Category Archives: Helpful Tips for Parents at Home

Help! What does a motor speech disorder mean?

If your child has a motor speech disorder you may notice that he/she can produce specific sounds correctly one time, and differently the next, for example they can say the word “Mom” easily but if they are asked to say “bye Mom” your child suddenly has difficulty. You may also find that they produce more errors in their speech when the sentence is longer or in conversations with others.

The ability to produce speech requires many parts of the brain to work together, beginning with the intent to communicate, and ending with speech production. In between are a series of complicated steps that are susceptible to problems. These steps are what are called a “motor plan”- starting with a thought and ending with a motor movement (lips closing, tongue moving etc.). 

When you see your child trying to produce the sound, moving their mouth as if they are trying to find where to put it, it is because they are trying to coordinate the message from their brain, carry out the sequential movements and hold the correct positions long enough to produce the sound(s). Speech-Language Pathologists work with children to help them build these motor plans by attempting to teach the brain how to sequence the movements the correct way, often practicing sounds using “drill-like” activities.

Research has shown that repetition and having a visual model to follow i.e., watching moms’ face or the S-LP’s mouth movements in therapy, is most effective in building these motor plans. In addition, some children need a prompt to trigger their brains to tell their muscles where to move their lips or tongue, which is why you may see the S-LP using specific placements of their fingers to cue your child. This is only one method of treatment; however there are many ways to help your child with motor speech difficulties.

Work with your S-LP to set goals and create plans together to help make it easier for your child to communicate with others! The brain is a complicated structure- always feel free to ask your S-LP questions and for additional resources.

Written by: Ashleigh Wishen, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.


Help! My Child Drools!!

As parents there are certain behaviours that are acceptable and even expected when our children are young infants, but that are cause for concern if they continue as our children become toddlers and preschoolers.  Drooling is one such behaviour.  A drooling infant is  very common and is something we expect our children to grow out of.  BUT, what if s/he doesn’t stop drooling? When does drooling become a problem?  Are there ways to reduce drooling in our children?

Most professionals agree that drooling is acceptable up to 2 years of age or when teething is coming to an end.  After this age, we do not expect to see children drool excessively or uncontrollably as saliva production slows down.  Saliva is necessary for various functions, including speech and eating; however, excessive saliva production and drooling can have negative effects in a variety of areas.

Parents can work with their child at home to reduce the amount of drooling.  The following tips may be beneficial (depending on the cause of the drooling):

  • Take away the pacifier or limit pacifier use to nap time and bed time
  • Encourage your child to use a sippy cup or drink from a straw instead of using a bottle
  • Teach your child about the difference between a “wet” face and “dry” face
    • Use a mirror to help him/her understand what you are talking about
  • If drooling is excessive, have your child wear a sweat band on his/her wrist so that s/he can be in control of cleaning up drool
  • Provide positive feedback to your child when s/he is controlling drooling

Written by: Carolyn Davidson, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.

Just Give Him the Toy!


Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have what the medical model calls “repetitive or restricted interests.” Although these interests, fascinations, or rituals may seem “strange” to us, they offer the child sensory stimulation and relief. Allowing your child to engage with his or her special interest, whether that is magazines or bottle tops, provides them with a sense of calmness.  For example, sitting in solitude is their oxygen, it helps block out negative thoughts, eases their anxiety from the day and provides a sense of predictability that they need.

Often parents believe that by giving their child this special interest (book, stamps, train) they are “giving in” to them and losing control. Instead, we should shift our mindset to thinking that this interest gives us something to work with- a motivator.

The following are some ideas for incorporating special interests into day to day activities (using the example of trains):

  • Take out all the trains  you have at home and make it a counting activity,
  • Have your child sort through a pile or trains, finding the ones that are the same or different,
  • Draw pictures of trains, commenting on what you see (E.g. “I spy…”),
  • Make a mystery bag of trains where your child has to reach in the bag and describe what he/she feels and when he/she takes it out describes what he/she sees,
  • Use the trains to work on goals such as prepositions. Hide the trains between, on top, beside, inside and under  furniture and walk around the house together giving clues where the trains are hidden (E.g., under the desk, between the books),
  • Create a schedule to outline what he/she will be doing that day and cut and paste trains on the schedule to make it more visually appealing, and
  • Read a book together with characters that are trains or other modes of transportation he/she enjoys.

These are only a few ideas using trains; however these examples could be applied to many different interests. Be creative and have fun! Use your child’s strengths to motivate, facilitate and engage them in activities!

 This blog was inspired from a lecture given by Temple Grandin at the Geneva Conference for Autism, November 2010.

Written by: Ashleigh Wishen, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.

How can I help? Parents as the Primary Agents of Language Intervention for Young Children

When fostering communication for young children whose language skills are just emerging, parents or caregivers are often trained by speech-language pathologists as the primary agents of intervention.

Why is this?

Many of the language strategies taught to young children are easy to learn and can be incorporated into daily routines that the parent and child participate in together. For example, one early language facilitation strategy involves expanding on a child’s current vocabulary. This means that if your child says “car”, the parent will expand and respond by adding and modeling more language such as “blue car.” Strategies like this are best used during natural interactions between parents and their children, and can be easily used in routines such as during playtime, bath time, and while taking a walk.

By using these strategies on a regular basis, children will receive consistent, frequent, rich language input from their primary caregivers in their natural environments. This results in greater generalization of skills (using skills learned in many different situations). For example, if a child hears his mom model the word “dog” when he sees a dog on tv, when he is playing with his toy dog, and when he sees a dog in the park, the child begins to learn that the word “dog” can be used to refer to many different dogs, not just one specific dog.

Parents and caregivers also develop a greater understanding of language development and how to provide the best forms of play and interaction of which their child can take advantage. They can share this knowledge with other household members (e.g older sibling, grandparents) or caregivers who interact frequently with their child.

Many parents may already be using these strategies to some degree and just need some direction to use them more intentionally in their daily routines. For example, parents can be directed to use appropriate target words and properly set up the interaction to promote their child’s communication.

Setting aside time to practice these strategies with your child can result in valuable time spent with one another, and a greater understanding of your child’s communicative abilities, which can result in increased opportunities for language facilitation.

Written by: Emily Dykstra, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.

Help! My Toddler Isn’t Talking!

Many parents are unsure of when and if to be concerned when their toddler is not yet talking. It is important to remember that a speech-language pathologist can provide comprehensive assessments on even these little kids to help parents identify if a concern exists. Here is a list of the major speech and language milestones for young children:

• First words should be acquired by 15 months of age

• Children should begin using 2-word phrases by 24 months of age

• Children should have over 50 words by 24 months of age

Of course this list is not exhaustive but it does give parents a starting place to check-in and see how their child is doing. If a child is not meeting these milestones, there are some things that can be done at home to promote language development. These tips do not replace the need to see a speech-language pathologist.

Language stimulation tips:

• Use simple language (1-2 word phrases)

• Model words and repeat them over and over again during daily routines

• When playing with your child be face-to-face so you can see what s/he is interested in

• Use a slow rate of speech when talking with your child

• Limit the number of questions you ask

• Make interactions motivating


Written by: Carolyn Davidson, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.

Should We Wait And See? When to See a Speech-Language Pathologist

When a child has difficulty with speech and/or language, parents often get all sorts of (well meaning!) advice: “Wait it out”, “He’s a late bloomer”, “She’ll get it eventually”. When should you start to consider the involvement of a speech-language pathologist?

The following is a list of ages and stages for certain sounds and grammatical concepts, as well as the age at which treatment is indicated. Whenever you’re in doubt, ask a speech-language pathologist: he/she has the training required to identify when children should begin treatment and for how long other children can wait.

Ages and Stages:  Articulation (How our lips, tongue, and teeth come together to make speech sounds)

Sounds that should have developed by 3 years:  p, b, m, t, d, n, h, w, vowels (a, e, i, o, u)
Age for concern?  3 years and over

Sounds that should have developed by 3-3 ½ years: k, g, ing, f, s, y, s-blends
Age for concern?  3 ½ years

Sounds that should have developed by 3 ½ -4 years:  z, sh, l
Age for concern?  4 years

Sounds that should have developed by 4-5 years: l-blends, ch, j
Age for concern?  5 years

Sounds that should have developed by 5 years +: v, r, r-blends, th
Age for concern?   5 ½ – 6 years

Ages and Stages: Language (How our brain understands and puts together strings of words in sentences) 
Grammar concepts that should have developed by 3 years: early pronouns
Age of concern:  3 years +

Grammar concepts that should have developed by 3-3 ½ years: regular plurals (s, -es), possessives (‘s) auxiliary/copula (is/are), present progressive (-ing), early prepositions (in, on, under)
Age for concern? 3 ½ years

Grammar concepts that should have developed by 4 years: pronouns (he/she/they), 3rd person singular(-s)
Age for concern?  4 years

Grammar concepts that should have developed by 4-5 years: possessive pronouns (his/hers/theirs), objective pronouns (him/her/them), later prepositions (behind, in front, beside), regular past tense (-ed)
Age for concern? 5 years

Grammar concepts that should have developed by 5 years +: future tense (will), irregular past tense (ate, drank…)
Age for concern?  5 ½ – 6 years

Written by:  Jessica Goldberg, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.


When children begin school, they need to extend their language skills to include reading and writing. Telling and listening to stories provides a bridge between the oral language skills of early childhood and the more formal language of print. With the ability to tell stories develops the ability to talk about things outside the here and now, to understand how we use language to express cause and effect, and to talk about feelings and motivation. Story telling skills are used in social situations, for understanding Math word problems and even for writing up Chemistry lab reports.

By the time a child is five, his or her stories should have a clear beginning, middle and end. To encourage this ability in your child, ask her to retell a story you have just read. Ask questions like, “Who is in this story?” “What happened first?” “What happened in the end?” Use puppets and other props to help your child retell the story. As your child improves in her ability to tell stories, you can ask questions and make comments about cause and effect and feelings, such as, “How did he feel when that happened?” and “I wonder why she did that.”

Difficulty with understanding and producing stories can be a sign of a learning disability. A speech-language pathologist can help your child to develop the story telling skills that will help him to succeed in school and social situations.

Written by: Suzanne Bassett, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.


For many parents, juggling work, school, homework and extra-curriculars is an exhausting feat. Now on top of all that your child is seeing a speech-language pathologist and they are giving you more HOMEWORK!

Below are some practical tips that I give to my client’s parents on how to work on speech and language without adding hours to the day.

TIP #1 – Incorporate “speech time” into your pre-existing, everyday routines. For example, on your drive to school find words that start with your child’s goals and talk about them on your ride. If your child is working on the “k” sound, then have your child say “car” every time they see a car. If your child is working on the pronouns “he/she” have him/her talk about what people are doing. For example “he is walking the dog”, “she is washing the car”.

TIP #2 – Keep practice time short. Five to ten minutes of practice is long enough to make a difference but short enough that it is manageable. Do not try to correct your child all day long. This will drive everyone crazy. Keep the practice to your “speech time”.

TIP #3 – Enlist the help of older siblings. Show your child’s older brother or sister what sound/concept you are working on and let them help out when you are busy. Most older siblings are able to provide a good speech and language model and enjoy helping out when it involves games and toys.

TIP #4 – Set realistic goals. Come up with a schedule that works for you. If Wednesdays are your busiest day then do not put pressure on yourself to practice on that day. You will only feel upset and guilty if you don’t get to practice. Set a schedule and try your best to stick to it. Understand that some practice is better than no practice. Aim for 3-5 times a week at first, and then if possible increase that to 7 times a week.

Stay positive and encourage your child to do the same. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!

Written by: Carolyn Davidson, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.


Sibling rivalry and jealousy is common in all families. But when it comes to dealing with siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), stresses can be far more complex.

Many siblings, especially those of children with ASD, feel that the focus is always on their brother or sister. Even the idea of a sibling coming for therapy may make the sibling not in therapy feel as if their brother or sister is more “special” than they are. After all, they get to go to appointments and play with toys!

Below are a few tips to help the jealous sibling be more understanding:

1. Give your child(ren) insight into their sibling’s world. Explain why their brother or sister acts differently than them, remembering to highlight all the things that they also have in common.

2. Create activities where the sibling(s) can “lead” to make them feel important. Encourage their brother/sister to join in or sit with them and read them a book.

3. Designate 5-10 minutes of every day to spend exclusively with each child. Talk about their day, and provide examples of how they have helped or guided their sibling.

Children that have siblings with ASD are exposed to many complicated issues that most people have never come into contact with, and as a result may have many difficult questions they want to ask. Assist them through the journey. Let them know that their sibling looks up to them, regardless of the age difference, and allow them take an active role in their sibling’s development.

Recommended books:

“All About My Brother” by Sarah Peralta

“Sometimes my Brother: Helping Kids Understand Autism Through A Sibling’s Eyes” by Angie Healy

Written by: Ashleigh Wishen, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.

The Importance of Playtime in the Development of Speech and Language Skills in Children

We all like to play – children, adolescents, and adults alike. But did you know that the development of play skills is integral to the development of a child’s speech and language skills? Who would have thought something so fun could be so beneficial!
A play context, in fact,  provides primary communicative opportunities for young children. This means that play can increase a child’s exposure to many vocabulary items, different forms of language, the many uses of language, as well as opportunities to experiment with their own gestures, sounds, and/or words in a safe and comfortable environment. Yes, all that in one context! 
Given the important nature of play in the development of speech and language skills, take a peek at the following tips on how to select toys and create a rich play environment that will help with your child’s speech and language.
Toy Selection
1.)    When selecting toys for play, try to include the use of toys that allow for both realistic and imaginative play. This way, your child will have opportunities to engage in both concrete and pretend play – two very important forms of play! 
2.)   Toys should also be easy to hold, carry, and manipulate – especially for children who have motor difficulties. The importance here is that the quality of motor ability to manipulate objects appears to be related to early communication development.  
Play Environment
1.)    Play should always be fun and never work. Therefore, let your child lead the play. This means letting him/her engage in whichever activity, in whichever manner they so choose. Even if it means repeatedly putting play-dough back into the container without even molding any shapes — let them lead the play! Kids pay the most attention to what they have chosen and are interested in, not always to what we are interested in. 
2.)    Keep play a positive and pressure-free environment. Try to refrain from asking your child questions during play and instead talk about what is going on during play. Describe what you see, hear, feel, and smell. This will help keep any communicative pressures to a minimum and allow for a comfortable communication environment!

Written by: Mia Majorahn, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.