Coping with an Autism Diagnosis

100_day_kit_coverMany parents struggle when told their child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism Speaks is an organization focusing on advocacy and supporting research. Their 100 Day Kit is a resource for families to utilize for the first 100 days after an ASD diagnosis. It contains information on the meaning of the diagnosis, planning intervention, gathering information, and advocating for their child. I suggest that all parents whose children have ASD utilize this kit to help them navigate the changes that occur once their child receives a diagnosis of ASD.

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Hearing Loss Simulator

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Hearing Like Me is a community for people with hearing loss, who work with hearing loss, or related to someone with hearing loss to communicate, receive support, and gain new information. This hearing loss simulator allows parents to experience how processing speech and environmental sounds may be impacted by varying degrees of hearing loss. This helps parents understand why their child’s speech, language, and articulation may be delayed.

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Managing Kids’ Tech Time

2015-BHSM-Logo-HorizontalA recent release from the American Speech and Hearing Association shared the following information.

The average child age 8 and under in the United States uses more than three personal tech devices—such as a tablet, smartphone, or video game console—at home, according to a new poll of parents conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). With even the youngest kids now “connected” via such technology, it is important to remember to manage tech time so it doesn’t overtake time for talking with children.

Talking to children in their first years of life sets them up for future academic success. The easiest and most effective way that children learn is simply by talking. Studies have proven the link between the number and variety of words a child hears and later academic achievement.

May is Better Hearing & Speech Month—a time to prioritize communication. Here are 10 tips for parents on how to manage kids’ technology use to keep communication at the forefront.

  1. Create tech-free times. Find at least one or two opportunities during the day—at the dinner table, for example—for everyone to disconnect. Mealtime is a prime opportunity for conversation. Make a commitment and have everyone check their devices at the kitchen door.
  2. Resist overreliance on technology to pacify boredom. Fifty-five percent of parents worry that they rely on technology too much to keep their child entertained, according to the ASHA poll. Roughly half of parents say that they are using technology as a means to keep kids age 0–3 entertained. Remember that the best opportunities for conversation and learning are often found in situations that may be viewed as boring, such as while running errands or on a long car trip—particularly for the youngest children. While it may be tempting, try to resist the urge to immediately turn to these devices as a source of entertainment.
  3. Don’t overestimate the value of educational apps. Children learn best simply through talking, conversing, and reading. Technology is not the best way to teach, though it can reinforce and allow practice of skills under development.
  4. Make tech use a group activity. While it is most often used on an individual basis, tech use can be turned into a group activity, such as while playing an online game. Talk about what you’re doing!
  5. Consider whether young kids really need their own devices. It is not uncommon for kids to have their own tablets or mp3 players. Many are designed and marketed specifically for kids. This may lead to more time spent alone with technology throughout the day. On the other hand, devices designed for kids often offer additional features that appeal to parents, such as limited (kid-appropriate) content and extra security options, so this is a balance for parents to consider.
  6. Set daily time limits. Certain devices can be programmed by parents to shut off after a certain amount of time, but you can also make a child aware of the time limit and keep track yourself.
  7. Be consistent in enforcing the parameters you set for tech use. ASHA’s poll found a majority of parents report setting limitations on their children’s tech use. However, the reality of their children’s tech use often doesn’t line up with the set restrictions, by parents’ own accounts. Moreover, adherence often seems to break down at ages 7 or 8 despite the rules parents say they set.
  8. Always practice safe listening, especially when using ear buds or headphones. Misuse of this technology can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. Even minor hearing loss takes a significant toll academically, socially, vocationally, and in other ways, so prevent the preventable. Teach kids to keep the volume down (a good guide is half volume) and take listening breaks.
  9. Model the tech habits you want your kids to adopt. Practice what you preach when it comes to tech time and safe-listening habits.
  10. Learn the signs of communication disorders. This is important for all parents, regardless of their children’s technology use. Early treatment can prevent or reverse many communication disorders. Parents should not wait to see if a child “outgrows” a suspected speech or hearing problem. If you have any question about your child’s speech or hearing, seek an assessment from a speech-language pathologist or audiologist. Learn more at http://IdentifytheSigns.org.

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Benefits of Early Intervention

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Easter Speech Therapy Activities

EasterAn Easter egg hunt is a great way to work on receptive skills. You can hide a variety of colored plastic eggs and tell your child which color to pick out. This helps them learn their colors. You can also give directions with prepositions, such as “Get the egg that’s on the couch” or “Find the egg that’s under the chair.” If your child is working on a certain sound in speech, you can hide pictures or words in each egg and have them say the word they find and earn a small piece of candy. Acting like the Easter bunny is a great opportunity to practice pretend play as well as action words. Since Easter is typically a time when families and friends get together to celebrate, you can model words and appropriate language. Enjoy your holiday!

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History Colorado Center

Untitled_Panorama1The History Colorado Center is a great  place to learn about Colorado for children in kindergarten and up. They have Free Low-Sensory Mornings this year on March 21st, July 18th, and October 17th from 8 – 10 am. Attendance will be limited, exhibit sounds will be lowered, and the general public will not be allowed admission. For children with sensory issues, this is a wonderful opportunity to experience a Colorado museum. Please contact Shannon Voirel at (303)866-4691 to RVSP.

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Improving Eye Contact

86501122In my early intervention practice, many of my clients struggle with eye contact. There are many ways to help children improve this skill. The most important step is to be on the same level as your child so that they can be comfortable and feel less pressure. I will hold up preferred toys or items to my eyes to get the child to look at my eyes. Wearing play glasses can also help as it draws the child’s attention to my eyes. When a child wants something, he or she must look me in the eyes before getting it. Even if the eye contact lasts for less than a second the child receives what they want so that they learn that eye contact is important.

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The Hanen Program

logo_hanenThe Hanen Program offers programs for parents and professionals to play and communicate better with their children. Programs focus on children with language delays, children with Autism, or children with Asperger Syndrome. Speech-Language Pathologists are trained by the The Hanen Program and then work with families to teach them new skills and methods to work with their children. Their website has a great deal of information and can serve as a great resource. If you are already receiving Early Intervention services and feel The Hanen Program could be appropriate for your family, tell your service provider and he or she can help you find a provider.

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Elf on the Shelf

charity-elves_zps01137129This time of year, many of my families use the Elf on the Shelf to help with behavior and as part of their general Christmas celebration. You can use the elf as a way to encourage speech and practice pretend play. You can have your child make food for the elf, make it a little house, or even have your child put the elf to bed each night. Have your child tell the elf what he or she did during the day to practice recall as well as new words and sentence structure. If you’re one of the creative parents who put the elf in all sorts of silly situations, ask your child to describe what they see! Have fun with it and enjoy your holiday.

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Hands and Voices

hands_and_voices_logo_3x4_300jpg_244284_7Hands and Voices is a great organization in Colorado for children with hearing loss and their families. They offer information regarding preschool transition, state laws regarding special education, and activities in the area. This is a great website to utilize and signing up to receive further information will connect you with resources specific to your area.

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Children’s Hospital Parenting Seminar

little_cute_baby-2560x1600On December 2 at 6:30 pm, Children’s Hospital in Wheat Ridge will have a parenting class discussing newborns and basic care. They will cover topics such as eating and sleeping habits. Be sure to visit the Children’s Hospital website for further information and to reserve a spot!

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ASL Nook

ASLNOOK_logo_web2To learn new vocabulary in American Sign Language, I recommend the website ASL Nook to families. They have short videos with themes, such as Disney in ASL or Sea Animals in ASL which are great resources when taking trips or learning specific topics in school. Children uses signs in the videos so that parents can see how small hands may make some of the signs. You can subscribe to the site and receive e-mail updates of new videos.

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Television Impairs Language Development

Image:A study in the June 11, 2014 issue of the Journal of Children and Media reported that having the TV on while playing with children can negatively impact their language development.  When the television was on during play time, parents used significantly less words and phrases. Even if the family was not actively watching the TV, just having it on in the background influenced parent-child interactions.

In my early intervention practice, I often discuss TV time with families. I have seen the speech and language skills of children increase significantly when parents reduce the amount of time children are exposed to the television during the day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV or screen time for children aged 24 months or younger.  This can be difficult with all of the television programs and electronic games available for families, but the priority for parents should be their child’s development.

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Teaching Children to Share

Toddlers helping and sharing in the playroomMost children begin sharing with their caregivers when they are between 9-12 months of age.  They begin taking turns with peers around 24-30 months and sharing between 36-42 months.

When you have siblings at home or your child often plays with others, however, it can be frustrating to watch them struggle with learning to share and take turns. A beginning skill to work on is trading toys. That way, your child still has to give their toy away but still gets a toy. Another method is to take turns with puzzles and toys such as Mr. Potato Head so that that there is a visual end to the activity. Giving your child the final turn allows them a feeling of accomplishment. I do this often during my sessions with my speech therapy clients and have had great success.

 

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Low Sensory Mornings at Denver Children’s Museum

imagesChildren with sensory impairment can sometimes be overwhelmed by both visual and auditory input. This can limit their ability to enjoy activities that other children participate in, such as a trip to the Denver Children’s Museum. In order to help children with sensory impairment, the museum will be hosting free low-sensory mornings on September 6 and November 8. They will limit the ambient noise and attendance. For more information, visit their Low-Sensory Morning information page.

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Wow! Children’s Museum

indexThe Wow! World of Wonder Children’s Museum in located in Lafayette, CO and has wonderful exhibits and activities for families and children to enjoy together. I recommend the Language and Movement class, which teaches early learning skills through multiple senses. It’s also a great opportunity for children to practice their social skills in a comfortable environment. Wow! changes their exhibits every once in awhile, so keep an eye out for new learning opportunities throughout the year.

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Ear Community

10150645_644696168901058_8504921901197776998_nEar Community is a non-profit organization serving children and their families who were born with hearing loss due to Microtia and Atresia, Hemifacial Microsomia, Treacher Collins Syndrome, and Goldenhar Syndrome. They provide information about each of these syndromes, as well as different levels of hearing loss. Ear Community has a local chapter, The Microtia and Atresia Support Group. In my early intervention practice, I share this information with my clients who have hearing loss or one of these disorders.

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Children’s Hospital Potty Training Seminar

Picture_11On June 12, 2014, the Colorado Children’s Hospital will be hosting an event to help parents with potty training. The seminar will run from 6:45 – 8:15 pm and be held at the Denver Zoo’s Norgren Hall. Potty training is difficult for many parents and the experts at Children’s Hospital are a great resource. Please follow this link to learn more and register.

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Mother’s Day Activities

MomMay 11th is Mother’s Day and many families ask me for speech related activities they can do as part of the celebration. My favorite is to have your child practice writing their name on a card. Also, drawing lines and circles is a necessary skill for preschoolers so you could also focus on trying to draw a portrait of Mom for the big day.

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

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Hearing Loss Prevention

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Baby Banz Ear Muffs offers a variety of hearing protection for babies and children.

Our ears are very sensitive and contain the smallest bones in the body. Prolonged exposure to loud noise or exposure to a short intense sound, such as firecrackers, can damage hearing. It is important to begin protecting your child’s hearing when they’re young and to teach them how to protect their hearing as they get older. Hearing protection, such as earplugs and earmuffs, should be used during extended loud activities such as on airplanes, at concerts, and riding motorcycles.

Some loud toys can also impact hearing. Every November, the Sight and Hearing Association posts a list of toys that could negatively impact your child’s hearing. Be sure to check this before shopping for the holidays!

In general, sounds louder than 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The Center for Hearing and Communication has a fact sheet that explains common environmental noise levels, so use this as a guide for when to utilize ear plugs and ear muffs.

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