Author: Margaret Morris MS CCC SLP

Mask Wearing and Children with Special Needs

Even as we all look forward to increased availability of the COVID-19 vaccine in the upcoming months, it is clear that we will continue to need to wear masks for some time to come. Kids with special needs, such as autism, can experience sensory issues that make it more difficult for them to tolerate wearing a mask.  Certain fabrics may be uncomfortable, or they may not like the feeling of the loops around their ears.  It may be helpful to have your child pick out their mask. They can touch it, and make sure they like the texture and color or pattern.  You can also experiment with a variety of mask alternatives, including those that tie behind the head or

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Free Texting Service Helps Track Your Child’s Speech and Language Development

Speech and language disorders are among the most common disorders that young children experience. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 11% of children ages 3–6 have a speech, language, voice or swallowing disorder. Most speech and language disorders are highly treatable, but the earlier parents and caregivers seek help for their child, the better. Now there is a free and convenient resource for parents and caregivers who have concerns about their child’s speech and language development. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Identify the Signs campaign and Bright by Text , have joined forces to provide a free resource for families of children ages 2–6.   Bright by Text, a national nonprofit that sends parents and caregivers

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Using Household Items to Play with Your Kids

Using Household Items to Play with Your Kids As families continue to spend more time at home, and outside activities are more limited, many parents think they need the newest toys and games to entertain their kids and support their development.  Don’t overlook the wealth of materials you already have in your home!  Many common, everyday household objects can be used to develop play skills, encourage your child’s imagination, and expand speech and language skills. Here are a few items you can use: Paper towel and toilet paper rolls can be used as “tunnels” for pushing cars or other toys through, or as a telescope for playing “I spy”. Try taping a few to a wall with painter’s tape to

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How to Navigate “Fake News” with Your Kids

“Fake News” isn’t a new phenomena, but the ease with which people can copy, paste, click and share content online, allows it to spread so pervasively that it has become a major issue.  With young people- especially teenagers- constantly exposed to a flood of information found online, knowing how to sift out the truth from falsehoods, is a critical skill.  When teens receive information that is deceptive, disturbing, or inflammatory, it can promote feelings of anxiety, fear and anger.  Although social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter have made some attempts to flag or remove troublesome articles and videos, there simply aren’t enough resources to check each one.  Here are some tips for parents to help their children

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Speech Intelligibility: How Well Do You Understand Your Child?

What is Speech Intelligibility?  Intelligibility refers to the clarity of speech, or how much of someone’s speech a listener can understand. Parents often worry when their child is not understood by others.  It is common for young children to make mistakes as they learn to say words. There is also a lot of variability in speech development between children.  However, as your child learns to talk, their ability to be understood by others should steadily increase.  So, how can you tell if your child’s speech intelligibility is on track or falling behind? Dr. Peter Flipsen, Jr.  has developed a simple formula to use as a guide to evaluate a child’s speech clarity in conversational speech with unfamiliar listeners (Flipsen, 2006). 

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Using Music to Reinforce Speech and Language

Music can be used effectively to help your child develop their language and speech skills.  It is motivating, familiar, rhythmic and just plain fun!  It can also stimulate motor and social skills. Music can have a regulating effect on your child, making them more receptive to listening, attending and learning.  By incorporating gestures along with the lyrics, you can support learning and encourage your child’s active participation. If your child is not yet verbal or is minimally verbal, music can help teach gestural imitation skills. By incorporating gestures along with the lyrics, you can reinforce concepts and encourage your child’s active participation. The simple and repetitive nature of songs is an excellent way to reinforce first words. Songs that have

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The Importance of Self-Care for Parents

Most parents experience some sort of stress as a normal part of the parenting experience.  For parents of children with special needs, the intensity of stress can be amplified. The impact of chronic stress related to caring for children with more intense needs has been documented.  Studies show that parents of children with developmental, psychiatric or learning disorders are more likely than others to experience anxiety, depression and insomnia.  Being under chronic stress also puts these parents at higher risk for a variety of medical issues. You can read an article from the Child Mind Institute on ways to avoid parenting burnout and take care of your own physical, emotional and social health here.  It’s important that, as parents of

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Balancing Screen Time

Even in normal times, it can be easy to let screens and technology dominate our lives, and right now, it’s even easier.  During the coronavirus pandemic, as our daily lives have become more digital, kids not only need to use technology for schoolwork, therapy, or camps and classes,  it’s also often their means for social connection with family members and friends. A number of studies have demonstrated that increased screen time can negatively affect children’s mood, sleep and concentration.  Now more than ever, it is important that families balance screen time with non-tech, screen-free activities. Here’s a few ideas for some low-tech family time: Have a weekly game night: Pull out some classic board or card games, or try no-cost

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Encouraging Communication at Home

During speech therapy, your speech pathologist will teach your child new speech and language skills needed to further develop their ability to communicate effectively.  It is really important that your child gets many opportunities to practice these new skills outside of the treatment room. It can be difficult to come up with ideas for incorporating your child’s speech goals into their everyday activities.  Here are a few ways you can use daily routines to help your child practice using their verbal skills.  These suggestions focus on increasing intentional communication, requesting, labeling and expanding utterances.  First, make sure your child wants or needs the object or action. Then, he must request it in order to receive it.  This can be at

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The Benefits of “Belly Breathing”

Diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called abdominal or belly breathing, is a deep breathing technique that engages your diaphragm, which is the large, dome-shaped muscle that runs horizontally across your abdomen, under your ribcage. Our natural breathing patterns should engage our diaphragm, but many people actually don’t breathe properly. When you breathe in, your belly should expand. When you breathe out, your belly should contract, or move inward. Belly breathing has been shown to be highly effective both as a calming strategy and for a variety of health reasons. Breathing is one of the most sensitive indicators or warning signs of stress, because it is such a vital link between our minds and bodies. By increasing our awareness about breathing and by

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