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24-Month-Old Milestone

What speech development will my child be doing at this time? 

At 24 months, most children have developed a vocabulary of at least 200 words or more. They can now use simple two-word phrases and may even begin to form simple phrases. These sentences may not be grammatically correct, but they convey meaning and reflect the child’s attempts to express themselves more elaborately. For example, a 24-month-old might say “big truck” or “mommy book.”

One notable aspect of language development at this age is the emergence of pronouns. Many toddlers start using pronouns such as “I,” “me,” and “you” to refer to themselves and others. This marks a significant step in their ability to express personal experiences and interact with others. 

In addition to vocabulary expansion and sentence formation, toddlers are refining their articulation skills at this stage. While their speech may still be unclear to unfamiliar listeners, families can usually understand their child’s words and phrases. Sound errors are typical at this age, and most children gradually improve as they continue to practice and refine their speech sounds. 

What else should my child be doing for Speech Development?

Another exciting 24-month-old milestone in language development is the ability to follow simple directions. Toddlers can often understand and respond to basic instructions, such as “give me the ball” or “come here.” This newfound skill contributes to their growing independence and ability to engage in simple tasks.

Social communication skills also make significant strides at this age. Many 24-month-olds enjoy engaging in simple conversations and sharing their thoughts and observations with those around them. They may imitate adult speech patterns and gestures and even attempt to participate in back-and-forth exchanges. Furthermore, imaginative play also begins to blossom. They might pretend to play with dolls or stuffed animals, using words to narrate their play and express creativity. 

What Can I Do at Home? 

It’s important to note that while there are general milestones for speech and language development, each child is unique and may progress at their own pace. Regular exposure to language-rich environments, positive interactions with caregivers, and engaging activities that stimulate language development all contribute to a child’s linguistic advancement.

The 24-month mark is an exciting stage in a child’s speech and language development. It represents a time of significant growth in vocabulary, sentence structure, and social communication skills, laying the foundation for more advanced language abilities in the future. Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in fostering this development through supportive and enriching interactions with their toddlers.

 

By: Lindsey Bryant CF, SLP

 

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

 

Stuttering: Developmental or Disordered?

Stuttering in children is a speech disorder characterized by disruptions in the natural flow of speech. Developmental stuttering is a common experience, typically emerging between the ages of 2 and 5 when children are first learning to speak fluently and developing a large repertoire of words, phrases, and sentences. While many kids experience a phase of disfluency in their normal speech development and may outgrow it, some might continue to stutter as they grow older. In this case, speech therapy may be recommended.

 

 

Causes of Stuttering in Children

The exact cause remains unclear, but it’s believed to arise from a combination of genetic, neurophysiological, and environmental factors. Children with a family history of stuttering are more likely to develop it. Some kids experience stuttering due to differences in brain structure or function related to speech production. Emotional factors like stress, pressure to communicate quickly, or a hurried environment can also increase stuttering. Stuttering occurs at the initiation of voice, which is why we typically hear disfluencies at the beginning of words and phrases.

 

According to Johns Hopkins Hospital, A child is more likely to stutter if he or she has:

 

  • A family history of stuttering
  • Stuttered for 6+ months
  • Other speech or language disorders
  • Strong emotions about stuttering or family members with fears or concerns

 

Types of Disfluencies

Stuttering manifests in various ways, such as repetitions (repeating sounds, syllables, or words), prolongations (elongating sounds), and blocks (inability to produce sounds). These disruptions can lead to tension and anxiety, causing the child to avoid certain words or situations where they might feel pressured to speak.

 

Speech Therapy for Stuttering:

Speech therapists play a crucial role in assessing, diagnosing, and treating stuttering. Here are some primary approaches utilized in speech therapy:

 

Speech Modification Techniques: Therapists teach children to use gentle starts to sentences, and employ smooth, relaxed breathing patterns. This helps in reducing the frequency and severity of stuttering moments. Continuous phonation, for example, is a technique where speakers learn to keep their voice on and vocal folds vibrating throughout speech. 

 

Fluency Shaping: This technique focuses on reshaping the child’s speech patterns by teaching smoother speech movements. It involves controlled breathing, gentle voicing, and gradually increasing sentence length to enhance fluency.

 

Stuttering Modification: This approach concentrates on changing the child’s emotional and cognitive reactions to stuttering. It involves desensitizing the child to the fear and anxiety associated with stuttering and teaching strategies to manage and accept disfluency.

 

Parental Involvement: Educating parents about stuttering and how to support their child’s speech development is key to increasing the child’s success. Therapists often teach parents techniques to practice at home, creating a supportive environment for the child’s progress.

 

Communication Skills Training: This includes enhancing overall communication skills, like turn-taking and using pauses effectively. It helps in building the child’s confidence and reducing the pressure associated with speaking.

 

Long-Term Outlook

Many young children outgrow developmental stuttering; however, some might continue to stutter into adolescence and adulthood. In such cases, ongoing therapy, support groups, and strategies for managing stuttering in social and professional settings become vital.

 

How can Carolina Therapy Connection help?

Children who sutter often benefit from therapy from skilled Speech-Language Pathologists. Stuttering in children is a complex speech disorder that necessitates early intervention and specialized therapy. Speech therapists employ a variety of techniques focusing on speech modification, emotional support, and overall communication enhancement to help children manage and, in many cases, overcome stuttering. Family involvement and a supportive environment are fundamental in the child’s journey towards improved fluency and confidence in communication. At Carolina Therapy Connection, our treatment is highly individualized to your child’s needs. A standardized assessment will be administered to detect any disfluencies, and our therapists will work with you and your child to develop a plan for enhancing skills to build confidence across all social environments (home, school, social groups, etc). If you have any concerns or questions regarding your child’s development, call our clinic at (252) 341-9944.

 

By Ashley Holloway, MS, CCC-SLP, CAS

 

 

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! 

Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

October is filled with so many exciting things, the start of fall weather and holidays approaching; but did you know that October is also Down Syndrome Awareness Month? Established for over 40 years, it is a time to recognize and celebrate our friends with Down Syndrome and the amazing abilities they have!

 

What is Down Syndrome?

Down Syndrome is often called Trisomy 21, though there are actually three types: trisomy 21 (nondisjunction) which makes up 95% of cases, translocation (4%), and mosaicism (1%). It occurs in approximately 1 out of every 691 births, and more than 400,000 people are living with Down syndrome in the United States. These individuals are born with an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. They are able to work, go to school, develop meaningful relationships, make their own decisions, and participate in society however they wish! According to the National Down Syndrome Society, “Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends, and the community enable people with Down Syndrome to lead fulfilling and productive lives.”

 

You are welcomed here!

Here at Carolina Therapy Connection, we are honored to serve our families who have children with Down Syndrome! One of our special friends, Hannah Hill, has made tremendous progress in her therapy. Her mother stated, “Because Hannah is very verbal, people often ask me if she has a ‘mild’ case of Down Syndrome. It’s not commonly known that there is no ‘spectrum’ of Down Syndrome! You either have it or you don’t! While the extra chromosome does impact their lives, people with Down Syndrome are unique, and have their own strengths and weaknesses. They have physical features, personality traits, abilities, challenges, interests, successes, and failures just like everyone else!”  

Hannah: Age 8

 

How can therapy help?

  • Speech therapy services provided by a speech-language pathologist reap great benefits. Many children with Down syndrome develop language later than same-age peers. Low muscle tone could also impact the ability to produce speech sounds accurately, and therapy is paramount to helping a child develop the ability to confidently and effectively communicate their thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs. SLPs can provide assistance with prelinguistic and oral-motor skills, as well!
  • Physical therapy can help a child with Down Syndrome starting at a young age to increase strength and gross motor development. From rolling and sitting, to developing an efficient walking pattern, and even participating in sports, physical therapy can make a huge difference in a child’s life. In a physical therapy session, our PT’s will focus on things such as: gross and fine motor development, balance, coordination, and age-appropriate daily living skills. 
  • Occupational therapy can assist people with Down Syndrome in learning to complete many everyday tasks. Occupational therapy will provide support specifically in three areas, motor, cognitive, and sensory integration. Specifically, an occupational therapy session may include activities that promote self-care, fine motor, play, and social skills!

 

A Total Communication Approach 

Many parents are excited to begin therapy and learn ways to promote and enhance communication for their children. According to our colleagues at the Boston Children’s Hospital Down Syndrome Program, a Total Communication Approach can be beneficial! The Total Communication Approach means using any functional means of communication; this could include: verbal speech, ASL, gestures, pictures, and/or simple or high-tech communication devices. Many children with Down syndrome are visual processors, and the goal of Total Communication is multi-sensory (i.e., visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) in order to encourage any form of expression. What are some ways to facilitate this approach at home?

  • Visual input: Pointing to objects and pictures that you are naming or describing. 
  • Use sign language for basic words (eat, want, bath, play, etc.). Research shows using signs increases understanding and offers an additional method for communication. 
  • Incorporate music into pretend play.
  • Joint book reading. Follow your child’s lead!

 

How can Carolina Therapy Connection help?

Children with Down Syndrome often benefit from therapy from skilled professionals, including speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. At Carolina Therapy Connection, our treatment is highly individualized to your child’s needs. A standardized assessment will be administered to detect any delays, and our therapists will work with you and your child to develop a plan for enhancing skills to  build confidence across all social environments (home, school, social groups, etc). If you have any concerns or questions regarding your child’s development, call our clinic at (252) 341-9944.

By Ashley Holloway, MS, CCC-SLP, CAS

Does My Child Have Dyslexia?

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia targets about 15-20% of our population! Most of us may not even know we are dyslexic. We could continue our lives undiagnosed and seek little to no help with this problem. Many people with Dyslexia that have been evaluated struggle with academics, self-esteem, and most importantly, they struggle with reading/writing within their own home and in the school environment. Many adults with this diagnosis have difficulties with finding or obtaining employment and causes them to lose self-confidence. Dyslexia is a type of learning disability, specifically reading, but not to be compared with low intelligence. There are many types of disabilities that involve learning, but dyslexia meaning is more in-depth of someone having issues with learning to read, although they are most likely educated enough to learn when want to learn. 

What are the symptoms of dyslexia before and at school age?

When it comes to signs of Dyslexia, it can be difficult to visually see a child’s symptoms before they reach a certain age or start going to school. There’s a high chance that the child’s educator will notice an issue before the caregiver. 

Here are some signs of Dyslexia:

  • The child will have difficulties with letter reversals; (b and d) and/or word reversals (was and saw).
  • Your child could be a late talker.
  • Problems processing and understanding what is heard
  • The child may have difficulties with reading aloud and learning new words and an age-appropriate pace; the child may avoid activities that involve reading
  • The child may mispronounce words; or form words incorrectly, such as reversing sounds in words or confusing words that sound alike.
  • The child may have trouble with rhyming words and remembering nursery rhymes
  • Difficulties with math word problems.
  • Difficulties with understanding jokes, punchlines, sarcasm, and inferences.
  • Your child may have difficulties with following a written outline of directions or telling directions.
  • Difficulties with spelling, learning to read, and recalling names or words.

What Causes Dyslexia? 

Dyslexia is not a disease. It is a neurological condition caused by the way the brain is wired up enabling reading and writing causing the individual to result in utilizing coping strategies to adapt to normal environments. Studies show that an individual born with this condition are neither more nor less intelligent than the general population. Research has shown that dyslexia is one of the most common inherited neurological disorders an individual is born with. Even though it affects how the brain processes reading and language, most children have average or above-average intelligence; therefore, work extremely hard to achieve and overcome their reading problems.

What should you do if you suspect or if your child has Dyslexia?

Have a conversation with your healthcare provider and discuss your child’s reading level if you or his/her teacher notice a below-level reading status for your child’s age or if you notice other signs of dyslexia. Fortunately, with the proper assistance, most kids who are dyslexic can learn to read and develop strategies that allow them to stay in the regular classroom. If you suspect you or your child may be dyslexic, early detection and evaluation to determine specific needs and appropriate treatment can improve success. In many cases, treatment can help children become competent readers. It’s important to set an example and support your child with goals that are attainable. Show your child that reading can be enjoyable.

Set Goals for yourself and the child:

  • As a parent, you should play a key role in helping your child succeed. 
  • You can assist your child by reading aloud to them while they are young, then transition to reading together when they’re old enough. 
  • You can also listen to recorded books with your child. 
  • Collaborate with your child’s educator. 
  • Engaged in creating a schedule for reading time. 

How can Occupational Therapy help?

Pediatric occupational therapists and certified occupational therapy assistants can encourage children to participate in meaningful tasks within the school and home environments. Therapists can assist in managing dyslexia and assist in increasing children’s confidence and participation in reading and writing tasks. Occupational therapy for kiddos really focuses on building confidence and implementing client-centered care for the child and their families. OT’s can provide strategies for home and school such as: 

  • Implementing multi-sensory approaches – using other senses to approach learning such as seeing, listening, doing, and speaking).
  • Visual prompts: Providing visual prompts for both instructions and organization.
  • Visually sequencing tasks (or components within a task) using visual cues. 
  • Use of colored lines and templates to assist with line placement and letter sizing.
  • Visual strategies to assist with reading and spelling such as colored coding paper size according to letter size.
  • Using modeling techniques rather than only giving a simple verbal instruction
  • Letter formation practice

 

Written By: Carlos Guilford

Mealtime Tips For Your Picky Eater

Why Is Mealtime So Important For Children?

The 3 most important things for humans to survive is: food, water and oxygen. For some parents, the concern for their kiddos health and well-being becomes heightened when they notice their kiddo isn’t eating as much food or as many types of foods as they may have at one time. Some kiddos who are referred to Occupational Therapy are considered “Picky Eaters” and others may be referred to as a “Problem Feeder”. We all know a picky eater. This is a person/kiddo who has at least 30 foods in their repertoire. Whereas a “Problem Feeder” is a person/kiddo who has less than 20 foods in their repertoire. There are many reasons this could happen such as trauma, sensory related challenges, anxiety, behavioral challenges, and more. As Occupational Therapists, we are trained to assist these kiddos by addressing these challenges which can increase their tolerance for trying new foods! Keep reading to learn more picky eater tips we have below!

So why is MEALTIME so important to assist with this?

One of the first things we will ask as OTRs or COTAs is “What does mealtime look like at home?” Some parents may say, 

“We all sit down as a family every night for dinner but we are busy or gone for breakfast and lunch”, “We are so busy that we are lucky to eat all at the same time”, or “(The child) eats all day but won’t eat the food I cook at dinner”. Of course these are just examples, but can you relate to any of them? It’s a possibility! 

Asking about mealtimes is very important to your therapist because this gives us an idea of how your child eats during the day. Kiddos need fuel to keep their bodies going. However, WHAT they are taking in and HOW/WHEN they are taking it in will make a huge difference in behavior, attention, ability to process/retain information and regulate emotions/emotional responses. To give you an idea of why the “what”, “how” and “when” are so important, I’ll follow up on the questions above.

1. “We all sit down as a family every night for dinner but we are busy or gone for breakfast and lunch”

This could be a beneficial time to incorporate feeding techniques and build interest in the foods around the table. Interest always comes before action. A child must first be interested in the food before they will interact with it. This is one reason that mealtime is so important for kiddos. It can be an opportunity to build interest in various smells, sights, and textures of foods provided by parents in a supportive and positive manner.

2. “We are so busy that we are lucky to eat all at the same time”

How can you work your schedule to have a least one meal together every other day? We understand that this busy world requires busy people to keep it going. However, when you are overwhelmed and exhausted your child may pick up on that. Children are very intuitive. Incorporating as many mealtimes as possible may assist with parent/child interaction and decreasing anxiety and overwhelming emotions in adults which can in turn make eating less stressful for a “picky eater”.

3. “(The child) eats all day but won’t eat the food I cook at dinner”

Grazing is when a kiddo eating little snacks all throughout the day. Have you ever seen a child leave a snack on the table, go play for 30 minutes, then return to finish the snack? If your child is doing this all day, it may explain why they are not eating at mealtimes. Typically, the brain lets us know when we need to refuel because the digestive system sends signals saying, “I’m empty in here!”. When grazing, a child’s brain will begin to have a hard time distinguishing when the child is hungry due to constantly having food in the digestive system. This can effect metabolism and the ability to regulate hunger. When given mealtimes, the body has time to regulate, digest and filter out what it needs for fuel. Additionally, if given processed snacks that are high in sugar or carbohydrates throughout the day, the body will begin to crave them. This can create a difficult loop to break when introducing thing like vegetables, meats and some fruits. Positive interactions at mealtimes can assist with parent/child interactions, lowering anxiety and stress levels, giving the child’s body time to process what it needs for fuel and providing learning opportunities for the sensory system. This can be a major changing factor in how your child engages with food! 

Additional Mealtime Picky Eater Tips

Picky Eater Tips #1: Don’t force foods on children

As parents, we want our children to eat a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits and other healthy snacks to help them grow to be strong and healthy. Studies show that forcing a child to sit and eat until they have cleared their entire plate is not the best method for achieving this goal. Instead, parents should promote foods that may have not been a hit the first time around. You can model this yourself by trying a food you haven’t liked in the past, and explain that you’re giving it another chance because your tastes may have changed. We want to show kids that we are adaptable. Remember: It can take as many as 10 or more times tasting a food before a toddler’s taste buds accept it. 

Picky Eater Tips #2: Get Creative With Food Bingo

You can also put together a list of new foods for the family to try and make a game out of it—what will we try tonight? You can make it interactive and fun by doing something creative like Food Bingo. There are many free printable online similar to the image shown below. You can even make your own! Hang it on the fridge and have your child place a sticker or check off the new foods they have tried. You can even add in a reward for them getting “bingo” – a trip to their favorite place, a new toy, a play date, or something else they really enjoy!

Food Bingo

Picky Eater Tips #3: Don’t Make a Second Meal

When you serve a meal to your family and your kiddo refuses to eat it, we recommend having simple and consistent back up options, such as yogurt, a cheese, nut & fruit snack pack, apple sauce, cereal etc. It’s important for children to know that if they can not eat the meal you have prepared, they will receive the standard option – rather than the usual chicken nuggets baked quickly in the oven. We should also teach kids that a meal isn’t ruined if it comes in contact with something they don’t like. Finding an unwanted pickle on your cheeseburger will not contaminate it. Children should be encouraged to push food they don’t like off to the side, or onto another plate, or offer to share it with someone else.

Picky Eater Tips #4: Involve Your Kiddo in the Meal Prep Process

Some cooking tasks are perfect for toddlers and small children (with supervision, of course): sifting, stirring, counting ingredients, picking fresh herbs from a garden or windowsill, and “painting” on cooking oil with a pastry brush. Allowing our children to interact with the foods they are going to eat will help to promote and encourage them to try it!

Picky Eater Tips #5: Food Chaining

Once your kiddo tries a new food and that food is accepted, use what one our Occupational Therapist’s favorite pickle eater tips call “food chaining” to introduce others with similar color, flavor and texture to help expand variety in what your child will eat. Children with sensory concerns have difficulty with leaping from the types of food they are willing/able to eat. Food chaining builds a bridge to get to those foods you really want your child to eat one step at a time through links to food they’re already eating. Examples include:

  • If your child likes pumpkin pie, for example, try mashed sweet potatoes and then mashed carrots.
  • If your child loves pretzels, try veggie straws next, and then move on to baby carrots or carrot sticks. Carrots are hard, crunchy, and stick shaped, but are cold and have a different taste.
  • If your child loves French Fries, then give a try to Zucchini fries.
  • Move from cookies to Fig Newtons, to jam toast, to jam sandwich, to bread with sliced strawberries, and lastly to fresh strawberries
  • If chicken nuggets are the fan favorite, try to first change the brand of nuggets, then move to homemade chicken nuggets, then to homemade tenders, and lastly to a baked chicken breast.
  • Maybe your kiddo love goldfish crackers. Next give Cheeze Itz a try, and then move on to saltine crackers, and lastly to saltines with cheese slices.

How Can Carolina Therapy Connection Help?

In addition to utilizing the tips above at home, we know that sometimes children need an extra push to expand their food repertoire. At Carolina Therapy Connection, our occupational and speech therapists provide feeding therapy that uses a collaborative approach to work closely with you and your child to determine the source of a child’s feeding difficulties, and develop specific intervention plans to make the entire eating process easier and more enjoyable. Often times, feeding therapy happens on a weekly basis and may consist of working on difficulty with trying new foods, chewing, swallowing, sensory issues, irritability at meal time and so much more. Our goals are to broaden your child’s scope of foods, teach them the benefits of healthy eating, and develop oral motor skills needed for optimal growth and nutrition.

Our Occupational Therapists take a sensory-based feeding approach to therapy.  They focus on: oral motor skills, sensory sensitivities, progressing through food textures, and using adaptive equipment and tools to develop self-feeding skills. They also use a process called food chaining, which is a child-friendly treatment approach that helps introduce new foods while building on the child’s past successful eating experiences. In this process, the child is presented with new foods that may be similar in taste, temperature, or texture to foods the child already likes and accepts. Our occupational therapists are certified in the SOS Feeding Approach, a nationally and internationally recognized approach for assessing and treating children with feeding difficulties.

Our feeding therapists have 15-20 years of experience with children of all ages and a variety of feeding disorders. They have certifications in SOS and AEIOU approaches and significant training from around the country on feeding approaches, treatment strategies, and focused plans. We also having consistent collaboration with other professionals in the community to guarantee the best care. Call our clinic at 252-341-9944 for a free phone screening with one of our feeding therapists and schedule an evaluation today!

Blog Written By: Shelby Godwin, COTA/L, AC & Morgan Foster, MS, OTR/L

 

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