Another football-filled fall is here, and many fans and non-fans alike are prompted to think about this beloved national sport and its affect on the millions of kids and adults that play. For many who study the brain and how injuries affect its functioning, football clearly poses risks with all of the impact the head sustains over the course of a career.
The Concussion Foundation defines CTE as: “A degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. In CTE, a protein called Tau forms clumps that slowly spread throughout the brain, killing brain cells.” CTE is essentially a degenerative brain disorder associated with repeated head trauma.
As more research in this area is conducted, the link between football and traumatic brain injury continues to strengthen. Now, one of the largest studies on the subject to date finds that 110 out of 111 deceased NFL players had CTE. A new study by Mez, Daneshvar, and Kiernan 2017 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017examined the brains of 202 deceased people who had played football at various levels, from high school to the NFL. Results revealed that CTE existed in 87% of all the players and 99% of the NFL players.
Many people who have CTE were reported to have behavioral or mood symptoms, as well as well as issues with memory, executive functioning, and attention. It has also been reported that conversational skills can be negatively impacted. A study by Berisha et al. (2017) “tracked a steeper decline in vocabulary size and other verbal skills in 10 players who spoke at news conferences over an eight-year period, compared with 18 coaches and executives who never played professional football and who also spoke in news conferences during the same period.” While more research needs to be done in this area, evidence seems to suggest we need to consider the effect of high-impact sports on communication.
Ear infections are one of the most common illnesses in young children. Otitis media (OME) is the term for inflammation and fluid build-up within the middle ear. The accumulation of fluid causes the bones in the middle ear to not function properly and conduct sound effectively. Research indicates that OME poses disadvantages on hearing sensitivity and speech perception in children (Cai and McPherson, 2017). Speech sounds that are most affected by mild hearing loss are those high frequency sounds S, F, or SH. For more moderate hearing loss, a child may not be able to hear additional speech sounds or word-endings. It is important to identify and treat ear infections in young children to reduce these lapses in hearing sensitivity.
Your child may not be able to tell you his or her ear hurts, so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms (American Speech and Hearing Association):
- tugging or pulling at his or her ear
- fluid draining from his or her ear
- crying more than usual
- not responding to sounds
- trouble sleeping
If the cause of the ear infection is unknown, the doctor may decide to monitor the infection for 2-3 days to see if the fluid will drain on its own. Antibiotics can be prescribed for bacterial infections. For repeated ear infections or middle ear fluid that will not go away, it may be necessary for an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) to place a tube in the child’s eardrum that will allow for fluid drainage.
If your child’s hearing is compromised by an infection, it is important to facilitate communication by getting your child’s attention beforehand, speaking at eye level, reducing background noise (e.g., TV, music, talking) and using gestures and signs to enhance communication.
Voice is so important to our ability to communicate and express ourselves. Many people don’t realize that there are behaviors that can help or hurt normal vocal functioning. The National Institute of Health provide a list of helpful vocal hygiene tips to prevent voice problems:
o Drink water: The vocal folds move best when the body is well-hydrated,
o Limit caffeine: Caffeine is drying to the entire body. Cutting back on these drinks can help keep your vocal folds hydrated.
o Don’t overuse your voice:Doing a lot of talking, especially in noisy situations (sporting events, restaurants, bars, parties, social gatherings, industrial settings) can be tiring for your vocal folds. Give yourself voice breaks or moments when you don’t use your voice for a while to let your voice rest.
o Avoid extremes: Try not to use extremes of your vocal range, such as screaming or whispering. Both can put stress on your voice.
o Avoid throat-clearing: Throat clearing and coughing are traumatic to the vocal folds and can contribute to a vocal injury.
o Use a humidifier: This is particularly important for the winter months when the air is dry. Generally inhaling or breathing steam helps the voice box stay moist and can be very soothing to irritated vocal folds.
o Practice good breathing: Take deep breaths from the chest to support talking or singing. Don’t rely on the throat alone to avoid straining the voice.
o Consider the effects of medication: Many medications, such as cold and allergy medications, are drying to the body. Try to avoid these medications to help your body stay hydrated or drink extra water while taking them.
Now that the weather has warmed up, you and your children may be eager to get outside and enjoy what the city has to offer. During these outings, you can encourage carry-over of your child’s specific speech and language goals (e.g., expanding vocabulary, formulating sentences, describing interesting objects, retelling events, answering questions, practicing words with certain speech sounds) while having fun with the family!
- For an outing just beyond your front door, take a nature walk with your child and discuss what you see. Take notice of plants growing, bugs crawling, birds chirping, and animal tracks.
- It’s always fun and free to visit Lincoln Park Zoo. Go on Wednesdays and Fridays for free sing-alongs with Mr. Singer.
- Take advantage of free museum days for Illinois residents. Check out Sue the T. Rex at the Field Museum, the mirror maze at MSI or the underwater critters at Shedd for free!
- Visit Old Town School of Folk Music on Saturdays to take part in group singing and instrument-playing. You don’t need to be enrolled in a class to join the fun!
- Kids can learn about animals and pretend to be a variety of forest creatures at Animal Secrets at Kohl Children’s Museum.
These are just some of the ideas, compiled from https://www.mommynearest.com/edition/chicago/article/50-free-things-to-do-with-kids-in-chicago.
Sesame Place, a “Sesame Street”-themed amusement park in Pennsylvania, is the first theme park to get Certified Autism Center (CAC) designation. The park stated: “It is our goal to provide every family with an enjoyable and memorable visit, and we are proud to offer specialized services to guests with autism and other special needs.”
The theme park provides its staff members with autism sensitivity and awareness training in areas like sensory awareness, motor skills, program development, social skills, communication, environment and emotional awareness. Each ride at Sesame Place is ranked using a special sensory scale (1-10). Additionally, the park offers noise-cancelling headphones, ride accessibility, and quiet rooms and low-sensory areas to accommodate its patrons. This is a very exciting development for families of children with autism, as they now have an opportunity to attend a theme park that caters to their child’s specific needs while offering an interesting and meaningful experience.
View the links below to read more about Sesame Place and visit the website!
For parents who are wondering how they can work on their child’s speech and language goals at home, Shari Robertson, PhD, CCC-SLP from the ASHA Leader has identified five reasons that books are all you need! The reasons cited are:
1) Books provide a natural context for learning vocabulary: Research has found that children’s books contain approximately twice as many infrequently used or rare words than in conversation and also provide a model of more advanced grammatical structures.
2) Books are efficient: A single book can target multiple communication skills.
3) Books are convenient: Children’s books are portable and typically low-cost.
4) Books are fun: Choosing a story that a child is interested in and motivated to read can facilitate learning language and carryover of those skills.
5) They do not have LED screens: A growing body of evidence suggests negative effects of screen time in young children, particularly speech and language delays, disruptions in sleep patterns and mood swings.
For the full article and a list of books to read for each speech and language skill, click the link below!