Tag Archives: Developmental Therapy

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a time to raise awareness about communication disorders and the Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists who provide treatment.

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A Speech-Language Pathologist (a.k.a. Speech Therapist) is a professional who evaluates and treats children and adults with speech and language delays or disorders. On the hearing side of things, an Audiologist is a person who provides diagnosis and rehabilitation of hearing loss.

I have worked as a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) for nearly 12 years now. I learned a lot in school to help me with my profession, but my real education has come from everyday experiences in working with children and their families. These invaluable experiences have molded me into the therapist I am today. One important topic comes up frequently when talking to parents: most wish they had more knowledge and awareness of speech/language development so they knew sooner that their child’s development was delayed.

The two main areas of communication development are Language and Speech. Language is the rule-based system that we use to communicate, including what words mean, how they can be put together, and how to make new words. It is made up of Expressive Language (what is said) and Receptive Language (what is understood). Speech is the actual verbal communication and includes fluency, voice, and articulation. SLPs also work on Pragmatics, the social use of language, and aural rehabilitation, after children receive hearing aids or cochlear implants. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) has fantastic resources on speech/language development that can be accessed here: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart/.

There is little information on the incidence of communication disorders and delays in the United States. In the 2005-2006 school year, 1.1 million students were classified in schools as having a “speech and language impairment”. This number is certainly higher to account for children who receive therapy in outpatient clinics, non-public schools, and in the home. Beyond these numbers are the numbers of children diagnosed with Autism. It is now estimated that 1 in 68 children are on the Autism Spectrum. 1 in 68. What this means for SLPs is that our caseloads are being made up more and more of children who have a diagnosis of Autism. Not all children with autism have speech/language challenges, many need help learning to follow directions, take turns talking, greeting others, saying words, signing, and imitating gestures and actions. The list goes on and on. A lack of or delay in communication is often the first sign parents have that something is going on with their child’s development and so it is so important to understand typical development.

All of that is the technical information about what I do. It is very important that parents, families, and the public understand what speech and language is and when to recognize a delay or disorder. But, I can tell you that there is so much more to what we do. This is a job that my fellow SLPS and myself are extremely passionate about. We LOVE helping children learn to communicate! There is nothing more rewarding than the first time a child says a sound, word, or their first sentence. THAT is why we do what we do every day.

Kristin Kouka, MA, CCC-SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist

Kouka Kids Speech Therapy, LLC

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Gross motor activities to keep your kids active this summer

Gross motor activities for kids are incredibly important in the development of their gross motor skills. As school wraps up, you may find yourself with kiddos who have tremendous amounts of energy to burn this summer! These seven gross motor activities for autistic children  include activities that improve social skills while improving gross motor development. These skills are good for kids with autism but can easily be adapted to be fun for their siblings or peers!

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1. Jump on a Trampoline

Around here, the trampoline is a highly preferred activity for many of our kids with autism. Bouncing offers excellent sensory input that can be helpful in alleviating sensory overload. If you don’t have access to a trampoline at home, places like Flipzone in Plainfield and Skyzone in Fishers can be a fun day trip. If well supervised, jumping on a bed can also provide satisfaction!

2. Play Ball

Sometimes, simple activities that other kids can master easily might be very challenging for kids with autism. Catching the ball may not be realistic as a beginning step but you can work your way up that over time. Begin by rolling a ball back-and-forth with the kiddo. This simple task develops important eye tracking skills and it can encourage motor planning as the child follows the movement of the ball. Other activities include:

  • Kicking the ball
  • Learning to dribble
  • Bouncing on a ball
  • Tossing a ball into a net or target

3. Balancing

Balancing can also be very challenging for kids on the autism spectrum and many gross motor tasks require a sense of balance. Test to see if the kiddo can stand motionless with her eyes closed without losing balance to gauge how much work is necessary to develop balancing skills. You can start by using painter tape on the floor or a practice balance beam for them to follow. Balancing see-saws or playing hopscotch can also be fun for kids practicing this skill.

4. Bicycles and Tricycles

Riding bikes can help develop kiddos with balance as well as developing leg muscles. Bikes and trikes can be adapted to kiddos to make riding them easier. Indy Area Ambucs can answer questions or help find bikes appropriate for kiddos. Who doesn’t love biking on a summer afternoon? Don’t forget to outfit kids with protective helmets and other equipment 🙂

5. Pretend Play

Participating in pretend play is a considerable challenge for kiddos with autism. In some of these activities, kids can benefit from moving around while developing their imaginations. Ideas for pretend play that uses motor skills include:

  • Fly like an airplane
  • Hop like a bunny
  • Play restaurant at snack time
  • Do a crab walk
  • Do a frog jump
  • Slither like a snake
  • Gallop or trot like a horse

6. Dance

 Parents and therapists can use dancing with music to encourage imitation and it can be a great way to teach daily living skills. Dance ideas include:

  • Clean It Up
  • Freeze Dance
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • Wiggle the Sillies Out
  • Hokey Pokey

7. Obstacle Course

In addition to improving gross motor skills, obstacle courses can be a great way to encourage kiddos to follow directions!  The course does not have to be complex to be effective. In fact, parents and therapists can begin with a course consisting of one step and gradually introduce other steps to the activity. Simple ideas for an obstacle course include:

  • Crab walk
  • Frog jump
  • Ball toss
  • Jump rope
  • Limbo bar
  • Walk a line or paint tape design
  • Climb over objects
  • Beanbag toss
  • Crawling through a tunnel or a cardboard box
  • Roll along mats or underneath obstacles obstacle_ladderrun1_l