  1. kids mom dad dining out eatingCrayons: Family-friendly restaurants often provide these along with a fun menu to color, but in case they don’t, come prepared. Small packs of crayons can easily be slipped into a purse pocket, and they’re great for promoting a mature grasp, too. If you’re kiddo is under 2, let them scribble and work on imitation of lines and circles. If they’re closer to 3 and above, model other shapes and forms. Work on drawing people with different body parts, or have them tell a story through their drawing. You can also play paper-and-pencil games, like tic-tac-toe.
  2. Games: Speaking of tic-tac-toe, you can also use items like sugar packets and straws to play the game, as well.  You can also see how many sugar packets you can stack before they fall over. Play “I Spy” by looking around the restaurant to find different colors, shapes, or clothing items.
  3. Fine Motor with what they have at the restaurant: Have your child drop toothpicks through straws. Fold straw wrappers into different shapes and forms. Use multiple straw wrappers to create letters. Fold and tear paper napkins into different shapes and forms.
  4. Fine Motor with items you can bring from home: Bring an empty spice or grated cheese container. Use small pom-poms, toothpicks, and beads you bring from home (or toothpicks and straws you can find at the restaurant), and have them stick the small items into the holes. Small toys like a set of lacing beads, pop beads, pipe cleaners, Wiki-stix, etc. are easily transportable and great for little hands, too.
  5. Books: If your child is little, bring a handful of small board books to read to them.  Have them flip through, label pictures, create a new story, etc.
  6. Velcro books: A more interactive version of the typical book.  The pieces can stick to each page, so they’re not as easily lost. You can buy Velcro books, or make your own with Velcro you can find at your local big box retailer. Make copies of the book pages, cut out the pictures, stick Velcro on the book pages, and have your child match the pictures to each page.

If you’re out and about and stuck at a restaurant without some of the items above, ask if they can bring your child’s meal before the others are ready. Order a small appetizer they can munch on. Try to get a back table where you can stand up and walk around as needed.  Bon appetite!

Photo 1




December 8, 2015

Technology Tuesday – Doodle Buddy

Doodle Buddy is a great app that can be used for kids old and young!  One great feature is that an adult can take a picture of any worksheet, and a child can write on it over and over again on the iPad.  Doodle Buddy is also great for building vocabulary and working on following directions.  One child can give instructions to another to create a unique picture, and this allows each kid to work on listening, describing, and vocabulary-building.  The app also provides many opportunities for your child to work on fine motor skills for finger painting, drawing, and more.  Of course, this app also allows your child to get creative and make new works of art without any mess!  Check this app out today HERE!

Photo 1

December 1, 2015

Apraxia vs. Dyspraxia – What’s the Difference?

By: Tracy Magee, MEd, CCC-SLP
  • Many kids are receiving a diagnosis of Apraxia and Dyspraxia.
  • Parents and therapists are often confused about the difference between the two terms.  Many will use them interchangeably, but there is a difference between them!
  • Apraxia is the loss of the ability to copy a motor movement, and dyspraxia is difficulty with imitating from birth.

Apraxia and Dyspraxia is a hot topic in the speech pathology field right now, and I see more and more parents coming to me with questions about what these diagnoses mean.  Here is a parent-friendly guide regarding these terms:

1.  Apraxia and Dyspraxia are both conditions in which the messages get mixed up coming from the brain to the body’s muscles to perform a motor movement.  It is very difficult for a person to correctly do a movement, including but not limited to speech movements.

2.  Apraxia is the LOSS of the ability to complete motor movements.  The person was able to complete them at one time, and a significant brain event (i.e. stroke) occurred that impacted the person’s motor abilities.

3.  Dyspraxia is when a person is BORN with difficulties copying and completing motor movements.

4.  The diagnosis of Childhood Apraxia of Speech can be confusing due to the inclusion of the word, Apraxia, yet CAS is the same as Verbal Dyspraxia.  This diagnosis in speech is characterized by changing speech errors with each attempt (e.g. “cat” comes out as “cab” then “cag” then “cak” and so on).  There is no predictable pattern to the child’s errors because the child uses different sounds each time.

There are various techniques, including PROMPT Therapy, to help kids that have CAS/Verbal Dyspraxia.  Be on the lookout for another post about how PROMPT can help kids with this diagnosis!

Resource 1, Resource 2

Photo 1



December 1, 2015

Technology Tuesday – My Baby Sleep Guide Website

Sleep is something that we all need – kids and adults, yet it is not that easy to learn as a young child.  With so many options about when and how to obtain great sleep for your child, it can make a parent’s head spin.  The website called has been a great resource for us here at Spectrum Pediatrics.  Don’t let the name deceive you; this site covers appropriate sleep amounts by age from birth up to four years old, and this information is located in the “Sleep by Age” tab.   The website also summarizes the most popular sleep approaches – including Ferber, No Cry Sleep Method, etc. – in an easy summary that is parent-friendly under the “Sleep Training” area.  The “Baby Sleep Index” provides a running list of every topic covered on the site, and it is set up in an easy format to help a parent find what they need quickly.  Check out this site today, and let us know what you think!  Happy sleeping!

Photo 1

November 17, 2015

Technology Tuesday – Mommy Speech Therapy Articulation Cards

Many of our speech-language pathologists help kids with articulation, the production of sounds in speech.  Working on the same sound over and over again can get tedious, so we have to think of some fun ways to practice!  A website called is a great resource.  This site provides cards for each sound that are FREE for anyone to print out.  It includes pictures that focus on sounds in the front (initial position), middle (medial position), and end (final position) of a word.  Talk to your SLP about which sounds would be appropriate for your child to work on at home.  If you print out two copies of the cards, you and your child can have fun playing Memory Match, Go Fish, Hide and Seek with the card, and many more games!  Hopefully, our child will enjoy the card games so much that practicing sounds won’t be such a chore!  Of course, your SLP can also help you figure out how to incorporate the sound practice into your daily routines, too.  Chat with her today to get some ideas!

Photo 1

September 22, 2015

Great Reads That Teach Great Lessons

By: Brianna Craite, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Two great books suggested by our SLP
  • Interrupting Chicken focuses on listening and waiting social skills.
  • Somtimes I’m a Bombaloo talks about managing emotions.

I love children’s books, but I especially appreciate when an author uses their talent to teach important lessons. I am constantly david ezra steinsearching for interesting reads that are simple and to the point in teaching a child about new topics.  In particular, there are two books I have grown to love: Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein and Sometimes I’m Bombaloo by Rachel Vail. Here is a little about each of the stories:

Interrupting Chicken can be used in many different ways to teach the importance of listening and waiting before speaking. The pictures are simple but colorful and interesting. The story is enough to teach the main idea of interrupting, but you can also spend time expanding on the topic and practicing the lessons from the story through pretend play.  See more from David Ezra Stein HERE.

rachelSometimes I’m Bombaloo is a great story about feeling out of control and how to manage emotions. The main character struggles with tantrums and uses her body instead of her words. You can use it in many ways to manage aggressive behavior or discuss emotions. Purchase the book HERE.

Do you have any favorite books that teach an important lesson?  Please share with us in the comments!

Photo 1, Photo 2


September 2, 2015

Fall Fun: Activities for Sensory & Pre-Writing Skills

By: Ashley Glasser, MS, OTRL, CEIM
  • Fall is coming, and that means colorful leaves will soon be everywhere!
  • Leaves provide numerous sensory activities for your kids that focus on the areas of touch, smell, vision, movement, and sound.
  • You can also focus on pre-writing skills with these easy & creative ideas!

School buses are back on the streets, and the leaves are starting to change.  Fall is coming! Who doesn’t love a drive to see the beautiful colors on a crisp, Fall day? Visually, leaves are extremely appealing, but they also offer a ton of opportunities for fine motor and sensory experiences, as well.  Here are some ideas for what to do with all those leaves you find in your yard this season and what benefits each activity may provide:

  1. leafLet’s start with a classic –  Build a big pile of leaves, and have your children jump in! They will get an experience that will incorporate almost every sensory system: touch, visual, smell, movement, sound, etc.
  2. Rake – To build that pile of leaves, have your children help you rake. This will help with strengthening, proprioceptive input (input to their muscles and joints), motor planning, etc.
  3. Go on a walk and collect leaves – Have your kids try to find different shapes and colors. The walk itself is great exercise and vestibular (movement) input, but you will also be working on great sensory concepts, such as visual discrimination (seeing objects and noticing their differences).
  4. Trace leaves –  A great pre-writing and hand-eye coordination activity!
  5. Leaf rubbing – Another great pre-writing activity! Have them hold a small crayon on it’s side with their thumb, pointer, and middle fingers.  This activity will promote a good tripod grasp, which is necessary for holding a pencil correctly.

If you don’t have access to a bunch of leaves, try these fun leaf-themed activities, which also promote great fine motor skills!