Parents often ask why, we, as SLPs work with their school-aged kids on reading and math. It is sometimes difficult to see what our role is in these subjects. We are not tutors, we are not teachers, we are language specialists. What this means is that as SLPs, we need to figure out whether your child is having difficulty with actual math and reading concepts, or if the breakdown in comprehending the language used in those particular subjects.
For examle, in math the most difficult tasks are word problems. Most children will find this to be the most difficult, but it is not the addition/subtraction/ multiplication/division that causes the breakdown; rather it’s the way the questions are worded. These students are having a problems identifying what the question is asking, distinguishing the most important from the irrelevant information among other language tasks. Without these skills, students will not be able to answer or interpret the problem properly.
As another example, with reading tasks, so often we see kids that can read well but when it comes to comprehending the story and answering questions about the story they become lost. Once again this is a breakdown in the comprehension of story, rather than in the reading itself.
As speech-langauge pathologists, it is our responsibility to target the comprehension of language to ensure academic success. We will provide students with strategies to search for key information, as well as aid teachers in modifying questions and instructions in a way that will be understood by the students. With these strategies in place your child’s academic career will be fruitful and successful!
M.Sc-SLP, Reg. CASLPO
The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada
As speech-language pathologists (SLPs), my coworkers and I were all excited to see an SLP hold a prominent role in a movie when “The King’s Speech” hit theatres last winter. All of the sudden other people had an interest in a movie we wanted to see! Little does everyone know we have a few other favourites that circulate around our water cooler conversations, not because they deal specifically with our profession, but because they feature the people we work with.
One of my personal favourites is “Autism: the Musical”. This is a documentary which follows five children with Autism who take part in a project to write and perform their own full length musical. Under the guidance of one mother’s vision and many parents determination, the musical allows these special kids to explore their creativity and show off their talents. As an SLP I loved watching it to get some perspective on thinking outside the box to help children with autism realize their potential and showcase accomplishments.
Another movie I recently stumbled across is called “Wretches and Jabberers.” It’s the story of two grown men with autism, Larry and Tracy, who embark on a world tour to advocate for people with disabilities. Larry and Tracy communicate by typing to augment their speech. On their journey they meet
Jana Zalmanowitz, M.Cl.Sc.
Speech-Language Pathologist (C)
others who use similar forms of communicating. In the SLP world this is called AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) and the movie is a great example of how AAC can be used to open up a world of communicating. Larry and Tracy’s views are profound and often poetic. I highly recommend it.
The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada
When life gets busy it can be hard to find time to work on your child’s early language skills BUT you can enhance your child’s communication during everyday activities that you’re already doing! Here are some tips on how to facilitate communication during bath time.
- Being face to face with your child is important and bath time is an easy way to ensure you’re in this position when playing and talking
- Follow your child’s lead – talk about objects they are already interested in or are already playing with instead of trying to introduce a new toy or game
- Wait and pause to give your child a chance to communicate
- Use lots of single words or two word combinations (ex. Boat! Woo. Big boat!) This will help your child identify words and repeat them.
- Use a slower rate of speech and fun intonation to catch their attention
- Imitate the words, sounds, and actions your child makes
- This can be a great way to teach new words:
- Objects – hold bath toys up as you label them (ex. duck, boat, ball)
- Action words – say the word as you make the action (ex. make a toy SWIM, make a toy JUMP into the bath)
- Location words – example: the man goes IN the boat, the man goes OVER the boat, the man goes UNDER the boat
- Sing songs and rhymes! These provide a lot of repetition and make it easier for your child to predict familiar words and to join in. After they know the song you can pause and give them a chance to participate. Example: row, row, row your _____. Your child may respond with an expectant look, a sound, an action, a word…all are ways of communicating with you. Song ideas: row your boat, Patty-cake, this little piggy etc.
- Similarly to the songs – use simple repetitive routine games to give them a chance to participate. Example: bring a toy up while saying ‘up, up, up’ and drop it into the water as you say DOWN! Once they are used to this routine pause before you say down to give them a chance to respond and join in.
- Expand on your child’s utterances. For example: if they say “duck” you can say “yellow duck”!
- Give choices – do you want the boat or the bucket? Do you want the pink towel or the yellow towel?
Have fun and enjoy your time together! Bath time is a great time to bond with your child and teach them many important language and play skills! Happy bath time!
Written by: Carla Montgomery, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada
As a speech-language pathologist, I am often asked “what causes my son/daughter to stutter?”
Unfortunately, there isn’t one, straight-forward answer. Although much research has been done, clinicians and researchers alike are still unsure.
Some researchers think that some people are more genetically predisposed to stuttering. This is why some children exhibit the behaviour and others do not. There are also ideas that this predisposition can interact with a child’s environment to bring out stuttering. For example, some children stutter more at school and some stutter more at home. This means there are certain things about the environment that may trigger stuttering.
So, the only thing that everyone can agree on is that the cause of stuttering is complex. It is dependent on numerous factors and how they interact with one another.
As a parent of a child who stutters, it is important to remember that nobody is to blame. Early intervention by a speech-language pathologist can be extremely valuable to both parents and the child. The focus of therapy should be less about the “why” (does my child stutter) and more about the “how” (can we make it better).
Written by: Jana Zalmanowitz, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada.
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 Ingredients:
- ½ cup salt
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup flour
- food colouring (optional)
- 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…..
- 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)
The environment and daily routines in your home can be one of the best teaching tools to help children develop pre-reading skills. A print-rich environment helps foster skills needed for reading. By surrounding your children with print in your home and talking to them about what it means, they will learn more every day.
They will begin to discover cues and understand that the words they see in print and the words they speak and hear are related. They will begin to learn that print can carry a meaning, and that therear many different ways to communicate.
A print-rich environment also ignites an interest in writing. Kids want to model what they see around them and communicate in written form. If they also see you modeling reading and writing during your daily activities, they will want to try to communicate this way too!
Ordinary household routines and activities can be used as learning experiences for kids. Below are some simple and fun ways to make your home a print-rich environment, and incorporate print into daily routines:
- Post signs and label items in your home, such as “Kelly’s room” on your daughter’s door, or “coats” by the hooks by the back door. Draw your child’s attention to these signs as you read them.
- Make labels together. For example, when you pack away the winter clothes, have your child put labels on each container (e.g. hats, mitts, sweaters, pants). If your child is young, you can write the word for them and they can try to write it underneath.
- Write a grocery list together. Have your child help you decide what you need, and then write the words down. Look at the list together in the grocery store and have your child help you cross off items as you shop.
- Surround your child with lots of books-storybooks, non-fiction books about things like dinosaurs and insects, as well as poetry and nursery rhymes, newspapers and magazines. Create a “reading corner” in their bedroom or in the family room.
- Point out print to your child during daily activities. For example, when you are cooking, direct your child’s attention to the recipe and read it aloud as you follow each step. You child will begin to learn that print carries meaning. You can also point out print when you are out of the home. For example, point to the stop sign and tell your child that every time you see those words on that sign you need to stop. Have them help you watch for stop signs.
- Make growth charts together. Measure your child’s height and have him help you record the numbers. Talk about how the numbers are getting bigger as they are getting taller. You can display this chart in their bedroom where they can see it.
- You can turn a walk into a learning activity by playing games such as pointing out all of the “S” words that you see on signs or store names, etc. You can also use a sand box for letter recognition. Writing out letters in the sand and erasing it is a great game that kids will enjoy and it’s easy to do.
When kids are in an environment that has labels, signs and charts, they will be exposed to letters, words and numbers early and make connections between the letters and the functions they serve, thus developing their pre-literacy skills. Try these suggestions in your home, and have fun!
Written by Emily Begley, Speech-Language Pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada