Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ear Infections Impact on Speech-Language Development

It is that time of year... colds, flu, coughs & sneezes!  

Not only should we continue to educate our children to "catch that sneeze" or "cover a cough", but we should look out for symptoms of coexisting ear infections.  If your child is not responding to his name or seems to have new challenges with balance, it may be secondary to an asymptomatic ear infection.

A coworker of mine, Penny Kukla, shared more valuable information regarding how middle ear infections could negatively impact our students' growth in speech and language.  It is a great reminder for this time of year:

Ear Infections and Speech and Language Development
Ear infections can cause fluid in the middle ear (otitis media). Ear infections are one of the most common illnesses in children between birth and three years of age. Fluid in the middle ear prevents the ear from conducting sound properly. It can interfere with normal hearing. Even a mild, temporary hearing loss can delay the development of speech and language skills. Therefore, early recognition and treatment of otitis media is important.  
The symptoms of serious ear infections and otitis media usually appear during or after a cold or respiratory infection, often during the winter months. Since fluid can collect in the middle ear without causing pain, children with otitis media may not complain about it. Parents may notice symptoms before the child does! If your child has recently had an ear infection, be alert for one or more of the above symptoms!
When a child gets ear infections several times during a year, it is called recurrent otitis media. A preschool child with recurrent otitis media frequently experiences a temporary loss of hearing. The loss may continue for up to six weeks after the ear infection has healed. Such a hearing loss is described as "mild and fluctuating". This is a major cause of speech and language delay including auditory processing disorders.
Communication development is at its peak from twelve months through four years of age. Fluctuating hearing loss during that time interferes with learning speech and language. Children who can not hear clearly may "tune out" everyday sounds - even your voice! If your child has fluid in the middle ear, similar words may sound the same. It is not surprising that final consonants, past tense, and plural word endings are often left off by children with recurrent otitis media. Since they don't hear these sounds when others talk, they don't learn how to say them properly.
Children with recurrent otitis media over several months or years may develop:
Permanent hearing loss if left untreated
Speech and language loss
Problems focusing their attention
Problems with school work
Poor self esteem or Social problems
Auditory Processing Disorders

Did you hear that? Hoping so!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Song... and dance?

Music is a magical tool for bringing back memories, perhaps a special trip, occasion or friend.  We also tend to remember bits of information better when it is paired with a song... feel free to ask me to name/sing the prepositions - thanks to the "Yankee Doodle" song I learned in 6th grade!

In our speech-language preschool and early literacy groups, I use a Literacy Link ABC song to highlight target phonemes and production cues.  I had previously shared the video of myself singing and dancing (really gesturing) with all the families of my younger students.  However, with our school district's newly configured websites this video is unable to be recovered.  Alas, the "link" to the Literacy Link song is broken!

I found the same song/gestures that I use in my sessions, on YouTube.  Same song but different singer :)

Here you go!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Visual Cues

We keep chugging away in the speech room.  Progress is being made in so many areas and new goal setting is ongoing.  It is fun to celebrate all the growth we make together.

Today I want to highlight some of the tools that help all of us improve.  The specific area I am focusing on is "Visual Cues".  As adults we utilize calendars, clocks and even IPAD alarms/notes to help us navigate through our day.  Our students need the same supports.

From basic written sentence starters with paired symbolic vocabulary...

To posted learning targets and picture cue cards to give reminders on tongue/teeth placement for speech sound production...

Let me know the areas that you would like support in carrying over goals and strategies at home with our shared students!  I am happy to offer gestural suggestions or printouts :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Welcome Back to School!

Students headed back to school yesterday to almost all of the Wisconsin Public Schools!  We are lucky to head back after Labor Day when the temperature is typically a bit cooler than other states first weeks.  This week has so far been no exception!  It makes the return to routine much more comfortable for all :).

My speech groups started up at our school Walker Elementary today.  So nice to reconnect with students and to make plans for what we want to accomplish by the end of the year.

It is typically the beginning of the year when parents and teachers alike have questions and voice concerns over students' speech or language skills.  The following "Frequently Asked Questions" should be a helpful resource for many.  It is an excerpt from the guidelines shared by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs that my child may have a communication problem?

He/she began talking later than expected
Cannot seem to express his/her thoughts and ideas
Has difficulties understanding others and following directions
Doesn’t pick up on social cues
Is performing below expectations in the classroom
Is having difficulty learning to read
What types of speech and language disorders affect school-age children?

Speech sound disorders – difficulty pronouncing sounds
Language disorders – difficulty understanding what is heard as well as expressing themselves with words
Cognitive-communication disorders – difficulty with thinking skills including perception, memory, awareness, reasoning, and judgment
Stuttering (fluency) disorders – interruption of the flow of speech including hesitations, repetitions, and/or prolongations of sounds or words
Voice disorders – differences in the quality of voice that may include hoarseness, nasality, or volume

Do speech-language disorders affect learning?

Speech and language skills are crucial for academic success and learning.  Language is the basis of communication.  Reading, writing, gesturing, listening, and speaking are all forms of language.  A student must be able to communicate with peers and adults in the educational setting in order to succeed in school.

How may a speech-language disorder affect school performance?

Children with communication disorders often do not perform at grade level.  They may struggle with reading, have difficulty understanding and expressing language, misunderstand social cues, and have difficulty with tests.

American Speech-Language Hearing Association

Monday, April 22, 2013

Celebrating Earth Day

My absolute favorite preschool speech-language theme of all time is "Earth Day"!  First of all, instead of making new group sound targets, the student's most needed sound target is "recycled" to each individuals need.  We review ways to take care of this planet, celebrate the beauty of the outdoors and get to do goofy things with "garbage".

Check out the "Clutter Bug" creation below, composed of all the scrap wrappers left from snack time.  The kids get quite a kick out of these unique creations.

We practice our recycling skills with a "Recyclable Toss" into the blue bin, while singing an Earth Day ditty.

It goes something like this:
"Reuse, Reduce, Recycle... Three words we all know.
We have to save the planet... So we can live a grow.
We might be only children... But we can help you'll see.
And we can clean the planet... It starts with you and me!"

Check out the little bit of earth that made its way into my office this month.  Thanks to a thoughtful husband on the date of our 14th wedding anniversary :)

And here is my son modeling his newly fashioned Jet Pack... composed of 99% reused items out of our home's recycle bin. 

It can be easy and fun to be green!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Strategies for Students who Seek Oral Input

"Take that out of your mouth!"

"Don't chew that."

"Didn't I just tell you to stop biting/sucking/licking that?"

If any of the aforementioned are too commonly part of your dialogue, I have some ideas to share with you.  Thanks to a blog entry from North Shore Pediatric Therapies a variety of alternatives are available to substitute "nagging" or constant mouthing.  See the information they share below...

Children who put toys in their mouths, chew on their clothing or bite their pencils at school may be seeking oral motor/sensorimotor input to help their bodies reach an optimal arousal level. We want to provide them with strategies to get this input in an appropriate manner. Here is a list of alternative strategies to support your child’s oral motor/sensorimotor needs.

Strategies For Children Seeking Oral Input:

1. Engage in activities such as whistling, blowing bubbles and using blow pens
2. Play games with straws (i.e. hockey by blowing cotton balls or splatter painting by blowing on paint using a straw)
3. Have them eat sweet and sour candies
4. Chew gum
5. Blow up balloons
6. Make a chewy necklace out of cheerios and licorice
7. Drink thick liquids (e.g. applesauce, pudding) through a straw
8. Drink water through a water bottle with a straw
9. Make a bubble volcano: Fill a bucket with soap and water, and have your child use a straw to blow bubbles to make the volcano. This is an activity you can use at home to help with self-regulation.
10. Send chewy, crunchy snacks (e.g. pretzels, granola bar, fruit leather, bagels) for lunch
11. Purchase products designed for chewing:
• Chewlery:
• Chew tubes and similar objects:
• Other fun oral motor tools:
• ChewEase pencil toppers:

My boys enjoying crunchy oral input!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Flash Card Burn Out!

Got flash cards?  Than I have a few ideas to share with you!

In our speech-language sessions many flashcards are used or made together.  We use them for vocabulary building with categories, opposites, same meaning words and pronouns.  Also, they are great for building awareness of figures of speech, such as idioms or non-literal language.  Of course they are often used for repetitive practice on targeted speech sounds too.

If you have speech-language cards that were sent home, and are wondering what else you can do with them, check out the fun ideas below.  These activities would also work great for other subject matter too.  Whip out those index cards and get to work!

(or for math/sight word/vocabulary work too!)

  •  Draw a picture of yourself. Draw a part each time you say a word.
  •  Punch holes in your cards and string them together as you say them.
  •  Guess what card someone else is describing.
  •  Shake a die or spin a spinner and say your words that many times.
  •  Cover your cards and name as many as you can remember.
  •  Put your cards on the fridge. Say the words before and after dinner.
  •  Turn your cards face down and name them as you turn them over.
  •  Put all your cards in a bag, pick one, and name it.
  •  Put your cards in a shirt pocket each time you say them.
  •  Tape your pictures around the house and say them as you pass them.
  •  Hide your cards in a book. Turn each page and say the cards you find.
  •  Put a piece of cereal on each card. Say the word and eat the cereal.
  •  Have someone hold the cards. Pick one and name it.
  •  Have someone take one card away. Guess which card is missing.
  •  Pretend to buy your cards from someone as you say them.
  •  Build a tower of blocks and say a word each time you stack a block.
  •  Look at your cards through a magnifying glass or binoculars and say them.
  •  Give your cards to a puppet or stuffed animal as you say them.
  •  Say your words into a tape recorder and play them back.
  •  Drive a toy car over your cards while you name them.
  •  Throw your cards in a can while you name them.
  •  Place your cards between the bristles of a brush to build a house as you say them. 
  •  Shine a flashlight on each card and name it.
  •  Put a penny on each card as you say it.
  •  Put a paper clip on your cards, pick them up with a magnet, and say them.
  •  Bring your cards along in the car and say one each time the car stops.
  •  Throw your cards on the floor and say them as you pick them up.
  •  Close your eyes and point to a card. Say the word you point to.
  •  Flip your card with a spatula each time you say a word.
  •  Make up a story using all of your cards.
  •  Fold a piece of paper each time you say a word. Make an airplane or a hat.
  •  Call someone you know on the telephone and tell them your words.
  •  Pretend to mail your cards in an envelope as you say them.
  •  Toss a penny or a bean bag and name the card it lands on.
  •  Put a piece in a puzzle each time you name a card.
  •  Hide the cards around the room. Say them as you find them.
  •  Color each card as you say it.
  •  Roll a ball on the cards and name each one the ball rolls over.
  •  Play “Go Fish” or “Concentration” with your cards.
  •  Play a board game. Say a word before you take a turn.
  •  Put your cards in a pot and pretend to make soup as you say them.
  •  Stand up your cards by leaning them against blocks. Knock them down with a ball and say them.
  •  Place your cards on the floor. Hop from card to card and say them.