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.
A variety of gestures have been shown to be a predictor for later language development in children with autism, children with Down Syndrome, and typically developing children. Gestures are described as actions produced with the intent to communicate and are usually expressed using the fingers, hands, arms, and facial features. Early use of gestures has been linked to increased language production, language comprehension, and object naming. A child’s joint attention skills, such as giving or showing objects may also predict later language skills. Lack of joint attention behaviors between the ages of 2 and 3 years old may be an indication of developmental deficits.
The frequency of gesture use as a form of intentional communication is an important factor when identifying children with communication deficits. Typically developing children use gestures to communicate about one time per minute by 12-months, 18-month-olds about two times per minute, and 24-month-olds about five times per minute. The amount of gestures used by infants is related to later verbal development.
Playing familiar games, singing songs, and performing routines can encourage children to utilize gestures as a form of early communication. Songs such as “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or using hand gestures to signal bubbles popping can become interactive opportunities for children. Communicative gestures in these familiar contexts can later be generalized to new contexts.
Many young children go through a stage between the ages of 2-5 years when they may exhibit some stuttering. The first signs of stuttering tend to appear when a child is about18-24 months old as there is a burst in vocabulary and kids are starting to put words together to form longer utterances. In many cases, stuttering goes away on its own by age 5; in others, it lasts longer. Whether or not your child exhibits stuttering behaviors, here are some great tips to think about when you’re talking with him/her.
1. Speak in an unhurried way, pausing frequently. Model slow, relaxed speech for your child.
2. Reduce the number of questions you ask. Try commenting on what your child has said.
3. Use your facial expressions and other body language to show that you are listening.
4. Set aside a few minutes at a regular time each day when you can give your undivided attention to your child. During this time, let the child choose and direct you in activities.
5. Help family members learn to take turns talking and listening. Decrease interruptions!
6. Observe the way you interact with your child. Try to increase those times that give your child the message that you are listening to him/her and he/she has plenty of time to talk. Try to decrease criticisms, rapid speech patterns, interruptions, and questions.
7. Above all, convey that you accept your child as he/she is. This support is so important!
Research completed by Anna V. Sosa, has shown that toddlers attempt communication more often and hear more words from their parents when playing with non-electronic toys versus electronic toys. Toys that do the talking for toddlers or parents don’t allow as many opportunities for spontaneous language and interaction. Use of these electronic toys should be limited and more opportunities to play with non-electronic toys with parents should be encouraged. Some examples of non-electronic toys to consider are puzzles, books, blocks, dolls, and race car tracks. When playing with your toddler, use simple sentences (car go fast), ask questions (what is it?), narrate what you and your child are doing (open door), give directions (give me blue), and use repetitive language your toddler can begin to imitate (ready, set, go). Playing with these types of toys will increase the opportunities your toddler has to learn language all while playing with you!
Basic, Non-Electronic Toys May Be Better for Parent-Toddler Communication. The ASHA Leader, March 2016, Vol. 21, 12. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.21032016.12. https://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2498630
Dr. Prizant, an internationally renowned autism expert, suggests a new and exciting shift in the world of Autism. In this book, his main focus is that “the most successful approaches to autism don’t aim at fixing a person by eliminating symptoms, but rather seeking to understand the individual’s experience and what underlies the behavior.” Dr. Prizant sees behaviors of Autism as part of a range of strategies in coping with a world that feels overwhelming and intense. He suggests that we should not curb these behaviors but rather enhance these children’s abilities and build on their strengths. He argues that attempts to get rid of these behaviors of Autism may actually interfere with important development of the child. Check out this book to learn more!
When you are cooking in the kitchen, many of your children are curious and want to help. It is often difficult to have a child participate in the cooking process due to safety and height of counters. It is also hard to cook with an active toddler running around the house. This has all changed! A new product has been developed that allows your child to be at the level of the countertop safely. Whether or not your child is old enough to actively cook, the kitchen is a place where you can model/incorporate many language skills. Many companies make a version of this product and we have even seen people making their own. The kitchen is a beautiful place for language so we wanted to share this product!
Researchers from the University of Washington recently conducted a 5-year longitudinal study of 241 families to study home literacy and its impacts. The participants included a group of first- to fifth graders and a group of third- to seventh graders. The study found that children with higher reading and writing achievement at school engaged in more reading and writing activities at home. Parental rating scales also indicated that children’s ability to self-regulate attention spans remained consistent throughout the study, however, executive functioning skills including goal-setting, often improved.
With the start of each new school year comes discussions about Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings. Some families may feel nervous about these meetings, especially those that are new to the process. However, IEP meetings are very important to your child’s education as the team prepares for a successful school year full of growing and learning! If you’re unsure about what to expect, you’re not alone! This website (link below) provides a collection of helpful tips, tools, and checklists to prepare for your child’s IEP meeting. Check out these great resources including how to get organized, questions you should ask, what to bring to the meeting, legal FAQs, and so much more!
Wee Speech is proud to partner with SpeechBytes to develop a brand new speech homework app!
At-home practice is a critical element in an overall speech therapy plan, helping your child make progress more quickly and consistently. But it can be hard to get your child excited to practice at home and even more difficult to find time in your busy day to make it happen. Here’s how it will work:
- Log in to the app on your mobile device or tablet – the app is free to families.
- Enter your Wee Speech therapist’s private access code
- As your child plays the game, each repetition is recorded and saved to a private and secure platform. This allows your therapist to review the practice session, correct and reward your child for their work, and plan accordingly for future sessions and practice. Check it out here!
According to recent research done at The University of California, Los Angeles, school-aged girls with high-functioning autism may be better at interacting and blending in with peers than boys with high-functioning autism. Research suggests this may be due to ‘social camouflaging’ or the ability to blend in with peers despite the fact that they may not necessarily be connecting or creating friendships. Differences between the genders play a large role in this study, with boys tending to be more isolated and having more repetitive behaviors and fixations which drive them away from socializing, while girls tended to more quiet and stayed closer to groups. The girls fixations are also perceived as more socially acceptable than those of their male counterparts. Preliminary results do suggest that there are differences in the brains of girls and boys with autism. Imaging shows that girls with autism have less disruption in the area of the brain that processes social information. These differences often lead to later diagnoses of the disorder in girls.