Monday, July 26, 2010

Week 27 Communication and International Adoptions

Yes, I kind of switched gears today...not a summertime entry but an interesting one nonetheless :)

In our family, one of our children was born in Korea and joined our family at 5 1/2 months of age. Working in a birth to three environment I have worked with children born in many different countries and between work and my own family experience, there are some thoughts that I would like to share with you.

Once again, I put myself in the child's position when I think about interacting with a child. So, here is this child that is coming from a different country, a different culture. If the child is several months old, they were already familiar with their birth country.

1. Sounds: The baby/child is used to how the language of that country sounds. They are used to the music that might have played in the house and the sounds on the TV.

2. Smells: The baby/child is used to the smells of that country. They might be from cooking, they might be from soap, shampoo or cleaning supplies.

3. Routines: Some countries have everyone sleep on a big futon on the floor and sit, play and eat on the floor. Some families have all people share a bedroom.

4. Tastes: The baby/child is used to the formula and the water that it was mixed with. Babies in Russia drink tea from a cup. Other babies have tastes of food earlier than American babies do.

5. Touch: Based on the country the child is coming from will depend on if the child was swaddled or not. Maybe they were worn all day long in a sling sort of device. Or maybe they were not touched or held much. Some children are bathed often and some are oiled and bathed only occasionally.

And to top it all off, they are arriving in this country after a very long airplane ride!!! They arrive in a country where nothing sounds familiar, looks familiar (even the people), smell familiar, etc. WOW, what a hard experience for a baby or young child!!!

So what can we do to help this little person adjust? Think of how you would like to be treated after travelling many hours on a plane into a country that is foreign to you.

Remember when I chatted about sensory integration and issues?? Well this is where some of those things might help us.

Try to watch and see what soothes your child...does he like rocking or swaddling or certain music?

Try to let the child sleep when they are tired and slowly change that schedule to one that fits into your family better.

Don't change their food intake quickly if possible. Try to use the foods they are used to and slowly change it to what you would like them to eat and drink.

Try to limit the amount of new people and experiences they have at first. Let them get used to their new environment and the people in it before bombarding them with loving extended family and friends.

Try all the tricks that I have been sharing about language development. If you speak the language of the country that your child is from, then teaching them to speak both English and the other language. It might take them a bit longer to grasp the two languages but they will :)

If you have concerns about your child's development be sure to contact your local early intervention, or birth to three or Early Steps agency and ask for a developmental evaluation. They can give you lots of tips of how to help your child get to the next step. And if there is a delay they will provide educational specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech therapists.

And here is just something I really want people to think about before adopting from another country. Many parents go into an adoption thinking that with all the love they have they will be able to have a wonderful relationship with their child. Do your homework about the country you are adopting from and how they treat the children before you adopt them. Some children can be very deprived of touch and put in cribs for long periods of time. At times these children have trouble attaching to the families that love them and that is a very sad situation.

Obviously I totally believe in adopting children from other countries and it's one of the best things we ever did for our family. But we did lots of "homework" about all the different countries that were possible for us and decided on the one that worked best for us.

If anyone wants to chat more about this, just email me.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Week 26 Summer Treats

Let's chat about all the yummy foods and treats that we have during the summer time. Why???

Because we are going to look at the choices out there and see how they:

1. Will stimulate your child's oral area to produce clearer sounds.
2. Will stimulate your child's language development.
3. Will maybe even help your child try some new tastes and eat a wider variety of foods.

Before I go on: NEVER GIVE YOUR CHILD ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD WORRY THAT THEY WOULD CHOKE ON. You know your child best and I am speaking to parents from infants to young children, so please use your best judgement before giving your child any of these suggestions.

So, it's summer, a time full of yummy foods and drinks. When you think of summertime and food what do you think of? Grilled food (chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs), salads, watermelon, popsicles, ice cream cones, corn on the cob, tomatoes, lots of garden veggies (I lived in the Midwest most of my life so I am basing my choices on our summers). I now live in Florida and so many of these choices are available year think of what are your special foods during the summer time and add them to my list.

-Meat cooked on the grill. OK, I know that meat can be hard for children, especially if you have some low tone in your mouth. But what I want you to think of is the different tastes that grilled meat can give you. It's a more intense flavor from the grilling plus often times we add a marinade that intensifies the flavors. Plus, ribs can be cooked until they almost melt in your mouth so might work for the child that chewing is difficult. Hot dogs are yummy and can be diced up finely if need be. Add different toppings, pickle relish, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salsa, horseradish!! Yes, I want you to make a party in your child's mouth. Often times parents think that young children cannot tolerate more intense flavors but you will be surprised once you play around with this. Some children crave those intense flavors and by letting them have them they will eat more quantity and different options.

-Encourage your child to "dip" their food into different flavors. This is a tricky way to get them to eat anything they don't like. By "dipping" it into a flavor they like they may eat more variety. They also may just lick off the dip, but that's OK too. So, think of all the different flavored salad dressings out there to use as a think of the actual dips (onion, ranch, salsa, guacamole, caramel) how about condiments that you can dip in (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise) and of course I'm now going to push you out of your comfort level and think about other options like........yogurt, chocolate sauce, lemon juice, pickle juice, lemon curd, Nutella, peanut butter, jelly, pixie stick powder), yes, pretty much anything that will stick on food can be used as a dip.

OK, now take a breath and go with me on one more thought....(no I am not crazy, this really works!!!) Think of your child's favorite flavor and use that as the dip for anything else. Some examples: carrots dipped in chocolate sauce, apples dipped in salsa, chicken dipped in caramel sauce, are you seeing where I am going???? If you have a child that you would say is a "picky eater" then this tip is going to be the one for you. There is always one flavor that your child likes and by dipping new foods or foods we "don't like" into that food, they just might eat the food they didn't like. Do not make a face or comment how yucky that seems to you!! Your child will pick up on the fact that you think it's yucky and that will stop all new food exploration.

-Drinks and frozen treats: Experiment with flavor and thickness when it comes to drinks. Try different flavors of smoothies with all the fruit that is now in season and different sized straws. Try making very intense lemonade. Try tomato juice or spicy V-8. Popsicles are really just frozen juice, so play with those. There are popsicles that are very sour or extreme flavors, there are Italian ices that are sour. You can freeze applesauce in small dixie cups with a plastic spoon inside and you have made a healthy popsicle. Some kids don't like the texture of applesauce but will eat it when it's frozen. Freeze "Go Gurts" yogurt or just containers of yogurt...yum. Try eating frozen peas right from the bag, or frozen strawberries.

-Vegetables: There are children that will not eat vegetables but when the bean is picked from the garden in front of the child and just given to them to chew on or take bites, a magical thing might happen and they like them that way. Fresh picked fruit and vegetables taste sweeter and are warm and crunchy and very different from the foods that you get out of a can or from the freezer department. This is another time to try the dipping suggestion.

With all these suggestions try to include your child as much in the preparation as possible. Have the child help you make the smoothie and talk about it....there is your language opportunity. Have them pick which fruit or fruits to use; let them put the ingredients in the blender; let them push the button to make it "go"; "noisy" many words to model and opportunities for your child to imitate or use to request or comment.

Also, if you can eat these foods with your child, modelling how yummy you think they taste and modelling the language that your child can use, makes this a perfect activity for your child. If you are eating something they are much more apt that they will want to try it to.

If you are worried about your child choking there is an item in the stores that is like a little mesh bag with a handle that you can put food in and the child chews on the bag but no pieces get through the bag.

Relax and explore and enjoy this activity. I think I need to head for the kitchen, all this talk about food has made me hungry :)

Have a great week!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Week 25 Toys to Help Your Child Communicate

HA!! The title to this post is a joke, there are no specific toys that will help your child talk. Many, many parents have asked me this question, especially around Christmas and birthday time, so I thought we will chat about toys today.

It seems that the family of a child with a language delay love to buy toys that "talk". Books that you push a button and it "talks"; "educational DVD's"; "educational" programs for your computer; dolls that talk; kitchen sets that talk.

Here is my secret, your child will develop communication with any toy that they love and especially if it's a toy that involves another person they love being with. So, it can be an empty box, an empty paper towel tube that you roll small cars through, a doll, a stuffed animal, a piece of string, ANYTHING can be a toy and can help your child communicate.

Here is my best example of this. I was meeting a child for the first time and they were a bit shy and mom and dad were worried that I wouldn't get anything out of the child. Here is what caught the child's interest....a piece of kleenex :) I threw the Kleenex up in the air and said "up"; I ripped off some small pieces of the kleenex and the child watched me blow them off the open palm of my hand, we made small balls from the kleenex and put them in a truck and drove them around; oh, and before we began ripping it up we were playing peek a boo with it. It wasn't the kleenex that kept the child engaged, it was the novel lady that used the fun voice and did all these crazy things with the kleenex and then invited the child to join in.

Now, I'm all for having toys in the house and buying toys and getting toys from grandparents. But I would suggest you stop worrying about the educational value behind a toy or if a toy will help your child talk. Instead I would look at a toy for all the joy that it will bring your child and your family.

One more thing about the "talking" and singing toys out there. If you listen, they are not modelling easy to repeat phrases for your child; they usually talk too fast; they can become annoying; and the batteries get expensive. If you need an electronic toy, buy them an electric toothbrush, it will stimulate their oral area, keep their teeth clean, help them explore new tastes and improve their communication :)

Have a great week!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Week 24 Walks and Exploring the Outside

I just started a full time job so will be probably posting on the weekends and not Thursday's anymore :) Back to Early Intervention for me!!

Let's go on a walk and think about how we can build your child's communication skills at the same time. I'm going to go through a scenario as if I am walking with a child and try to share what I would say and do.

Still inside the house:

"Do you want to go outside?" (happy voice). How would your child take their turn? Nod their head; run to the door; say "yes, ya, outside or some variation of that?

"We need to find your where are you?" (looking around the house or even standing right by the shoes and looking). What would your child's turn be? Pick up the shoes and hand them to you? Take a shoe and try to put it on their foot? Say "shoe?". "You found your shoes!" Take a shoe, child sits down on the floor. "Shoe on", singing "put your shoe on your foot, on your foot, put your shoe on your foot, on your foot, put your shoe on your foot, put your shoe on your foot, put your shoe on your foot, on your foot." And if your child wears socks you can change the song to "put your sock on your foot" and then a second song of "put your shoe on your sock".

Now, let's just think for a minute. You worry about not being able to squeeze time in your day to help your child communicate better. I bet the activity above took at least 5 minutes and you haven't even gotten out the door but your child has had the opportunity to label, to request, to expand his vocabulary; to try new words; to follow directions; etc. etc. WOW!!

Now to the door...of course I wouldn't open the door right away but I might pull on the knob and go "open!" and wait to see what my child would do for their turn. I would probably model "open door", or "oh no"; or "stuck" whatever felt right. After a couple turns back and forth with my child we would get that door open and out we would go.

Think of all the vocabulary you are exposed to on a walk, and all the senses that can be used. You are looking, you are listening, you are smelling, you are touching and yes, you might even be tasting. Each experience gives you a chance to build communication. Look around your neighborhood, or park or wherever you like to walk and think about what you might comment about. Trees, flowers, cars, bikes, kids, swings, sand, grass, clouds, sun, dog, leaves, worms, lizards. Descriptive words like hot, wet, cold, yucky, icky, muddy, dirty, warm, yummy, colors, fast, slow, up, down, in, out, under, over, etc. etc. Think of action words like jump, walk, swing, slide, go, stop, fly, beep beep, swim, wag, sniff, pet, touch, don't touch :), etc. etc.

I really want you to look at the things that you are already doing and then think about how you can incorporate the skills you have learned about waiting, commenting, less questions, building on what your child is saying, turn taking, etc. By looking at helping your child in this manner it's easy and effortless and fun and your child will get lots of opportunities during their day to become a more confident communicator.

Have a fun 4th of July, hmmmmm think of all the experiences your child will have this weekend. New foods and tastes (watermelon, lemonade, think intense flavors or trying new flavors); new vocabulary and experiences (parades; swimming; fireworks; extended family visiting) !!!!!