Cleveland speech therapy kids

Cleveland Speech Therapy: School vs. Private Services

Parents whose children have been referred for Cleveland speech therapy may wonder whether they truly need to seek out private therapy – particularly if they can access services through their child’s school.

The answer will certainly depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The age of your child. (Early intervention before age 5 may be ideal, but schools aren’t going to offer those services until they are enrolled as students
  • The nature of their condition/deficits. Treatment for some diagnoses, such as autism, will begin as early as possible -and may need to be intensive. If a child is on the severe end of the spectrum, they may need intensive services (such as full-time ABA therapy and educational assistance) before they can function/thrive in a typical school setting. However, if their condition, deficit, or challenge is relatively mild, they may just fine in a school setting. Often, they may benefit from both public school and private services.
  • What sort of Cleveland speech-language therapy services are available at the school. The criteria used for Ohio school districts to determine whether special services or accommodations should be extended to a student through an IEP (individualized education plan) or a 504 Plan differs from the criteria that medical doctors and private therapy clinicians might use to determine a plan of care. Whereas school districts are going to analyze how the child’s condition or deficits impacts their ability to function academically, our Cleveland speech therapists are going to be looking at treatment from the “whole child” perspective. We’ll want to know how their condition impacts them not only in a school environment, but also at home, with friends/family, while engaged in recreation or in other aspects of community.

It’s been our experience that many children we treat at Therapy & Wellness Connection benefit from services both from our private therapy clinic as well as in school.

In terms of professional capability of the Cleveland speech therapy services you will get in public schools versus at a private therapy clinic, the speech therapists are going to have very similar education, credentials, and likely experience. The speech-language pathologists (SLPs) at your child’s school as well as the one at their private clinic will have an undergraduate and/or graduate degree involving clinic therapy experience and extensive coursework pertaining to a broad range of speech & language development disorders and effective treatments. (Those who have only completed undergraduate coursework/criteria are speech-language pathology assistants, while those with a graduate degree will pass the praxis exam, complete a Clinical Fellowship Year, and ideally hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence – or CCC – from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.)

We can attest to the fact that there are some amazing SLP-As and SLPs in our Northeast Ohio public schools (we’ve hired more than a few from local school districts!). That said, school SLPs generally only have a limited amount of one-on-one time with your child. Speech therapy work at school may take place in more of a group setting, so they aren’t getting as much individualized treatment. And although there may be some variation from district-to-district depending on local school funding, in general, the SLPs and SLP-As at schools are often very busy, on tight schedules, and working with limited resources.

Meanwhile in private speech therapy, your child gets the full attention of their SLP for the duration of each session – usually about one hour and conducted here in our Brecksville clinic or at the child’s home, daycare, or other setting. The more intensive the therapy schedule, the faster your child is going to master the skills targeted in their plan of care.

Needs and Qualifications for Speech Therapy

In a school setting, the SLP will consider the following when weighing whether services are appropriate:

  • Standardized testing results.
  • Classroom communication skills.
  • Communication deficits that negatively impact their academic performance.

But as we mentioned previously, private Cleveland speech therapy is going to base the needs assessment on factors beyond academic performance. We’re going to look at how communication issues impact the child’s life in all areas.

The frequency, duration, location, and setting are going to vary between school speech therapy and private clinic speech therapy. Your child’s IEP or 504 plan is going to dictate how many hours of services they receive per week, but it’s generally going to be much less than what is recommended by a private speech therapist – simply because they’ve got a lot of other children to treat also in that same time block. (It’s not uncommon for schools to have only one SLP per grade level, school, or even district.)

The terms of the school’s IEP are reviewed and updated annually, in collaboration with the parents/caretakers, the child’s teachers, and specialists like SLPs, occupational therapists, ABA/behavior therapists, and intervention specialists.

Plans of care for private speech therapy are often reviewed and updated every few months.

How Do I Know if My Child Needs Additional SLP Services?

Although that’s a tough question to ask without assessing your child’s unique condition and needs, in general, a child will likely benefit from private speech-language therapy services in Northeast Ohio if:

  • They do not qualify for school-based speech therapy due to the fact their disorder doesn’t have a major impact on academics.
  • Parents/caretakers have ongoing concerns about the child’s use of language, comprehension of language, articulation (ability to say words clearly), voice, fluency, or social skills.
  • The child is better able to concentrate during one-on-one therapy sessions.
  • They are not receiving speech services from which they may benefit on long breaks (summer, winter, etc.).
  • Your child has a condition or disorder (ex: Apraxia of speech, feeding/swallowing problems, etc.) that requires a specialized therapy technique or specially-trained speech-language pathologists.

If you are considering private speech therapy services in Northeast Ohio, we can set up a consultation, exam, and schedule.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Information for School-Based SLPs, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Ohio Kindergarten Readiness Skills: Is Your Child Developmentally Ready? July 20, 2022, Cleveland Speech-Language Pathology Blog

Cleveland feeding & swallowing therapy

Early Intervention Cleveland Feeding & Swallowing Therapy Boosts Long-Term Prognosis

Children with feeding and swallowing disorders are at high risk for substantial health, learning, and social challenges. But when treated early with Cleveland feeding & swallowing therapy in a speech therapy clinic, kids can overcome their unique difficulties and go on to thrive.

As explained by the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, feeding disorders include problems with sucking, chewing, eating from a spoon, or drinking from a cup. Swallowing disorders (formally known as dysphagia) involve trouble moving liquids or foods from the mouth to the throat, esophagus and/or stomach. Issues can also be the result of sensory processing difficulties, which can lead to extreme food aversions, based not just on taste, but texture, temperature, smell, and visual appearance. Kids with autism especially struggle with this.

Cleveland feeding & swallowing therapy can help to treat these disorders, which often stem from other medical conditions like prematurity/low birth weight, reflux, breathing issues like asthma, cleft palate or lip, muscle weakness in face/neck, certain medications, and conditions like Down’s Syndrome, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, and meningitis. Sometimes, though, feeding and swallowing problems have no clear cause at all.

Some telltale signs intervention may be needed are when the child:

  • Isn’t gaining weight or growing.
  • Refuses to eat or drink.
  • Cries, fusses, or arches back when feeding.
  • Spits up or throws up a lot.
  • Has difficulty breathing when they’re eating and/or drinking.
  • Coughs or gags when trying to chew.
  • Has a raspy voice or gurgles during or right after meals.

When Cleveland feeding & swallowing therapy is recommended, it’s typically administered by experienced speech-language pathologists. Our overarching goal is going to be facilitating and supporting safe and adequate nutrition and hydration for each child. We are specially trained to:

  • Evaluate whether the child’s chewing skills are developmentally appropriate and if they’re moving their tongue correctly.
  • Help babies improve the ability to suck from a bottle, drink from a cup, or coordinate simultaneous breathing and eating.
  • Help older babies and toddlers learn to chew properly and feed themselves.
  • Encourage a more varied diet by creating a fun, positive, safe environment where we slowly introduce new foods, tastes, textures, and smells.

The duration and frequency of feeding & swallowing therapy will depend on the child, with special considerations for their age, attention level, degree of impairment, cognitive function, physical abilities, and family schedule.

In some cases (particularly for kids with complex feeding problems), we may need to incorporate an interdisciplinary approach, meaning we collaborate with a team of professionals from experts, from ENT doctors to occupational therapists to nutritionists.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy and feeding & swallowing therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Feeding and Swallowing Disorders in Children, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Akron Speech Therapy Treatment for Tongue Thrust, July 10, 2022, Cleveland Feeding & Swallowing Therapy Blog

Akron speech therapists learning disabilities

How Akron Speech Therapists Can Help Kids With Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities are disorders that impact one’s ability to:

  • Understand or use spoken or written language.
  • Complete mathematical calculations and equations.
  • Coordinate movements.
  • Direct attention.
  • Engage in higher-level skills like time planning, abstract reasoning, organization, and long/short-term memory.

The term “learning disabilities” isn’t a singular issue or disorder, but rather a catch-all for more specific conditions, such as dysgraphia, dyslexia, ADHD, etc.

Because all this can have a negative impact not only in academics, but on social relationships, it’s important for parents and caregivers to reach out for help – the sooner the better. This may include tutoring and other educational supports. In some cases, speech therapy and occupational therapy can help too.

As our Akron speech therapists can explain, a learning disability does not necessarily mean a child has a low intelligence quotient (IQ). In fact, most people with learning disabilities are either average or above-average intelligence. (This is part of what sets these kids apart from those with a global developmental delay.) conditions stem from genetic and/or neurobiological factors that impact brain functioning to the extent that one or more cognitive processes related to learning are impeded.

Kids with learning disabilities tend to have unexpected underachievement, despite receiving a lot of support. Their conditions are life-long, but the earlier we can intervene, the greater likelihood we can help redirect those neuro pathways in the brain.

Using evidence-based techniques, our speech therapists will identify the different language-based skill deficits (i.e., oral language, information processing, attention, memory, reading, and writing) and engage the child in various exercises (in the form of games) to help boost their performance in ways that carry over to the classroom.

Consistent, early intervention speech therapy can help kids with different learning abilities become more capable of receptive language (understood what’s being communicated with them) and expressive language (communicating with others).

Occupational therapy can help in these areas too, as well as practicing things like organization skills, attention and self-regulation, and handwriting. We also offer social groups for kids of all ages to provide more opportunities to practice social-emotional learning. Where it is beneficial, we may also recommend classroom adaptations to better accommodate the child’s learning style.

It’s long been the motto of our therapists and homeschool educators and tutors at Therapy & Wellness Connection that if kids aren’t learning the way we teach, we need to teach the way they learn.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Types of Learning Disabilities, Learning Disabilities Association of America

More Blog Entries:

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists Teach Kids How to Make Inferences, June 14, 2022, Akron Speech Therapy Clinic Blog

Akron speech therapy

Akron Speech Therapy Treatment for Tongue Thrust

Kids can encounter all kinds of unique challenges when they’re learning to speak and understand what’s being spoken to them. One impediment to typical speech development is tongue thrust, which occurs when the tongue rests at a forward position of the mouth and is thrust against or between the teeth during swallowing and speech. It’s sometimes referred to as “reverse swallow,” “immature swallow” or “open bite.” It’s a type of orofacial myofunctional disorder – and our Akron speech therapy team can help to treat it.

An orofacial myofunctional disorder is one that involves the muscle function of the mouth and face. Correct positioning of the tongue is the tongue pushing or pressing against the gums directly above the back front upper teeth.

Tongue thrust is actually present in almost all young children, but most have automatically switched to a normal swallowing/speech pattern by the time they’re 6-years-old. If they have not (or if you notice earlier than that it appears to be affecting speech articulation issues), it’s time to consult an Akron speech therapy team.

Causes of Tongue Thrust

We don’t always know what causes tongue thrust, but it could be from several factors combined.

Some conditions that may be causal:

  • Upper airway constriction. If a child has a tough time or inability to breathe through the nose (sometimes from unresolved or frequent upper respiratory infections), chronic nasal congestions, or a deviated septum, it can cause tongue thrust.
  • Prolonged pacifier, bottle, or sippy cup use or long-term thumb sucking. Any of these can contribute to a greater likelihood a child will develop tongue thrust. Other habits that could exacerbate the risk are things like teeth grinding and clenching, chewing nails or cuticles or sucking on one’s cheeks, lips, or tongue.
  • Structural abnormalities. In some cases, it could be the result of a physiological issues, such as a low-lying, forward position of the tongue.
  • Developmental delay. In some cases, developmental delays and differences associated with conditions like epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy, or down syndrome may contribute to the development of tongue thrust.

Why Tongue Thrust Needs to be Treated With Akron Speech Therapy

The concern with tongue thrust is multi-pronged.

For dentists and orthodontists, the worry is that when there is too much tongue pressure against the teeth from the inside (and an unequal amount of facial pressure on the outside), it can result in the teeth becoming misaligned. Specifically, the front teeth are going to end up being pushed forward. This can necessitate braces and extensive dental work when they get older. Untreated tongue-thrust can also result in long-term issues not only for aesthetics (potentially causing changes to the shape of the face, causing it to become more elongated while the tongue protrudes), but for feeding/swallowing and speech. It can also cause frequently cracked, chapped and sore lips (from constant licking) to frequent mouth breathing – even if your child has no allergies or congestion.

In particular with speech, tongue thrust can cause speech articulation problems. Articulation is the formation of clear and distinct sounds in speech. Kids with tongue thrust may have an especially rough time properly pronouncing the following sounds:

  • /s/
  • /z/
  • /t/
  • /d/
  • /n/
  • /l/
  • /sh/

Our Akron speech therapy team uses special techniques to help avoid adverse outcomes.

Speech therapists will conduct an evaluation and then assign exercises that help promote a normal swallowing pattern and production of correct speech.

Each exercise is going to be tailored to the child’s exact needs, but they’re going to involve activities that press the tip of the tongue against the gum in the roof of the mouth, right behind the front teeth. An example would be putting a small sugarless candy (or raisin or Cheerio) on the tip of the tongue and having the child touch it to the roof of their mouth – and hold it there while they’re swallowing. Practicing this and other exercises over time can help kids unlearn the tongue thrust habit and start properly swallowing and correctly producing certain sounds.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy and feeding therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Tongue Thrust and Treatment of Subsequent Articulation Disorders, Feb. 24, 2011, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists Teach Kids How to Make Inferences, June 14, 2022, Akron Speech Therapy Blog

Cleveland speech therapists

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists Teach Kids How to Make Inferences

As Cleveland speech therapists, we help kids of all ages work on a broad range of speech, language, and communication goals. One of the toughest of those is something called inferences.

When kids are first learning how to engage in conversations, we start by asking them literal questions or prompting them with fill-in-the-blanks for literal details. It takes some explicit, thinking skill instruction to teach kids how to answer inferential questions.

Learning to make inferences is important because they’re used frequently throughout the day. They’re often required in the text we read for school, but they’re also used to read our environment, as well as the people around us. Social situations often require that we make assumptions about what others are thinking or feeling – so that we can adapt our response/behavior accordingly. This doesn’t always come naturally to some kids, and that’s why it’s an important skill on which our Cleveland speech therapists focus in our sessions.

Cleveland speech therapists

What is an Inference vs. a Literal Question?

As our Cleveland speech therapists can explain, literal questions are probably most easily described as the “Wh questions.” You know: who, what, where, and when things. The answers are to such questions are going to be literal, concrete, explicitly-stated and easily verified. Answering a literal question requires a child to recall or find facts that are in the text or that were just stated in a conversation.

An example of a literal question would be something like, “What color is the ball?” or “What is Jamar eating?” or “Where is the dog?” While kids with speech-language delays or disorders may have some difficulty answering these questions, they’re the easiest sort of questions because the answers are concrete and verifiable.

It gets trickier with inferential questions. One needs to utilize context clues to be able to use an inference to answer a question. It often involves answering the why or how of something. A lot of times, there can even be more than one correct answer. An inference involves a child looking at the text or picture, thinking about the context clues, matching that up to their own background knowledge or understanding, and then formulating a conclusion about what has happened or is happening.

For example, let’s say your little brother has chocolate on his mouth. There are cookie crumbs on the floor, and the cookie jar is empty. You can infer your little brother ate the last cookie.

In another example, the book explains that the thunder boomed loudly, and the author found her dog shaking underneath the bed. The reader recalls from their own experience that loud noises can be scary. The reader can infer the dog is scared of the thunder.

Why Teaching Inferences is Important to Speech Therapy

Students learn to answer questions as a core part of their education. The ability to answer questions – both literal and inferential – is also frequently key to many aspects of kids’ speech therapy goals., particularly as they get into 2nd grade and beyond.

Schools start with expecting kindergarteners to answer literal questions about a given text. Students need know how to answer literal questions first – and have a solid foundation of that – before moving on to the higher-order thinking skills required for inferential questions. In second grade, schools begin setting expectations to have students make inferences.

If a child does not have a solid foundation of being able to answer literal questions, that is where our Cleveland speech therapists will first focus our attentions.

Some examples of methods we may use to help children answer literal questions:

  • We may ask a where or a who question and provide several picture choices, allowing the child to give an answer based on the pictures
  • We may allow the child to draw their answer to a literal question.
  • We may provide a highlighter and start by having the child highlight the nouns. That often provides great clues about where we will find the answers to literal questions.
  • We may tip them off with “clue words.” For instance, if we’re asking the child to provide an answer to a where question, we want them to think about the fact that they aren’t looking for an object or name, but rather a place. We may even have a visual aid that shows where = place, who = person, when = time, etc.

When we start in with lessons on inferential questions, our Cleveland speech therapists must teach that they aren’t always going to find the answer straight out of the text. They’re going to need to put on their detective hats to solve the mystery answer. Some of the strategies we might use to help children learn to answer inferential questions:

  • Flag clue words. These are going to be words like “think,” “might,” or “probably.” Also, if they’re being asked how a certain character feels or why something happened the way it did, this is a good indicator that they’re being asked to make an inference. Other clue words are adjectives, given that they can help describe the person’s feelings or how an event occurred.
  • Graphic organizers, like sequencing charts, can provide a visual tool to help kids see a chain of events and make inferences about the how and why.
  • Whenever possible, we’re going to take advantage of visual aids like pictures, drawings, etc. Many kids are visual learners, and visual guides can go a long way toward boosting their understanding.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Making Inferences, Scholastic Teachables

More Blog Entries:

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland Speech Therapists Offer Activities to Encourage Kids’ Language, May 12, 2022, Cleveland Speech Therapy Blog

Cleveland autism diagnosis

5 To-Dos After Cleveland Autism Diagnosis

Cleveland autism diagnosis

A Cleveland autism diagnosis can leave parents reeling – even when it’s something you’ve been expecting as you awaited the results of ADOS testing and other examinations. Sometimes, it can feel like something of a relief. You finally have answers. But there’s also the daunting next question: What now?

Parents face a lot of uncertainties, siblings may not understand (or may have much anxiety if they do), and the child who was diagnosed may not yet understand the implications – but can still sense shifts in emotional tone throughout the home.

Autism, more formally known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that autism affects 1 in 44 children in the U.S. today. Our dedicated team of speech therapists, ABA therapists, occupational therapists, and educators offers help to families in Cleveland, Brecksville, Broadview Heights, and Akron.

No. 1: Breathe

The very first thing to do after a Cleveland autism diagnosis is BREATHE. Autism is a lifelong condition – and that in itself can feel very intimidating as you contemplate your next steps. But know that in most cases, the symptoms can be managed. Behaviors can be managed with help. Your child can lead a long, healthy, meaningful, successful life.

You have already taken the very hardest step in all of this, which is seeking professional intervention when you recognized something wasn’t quite right. You persisted in pursuing answers – even when you knew the answers might pose challenges you might not feel ready to face. You did this because you love your child.

Now that they have an autism diagnosis, give yourself a few beats to catch your breath, acknowledge your own feelings, and prepare yourself for the next chapter. Your engagement and advocacy will be pivotal to your child’s success, and it’s important that you’re in a good mental/emotional space to do so. Online support groups through Facebook and other social media channels can be especially helpful as you embark on this journey.

No. 2: Explore Early Intervention

The next/first step is to get help. Your options may vary depending on your child’s age. Do not worry that your child may be too young. A child can receive a Cleveland autism diagnosis as young as 18 months, and early intervention therapies are strongly recommended to start before a child turns 3.

In Northeast Ohio, we have a program called Help Me Grow for infants and toddlers birth to age 3 with a medical diagnosis or developmental delay, as well as for families concerned about their child’s development. They help work on things like speech delays, social interaction help with other kids, etc.

Services and specialists may include:

  • occupational therapy
  • speech therapy
  • physical therapy
  • developmental specialist
  • early childhood mental health therapy
  • registered dietician
  • vision and hearing specialists

You may need to obtain a referral to early intervention from your pediatrician or pediatric specialist. In Cuyahoga County, it takes about 45 days from the referral to complete the eligibility, assessment, individual family service plan, and then finally the beginning of early intervention services. There has been something of a backlog since COVID, so it’s a good idea to get this process started as soon as possible.

Cleveland autism resources

No. 3: Start Looking at Private Therapy

Early intervention is provided as a public service. But children with autism can also benefit from private therapy services. In the beginning, the schedule of these services may be intensive, ultimately tapering off as they reach their goals and milestones.

Children with autism are often referred for a combination of therapy services, including:

  • Speech Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis (also known as ABA or behavior therapy)

Therapy & Wellness Connection offers all of these – and more – and insurance covers most if not all of these services if your child has been diagnosed with autism. We can provide these services in-clinic, in-home, and sometimes in school or daycare. Some patients may be eligible to receive some of these services via teletherapy.

The key with these services is consistency. Intensive therapy, particularly early on, can feel a bit overwhelming when it’s 3-4 times a week (longer stretches with ABA therapy), but showing up and being actively engaged in the carryover is important.

If your child is school-age, the school should begin the process of drafting an IEP, or individualized education plan. If you find ultimately that your child’s school and IEP fail to serve their best interests, there are scholarships available to enroll them in private education, with teachers who will teach the way they learn. Therapy & Wellness Connection offers homeschooling and other education services with credentialed special teachers and intervention specialists.

No. 4: Engage With a Social Skills Group

Among the most significant deficits many kids on the autism spectrum face are communication and social skills. They’re going to need as much practice as they can – early and often. And it’s a lot of pressure to just put on a sibling or two. Joining a Cleveland social skills group for kids with autism can help them make significant strides.

We offer several different social skills groups, sorted by age, at our Brecksville clinic. These include:

  • Say-n-Play. This is an awesome group that focuses on social interactions and activities like crafts, songs, games, and books. It helps children with speech-language difficulties, but also following directions and engaging with others in a group setting.
  • OT Group. This focuses on zones of regulation, social interaction, and skills of daily life. We take fun “field trips,” play games, and work on group projects.
  • Thrive Social Center Courses. These include everything from learning social boundaries to getting along with friends to teens & technology, to young adult groups.

This extra support will help prepare kids for real-world scenarios and interactions, helping them make friends, stay safe, and be included.

No. 5: Learn to Listen Without Your Ears.

If your child has received a Cleveland autism diagnosis and is non-verbal or speech-delayed, it can be very frustrating to know what they want, what they don’t want, how you can help, and how to parent them. But just because they aren’t talking doesn’t mean they aren’t communicating. Remember that behavior itself is a form of communication, and kids on the spectrum may be engaging in “unexpected” behaviors to communicate wants, needs, or aversions.

ABA Therapy is extremely helpful in addressing unexpected behaviors and promoting those that are expected and helpful. Speech therapy can help with non-verbal communication, articulation, and social pragmatics. Occupational therapy can help kids tackle critical life skills like self-regulation, measuring the size of a problem, diversifying their diet, self-care, etc.

But in the meantime, recognize that just because they aren’t talking doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say. You may be your child’s voice for the foreseeable future. It’s important to try your best to engage them at every opportunity, and understand what’s NOT being said.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron, and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

What is Autism? AutismSpeaks.com

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland ABA Therapy Strategies, May 5, 2022, Cleveland Autism Treatment Blog

Cleveland speech therapists

Cleveland Speech Therapists Offer Activities to Encourage Kids’ Language

Cleveland speech therapists

May is Better Speech & Hearing Month, and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports 1 in 12 kids age 3-17 in the U.S. has a disorder related to voice, speech, language or swallowing. Our Cleveland speech therapists recognize that speech problems (difficulty being understood by others) are the most common among kids ages 3-10. Language problems (difficulty understanding others) ranked No. 2. More than one-third of kids with communication disorders has more than one.

As Cleveland speech therapists, we have decades of combined experience in engaging with children with speech-language disorders and delays, and helping to encourage their development on these fronts. But we also recognize that speech therapy is only part of the puzzle! The more consistent practice and carryover a child has across environments, the better these new skills are going to “stick,” and the faster kids will reach their speech therapy goals!

So what’s the best way to practice these skills with your kids? Play!

“Your child’s most important job is to play. It’s through play that young kids learn and grow. So playing with your child is really the best way to help them sharpen those speech & language skills.”

Jaclyn McClymont, speech-language pathologist, owner and founder of Therapy & Wellness Connection.

Any play that engages your child is generally going to be good for encouraging speech and language (as well as positive mental health and interpersonal connection). That said, there may be some activities/games that are more beneficial than others.

Here, our Cleveland speech therapists offer a few of our simple favorites!

Pretend Talk on the Phone

Pretending to talk on the phone is great for teaching kids important words, family member names, and social skills like turn-taking. If they’re very young, you can work on the basics, “Hi!” “Ok!” “Yes.” “No.” “Momma.” “Grama.” “Bye!” Modeling speech & language doesn’t need to be super complicated for it to be effective. The key is to keep it fun!

Cleveland speech therapy kids

“Who’s on the phone? Is it Daddy? No, Ok. Is it Momma?”

“Did you tell Momma hi? Hi, Momma! Ok, bye!”

Sing Songs in Motion

The list here is endless, but to name a few:

  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Old Macdonald
  • Five Little Ducks
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes
  • Baby Shark (if it doesn’t drive you crazy!)
  • Hokey Pokey

Often, kids will copy the motions first. Eventually, they’ll wade in with a few of the words. Before you know it, they’ll have it all down to a T!

YouTube has some engaging videos to go along with these, and the extra visual may help too.

Look Through/Read Books

You don’t have to read a 40-page book. Most kids won’t sit through that anyway. But start with picture books. Think small – 3-5 pages. And you don’t necessarily have to “read” them all either. Look through the pictures. Point to various objects or people in the story. Label them. Talk about what might be happening.

speech therapist Cleveland kids

It will take time, but eventually you’ll be able to get through the whole book. Then you can start reading it. Rhyming or sing-songy books are often best for memorization.

Play Ball!

Kids love balls. They’re great not only for gross motor skills, but also for development of joint attention, turn-taking, and other key social skills.

You can work on words like roll, throw, bounce, catch, down, up, around, over, your turn, my turn, etc.

If you’re trying to encourage requesting, wait a few beats after you’ve gotten the ball for them to motion or ask for it returned.

“You want the ball? Say, ‘Ball!” or “Ball please!”

Narrate everything you’re doing.

“The ball went over the chair!”

Once they master some of the basics, you can start adding other adjectives.

“You’re playing with the big, blue ball!”

Play With Bubbles

Bubbles are so easy and simple, they’re sometimes overlooked – but they can be a source of ENDLESS fun and enjoyment for kids.

Help your child work on requesting the bubbles, model for them “more bubbles” and say words like, “up, down, pop, jump, catch, circle, over, under,” etc.

Speech therapy games

Bubbles are great at bath time year-round, but spring & summer are perfect for taking it outside, and giving them a chance to get some fresh air & soak up some Vitamin D!

Play With Pretend Food

Kids are crazy about pretend food. They love to play as if they are planning, preparing, and eating it. It’s been our Cleveland speech therapists’ experience that even when kids don’t have utensils or plates or cups or play-food, they’ll get imaginative and make do with what they have. So if you have pretend food – cool. If you don’t – no sweat. Kids’ imaginations are a wonder. You can use a block, a box, or even empty boxes or cans, cartons, etc.

You can model pouring food, cooking food, drinking, and eating. You can model words like, “Yummy! Great job! Hot! Cold! Yucky! cup, plate, fork, all done, mine, yours, good,” etc. You can also label different food items, and even put them into categories. “Apple is a fruit.” “Chicken is meat.”

Cleveland Speech Therapists Encourage Parent Involvement!

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you play – but that you’re engaged. The best thing parents can do for their kids day in and out is talk to them. Narrate what you’re doing. Narrate what others are doing. Talk about colors, shapes, animals, weather, foods, people, cars – anything that captures their interest and imagination.

If you have questions about how you can engage your child during playtime, our speech therapy team can help!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

The Importance of Play: How Kids Learn by Having Fun, Sept. 28, 2020, Healthline.com

More Blog Entries:

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists LOVE Repetitive Picture Books for Kids, March 19, 2022, Cleveland Pediatric Speech Therapy Blog

self regulation

How We Help Kids Learn Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own emotions and behavior in a way that matches the demands of a given situation. All of us have had trouble at some time or another checking our emotions when we feel heated or excited. But learning to resist highly-charged emotional responses, calm yourself when you’re upset, adjust your expectations, and handle frustration without an outburst? That’s really a lot to ask of any child in a world that is so unpredictable – but it’s especially tough when a child struggles with a condition like autism, down syndrome, or other disability, disorder, or delay.

Our dedicated occupational therapists, speech therapists, behavior therapists, and educators are committed to helping children practice and master this critical life skill.

Why Do Some Kids Struggle With Self-Regulation? 

Difficulties with self-regulation can be displayed in a number of ways, depending on the child. Some kids will have an instantly major reaction to something with no real  build-up. They sort of “explode,” and aren’t able to inhibit that behavior response. Other kids will allow distress to build up for a time, but can only take it for so long before we see an emotional outburst. Even when those of us on the outside can see it building, we have little notion of how to stop it.

In either case, what we’re talking about is more than a simple tantrum, which every kid goes through, particularly in the toddler stage. Difficulty with self-regulation is a persistent, ongoing issue involving behavior that isn’t developmentally appropriate. It’s one thing for your child to throw a tantrum when they’re 2. It’s another for your child to be regularly melting down at age 5 or older.

What’s critical for us as a therapy team is help kids learn how to safely handle those big emotions, finding ways to adequately express them in a way that is more effective, less disruptive, and safer than a meltdown. Doing so requires we understand the why of the behavior.

In our experience, issues with emotional control are some combination of individual temperament, learned behavior, and the lack of communication/social skills needed to effectively communicate their emotions otherwise. Children with conditions like ADHD, autism, ODD, anxiety, or other conditions, learning to manage emotions is especially challenging and requires more outside help.

Teaching Kids Key Emotional Control Techniques

Learning emotional self-regulation is an important life skill, and some kids need more help to learn it than others.

We typically start by teaching young children to recognize the sensations and feelings in their body, and then putting those feelings into thoughts. How does your head feel? How does your skin feel? How does your heart feel? What is your breath doing? What “zone” of emotion are you in? (This can be color-coordinated for younger kids, with very basic, “red =mad, yellow=silly, blue=sad, green=happy,” etc.) Awareness is critical before change.

Once they master this, we can start teaching them about the “size of a problem.” Keeping it simple, we measure some problems as “big,” some “medium,” and some “small.” Then we talk about how to measure reactions in a similar way – big, medium, or small. When small problems have big reactions, that’s when we have the most trouble. The key is to try getting the size of the reaction to match the size of the problem. When it doesn’t, we ask them to reflect. Repetition on this is key.

Another strategy we use early on is to break challenging activities – the ones we know are going to lead to serious frustration – into smaller, more manageable parts. Our occupational therapists can help create social stories for this too, preparing them for each step and spelling out exactly what is expected of them.

Each time they act out, wait until they’re calm, and then ask: What went wrong? Why? How can we fix it for next time? How can we self-advocate for things we need or want without having a meltdown? This helps to create a pattern of mindfulness and thinking about the impact of their reactions. We also try to regularly remind them that at any point, they can “change the channel” of their emotions, by doing things like taking deep breaths, counting to 10, stretching, or taking a break.

Once they can tie feelings to thoughts, reflect on what went wrong, and advocate for themselves, then we can start working on affirmations and positive self-talk (i.e., “I can do this,” “I am brave,” “I am ok,”) etc.

If self-regulation is a skill with which your child struggles, we can help!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy, speech therapy, behavior therapy, and homeschooling, tutoring, and social skills groups to children in Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron, and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

How Can We Help Kids With Self-Regulation? Child Mind Institute

More Blog Entries:

Brecksville ABA Therapists Offer “Time-Out” Alternatives, Feb. 6, 2022, Cleveland Occupational Therapy Blog

speech-language development

Does Baby Talk Boost Speech-Language Development?

Over the years, there’s been some debate about whether “baby talk” helps or hinders speech-language development for infants and toddlers. Before our Brecksville speech-language pathologists weigh in, it’s important to note there is a key difference between “baby talk” and “parentese.” Both are often cutesy and sing-song-y, but baby talk typically involves nonsense words (“shoesie-woosies” or “toesie-woesies”), while parentese involves exaggerated sounds and simple words and grammar (“Goooooo-dd morn-iiiiing!” and “haaaa-ppyyy!” and “brr-iiiiiight!”).

For all our differences across languages and cultures in the world, parentese is one near universal when it comes to teaching children to communicate. That is to say, parents and caregivers appear naturally drawn to use this speaking style around small children, perhaps because it’s proven so effective in getting a baby’s attention. It’s one of the first tools we offer to help babies learn to verbalize.

Extensive research shows that parentese – which has roots in “baby talk” – is actually critical for helping children learn language. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with baby talk, at least really early on, parentese takes it to the next level with conscious attention to intonation and gestures. It’s also grammatically correct, even if simplified.

Brecksville speech therapy

Brecksville Speech Therapy Communication Boosters for Kids Under 5

Helping small children learn to communicate is something parents innately start virtually from the moment a child is born. But our Brecksville speech therapy team knows that fostering strong speech and language skills sometimes requires acting with a bit more purpose. Even if you have zero concerns about your child’s ability to communicate, there’s no harm in thoughtfully working to boost your child’s social skills and vocabulary.

As speech-language pathologists who work with young children in the process of acquiring and developing language, we have accumulated many effective techniques that help kids not only in learning to talk, but mastering broader language and communication skills. Here, we’re sharing some of the basics you can use with your child at home, in the community, and during everyday interactions. This is useful for kids with typically-developing speech and language, as well as those for whom such skills are a bit more challenging. Brecksville speech therapy for kids

Non-Verbal Communication

Talking isn’t the only communication skill on the table. In fact, it isn’t even the first. Babies communicate by crying. As they get older, they make eye contact, use body language, and point. Words eventually become the easiest way to convey specific wants, needs, and dislikes, but that comes later. As parents and caregivers, when we recognize, encourage, and positively reinforce those language precursors, we promote healthy speech-language production.

Interesting and of note: Language development and play are very closely related. Kids first start saying their first words around 12 to 13 months, and it’s not a coincidence that this is around the same time that symbolic play begins to emerge. (Symbolic play would be something like holding up a piece of fruit and pretending it’s a phone.) When you participate in that symbolic play, you’re encouraging her language development and helping to expand his/her capacity to represent things both mentally and symbolically.

Create Communication Opportunities

There are many ways parents can create opportunities to encourage their little ones to practice key communication skills. Some of those include:

  • Putting desired objects slightly out-of-reach. Instead of simply handing your child the milk you know they want, place it just out of reach of their high chair. Wait for them to ask for it, or at least signal their desire (point, make eye contact, etc.). Reinforce their communication by saying back to them, “You want the milk? Ok, momma will give you the milk.” Same thing for much-loved toys: Put them just a bit higher up (but not so high they can’t be seen.)
  • Pretend to be forgetful. Kids LOVE this game. You have lots of routines your child has probably already gotten used to – morning, afternoons, dinner time and bedtime. Let’s say you’re preparing her breakfast. “Forget” to pour the milk. She’s going to “catch” you being forgetful/changing the routine/what’s expected. This is a great way to initiate conversations with young kids.
  • Pause during predictable activities. Same concept as “forgetting,” but you’re waiting for them to fill in the blanks. You can start with a favorite song your child loves. “Mary had a little -” and then wait to see if she fills in the blank. That prompts her not only to use her vocabulary, but also practice the back-and-forth turn-taking of language.

Other Helpful Strategies from our Brecksville Speech Therapy Team

Speech and language are skills every child develops at their own pace, but the goal should always be to help them master the next level – while also boosting their self-confidence and keeping it fun!

Other techniques our Brecksville speech-language pathologists use:

  • Imitation. If the child is babbling or making nonsense noise, make another playful sound in response. Imitating a child’s sounds and actions – and later words – shows them that they have the ability to be heard! It also helps them begin to grasp the turn-taking element of language. Eventually, they’ll work their way to more complex communication skills.
  • Interpretation. If a child points to a toy, they are communicating that they want it. Our speech therapists take this to the next level by interpreting their non-verbal communication with a response like, “Truck! You want the truck.”
  • Expansion & recasting. If the child says, “white ball,” we respond by saying, “Yes, that’s a big, white ball.” If a child says, “monkey jump off bed,” we recast that grammar by responding with, “The monkey did jump off the bed.” We’re using intonation and stress to underscore the words on which we want the child to focus.
  • Comment and description. Rather than direct your child during playtime, play a newscaster. Give them the play-by-play. “You’re moving the yellow truck around the track.” “You’re putting the brown horse in the barn.” “You’re throwing me the ball!” This not only helps boost a child’s vocabulary, it’s going to help them organize those thoughts while they’re playing.
  • Contingent responses. This is important, but it’s often one of the toughest. It involves responding right away to any and all attempts at communication. That includes not just words, but gestures or other efforts to get your attention. Kids need to know that not only is communication in general important, but so specifically is their voice.
  • Labeling. You can do this with infants who aren’t talking yet as well as small children – label everything around them. Everything from the rain in the sky to the fruit on their plate to the dog you pass on the street. Label everything.
  • Labeling your praise. Rather than just saying, “Nice work,” get specific. “Nice work picking up your blue bunny and red ball,” or “Great job saying more milk please.” Not only does this boost language, it encourages expected behaviors and manners.

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech-language development, our Northeast Ohio pediatric SLP team can help!

Additional Resources:
More Blog Entries:
How Brecksville Speech Therapists Treat Kids With Aphasia, Nov. 3, 2021, Brecksville Speech Therapy Blog