The Role of an SLP in Reading Intervention
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When you think of a speech-language pathologist (SLP), a few buzzwords probably come to mind; terms like articulation, language, or fluency. Most people don’t think of reading when they think of SLPs. However, it is well within our scope of practice to diagnose and treat reading and written language disorders. SLPs have extensive knowledge in language development and understand the foundational building blocks required to become a fluent reader.  Additionally, SLPs are efficient in morphology, syntax, phonology, semantics, and pragmatics, which are crucial for fluent reading, reading comprehension, and written expression.

Pre-Reading Skills

Before a child can decode, or read, they must have an understanding that words are composed of smaller units and how these units operate separately and together. This skill is referred to as phonological awareness. Research has shown that children who have strong phonological awareness skills learn to read more quickly (Dickson, D.  and Neuman S. (2007). Handbook of early literacy research). Strengthening these skills can help children who are at-risk for reading delays or those struggling with reading be more prepared for the complex and linguistic demands of reading.

The following skills are some examples of phonological awareness:

·       Rhyming (e.g., “flag and stag”)

·       Syllable segmenting (e.g., “student: stu/dent”)

·       Syllable deletion (e.g., “student without the ‘stu’ is ‘dent’”)

·       Blending sounds into words (e.g., “sh/i/p says ‘ship’”)

·       Segmenting words into their sounds (e.g., “leg: l/e/g”)

·       Deleting sounds in words (e.g., “cup without the c is up”)

·       Substituting sounds in words (e.g., “change the ‘B’ in bat to an ‘M’”)

Kids at Risk

Certain populations with speech and language disorders may be more at risk for reading challenges than others. A diagnosis of any of the following does not cause a reading delay, but it is important to note and be aware of. Some at-risk groups include individuals with Apraxia of Speech, Autism, phonological disorders, auditory processing disorder, and language delays.

My Child Has a Hard Time Reading- Now What?

An SLP can find the strengths and weaknesses in your child’s phonological awareness and reading skills and develop a plan tailored to your child’s specific needs. In addition to providing dynamic assessments, SLPs can help with prevention of reading and writing disorders by educating teachers and parents on the importance of pre-literacy skills and red flags to look for. Once your child has been assessed and a reading delay has been detected, a treatment plan unique to your child should be developed. At TALK, we use fun, evidence-based multisensory programs to teach reading and spelling through multiple modalities. If you have concerns about your child’s pre-literacy or literacy skills, give us a call or visit our website to schedule an evaluation. 

Alexia Mazzone
TALK Summer Camp

TALK SUMMMER CAMP

 Summer is just around the corner and the team at TALK is excitedly gearing up for our annual summer camps! TALK is proud to offer a variety of inclusive summer camps for children with social, language, or literacy needs. Each program is thoughtfully created and managed by licensed Speech Language Pathologists. Read on for more info on each camp and check out our website for your registration needs.

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TALK PALS JR (ages 4-7)

Making friends is an early skill that shapes our lives into adulthood. TALK PALS Jr gives kids a chance to create and cultivate the necessary tools to befriend their peers and maintain those relationships through engaging activities. We sing, dance, paint, and play our way into becoming social stars!

TALK PALS (ages 8-13)

This camp is geared towards older children and the more nuanced sides of social skills. We take a good hard look at non-verbal cues, hidden social rules, and how to think about other people’s thoughts and feelings. Our campers take regular outings to the local parks to practice newly learned skills in structured games (Who’s ready for Red Light, Green Light?) and in free play. Under the summer sun, the kids show off their talents for making and maintaining new friendships!

KINDERGARTEN EXPRESS (ages 4-5)

We love summer, but we can’t forget school! If you are getting ready for Kindergarten or if you just finished and miss it already (and maybe you’re a little worried about First Grade) then come join us for Kindergarten Express! We will work on getting little learners ready to roll with silly sounds and fun phonetics. Each day is filled with exciting activities geared towards school readiness and foundation literacy skills. Confidently start the school year with Kindergarten Express!

LISTENING DETECTIVES (ages 6-10)

Do you hear what we hear? Listening Detectives are great at picking up the littlest details in stories, lessons, and conversations. Our detectives practice honing their listening and memory skills so that they can remember and recall all sorts of things! They learn it all while still having fun! At Listening Detective camp we follow silly directions, create works of art, and complete scavenger hunt by using strategies for memory, auditory comprehension, and critical thinking.

 

 

Alexia Mazzone
TALK’s Team Approach
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Why does TALK have a Team Approach to therapy?

  • Generalization. We so often have children who learn a skill with one therapist in one specific way. The hard part is the carryover, or generalization, of that skill to home and school.  At TALK, we promote generalization of skills right from the beginning by having your child see more than one therapist in a variety of therapy rooms.

  • Collaboration. The team approach also promotes sharing of ideas, strategies, and observations amongst our staff. This helps ensure your child progresses in innovative and creative ways.

How many therapists are on my child’s team?

  • You get at least three Speech Pathologists on your team! Each child is assigned a Lead Director, Lead SLP, and Alternate SLP.

  • Lead Director: The Director’s job is to oversee your child’s case. She is a consistent, seasoned therapist who meets often with the Lead SLP to discuss the Treatment Plan and progress. The director is present in parent meetings, school and home visits, and IEPs, along with the Lead SLP.

  • Lead SLP: The Lead SLP is in charge of your child’s Treatment Plan and progress. He or she makes and monitors all goals and sees your child the most often. He/she knows your child well and is often your best point of contact for questions about progress, concerns, or accolades.

  • Alternate SLP: The Alternate SLP’s job is to carry out your child’s plan as the Lead Therapist has written it. We try to keep alternate therapists fairly consistent, but alternates may change to improve generalization or due to scheduling. Alternates provide a fresh set of experienced eyes on your child’s case.


You can learn more about our directors and therapists on the “Meet our Administration” and “Meet our Therapists” tabs.



Alexia Mazzone
Connecting Toys to Language
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Not every therapy tool has to be a therapy tool. Classic games are fantastic for motivation, exploring language, and more! One of our favorite reasons to use every day toys in our sessions is that they promote generalization across environments and children are already comfortable with the materials. It’s easy to build new skills into these old routines without even letting the kids know they are doing therapy. A personal favorite is Connect 4. Let’s explore all the language this one toy provides!

 Numbers

How many do you have in a row? Let’s count…one, two, three, four!

Spatial Skills

I have three horizontally and you have four vertically.

Prepositions

You put your piece next to my piece. I will put one on top.

Descriptions

Red piece, yellow piece, empty circle, full circle.

Pronouns

My pieces are yellow, your pieces are red. This one is mine. That one is yours.

Verbs tenses

Who will win? Look, you won.

Take some time to see what language the classic games in your house can provide!

Alexia Mazzone
Navigating Picky Eaters with S.O.S.
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Why won’t my child eat?

 We hear that question all the time! And there’s no easy answer. According to the SOS (Sequential-Oral-Sensory) Approach to Feeding, which was developed by Dr. Kay Toomey and is used worldwide to treat feeding issues in infants, children, and adolescents, eating is the most complex thing we do. Eating involves all our organs, muscles, and senses; it also relies heavily on our development, prior experiences with food, nutritional status, and environment. With so many factors to consider, it’s no wonder eating and mealtimes can be difficult!

My child doesn’t eat vegetables. Does he need feeding therapy?

 There are a variety of red flags that help determine whether a child is a “picky eater” or a “problem feeder.” Some of the factors to examine are:

·      The number of foods a child has in their repertoire, including the texture and nutritional groups

·      The child’s history with eating and his/her behaviors around new foods

·      The impact the feeding difficulties have on the family

·      The nutritional status, weight gain, and medical status of the child

·      The oral motor and sensory challenges of the child

 For a full list of red flags, visit the Toomey & Associates – SOS Approach to Feeding website.

 How does feeding therapy work?

The SOS Approach to Feeding uses food hierarchies to work on oral motor skills and sensory desensitization to help children shift slowly into accepting new foods. Children are presented with a variety of preselected foods in a specific order to both challenge and put them at ease. Natural reinforcers (e.g., verbal praise), social modeling, food play, and conversation are used throughout the session to make trying new foods a fun learning experience. Please visit the SOS website for more information.

Why do Speech-Language Pathologists work on feeding?

 As experts on oral motor movements, speech-language pathologists are one of the many disciplines that can work on feeding. Other professionals who work on feeding include occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, and many others!

 What should I do?

If you have any questions or concerns, check out the Toomey & Associates – SOS Approach to Feeding or contact us!

 

How TALK Uses Kaufman Cards
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Kaufman Cards were developed by Nancy Kaufman to help children with motor-speech difficulties, such as Apraxia of Speech, approximate functional, real words. The cards colorfully depict early target words and are hierarchically divided. We start with a simple consonant-vowel combination like “baa” and slowly progress to harder combinations like “banana.” Each card also has shaping suggestions to ensure kids are successful and feel good about their speech. Saying, “bottle” might be too hard, but saying, “bah–o,” or “bah-do” may be a “just-right” challenge.

We love using Kaufman Cards because they’re great for helping kids feel good about their speech and because they provide a clear hierarchy to help kids move closer and closer to real words. One of our SLPs recently used this tool with a child with severe motor-speech difficulties. When he started, he could only imitate a few consonants and vowels and was frustrated by his speech. Using Kaufman Cards, we taught him to combine consonants and vowels to say functional words like, “me,” “up,” “out.” He now loves using his voice to communicate his wants and needs with his family! We highly recommend this fun and useful tool if your child is struggling with early speech.


Diagnostic Therapy at TALK
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Has your child completed an initial speech therapy assessment at TALK and is your child starting speech therapy services?

The next step for your child is diagnostic therapy! Diagnostic therapy looks a lot like a regular therapy session except that different areas of speech and language and different therapy techniques are tried each session. We use a combination of standardized and non-standardized assessment tools, drill-based work, unstructured play, conversation, and parent input all throughout this process.

What is assessed?

During diagnostic therapy, your child is assessed in all areas of speech and language, including receptive and expressive language, oral motor function, feeding, motor speech, articulation, fluency, voice, phonological awareness, literacy, academics, and social communication. The team of therapists will use informal assessment tasks and dynamic assessment to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses.

Will my child also receive therapy services?

In addition to assessing all areas of speech and language, therapists also use Response-to-Intervention methods for the areas that present as a challenge for your child. We use evidenced based therapy techniques to elicit effective strategies in order to teach your child new skills. The team collects qualitative and quantitative data and a plan begins to form. Long-term goals and short-term objectives are created, based on your child’s areas of strength and current areas of need, to develop a plan that is functional and tailored to your child and that takes into account your child’s true skills and learning style.  


Will I receive a written report?

Once diagnostic therapy is completed, parents and therapists will attend an initial goal meeting in which a comprehensive speech and therapy evaluation report and treatment plan are presented and discussed.

To find out more about our diagnostic process or if you have any questions, please contact our office at (650) 344-9961.

What is Autism?

What is Autism?

A questions we encounter all the time! Well, according to Autism Speaks, “Autism Spectrum Disorder refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.”

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In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association combined four separate Autism diagnoses into one larger spectrum. These diagnoses included Autistic Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified and Asperger Syndrome. There is not one type of Autism, but rather many different subtypes. Every child with Autism presents with various challenges and strengths across all domains of speech and language, social communication, daily function, and feeding. That’s why here it at TALK we make sure we build plans around each child on the spectrum based on their unique needs and abilities.

Additionally, many children with Autism also present with gastrointestinal disorders, seizures, and sleep disturbances. Children with Autism also tend to have difficulty with sensory modulation, which can be observed through sight, sound and tactile sensitivities. Some describe it as a “sensory overload” to be in crowded places, around buzzing lights, or anywhere with too much stimulation.

What are the red flags of Autism?

If you have concerns with your child’s speech and language development, it is essential to learn the typical developmental milestones as well as the early signs of Autism. Signs of symptoms usually appear between ages two and three; however, Autism can be diagnosed as early as eighteen months. The following are red flag signs of Autism that can present at any age.

  • Decreased or lack of babbling

  • Decreased or lack of response to name

  • Regression of previously acquired speech

  • Delayed language development

  • Limited or no eye contact

  • Difficulty understanding emotions

  • Difficulty with changes to daily routine

  • Repetition of words and/or phrases (echolalia)

  • Restricted and perseverative interests

  • Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning)

  • Hyper/Hyposensitivity to sounds, tastes, textures, lights, smells, and/or colors

What are the next steps?

If your child exhibits any combination of the previously listed red flag signs of Autism, the next step is a development evaluation. A pediatric psychologist or developmental pediatrician will complete a developmental evaluation in order to diagnose a child with Autism. Remember, some children with Autism don’t present with all of the red flag signs and some children without Autism tend to show a few red flag signs.

If you have concerns or questions, contact your pediatrician for a referral for a developmental evaluation. Also, contact your school district or speech therapy clinic to begin speech and language services! Early treatment will greatly improve your child’s development. At TALK, we offer individual therapy services to target language development, social groups to improve early social competencies and communication, and feeding groups to expand food repertoires and oral motor skills.

Alexia Mazzone
Story Grammar Marker®

Does your child struggle with telling stories?

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The Story Grammar Marker® is our favorite tool for helping children tell their own stories. Developed by MindWing Concepts, Inc., the Story Grammar Marker is a hands-on, kinesthetic tool designed with fun icons to represent each part of a story (e.g., character, setting, initiating event). The child-friendly icons guide your child to formulate an organized and clear narrative. We love using the Story Grammar Marker for narrative development of fictional and personal narratives, comprehension, modeling appropriate grammar and sentence structure, social communication, and eventually, written narratives.

One of our clinicians most recently used this tool with an early-elementary client who has an expressive language delay. Before using the Story Grammar Marker, the client told stories that were difficult to follow and lacked organization and details. After introducing and using the tool in therapy, the client began to formulate organized narratives with clear transitions. Our client loved playing with the story icons as his story unfolded, which increased the amount of required elements used to tell his narrative. We definitely recommend using this fun and helpful tool for your child!


Expanding Expression Tool

One of our favorite therapy tools is the Expanding Expression Tool (EET), which was developed by Sarah L. Smith, M.S. CCC-SLP. It has seven color-coded beads that help children build skills in their expressive and written language.  More specifically, the EET can be used to assist in comparing and contrasting, describing objects, categorizing, making associations, stating functions of objects, and understanding new vocabulary.

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We love using the EET with our clients because it can be used to target a wide variety of goals, and the multi-sensory aspect makes it easy for my clients to remember and use. Plus, our clients love it and don’t see it as work!. One of our clinicians recently used the EET to target written language with one of her clients. Before teaching the EET components, the client’s expositions were short and lacked detail and complexity. After teaching the EET for just one session, her written summary of a favorite vacation was three times longer than before and included details, feelings, and specific examples. The visual elements of the EET aided her in independently including more detail in her writings. We highly recommend checking out this tool if your child is struggling with an expressive language delay!

Alyssa Winn