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Best Toys for Kids with Autism as Recommended by Therapists

Sensory Friendly Toys that Don’t Involve Electronics

Welcome to our exploration of the beautiful world of toys uniquely crafted for children with autism. Selecting toys for kids with autism involves a delicate dance between understanding sensory needs, promoting skill development, and, most importantly, ensuring hours of joy and engagement. In this blog, we’ll delve into a curated list of favorite toys that cater to the diverse interests and preferences of children with autism.

 

Sensory Toys: A Symphony of Textures and Colors:

 

 

Cause-and-Effect Wonders:

 

 

Educational Gems:

  • Puzzles: Offering a mix of challenge and satisfaction, puzzles contribute to cognitive development and problem-solving skills.
  • Building Blocks: The timeless joy of building and creating, these blocks encourage imaginative play and enhance fine motor skills.

 

Calming Oasis:

  • Weighted Blankets: Not exactly a toy, but a soothing addition to any space, providing comfort and a sense of security.

 

 

Communication and Social Play:

 

  • Board Games: Structured play with clear rules, board games provide a fun way to learn social interaction and turn-taking.

 

Outdoor Adventures:

 

 

Artistic Expression:

  • Playdough Fun: The joy of squishing, molding, and creating with playdough offers a satisfying tactile experience.
  • Markers and Crayons: Encouraging creativity, drawing, and coloring provide an expressive outlet for children with autism.

 

Choosing toys for kids with autism is a personalized journey that requires attention to individual preferences and needs. The toys mentioned above are just a glimpse into the vast array of options available, each offering a unique way to engage, inspire, and bring joy to children on the autism spectrum. As you embark on this exploration, remember to observe, communicate, and, most importantly, have fun discovering the perfect toys for your child’s unique world.  Check out our specially curated Amazon Storefront for more toy suggestions!

 

Let’s Talk Articulation!

When Do I Bring My Child for a Speech Sound Evaluation?

As our children grow and develop speech, they don’t learn to use all the speech sounds in their native language simultaneously.  That’s why my little one tells me that “it’s dart outside” when he looks out the window after dinner these days!  But how do you know when to seek out a speech therapist for your child?  

Check out the chart below, which is available as a downloadable PDF on the SLP now website at https://blog.slpnow.com/the-slps-guide-to-speech-sound-disorders-articulation-phonological-development/; when looking at the chart, understand that some children start to develop sounds before the ages listed. The ages listed represent the age at which 90% of children have mastered each sound. For many speech sounds, there is a wide range of ages at which a child may start to produce the sound or approximations inconsistently before they truly master the sound. However, it is a quick rule of thumb that if a child cannot produce one of the sounds listed under their age, speech therapy may be indicated.

 

 

What Can I Do at Home to Help My Child with Their Speech Sounds?

So, what can a parent do to help their child develop speech sounds correctly at home? The first strategy I recommend is to make sure your child is looking at your face when you’re producing words or sounds that they had difficulty with. Draw attention to your mouth by pointing.  Children learn a lot about how a sound is produced by observing you. 

Another strategy that you can use is called recasting. Recasting is when you repeat what your child says precisely, including the errors, in a questioning voice. For example, if your child says, “Look at the tar” when they mean “Look at the car,” you might respond by saying, “Tar? Is that what you meant?” When the child attempts to correct himself or herself, if he or she cannot do so, I suggest using the first strategy we discussed.  Your child may not produce the sound at that moment, but that’s okay because they are still learning from what they see and hear from you.

I also recommend reading with your child regularly. Even if a child cannot read independently, draw their attention to some of the letters in the book, especially if the book has large decorative letters at the beginning of paragraphs. Talk about the sound the letters make, and again, ensure your child is watching your face. 

For emerging readers, phonics activities are an excellent time to work on articulation at home. While doing phonics homework with your child, could you talk about how each sound is made?  For example, the “T sound is made with our tongue on the roof of her mouth.” If you’re unsure how to describe how sounds are made, PeechieSpeechie.com has an excellent video library with tutorials for each sound.

If your child is receiving speech therapy services, their SLP will be able to provide you with additional, personalized resources.

How Can Carolina Therapy Connection Help? 

If you are still unsure or feel that your child’s speech is difficult to understand compared to others his/her age, Carolina Therapy Connection has licensed Speech Language Pathologists at the clinics in Greenville, Goldsboro, and New Bern that are highly qualified to evaluate and diagnose speech sound disorders.  You can schedule a speech sound evaluation at whichever clinic is most convenient for your family at 252-341-9944.  Our professionals can also provide personalized resources for your child’s needs. 

 

By Michelle Berghold

 

Navigating Neurodivergence

How Occupational Therapy Helps Different Brains

Occupational therapy has long been recognized as a vital therapy for providing neurodiverse individuals with the tools and strategies to lead fulfilling lives. In recent years, the focus on neurodivergent occupational therapy has gained momentum, emphasizing the unique needs and strengths of individuals with neurological differences. This blog aims to explore the transformative role of occupational therapy in supporting neurodivergent individuals on their journey toward independence, empowerment, and a higher quality of life.

 

Understanding Occupational Therapy for Neurodiverse Individuals

Occupational therapy helps neurodiverse individuals by helping them discover who they are, what they can contribute to society, and how they can live their best life.  We start by making a personalized plan with the individual on how to make their life easier for them. 

 

Taking Care of the Whole Person With Occupational Therapy 

Occupational therapy looks at everything – the body, the brain, feelings, and even how someone experiences the world around them. It’s important to consider an individual’s life’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and sensory aspects.  Together with the individual and caregivers, occupational therapists take a holistic approach to help figure out what areas of their lives are challenging and what are their strengths.

 

Making Senses Work Better

It’s common for neurodiverse individuals to have differences in how they experience sensations in their world- they may feel sensitive to things like touch or sounds. Occupational therapists work to identify sensory sensitivities or challenges and implement strategies to regulate and adapt to different sensory inputs. For example- working with the individual to develop adaptive strategies for sensitivities related to food textures and picky eating. Occupational therapists can help progress through different food textures using various techniques that first start with foods the individual can tolerate and eat frequently.  Then, we start adding foods that are similar in texture, color, size, etc.  

 

Skill Development and Independence

Occupational therapy helps learn practical life skills, social skills, and executive functioning abilities.  It could be learning how to tie shoelaces or even making friends. It’s essential to take a strength-based approach to help build trust, confidence, and independence with daily tasks that allow them to engage in meaningful activities.  A strength-based approach is when an occupational therapist builds upon a person’s strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses.

 

Family and Community Involvement

Families and friends are essential in the therapeutic process, too! Occupational therapists work with families to implement strategies at home and collaborate with community organizations and schools to create supportive spaces for neurodivergent individuals.

 

Technology and Innovation in Therapy

It’s common for a neurodiverse individual to process information differently than we expect; therefore, it is important to utilize various interactive tools and technology to enhance the therapeutic experience and cater to individual needs. Many apps and digital devices are available to help create independence in daily tasks.  Occupational therapists look at ways to support learning through apps, games, and other devices.

 

How Can Carolina Therapy Connection Help With Neurodiverse Individuals?

At Carolina Therapy Connection, all of our therapists are neurodiversity-affirming.  They recognize that neurodivergence is not an illness or disability that needs to be corrected or fixed. They recognize that neurodiverse individuals come with their own set of strengths that can be fostered. Occupational therapy can have a transformative impact in empowering individuals to overcome challenges, embrace their strengths, and lead fulfilling lives.  At Carolina Therapy Connection, we believe it’s all about making sure everyone, no matter how their brain works, can be a part of the fun and excitement in life!

 

 

 

Hearing Loss in Children

About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears! Hearing loss can occur gradually over time and parents may not even realize their children have it. Children may simply adjust to the changes in their hearing and not realize they are missing out on important speech sounds and words. 

What is a hearing screening

Pediatric Audiology 101: Your Child's Hearing Health

A hearing screening is frequently used to check a person’s ability to detect the loudness and pitch of sounds. You can either “pass” or “fail” the screening. If your child passes and there are no other concerns, then you can continue with your child’s regularly scheduled hearing screenings. If your child “fails”, or if you have other concerns about their hearing, then an appointment for more in-depth testing may be necessary to see if there is a hearing loss and what treatment options are best to help support your child. These hearing screenings can help identify people who may need a more thorough hearing evaluation that can be completed by medical personnel such as ENTs or audiologists. Pediatric hearing screenings may take place in early intervention, school audiology, medical, and/or home settings. 

How can I tell if my child has hearing loss? 

  • Difficulty recognizing familiar voices
  • Delayed or absent speech sounds (not making cooing noises, babbling less, few words, distorted speech sounds, etc.)
  • Not turning head toward interesting or startling sounds
  • Delayed language (difficulty understanding simple words, following directions, etc.)
  • Delayed or absent emergence of first words as by two years old children should start combining words into 2-word phrases)
  • If child is older, they may frequently asks others to repeat themselves for clarification
  • Child is speaking louder than others
  • Lack of attention to others, conversations, environmental surroundings
  • Struggles with academics

 

What causes hearing loss in young children? 

  • Frequent ear infections (otitis media; most common)
  • Measles or meningitis
  • Head injuries
  • Exposure to loud noises 
  • Genetic disorders

Interesting Fact… 5/6 children experience ear infections (otitis media) by the time they are 3 years old!

 

What should I do if I suspect my child has hearing loss? 

If you suspect your child has hearing loss, speak with your healthcare provider and discuss your child’s current hearing abilities and address your concerns if you suspect signs of hearing difficulties at home. Early hearing detection and a formal evaluation completed by an audiologist, ENT and/or other qualified medical professional can help determine specific needs and appropriate treatment goals to further support your child’s success. It is important to regularly check on your child’s hearing health to monitor potential changes in hearing!

 

How can Speech therapy help?

Speech-Language Pathologists can play a role in your child’s hearing health by completing hearing screenings as a part of a formal speech and language assessment. If your child does not pass a hearing screening completed by the Speech-Language Pathologist, then a referral will be made for further evaluation with audiological/medical professionals to provide the best of care to your little one. Language acquisition is an essential component of your child’s overall development. Significant hearing loss, if undetected early, can lead to a speech and language delay, further putting your child at risk of falling behind same-aged peers. Given that our hearing plays a significant role in living our daily lives, it is crucial to have your child’s hearing formally evaluated at key milestones, beginning at birth to help lead them to better speech, language, and educational outcomes in the future!

Schedule a screening at Carolina Therapy Connection today!

 

Blog By: Lindsey Bryant, SLP

Not Your Average Toy!

Not Your Average Toy offers a transformative approach to pediatric therapy, catering to the different needs of our pediatric patients in occupational, speech, and physical therapy within our clinic. These specialized toys aren’t just playthings; they motivate children to develop essential skills like fine motor control, visual perceptual abilities, grasping techniques, following multistep directions, stimulating ‘what’ questions, fostering color and shape recognition, encouraging problem-solving, and refining hand-eye coordination. What makes these toys exceptional is their unique ability to grasp the children’s attention while integrating therapeutic goals into engaging activities tailored to each child’s journey toward progress and achievement. Check out some of our favorite “Not average toys!” 

Examples of Not Your Average Toy:

Water Beads: 

What sets water beads apart? Water beads stand out for their fun way of developmental skills. They offer an enjoyable sensory and messy play while enhancing color recognition and sorting abilities. These beads serve as a tool for reaching milestones. Children can play by using a spoon for scooping into a cup, counting exercises, and even hiding items like toy fish or other objects within the beads to engage both hands in a tactile search. These toys facilitate various developmental goals, from color recognition and sorting to refining fine motor skills, in-hand manipulation, bilateral coordination, and sensory play. They also stimulate counting skills and engage in figure-ground activities.

 

Building Blocks: 

Building blocks are known for making a tower and watching it fall, but did you know that they offer various developmental opportunities? These square toys build structures with two hands, allowing a child to work towards bilateral coordination, midline crossing, and fine motor skills. Playing with blocks can also help with color recognition, shape learning, spatial orientation, and teaching concepts through block positions. 

Building blocks can also help with emotional regulation. If a task is challenging or the tower does not stay quite the way intended, this is an excellent opportunity to discuss the feelings raised and allow your child to have a voice.   

 

Puzzles: 

Puzzles are a fun, versatile learning tool for children. They can help children learn about shapes and colors, expand their vocabulary, and identify different types of animals. Puzzles also help children learn to act like put in and take out. You can add a multi-step direction to make a puzzle more challenging, like putting the cow and horse puzzle pieces together in their correct spot. For more engaging questions, ask your child, “What does a cow say?” or “Where is the cow?” Puzzle helps achieve milestones that involve enhancing visual perceptual skills, grasping technique, mastering multi-step directions, and developing problem-solving abilities. 

 

How can Carolina Therapy Connection Help? 

At CTC, we are committed to supporting our families and the child’s developmental journey and helping them achieve these goals at home. Please explore our website (https://www.carolinatherapyconnection.com/) or our Amazon Storefront (https://www.amazon.com/shop/carolinatherapyconnection). These are not your average toys; they are carefully innovative toys that can help foster growth and development. To further understand these toys’ impact, ask your therapist if you can sit in during a session. By watching the interaction between the child playing and the therapist, parents can gain insights into how effective these tools can be and bring these Not Your Average Toys into their home.

 

By: Lauren Hodges, COTA/L, and Allison Hicks

What is AAC?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. It encompasses all of the ways in which an individual may communicate outside of speaking verbally. Augmentative communication means to add to someone’s existing speech skills, and alternative means to be used in place of verbal speech. There are many different kinds of AAC including, but not limited to: gestures, facial expressions, writing, pictures symbols (e.g., picture exchange communication system/ PECS), drawing, sign language, high-tech speech generating devices, communication boards, etc. Some people may use one of these modalities, and some may use multiple modalities depending on the way in which they can most quickly and clearly communicate the topic.

Who Needs AAC?

Many different people use AAC throughout their lifetime. It can be used across the lifespan by any age, at any time, and for a variety of different reasons. Some people use AAC for their entire life, and some use it for only a short period of time. AAC can help any person who has difficulty fully or partially meeting their daily communication needs such as expressing wants and needs, socializing, asking questions, and a variety of other functions.

 

 

How can AAC help your child?

AAC may be able to help your child if they have difficulty being understood by others, have a limited vocabulary, demonstrate limited spontaneous speech, are non-speaking, and a variety of other different reasons. There are no prerequisite skills to your child beginning to use AAC. One common misconception is that AAC will hinder language development or cause your child to become dependent on it for communication. While some children may have minimal to no verbal speech throughout their lifetime, there is research to show that AAC can actually help children to develop language. Using AAC can also help to reduce frustration surrounding communication attempts, and help your child to communicate their needs more clearly, quickly, and effectively.

 

 

Parent’s Role in AAC

When introducing AAC to your child, it is important for family members/ caregivers to make the commitment to help the child succeed with the chosen AAC device. Your input is crucial in helping to choose and develop an appropriate AAC system, and using the device at home and in the community is a vital step to help both you and the child continue to learn the system. According to Jane Korsten, SLP, the average 18-month-old has been exposed to 4,380 hours of oral language at a rate of 8 hours/ day from birth. A child who has a communication system (AAC) and receives speech/language therapy 2 times/week for 20-30 minutes will reach the same amount of language exposure (in their AAC language) in 84 years. It is our role as professionals and caregivers to help minimize the communication gap between oral language users and AAC users. 

Modeling:  Modeling is an awesome way to both learn your child’s AAC system, and teach them an example of how they can use it. The best way to model is to speak and use the system at the same time, although you do not always have to select an icon for every word you say. For example, you may verbally say “time to go to school” while modeling “go” and “school” on the AAC system. A general rule of thumb is to model the number of icons your child is currently using, plus one. If your child uses 1 icon at a time, you may choose to model 1-2 icons at this time. It is important to model without expectation, meaning that you use the AAC system without expecting or requiring the child to respond, withholding items or activities, or “testing” their skills. The goal is to provide an example to the AAC learner, which they will then learn by watching and listening to what you do/say.

 

How can CTC help you and your child?

Whether your child is already receiving speech/language therapy services at our clinic or not, CTC is ready to help support both parents and children through their own individual journey with Augmentative and Alternative Communication. If you believe that your child may benefit from the use of AAC, talk to one of our many incredible speech-language pathologists to begin the process of figuring out what type of system (no tech, low-tech, mid-tech, high-tech) will work best. This process can take time, but with your support and the support of your SLP, it is possible to find the right system for your child! 

Your Baby’s Communication: Prelinguistic Vocalization

What can I expect before my baby begins talking?

Your baby’s first form of communication will be nonverbal and happens soon after birth. Your may baby grimace, cry, or squirm to express a range of emotions and physical needs, from fear and hunger to frustration and sensory overload. Oftentimes, parents learn to listen and interpret their baby’s different cries, coos and babbles. Many parents wonder when their baby will begin using words, imitate them, laugh and form a variety of other communication methods to express how they are feeling. A very important part of language development is the prelinguistic stage, which is the stage that is characterized by vocalizations before language begins. So for starters, what is language? How does it develop during a baby’s first year of life?

Language is when we use and organize sounds and words to convey meaning. Language development is considered a continuum, and there is not an abrupt shift from babbling to talking. There is an overlap between all stages of language development. Every child is different in the way they learn and grow; however there are many exciting milestones to watch for as your baby explores their environment in the first few months of life. Continue reading to learn more about the prelinguistic stage, how you can interact with your child during this stage, and how Carolina Therapy Connection can help your child reach their full potential!

What can I expect from my baby during the prelinguistic vocalizations stage?

Carolina Therapy Connection Prelinguistic Behaviors

 

1: Reflexive and Vegetative

  • Occurs birth – 2 months
  • Reflexive sounds (crying, coughs, burps)
  • Cries that mean different things (hunger, pain, etc.)

2: Cooing and Laughter

  • Occurs 2 – 4 months
  • Vowel like sounds
  • Squeals

3: Vocal Play

  • Occurs 4 – 6 months
  • Longer vowel like sounds
  • Some consonant sounds
  • Changes in pitch and loudness

4: Canonical Babbling

This stage is when babies may start to imitate what they hear! This is a fun time to sit and play with your babies and babble to them and see if they imitate!

  • Occurs around 6 months – until first words
  • Reduplicated or strings of identical syllables: “mamamama” “babababa”
  • Variegated or strings of varying consonants and vowels: “madagama”

5: Jargon

During this stage, it will seem like your baby is trying to tell you a story. They may look at you and make facial expressions and use hand movements. This is a fun time to encourage them and engage with them in conversation. Check out this awesome resource from Reading Rockets for Tips and Activities to Encourage Speech & Language Development!

  • Occurs around 10 months or older
  • This stage overlaps with first words
  • Strings of babbling
  • Paired with eye contact, gestures, and adult like intonation

Why does the prelinguistic stage matter?

Research indicates that babbling correlates to later language development. Greater babbling complexity and a variety of sounds used positively indicate greater language growth. Delayed babbling may be an indicator for speech/language delays. If you notice that your child is not babbling by 10 months of age, it may be beneficial to consult with a Speech Language Pathologist. While this is not the only factor, it can be helpful when looking at your child’s overall development.

How can Carolina Therapy Connection help?

There is so much new information and research these days that can be overwhelming for a parent. At Carolina Therapy Connection, our team of pediatric speech therapists are licensed professionals who are trained to help children with any communication difficulties. We know that developing strong communication skills is one of the most important elements to socializing and creating relationships.

Our knowledgable and experienced team of SLP’s provide screenings, assessments, consultations, and treatment to children birth through 21 years old. If you have any questions about your child’s development or would like to set up a FREE screening with one of our speech language pathologists to determine the need for an evaluation, call our clinic at 252-341-9944 to speak with one of our staff members. 

Meet the Author

Kayla Hudson Prelinguistic Communication Carolina Therapy Connection Speech Therapist

Carolina Therapy Connection Prelinguistic Communication Blog Greenville, New Bern, Goldsboro North Carolina Speech Therapy

Should My Child Be Using a Visual Schedule?

What is a visual schedule?

As adults, many of us live by our planners. We gain satisfaction from marking off our to-do lists and being organized with our daily activities. Children are better able to learn, grow and adapt to changes using this same strategy! Although there are many types of visual schedules, they all typically contain images, symbols, photos and/or words to better communicate a task or activity. Depending on your child’s age and specific needs, their visual schedule may contain activities by the minute, hour, day or week. For example, if your child requires more structure, they may use a visual schedule that uses “first, next, then” language to communicate activities for the next few minutes. If your child requires less structure with their daily activities, their visual schedule may list tasks by hour for an entire day. Check out these examples below!

 

Carolina Therapy Connection Visual Schedule Example Autism

Carolina Therapy Connection Visual Schedule Example

What are the benefits of a visual schedule?

Visual schedules are a powerful tool that can help kids perform complex tasks, organize their day, or follow a routine. Here are a list of benefits that result from using visual schedules:

  • Visual schedules provide structure and predictability. Has your child ever become upset because they didn’t want to complete a task or weren’t expecting an upcoming activity? Visual schedules provide a consistent reminder of what activity is next and can show a reward that follows a non-preferred activity. For example, if your child doesn’t like bath time, they can use their visual schedule to understand they will get to watch their favorite TV show following their bath.
  • Visual schedules encourage independence. Once your child becomes comfortable with using their schedule, they can help create it and plan for each day. It will also allow them to select preferred activities or rewards between non-preferred activities. When a child helps create their own schedule, the sense of independence promotes completing activities without being asked to do so.
  • Visual schedules reduce negative behaviors and meltdowns. When kids know in advance what’s happening, it can help them feel more in control and at ease. If there is a change in their routine, they can plan and prepare themselves for that change.
  • Visual schedules work with your child’s visual strengths. Although visual schedules can use words, pictures and symbols often times create ease for reading a visual schedule. You can also use pictures that are specific to your child’s household or routine. For example, you can use a picture of their favorite book using your phone camera instead of a generic or cartoon book.
  • Visual schedules teach a variety of skills during childhood development. Visual supports open the doors of communication, increasing your child’s ability to interact with his or her surroundings. Creating and utilizing visual schedules promote visual motor skills, fine motor skills, organization, positive self-esteem, decision making, and a wide variety of executive functioning skills.
  • Visual schedules can be used for more than just sequencing activities. You can use visual prompts similar to visual schedules to break down one task into steps. For example, if your child has difficulty with sequencing the steps of toileting, they can use a chart similar to the one below provided by A Day In Our Shoes.

Carolina Therapy Connection Visual Schedules Autism Greenville NC

Tips For Implementing a Visual Schedule With Your Child

  • Before using the visual schedule, ensure that your child understands the purpose of it and how to use it.
  • The schedule needs to be manageable. Start with a small schedule that only contains a few tasks and uses language such as “first, then” or “first, next, then.”
  • Mix preferred activities with non-preferred ones. This helps to motivate children to persevere through non-preferred activities.
  • Personalize the schedule with their favorite characters or colors. Use pictures of your child’s specific toys or items in the household. If your child is able, let them help create it!
  • Cue your child to use the schedule or ask them to check it when they begin an activity. Repetition is key!
  • If your child gets satisfaction from marking off completed activities, place a check box beside each task.
  • Use these instructions for tips on creating your own visual schedule at home.
  • This awesome resource from A Day In Our Shoes has plenty of FREE visual schedules you can print from the comfort of your home.

How can Carolina Therapy Connection help?

At Carolina Therapy Connection, we offer pediatric occupational therapy to addresses concerns with things such as self-care skills, including feeding, bathing, and dressing; fine motor skills, including writing, tying shoes, and picking up small objects; neuromotor development; and sensory integration. Our occupational therapists can work with your child and family to ensure they are using the right type of visual schedule for their routine and help them create the perfect one just for them! Our experienced therapists can help your child use a visual schedule in the clinic, as well as carryover of using them in the home or school. As our team of specialists work to help your child reach their goals, you will begin to see remarkable changes in their skills and abilities. More importantly, you will see the happiness, confidence and sense of independence this brings to your child, and the peace of mind this brings to your family.

If you have any questions regarding visual schedules or your child’s development, call Carolina Therapy Connection at 252-341-9944 to speak with one of our occupational therapists! We currently offer occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy in Greenville, Goldsboro and New Bern, NC. 

 

Carolina Therapy Connection Autism Visual Schedule Greenville NC

Let’s Get Real About Screen Time

Screen Time and Childhood Development

Screens and technology use are becoming more and more common for children. According to the CDC, children ages 8-10 spend an average of 6 hours per day in front of a screen. This increased time spent starring into a screen can have significant effects on a child’s health and development. Young children learn about the world by exploring their environment and watching and modeling others’ behaviors. They learn to foster their imagination and creativity by interacting with toys and others. Increased screen use can have significant effects on this aspect of their development. A new study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center published in JAMA Pediatrics showed concerning evidence that brain structure may be altered in kids with more screen use. Researchers looked at brain MRIs in 47 preschoolers and found that screen time over the American Academy of Pediatric’s recommendations was associated with differences in brain structure in areas related to language and literacy development. Below is a chart with suggested screen time use by age by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Screen Time

Screen Time and Behavior

While screens can be beneficial teaching tools, great for reward and even better for making those long car rides more bearable, their growing presence means parenting around them has become increasingly challenging. The exciting nature of screen time can trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that makes us associate screens with pleasure and therefore something we want to spend more time with. These dopamine releases make it physically and mentally challenging for kids to put down technology. As a parent, think back to your childhood and how often you were watching a screen. It may have been for about an hour after dinner right? Let’s also think about what you were watching. It was most likely an hour long show that you had to wait until the following week to find out what happened next! Kids today are watching short-lived Youtube videos, 1-3 minute Tik-Toks, scrolling through social media, or binge watching a show with 10 episodes readily available. Research shows that these short clips of fast-paced programming have an immediate, measurable, negative impact on sustained attention and self-regulation. When screens displace activities like outdoor time, play, independent work and social interactions it can result in a kid missing out on valuable caregiver interactions that model and teach emotional regulation. Without those skills, a child might be quicker to anger, become frustrated or shut down.

Negative effects of increased technology use:

  • Decreased attention span and/or social interaction skills due to lack of peer interaction and engagement
  • Deficits in language and communication skills due to lack of reciprocal dialogue and social interaction
  • Difficulty sleeping: The blue light that screens omit, inhibits melatonin; our body’s sleep hormone
  • Risk factor for obesity: Engaging in a sedentary activity for extended periods of time increases this risk

Ways to Decrease Screen Time

Tips/ strategies to set boundaries and decrease screen time:

  • Keep certain times screen-free (i.e. during mealtimes, bed-time, and family time)
  • Set restrictions on the content/ apps that can be accessed 
  • Co-watch with your child so that the content is educational and appropriate. The parent can also help the child understand what they are watching 
  • Download games, apps, and YouTube content that are only educational
  • Parents can model healthy screen usage by decreasing the amount of time spent on their screens in front of their child
  • Set a family curfew for screen-usage (i.e. after 6:00pm, no more screens) 

Ways to take movement breaks:

Nowadays increased screen time is more common because of virtual learning and adults working from home. Here are some ways to take a break from the screen and get your body up and moving.   

  • 5 senses walk pointing out 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can hear, 3 things that you can touch, 2 things that you can smell, and 1 thing that you can taste
  • Wheelbarrow walks across the room
  • Animal walks: Bear walks or crab walks 
  • Jumping jacks 
  • Crashing or jumping onto couch, mattress, or cushions 

Screen-free activities for families:

  • Make a fort out of pillows, blankets, chairs, furniture, etc. 
  • Get outside! There are so many fun activities that can take place outside; go for a walk, ride bikes, sidewalk chalk, water play with a hose or sprinkler, hide and seek
  • Karaoke or dance party 
  • Create a scavenger hunt around the house 
  • Have a game night

Screen-Free Toys under $22 that promote imaginative play and exploration:

 

Screen Time Carolina Therapy Connection

Better Speech and Hearing Month

What is Better Speech and Hearing Month?

Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM) was founded in 1927, by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). The aim of Better Speech and Hearing Month is to raise awareness around both speech and hearing problems while encouraging people to take a look at their own speech and hearing and to make a change if there is a problem. Developing strong communication skills is one of the most important elements to socializing and creating relationships. Communicating can be difficult for children with speech and/or language disorders, causing frustration and isolation. A Speech-Language Pathologist helps children overcome communication obstacles, and this month we are giving a huge shout out to our amazing Speech-Language Pathologists at Carolina Therapy Connection!

How can I be involved in Better Speech and Hearing Month?

According to the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC), hearing loss affects 48 million Americans. Nearly 1 in 12 (7.7 percent) U.S. children ages 3-17 has had a disorder related to voice, speech, language, or swallowing. Considering these statistics, millions more family members and friends are also impacted. Better Hearing and Speech Month offers an opportunity for everyone to come together and bring awareness to hearing and speech related issues, educate themselves, and enthusiastically promote hearing and speech health. Anyone can celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month, so we encourage you to get involved in your own community! In order to do your part this month, you simply can shine a spotlight on hearing health or speech issues. You could do this by sharing educational materials, encouraging your loved ones to be aware of their speech and hearing needs, telling your personal journey on social media, or simply just reading this blog to become more aware!

What are the areas of Speech-Language Pathology?

In light of Better Speech and Hearing Month, we want to provide resources for a better understanding of speech-language pathology and the roles of SLPs! The graphic below was created by Allison Fors, a speech-language resource author that creates speech therapy tools and educational resources for the public and all SLPs. View her blog here to learn more about each area of speech language pathology.

Areas of SLP

Recognize the Early Signs of Communication Disorders

As a parent, the early stages of communication disorders are easier to spot when you know the signs. Early detection and treatment of speech, language, and hearing issues is absolutely critical to improving the quality of life.

Here is a list of examples that are commonly known signs of communication disorders in children birth to 4 years old:

  • Does not smile or interact with others using verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Makes only a few sounds or gestures, resulting in using mostly nonverbal communication only
  • Words are not easily understood or language is unclear (12-18 months)
  • Has trouble with reading and writing skills (2.5 – 3 years)
  • Has trouble interacting with other children
  • Stretches out or repeats the first sounds of words: “f-f-f-f-farm”
  • Uses a nasal sounding voice
  • Uses a horse or breathy voice (frequent pauses or breathing between words)

Speech-Language Pathology at Carolina Therapy Connection

Our SLP’s at Carolina Therapy Connection design each therapy session with your child’s specific needs in mind. Our approach not only helps your child with their speech, but it also helps with communication, comprehension, social skills, expanding vocabulary, articulation, and many other areas. If your child is in need of therapy, it is best to begin as soon as possible. Children enrolled in therapy early (before they’re 5 years old) tend to have better outcomes than those who begin therapy later. Older kids may progress at a slower rate, because they often have learned patterns that need to be changed. Your child may need speech therapy if they have difficulty with speech/articulation (pronouncing sounds or words) or using words to communicate. Because the muscles and structures used for speech (such as lips, tongue, teeth, palate and throat) are also used in eating, a speech and language pathologist may also help with feeding and swallowing difficulties, also known as dysphagia. Our team of pediatric speech therapists provide screening, assessment, consultation, and treatment in the following areas:

If your child is experiencing any difficulty with communication, call our clinic for a FREE screening. A screening is a 10-15 minute conversation between an SLP and the family regarding the need for a clinical evaluation. Our focus is the wellness of the child. All of our therapists work together to insure they are receiving all the help they need to reach their highest potential!

 

 

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