Category Archives: Adolescents

Ho, Ho, Ho Holiday Conversations

Holiday time is an exciting time for everyone: celebrations, food, and time with loved ones. With many families and friends coming together and reuniting, often after long periods of time, come many loud group conversations. These conversations can feel quite overwhelming to some people, especially those with acquired brain injuries (ABI). Many clients with ABI find it difficult to attend to the conversations, keep up and/or add meaningful information to the conversation, or remember what has been discussed.

Some tips for keeping up in group conversation:

  • Prepare. If you anticipate that it will be a long night, take a proper rest and cognitively prepare yourself. This could include deep, relaxation breathing or going for a brisk walk.
  • If you are nervous that people are going to be asking you about your injury, plan a script ahead of time and try to re-direct the conversation back to the speaker. This will help you feel more comfortable and confident, knowing that you have anticipated this exchange in advance. E.g., “It’s been a long year but things are moving along, thank you. And how is Johnny enjoying college?”
  • Try and eliminate background noise– if you are hosting the party, keep the noise to a minimum e.g., turn music low, turn off the television. If you are attending a party, ask the hostess if they do not mind to turn down the volume.
  • Seating is important. Try and sit close to the person you feel comfortable conversing with. Try and seat yourself away from distractions e.g., away from the kitchen, or washroom.
  • If you are finding it difficult to carry on a large conversation, try and create a smaller sub-group conversation. Smaller conversations are much easier to maintain and require less brain energy, than those larger, louder ones.
  • If you are having trouble concentrating, ask 1-2 people if you can go in the other room to talk. It may be easier to have a productive conversation when you have decreased the amount of distractions.
  • Repeat the question back to the listener. This helps you remember the information shared and also shows the listener that you are following the conversation. E.g., Q-“What do you plan on doing during the holidays?” A-“What do I plan on doing during the holidays? Well this week….”
  • Summarize the information back to the listener to confirm your understanding. E.g., “So you are leaving to Mexico next week and going with the family for 7 days. What a nice time!”
  • If you are stuck and are having trouble keeping the conversation going, transition to another topic. You can use the surrounding context if you are having difficulty choosing a new topic, such as commenting on the food, decorations, host or hostess, holiday plans.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for repetition! Everyone needs clarification sometimes, and your participation matters.

 Use these strategies to help communication during the holiday season! The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada hopes to make your holiday conversations enjoyable and successful. Speak with your S-LP for more social communication strategies.

 Ashleigh Wishen, M.H.Sc. S-LP (C)
Speech-Language Pathologist, Reg. CASLPO
 
The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.
www.speechtherapycentres.com
 
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Social Communication – What does it Really Mean?

Think back to a recent cocktail party you attended with distant relatives or unfamiliar co-workers in a new job setting…did you dread getting ready for the event? Did you feel awkward trying to start a conversation with your distant Aunt? Did you feel your heart pounding faster and harder as your new boss approached? Welcome to the world of many adolescents and adults, especially those on the Autism Spectrum or with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). Similar to those cocktail parties, social settings that require conversing, initiating  and keeping conversations going can lead to feelings of anxiety, anger, confusion and even depression.

At the center of all our interactions lies the foundation of communication: to flourish academically, to build successful friendships, to develop professional relationships, and to create intimate bonds with our partners. However, the fundamental requirements of successful social communication are far from basic.  One must have: the motivation to interact, be aware of their surroundings and how to modify them appropriately (eliminate distractions), recognize their own intentions, have the flexibility to shift perspectives, understand the “hidden”
social conventions appropriate to different contexts, and formulate their  response in an organized manner.

A Speech-Language Pathologist works with individuals who have difficulties with social communication using a one-on-one direct model, or through group programs. You start increasing your or your child’s communicative competence by:

  • Anticipating topics and/or vocabulary that will come up during the social interaction. Predicting conversational topics allows you to prepare ahead of time and thus increase your social confidence. E.g., if you or your child is going to a sports event;
    research about the teams, rules, scores, and players or if you will be attending a work conference; read about the lectures ahead of time and familiarize yourself with the content of the day.
  • Using ice breakers that you find helpful in starting conversations, such as “it’s a beautiful day today” or “how is your day going?”
  • Practicing the tricky skill of making small talk. You can do this in the car on the way to an appointment, in a coffee shop or even at the dinner table.
  • Using surrounding context to guide the conversation, especially when stuck on what to say next to keep the interaction going. For example, if you or your child are at a baseball game, comment on their favourite player, the uniforms, a great pitch. If you are at a wedding, comment on the bride and groom, the food, their opinion of the band.
  • Shifting the conversation back to the speaker. Many clients with ABI dread answering questions about their accident or the details of their recovery. Instead of going into detail, briefly state how you are doing and then divert the conversation back to the partner, for example, “I am doing well, thank you. I heard you started a new job, and how is that going?”

These are a few tips that can help build communicative competence. If you are concerned about someone’s social communication skills, speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist for additional suggestions, recommendations and/or strategies.

Ashleigh Wishen,
M.H.Sc. S-LP (C)
Speech-Language Pathologist, Reg. CASLPO

The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada
www.speechtherapycentres.com
 

Bullying

When I was a kid I had a pet hamster, that I adoringly named Grover. Unfortunately, I was not able to produce my /R/ sound, so Grover shortly became known as “Gwova.” By being teased and imitated at school, I quickly learned what other people heard when I spoke… and I was very embarrassed about my speech. Looking back years later, I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate that this teasing did not lead to bullying, but sadly not the case for most children.

It has been a goal of mine, since becoming a speech-language pathologist, to not only work on the communication difficulty itself, but to target self-esteem. Speech-language pathologists often find themselves faced with the bullying epidemic. They may work in schools, where most bullying typically occurs, or they may work outside of schools, but with students that are frequently susceptible to bullying, for example, children with communication, developmental, and/or social difficulties.

A professor from Pennsylvania State University, Gordon Blood, has done extensive research on bullying and feels that speech-language pathologists have a role in managing and reducing social bullying. Examples of social bullying are: a child not being allowed to join a game, to participate in conversation with peers, or becoming the subject of teasing or negative gossip, in turn causing children to experience emotional and/or academic difficulties. Blood says, “In all bullying, there’s intent to do harm, and a perceived power imbalance.” Speech-language pathologists are in a position where they can often have a strong role in restoring the balance of power that is disrupted in bullying. Instead of encouraging a child to ignore the problem, or pretend not to be bothered, it is recommended that professionals, such as speech-language pathologists, teachers, and parents do the following: 1) Listen to the child. Give them non-interrupted time to speak. 2) Praise the child for discussing the bullying – it can be incredibly hard for children to talk about. 3) Encourage the child to build his or her social network – one or two friends is all most children need to stick up to a bully.

Remember that the common goal for children that experience bullying is to develop their confidence enough to overcome bullying before it has negative effects on their learning and health.

Information obtained from Speech-language pathologists positioned to help victims of bullying, January 7, 2011, written by Gordon Blood, Ingrid Blood, Michael Boyle, and Gina Nalesnik from Pennsylvania State University.

Written by:
Michelle Cameron, M.H.Sc. S-LP(C)
Speech-Language Pathologist, Reg. CASLPO
 
The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada
www.speechtherapycentres.com
 

Play-based learning: How to create your own language-rich environment this summer

There has been a lot of talk lately about the Ontario government’s move towards providing full-day kindergarten and incorporating a play-based curriculum.  A play-based curriculum means that children learn through play.  The idea behind this is that when children are given the opportunity to explore an exciting and stimulating environment, they will learn without even realising they are learning. 

You can create your own stimulating environment for your child at home.  Try this activity to create a language-rich environment while doing a simple, inexpensive craft:

Play-dough

Play dough Ingredients:

  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • food colouring (optional)

Language ingredients:

  • Action words (verbs): Talk about how you are pouring the ingredients, mixing them together, stirring with a spoon, squishing, rolling, patting, poking, and cutting the play-dough.
  • Description words (adjectives): Discuss how the play-dough feels sticky or squishy. Roll a ball and make it smooth.  Touch the water and talk about how it is wet, and contrast that to the dry flour.
  • Location words (prepositions): Maybe the flour is beside the salt, on the table.  The ingredients go in the bowl.  Make a tree out of your play-dough and a person to go under the tree.
  • People, places or things (nouns): This can be almost anything!  Names of the ingredients, the tools you are using, the objects you are building, the names of those participating, names of shapes, numbers etc…..      

Instructions:

  • Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Choose a word or two to focus on from each type listed above.
  • Use those words 5 or more times during the activity.
  • Encourage your child to actively participate, by doing, asking, feeling, and commenting.

 For more information on Ontario’s play-based curriculum visit: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/kindergarten/whatwillmychildlearnanddo.html

Written by: Jana Zalmanowitz, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada. (www.speechtherapycentres.com)

It’s Allergy Season: How Recurrent Ear Infections Can Affect Speech and Language Development

Allergy season is here in full force and with it comes sneezing, watery eyes and often itching throat.  Aside from these apparent symptoms, allergies can also lead to ear infections in children due to irritation in the Eustachian tube. There are very close ties associated with recurrent ear infections and delays in speech and language development.  Children who have suffered from several ear infections may have mild hearing loss making it difficult for them to hear low intensity grammatical markers such as past tense /–ed/ and third person plural /-s/, and high frequency consonant sounds such as /s/. Children learn these grammatical markers, and sound production, first by imitation which is made very difficult if they are having trouble hearing these specific sounds and markers.  It is very important to be aware of the status of your child’s hearing, even in the spring and summer, as it could be effecting their speech and language development.

Written by:  Stephanie Mathias, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada

PRACTICAL TIPS FOR WORKING ON SPEECH AND LANGUAGE AT HOME

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.

Two Languages, One Home …

“Is it too confusing to learn two language simultaneously?”

“Will learning two languages cause our child’s speech or language skills to be delayed?”

“How should we teach our child two languages?”

These questions are typical concerns of parents considering to use more than one language at home. The first and most important suggestion for parents is to ensure you are speaking a language that you are comfortable and proficient in when communicating with your child. For example, if you are fluent in Spanish, then speak Spanish to your child. There is no evidence or research to suggest that learning two languages causes language delays. In fact, many children who are exposed to more than one language outperform their monolingual peers on both verbal and non-verbal tests of intelligence.

One method for teaching multiple languages at home is the “One Parent One Language” approach, where each parent speaks a specific language to his/her child all the time. For example, mom speaks English while dad speaks Spanish.

Another approach involves using a different language during different routines. For example, English during dinnertime and Spanish during bath time.

Just remember that the basic concept is to keep the languages separate in order to minimize confusion. Both approaches are equally as effective; choosing simply depends on which one best suits your family.

For more information, please visit:  http://www.speechtherapycentres.com/