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July 24, 2020 Speech Therapy0

Many children exhibit speech problems early in their development and parents understandably worry about the child’s well-being and later success in school.

If you’re concerned about language issues with your child the first thing you’ll want to do is consult a professional. They can help you identify strategies that will work best for the particular problem and break it down into manageable steps that won’t be overwhelming for you or your child.

Whether it’s stuttering slurring or the result of an identified injury or deformity the speech-language pathologist can look for physiological problems that may be contributors and suggest special exercises you can do at home to address those specific causes.

The right approach

Cute little girl at speech therapist office

Practice. If your child has trouble saying a certain sound “f” for example encourage him or her to just make that sound all by itself. Once that comes more easily you can incorporate it into syllables like “fi-fi-fi” or “fa-fa-fa” before moving onto actual words that use it. Repetition is your friend—and it’s an opportunity for “gamification.” Give tokens for completing a set number of exercises.

Focus on what the child can do instead of overemphasizing what he or she can’t do. While it’s important to pay attention to improvements in speech remember to praise other small victories like picking up toys being polite or using the bathroom. And don’t be tempted to allow bad behavior simply because the child has a speech problem.

Keep background noise and distractions to a minimum during learning sessions and at other times too. Studies show that too much TV can actually delay language development because parents tend not to talk as much to their children as they otherwise would. Children learn to speak best when they are actually spoken to.

Listen! Ask questions and be attentive and patient with the replies. Interrupting and expecting the child to “just spit it out” will create anxiety which can make the problem worse. Let him or her work it out without pressure. On the other hand don’t be too focused or the child may become uncomfortable. Try to keep the conversation natural and don’t add pressure by demanding perfection.

Use straws. Drinking liquids through them or blowing air out of them will help your child develop the muscular strength in the mouth that’s important for clear speech. Make it into a game—get a ping-pong ball and see if he or she can blow it through a goal you set up or keep the ball at the end of the straw by sucking up air through it.

Read. Reading a favorite book to your child and then having them read it back to you can provide excellent reinforcement. Even if the child is too young to be able to read words having them explain what they see in the book and remembering the context from hearing it can strengthen speech and confidence.

You can make a difference

The activities you do at home and the positive reinforcement you provide can help your child make huge strides toward speaking clearly an important skill he or she will need to succeed in the future—whether the problem is due to a physiological condition or something else.

Aside from getting ongoing professional help one of the biggest things you can do for your child is to talk clearly to him or her on a regular basis. Kids imitate their parents and your own behavior models theirs. Carry on a conversation and be patient.

Your child wants to communicate and be understood. With some professional guidance and attention you can help make that happen.


July 24, 2020 Behaviour0

Is there an epidemic of misbehaviour? Are kids really worse now than they used to be?

Kids are definitely worse now than they have been. It’s impossible to prove 100 per cent why this is the case, but I think there is very compelling evidence. There’s three factors that really align with the timing of the change in kids. The dramatic decline in play in children today compared with a generation or two ago. Kids are pretty much constantly supervised from the time they are born until they’re maybe 18 when they leave home, so they never learn to manage their own behaviour.

The second big factor is media and the growth of so much media that’s bombarding us with information and ideas about who we should be and what we should want. Forty years ago kids figured out who they should be and what they should want, mostly by thinking about themselves. We’ve seen clinical research that this external focus is associated with anxiety and depression.

The third big factor is just the decline in our communities and connection in our families. Maybe a generation ago a child would be in charge of a younger sibling, or they would have had a job of putting dinner on the table, and now their job is to get straight A’s and be a super star.

Why are chores linked to a kid’s happiness?

Household chores are one of the biggest links to happiness because when you do a chore you immediately see how your family benefits, or you benefit or your home is neater, and you get that immediate feedback and positive reinforcement.

Do you think parents are too controlling these days?

We have this impulse to make our kids do things as if that is our job. Actually, our job is to help them figure out how to control themselves. When we are controlling or critical it doesn’t teach our children anything. The more that children have independence, the less they fight with you, because they feel empowered.

Describe what you call the apprenticeship model of parenting?

The first and most important element is connection with the child. Without that connection, nothing can happen – no discipline, or learning or co-operation will happen.

The second is communicating with the child about what is going on with what you’re willing to do and what they’re willing to do, and where you can compromise.

The third is capability building, and I think that’s the one that parents are not as focused on. The more you and your child both can recognize and acknowledge the growth in their skills – maybe two months ago your kid was always leaving their backpack and having to run back in for it and now they’ve started to remember it – the more you can help your child recognize they are growing. Eventually that little person will become self-sufficient and independent.

The problem is that we as parents are the source of self-regulation for our children. They don’t yet have all of the ability to manage their executive function and to manage their emotions. So we, just by our presence, our physical touch and our own calm physiology, help them to self-regulate. If we’re calm, they will be, too. If we’re yelling, they’ll be agitated and in that fight or flight stage.

But we’re all going to yell at our kids once and a while, aren’t we?

None of us is perfect. When I yell at my kids in the heat of the moment I try as quickly as possible to say, “I’m really sorry, I lost my temper.” And if next time you can catch yourself before you yell and say out loud, “I feel that I am about to yell. I am going to go outside and just go around the block until I cool down,” that’s giving your child another strategy of how to calm down and how to help them manage their strong feelings.


July 22, 2020 Behaviour0

One of the biggest challenges parents face is managing difficult or defiant behavior on the part of children. Whether they’re refusing to put on their shoes, or throwing full-blown tantrums, you can find yourself at a loss for an effective way to respond.

For parents at their wits end, behavioral therapy techniques can provide a roadmap to calmer, more consistent ways to manage problem behaviors problems and offers a chance to help children develop gain the developmental skills they need to regulate their own behaviors.

ABC’s of behavior management at home

To understand and respond effectively to problematic behavior, you have to think about what came before it, as well as what comes after it. There are three important aspects to any given behavior:

  • Antecedents: Preceding factors that make a behavior more or less likely to occur. Another, more familiar term for this is triggers. Learning and anticipating antecedents is an extremely helpful tool in preventing misbehavior.
  • Behaviors: The specific actions you are trying to encourage or discourage.
  • Consequences: The results that naturally or logically follow a behavior. Consequences — positive or negative — affect the likelihood of a behavior recurring. And the more immediate the consequence, the more powerful it is.

Define behaviors

The first step in a good behavior management plan is to identify target behaviors. These behaviors should be specific (so everyone is clear on what is expected), observable, and measurable (so everyone can agree whether or not the behavior happened).

An example of poorly defined behavior is “acting up,” or “being good.” A well-defined behavior would be running around the room (bad) or starting homework on time (good).

Antecedents, the good and the bad

Antecedents come in many forms. Some prop up bad behavior, others are helpful tools that help parents manage potentially problematic behaviors before they begin and bolster good behavior.

Antecedents to AVOID:

  • Assuming expectations are understood: Don’t assume kids know what is expected of them — spell it out! Demands change from situation to situation and when children are unsure of what they are supposed to be doing, they’re more likely to misbehave.
  • Calling things out from a distance: Be sure to tell children important instructions face-to-face. Things yelled from a distance are less likely to be remembered and understood.
  • Transitioning without warning: Transitions can be hard for kids, especially in the middle of something they are enjoying. Having warning gives children the chance to find a good stopping place for an activity and makes the transition less fraught.
  • Asking rapid-fire questions, or giving a series of instructions: Delivering a series of questions or instructions at children limits the likelihood that they will hear, answer questions, remember the tasks, and do what they’ve been instructed to do.

Antecedents to EMBRACE:

Here are some antecedents that can bolster good behavior:

  • Be aware of the situation: Consider and manage environmental and emotional factors — hunger, fatigue, anxiety or distractions can all make it much more difficult for children to rein in their behavior.
  • Adjust the environment: When it’s homework time, for instance, remove distractions like video screens and toys, provide a snacks, establish an organized place for kids to work and make sure to schedule some breaks — attention isn’t infinite.
  • Make expectations clear: You’ll get better cooperation if both you and your child are clear on what’s expected. Sit down with him and present the information verbally. Even if he “should” know what is expected, clarifying expectations at the outset of a task helps head off misunderstandings down the line.
  • Provide countdowns for transitions: Whenever possible, prepare children for an upcoming transition. Let them know when there are, say, 10 minutes remaining before they must come to dinner or start their homework. Then, remind them, when there are say, 2 minutes, left. Just as important as issuing the countdown is actually making the transition at the stated time.
  • Let kids have a choice: As kids grow up, it’s important they have a say in their own scheduling. Giving a structured choice — “Do you want to take a shower after dinner or before?” — can help them feel empowered and encourage them to become more self-regulating.

Creating effective consequences

Not all consequences are created equal. Some are an excellent way to create structure and help kids understand the difference between acceptable behaviors and unacceptable behaviors while others have the potential to do more harm than good. As a parent having a strong understanding of how to intelligently and consistently use consequences can make all the difference.

Consequences to AVOID

  • Giving negative attention: Children value attention from the important adults in their life so much that any attention  — positive or negative — is better than none. Negative attention, such as raising your voice or spanking — actually increases bad behavior over time. Also, responding to behaviors with criticism or yelling adversely affects children’s self-esteem.
  • Delayed consequences: The most effective consequences are immediate. Every moment that passes after a behavior, your child is less likely to link her behavior to the consequence. It becomes punishing for the sake of punishing, and it’s much less likely to actually change the behavior.
  • Disproportionate consequences: Parents understandably get very frustrated. At times, they may be so frustrated that they overreact. A huge consequence can be demoralizing for children and they may give up even trying to behave.
  • Positive consequences: When a child dawdles instead of putting on his shoes or picking up his blocks and, in frustration, you do it for him, you’re increasing the likelihood that he will dawdle again next time.

EFFECTIVE consequences:

Consequences that are more effective begin with generous attention to the behaviors you want to encourage.

  • Positive attention for positive behaviors: Giving your child positive reinforcement for being good helps maintain the ongoing good behavior. Positive attention enhances the quality of the relationship, improves self-esteem, and feels good for everyone involved. Positive attention to brave behavior can also help attenuate anxiety, and help kids become more receptive to instructions and limit-setting.
  • Ignoring actively: This should used ONLY with minor misbehaviors — NOT aggression and NOT very destructive behavior. Active ignoring involves the deliberate withdrawal of attention when a child starts to misbehave — as you ignore, you wait for positive behavior to resume. You want to give positive attention as soon as the desired behavior starts. By withholding your attention until you get positive behavior you are teaching your child what behavior gets you to engage.
  • Reward menus: Rewards are a tangible way to give children positive feedback for desired behaviors. A reward is something a child earns, an acknowledgement that she’s doing something that’s difficult for her. Rewards are most effective as motivators when the child can choose from a variety of things: extra time on the iPad, a special treat, etc. This offers the child agency and reduces the possibility of a reward losing its appeal over time. Rewards should be linked to specific behaviors and always delivered consistently.
  • Time outs: Time outs are one of the most effective consequences parents can use but also one of the hardest to do correctly. Here’s a quick guide to effective time out strategies.
  • Be clear: Establish which behaviors will result in time outs. When a child exhibits that behavior, make sure the corresponding time out is relatively brief and immediately follows a negative behavior.
  • Be consistent: Randomly administering time outs when you’re feeling frustrated undermines the system and makes it harder for the child to connect behaviors with consequences.
  • Set rules and follow them: During a time out, there should be no talking to the child until you are ending the time out. Time out should end only once the child has been calm and quiet briefly so they learn to associate the end of time out with this desired behavior.
  • Return to the task: If time out was issued for not complying with a task, once it ends the child should be instructed to complete the original task. This way, kids won’t begin to see time outs as an escape strategy.

By bringing practicing behavioral tools management at home, parents can make it a much more peaceful place to be.