Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Blog In Review

The year is almost over. Doesn't time seem to go fast?

The hustle and bustle of the season is picking up, so this will be my last post for 2016. Like many of you, I have several things to do and want to spend time with my family.

I am especially grateful for all of you who have took the time to read, comment, and share my stories. Readers from all over the world have stopped by since this blog began. The top 10 countries that represent my readers include:
United Kingdom

What did you readers enjoy the most on my blog in 2016?
Everything from pacifier help to Down syndrome stories. Three of the most viewed and shared stories were written by guest writers featured during Down syndrome Awareness Month. Not sure what that says about me.... Just kidding. In case you missed the 5 most popular of the year, here they are:

1. Meet Nate: I Can...

2. The Weekend My Daughter Became a Princess

3. Therapy Tip: Getting Rid of Pacifiers

4. Meet My Brother

5. Meet Sophie: I Can...

I have had the pleasure of having some of my writings featured on other sites this year as well. Here's my top 5 favorite pieces that were on other sites.

1. What I Hide Behind "Fine" on The Good Mother Project

2. What People Don't Understand When Your Child Doesn't Speak on The Mighty

3. 6 Things I Fantasize About While Sitting in the Waiting Room on Break the Parenting Mold

4. What It's Like to be a Mother of a Child with a Speech Delay on Scary Mommy

5. Decision 2016 (No, not the Election) on Comfort in the Midst of Chaos

So that's the highlights from 2016.
Hope you come back next year!

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Therapy Tip: Building Language Functionally During Christmas

Welcome to Therapy Thursday! This is the day that I share a tip based upon my experience as a mother of a child with special needs and a pediatric speech-language pathologist.

I love using different holidays and the d├ęcor that goes with it to build language and change up typical therapy sessions. With Christmas coming up, today's tip is:

Building Early Language Functionally During Christmas

Christmas trees, stockings, Santa, snow, and lights are all signs of the holiday season. These seasonal items give us a chance to practice new words and target concepts in different ways.

But first....Note: If you are a speech-language pathologist or other professional, it's always best to know your audience. If you are working with a family who does not do a particular aspect of Christmas or has other religious preferences, then you need to consider those before jumping in to the activities.

If you are a parent, I think there is a big misconception that language must be built in a structured activity such as book time. But, there are opportunities around us all the time to build language functionally when it does not feel like "work" to yourself or the child.

Here's some ways that you can target different concepts during Christmas:

-Colors: Have a child working on colors? Have the child point to a particular colored light or ornament on the tree. You can simply say things like, "I see a green light," to reinforce colors they are struggling with. If you have some different colored ribbons or bows left, let the child play with them to reinforce colors too. You can have them match up or sort through red bows, blue bows, etc. if you have many bows laying around.

-Spatial concepts: If you have a young child learning spatial concepts like on/off, under, in front/behind, top/bottom, there are several ways you can target this as well. When talking to the child, use spatial concepts to describe where things are. The presents are "under" the tree. The lights are "on" the house. The star is "on top" of the tree. You can ask them questions to check their understanding. For example, "What is on top of the tree? What is in front of the Santa?"

-Vocabulary: Talk about the different holiday items around you to build vocabulary. This can be done in several ways, but there are many new opportunities to work on different words during the holidays. You can simply talk about things around you. "I see Santa." You can check their understanding by asking, "Do you see Santa? Show me." If they need help, show them.
                    I also like to find objects in the room/house that are in multiples like ornaments, stockings, etc. "I see a stocking. Here's one. Can you find another one?" If they can't find one, help them.
                    If your child has a vocabulary of 10 words or under, I like to target noises and sound effects as well as simple words to see if they will imitate anything that I say. For example, I often say "hohoho" for Santa, make clicking noises for a reindeer walking, and "ding-ding" for bells. When a child has under 10 words, getting them to imitate anything is a win!
                   I like going to Dollar stores and purchasing some inexpensive items like small stockings, rubber Santas, a plastic ornament, or light up snowmen to practice vocabulary with objects that are safe for children to play with under adult supervision. These too give opportunity to focus on vocabulary in play.

Look around! Language opportunities are everywhere!

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended for therapeutic advice.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Jesus who Lives Beyond the Stable

Jesus is much more than a baby born in the humble beginnings of a stable.

Jesus is much more than a man who was crucified.

He was and is the Son of God.

As Christmas is nearing, it's important to reflect on the man who we celebrate.

Perhaps you aren't personally acquainted with Jesus, so let me tell you what I know.

It was in my relationship with Jesus that I learned the value of my daughter's life. While others made me feel that having a child with special needs was something that was sad, pitiful, and negative, Jesus reminded me that value is found in the soul of a person-no matter the abilities.

After struggling for months to get Jaycee to hold her own bottle as a baby, it was Jesus who gave me an idea to create an assistive device to help her by using a can hugger and masking tape. After months of struggling, the idea worked!

It was through Jesus that I came out of a difficult emotional space. Years of caring for a child who had multiple health problems (some serious), a miscarriage, and some other issues that life threw at us had really made my thinking very negative. It was Jesus who gave me hope for my life and our family's future.

It was Jesus who gave my husband and I peace when we looked at many medical bills wondering how we were going to pay them. (We have paid off over $40,000 in medical bills and quit totaling them up a few years ago due to the emotions it caused us.)

When Jaycee was in ICU in 2013, she was sick with pneumonia, respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and septic shock. While I was in prayer to this man, Jesus, I had a strong thought, "Jaycee will live," in my mind. That gave me hope during the shaky times while she recovered.

My son visiting his sister in the hospital

It was Jesus who put a line from a song in my heart during one of Jaycee's hospital admissions. I was feeling very down about Jaycee being in the hospital when these lyrics came to mind: God I look to You. I won't be overwhelmed....  (Yes, sometimes Jesus comes in the form of a song.)

It is Jesus whose name I say when I have found my daughter turning blue from respiratory distress at home as I try to get oxygen on her.

When Jaycee was sick another year in the ICU on the verge on needing a ventilator to keep her breathing safely, it was Jesus who sent word through a praying friend reminding me to trust God in all situations even when they seem to be going in directions that seem unplanned.

Jesus has not prevented sadness in my life nor heartache.
Jesus has not been a magical Santa figure granting every prayer and wish I had.

But, Jesus has been there working in my life making sure things came together for my good. He has been the peace in my life when things felt out of control.

Here's the good news for you--- He will do it for anyone who seeks him.

What's your personal story of Jesus?
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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Therapy Tip: Early Speech-Language Christmas Toy Guide

Welcome to Therapy Thursday! This is the day that I share a tip based upon my experience as a parent of a child with special needs and a pediatric speech-language pathologist.
Today's tip is:

Christmas Shopping: Early Speech-Language Toy Guide

Christmas will be here in a few weeks.

About this time of year, parents often ask me about appropriate Christmas presents for their toddler who I am treating in speech therapy. Today, I am offering my ideas for gifts in case there are parents, friends, or grandparents who are buying toys for a child with speech or language delays and need help.
In general, almost any toy can be used to build language (i.e. increase vocabulary or encourage words/phrases/sentences). When I am looking for a toy, I go by this rule of thumb in general: The more basic the toy, the better.
Toys that make noise or sounds or are motorized USUALLY result in less talking since the child is busy pushing buttons or watching the toy. So, I try to avoid most noise making toys or moving toys for children that have very little language. These types of toys have their uses, but if you are specifically looking for something that will help promote verbal speech, look for toys that do not have the extra bells and whistles. I want the child to make the noise and the sound effect, not the toy.
Another important thing to remember when purchasing a toy is the child's developmental age. The development age describes where the child is functioning versus their chronological age. Many toys have suggested ages on the box. If you have a child with large delays, these ages will not match up for what they child may need. For example, a box may say 24 months. Now, if you have a child with Down syndrome who is 24 months, their developmental age may be closer to 12 if they have just started walking. So choosing toys with a 12-18 month age listed on a toy's box may be more appropriate than the one with 24 month age listed.

Here's some more specific ideas:

Toys for children developing vocabulary, working on phrases, or using verbal speech: 

-Any type of food related toy can work on basic words like eat/drink and naming foods

-Any book or flashcard set…I especially love books and cards that have real photographs versus cartoon drawn pictures.

-Baby doll sets with a few accessories like a bottle or diapers to work on actions and basic words

-Car sets with a garage or ramp to work on words like in, up, go, stop, etc.

-Non-motorized train sets are great too for working on sound effects (choo-choo) and action words.

-Animal sets/toys in any form such as puzzles, puppets, or figures can allow you to work on naming animals or saying animal sounds.

-In general, I like the Melissa & Doug wooden toys. There are a variety of these that can be used to work on action words, spatial concepts (in/out), and basic vocabulary (go, up, more). 

-Of course, I love bubbles to work on words like pop, more, dip, bubble, etc.

For children working on articulation/speech sound development:

-I love the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD for teaching letters & sounds. I have had kids really pick up on sounds watching this DVD.

-Many Leap Frog toys in general are good for teaching letter/sound connections. The sooner the child with articulation errors can get this, the better off they will be for school.

-Bath foam letters allow for a way to work on producing the sounds of letters during bath time. I also like to squirt water on glass doors and stick the letters to the glass to use the foam letters in a different way.

-Bath paints or markers can be used to write words or letters with the sound your child is working on. You could also draw pictures of things with the sound your child is working on. For example, if your child is working on /b/, then you can draw a ball, boy, or boat to practice this sound.

-Alphabet puzzles allow for the sound/letter connection and a chance to practice your child's difficult sounds in isolation by themselves.

-Letter magnets again allow for the sound/letter connection or sound practice. Besides sticking them on a refrigerator, you can buy a small cookie sheet to stick the magnets on.

-Alphabet stamps or alphabet stickers again allow for sound play and letter/sound connections in a variety of ways.

Hope this gives you some ideas for Christmas. Remember, you can always ask your child's therapist if you need more specific ideas. Happy shopping! 

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

My Son's Gift to His Sister

"I don't think Jaycee could ever play a musical instrument," my son declared as we drove home from his guitar lesson.

Rather than getting defensive, I decided to ask him for more information.

"Why do you say that?"

He responded, "Reading music is hard, and I don't think she could do it."

"You are right about reading music. That might be hard for your sister because of her Down syndrome and difficulty learning. But, there must be some musical instrument she could play. Can you think of one?"

A minute went by. My son could think of nothing.

I decided to help him with, "Well, I think she could play the triangle."

"What about the tambourine!" he exclaimed.

We both thought that was a good idea and came up with a few more instruments that might work for Jaycee's abilities.

Then Elijah decided that he would get Jaycee a tambourine for Christmas. He was so excited, and I thought it was a great idea.

A few weeks ago, we went to a music store to purchase that tambourine. Jaycee was with us since we had seen one of her doctors earlier in the day.

Elijah enthusiastically looked around the store trying out guitars and other instruments that made me nervous. We finally made our way to the tambourines to pick one out. At the same time, Jaycee made her way to a drum set.

She said down, took the drum sticks, and said, "Uh, oo, ee, ou!" (1, 2, 3, 4) Then she banged out a stellar drum solo for a novice. It was funny and eye opening.

With his sister's tambourine in his hand, Elijah asked, "Can we get Jaycee a drum set for her birthday? She seems to like it."


Elijah wrapping the present

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Therapy Tip: Color Sorting Game

Welcome to Therapy Thursday! This is the day that I share a tip based upon my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and a mother of a child with special needs.

Today's tip is:

A Color Sorting Game

Most of my work is with toddlers, so teaching colors is often a skill I address at some point in treatment. On a recent post, I shared just one idea of how I integrate colors in my treatment approach. This is activity is different in that you can target colors and vocabulary at the same time.

1. Pick 2 colors that you want to target. For this example, I have chosen red and green for Christmas.
2. Collect 2 clear plastic containers.
3. Stick a green label on one container and a red label on the other container. I just cut out a piece of green/red construction paper and tape it to one side of the container. This marks the containers for the children to use for the game.
4. Next, find items in your colors. For green, I picked a tiny bowl, train, plastic bug, pipe cleaner, and dinosaur. For red, I chose a train, ribbon, twizzlers, a plastic ring, and a red heart. Generally, I pick 8-10 items total because that is about all the attention I can maintain for the toddlers I work with.
5. Place all of these items in a colored bag that will hide the items. This adds some mystery to the game.

Now we are ready....

To play:
-Pull one item out of the bag.
-Tell the child what it is or have them tell you what it is.
-Show the children the two colors on the labels. Ask the child if the item is green or red. Sometimes, I hold the object next to the color label, so they can see if it's the same color as the paper or not.
-Place the object in the right container and repeat. Help the child as needed.
-When all items have been sorted, I usually dump them in a pile and let the kids have a few minutes to play with them. This allows time to practice language skills (2 word phrases) functionally while still working on colors.

Possible Therapy Targets:
-Matching colors.
-Labeling colors.
-Phrases (Green dinosaur, red train)
-Naming Objects (train, ribbon)

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice.

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