Category Archives: Ideas To Do At Home

Making Food Fun!

5 Playful Ideas to Try When Presenting a New Food to a Child with a Limited Diet

Heather Celkis, OTR/ Capital Area Speech & Occupational Therapy www.capitalareaspeech.com

Making Food Fun!

Making Food Fun!

Reasons Tolerating New Food is Difficult

There are many reasons a child may have difficulty tolerating new foods. These reasons may include but are not limited to difficulty swallowing, difficulty moving the food efficiently within the mouth (oral motor skills), gastrointestinal issues, swallowing difficulties, poor postural control, respiratory difficulties and poor sensory processing. A child who has a very limited diet should be assessed by his or her pediatrician and referred for further testing by a specialist and/or therapy by a professional such as an occupational therapist or speech therapist.  It is important to rule out medical issues that may impact a child’s ability to eat.

Steps to Introducing New Foods

For many children with difficulty with sensory processing and tolerating novelty, the first step to trying a new food is interacting with it, tolerating it on a plate, smelling and playing with it. Yes! We should be encouraging these kids to play with their food!

The following are a few helpful and playful ideas for introducing new foods:

  1. Place just a few bites of food on the plate. If the child has a whole plateful of novel food they may become overwhelmed and feel that they will be pressured to eat all of the food presented.
  2. Use the food to paint a paper plate with sauce. For example, use a piece of broccoli to brush cheese sauce on a plate. Make patterns with the sauce by using the broccoli as a stamp.
  3. Use some familiar foods with a few pieces of novel food and arrange them to make a picture such as a smiley face. Take turns making the face as silly as you can.
  4. Stack the food like blocks then knock them down. Bread cubes, crackers and carrot slices are great for stacking.
  5. Have a pretend tea party and feed the animals and dolls the novel foods. This is a great way to encourage a child to interact with a new food while not expecting them to eat the new food yet.

Children are more likely to try a new food if they are allowed to explore it at their own pace so be patient and above all have fun!

Free Apps For Autism Awareness

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For Autism Awareness, I wanted to share some free educational and special needs apps. There are tons of free or discounted educational/special needs apps today and this week. I haven’t used all of these apps so I can’t go into detail about them. They are worth checking out though. Some of these are only free today so check them out as soon as you can.
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Here is a list of the ones I do use and love:
The following two I use for working on following directions, listening skills, and concepts.
Fun With Directions Lite
More Fun With Directions Lite
Picture the Sentence Lite – This app is great for kids to practice listening and picturing what they heard.
The next two apps are great for social language.
Between the Lines Level 1 Lite
Between the Lines Level 2 Lite
Toca Band – Okay I just downloaded this app today. I LOVE every Toca Boca app I’ve ever downloaded! They are very motivational.
Speech With Milo: Verbs – I use this app in therapy quite often.
Rainbow Sentences – This app is a GREAT app for working on formulating sentences correctly, describing pictures, and imitating sentences. only $3.99 today

These apps I haven’t used but they look like they would be useful.
Functional Communication System
Functional Planning System
Picture Card – Can You Do It?
Sorthings For Autism
Discovering Emotions With Zeely
EZCOMMA – This one is probably best for older kids working on grammar.
Sequences For Autism
Sequences For Kids
Feed Maxi – $.99 I have heard only great things about this one.
Conversation Builder – only $3.99 today
Talk + Touch
Sound Swaps – $4.99 This app is good for children with dyslexia or those working on phonological awareness.
Social Stories – $.99
Visual Routine – $.99
Starring Me On Wheels On The Bus

These are stories for teaching good morals or habits:
Even Monsters Get Sick – $.99
Axel’s Chain Reaction – FREE
Listen Up Bear – FREE
Sheldon’s Adventure – Cornered! – FREE
Sheldon’s Adventures – FREE
The Terrible Taunting – FREE – This interactive book teaches that everyone is special in their own way.

These would be great for fine motor activities:
Cursive Touch and Write – $.99
Wood Puzzle Maze – FREE

Thank you to Mary and Smart Apps For Special Needs for sharing some of these apps on twitter and your blog.

The ladies over at Smart Apps For Special Needs compile wonderful lists of free and discounted apps every week. I highly recommend you check out their blog and follow them on Twitter.

If you have any apps you love to use at home or in therapy please leave a comment to share with everyone!

What is Phonological Awareness

letter blocks
Have you heard the term phonological awareness? This term refers to the understanding that language is composed of smaller units including words, syllables, and sounds. Children with good phonological awareness skills are able to hear and manipulate these words and sounds.

Phonological awareness skills are very important for reading success. Speech pathologists work on phonological awareness skills when children have difficulty hearing rhyming words, learning sound/letter recognition, and have difficulty learning to read.

Phonological awareness skills include the following:
-Hearing and producing rhyming words
-Segmenting words in sentences
-Blending, segmenting, and deleting syllables
-Identifying sounds in words
-Blending sounds to make words
-Segmenting sounds in words
-Deleting sounds in words
-Adding sounds in words
-Manipulating sounds in words

Ideas to boost your child’s phonological awareness skills:
-Sing songs or recite nursery rhymes that have rhyming words
-Ask your child to name words that rhyme
-Clap for every word you hear in a sentence or for every syllable you hear in a word
-Ask what sounds he/she hears at the beginning, middle, or end of words (What sound do you hear at the beginning of ‘Saturday’)
-Ask him/her to say a word then say it without a certain sound (Say ‘ball’, now say it without ‘b’)
-Ask him to say a word then change a sound in the word (What would the word ‘cat’ be if you change the ‘c’ to ‘b’)

You can look back to our post on language and literacy here.

SuperDuperInc has easy to read information here

Reading Rockets has good detailed information and more ideas for how parents can help at home too.

Do Speech Pathologists Just Play?

Speech pathologists love to play. A large portion of my time at work is spent crawling on the floor playing and playing board games.

If you peeked in a window during therapy, you may think “why are they just crawling on the floor playing with cars?” Although it looks like all fun and games, there is a plan hidden in all the fun. While we are playing with the pop up toy or racing cars around a mat, we are constantly thinking about what words we will use next and how we will say them.

Each child has an individual set of goals for speech and language. The words the speech pathologist uses in therapy depends on the goals for that child.

The following videos are examples of ways to use toys to encourage words with a 14 month old.


Things to keep in mind when trying to encourage your little one to talk:
*use short phrases
*use words to label items (that’s a banana)
*use words to tell what things do (throw the ball)
*use words to describe items (big block, red shoe)
*model different types of utterances (make comments and ask questions)
*describe where things are (the ball is UNDER the chair)
*GIVE YOUR CHILD TIME TO TALK
*DON’T BE TOO PUSHY

When you model words for your child, give them plenty of time to talk back. Parents often say “Say ball, say it, say ball, come on, say ball.” This does not give the child an opportunity to try. They need time to process the information and attempt to say the word. Instead, try to model the word and wait a while for a response.

How to Use Toys to Build Language Skills

How to Use Toys to Build Language Skills
By Ashley Ward, B.A., SLPA

With the holidays right around the corner, you are likely thinking about which toys and gadgets you will surprise your children with this year. Almost every toy imaginable can be used to build language skills while playing. In imaginative play with dolls or cars, engage in pretend dialogue with your child. This helps build their imaginations while working on vocabulary and sentence structure. Ask your child for descriptions of what is going on during the play session, like what certain characters are wearing and how they are feeling. Below, I have created a brief list of specific ways you can work on language skills with common toys.
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Baby Dolls:
In addition to imaginative play with the dolls, you can talk about the different body parts and use accessories (baby bottle, cradle, clothes, etc.) to talk about the baby’s needs and feelings. Use “wh” questions (who, what, where, when, why) to expand conversation. For example, “Why is the baby crying?” “When do you need to feed the baby?” “What is the baby doing?” You can also use these accessories to work on prepositions: “Put the baby under the blanket,” “The baby is in her bed.” If the doll comes with an array of baby clothes, use these to teach the names of these items (hat, bib, pajamas, socks, etc.)
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Play kitchen:
There is so much you can do with a play kitchen. If possible, set up a mini grocery store with inexpensive fake food products or even use some of your own. This allows you to teach your child names of all different types of food. While cooking, ask your child to describe how they are preparing the food. Again, this is a great opportunity to work on prepositions: “Put the meat in the oven,” “The pan is on the stove,” and verbs such as stirring, mixing, pouring, opening/closing containers, etc.

Doctor Set:
Go through the doctor set with your child and have them try to describe what each item is used for. What is a stethoscope used for? Why do doctors use a thermometer? Why would a patient need a cast/sling? Your child may have some trouble with this depending on their age, so they may need you to help them explain. Doctor sets are great for social/pragmatic play with turn taking. Your child can play the doctor first, asking you for your symptoms using “wh” questions and using the play tools appropriately based on their function. Then, switch roles and have your child play the patient by having them describe how they are feeling: “How do you feel when you’re sick? Tired, grumpy, nauseous?”

These are just a few ideas of ways you can incorporate and promote language development with play. We at Capital Area Speech wish you and your family a wonderful holiday!

Language and Literacy

Emergent literacy begins at a very young age. When babies turn pages in books, when toddlers scribble on paper, and when preschoolers recognize signs and logos are all part of emergent literacy. It is very important to begin reading when your child is very young. Research has linked early exposure to books and stories to learning to read and to academic success.
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Reading to your child is linked to increased language and literacy skills. You can find more about the research here. Children are exposed to wide variety of words through books that they would not learn through typical conversation. In addition to language and literacy growth, book sharing is a great bonding time with your child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading daily to your child beginning at six months of age. It is good to try to read together for fifteen minutes each day. According to a study from the National Commission on Reading, reading aloud to children is the single most important intervention for developing literacy skills.

How do you read to a baby? Use simple picture books with few words. Good book choices for babies include Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, and Brown Bear Brown Bear by Bill Martin and Eric Carle. While book sharing, talk about the pictures. Use different voices or sing to increase attention during reading time.

Engage your preschool or elementary age child in the reading. Let the child have choices in choosing the reading source. Be expressive when you read stories. Talk about what you are reading. Ask what will the story be about, what will happen next, how does the character feel, what was your favorite part of the story, etc. Let him/her “read” to you. This will help build self-esteem and confidence.

Some of my favorite children’s books include: Pete the Cat Series, Llama Llama series, Dr. Suess books, David Shannon books, Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs, Down By The Cool Of The Pool, Hush, Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type, My Friend Rabbit, The Giving Tree.

Offer a variety of reading sources for your child. Some of my children’s favorite books are science books about space and weather. Picture books, magazines, encyclopedias, are all great reading sources. Put children’s books where your child can easily access them.
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There are inexpensive ways to increase your child’s library. Lego offers a free children’s magazine. Scholastic offers $1-2 books. You can check out several books at a time at your local library. Your library and local bookstores should also offer story times geared for your child’s age group too.

Go have fun reading with your favorite little ones!

Speech and Language Practice in the Car

Do you use car rides as a time to talk to you child? You and your child(ren) are stuck in the car. You might as well use the time wisely. Turn the radio off and make this time fun. Go ahead and practice his/her target speech sounds. Try to come up with words that have the sound in them. Have him/her look for things outside the car that may have their target sound.

There are several “car games” you can play that help with language skills too.

Eye Spy – Maybe this would be best for siblings to play and the driver just listen. This game works on using vocabulary and using descriptive words.

The Question Game (as seen in the video) – We play this one all the time. My boys love to trick me. One person thinks of an object or place. Everyone else takes turns (or in our car, blurts out) questions that have to be answered with yes/no. This game helps with forming questions and vocabulary
No worries…I was not driving here. This video is kind of loud. You may want to turn your volume down before playing.

The Rhyming Game – Someone begins with a word. Everyone takes turns thinking of a word that rhymes. If you can’t think of one, you skip. The last person to think of a word wins. This can help with phonological awareness and vocabulary.

The Sound Game – I sound out a short word pausing between each sound (b—a—t). the kids guess what word the sounds make when you say them together. This can also help with phological awareness and vocabulary.

You can also sing together, make up a stories, and just talk about your day.

If you have any fun games that your children like to play in the car, please leave a comment. I would love have more ideas.