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SLP Mommy of Apraxia: June 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer speech with a little sidewalk chalk

Looking for a fun way to incorporate some speech practice into your summer schedule?  All you need is some sidewalk chalk and your kid!

I picked some sound combos Ashlynn is currently working on in speech and drew them in the boxes of a hopscotch grid.  We then would throw a rock and whatever the rock landed on, we would hop to that picture and say the picture.  She was so busy having fun, she didn't really realize I was working on her /l/, /l/ blends, and /s/ blends!   Not sure if you can see here, but we have a firefly, spider, butterfly, ladybug, dragonfly, bumblebee, roly poly, star, and clouds in the sky.  
As a bonus, since Ashlynn has global apraxia, the added jumping and keeping feet in the boxes would make any PT or OT happy too!

Look at those good jumps!  My heart smiles at this picture because jumping did not come easy.  If you're interested, you can read about here: Jumping on the bed

Not to be outdone, her 24 month old brother was hopping right along too and practicing speech! Fun for everyone, and momma stays sane with kids entertained!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Good teachers change lives

What a busy month!  Life definitely doesn't slow down just because I'm off for summer break!  I signed both the kids up for swimming lessons.  Ashlynn would be in the Guppy class for probably her 5th time, and Jace and I would be in the parent/tot class.

I decided that since it was the first day, and considering Ashlynn's aversion to water now following two traumatic pool events, here: I would stay on the side with Jace and watch to make sure she was ok. I realize now it was totally irrational, but I guess I was expecting she would have her same instructor from last year and she would be off and running.  She sure was excited at the thought of going swimming.  I snapped this photo while we were waiting for them to call off the classes.  Doesn't she look excited?

I have to admit, when they called off her instructor, he looked like he was 12.  Okay, not really, but he was young, new, a little hesitant himself.  Ashlynn refused to get in the water.  She cried hysterically as fear gripped her whenever they even mentioned it.  Another little boy in her class had autism, and his mom had to literally sit on the side and hold his arm or he would go swimming off under water, and another little boy had no desire to listen or follow directions.  I actually kinda felt bad for this kid as much as I did for Ashlynn.  He was in waaaaay over his head!

Week two, Ashlynn would let him take her out to practice skills, but she either had her arms gripping his face, her neck up, or her knees pulled to her chest.  She also refused to stand in the water and would only sit on the side of the pool.  It literally broke my heart.

There were some cute moments though.  When it was time to stand on the edge of the pool, she would hold the little boy's hand who had autism and talk to him and repeat the directions.  He never looked at her, but he seemed to listen and his mom seemed more than grateful.  Ashlynn was the only child to talk to him and she was the only person beside his mom that he would let hold his hand. I just thought, "Well that's Ashlynn.  Maybe she isn't here to learn to swim.  Maybe she has a bigger purpose."  Even though I was proud of her, my heart was still sad.  I lamented to my husband that I felt that she was actually worse than when she started swim lessons last year because now she wouldn't even get in the water.  

We tossed around private lessons and decided to do it.  I heard the instructor of my parent/tot class saying she and another instructor were the only two current certified staff.  I figured I'd go with her and had her write her number on the back of the card.  That was Thursday.  

On Monday, Ashlynn started her new two week session.  I just figured she would have the same boy, and I thought, well, maybe it's best because at least she knows him.  However, I was surprised when they put her in "Josh's" class.  I had seen Josh since last year.  He normally taught the older kids, or so I thought.  I would marvel about his amazing teaching ability and how his kids would respond to him.  I wished he taught the younger kids, but I had never seen him do so, until today.

Ashlynn went shyly with me holding her hand.  Instead of my usual speech of "Even though Ashlynn doesn't look like it, she has special needs and has a motor planning disorder that affects everything from her speech to her gross motor skills, so please keep an eye on her because she has had to be rescued twice" I said, "You teach little kids?  I only thought you taught older kids?"  He seemed surprised and said that was weird because he usually only teaches the little ones.  

I stepped back with Jace and turned around to see Ashlynn red faced, freaking out not wanting to get in the pool.  He put her in anyway and then bent his head in and said something to her ear.  I have no idea what he said, but she stopped crying.  Before I even knew it, I was in tears on the sideline watching her not only stand in the water but blow her bubbles and do her head bobs.  I sent text messages to my husband.  

When I looked up again, I saw this:

Full back float, head down, arms AND legs out relaxed, and trusting Josh.  She has NEVER, EVER, done this with anyone.  I looked on stunned and snapped another picture.  When she started to tense up, he leaned his head into her ear again and told her to trust him.  He told her he had her, and when she did it he gave her the biggest hug.  

Tears flowed.

To see the pride on her face, the confidence in her smile, the sparkle in her eyes....he did this in ONE day!! 

And what I realized was, I actually didn't care about the swimming.  I mean I do, but I was more proud of her being proud of herself.  He gave her confidence, he instilled a sense of accomplishment in herself and that is what being a teacher is all about.  He made her WANT to learn to swim.  

Good teachers change lives.

In this journey in apraxia, I realize and learn over and over and over again, that maybe we have to know the darkness to truly appreciate the light, and the light sure shone on us today.  

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Baking with speech and language

Parents are always looking for ways to incorporate speech and language activities at home.  Whether it is to stimulate a typically developing child's vocabulary and language, or to help a speech or language delayed child; baking is great and fun way to work on speech and language.

The first and most important rule before you start, is you have to accept the fact that your toddler will make a mess, and that is just part of the process, or um, fun.

When I do baking or food activities with kids in school, they absolutely love it.  That's the key. When kids have fun they are at their best learning.  Also, baking is a multi-sensory activity, meaning many sensory systems are activated.  When children are using multiple sensory systems, acquisition and retention of skills is more likely.  Baking with your kids inherently promotes:
Vocabulary development
Following directions and comprehension
Pragmatic language - the social piece of language

Let me explain a little bit further.

Vocabulary Development:  For the young child, words are learned best in context.  Certain authors refer to this as "event-based knowledge."  Many of children's first words are usually embedded within scripts that are part of their daily lives.  Examples could be: bottle, cookie, doggie, bath, etc.  These words are said to them frequently throughout the contexts of their daily lives.  Baking provides the same event-based knowledge experience, and exposes them to new vocabulary.

Sequencing:  The ability to understand sequences and to sequence is an important skill.  Sequencing most simply refers to the order of things.  When kids get into school, sequencing is very important to understanding: patterns, math, a story etc.  Following a sequence of steps is inherent in baking and makes it the perfect activity for this skill.

Following directions and Comprehension: These two things fall under receptive language skills; however, they are very important to the development of overall language skills.  Kids who are good at retaining and following directions have less difficulty in school since they are not devoting a lot of their cognitive load on simply understanding and remembering what they are supposed to do.  Baking is a fun and easy way to help your child practice these skills at home.

Pragmatic Language: This is usually referring to the "social" element in language.  This involves the way language is used to communicate with others.

With a little forethought, baking can also be a way to sneak in more direct speech language targets while working with your kid at home.

Muffin Mondays and Waffle Wednesdays

This summer I implemented Muffin Mondays and Waffle Wednesdays. Ashlynn is VERY interested in what day of the week it is, so I did this to also give her a framework of her week.
Ashlynn's current speech/language needs include: syntax (the form or structure of a sentence), and consonant blends (two consonants found together in a word: sp, st, sl, fl, bl, for example).

It's important to know your child's goal, and then structure your baking around the goal.  Get creative, but it's not as hard as it seems.  In Ashlynn's case, I chose  the words: spoon, flour, stir.  For syntax, I had her ask me "Can I do it?" to work on her questions forms.

Then each time we used a spoon I had her repeat "spoon."  While she was mixing the batter, I would ask her what she was doing and cue her as needed to say the "st" blend in "stirring."  Instead of using 1 cup of flour, I broke it up into four parts to give her more practice saying "flour" each time she poured in the flour.  For an extra bonus, she had to put "stir flour" together in a simple phrase.  I would hold the spoon until she said the desired words, and then I would give her the spoon back when she was successful!  She loved it.

If your child isn't yet talking as much as Ashlynn, hum the 'm' sound while you mix the batter or if your child isn't great at imitating yet, just have him/her make any vocalization to request an item.  If they can't yet imitate even a vocalization, imitate any spontaneous sounds they make to provide an opportunity for vocal play. If they aren't really vocalizing yet, don't get discouraged!  Practice turn taking and reciprocal play.  They pour then you pour.  You stir then they stir.

With other clients who needed a final stop, I might have chosen the word "dump" and then every
time we pour in an ingredient, we work on the word "dump."

Really, the possibilities are endless!

In addition, you can also tell your SLP that you incorporated some great "distributed" practice throughout your child's day.  In motor learning approaches to therapy, mass practice refers to the production of a large number of repetitions of a single target(what you should be seeing in therapy) and distributed practice refers to hitting targets with a greater amount of time between trials or sessions.  However, distributed practice is very important for stabilization and generalization!  Parents are the greatest asset when it comes to carryover, because you are in a better position to afford the child numerous opportunities for distributed practice!  In addition, you can do it in ways that are fun and multi-sensory in the child's natural environment.


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Saturday, June 7, 2014

So what's the deal with gratitude anyway?

This past week Dr. Maya Angelou passed away.  I was introduced to her in college with her poem "I know why the caged bird sings," and many times on the Oprah Winfrey show.

I have learned so much from so many teachers and inspirational women, but perhaps my greatest revelation in my life thus far is to be grateful.  With gratitude comes the fortitude to push forward despite any struggles I have been facing.  If I can look a difficult situation in the eye and decide to learn from it, rather than to be reduced by it, not only do I gain hope, but  I come out stronger, happier, and wiser because I have found something in which to be grateful.

Albert Einstein once said, "In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity."

That speaks to me.  If I can find opportunity in something difficult, I can also find gratitude in that positive.  A great metaphor for this is from Alphonse Karr when he said, "Some people grumble that roses have thorns, but I am grateful that thorns have roses."

Through life I have chosen to be inspired by people who not only refuse to be defeated by their difficulties, but who use them to their advantage. As Maya Angelou, a woman who was raped when she was seven and went on to be a mute for 5 years afterward said, "We may experience many defeats, but we must not be defeated by them."

I think so many people struggle with this.  There are numerous life coaches and self help books because people are craving happiness.
I too struggled with this and I didn't even realize.  My husband asked me one day, "Why is it that if there are multiple explanations for a given situation, or multiple outcomes for a given situation, that you always choose to believe the worst possible outcome will happen?"
My response was I'd rather not get my hopes up that way I would never have to be disappointed.  As those words crossed my lips and I heard myself say them, I started to realize there might just be a better way to live.

"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say our nightly prayer."  Maya Angelou

I do nightly prayers with my daughter Ashlynn, but last night I decided to add a quick section on gratitude.  When she asked me what gratitude means, I asked her, "what made you happy today?"  She had so many things!  She was grateful for paying (playing).  She was grateful for Baby Jace (her brother).  She was grateful for her gapes (grapes).  As she was sitting there telling me all of this, I really felt like I was onto something big.  If we can do this simple exercise when she's young, perhaps it will be habit as she grows older.  To be honest, she already does it.  Despite her apraxia that brings so many defeats, she has never once been defeated.  Despite struggles that might frustrate others, she never loses hope.  She always seems happy and grateful for each new day and each new experience.  Oh, and a surprise twist I didn't expect.  At the end she asked me, What you gafo fowa mama (What are you grateful for mama?).  Oh yeah, I guess I forgot kids will remember your example more than your words.

"I'm grateful for you and Jace and daddy."
"I'm grateful for the walk we took today in the warm sun."
"I'm grateful for being grateful."