Thursday, December 28, 2017

Best Therapy Tips of 2017

Nearly every Thursday, I have been sharing a speech therapy tip here based on my work as a pediatric speech-language pathologist. I've spent years now working with infants and toddlers in my state's birth to three program. I've discovered some easy ways to promote language that are worth sharing. I've also come across some of the same questions from parents over the years too. I've used my blog on Thursdays to address some of these things and spread some of my knowledge.

Here's the top 3 Therapy Tip posts of 2017:

Therapy Tip: I'm Worried About my Child's Language
In this post, I give red flags for 1 & 2 year olds that may signal the need for a speech-language evaluation. I also discuss the pros and cons of the 'wait and see' approach when you aren't quite convinced that your child needs testing.

Therapy Tip: Fun with Magnets!
This post tells readers how you can target basic language and articulation goals using magnets.

Therapy Tip: Winter Sensory Bin
If you need a simple idea for a sensory bin in the winter season, this is a good post for you.

This one didn't make the top 3, but this was one of my personal favorites:
Therapy Tip: When to Start Speech Therapy for Children with Down syndrome?
In this post, I share my personal opinion on when a baby or toddler with Down syndrome should receive speech therapy.

Thanks for reading my therapy tips this year!!
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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2017's Best Read

Hope you had a very Merry Christmas! 2017 is nearing its end. It's hard to believe it sometimes. It's been a busy year here on the blog, so I'm taking this week to review the best read posts.

First, let's talk about guest posts. I've been blessed to share some work by other fellow writers and bloggers on my site this year. I feel honored that these writers allowed me to share their work on here.

Here are the top 3 posts written by guests this year:

Help that Hurts by Dana Hemminger

I loved this post by Dana which talked about misguided help for parents of children with Down syndrome. She shares about assistance from others that actually helps instead of help that really hurts.

Meet Roshni: No Limits with Down syndrome by Sruthi
This guest post tells about an amazing young woman with Down syndrome named Roshni. If you missed it, take a few minutes to read about her life.

Siblings, Down syndrome, & a Hole in the Ceiling by Geraldine Renton
Geraldine shared a funny story about growing up with her brother with Down syndrome. I love hearing a sibling's perspective.

Now, it's time for me. This year I've continued to share about my life raising my daughter with special and medical needs as well as random thoughts about life, faith, and parenting. Here's the top 3 blog posts from the year written by me:

What is a Woman Entitled to? Thoughts on pregnancy, babies, and abortions
There have been many startling articles and statistics on Down syndrome abortions recently, and this post grew from that.

I Have Nothing Cute to Say
This is a fairly recent post of mine sharing thoughts after a rough hospital admission for Jaycee. Apparently, people like it when I have nothing cute to say.

When People Say My Daughter's Down syndrome Needs Healed
At the core of this post is the question: Is there room for disability in the Christian church?

This is my most popular post on another site hosted by Snappin' Ministries, which I have written for each month this year:
When Spring Break Plans Aren't Glorious
We had no fun vacation planned over spring break, and an attitude problem was a possibility for me. Hence, this post about my real, real life.

Thanks so much for reading and visiting my blog. I appreciate my readers, and hope to welcome you back in 2018. I'll have some exciting news to share with you really soon in 2018 too!!!!

For videos, pictures, links, and more...visit my Facebook page!
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Therapy Tip: Felt Christmas Tree

It's Therapy Thursday! It's 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 simple one you can create at home:

The Felt Christmas Tree

I like doing simple activities in therapy that families can replicate at home. If a project is too complicated, a family will most likely not do it at home. They will not want to run to several stores to try to find several materials to create a great activity. They have enough to do already. Simple is best!

To make your own felt Christmas tree, all you need is felt material. I purchased a small 10 piece felt package from Wal-Mart to make mine. I didn't use a pattern, which explains why my tree isn't "perfect." I just cut out all the pieces you see above (tree, star, circles that I called lights, and squares for presents). After all your cutting is complete, you are ready to work on some language skills. 

Here are some things I target with toddlers/two year olds using this tree:
-Spatial concepts/following directions: Try giving your child these directions to check their understanding of spatial concepts: Put the star at the top of the tree. Put the presents under the tree. Put this light in the middle of the tree. 

-Colors: I made the circles/lights different colors so I could work on pink, orange, yellow, and purple. You can hold up two different lights and have the child get a certain color. (Get the pink one). This works on color identification. If that's too easy, you can hold up two lights and ask the child which one they want. This works on color naming

-Saying family names: Tell the child the presents are for someone in the family. "This one is for (child's name). This one is for mommy." To change it up, you can ask the child who they think a present is for. 

-Shapes: The star, squares, and circles can also be discussed for children who are ready to work on shapes as well. You can ask them to find a circle/square/star after it is all decorated. 

-Phrases: Hold all of the pieces for the tree in your possession. Make the child say what he/she wants in order to receive the pieces. "I want the star. More light. I want light please." 

Have fun decorating your tree and building your child's language skills!

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice. 
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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Joy to the...Special Caregivers

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Well, it's suppose to be.

My attitude lately has, frankly, sucked. I don't want to sound like a broken record on this blog, but a hospital stay impacts a family for weeks afterward. Once Jaycee came home, I took over her intense care, which included nebulizer and vest therapy treatments every 6 hours around-the-clock for almost a week. Her oxygen saturation monitor beeped and alarmed multiple times a night for that first week home too. Basically, the tiredness I felt when I arrived home from the hospital with Jaycee grew exponentially.

Besides the zombie like state I was in, I didn't have time to process the whole situation until we were home when I had a second to think. This whole illness began with Jaycee turning blue at home. This has happened now more times than I can count. Years ago, Jaycee responded to her emergency medications, and her breathing would stabilize. This time, like the past few blue moments, the emergency medications were not completely working and she was ripping off her oxygen as I was trying to put it on. Can you say stressful?

I haven't even told you how my child hit and kicked me and the nurses in the hospital as she fought off the necessary activities that needed to be done while there. That was exhausting physically and emotionally. She was scared, so I wasn't upset with her. But, her resistance to touch continued when we came home, and I needed to touch her for one of her temporary but extremely necessary medications. I dreaded the two times a day I had to approach her with these medications at home because she would not calm down. Yep, that first week post the hospital was hard.

The combination of lack of sleep and the stress made for my less than desirable mood for the last few weeks. This season usually brings me joy. I love shopping for others, looking at Christmas lights, and the season of giving and kindness. I have had moments of happiness, but there's been lots of sadness, tears, and frustration with things that have happened lately.

Sometimes, it is hard to be a person of faith and stay joyful in times of trouble.
You want God to rescue you, and it's hard when it doesn't happen. It's harder when an illness (or problem) happens again and again. You want to make sense of something and find a way to have hope that things will be better.

There's something important that I need to keep reminding myself.

Heaven is perfect. The Earth is not.
Heaven is where my daughter will be free from sickness. Heaven is where I won't be stressing about her numbers on a monitor. Heaven is where we'll have perfect peace.

On Earth is where we are though. I want many years on Earth with my daughter too- don't get me wrong. But, the Earth is full of things that God neither wanted or planned for His people. I forget this sometimes. I forget that things aren't always going to perfect on this imperfect planet.

That's why the Lord's prayer is so powerful in moments when you feel God isn't in your situation. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I'll keep reminding myself to pray. I'll keep telling myself that I can have hope for a better future for our family. I'll tell myself that things were hard for a bit, but those tough times don't have to ruin future times that bring opportunities for joy.

So my fellow moms of children with medical or developmental diagnoses, I hope that during this Christmas season, you are finding joy. I hope you can shut out the chaos in your life right now and find peace. I hope that recent trials aren't souring your mood, and you can enjoy the fun times with your family today. I'm certainly going to try to do this! A sugar cookie or two may just help. 😊

In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen
Matthew 6

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Therapy Tip: Building Language with Your Christmas Tree

It's Therapy Thursday!

You know the drill...this is the day that I share a tip based upon my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and the mother of a child with special needs. Today's tip is:

4 Ways to Build Language Using your Christmas Tree

I love incorporating language goals into natural things around the home during the holidays. If you have a Christmas tree in your home, then this tip will be of interest to you. Here are 4 things you can do with your early language learner (ages 2-4 depending on the child's abilities) utilizing your family's Christmas tree.

1. Colors:
If you have different colored ornaments, decorations, or lights, you can target colors with your child. You can point to a particular color and ask the child to find the same color on the tree. ("Here's a blue light. Can you find one?") You can ask your child to point to a specific color on the tree. ("Find a green light.") Finally, you can simply talk about the different colored items on the tree.

2. Spatial Concepts:
Use items on the tree to describe where they are. Use words like on top, middle, on, under to describe the location of the items. The presents are UNDER the tree. The star is ON TOP of the tree. The lights are all AROUND the tree. The tractor ornament is in the MIDDLE of the tree. To make it harder, ask your child to tell you where specific things are to see if they will use these spatial words too.

3. Vocabulary:
If you have a lot of different ornaments on the tree, use them to build vocabulary. My tree is full of Disney characters, super heroes, holiday items like a candy cane, and more. All of these different types of ornaments can be located to build vocabulary ("Can you find the fire truck ornament?"). But, you can also point out things to the child and discuss them ("Here's a candy cane ornament. It's red and white.")

4. Answering Questions:
Ask your child questions about things on or around the tree. Think about questions you can ask that start with where, who, what, why. Where's the star? What is this ornament? What is your favorite one? If your child is saying simple sentences, ask harder questions such as: How does the ornament stay on the tree? Why do you like this ornament? How many lights do you think are on the tree?

Now go enjoy some therapy time around your tree!

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice. 
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hidden Costs of a Hospital Stay

Most people know that hospital admissions with doctors, tests, and the emergency room are all expensive. Even if you have health insurance, there are deductibles and co-pays that can add up quickly. But there are other costs involved with a hospital admission that most people aren't aware of.

My 11 year old daughter has been in the hospital for an illness or surgery every year since she was born. Needless to say, my husband and I have spent plenty of time in the hospital with her. We have learned how expensive everything can be when a loved one is in the hospital. Here's a few things:

1. Food
You may think hospital food would be affordable. Well, that hasn't been the case for the hospitals we frequent. Meals that we purchase in the hospital cafeteria are anywhere from $5 (which will be a small meal with no drink)-$10. That may not seem like much, but multiple that amount for 3 meals a day for X number of days.

Example: $8 meal x 3 meals a day for 10 days (the length of our last stay)= $240
Say what?! If my husband is at the hospital too, then the cost doubles. Oh and sometimes my son visits and eats with us. Yep, that adds up.

The hospital we have stayed at the most with our daughter does offer parent meal trays for $8. You do get more food with this option, but it's not the best tasting since it's essentially the same food the patients can have. It's not necessarily a dirt cheap option at $8/meal. Our hospital offers free meal vouchers for some parents, but we don't qualify. These are handed out to families on state Medicaid insurance. Good for them, but not for us.

We have found that sometimes it's cheaper to have a pizza delivered or go to a nearby restaurant if our daughter is doing well enough for one of us to leave to get the food. Sometimes to save money, I'll purchase a single pop tart out of a vending machine for $1 and drink water for a cheap breakfast. When Jaycee has been in for weeks, we bought some microwavable food (soups, oatmeal cups) or things like chips to have and eat instead of purchasing these things in the hospital.

FYI-We live 120 miles from the hospital, so we can't just go home for a meal. When Jaycee is in the hospital, at least one of us is always there.

2. Lodging
Our hospital allows one parent to stay in the room with Jaycee. Another parent can sleep in the designated parent lounges, which are never completely dark for security and safety reasons. This allows both of us to stay near our daughter, which is what we prefer when she's in the ICU. This is the cheapest option for lodging since it's free. Sometimes, we need a night away from the hospital because sleep is hard to get with alarms going off and the stress of the situation. If our son wants to stay a day or two with us, then at least one of us has to leave the hospital to stay with him nearby too.

Ronald McDonald homes are in the city of our hospital, but these are usually full with waiting lists. We have only stayed there once when Jaycee was first born. Hotels become our next and only option since we live so far away. There are several hotels that offer discounts for patients of a nearby hospital. The discounts vary by hotel. This past admission for my daughter, we needed a hotel room for 2 nights when our son stayed with us during her 10 day stay. The cheapest night we stayed was $126. They aren't giving these rooms away, but it was $30-40 less than what was listed on the website. But you know I'm going to hit the free breakfast at the hotel to make myself feel a little better about the expense.

3. Gas
This is the least expensive part for us, but it's worth mentioning. When Jaycee is in the hospital, I usually stay at the hospital the entire time. My husband will sometimes travel home to pick up things we need or pay bills or bring our son for a visit. A trip or two home means a tank or two of gas. What's another $50?

4. Time Missed from Work
This really isn't an expense but it's a loss. My husband and I have jobs that have no paid time off. If we aren't at work, we aren't going to get paid. We both can't help but think of this fact as we are sitting in her hospital room in the ICU wondering how many days this illness will wreck havoc on her body. If you are fortunate enough to have paid time off or sick days, great for you! But, we aren't those people.

This list isn't made for you to feel bad for me. It's to enlighten those who haven't experienced what we have experienced. It's also written to show that there are layers and layers of stress in these situations.

If you have a friend or family member in the hospital, you can keep these things in mind. Instead of sending balloons or flowers, see if the hospital has gift cards available. We have a couple of people who frequently send us gift cards that we can use in the hospital gift shop or the cafeteria. This is a nice and useful option. If you are going to visit someone in the hospital, ask if you can bring some snacks. (Ask first because there may be rules. We can't keep food in Jaycee's ICU room, but we can keep it in our vehicle.) Gas cards and food cards are also great gifts even for when the family returns home since I'm guessing they might be a bit tired. Anything is helpful, because, as you now know, time in the hospital comes with lots of costs.
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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Therapy Tip: Gift Guide for Early Speech-Language Learners

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 Learners Gift Guide

Christmas will be here in a few weeks. Oh the joy!!
About this time of year, parents often ask me about appropriate Christmas presents for their toddler who I am treating in speech therapy. Everyone wants their toy to be useful and help their child develop skills they are building in 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. I am hesitant to place an age on this gift guide because an older child with significant language delays may benefit from things on this post. Therefore, this is written for those children who may be working on saying single words up to 3-5 word phrases. 
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. There are many pretend food sets and play kitchens that spark imagination and allow good vocabulary to be developed. 

-Any board book or flashcard set can be used to promote language. I especially love books and cards that have real photographs versus cartoon drawn pictures. If the child loves a particular character on tv, books with those familiar characters are often good to spark language or an interest in books in general. 
My First Words Available Here

I Can, Can You? Available Here

-Baby doll sets with a few accessories can be great for early language. A baby doll with a bottle, brush, or diaper can target action words (brush, drink, eat) and other basic words. Baby doll play also allows moments for imitation. For example, you can pat the doll's back and see if the child imitates you. 

-Car sets with a garage or ramp are great too. This allows you to work on action words (go, stop), descriptive words (fast, slow, green), and spatial/location words (up, down, in, out). 

-Non-motorized train sets are great too! Trains have been very popular with young toddlers and preschoolers, which is wonderful since they can target many of the same words as the car sets. Trains also give an opportunity to work on sound effects (choo-choo). I do not like the battery powered trains as young children in therapy tend to watch the train move rather than play with the train and engage with it.  

-Animal sets/toys in any form is another good gift. Basically, any toy that has animals on it can be used to work on naming animals or repeating animal sounds. Puzzles, puppets, small figures, books, etc. are all great to target this early developing skills. 

-In general, I like the Melissa & Doug wooden toys. There are a variety of these products that can be used to work on action words, spatial concepts (in/out), and basic vocabulary (go, up, more). Melissa and Doug toys are durable and cover a range of different topics. You can't go wrong with a Melissa and Doug toy. 
A puzzle made by Melissa & Doug. 

-Of course, I love bubbles. With bubbles, you can work on words like pop, more, dip, bubble, my turn, your turn. 

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 5, 2017

I Have Nothing Cute to Say

The previous few weeks have been hard.

I'm a fairly positive person, but the past hospital admission with Jaycee has made things tough. (If you missed my last post, you can read more about the hospital stay here.) Seven days of watching your child endure pain, fight for breath, and lay in a bed in the ICU will wear on you as a parent. Then add three more days of care in the pulmonary unit where your child fights diaper changers with all her might, struggles to keep food down, and looks so sad to be in the hospital. It's hard in so many ways. I wish my daughter's health wasn't so fragile.

Jaycee sleeping with her Beast doll on continuous bi-pap in ICU
As I said in my last post, we are no strangers to the hospital or ICU. The familiarity with all of it is exhausting. I sat in the hospital and thought, "Not again! This can't be happening again!" But it was. We were warned back in 2013 that once you need a ventilator during an illness, you tend to fall harder and need more support for relatively common illnesses later on. Jaycee was almost expected to become a repeat ICU patient and that has been what she has become. Jaycee has been in the ICU every year since then for a cold virus or pneumonia or some other lung issue.

My first thought when we arrived home was, "How many times can this happen to my daughter? Is her life and ours ever going to have normalcy without hospitals?" Obviously, no one at the hospital believes it will be. "See ya next time," some of them said to us as we walked out the door. Hope not, but it has been the case for some time now.

This year alone I have accompanied Jaycee on an ambulance three times while she was transported to a Children's hospital for care. Twice the transports were for respiratory illnesses that resulted in hospital admissions. One was for the hemorrhage at home after her oral-pharyngeal surgery. That surgery, by the way, was excruciating for Jaycee for over a month. This year has had its ups and downs for sure.

As a writer, I try to share our life stories as well as how I cope in these situations. But this week, I can't find the silver lining. I have no cute story that's inspirational. I have no moment of revelation that happened in the hospital. My power of positivity is not here. I could tell you how Santa visited her in the ICU and how Jaycee has watched the video a dozen times since with happiness. But, I could also tell you it really stunk to hold Jaycee down to be suctioned several times. The bad outweighed the good as far as I can tell.

If there's something positive to say, it's this: I know there is still a God. I know God is working in my daughter someway and somehow because she is still here even though she has several health conditions that don't put things in her favor. And, I certainly love her dearly.

That's why all of this hurts so much sometimes. It hurts to see her in pain and sick and looking at me with those eyes like I should be protecting her from the nurses who must stick and poke and prod. I hate it for her, because I love her so much. Even when I felt like running out of her room when she was in the hospital because I didn't want to watch her in pain and struggle, I stayed. I held her hand. I put on her favorite movie.

I dug down deep in those moments and found something cute to say to her.
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