8 Ways to Encourage Speech and Language in Young Children

1. Read, read, read! Find age appropriate books that have lots of pictures that your child can look at while you read, label objects and actions, etc.

2. Expose your child to new situations. This will provide you with an opportunity to introduce new vocabulary in novel situations such as, a trip to the zoo or a bike ride through a park.

3. Expand on what your child says, Ex. if your child says “doggie” then you could say “Yes, the dog is running,” or something within the context.

4. Provide choices in order to create opportunities for your child to vocalize their wants/needs. Ex. ” Do you want crackers or pretzels?”.

5. Put desired objects in out of reach places to encourage your child to request, and ask for help.

6. Use fill in the blanks statements. Set up a familiar phrase, and leave off the last word. Ex. “ready, set, …..”

7. Self talk. Talk about what you are doing, seeing, thinking, etc. “I’m washing my hands so I can make you a snack”.

8. Feign lack of understanding. Pretend like you aren’t sure what your child wants. Ex. If your child points to their juice on a high counter, but doesn’t vocalize the request, you can act like you don’t understand. I.e.  “I’m not sure what you want? Do you want your juice or this paper?” Wait till a vocalization is made even if it doesn’t sound perfect, then reward their efforts.

Blog By: Mary Williams-Anderson

For further information contact us 941-360-0200 or visit us at www.pediatrictherapysolution.com

Book Review: How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

Communicating with children is an art form, especially when it comes to eliciting desired behaviors.  That’s what the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk is all about.  The book is written by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, experts on communication between adults and children who studied under expert child psychologist, Dr. Haim Ginott. They have written other New York Times bestsellers such as Siblings without Rivalry, and have also created several books designed to help children with communication skills. 

How to Talk so Kids will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk is an easy and enjoyable read filled with stories, anecdotes, assignments to help you apply the suggestions, and even comic strips illustrating the principles outlined in the book.  Whether you are a parent, teacher, or therapist, this book provides wonderful ideas on how to communicate with children, divided into sections about how to deal with children’s feelings, engaging cooperation, alternatives to punishment, encouraging autonomy, praise, freeing children from playing roles, and putting it all together.  Each chapter focuses on specific communication situations between adults and children, providing examples of typical exchanges and how those exchanges can be altered to encourage the child to communicate more appropriately or cooperate more fully.

 I really enjoyed the way the authors outlined “instead of…try…” suggestions, which helps us see how we have been communicating, and how we can change the way we communicate to be more successful.  Additionally, each chapter provides comments, questions, and parent stories which are an excellent way to see how the communication strategies can work in real life situations.  One of my favorite aspects of the book were the “quick reminder” pages which provide an overview of the strategies, and can even be copied and kept to help remind ourselves of the things we can be doing throughout the day when communicating with our little ones.  An example of the “quick reminder” page for Engaging Cooperation includes:

  1. Describe what you see, or describe the problem – “There’s a wet towel on the bed”
  2. Give information – “The towel is getting my blanket wet”
  3. Say it with one word – “Towel”
  4. Describe what you feel – “I don’t like sleeping in a wet bed!”
  5. Write a note – (above towel rack) “Please put me back so I can dry”

I personally made copies of these quick reminder pages for myself, to easily reference in the future.  My favorite part of the suggestions and strategies is that they are simple, straightforward, and they make sense.  Children of all abilities need to have their feelings acknowledged, and they need to know they have some autonomy.  By communicating more directly and concisely with children with communication difficulties, we can help lessen frustrations and help them become more successful (and that makes everyone happier!)

 Whether you work with children or have children of your own, this book will resonate and you will find yourself thinking back to the strategies in a variety of situations.  Since reading the book, I have even found myself using some of the communication strategies with other adults! 

In my opinion, this book is 5 stars.  If you want an easy read that will immediately help you gain a new perspective on the way you communicate with children, this is the book for you!

Blog By: Rebekah Greer, MS, CCC-SLP

For further information contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at www.pediatrictherapysolution.com

Make Halloween Spooktacular

Halloween can be an exciting time of year with spooky cobwebs, glowing pumpkins, haunting ghosts and treats galore.  Many children and adults enjoy taking part in the fun, and “sensational” activities that come along with such a spirited holiday.  For others, especially children who have a harder time with sensory processing, it can become quite an overwhelming experience.

With a little extra preparation, Halloween can be an enjoyable experience for the whole family.  The following are a few tips* to make this Halloween a great one.

Prepare your child for the holiday by helping them to understand the tradition

  • Tell stories about Halloween or read Halloween themed books
  • Discuss the rules and boundaries of the holiday and your expectations
  • Role play and pretend so they know how to handle situations that may arise while at a party, having visitors or visiting others during Halloween activities
  • Let them know exactly what to expect and avoid any surprises (the good, bad and scary of it all)

Get the costume right

  • Try out some inexpensive “practice costumes” to help them to get used to wearing one.  Make your own and do some pretend play.  You could make a cape out of an old T-shirt, or cut a paper plate into a crown/mask (just add some elastic or string)
  • Make sure that the costume that you purchase for Halloween events is right for your child.  Have them try it on to be sure that it fits and feels right. It won’t be too “scratchy” or uncomfortable, and will be cool or warm enough depending on what activities you plan on participating in.  Also consider whether face paint or a mask is right for your child.

Prevent the dreaded meltdown

  • Try to limit the duration of events, and to know what to expect if you will be attending a gathering.  This way you can have a plan, allow your child to know the structure of events and give them a chance to make choices and feel in control of the situation and thus themselves.
  • Allow your child to explore the fun that Halloween has to offer, but keep a close eye on them and stay tuned in to how they may be feeling.  If they begin crying, looking fatigued, too hyperactive or combative it may be time for a break.  Find somewhere less stimulating and take them for a break from the sensory overload they may be experiencing.

Plan ahead and consider which activities would best suit your child

  • Try trick-or-treating in a controlled environment.  Some local organizations arrange trick-or-treat experiences that may be more your child’s speed.  Also, many nursing homes and hospitals set up special times for children to visit with the patients or residents.  It is a great opportunity to participate in a Halloween event while brightening someone’s day!
  • If trick-or-treating isn’t for you, that is OK!!  There are many other ways you can enjoy the season and get in the spirit of Halloween.  Make some Halloween crafts, decorate pumpkins with paint or stickers, experiment with Halloween food recipes, roast pumpkin seeds or try out some structured sensory play.


Blog by: Ashley Yankanich, MS, OTR/L, IMC

For further information please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at www.pediatrictherapysolution.com

Please follow my NEW Pinterest board for some fun ideas for Halloween and every other day!! Search for Miss Ashley the OT


*Halloween tips were adapted from:

American Occupational Therapy Association (2011). American Occupational Therapy Association tip sheet.

The complete document can be found at:


Frontal Lisp: From Cute to Concern

A frontal lisp is when the tongue protrudes through the front teeth, typically during the production of /s/ and /z/. This causes air to escape out, resulting in a sound distortion. Production of /s/ and /z/ will sound like the /th/ sound, ex. sun/thun. This articulation error is cute initially, but is no longer developmentally appropriate after 4 1/2 years old.

A child should receive a formal speech evaluation around the age of 4 1/2 years old if this error persists. Intervention should include awareness activities, strategies/techniques to elicit /s/ and /z/ sounds without tongue protrusion, drill activities, and self-monitoring skills.

Techniques that can be used in therapy and in the home environment include:
1) Ask child to close teeth, smile, and blow air out. This technique will teach child correct tongue placement.
2) Have the child use a mirror during practice to visually show child correct tongue placement
3) Ask child to produce /t/ sound and then hold the sound while blowing out air. This technique will elicit appropriate tongue placement.
4) Once the child is able to produce /s/ and /z/ correctly, drill and structured activities will be used so the child is given many opportunities to practice. The more the child practices the sooner the skill will be carried over into conversational speech.

Blog by: Mary Williams Anderson

For further information contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at www.pediatrictherapysolution.com



Personalized Books

Manasota BUDS recently hosted a workshop with guest speaker Natalie Hale, founder of Special Reads for Special Needs.  Manasota BUDS is a volunteer organization based in Bradenton Florida that provides networking and support for families and helps promote understanding and acceptance of Down syndrome.  Natalie was an excellent speaker, with so much information to share.  Her program Special Reads for Special Needs provides specialized reading materials for learners with Down Syndrome, Autism, and other developmental delays and Natalie has so many wonderful suggestions for making reading more fun and effective.  One of her recommendations for helping children learn to read is making personal books.  So, how do we do this?

Materials you will need:

A “hot topic” list of at least 9 of your child’s favorite people, family members, pets, foods, toys, activities, sports, character, etc.

5×8 index cards

110# card stock paper (for printing the book)

Red marker (for making flash cards)


Choose a vocabulary list of 10-15 words.  Some of these will be your “hot topic” words, and some will be Dolch Sight words appropriate to your child’s current reading level.  A full list of Dolch words can be found here: http://www.dolchword.net/printables/All220DolchWordsByGradeAlpha.pdf

Write the text for your book.  Keep your sentences short and simple, each one will be on a page by itself.  After each sentence page, the next page will be the sentence plus a picture.  Be sure to end your story with “The End”.  I created a book about the Minions from Despicable me.  I kept it very simple and incorporated numerical words one to ten.  The entire book had 11 vocabulary words.

Create flash cards for all of the words in your story.  You can do this by writing them as large as possible using your red marker, or printing them on your computer in red ink (red has been known to help children learn).


Find photos online, cut out pictures from magazines, or take your own photos to go along with your text.

Write the text on your computer and print it, with these guidelines (directly from Natalie Hale’s website):

Use landscape mode

Set font to size 70-100 black, and choose one of the Sans Serif fonts (Arial, Calibri, Tahoma). Almost everything we read on a daily basis (newspapers, internet, books) is in a Sans Serif font.

Type one sentence per page, alternating sentence only and sentence with picture and print using the 110# index paper stock (or use plain paper in a pinch, and laminate to help your book hold up longer)

Assemble your book with the text ONLY on the right hand side.  You can take your book to an office supply store for binding.

Time to Read!

Using Fast Flash, a method of reviewing flashcards at a rapid pace, which helps maintain a child’s attention and helps with instant recall, review the vocabulary with your child.  You can find more detail about the Fast Flash method here: http://specialreads.com/blog/?p=165.  Once you have reviewed the flashcards, it’s time to read the book to your child and enjoy it together!  Finish up by showing/calling out the flash cards again, and you’re done!

You can continue to create new books with the same topic and new sight words, or create books with new topics.  In addition to the Minions book, I also created a book about a baby doll, to help teach some verb vocabulary (Baby Eats, Baby Sleeps, Baby Drinks, Etc).

Once we read the book and review the vocabulary, we get to play with the baby!

I hope you enjoy making your own personalized books!

Blog by: Rebekah Greer

For further information please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit our website at www.pediatrictherapysolution.com


For more information about Manasota BUDS, visit their website: http://www.manasotabuds.org/

For more information about Natalie Hale and Special Reads for Special Needs, visit her website at: http://specialreads.com/

Fun Articulation Activities

Does your child have difficulty correctly producing particular sounds in connected speech? If so then they may be struggling with an articulation disorder. Flashcards and drill activities can quickly become repetitive and boring for children. Here are several activities that will have your child asking you to practice their sounds:

1. Bowling-print out flashcards or words that contain their target sound (the sound that they are working on) and tape them to empty 2 liter bottles. When your child knocks down the “pin” they will produce the target word using correct articulation.

2. Bean Bag Toss: line up flashcards or words, that contain the child’s target sound and and take turns throwing bean bags at cards. When they land a bean bag on a card they can produce the target word using correct articulation.

3. Simple card games: such as Memory or Go Fish, buy or print out and laminate flashcards containing your child’s target sound.

4. Treasure hunt: Involve other family members if possible and see who can find the most things that begin with the target sound. Make up your own “house rules” to make it more fun.

5. Magnet Fishing: attach a string with a magnet to a stick. Make small picture or word cards with the target sound. These can be fish-shaped, but they don’t have to be. Put a paper clip or staple at the top of each card. Take turns “catching fish” and naming the pictures or reading the words.

Blog written by: Mary Williams-Anderson

 For further information please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at www.pediatrictherapysolution.com


How Does Your Backpack Feel?

Does your child complain that their backpack is hurting them? Do they have achy arms and backs? The cause may be that your child is carrying too much weight in their backpack or not wearing it properly.

Approximately 55% of students carry backpacks that are too heavy for them.¹ In one study of American students between the ages of 11 to 15 years, it was reported that 64% of them have back pain related to overloaded backpacks.²

Here are some tips to help your child ease the load on their growing bodies.

Loading a Pack

  • You child’s backpack should be no more than approximately 10% of their body weight. I.e. a student weighing 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a backpack with more than 10 pounds in it.
  • Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back.
  • Arrange books and materials so that there is the least amount of shifting items while wearing their packs.
  • Check from time to time that they are only carrying around what is necessary for school, and not items that are only increasing the load with no school purpose.
  • If the weight in your child’s backpack or bag is too heavy they may opt to carry an item or two in their arms.
  • If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis consider a bag on wheels if it follows the school guidelines.


Wearing a Backpack

  • Wear the pack with both straps on to evenly carrying the weight. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder can cause your child to lean to one side causing the spine to curve and increasing the chance for injury or discomfort.
  • Select a pack with well padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the arms, neck, and hands when too much pressure is pulling on them.
  • Adjust the straps so that the backpack fits snugly to your child’s back. A pack that is too lose can pull your child backwards and strain the muscles.
  • The bottom of the pack should rest at the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than 4 inches below your child’s waistline.
  • Most importantly is to purchase a backpack that is appropriately sized to your child.

If your child has a locker, help them work regular stops into their schedule between classes. This will lighten the load that they carry around between classes.

Blog by: Laney London, COTA/L, IMC

If you have any further questions please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at www.pediatrictherapysolution.com


1. Graduate Program in Physical Therapy, Simmons College. (2001, February 12). Children’s Backpacks Are Too Heavy, New Study Shows [Press Release]. 

2. UC Newsroom, University of California. (2004, August 26). Back to school; heavy packs endanger kids’ health, study shows [Press Release]

American Occupational Therapy Asssociation, Inc.,

Voice For Health September-October 2013 Vol. LX, No. 5



Book Review: “Brain Rules for Baby”

Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child form Zero to Five

Brain Rules for Baby is written by John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant.  He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules:  12 Principals for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.   You might think that with all these accolades, Brain Rules for Baby would be dry and boring. We found it to be quite the opposite!  The author adds facts, mixed with humor and real-life scenarios, which will challenge you to question your current parenting process or lay the foundation for a future child.

John Medina divides the book into specific brain rules in the areas of: pregnancy, relationships, smart baby, happy baby, and moral baby.  Within these “chapters,” if you will, are answers to questions we have all asked ourselves regarding genetics, nature vs. nurture, psychological characteristics, emotional control, diet, technology, character building, etc.   At the end of each chapter he reviews “Key Points.”  These key points are a nice review and allow you to digest the facts that were presented in a more simplified version.  We personally dogeared these pages as a way to quick-reference in the future.  This book will resonate with you whether you are trying to conceive, are currently pregnant, or have a newborn, toddler, or school-aged child.  What you are doing right now will affect your child for the rest of his or her life.  You will learn to see your child in a whole new light after reading this book.

We give this book 5 stars!  If you have ever had any questions regarding parenting and how your day-to-day decisions affect the growth and moral development of your child, this book is a must-read!

Written by: Michelle Adams, OTR/L, IMC

Bring Out Those Board Games

In today’s world of tablets, smartphones, and other electronics, family game night does not have to be a thing of the past!
Playing board games with your children is a great way to practice speech and language skills.  Many board games offer the opportunity to practice turn taking, problem solving, numbers, counting, adding, and so much more.
For younger children, simply practicing taking turns, waiting, and understanding the rules of a game is important in helping them develop pragmatic language skills.  A few games that are great for younger children include:
Don’t Break the Ice
Hi-Ho Cherry O
Pop Up Pirate
Connect 4
If your child is working on asking and answering questions, try playing Go-Fish or Guess Who.  The repetitive nature helps your child get plenty of practice with specific question forms and yes/no responses.
Articulation practice can be incorporated into almost any game.  Have the list of words or sentences your child is working on nearby, and make it a rule that everyone has to say a word/sentence before each turn.  To make this more fun, parents can “mess up” on the speech sounds, and let your child correct you :)
Another card game that is popular and great for practicing colors and numbers is Uno.
For children working on reading and literacy skills try playing Sorry, Scrabble, Scrabble Jr, or Scrabble Slam.

There are so many fun games available, and just as many ways you can incorporate speech and language practice into them!
Blog written by: Rebekah Greer
For further information please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at www.pediatrictherapysolution.com

Receptive and Expressive Language Developmental Motor Milestones

Have you ever wondered if your child is on target with their speech and language development?  We have come up with an easy to read checklist to track his or her developmental progress:

Birth to 3 months

  • Smiles at the sound of your voice
  • Makes cooing, gurgling sounds
  • Turns head toward direction of sound
  • Communicates hunger, fear, discomfort (through crying or facial expression)

3 months to 6 months

  • Begins to respond to the word “no”
  • Responsive to changes in your tone of voice and to sounds other than speech
  • Babbles in a speech-like way and uses many different sounds, including sounds that begin with p, b, and m

6 months to 12 months

  • Responds to own name
  • Begins to respond to “no”
  • Turns and looks in the direction of sounds
  • Responds to sound by making sounds
  • Uses voice to express joy and displeasure
  • Knows familiar faces
  • Understands words for common items such as “cup,” “shoe,” or “juice”
  • Responds to requests (“Come here” or “Want more?”)
  • Communicates using gestures such as waving or holding up arms

12 months to 18 months

  • Tries to “talk” with you through babbling
  • Tries to imitate words
  • Says “dada” and “mama”
  • Uses exclamations, such as “oh-oh!”
  • Recognizes family members’ names
  • Follows simple commands (“roll the ball”)
  • Responds to “no”
  • Uses simple gestures, such as shaking head for “no”

18 months to 24 months

  • Knows a few parts of the body and can point to them when asked
  • Understands simple questions (“Where’s your shoe?”)
  • Enjoys simple stories, songs, and rhymes
  • Points to pictures, when named, in books
  • Acquires new words on a regular basis
  • Uses some one- or two-word questions (“Where kitty?” or “Go bye-bye?”)
  • Puts two words together (“More cookie” or “No juice”)
  • Asks specifically for his/her mother or father
  • Uses “hi,” “bye,” and “please,” with reminders
  • Requests items or actions by pointing or by using one word
  • Directs another’s attention to an object or action
  • Laughs at silly actions (ex. wearing a bowl as a hat)

24 months to 36 months

  • Points to 5-6 parts of a doll when asked
  • Uses 2-3 word sentences to verbalize desires and feelings
  • Asks for information about an object (ex. “shoe?” while pointing to shoe box)
  • Hum or tries to sing
  • Listens to short rhymes
  • Likes to imitate parents
  • Takes turns in play with other children
  • Treats a doll or stuffed animal as though it were alive
  • Refers to self by name and use “me” and “mine”
  • Knows some spatial concepts such as “in”, “on”
  • Knows descriptive words such as “big”, “happy”
  • Begins to use plurals such as “shoes” or “socks” and regular past tense verbs such as “jumped”
  • Follows two step directions

36 months to 48 months

  • Groups objects such as foods, clothes, etc.
  • Identifies colors
  • Able to describe the use of objects such as “fork,” “car,” etc.
  • Uses verbs that end in “ing,” such as “walking” and “talking”
  • Answers simple questions such as “What do you do when you are hungry?”
  • Match objects that have same function (as in putting a cup and plate together)
  • Speaks in sentences of five to six words
  • Understands the concepts of “same” and “different”
  • Tells stories
  • Follows three-part commands (ex. “Put the toys away, wash your hands, and come eat.”)
  • Recalls parts of a story

48 months to 60 months

  • Understands the concepts of  “big,” “little,” “tall,” “short”
  • Able to identify situations that would lead to happiness, sadness, or anger
  • Uses “a,” “an,” and “the” when speaking
  • Asks direct questions (“May I?” “Would you?”)
  • Wants explanations of “why” and “how”
  • Relates a simple experience she has had recently
  • Often prefer playing with other children to playing alone, unless deeply involved in a solitary task
  • Speaks sentences of more than five words
  • Uses future tense

For further information contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at www.pediatrictherapysolution.com