Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

Archive for the ‘Speech Therapy’ Category

June 14, 2017

Ways to Beat the Heat

By: Krystina Burke, MS, CCC-SLP

Summer is here! It’s time to pull out the sprinkler, put on the sun screen, and enjoy time in the hot sun with your little ones! Achieving proper hydration is always important for young children, especially during hot summer months! When it is hot out, it is important to have your child drink more often throughout the day. If you know your child is going to be outside in the sun for a an extended period of time or will be participating in physical activities, offer them extra fluids beforehand to drink. In addition, it is recommended that children take a break about every 20 minutes during increased physical activity to hydrate.

If a child does not drink enough liquids, they may become dehydrated. Some signs of dehydration include: dry mouth, few or no tears, less wet diapers or decreased urination, a darkening in urination color, and drowsiness. It is important to contact your medical team if you become concerned regarding your child’s hydration level or state.

In addition to offering fluids before outdoor activities and taking frequent drinking breaks, incorporating liquid filled summer snacks and treats is a great way to increase hydration levels in small children during hot months. Fruits like watermelon, melons, and peaches are full of liquids and can be a great choice for a sweet refreshing snack. You may also try blending your favorite fruits, frozen fruits, ice, and water and freezing this mixture in popsicle molds for a cold and healthy summertime treat!

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April 24, 2017

Exact Instructions Challenge

By: Tracy Magee, M.Ed, CCC-SLP

I recently saw this video on social media, and it really spoke to my “SLP” heart! We don’t often think about how we use language and the importance of the words we use. This dad created a fun game for his kids to practice sequencing, using concept words, like “First, Then, in, on top of,” etc. Watch the video to see how these kids learn the importance of the vocabulary that they use.

You can do this in your own house with your kids to work on prepositions (in, on top, next to, under), time words (First, Then, Last), and other descriptors (color words, long/short, big/small, etc.). Here are some ideas to practice sequencing in your home with this family challenge!

1. How to tie your shoes

2. How to ride a bike/scooter

3. How to put on your jacket

 

April 5, 2017

Is Baby-Led Weaning Right for Your Child?

By: Heidi Liefer Moreland, MS, CCC-SLP, BRS-S, CLC

Baby Led Weaning is becoming more popular as an option for transitioning children onto solid table foods.  This involves introducing the child to bigger pieces of foods that they are allowed to pick up independently and bring to their mouths.  Initially, they develop the ability to pick up large “graspable” pieces and accurately find their mouth.  As they become more skilled, they mouth the food, and eventually learn to manage small broken pieces that break off inside their oral cavity.  Once the food is in their mouth, they develop safety skills to protect their airway, including gagging and pushing pieces out with their tongue. With time and practice, they develop the control to hold the pieces still for biting, mashing, and early chewing.  Finally, their skills are mature enough to move the bites back in the mouth for swallowing.  As they develop the skills to control the smaller pieces of food orally, their hand abilities are also becoming more refined.  These increasing fine motor skills allow them to accurately pick up smaller pieces of food, which are more easily chewed and swallowed when their mouths have become ready for them.

As a therapist, I believe there are a number of factors that indicate this is developmentally appropriate method to help children learn about the properties and management of solid foods.  These factors are typically emerging or present at the age of approximately 6 months, which is when this process is recommended to begin. Of course, it is always important to discuss this with your pediatrician, as well.  The factors to consider are discussed below:

  1. Infants develop the hand control to pick up bigger stick-shaped foods before they develop the pincer grasp to pick up smaller foods or to self-feed with a spoon.
  2. Infants are experiential learners that are self-motivated, and will continue working with tasks that remain interesting and meaningful, until they appear to be mastered.  They are not designed to learn from a “teacher” or through adult-directed learning, which is what happens when an adult feeds them.
  3. Infants have reflexes and drives that facilitate this process that are no longer present at a later age.  These reflexes include:
      • Predominant oral exploration drives the child to bring things from hand-to-mouth, rather than banging or flinging.
      • Gag reflex remains at the front of the mouth at earlier ages, and this allows for important safety responses.
      • Tongue thrust is present, which helps them expel foods that are unsafe for swallowing.
      • Lateral tongue movement to stimulation is present, which will be used to develop control of the food.
      • Brain development takes place as neural connections are made during functional multi-sensory activities.  Therefore, the learning that happens on a banana pieces may be slightly different than learning that takes place on a teething toy.
  4. Brain development for motor skills also requires fine-tuning that happens with repeated   experiences that allow for on-line adjustments.  An example that many adults may remember is the experience of learning to ride a bike.  The only way to really learn balance while pedaling is to wobble around while the body learns to anticipate and adjust for the rolling and tipping movements of the bike.
  5. Because babies are “in charge” of the process, they control how much they eat.  This is consistent with the self-regulation of hunger and satiety that is developed during nursing, and has been found to be a positive influence in the prevention of obesity.
  6. Because the baby is exploring at their own pace, children frequently become less resistant and afraid than those who are presented with foods at the pace and interest of the feeder.

 

baby eating riceAlthough this approach is likely consistent with the way infants were fed long before the development of prepared baby foods, modern child-rearing dictates that we need to investigate a process, before it is recommended to ensure that it is safe and appropriate.  There is a study that is available through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  In this study, it looked at developmental skills and available evidence of baby-led weaning, and it indicated that this is a feasible process for children who are learning to eat.

As with many child-rearing strategies, your supervision and judgment is crucial in determining readiness and to keep the process safe.  Your child is ready when he or she is able to sit with upright head control and be stable in a chair with supports.  Although the following considerations should be addressed for all children, those with developmental delays or motor deficits may require further assistance in these areas, or might need more time to develop complete readiness.

  1. Sitting stability – If your child is very unstable, you need to wait until he is a little more steady, or make sure he is well supported.  Imagine drinking from an open cup while walking a tightrope.  It is hard to develop aim and fine oral control if you are trying hard to keep your body stable.
  2. Hand to mouth control – If your child has significant difficulty with other refined hand movements (such as reaching for objects, picking up and dropping toys, or opening and closing their hands with appropriate timing), they will likely have the same difficulty with learning self-feeding skills.  Wait until their motor control is mature enough to be a little more accurate and consistent
  3. Oral control – It is important for your child to be responsive to items in their mouth in a timely fashion, so they can expel big pieces, rather than choke.  If their motor responses are over- or under-reactive, the same is likely to be true of food items in their mouth.  Giving breakable solid foods too soon will result in a greater risk for choking, which is an obvious problem.  Additionally, too many fearful experiences with food is likely to result in more refusal later as a self-protective mechanism.
  4. Allergy precautions – If there is a high likelihood of allergies, discuss food exposure with a physician or nutritionist to determine which foods are more likely to cause allergic reactions, so you can be wise in the order of presentation.

 

child with food on faceImportant considerations in food selection:

  1. Look for foods that hold together well enough to be picked up, but are soft enough to easily fall apart in the mouth (such as baked sweet potato logs)
  2. Never leave your child alone with food items.  They are still learners, and they must be supervised.
  3. Avoid foods that become sharp when broken (such as potato chips).
  4. Avoid foods that are too sticky to be easily controlled (such as a big spoon of peanut butter).
  5. Avoid hard foods that require teeth to break down (Raw apple pieces or small raw carrots are the most frequent culprits in food related choking incidents).
  6. Avoid foods that are too slippery to be easily controlled by an immature eater (such as canned peaches).
  7. Be familiar with infant and child CPR, and to look for that in a child care provider.  It is recommended for children learning to eat solids, but also because food is not the only thing kids put in their mouth!  Here are some links for CPR information:

Looking to learn more about Baby Led Weaning? This website continues to discuss the benefits and even shares a few great recipes for your child!

Sources:

  1. How Feasible is Baby Led Weaning as an Approach to Infant Feeding? A Review of the Evidence.
  2. Web summary from book author
  3. Video
  4. Glasgow Study Reviewed

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March 27, 2017

Everything Sprouts in Spring: Yoga

By: Krystina Burke, MS, CCC-SLP

The spring season is a great time to get outside and get moving as a family! As we have mentioned here before at Spectrum, yoga is a fun activity that children of all ages and their parents can do together! We all know yoga is great for the body and mind but did you know yoga can benefit and boost the language skills of little ones, too? Yoga poses rely on the skills of physical imitation and attention which are foundational language skills. In addition, doing springtime yoga poses as a family can also secretly target higher language skills such as spatial relationships and opposites for the older children in your family!

Children ages 4-5 are beginning to understand words for order such as “first, next, and last” and can follow longer directions containing multiple steps more easily! Opposites like up and down and big and little also start to have meaning and can be used to further clarify a child’s message.

Yoga poses are often taught using step-by-step instructions in combination with physical modeling. This is a perfect and natural place to add order words! Some of my favorite springtime poses are tree pose, sun, bird, and planting a garden. Here is one way to teach tree pose to the little ones in your life: “First, stand on one leg, then bend your opposite knee, next place the bottom of your foot on your inner ankle or thigh (depending on the comfort and balance of the child) lastly, balance and sway in the wind like a tree”.

You can make this more challenging by asking children to be big or little trees or have their trees move up and down in the wind! Once you feel like your child has mastered a pose, have them try and “teach” the pose to someone else. Now they have the opportunity to use order words and opposites to explain a more complex direction to someone else!

Check out some more springtime yoga poses here!

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March 21, 2017

Trick of the Trade from Jamie Hinchey, MS, CCC-SLP

Welcome Spring: Picture It!

Now that it’s spring, it’s time to get outside and enjoy the nice weather! As a speech therapist I am always looking for fun and creative crafts to do during my therapy sessions. I love when the seasons start to change, especially from winter to spring. This is a great time to work on sequencing and concepts during my therapy sessions. This “Picture It” craft uses a trick of the trade we have talked about previously: cameras.

For this activity you will need:

  • A camera (on phone or your “old school” camera)
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • A large piece of white construction paper

With spring, usually comes beautiful days outside. Before going outside, it is helpful to talk to your child about the different seasons and explain now that winter is going away, spring will be next. By using these sequence words (first, next, then, etc.) you can work on time concepts with your child. It may be helpful to talk about what spring means and what you might start to see outside as the seasons change. A book can also be a great way to introduce new concepts, there are a lot of books focusing on spring or outdoor activities. See our previous post on spring books here!

Once you have gone over this with your child, take them outside and take a picture of them in the environment. This could be in the flowers, under a tree, laying on the grass, or at the playground. If possible, print out your picture and use it when you start your “Picture It” craft. If you are unable to print it out, have the picture out so your child can reference this. Ask your child to identify what they see in the picture and draw their own picture of what “spring” looks like to them. To challenge your child, you could also talk about what you might hear or taste on a nice day! This craft can target all areas of development. For fine motor skills, have your child draw with different types of writing utensils or even cut out pieces of paper and glue. For gross motor and attention, work on your child sitting in a specific spot at the table or floor and attending enough to complete the activity. For language development, have your child tell you about what they did outside or retell what happened in a book you may have read about Spring! There are so many fun crafts, but try to use the beautiful Spring weather as a way to get your child outside!

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March 21, 2017

Everything Sprouts in Spring: What makes a good book?

By: Brianna Craite, MS, CCC-SLP

Recently, the therapists at Spectrum Pediatrics had a discussion on “What makes a good book?” We know how important book routines are to develop strong early literacy and pre-reading skills. Books can also help foster hand eye coordination while turning pages. You can practice supported or independent sitting while reading.

Walking into the book section in any store or browsing the library can be overwhelming with the wide selection. Here are a few things our therapists’ thought of especially when looking at the pictures that may ease your search:

  • Bright simple pictures
  • Pictures that include early vocabulary themes like body parts, animals, toys etc.
  • Pictures “tell the story”

As children get older we suggest books with words or phrases that repeat to practice early literacy skills. Check out the list below and you’ll see some of my book choices for the upcoming spring season!

Toddler

Board books are easy for early readers to turn the pages. It is important to look for interactive flaps, bright colors, and spring vocabulary. As a speech therapist, I often recommend that parents label the pictures they see in the book while allowing their child to explore the interactive parts of the book. Using books with interactive flaps can help increase your child’s attention on the book.

Preschool/Kindergarten

While looking for books for preschool age, focus on books that have repetitive words such as I see Spring. The repetitive words are great for early readers. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle is one of my favorite books for Spring. After reading this book, try planting seeds of your own for an interactive activity to go along with the story! And Then it’s Spring by Julie Fogliano is a great book for early readers, especially when focusing on teaching the concept of changing seasons. Spring is Here by Will Hillenbrand is a wonderful book for introducing spring vocabulary and learning about friendship!

Enjoy your books!

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March 8, 2017

Technology Tuesday: BabySee App

Have you ever wondered what your baby can see when they are born? We know that a child’s vision starts to develop from the moment they are born. Scientists and researchers have been studying how the brain and eyes develop to learn how babies can see clarity, color, and contrast. This app was created by REBIScan and Boston Children’s Hospital’s Chief of Ophthalmology, David G. Hunter, MD, PhD to create this vision stimulator. The BabySee app allows parents to see what their child would see as they develop.

The BabySee app uses video imaging to stimulate how a child would see at any given age, focusing on clarity, color, and contrast. To use this app you can use the camera on your mobile device, then touch and hold the screen to compare the “infant” vision with the normal adult vision. You can input your child’s birthdate for accurate age levels to show vision at different ages. Some fun features of the app include being able to share favorite images with family members through email or text, saving images to an album, and the ability to explore different scientific articles to learn more about infant vision!

A tip for parents with premature babies: Make sure to put in your child’s due date so you see through the lense of their adjusted age! To purchase the app click here!

March 6, 2017

Trick of the Trade from Tracy Magee, MS, CCC-SLP

Blankets

This object is in everyone’s house, but it is not usually considered a great tool for learning – a blanket! Surprisingly, this item can provide lots of opportunities for language and movement. Here are a few ways we use a blanket at Spectrum Pediatrics:

1. Regulation – We all have our own unique ways to help ourselves cope with the sensory information that we are receiving in our daily lives. Swinging in a blanket is a great way to help calm a child that might be overwhelmed. The blanket creates a safe cocoon and the linear movement is very beneficial in helping a child overcome too much sensory input.

2. Movement – Kids can make the blanket into a parachute-type game with holding the corners and moving it up and down. Kids can have the blanket “pop” balls out the top or kids can go under the blanket when it rises up.

3. Language – A blanket can provide hours of entertainment for receptive (listening/comprehension) and expressive (speaking) language.

  • Receptive: Practice prepositions with a doll or other object. For example, “Hide the dog under to blanket, Put the doll on top of the blanket.” You can also work on following directions to play the parachute game (“Make the blanket go UP! Make the blanket go DOWN!”)
  • Expressive: Have your child hop on the blanket for a ride, and he/she must tell you where to go. (“Take a right, Go left, Take me to the kitchen!”) Try to work on the concepts of “fast” and “slow” while going for a ride.

These ideas are just the beginning! Talk to your therapist about other ways to use this simple object to create some wonderful learning opportunities!

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February 22, 2017

Tips for Improving Your Child’s Communication

At Spectrum Pediatrics, we often find ourselves talking to parents about small changes they can make during their daily routines to help build their child’s communication skills. Two of our speech therapists are sharing four of their all-time favorite tips for parents. Check out the video below to hear Jamie and Krystina discuss these tips and explain what makes them so important and how to build them into your everyday routine!

Stay posted for more helpful videos on tummy time and feeding behaviors at mealtimes!

February 21, 2017

Screen Time: What are the new guidelines?

By: Tracy Magee, MS, CCC-SLP

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines on their website regarding screen time and young children. Previously, it was suggested that children should not be exposed to any type of screen – TV, smart phone, or tablet – until a child was at least 2 years of age. Nevertheless, with technology becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, it is almost impossible to completely avoid screens until a child is 2 years old. Here are some highlights from the newly released guidelines…

1. It is best to continue to limit screen exposure for all kids under 18 months. There is one exception – video chat. Feel free to let your little one interact with Grandma and Grandpa each day! Research shows that babies may not be able to participate in the conversational part of a video chat, but they will be able to benefit from playing peek-a-boo with their relative on the screen.

2. With children from 15 months to 2 years old, it is best to sit and watch an educational program with them. It has been found that a child can actually learn some new vocabulary if the parent is participating in watching the program and talking about it.

3. Children between ages 2 and 5 are able to process at least some of the information that is shown in a television program, yet of course, the screen time should still be kept in moderation. Programs and apps developed by the Sesame Street Workshop and PBS have the most research to prove their highly educational value.

Despite these new educational videos and apps, it is important to remember that kids learn best through human interaction! Keep playing and talking with your child each day!

The organization, Common Sense Media, provides great guidance to parents about age-appropriate television, movies, and smart phone apps. You can access information from them at this website or download their free app here!

 

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