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Back-to-School Tips

Back-to-School Tips

The adjustment back to school can be a little hectic for children and parents but starting school off right can
increase positive attitudes, confidence, and academic performance. Parents can help support the new adjustments
by setting a realistic schedule, decreasing procrastination, and providing a positive outlook. Here are a few tips to
make it a successful school year.

1. Good physical health. Schedule any doctor, dental, vision appointments before school starts to make sure
your child is healthy. This allows you to take care of any concerns before it becomes a stressor.

2. Be involved. Review all paperwork that is sent home, read the e-mails that are sent, and communicate
with your child on any confusion. Have weekly communication with your child’s teachers. Learn the online
grading systems that the school offers.

3. Mark the calendar. Whether it is your calendar, family calendar or your child’s, make sure everyone is
aware of important due dates, when try-outs are happening, parent/teacher conferences, or fundraiser
nights. Preparing for those events now rather than later decreases anxiety.

4. Routine. Having a set evening routine can help your child stay productive and sleep better. Choose outfits
and make lunches the night before to minimize stress in the mornings. Life does happen, especially with
more than 1 child, so freeze a couple dinners for busy nights.

5. Turn the screens off. Turning off the TV, iPad, iPod, DS, etc. 30 minutes before bed is helpful for
everyone’s sleep. This is also important in the morning too before they head off for school.

6. Everything in its place. Having a designated homework spot creates a productive/focus atmosphere. This
place should not be the bed or couch. Keep those places as the relaxing spots. Select a spot for backpacks
and lunch boxes. This helps keep the family system working smooth. This can minimize the craziness on
mornings when you are running late.

7. Talk. Children want to talk about their day too. Don’t be quick to jump to negatives. Support their
strengths and work together to improve areas that are needed. Have everyone in the family share their
highs and lows of their day at the dinner table.

8. Get them involved. Being involved in clubs, sports, or other school activities can increase our sense of
belongingness. Extra activities help with social skills, sportsmanship, and communication skills. Find the
balance so over scheduling doesn’t happen.

– Caitlin Goicoechea, LCPC, NCC
Mental Health Counselor at Children’s Therapy Place

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December 2016 Newsletter




Books, Baking, and Beats: Encouraging Speech & Language Development During the Holidays

With everyone’s busy schedules during the holiday months, it may be hard finding time to practice speech exercises at home during these eventful months. Luckily, the holidays present a great amount of opportunities to encourage speech and language development outside of therapy. Here are a few ideas to incorporate at home to practice speech while also having fun celebrating the holidays!


Research has shown that reading aloud stimulates language development. Holiday breaks are a perfect time to head to your local library and check out some seasonal and holiday books to help build your child’s vocabulary, listening skills, ability to answer questions, and grammar. Here are a couple of holiday book ideas to target speech and language at home:

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney

This book tells the story of a little llama who is excited for Christmas but is exhausted by all the activities surrounding the holiday. This is a great book to work on answering questions and basic concepts. You can ask simple questions such as “Where did llama and mama go?” or “What is llama and mama doing?” This book is also written in a lively rhyming format. Reading books that rhyme allows children to memorize familiar words and helps them develop skills to predict rhyming words, which is an essential step in the process of learning to read.

The Mitten by Jan Brett

When Nicki loses his mitten in the snow, a number of animals find it and crawl inside. This book is a great story to discuss illustrations or use it to target sequencing. You can discuss the order that animals crawl into the mitten and also target special concepts by discussing which animals are in/out of the mitten.


There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell! By Lucille Colandro

This time the hungry old lady swallows a bell, gifts, a sleigh, and many other Christmas-themed items. This is a great book to work on predicting, story retell, or sequencing. You can also work on basic concepts such as counting to count the number of items the old lady has swallowed.


You may find yourself in the kitchen more often during the holiday season baking or cooking for various parties or events. Baking with your little one is a great opportunity to work on their speech & language skills. You can target following directions by giving your child specific tasks or narrating simple steps and then asking him or her to recite the steps (“First we are going to add the sugar, then butter, and then eggs. Can you tell me what we are going to add?”). There are many opportunities to target responding to questions while engaging in a cooking or baking activity with your child.

You can target “where” questions by having your child help you locate specific ingredients in your kitchen and “what” questions by having your child help you identify utensils you need (or don’t need). You may have an item on the counter that you don’t need such as a mug, banana, toy, etc. and you can have your child tell you what you do not need to roll out dough or mix the batter. You can also target spatial concepts during a baking activity such as the word “in” (“Can you help me put the chocolate chips in the bowl?”), “on” (“Let’s put sprinkles on the cookies”), and “off” (“Now we need to take the cookies off the baking sheet”). There are limitless opportunities to target speech and language while engaging in a fun activity like baking!


Music is an essential part of a child’s speech development. Through singing, children can achieve improved articulation skills. In addition, singing combines repetition, rhythm, and rhyme, which help to develop speech and language skills. What better time than the holidays to sing fun, festive songs with your little ones?!

By: Bianca Minniti, M.S., CCC-SLP


Fun While Learning??!!

We all have memories of fun learning experiences and some not-so-fun learning experiences. Usually, we learn best when we are interested in the topic. However, with the aid of a good teacher, it is possible to enjoy the learning experience even without a vested interest in the topic.

As a speech and language therapist, I teach many different children. None of these children have ever signed themselves up for speech and language therapy (except for siblings who see how fun it is and wish that they could join in)! No, therapy is usually recommended by a parent, teacher, physician, and/or therapist of a different occupation. Because these children aren’t always motivated by the topic, skill, or concept being taught, it is important to find ways to make learning fun for them. When learning is enjoyable and effective therapeutic strategies are employed, the children learn faster.

Each child learns in different ways, responds to different cues, and is motivated by different activities. Therefore, it is important to find what works best for each child. The following are examples of what has worked in my practice and in the practice of fellow speech pathologists. I hope this information will help parents to apply teaching strategies at home, which will likely result in even faster learning!

  • Sing songs! Many songs exist that teach good vocabulary and concepts, particularly for young children. However, you can make up your own song using any tune that already exists, or even your own tune. Well-chosen songs are very helpful to a child’s (and adult’s) learning because the melody and words remain long after the teacher is gone.
  • Create a challenge. Most of us enjoy a challenge, particularly when competing with another person. The challenge can be based on time or amount. For instance, while driving, the challenge can be to see who names the most items within a certain category by the time the light turns green (or by the time the destination is reached). Or, if the challenge is based on amount, a parent could say, “I bet you can say the word ‘get’ (or ‘chip’ or any other word that contains the sound the child needs to practice) for as many chips that are in that snack bag!” Sometimes, children keep practicing the sound or word after the goal has been reached, in part to obtain a reaction from the therapist. This generally works out well for both parties.
  • Make it silly! Practice the skill while bending upside down, while looking at oneself in the magnifying mirror, or while wearing a funny hat/mask. Make up silly sentences or stories, and laugh with one another.
  • Use gestures. Not only do visual cues help with learning, but they are also fun! For instance, some therapists slide their fingers up their arms when practicing the “s” sound, or some call the “p” sound the “popcorn” sound while making fun popcorn noises and gestures.
  • Make it active! Practice while standing on one foot, while bouncing on an exercise ball, while throwing a weighted ball back and forth, or while running to and from destination points outside.
  • Request ideas from the child. Some of the best therapy activities have been initiated by the children on my caseload. Because it is their idea, they are even more motivated to participate in learning.

Above all, make sure to use REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION! That is the key to the best success!! Enjoy teaching your fun-loving kiddo, and remember to have fun yourself!

By: Alissa Ketterling, MS, CCC-SLP

November 2016 Newsletter





Halloween Party



6 Tips to Having a Sensory Friendly 4th of July

6 Tips to Having a Sensory Friendly 4th of July

With parades, BBQs and professional grade firework displays, the 4th of July is, for many of us, an anticipated hot weather holiday.
Though the traditions that surround this day of celebration are generally fun for the whole family, they can be overwhelming and nearly intolerable for children with autism or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

If your child has trouble dealing with sensory stimulation, here are some survival tips to help your whole family enjoy the day.4thbird

1. Prepare your child for the day

Whatever you’re planning for the day, make sure your child knows what to expect.  Explain that there will be a lot of people and noise, but there will also be plenty of fun activities.  If your child responds to visual cues, you can try showing him a video of fireworks (with the volume turned down at first) or a parade.  Gradually increase the volume and take note of his reaction.  Though it’s important that he knows what to expect, try not to go overboard.  Sometimes too much anticipation can be just as overwhelming.

2. Bring favorite and familiar items

Familiar toys, games and snacks can provide comfort and distraction from over-stimulating sights, sounds and smells. These favorites can also come in handy if he gets antsy while waiting for an activity, like a parade or firework show, to start.

3. Establish a safe place

Whether it’s bringing along a small tent or a blanket to hide underneath or finding a spot that allows relief from noise and people, make sure to establish a “safe place” for him when he feels like he needs a break. If it’s easier to retreat to a location, agree upon a “safe word” or visual cue that he can use to let you know that he’s feeling overwhelmed.

4. Engage in heavy work activities

Heavy work is characterized by activities that involve the whole body or parts of the body to increase attention and calm the senses.  Actions like pushing, pulling, lifting, chewing and squeezing are all meant to engage the body and, in a sense, organize the nervous system.

Have your child help you prepare for the day by packing a picnic basket or loading the car with lawn chairs.  Have fidget toys and oral motor stimulators (like straws, teethers or licorice) available during the day so he can keep his hands and mouth busy and focus his attention.

5. Bring along sunglasses and noise blocking headphones

If watching a firework show or just hanging out in a neighborhood where residents will be setting off fireworks, noise blocking headphones may be helpful to quiet any loud or unwanted sound.  Bright lights from fireworks also have the potential to stir up sensory discomfort, so having sunglasses on hand or a hat can help to ease visual overstimulation.

6. Stay mindful of the situation

Most importantly, keep an eye on how your child is handling the day.  Even if you have prepared yourself and him for every possible scenario, he may still have a difficult time engaging in activities.  Pay attention to his cues and if it’s too much for him, it may be best to remove him from the situation and go home.

Whether your child is able to engage in a full day of activities, or just visit a BBQ and spend a quiet evening at home playing board games, the 4th of July is a great day of celebration with family and friends.  The most important thing is to find a holiday tradition that allows your family to enjoy the day together.


“Tips for an Autism-Friendly Fourth of July.” Autism Speaks: It’s Time to Listen. Autism Speaks, Inc., 2 July 2013. Web. 20 June 2014.

“Sensory-Friendly July 4th.” Dandelion. Family Publishing, Inc., 28 June 2012. Web. 20 June 2014.

Taken from:

20 Summertime Speech & Language Activities for Toddlers

Here is a list of 20 fun summertime speech and language activities to do with your toddlers.

  1. Blow bubbles– helps build vocabulary (examples: “pop” “, “blow” etc.) and strengthens muscles of the mouth
  2. Play Outside– improves fine and gross motor, social skills and language skills
  3. Read a book– builds speech and language skills
  4. Go on a scavenger hunt– builds language skills and works on following directions
  5. Eat a popsicle– strengthen the mouth muscles for speech with this summer treat
  6. Go swimming– improves gross motor skills and vocabulary
  7. Play with a friend around the same age– develops social skills and language
  8. Draw with sidewalk chalk– works on fine motor and colors
  9. Make mud pies– this is a fun sensory activity
  10. Have a picnic– builds vocabulary and how to follow directions
  11. Take a walk outside– can improve vocabulary and describing skills
  12. Plant a flower– this is a sensory activity and helps with following directions
  13. Make some cookies– targets following directions and vocabulary
  14. Finger paint– helps with learning colors and basic concepts
  15. Build a sandcastle– sensory activity
  16. Make lemonade– works on ability to follow directions and wakes up the mouth for speech
  17. Free play– this is just fun  and increases speech and language skills
  18. Play at a park– Target vocabulary and sound repetition while playing
  19. Attend story time at your local library– builds speech and social skills
  20. Visit the zoo– targets animal sounds and vocabulary

For more information contact Children’s Therapy Place

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