Supporting Non Verbal Children with a Total Communication Approach

Total Communication Communication is vital to every aspect of our lives. It impacts on our relationships, choices, control, emotions, self-esteem and self- expression. It is therefore essential that we all have a method of communication, an opportunity to communicate and a subject to communicate about. In order to make communication accessible to everyone, we need to use all the ways available to us to give and receive information. A Total Communication approach moves the focus away from a reliance on spoken language and emphasises the importance of other forms of communication as an alternative to speech. Using a Total Communication approach can help children with learning and communication difficulties to develop their understanding and expression in order to communicate more effectively. Total Communication is a holistic view of communication that can be used with children, adolescents and adults. It involves not only oral language to build communication skills, but introduces […]

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What are Pragmatic Language Skills?

Pragmatic language refers to the social language skills that we use in our daily interactions with others. This includes what we say, how we say it, our non-verbal communication (eye contact, facial expressions, body language etc.) and how appropriate our interactions are in a given situation. Pragmatic skills are vital for communicating our personal thoughts, ideas and feelings. Children with difficulties in this area often misinterpret other peoples’ communicative intent and therefore will have difficulty responding appropriately either verbally or non-verbally. Examples of pragmatic skills: • Conversational skills • Asking for, giving and responding to information • Turn taking • Eye contact • Introducing and maintaining topics • Making relevant contributions to a topic • Asking questions • Avoiding repetition or irrelevant information • Asking for clarification • Adjusting language based on the situation or person • Using language of a given peer group • Using humour • Using appropriate […]

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Activate Speech Resources

The activate speech resources are a useful tool for supporting children with speech and language difficulties and can be used to target a range of areas including vocabulary, verbs, sentence formation and concepts. Activate Speech Resources also help to support listening, concentration and turn taking skills. The materials are user-friendly and the activities included are very concise and easy to follow. The pictures are very clear and appealing to children. They are also a great size and very portable. I love using these resources in my therapy sessions and I find that the children are always really engaged with the vibrant colours and relevant objects/concepts.   Where Can I Purchase Activate Speech Resources? Activate Speech Resources can be purchased from Sensational Kids Child Development & Learning Store   Written By   Sarah Gorman, Senior Speech & Language Therapist at Sensational Kids, Kildare   Copyright Sensational Kids CLG 2018

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Important Factors in the Development of Early Language Skills for 0-3 Year Olds

Early language development is the time from birth until 3 years of age in which children learn and acquire a significant amount of core language skills and is seen as the optimal age period for language acquisition. This article outlines and discusses skills and milestones involved effective language acquisition up to 3 years, how those in the child’s environment can facilitate children in language development, and how to identify when a child may require language intervention. Important Skills and Milestones in Language Acquisition Hearing and Auditory Processing   Hearing is a vital skill in the development of spoken language acquisition. Without functional hearing abilities a child cannot be exposed to and acquire verbal language. Auditory processing is an important part of listening to, retaining, and learning from spoken language and involves the ability to hear a sound and process it within the brain to make sense of it. Babies with […]

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The Benefits of Using Sound Puzzles To Support Your Child’s Development

I love to use these puzzles in my speech & language therapy sessions as they are a great source of enjoyment and very appealing to younger children.   Sound Puzzles make realistic sounds and provide positive feedback on a job well done by making sounds when the puzzle piece is placed in the correct spot.   In addition sound puzzles are a great way to reinforce cause-and-effect skills in young children and are also very useful for targeting early vocabulary, comprehension and matching skills. I use them frequently in sessions when targeting every day vocabulary (both comprehension and labeling of same). I also find that they can be useful when supporting turn taking skills.   Where Can I Purchase Sound Puzzles? Sound Puzzles can be purchased from Sensational Kids Child Development & Learning Store   Written By   Sarah Gorman, Senior Speech & Language Therapist at Sensational Kids, Kildare   […]

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Using Social Stories to Help Your Child

Social Stories – What are they?   A Social Story is a short story written in a specific style and format. A social story normally describes what happens in a specific social situation. This may be something that is obvious to us but not to a child with impaired social understanding.   Social stories aim to improve understanding of social situations and encourage appropriate responses. Social Stories can include a combination of writing / pictures / symbols in order to facilitate the communication levels of the child they are intended for, i.e. level of understanding, vocabulary knowledge etc.   Who uses Social Stories? Social stories were originally developed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder but they have also proved beneficial to children with learning, emotional, cognitive and communication impairments. Social Stories are versatile and easily tailored to meet a variety of needs. A social story should be unique and written for […]

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Understanding & Helping Pragmatic Language Development

The use of language in social contexts is called pragmatics. Pragmatics includes, but is not limited, to initiating conversation, requesting and responding, topic relevance, maintenance, asking and answering questions. It is not just the words that are used when speaking but, also refers to the subtleties such as, what the speaker implied, how something is said, appropriateness and the use of eye contact, body language and intonation. Pragmatic language skills are very important to allow clear communication of feelings, thoughts and ideas. The development of these skills occurs in conjunction with general language development. We use our pragmatic language daily. Components of pragmatics such as eye contact and smiling develop at an early age. The unspoken conversation rules are learned through watching other’s interaction. Children learn about taking turns, engaging others and communicating important information. Those who present with pragmatic language difficulties demonstrate difficulty with both non-verbal and verbal communication […]

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Speech and Language Support for Young Children with Down Syndrome

Children who present with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome can have difficulty with their speech, language and feeding. The frequent co-occurrence of hearing loss, oral-motor problems, memory and auditory processing difficulties can compound communication difficulties. Despite these difficulties, many children who present with Down Syndrome are sociable communicators. Most children with Down syndrome can understand much more language than they can express. To maximise language development and support of communication language therapy intervention is best started as early as possible. A Speech and Language Therapist can assess and provide individualised intervention for the speech and language difficulties with which each child with Down Syndrome presents. When therapy commences goals are set with parents. Early intervention goals are client centred and meaningful, focusing on the individual’s communication priorities, in addition to building pre-verbal communication skills such as shared attention, listening, engagement and use of gesture. Exercises may be provided to increase […]

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Does your child struggle to understand the concept of time or find transitions difficult?

Does your child struggle to understand the concept of time or find transitions difficult? The Time Timer may help When the red is gone…the time is up!The Ti me Timer is a very useful tool which reinforces the concept of time. It provides a way of visualising time as a measurement. For those who learn differently, the concept of time can create a high level of stress and anxiety. This visual timer allows you to see, at a glance, how much time is left. It supports focus, especially when completing challenging activities in challenging learning environments. It reduces the stress of transitions. There is no ticking, no distractions and no set up required.   An invaluable tool!   Written by Elaine Baldwin, Senior Speech & Language Therapist at Sensational Kids, Clonakilty   Where Can I Purchase The Time Timer? The Time Timer is available from Sensational Kids Child Development & Learning […]

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Using Visual Strategies to Improve Your Child’s Learning and Communication

According to the Chinese Proverb; I hear, and I forget, I see, and I remember, I do and I understand. Can any one of us imagine a life without our smartphones or to-do lists? As adults, we use visuals, lists and reminders to help us manage our daily lives. These prompts keep us on track and help us monitor our schedules. Lists and phones are visual aids which are forms of visual strategies. Using such aids helps us, not only to accomplish tasks one by one, but reduce stress in our daily lives. We all learn in different ways at different rates. Even though learning styles vary, many of us learn visually. Seeing something allows a greater opportunity to engage in experiential learning. We learn or remember because we have seen. Many children who present with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learn visually. However, regardless of diagnoses, many children can similarly […]

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The Use of a Soother in Child Development

The dummy, the soother, whatever name you prefer to call it, it’s that time- honoured baby accessory and valued tool. At one point or another, most children have had a dummy in their mouths, to comfort or calm them. Some children really “take” to their dummy and can find it very difficult to part with it; others show little interest despite exposure and many attempts by parents to use one to help their baby settle. But why do we really give dummies to babies? From the perspective of a Speech and Language Therapist, dummies have a valid function outside of soothing a child. Did you know that dummies, when used sparingly, can even help babies to develop their mouth and oral skills for breathing and speaking? During a baby’s early months, a dummy can be useful to comfort. Most babies have a very strong sucking reflex and therefore the sucking […]

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The Benefits of Using Rory’s Story Cubes to Support Your Child’s Development

Would you like to support your child’s ability to tell a story? If so, Rory’s Story Cubes could help   The ability to understand and express stories or narrative is a vital skill for children to develop. Rory’s Story Cubes is comprised of 9 six-sided cubes which all have a unique, detailed and easily distinguishable image. You roll the cubes and tell a story. With each roll of the cubes, new possibilities emerge. The number of stories that can be created are infinite. Even though it is a game, it offers a great opportunity for children to learn the important components involved in story telling such as planning, creating the setting, sequencing events in addition to higher level skills such as discussing feelings, understanding actions and consequences and creating resolutions. It also helps children to understand and use “wh” question words (what, who, where, when and why). These cubes provide […]

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Tips for Supporting Your Child’s Play Skills

Helping Your Child Develop Play Skills Playing is one of the most important things you can do with your child to help them develop. Play involves a lot of interaction and helps your child gain confidence, feel safe and loved, develop physical skills. It also enhances speech, language and communication skills. Children need time to develop play skills and playing with parents also gives children one on one attention and time they crave. As a Speech and Language Therapist, I can’t over-emphasise the importance of finding the time to play with your children on a regular basis. This can be very difficult in a busy household, with many demands, but setting aside even ten minutes would be beneficial. This can be done on a one to one basis or with others. Children also need to learn how to self-occupy and play by themselves, and you, as parents, can facilitate this. […]

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Everything You Need To Know About Your Child’s Early Language Development

Early language development   The early years of a child’s life is considered a critical period for development. A child’s ability to speak clearly, process speech sounds, to understand what others are saying, to express ideas and interact with others, are key skills. Speech and language tend sometimes to be confused, but they are, in fact, two very distinct areas. To clarify, language is a set of shared rules that allow us to express ideas in a meaningful way. Language is divided into two areas, receptive language, which involves the ability to listen to, process and understand what is being said, and expressive language. This is the ability to put thoughts into words and sentences, in a way that makes sense and is grammatically accurate. Speech, on the other hand, gives vocal expression to language. It involves the precisely coordinated muscle actions of the tongue, lips, jaw, and vocal tract, […]

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Using Mr Potato Head to Develop Your Child’s General Language Skills

Is your child having some difficulty developing their knowledge of body parts and general language skills? If so, then Mr Potato Head can help!   Play: It can’t be disputed that children learn best through play as language development can be supported, by adults, in a fun and natural way. Playing with Mr Potato Head can help develop symbolic play, certain language skills and support overall cognitive development. Choices: Offer your child choices of body parts when placing them into Mr Potato Head. It can support the understanding and expressive use of, vocabulary for body parts. Talk about these body parts as your child is assembling and experimenting with Mr Potato Head. Providing choices can also support a child’s ability to make decisions. Requesting: Mr Potato Head is a great tool to help support the skill of requesting. It offers many ways to develop consistent use of communication including, gestures, […]

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Support Your Child’s Social & Conversation Skills Using Conversation Cubes

Would you like to support your child’s social and conversation skills? If so, Conversation Cubes could help The ability to engage in conversation and express ones’ perspective are vital skills in social communication. These colourful cubes feature 36 engaging questions and can be played by 2 people or in a larger group. They are best suited to children aged 6-10 years. Their use offers many opportunities to build listening, language and social skills. They are a supportive fun way to assist children in discussing their experiences and opinions when asked certain questions. They are a great addition to a toolkit to build confidence in conversation skills!   Written by Elaine Baldwin, Senior Speech & Language Therapist at Sensational Kids, Clonakilty   Where Can I Purchase Conversation Cubes? Conversation Cubes are available from Sensational Kids Child Development & Learning Store   Copyright Sensational Kids CLG 2018

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Using The Avalanche Fruit Stand Game To Support Fine Motor Skill Development

Avalanche Fruit Stand This is firm favourite with the kids I see in occupational therapy. They love the challenge to the game. It’s great to work on turn taking. It can also be used for bilateral hand use as they need to hold the card steady when they are turning the spinner. The tweezers encourage a pincer grasp with the grooves for finger and thumb placement and they are firm enough that children need to use strengthening force to close the tweezer around the fruit. This is a great game for working on problem solving skills as the child needs to figure out how to get the fruit out without dropping other pieces of fruit. I like to use the rule that they can’t take fruit from the top. This is a great all-rounder of a game for fine motor skill development.     Written By: Amanda Kelly, Senior Occupational […]

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Benefits of Using Putty Peep Junior UV

I love using the Putty Peeps UV in my occupational therapy sessions. It provides tactile input for children who see this and can help to regulate them with resistance as they are moulding the putty to turn it into a person. The set comes with eyes but you can add more pieces like legs and arms and encourage the child to use their imagination. The UV light is great for improving Fine motor strength and endurance and the child uses a pincer grip to push down the button and needs to hold this to keep the light on. I also use this to help with handwriting in sessions. We flatten out the putty, which is fine motor work, and then we draw letters or numbers in the putty with the light. You need to manipulate the putty again to get it back to white. This gives a break from too […]

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Practical ways to help improve my child’s pencil grasp

One of the first things Occupational Therapists look at when they see someone writing is their pencil grasp. This becomes automatic and we frequently find ourselves assessing the pencil grasp of the lady behind the counter in the bank or the person taking our order at a restaurant. The reason that this become so engrained in the minds of Occupational Therapists is that when we see a child for handwriting difficulties one of the first things we need to look at is how they are holding their pencil and how this is affecting their writing. There are many different ways that we hold our pencils, some of these work well for us and others impact significantly on the legibility and pace of our writing or the amount of writing we can do before it becomes painful. The most common pencil grasps are the Tripod and Quadropod grasp (See Below). Until […]

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Should I use weighted products with my child with sensory needs?

Weighted blankets, lap pads, vests and shoulder weights are becoming more and more popular for using with children with sensory processing difficulties. These products are used to provide deep pressure input which calms the sensory systems and helps a child who is feeling overwhelmed or seeking proprioception to regulate their arousal levels. Weighted products can be very helpful for regulation but only when they are used correctly, at the right times and when all the precautions and instructions for use are followed. An occupational therapist can offer advice and guidelines on this   Weighted products are frequently used for the following; In class, to help a child remain in their chair and hold focus during lessons. During breaktimes, to provide calming input in busy and loud environments which can be overwhelming for children with sensory processing difficulties. In sensory rooms, for calming input for children who need more gentle regulation. […]

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Tips for getting your child into a good sleep routine

Sleep is a one of our basic needs, lack of sleep impacts on all our functioning. In children lack of sleep can result in aggression, restlessness, increased behavioural problems, irritability and poor learning/cognitive performance. In my experience sleep difficulties usually expand beyond the individual child, their parents are awake to support them and the whole family unit is negatively impacted. The tiredness has a knock on effect on some of the challenges which some of these children may already have. Statistics show that on average 50% of children between the ages of 0-6, and 25% of all children will experience sleep difficulties at some point. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are particularly at risk to sleep difficulties with studies consistently showing that 50-80% of children with ASD have difficulties with sleep (Richdale & Schreck, 2009). There is not a definitive explanation as to why children with ASD in particular […]

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Meeting your child’s sensory needs when it snows

Children with sensory processing difficulties often seek routine and structure as a form of comfort and reassurance. When they know what the plan is for the day, or for the week, they can prepare their sensory systems so they are prepared to cope with any upcoming challenges. But what happens when the plan changes? What happens when it snows? Schools are closed, and we are told to stay at home. The daily structure that our children crave is gone and this can cause upset and anxiety for them. We all know the proprioceptive activities help to restore calm and order to the body. Proprioception is the information that is sent from muscles and joints in our body to our brain. It gives the brain information about our position in space and where we are in relation to others. This in turn gives reassurance and helps our brain to regulate sensory […]

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Stretchy Loop Band Benefits

As an occupational therapist it is one of my favourite tools for children who seek movement and have difficult staying seated in their chair. By stretching the band around the legs of the child’s chair they can kick and stretch their feet against it. This offers proprioceptive input which is calming and regulating for children, helping them to remain seated and stay engaged in the classroom activities.   Where to purchase Stretchy Loop Bands? Stretchy Loop Bands are available from Sensational Kids Child Development & Learning Store   Product Review Written By Laura Kelly, Occupational Therapist, at Sensational Kids   Copyright Sensational Kids CLG 2018

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Rush Hour Game Review

The Rush Hour game involves problem solving and sequencing. You move the cars back and forth to figure out how to clear obstacles and free the ‘icecream truck’. In occupational therapy session I love to use this activities with children to work on attention, concentration, planning and sequencing. It requires a trial and error style approach, that is the child continues to attempt moving the cars around until they find the solution – there is no wrong answer, just a need for a new plan. Rush Hour encourages children to identify a plan, think a few steps ahead and then problem solve when that does not work out. From my experience kids loves this game and it is a great way to encourage independent thinking and problem solving. The children have a great sense of achievement when they free the ‘icecream truck’ and are keen to try the next level […]

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