Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Build On The Child's Strengths

In the world of "therapy", "doctors" and often times "education" the professionals notice what your child cannot do.  I know when my children went to their well visit appointments with their pediatrician, the focus was on height, weight, and overall development.  I also remember that feeling in the pit of my stomach when I had to say "no".  "No, my child does not have 350 words; no, my baby is not rolling both ways; no, my child is not potty trained".  Oh no, my child's height and weight are only in the 25%!!  Somehow you felt that you must be responsible and your child was a bit less because of these observations.

The key to working with a family and small children is to build on what the child CAN do.  It's so simple.  When you build on what a child can do, there is more success.  The child realizes that you understand them and want them to do more things that they are good at.  They are more motivated because they are starting with things they like.  And the family is excited because you are pointing out all the wonderful things their child can do and what great parents they are.  Everyone is quickly on the same page and excited about the next success the child has.

Parents know what their children are good at and what their children struggle with.  And it makes them sad and sometimes they feel guilty, like they haven't done enough when we notice only the things the child cannot do.  As professionals, we don't need to remind them about what their child cannot do.  Parents need to feel like they can make the difference with their child and by building on the child's strengths, everyone wins.

So if you are a parent, make sure the people that deal with your child see all the wonderful things your child can do and encourage them to work with those strengths. And if you are a professional, be aware of the things that are difficult for the child and family but remember to share all the wonderful things you see the child doing.  Also, take a minute and mention all the wonderful things that the parents are doing too. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

"You Do Feeding In The Home?"

I presented at the Family Cafe in Orlando in June.  Family Cafe is a wonderful conference that is focused on families that have a family member with a special need.  It is a celebration of all people and a celebration of how we are the same much more than how we are different. 

During the presentation, a parent asked me the question, "You do feeding in the home ?!?!?"  She was amazed.  Apparently the Early Intervention Program that was supporting her family did not do this. 

Here is my puzzlement when it comes to working with families that have a child under the age of 3.  Our main goal should be to help the family and child have a meaningful relationship.  These parents need to be able to feel comfortable parenting their child.  They need to be able to feel that they can meet their childs needs.  And as a therapist, the focus should be on helping them learn any tools they need to support their child.  The worst thing we can do is swoop in with the intention of "fixing" their child.  It's not about us and all the knowledge and experience we may have.  It is about sharing and supporting the family so that they are empowered.

So, yes, I DO do feeding in the home.  But what that looks like is that I am showing the family specific things that they can do during their day that will help their child's feeding skills improve.  Then I come back and check out how things are going.  I may join in with the child and their family eating a snack or meal.  During that time I may see things that I can give them more hints about to help the child inch towards the next step.  Or I may just congratulate the family on the great progress that I see, it just all depends. 

If you are a parent of a child with a speech and language delay under the age of 3 please encourage any professional that you are working with to help you be the parent you want to be.  You need to ask questions, ask for support and then take the lead.  It may be scary but you are your sweet childs parent.  Enjoy your child, have fun with your child, interact with your child and love your child.  You can be the person that is the key to your child communicating better; eating better; sleeping better, walking better, etc. etc.   You can do this.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Temple Grandin

I had the privilege of attending a presentation by Dr. Temple Grandin this weekend. Dr. Grandin is an incredible woman that is internationally known for her work with Livestock Behavior; Design of Facilities and Humane Slaughter. But the most amazing thing about Dr. Grandin is that she has autism. And her gift to the families that I work with is that she gives us an insight as to how a person with an autism diagnosis thinks, learns, and feels. She also has fantastic suggestions and strategies for parents and educators on how to help children with autism succeed in life. I would suggest that you check out her website at http://templegrandin.com. I also would recommend that you see the HBO movie that was created about her life, it really gives you a wonderful insight into the world of a person with autism and how they can make their way, often times, very successfully in this world.

Dr. Grandin is funny, outspoken, passionate, very, very intelligent and an inspiration to all.

What she says that inspires me is her information that
1. Young children with autism need to be engaged 20 hours a week in turn taking activities and joining in with the world around them
2. These 20 hours do not need to be with a "therapist or specialist" but can be just as effective with a parent, grandparent; sibling; babysitter etc. She says that it is important that a specialist coach the family as to what strategies work well for their child and help them be successful.
3. The family should build activities around what the child likes. If a child is obsessed with trains, then use that interest to ease them into learning more based on trains. Start with what they like and are passionate about.
4. Understand what sensory integration is and respect that certain sensory stimulation is painful to the child and will interfere with learning and possibly eating, sleeping and social situations.
5. The family needs to help the child learn social rules so that they are able to function in the world. The children need to learn how to give other people what they want.
6. Use simple and clear directions with the child and use a neutral voice. Don't be demeaning but always respectful.

My favorite quotes of hers were: "Do not try to de-geek the geek". "Let's accept that there are different kinds of minds". "Eccentric is acceptable; being dirty and rude is not."

If you ever have a chance to attend one of her presentations, do it!! It will make a difference in your life.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Baby Babbling and Communicating with Dad

Hi Everyone,

I'm back :) As you can see, I have a new look. All the credit goes to Eliana Tardio, a coworker and dear friend!! Thank you so much.

I am now linked to my new facebook page and twitter, so hopefully I will be able to reach families with the technology they feel comfortable with.

My goal is to bring more media to the blog and share with you all kinds of information concerning communication. ENJOY!!

Check out this video and see true communication between a little girl and her dad. Notice how Dad is commenting and encouraging turn taking. Listen to the child's infections and body language. I know it will put a smile on your face.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 2011

I have so many ideas of fun things to do in October to help your child "pop" language :)

If you live where the leaves are falling there are so many things that you can do. You can rake them (and get your child their own little rake) and then "one, two, three, go" you can jump in them!!! You can toss them around and focus on words like "up, down". You can find a bunch of dry leaves and "crunch, crunch, crunch" them up. You can get paper and glue out and stick the leaves to the paper. You can go on a walk and find all the different colors of leaves or just find the trees that have leaves that are not green. You can march through the leaves; you can crunch the leaves with your shoes, you can shuffle in the leaves; you can hide your feet in the leaves, or your hand or your whole body!!! You can make a path through the leaves and walk down the path, or hop or crawl.

One of the best suggestions that I am going to share is one that I learned from another early interventionist. You take a pumpkin, you take some colorful golf tees and find your childs little hammers from the pounding toys they have and you pound the tees into the pumpkin. "bang, bang, bang"; "more tees"; "in and out". Your child will enjoy this process so much. You pound the tees in and then you can take them out and do it again.

Of course taking the seeds out of the pumpkin is fun to explore. If your child has sensory issues this could be a hard one. Let them use a spoon, that might help. But if you have an explorer, let them pull the seeds out with their hands and you can scoop out the insides and put them in a bowl to explore. "Squishy, slippery, stringy" are all fun words that would apply. If they put some in their mouth, please don't say "yuck", let them decide if they like the taste or not (but be careful about choking on the seeds if your child is small).

And of course you can carve the pumpkin and roast the seeds. You can talk about the facial body parts that you are carving "should we cut out the nose or an eye?" and if you use a real candle you can play with having them blow it out several times in a row...great for breath control and to encourage your child to request "more please".

FOOD: YUM!!!! OK, there are caramel apples and caramel dip. There is a new milkshake at McDonalds that is an autumn shake which I would assume might be spicey. Milkshakes are great for improving the muscle strength in your childs mouth. There is pumpkin pie (and dipping the electric toothbrush in this mixture could be a good taste treat, plus wake up the mouth.) There are cakes and cookies and pies with cinnamon and ginger and nutmeg. Let them try apple cider or warm apple juice and maybe even add some cinnamon.

And what about the Halloween candy!?!?!? Licorace and gummy worms are good for muscle development....bite and pull on the sides as well as in front. Pixie stixs powder is one of my favorites to wake up the mouth. Their are that fun dip candy where you dip a hard candy into a powder. Keep your mind open as to ways to use some of the candy to stimulate your childs mouth. Remember, I'm not saying all day, every day. But a couple pixie stixs are not going to hurt your childs health or teeth.

HALLOWEEN: Words that will come easily for your child would be "boo" for ghost; "pumpin" for pumpkin; "cany" for candy. With the trick or treating and costumes realize that small children cannot always tell what is real and what isn't, so be sensitive and aware if your child might be scared. If you want them to participate, maybe let them help you hand out candy, or just ride in a wagon while someone else goes to the doors of the houses.

ART: A child's foot, painted white on the bottom and then pressed on a piece of dark colored paper will look like a ghost. You can add the eyes and open mouth. Or paint both feet and let your child walk across some black paper and you will have many ghosts :)

Give your child some markers to decorate their pumpkin or let them paint a pumpkin. You could dress your pumpkin with a hat and a tie for fun....let your imagination go.

Enjoy this time of year, we are heading into the holiday time; school has started and our lives shift into a different rhythm. Look for the fun in every day and share it with your child.