Robot Turtles: A Fun Way to Target Social Communication and Coding Skills

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If you are looking for a fun way to target social communication skills, as well as beginning computer programming, Robot Turtles is a great new board game you can play with your students (with or without autism). Robot Turtles requires players to use simple commands to move their turtles to capture a jewel on the game board. When students give commands, they are replicating the process computer programmers use to give instructions for a computer to execute. Games, in general, provide opportunities for social communication; Robot Turtles in particular involves specific interactions between the game players that enable more opportunities for social communication. For students who show an interest in games and computers, playing Robot Turtles can be a highly engaging way to practice social communication. Check out this video.

During game play, it is easy to provide students with opportunities to practice five different social communication skills:

1) Perspective taking: As turtle masters, students take the perspective of their turtles on the game board in order to decide which way to move. If they were to take their own perspectives, players may not move in the intended direction; success in the game depends on the ability to make decisions based on a different perspective.
2) Turn taking: Students also actively take turns throughout the game. Not only do they have to wait for the other turtle masters to complete their turns, but students do not actually move their own game pieces. The adult overseeing the game, otherwise known as the turtle mover, is in charge of executing the moves on the game board based on student commands.
3) Eye contact and body language: Since turtle masters don’t move their own pieces, they must clearly communicate their commands to the turtle mover. This offers a good opportunity to practice politely giving directions, as well as utilizing eye contact and body language to effectively communicate and acknowledge the turtle mover.
4) Following directions: In return, the turtle mover may communicate directions for the turtle masters to follow. The turtle mover also ensure players are aware of and adhere to the rules of the game.
5) Making comments: Throughout game play, students can be encouraged to make positive comments directed specifically to other turtle masters. For example, a student could say, “Nice move. I like how you did that!” when another player makes a good move in the game. In Robot Turtles, the goal is not to have one winner; all students keep playing until they achieve the goal for that specific level. Establishing a positive atmosphere where everyone is encouraged to be successful creates a great opportunity for modeling and practicing comments.

Robot Turtles can be played with children as young as four, all the way up to middle or high school. The game has several levels so it is easy to adapt game play based on student age and experience with the game. The upper levels of the game require sophisticated logic and analytical skills to complete the challenges, while the simple levels introduce children to basic logic. Either way, social communication skills can be targeted in various ways throughout the game.

Eric Sailers, MA, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist with eight years of experience who currently works with high school students. He has an assistive technology certificate and a mobile programming certificate specializing in iOS. When he is not providing speech-language services in schools, he is creating iOS apps and delivering presentations.

Preventing Food Jags: What’s a Parent to Do?

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As a pediatric feeding therapist, many kids are on my caseload because they are stuck in the chicken nugget and french fry rut…or will only eat one brand of mac-n-cheese…or appear addicted to the not-so-happy hamburger meal at a popular fast food chain. While this may often include kids with special needs such as autism, more than half my caseload consists of the traditional “picky-eaters” who spiraled down to only eating a few types of foods and now have a feeding disorder.  I  even had one child who only ate eight different crunchy vegetables, like broccoli and carrots.  Given his love for vegetables, it took his parents a long time to decide this might be a problem. The point is: These kids are stuck in food jag, eating a very limited number of foods and strongly refusing all others.  It creates havoc not only from a nutritional standpoint, but from a social aspect too. Once their parents realize the kids are stuck, the parents feel trapped as well. It’s incredibly stressful for the entire family, especially when mealtimes occur three times per day and there are only a few options on what their child will eat.

It’s impossible in a short blog post to describe how to proceed in feeding therapy once a child is deep in a food jag.  Each child is unique, as is each family. But, in general,  I can offer some tips on how to prevent this from happening in many families, again, keeping in mind that each child and each family is truly unique.

Here are my Top Ten suggestions for preventing food jags:

#10: Start Early.  Expose baby to as many flavors and safe foods as possible.   The recent post for ASHA on Baby Led Weaning: A Developmental Perspective may offer insight into that process.

#9: Rotate, Rotate, Rotate: Foods, that is.  Jot down what baby was offered and rotate foods frequently, so that new flavors reappear, regardless if your child liked (or didn’t like) them on the first few encounters.  This is true for kids of all ages.  It’s about building familiarity.  Think about the infamous green bean casserole at Thanksgiving.  It’s rare that hesitant eaters will try it, because they often see it only once or twice per year.

#8: Food Left on the Plate is NOT Wasted: Even if it ends up in the compost, the purpose of the food’s presence on a child’s plate is for him to see it, smell it, touch it, hear it crunch under his fork and  perhaps, taste it.  So if the best he can do is pick it up and chat with you about the properties of green beans, then hurray!  That’s never a waste, because he’s learning about a new food.

#7: Offer Small Portions:  Present small samples.  Underwhelming – that’s  exactly the feeling we hope to invoke.   Besides, if a tiny sample sparks some interest and your child asks for more peas, well, that’s just music to your ears, right?  Present the foods in little ramekins, small ice cube trays or even on  tiny tasting spoons used for samples at the ice cream shop.

#6: Highlight Three or Four Ingredients Over Two Weeks:  You can expose kids to the same three or four ingredients over the course of two weeks, while making many different recipes.  For example, here are nine different ways to use basil, tomatoes and garlic.  Remember get the kids involved in the recipe, so they experience the food with all of their senses.  Even toddlers can tear basil and release the fragrance, sprinkling it on cheese pizza to add a little green.   If they just want to include it as a garnish on the plate beside the pizza, that’s a good start, too!

#5 Focus on Building Relationships with FoodThat often doesn’t begin with chewing and swallowing.  Garden, grocery stop, visit the farmer’s market, create food science experiments like this fancy way of separating egg whites from the yoke.  Sounds corny (pardon the pun!), but making friends with food means getting to know food.  I often tell the kids I work with “We are introducing your brain to broccoli.  Brain, say hello to broccoli!”

#4 Don’t Wait for a Picky Eating Phase to Pass: Use these strategies now.  Keep them up, even through a phase of resistant eating.  Learning to be an adventurous eater takes time.

#3 Don’t Food Jag on FAMILY favorites.  In our fast paced life, it’s easy to grab the same thing for dinner most evenings.  Because of certain preferences, are the same few foods served too often?  Ask yourself, are you funneling down to your list of “sure things?”  It’s easy to fall into the trap: “Let’s just have pizza again – at least I know everyone will eat that.”

#2 Make Family Dinnertime Less about Dinner and More about Family.  Why?  Because the more a family focuses on the time together, sharing tidbits of their day and enjoying each other’s company,  the sweeter the atmosphere at the table.  Seems ironic, given this article is focused is on food, but, the strategies noted above all include time together.  That’s what family mealtimes are meant to be: a time to share our day.  Becoming an adventurous eater is part of that process over time.

And the #1 strategy for preventing food jags?  Seek help early.  If mealtimes become stressful or the strategies above seem especially challenging, that’s the time to ask a feeding therapist for help.  Feeding therapy is more than just the immediate assessment and treatment of feeding disorders – the long term goal is creating joyful mealtimes for the whole family.  The sooner you seek advice, the closer you are to that goal.   I hope you’ll visit me at My Munch Bug.com for articles and advice on raising adventurous eaters and solving picky eating issues.  Plus, here are just a few of my favorite resources:

Websites & Blogs

Doctor Yum.com

Spectrum Speech and Feeding.com

Picky Tots BlogSpot

Books

Getting to Yum

Fearless Feeding

Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) THAT!

Facebook

Food Smart Kids

Feeding Matters

Feeding Tube Awareness

 

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, treats children birth to teens who have difficulty eating.  She is the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids and the producer of the award-winning kids’ CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food!  Melanie’s two-day course on pediatric feeding is  offered for ASHA CEUs and includes both her book and CD for each attendee.  She can be reached at Melanie@mymunchbug.com.

Become a (Hearing) Environmentalist

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Communication is a complex puzzle that requires all pieces to be properly placed. It is critical for audiologists to address all pieces of that puzzle during the aural rehabilitation process to ensure a successful outcome for the patient. A comprehensive counseling protocol should thoroughly address the following five keys to communication success:

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My previous blogs focused on the roles of the speaker and the listener in a communication exchange. Today we’ll address the third key to communication success: environment. No, I’m not talking about the trees and the birds! When it comes to communication, environmental modifications often have the biggest impact, yet they are often overlooked. Let’s take a look at one of the most difficult listening situations for people with hearing loss, and how environmental modifications can reduce potential communication challenges.

The hastily-educated patient:

Mr. Jones and his wife are looking forward to dinner at their favorite restaurant to celebrate their anniversary. After a busy day, they rush out of the house at 5:30 p.m., hoping they won’t have to wait too long for a table. They are both starving, so they accept the first-available table, which happens to be in the middle of the restaurant and close to the kitchen. Mr. Jones is still adapting to his new hearing aids and feels overwhelmed by all of the noise. They are surrounded by families with loud children, clanking dishes, and noises from the kitchen. He and his wife can hardly hear each other above all the noise and feel frustrated that they weren’t able to fully enjoy their anniversary dinner. They are both disappointed that his new hearing aids did not perform better in this situation.

The well-educated patient:

Mr. Jones and his wife are looking forward to dinner at their favorite restaurant to celebrate their anniversary. They make a 4:00pm reservation and request a corner booth with good lighting. When they arrive for dinner, they are pleased to find that they nearly have the restaurant to themselves. They are seated immediately, served quickly, and enjoy reminiscing about the past year over a pleasant early dinner. Mr. Jones is pleased that his new hearing aids made it easier to hear his wife’s voice.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which scenario will result in a more satisfied patient outcome. Determine which situations are most challenging for your patients, and help them to develop an “environmental modification” plan for those specific situations. These plans typically incorporate some version of the following two elements:

1. Reducing background noise
2. Improving visibility (ex. lighting, proximity, orientation)

It is our professional responsibility to make sure that every patient is educated and equipped with tools and strategies that address all pieces of the communication puzzle. They must understand that environmental modifications are just as important as the hearing aids. While thorough patient education may take a bit longer in the beginning, it almost always saves valuable clinic time in the end. The resulting patient success and satisfaction certainly make it time well-spent.

 

Dr. Dusty Ann Jessen, AuDis a practicing audiologist in a busy ENT clinic in Littleton, Colo. She is the founder of Cut to the Chase Communication, LLC, a company dedicated to providing “fun, easy, and effective” counseling tools for busy hearing care professionals. She is also the author of Frustrated by Hearing Loss? 5 Keys to Communication Success. Dr. Jessen can be contacted at info@CutToTheChaseCommunication.com.

 

 

 

What SLPs Need to Know About the Medical Side of Pediatric Feeding

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Pediatric feeding problems come in all shapes and sizes. They tend to be complicated and often result from a combination of factors. This can make effective treatment challenging for the feeding therapist. A feeding problem is defined as “The failure to progress with feeding skills. Developmentally, a feeding problem exists when a child is ‘stuck’ in their feeding pattern and cannot progress.”

So where should the speech-language pathologist start? We should always begin by trying to figure out why the child is stuck and not progressing with eating and oral motor skills. Whether the child is dependent on tube feedings, not moving to textured foods, grazing on snack foods throughout the day, failing to thrive, pocketing foods, or spitting foods out, using medical management strategies can greatly improve a child’s success in feeding therapy.

A significant number of children with feeding difficulty also have a history of gastrointestinal problems such as gastroesophageal reflux, constipation, poor appetite, poor weight gain, and sometimes food intolerance. These issues can cause eating to be painful for the child which can lead to food refusal and avoidance and subsequent oral motor delay due to decreased practice eating the needed volumes for growth and poor acceptance of age appropriate foods. Research has shown the relationship between feeding difficulty and gastroesophageal reflux.

Most of the children we work with can’t tell us what is wrong. Their eating behavior tells us a lot about their digestive tract. These children often graze, volume limit, or avoid food because filling up their stomachs hurts. Some children complain that they have stomach pain while others vomit, spit up or cry with eating. We know that if these problems persist for any length of time, they become learned patterns of behavior.

Medical strategies that promote “gut” comfort and encourage appetite will help the child be receptive to eating and can improve response to feeding therapy. These strategies typically involve the following:

 

  • Addressing weight gain and growth as the priority of a feeding program.
  • Treating constipation and establishing a routine of daily soft stooling.
  • Treating gastroesophageal reflux and hypersensitivity in the GI tract.
  • Using hydrolyzed formulas that are easier to digest and promote gastric emptying and stooling.
  • Adjusting tube feeding rates and schedules to promote comfort.
  • Using appetite stimulants to boost hunger.

Some children’s feeding skills improve dramatically with medical management alone. Other children will need feeding therapy using techniques to improve acceptance of volume and variety of foods as well as oral motor therapy to progress to age appropriate oral motor patterns. No matter what type of feeding therapy approach you are using, the child will respond better if they feel better.

Many therapists have been taught to start with the mouth. That means addressing the oral motor hypersensitivity or oral motor delay first. Many clinicians feel that the doctor or medical specialists are addressing the reflux and constipation issues. However, it really is a team effort. Most physicians do not watch the child eat or see a child as often as we do as therapists. Therefore, it is important to work closely with the referring physicians to assist with proper diagnosis and treatment in order to assure the best outcomes for our patients.

Depending on the child, using medical management strategies can take multiple visits over time with the physician. If the child’s symptoms persist despite using medicines for reflux and constipation, a pediatrician may decide to refer the child to a gastroenterologist or feeding team for specialized care. A child also may undergo further testing to rule out medical diagnoses that can negatively effect eating such as anemia, food allergy, eosinophillic esophagitis, malrotation, and motility disorders.

The most important reason to recognize and treat the underlying medical issues of children with pediatric feeding problems is to help them progress. As SLPs, we need to recognize and identify GI issues prior to starting therapy so that we are not reinforcing pain or discomfort for the child. Our goals for most clients involve weight gain and growth, age appropriate oral motor patterns, and acceptance of a variety of foods from all food groups for healthy eating. These are attainable goals for many of our clients. Using medical strategies to help the child feel better will improve response to feeding therapy and eventually outcomes.

Krisi Brackett MS, CCC-SLP, is a feeding specialist with over 20 years of experience working with children with feeding difficulties. Krisi is co-director of the pediatric feeding team at the NC Children’s Hospital, UNC Hospitals, Chapel Hill, N.CFollow her at www.pediatricfeedingnews.com. The blog is dedicated to up to date pediatric feeding information. Krisi teaches a two-day workshop on using a medical/motor/behavior approach, is an adjunct instructor teaching a pediatric dysphagia seminar at UNC-Chapel Hill, and has co-authored a chapter in Pediatric Feeding Disorders: Evaluation and Treatment, Therapro, 2013.

Language Time with Curious George

 

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I can’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t love the character Curious George. He is a cute, sweet and lovable character with a curiosity that most children and adults can appreciate. Curious George books were originally written by Margret Elizabeth and her husband Hans Augusto “H.A.” Rey. They were first published in 1941 by Houghton Mifflin.

Curious George books are generally predictable, which can be an advantage for those children struggling with speech and language disorders including issues with narratives and sequencing. Already knowing and understanding the characters and the mischievous ways of George can help a child engage in each individual story and increase motivation.  In the more recently published books, there also includes a carryover lesson and activity. With so many Curious George books published (hundreds but I haven’t counted), it is easy to find a book for younger and older children depending on particular interests. There also are some e-books available, as well. I recently wrote an article on comparing e-books and print books.

Growing up with such a fondness for Curious George naturally led me to reading this series of books to my own kids and clients. I wanted to share some language tips in this article to use for the Curious George series. Language tips include:

  1. Expanding vocabulary: Within each book you will find new vocabulary to work on and define. For example in “Curious George Goes to the Chocolate Factory” discuss and define vocabulary such as “chocolate”, “treat”, “sale”, “factory”, “store”, etc. Words that many children do not know may include “truffle,” “caramel,” and “tour guide”.
  2.  Sequencing: Within each story, there are basic events that occur in a specific order. For example in Curious George Makes Maple Syrup, there are clear and concrete steps to make the maple syrup.  In order to work on sequencing, take some photos and upload them to sequencing app, such as Making Sequences.  With this app, a child can put the story in order and then retell you the story in their own words. Another way I work on sequencing is to use blank comic strips.
  3. Recalling information: Throughout the story, ask simple questions and help your child recall specific information about the story. For example, during Curious George Makes Pancakes, encourage conversation about George and his involvement in making pancakes. Why does everyone love George’s pancakes? Why is he running away from the chef?
  4. Describing: Encourage your client to explain what is occurring in the story. For example, in Curious George Makes Maple Syrup, encourage your client to explain to you how the maple syrup might taste and what a maple tree looks and feels like. If possible, bring in some maple syrup and a piece of a tree bark and ask your client to describe the feel and smell of the syrup and bark.  If you don’t have the manipulatives, search for videos or pictures describing what is in the book. For example, with the book, Curious George and the Plumber, I found a photo online to show my client what an “auger” was and other equipment that the plumber used in the book. It helped connect specific ideas with the book and make it more concrete and engaging for the child.
  5. Answering “wh” questions: Throughout the book, ask “wh” questions and encourage your own client to ask specific questions about the story. Work on pragmatics by staying on topic and taking turns within a discussion.
  6. Problem solving: There are many opportunities to problem solve during any story with Curious George because he is always getting into trouble due to his curiosity. Discuss the problem and ask your client to figure out what he might have done differently to deal with a problem. For example, in Curious George and the Puppies, George decides to let all of the puppies out because he wanted to hold them. All of the puppies ran out and now George had a big problem. Before you move onto the next page, discuss what George should do, etc.
  7. Pragmatics: George and his friend, the Man with the Yellow Hat, have a wonderful relationship. Although George is always finding himself in trouble, it is obvious that both characters love and care about each other. They have a mutual respect for each other which can be a great model for children. Also, the Man with the Yellow Hat always forgives George for his mischievous ways which can be great discussion for many children.
  8. Literacy and Reading Comprehension: Work on improving your client’s ability to read the words in the story and comprehend what they are reading. Another way to work on literacy is having your client draw a scene from the story and then have them write a sentence about it.
  9. Emotions: George and the Man with the Yellow Hat have many emotions throughout each story. Both characters are often happy and then sometimes sad, scared, confused and regretful. Describe these emotions and begin a discussion about them.
  10. Narratives: use a story map such as this one with the story. This story map was created by Layers of Learning. There are many other story maps available, but I liked this one….

Rebecca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her website www.gravitybread.com to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience . She discusses the benefits of reading to young children during mealtime, shares recipes with language tips and carryover activities, reviews children’s books for typical children and those with special needs as well as educational apps. She has worked for many years with both children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. She can be reached at becca@gravitybread.com, or you can follow her on Facebook; on Twitter; or on Pinterest.

Aural Rehab: Getting an “A” in Listening

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There is no denying that aural rehab is critical for patient success with amplification. Unfortunately, most hearing care professionals do not implement a structured, patient-focused aural rehab program. They report lack of time, lack of patient compliance, and lack of reimbursement as the common challenges. As a practicing audiologist, I face these challenges on a daily basis, which prompted me to develop the 5 Keys to Communication Success and the Cut to the Chase Counseling program. The 5 Keys to Communication Success are:

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Educating our patients about these five simple keys to successful communication will help them to understand a few important points:

  • Communication is like a puzzle that requires several pieces to work properly.
  • Hearing aids are only one piece of this communication puzzle.
  • Involvement of family members, friends, and caregivers is essential.

When patients fully grasp the complexity of communication, and understand that each piece of the puzzle is critical for communication success, they are much more likely to be satisfied with their hearing aids and to comply with our recommendations.
My previous blog went into detail about the first key, The Speaker.
Today I’ll dive deeper into the second Key to Communication Success: The Listener. Most of the listener strategies we attempt to teach our patients are critical for all listeners, including those with perfect hearing. However, the importance increases exponentially when the listener is challenged by hearing loss. We must impress upon our patients that implementing these strategies is just as important as wearing their hearing aids.
Listener strategies revolve around the concept of active listening. The listener is no longer allowed to sit back and passively expect communication to happen effortlessly. Even with new hearing aids, this is an unrealistic expectation. I encourage my patients to earn an “A” in listening. To accomplish this, they must:

  • Be aware of their surroundings.
  • Anticipate what might be said.
  • Take action to make sure they can clearly see the speaker’s face.

As with all of the communication keys, I find it works best to classify the listener strategies by environment. For example, in a restaurant environment I instruct the listeners to read and discuss the menu ahead of time, to focus on the facial expressions and lip movements of the speaker, and to actively “tune out” the noises that aren’t helpful for communication. We also discuss listener strategies for the following environments: around the house, in the car, dining out, on the phone, and public events. While repetition of strategies is common between environments, I find that patients are more likely to retain and implement the information when it is applied to a specific situation where they experience listening challenges. It is also easier for patients to grasp the importance of these strategies when they see them repeated across environments.
The ultimate goal is to equip and empower our patients with a multitude of tools that will facilitate successful communication. The simple structure of the 5 Keys to Communication Success makes this easier and more efficient for both clinicians and patients alike. Next month I’ll discuss the third key: Environment.

 

Dr. Dusty Ann Jessen, AuDis a practicing audiologist in a busy ENT clinic in Littleton, Colo. She is the founder of Cut to the Chase Communication, LLC, a company dedicated to providing “fun, easy, and effective” counseling tools for busy hearing care professionals. She is also the author of Frustrated by Hearing Loss? 5 Keys to Communication Success. Dr. Jessen can be contacted at info@CutToTheChaseCommunication.com.

 

Learning About New Foods Without Eating: 5 Surprising Tips for Parents

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Wait … isn’t the idea to get the kid to eat Brussels sprouts?  Yes, ultimately.  But exploring food with all of our senses is often the first step to eventually, tasting new foods.  Whether your child is in feeding therapy or you’re just trying to raise a more adventurous eater, here are 5 strategies for encouraging kids to discover various sensory aspects of new foods before they muster the courage to take that very  first taste:

  1. Still Got Easter Eggs?  The plastic ones, that is.    Take the 2 halves and line an egg carton with red, yellow, green and/or orange eggs.  Cut up fruits and vegetables into dime-sized pieces and practice matching colors.  Each time your child picks up the new food, tell him “Red tomato with Red Egg!” and help him find the red egg so he can drop in the tomato.  Now you have a kiddo who is picking up all kinds of fruits and veggies, even the slightly wet, cut-up pieces, which many kids hesitate to touch.
  2. Pop in a DVDCopy-Kids created a DVD of adorable kids eating fruits and vegetables, “because children learn best from other children.”  Sit down and watch it with your child, along with a colorful snack tray of bell peppers, broccoli, avocado, blueberries…you get the idea.  Keep it positive and don’t emphasize the eating part.  Just pick up the same food you see on the TV and say something silly about it.  Roll it down your cheeks and talk about how it feels.  Give it a big kiss and proclaim your love for orange, red, yellow and green peppers!  It’s not always about biting into a new food – that comes later.  But, if taking a bite happens in the course of playing and watching a silly DVD, then that’s terrific!
  3. Create Your Own Food Network Show with your kid as the host!  If the best he can do is direct the show behind the camera while you cook, that’s still a great start.  At least he’s in the kitchen, interacting with the food (albeit from a distance)  in a positive, fun way.  Later that evening, invite the whole family to watch his creation together and serve the food you made on film.  Soon, he’ll be hosting the show and cooking new dishes while you operate the camera.
  4. Watch More TV.  Before you think I’m obsessed with television, let me share 2 terrific resources that will help your kids explore new cuisine.  The Good Food Factory is the Emmy award-winning kids’ cooking show televised in California.  But, you can still watch vintage episodes as well as 2 newer episodes on line.   Or, check out the tiny tasters on the Doctor Yum videos.  Created by a pediatrician, the website includes lots of how-to videos featuring kids doing the cooking.  Using videos to introduce the joy of food to your kids is just that – an introduction.  Afterward,  head to the grocery store.  Pick out that new produce you saw on a Doctor Yum video – like a prickly pear or a lychee or a dragon fruit.  Cut it open…take a lick…one thing might just lead to another!
  5. Make Handprint Pictures Using Purees.  First, include your child in the process of making the edible “paint” puree.  Anything will do: yogurt, pudding or even cauliflower blended to a smooth paste.  Add a touch of color to the cauliflower by using natural food dyes or blending in real food, such as carrot juice or spinach leaves, letting your child pick up the spinach and add it through the safety top of the blender.  Spread the puree onto a cookie sheet or flat plate.  For the child who is tactilely defensive, you may notice that he will touch the puree with either just the side of his thumb or the tip of one finger.  That’s a fine place to start!  Over time, he’ll progress to tolerating his entire hand flattened into the plate of puree and then, pressing  his messy little hand onto paper to make a handprint.  For ideas on various animals you can create with hand or even footprints, click here.

Egg Carton Color Matching

What do all of these strategies have in common?  They’re fun and they involve YOU – the most important person in your child’s life!  Be silly, be positive and join in!  Get your hands messy,  model healthy eating and praise what your kiddo can do on that day.  Learning to try new foods involves all of our senses and remember,  tasting  often takes time.

 

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, treats children birth to teens who have difficulty eating.  She is the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids and the producer of the award-winning kids’ CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food!  Melanie’s two-day course on pediatric feeding is  offered for ASHA CEUs and includes both her book and CD for each attendee.  She can be reached at Melanie@mymunchbug.com.

Dynamic Assessment: How Does it Work in the Real World of Preschool Evaluations?

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In a disability evaluation, we ask a child to point “to the triangle” or “to the author” as part of test developed to identify disorder.  An evaluator who uses this kind of test to identify disability must assume that all children being evaluated have had similar exposure to “triangle” and “author” including similar family, cultural, and educational experiences. It follows then, that if a child cannot identify “triangle” or “author” it is because that child has some kind of learning problem. But what if a child does not have a disability but simply did not have the same exposure to “triangle” or books as the majority of children his age? Dynamic assessment offers evaluators an approach to see whether a child can acquire new linguistic information from the environment. Here are some clinicians examples of how to translate the dynamic assessment research into their own disability evaluations, including some “dynamic” approaches to increase the accuracy of our preschool disability evaluations.

First, Let us consider nonword repetition tasks, one type of dynamic assessment. Nonword repetition tasks assess whether a child can hear, retain briefly, and then repeat nonsense syllables of varying lengths. Nonword repetition tasks give us insight into why a child may have a weak vocabulary. If the child has difficulty with nonword repetition tasks it may indicate a disordered ability to learn new words from the environment and will also affect the child’s ability to understand directors and spoken stories. Here are two modules analyzing videos of several children, both with and without language impairments, doing the same nonword repetition task. By seeing how different children of different abilities perform as they acquire the new words, clinicians acquire clinical judgment. Nonword repetition tasks are not classic dynamic assessment because there is no pre and post-test. But because we watch the child learning new syllables in front of us, it is dynamic rather than static.

Another dynamic approach is fast word mapping. In fast word mapping we evaluate whether a child can learn new words. Because the words are completely made up, no child has more or less experience with these words. In these videos of 4-year-olds, one child is typically developing, one child has low average to mildly delayed skills, and one child has mild to moderate delays. What is especially helpful with more dynamic approaches to assessment, we see a much greater range of information about a child’s skills, rather than simply did he identify the “triangle” or not?

A child’s cognitive skills, including the ability of children to describe cognitively challenging tasks, can also be seen through dynamic assessment. Here is an example of how a psychologist used dynamic assessment to evaluate the nonverbal cognitive skills of a 2 year 10 month old boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder (See 8:25 to 10:50). The psychologist described in his report what he saw as: Dynamic assessment demonstrated that George is intelligent and learns quickly. The evaluator showed George how to make a rubber duck fly into the air by placing the duck on the flat end of a spoon placed on the table and hitting the round end. George smiled and laughed and searched for the duck, although he did not make eye contact with the evaluator. George tried and had difficulty the first time, but after a second demonstration George was able to make the duck fly and seemed happy he made it happen.”

David’s dynamic assessment task reminds me of one that a great trilingual SLP, Barbara Dittman, showed me. She used the disappearing egg in the cup trick. Barbara would show the trick to the student and tell him how to do it. Then she would bring another person–a parent, teacher, or peer—and have the student do the trick and then explain to the person how to do it. Barbara learned about cognition and also about the student’s ability to explain a somewhat challenging task.

Recent articles demonstrate similar effectiveness of dynamic assessment in distinguishing bilingual preschoolers with and without disabilities. These dynamic assessment tasks for bilingual preschoolers include fast word mapping and a graduated prompting task with a novel word learning, semantic, and phonological awareness component.

Based on research going back several decades, the importance of dynamic assessment in accurate identifying a language disorder is well established. New studies continue to support its value. In addition to the videos on dynamic assessment and preschool assessment in general, the LEADERSproject.org has many resources available to anyone looking to sharpen their disability evaluation skills including test reviews, discussion of current law, regulations, and policies, and model evaluations.

Catherine J. Crowley, CCC-SLP, JD, PhD, Distinguished Senior Lecturer in speech-language pathology at Teachers College Columbia University, founded and directs the bilingual/multicultural program focus, the Bilingual Extension Institute, and the Bolivia and Ghana programs. An experienced attorney, Cate is working with NYCDOE on a multi-year project to improve the accuracy of disability evaluations. The LEADERSproject.org is a website dedicated to supporting quality clinical services and is funded by the Provost’s Office and several foundations.  Cate, an ASHA fellow, received the “2012 Humanitarian Award” from the National Council of Ghanaian Associations, and ASHA’s certificates for Contributions to Multicultural Affairs and for International Achievement.

Pragmatic Language Intervention for Adults with Autism

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A man enters the room, apparently comfortable with his surroundings and with those around him. Despite his large physique, he exudes a gentle demeanor and a genuine kindness as he approaches the other adults in the room. He curtly nods to a few people in the room, and then takes a seat in his usual spot. As he scans the papers in front of him, his face lights up and he points to a picture representing the day’s refreshments. He smiles at the woman sitting next to him and carefully produces the words, “Want…snack.” He nods again and smiles with noticeable satisfaction.

This man’s name is Jim, and he is an adult with autism. Jim attends one of the two Adult Language and Pragmatics Skills (ALPS) programs offered at Towson University’s Hussman Center for Adults with Autism. Like many other individuals on the autism spectrum, Jim struggles to communicate verbally and to engage in meaningful social relationships. These difficulties represent unique challenges for Jim and other adults on the spectrum. To address these challenges, Jim attends the ALPS group each week and participates in meaningful activities designed to explicitly address areas of need. The activities target communication in a variety of social contexts, and participants show subsequent improvements areas of need.

In addition to the positive changes observed with group participants, the ALPS programs also are gaining positive attention from families in the greater Baltimore community. Jim’s mother recently expressed her appreciation for the ALPS group and for the noticeable improvements she sees in her son’s communication. She wrote, “There are not enough words to express my gratitude to you and your team. Jim’s communication did significantly increase with the Fall session. I know that your program is critical to Jim’s continued progress.”

So what makes the ALPS programs at Towson University effective and attractive? Some would say the impressive amenities available at Towson University’s Institute for Well Being facilitate the programs’ success. Admittedly, the rooms equipped with multi-media technology and the fully furnished apartment in which adults can practice skills are indeed helpful. But the ALPS groups also offer experiences purposefully designed to incorporate evidence-based practice techniques for optimal success:

  1. Mentor/Peer Role Models – The use of peer role models is well-supported in the literature as an evidence-based practice intervention (Llaneza, DeLuke, Batista, Crawley & Frye, 2010; McGee, Almeida, Sulzer-Azaroff & Feldman, 1992; Orsmond, Krauss & Seltzer, 2004). Mentors from the ALPS groups include graduate student clinicians earning clinical hours in the speech-language pathology program, as well as undergraduate mentors earning service learning hours. Mentors plan the group sessions as well as individualized activities to target specific goals agreed upon by mentors and participants. The mentor-participant relationship emerges as a mutually-beneficial partnership in which each party experiences growth and personal satisfaction. Participants learn from the mentors through direct modeling experiences, and the mentors gain invaluable experience with adults on the spectrum. Often, the student mentors indicate that their perceptions of autism significantly change as a result.
  1. Relevant Topics – To foster meaningful learning experiences relevant to the unique challenges that adults with autism face, topics are selected that directly relate to participants’ everyday lives. Topics vary from semester to semester, but generally include practical themes such as nonverbal communication, managing emotions in moments of conflict, dating and relationships, self-advocacy, communication in the workplace, and increasing independence. Many participants suggest ideas for topics, and sessions are planned with the participants’ specific needs in mind.
  1. Universal Design for Learning Standards – To target specific strengths and needs of participants in the group and to incorporate learning style preferences, sessions are planned utilizing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines. The UDL approach asserts that to best meet the individual needs of diverse groups of learners, clinicians should offer (a) multiple means of presentation, (b) multiple means of response and (c) multiple means of engagement (Rose & Gravel, 2010). The ALPS groups at Towson University incorporate UDL standards in several specific ways:
    • Technology Tools – to increase engagement and to provide additional visual representation, ALPS groups routinely incorporate multi-media videos, interactive whiteboard activities, iPads, smartphones, and personal communication devices into learning experiences.
    • Response systems – to facilitate and maintain engagement of the group and to include nonverbal responders, discussions are often supplemented with systems that allow all participants to answer questions and express opinions simultaneously. Pinch cards, signs, color-coded paddles and gestures are all used to facilitate each participant’s communication of ideas and opinions.
    • Kinesthetic and tactile experiences – to include kinesthetic/tactile learning styles and to address participants’ need for movement for regulating sensory input, all sessions include activities requiring the participants to move. Sometimes the movement also serves as a mode of response (e.g., moving to a designated location in the room to indicate a choice), further integrating UDL guidelines.
    • Differentiated supports – to meet the needs of individual learners in a diverse group, activities are adapted specifically for each participant. Student mentors often create and implement visual supports, and provide hierarchical prompts to promote the highest levels of success and independence.
  1. Experiential Learning Opportunities – to address multiple learning styles and to provide hands-on practice, sessions often include functional activities that utilize social communication skills. Group members participate in role play activities, everything from acting out scripted dyadic communication to real-world experiences like ordering food in a restaurant. Participants do not simply listen to an instructor talking about strategies for successful communication; rather, participants engage in direct and relevant experiences that target effective communication and self-advocacy.
  1. Social Connection Opportunities – ALPS sessions are comprised of a variety of social experiences, encouraging participants to connect with others through structured practice. Whole group, small group and individual experiences are offered weekly as group members discuss ideas and opinions relevant to the session topic. Activities that foster partnership and cooperation are also utilized, encouraging participants to step out of their comfort zone as they practice social skills.
  1. Reflection and Review Experiences – All participants are encouraged to reflect on their experiences and to review important strategies. Each week, participants and mentors discuss progress and identify goals for the participant to consider in the week ahead.
  1. FUN – As one participant freely offered, “I don’t learn much when I’m bored. But I always remember the fun parts!” A preference for fun is certainly not unique to the autism population. Don’t we all remember the fun parts? To maintain an enjoyable and social atmosphere, sessions are planned using central themes. Activities, snacks, and even attire may revolve around the designated theme. Past selections include favorite movie, sport, travel and holiday themes. To further the fun, ALPS groups end each semester with a celebration party in which each group member is recognized for personal achievements.

All of these techniques are integrated into meaningful ALPS sessions for the advancement of pragmatic language and social skills. Future projects at the center include studies to objectively evaluate treatment efficacy and functional outcomes of the participants and mentors. While the ALPS groups continue to adapt and improve, the current success of the programs remains readily apparent. As we work to document improvements and successes, we are continually inspired by the adults who come to our center. Adults like Jim, entering our rooms with nods and smiles, looking for fun and friendly faces. Our hope is that these special adults feel equally inspired, and that they leave our rooms feeling successfully connected.

 

Lisa Geary, M.S., CCC-SLP, serves as Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Audiology, Speech-Language Pathology and Deaf Studies at Towson University. In addition to teaching and supervising graduate students in the on-campus Speech-Language Center, Lisa serves as program facilitator for the Adult Language and Pragmatic Skills Groups at Towson’s Hussman Center for Adults with Autism. Her teaching and research interests include Universal Design for Learning, Autism through the Lifespan, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), and Instructional Technology. Lisa can be reached at lgeary@towson.edu

 

References

Orsmond GI, Krauss MW, Seltzer MM. Peer relationships and social and recreational activities among adolescents and adults with autism. Journal of Autism Dev elopmental Disorders, 2004; 34:245–256.

LLaneza DC, DeLuke SV, Batista M, Crawley JN, Christodulu KV, Frye CA. Communications, interventions and scientific advances in autism: a commentary. Physiol Behav. 2010;100:268–276.

McGee, G. G., Almeida, M. C., Sulzer-Azaroff, B., Feldman, R. S. (1992). Promoting reciprocal interactions via peer incidental teaching. Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis. 25 117–126.

Rose, D.H. & Gravel, J.W. (2010). Universal design for learning. In E. Baker, P. Peterson, & B. McGaw (Eds.). International Encyclopedia of Education, 3rd Ed. Oxford: Elsevier.

 

 

 

Rockin’ the ASHA Health Care & Business Institute

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Where the heck is everyone? Oh. I get it.

So…here’s a tale to share, OK? Yours truly, this intrepid, Down Easterner editor-in-chief for the ASHA Leader news magazine, is attending his first ASHA Health Care & Business Institute. It’s Vegas (baby!), glistening with probabilities and paradox: palm-tree-lined streets press against yellow-brown desert; a chiming, smoke-filled casino perches an escalator-ride above a bustling, professional conference. And there’s me, all nimble-like, sprinting the gauntlet of one-armed bandits, dashing down the escalator, caught up in a dizzying quest to nab an interview or two. It’s the perfect time, ay-uh. Sessions are running now, but—if my experience at hundreds of other professional conferences holds true—there’ll also be a fair number of folks milling and networking outside the meeting rooms or chatting up the exhibitors.

Nope. The hallway stands silent. I duck into the exhibit hall.

Nada. There be tumbleweeds a’ blowin’. Heck, even a fair number of exhibitors are nowhere to be found.

My goodness—everyone’s in the meeting rooms. Yes, folks, the sessions at the ASHA Health Care & Business Institute are that darn good.

Packed with more sessions and CEU opportunities than ever (hey, check out the awesomely convenient and affordable PLUS Package recorded courses CE option), the 11th ASHA Health Care & Business Institute attracted a near-record-breaking crowd from April 11—13. It’s not difficult to understand why.

  • Tons and tons of practical advice. Interested in the most effective strategies for contracting with employees and third parties? How about the six principles of influence to best leverage yourself and your brand? The impact of using mainstream versus less mainstream speech on your career? Tips for reading the body language of your clients and colleagues? Want candid advice from an entrepreneur on how to build your own practice? The sessions on business management and strategies were packed!
  • Up-to-the-minute coverage and tips. Want to learn the best way that your program or practice can thrive under the Affordable Care Act? What about the latest, greatest apps for pediatric populations and adults? Need to know about Medicaid for children in 2014 or this year’s billing procedures and codes for SLPs? What about the newest requirements for securing health information? Attendees had at their fingertips the most recent goings on affecting communication sciences and disorders at these popular sessions!
  • The latest advances from the frontlines of treatment. Session after session, many featuring legendary CSD researchers and clinicians, showcased the latest approaches to assessment and treatment for clients affected by a wide range of communication disorders—aphasia, dementia, dysphagia, childhood apraxia of speech, and autism spectrum disorder, among others. Some of these sessions were so well attended that folks were sitting in the aisles and on the floor in the hallway outside—I gave up my chair many times…

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So, with such a gang buster conference going on, what was this editor-in-chief supposed to do? When in Rome….I immediately jettisoned the interview-heavy approach to coverage and swore a courageous but ultimately foolhardy vow to cover the sessions as completely as possible through the Leader’s social media channels.

Picture this: It’s early Friday morning, and I begin hopping like a killer rabbit (beloved Holy Grail reference required) from one session to another, tweeting and posting photos at #ashaigers on Instagram. Listen, snap and tweet; listen, snap and tweet. Whew! By lunch I was stretched rather thin, and then I had to do it all again that afternoon, the next day, and the morning of the third day. I didn’t waver. My grandmother was right—when a notion takes my noggin’, I get as set and fixed-purposed as an old New England stone wall.

And now it’s time for a slice of humble pie. In the end, I must admit that the Great Social Media Effort was nobly conceived but executed imperfectly, because 1.) there were so many wonderful sessions going on that I simply could not do justice to all of them; and 2.) in many cases, I found myself so drawn in by a presenter, subject, and/or an audience’s enthusiasm and engagement that it was very difficult to leave the room. Grrrr. I. Just. Couldn’t. Cover. It. All.

At long last, with the Luxor and its Strip kin fading behind, I had time on the flight back to reflect on an outstanding conference. The attendees LOVED it and learned much. Those I spoke with were uniformly excited about the sessions; many pronounced the meeting as the best yet. They’ll be back next year, I reckon. Come hell or high water, I’ll be there, too. Perhaps leading an army of Leader editors to help cover it ALL next time. Ay-uh.

Gary Dunham, PhD, is ASHA publications director and editor-in-chief of The ASHA Leader.