Can we throw out the thumb?

That’s it!  At two years and three months, Master 2’s THUMB-SUCKING is about to see an end.  Well as quickly as we can stop it…!
You see in the last two days I’ve noticed a few changes to his face and speech that have made me pay attention:

  • he’s now developing on ‘open bite’ where his top front teeth don’t sit neatly in front of his lower teeth…  The top ones jut out in an arch, just slightly.
  • with his teeth closed, because of his front teeth sitting forward, the middle of his top lip is forced outwards, just slightly… But his appearance looks different.
  • tongue tip sounds such as /s/, /d/, /n/ sound slightly ‘dentalised’ (ie the tongue and jaw sit forward giving that ‘fuzzy’, lispy sound).

Being a speech pathologist I have seen these changes and want to reverse them as quickly as possible to avoid face shape changes, future dental issues and of course, the dreaded speech errors.  To have more of an idea of the issues that thumb- or dummy/pacifier-sucking can have, here is a post I wrote a while back on the effects of sucking, on speech development https://iraisemykids.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/the-future-of-a-little-sucker/.

Whilst it is good to have in mind the future issues with sucking a dummy/pacifier or their thumb, it can also be very difficult to put an end to this habit.  The potential trauma to a child must be kept in mind at all times.  When stopping the habit starts to affect the parent-child relationship, this is where it might be time to back off or slow the focus a little bit.  Giving it time might be all that you need. 

So, how do you stop the sucking habit?  Whilst I don’t have the answers, I know slow and steady is a good idea and keep in mind your child’s age.  The younger they are, the less you can expect of them.  Always keep in mind shame.  Without explaining why you are trying to end the thumb- or dummy-sucking, your child may be left feeling shame for wanting to continue with a self-calming strategy that they suddenly feel is ‘not allowed’.

Here is a little bit on our journey with Master 2.

Master 2 only sucks his thumb when he has his comforter monkey.  I am tucking it away in the day and whilst Mr2 has asked where it is, we have joked that he is at work and distract him by wondering what job he does and I list off options for Mr2.  He laughs with me so I know he is okay with the concept.  I give monkey back for sleep, so he still sees him twice a day.  When he wants monkey in the day, we will have a fun game of hide and seek and find monkey.  I am being careful not to hide monkey so much that Master 2 can only think about ‘not letting go of monkey’ and end up sucking his thumb more.  We have made the rule ‘no monkey in the car’ which Master 2 has gone along with, with the distraction of his music in the car.

We have talked about the thumb pushing his teeth out and how my aunt who is a dentist is going to check on his teeth soon to see how he is going with less thumb sucking.  He now asks me if he can suck his thumb before he goes to bed.  I let him, knowing it’s a compromise for less sucking in the day and that he will anyway.  We will keep the talk up about less thumb sucking and I give him other ideas of what to do when he holds monkey (stroking him, holding a second toy) with no pressure to take it on yet.  I am going with education early so hopefully he can make his decision to really quit as soon as he is ready.  We are lucky he doesn’t suck his thumb without monkey.
IMG_9708[1]

Ps this is Master 2’s ‘big smile’. The best I could get of the wriggling boy!

Why you should think about your baby’s language development

[6-12 months] This is such an important, interesting and exciting time for your baby’s language development.  Your baby goes from feeling the day by ‘sensations’, to understanding their world by ‘words’ (be that verbally or gestures).

This is the time to REALLY watch your little one.  When they pay attention to something, be it what you are doing, an object or another person/animal, you can help to teach them language with a few simple steps.  My first vocab list – 6 months+ and My second vocab list – moving to 12 months will give you tips on how to make language learning simple and also the first words your baby is likely to learn.

The sooner a child has language, the sooner you can interact even more with them, entertain them more, negotiate with them and help them to learn more about their world.

Sign of the week begins!

Well it’s on for a limited time.  Any parent who is keen to teach their little one some signs (from 6 months +), first get your head around the ins and outs at Do I get on this baby sign bandwagon or not?…..

And if you’re still keen to give your little one a great brain workout (and yourself!!!), here is your first challenge.

Find as many opportunities to sign ‘MORE‘ to your little one as you can.  By clicking on the link, you will see how to do the ‘more’ sign.  This is in Auslan, so if you are not in Australia, you will need to take a look for a similar sign search website for your country’s sign language.
At first, you will just be modelling it (like you’ve been modelling how to talk all this time) and always saying the word.  The aim of spending a whole week just on one sign is to get into the habit of doing it anywhere and everywhere, NOT to get your little one signing it in one week……This will come!
A few examples of where you might sign ‘more’..
  • more bath toys
  • more cereal
  • more (insert favourite song)
  • more blocks up on the tower…..

If your baby lets you, you can take their hand and show them how to do it.  One thing to remember… don’t hold things back from your child because they aren’t attempting the sign.  You would only do this once you have SEEN your little one doing it at least once.
If you have any other questions, please ask away!

🙂 Heidi

Defining the words one by one

Going along with my post about trying your kids out on different foods – also remember…your child’s vocabulary will only ever be as big as the number of words they are exposed to.
This means pointing out words and defining them for your child, no matter how old they are! Never assume they understand every word, phrase or saying 

How many new words can you point out to your child tomorrow?

Lately we’ve been defining the Aussie 12 days of Christmas with words – snags, cheeky+chooks, meat tray (!!), rusty+utes (we found rust on our bells!), footy fans etc etc.
And by defining, you might need to actually go and point something out in real life, find something similar, Google it or even say ‘let me have a think about that one’!

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How many…?

[18 months +] Teach your child to count through incidental counting here and there, when they have attention for it. This might be seeing a whole lot of balls in a book, once you’ve named ‘balls’, if they are still looking, you could name the colours, sizes or count them. They will need to hear numbers and see you pointing as you count many times before they will get the concept.

[2 years +] Once your child is getting closer to being more interested in counting, start asking ‘How many…?’ before you start counting.  Although some children can count, I see many who also have no idea when I ask ‘how many…?’. They need to learn that the words ‘how many..?’ and ‘count’ mean to start counting!

Don’t worry, these are the earliest ages you would worry about beginning counting.  Go along with your child’s attention for it.  You can always model other vocabulary instead.

Sliiiiiiide….

[18 mths+] Give your child single words as they are learning vocabulary around an activity. With a puzzle, the words you might use are:
– ‘turn’
– ‘slide’ (less frustration teaching to ‘slide’ at first over ‘push’)
– ‘push’
– ‘help’
– ‘more’ (pieces)
– ‘finished’
– and of course naming what’s on the pieces!
** Remember to use your hands to define what you mean by ‘turn’ (like a turning tap action), ‘slide’, ‘push’..

And don’t forget using signs with little ones can give your child a visual reference to help them understand and remember this word.  You can find out more about ‘baby sign’ from my post ‘Do I get on this ‘baby sign’ bandwagon or not?…’.

'slide'

‘slide’

Helping your child to talk : WAITING

[Birth onwards]  How long do you give your little one to respond?  By waiting and expecting your baby/toddler to give you some form of communication (a smile, kick, reach or words), you are teaching them that communication is two-way.

Some children need you to wait a bit longer, to give them time to come up with a response. Silently counting to 10 while you look expectantly at them is not ridiculous!

tickle, tickle!!..........

tickle, tickle!!……….

An example is :
Mum – tickle, tickle, tickle!!!!! (WAIT!)
Baby – eventually kicks in excitement for ‘more’

Mum – more or finished? (WAIT!!!!)
Toddler – might push food away or say finished after they realize they have to make a decision

Dad – pink shirt or red shirt? (WAAAIIT!)
Toddler – might reach for or even attempt to copy colour

The key is waiting 😉

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We’re off to a speechie – finding a brilliant one

Be it speech or language or many other issues such as stuttering, feeding or autism, you might be in search of a speech pathologist for your child.  Where do you start? How do you find a good one?

Here is a list of things to consider:

  • First of all, we are supposed to be ‘communication experts’, so expect extremely good communication with your speech pathologist!
  • Like any professional, there are the good ones and the ‘not-so-good’ ones.  Always keep that in mind
  • Before forking out, consider government services, generally through a community health centre or maybe a hospital.  These are free but might have a long waiting list so don’t delay.  The government provides funding for professional development and good conditions, so it does not mean that you are getting less of a service because it is free!  I prefer to work in a government service than privately because of the conditions!
  • But! Many very passionate speech pathologists choose to work in private practice to do it their own way (and avoid government issues!), so you can certainly find some fantastic ones there too
  • If looking into a private speech pathologist, have you looked into an Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) plan? (this entitles you to a maximum of five rebated sessions – you’ll surely have some gap fee, per calendar year).  Ask your GP about this or the speech pathologist that you have chosen
  • If you sign up to a private speech pathologist, do you know roughly how long you’ll need to be going for?  I used to have families thinking they would solve their child’s speech delays using their five EPC sessions when in fact, it would probably take years of therapy
  • If a speech pathologist has the letters CPSP after their name, this means ‘certified practicing speech pathologist’ and they have chosen to sign up to seeking out professional development each year
  • Consider the difference between those that offer 30 minute sessions versus 45 minute (or even 1 hour sessions).  Sometimes short and regular sessions are good, but other times the child will only just get into the 30 minute session right when it is finishing
  • Another thing to think about (if you get a choice), is to do ‘chunks’ of therapy.  You might go for a term, then have a term off.  Sometimes kids do have ‘spontaneous recovery’, so at least you can assess this while you have a break.  Regular, ongoing therapy can also be draining and monotonous for some kids (even though we do make it pretty fun!) and also the parents/siblings.
  • Ask around for recommendations.  Every second person know someone who has needed speech therapy before.

And once you have started seeing a speech pathologist:

  • Do they encourage you to sit in on the sessions? (this allows you to see if your child is truly progressing and to take ideas for home) – I don’t feel there is any good reason for a parent to be asked to sit outside of the session.  This just makes it easier for a speech pathologist to be a bit ‘lazy’
  • Do they listen to you?  Do they encourage you to make goals with them?  If not, do they tell you of their goals?  Do they explain what and exactly why they are doing it? Are they well-prepared?
  • Do they give you ideas for home?  A take-home scrapbook might be fine for a school-aged child, but generally ‘real life’ situations are better practice for pre-school children which will encourage more generalisation
  • Remember to constantly assess if you are making progress and if not, move onto a different speech pathologist.  I am constantly surprised to talk with families who have been seeing other speech pathologists that can barely tell me what they are working on and when questioned they sit back and realise their child has made NO progress after continued therapy.  Of course there are the good stories too though! 🙂
  • Always ask questions if you are unsure of anything.

When in doubt, please ask a question through this blog.  🙂 Heidi

Getting the sounds out

Learning to talk has so many aspects, including a very tricky one…  Getting the brain to coordinate the ‘articulators’ (tongue, lips, teeth) along with voice and the jaw and even cheeks to make a sound.  Let alone stringing a few sounds together to make a word!

Babbling

It all begins with babbling, getting the jaw and lips/tongue moving.  It might be /bababa/ or /mamama/ or /dadada/ or /papapa/.  These might sound like what we say, but they are actually ‘immature’ versions of the sounds we produce later as adults.  For example, a baby moves their jaw and if their tongue happens to go with it, it might come out as a ‘dada’, but they cannot actually hold their jaw still and move their tongue to produce a ‘d’ by itself.  And even a ‘b’ or ‘m’ actually happens more by the fact that their lips happen to be closed before they open their jaw, rather than actually choosing to press their lips together, as we would.

Babbling is a great sign that your baby is practicing to talk!

First sounds

Children can make many different speech ‘errors’ as they learn to talk clearly.  Their brain has a lot of work in organising a string of sounds to make a word… and then sentences.  By two (anything goes before that!), the first sounds your child should be able to physically make are: p, b, m, d, n, t, h, w.  For all the other sounds, your little one may either use a different sound or leave it out altogether.

At two years of age, can other people understand half of what your child says?  A parent will always understand more, so get someone like a family member or a daycare leader to judge.

At three years of age, can others understand most of what your child is saying?  Then your child is probably going along okay!

Between 12 months and 3 years of age, your child will gain literally hundreds and thousands of words and have a lot of time to practice talking.  If your child is an early talker, their speech will tend to be clearer before the later talkers, just through more practice!

By three years of age, your child should also be able to use these sounds in words: k, g, f, ng.

By four years of age, your child should be using all sounds accurately except the following: s, v, r, th and consonant clusters (eg. green, pink).  Your child may still have a ‘lisp‘ when starting school (eg. ‘thilly’ for ‘silly’), which may need attention from a speech pathologist to correct.  They may also have difficulty with ‘r’, ‘v’ and ‘th’ up until 8 years of age.  This is the grey area where it is good to keep an eye on your child up until these ages (or think about speech pathologist waiting lists) but not necessarily be too concerned before this as it could certainly resolve itself.

If your child uses a dummy or sucks their thumb, keep in mind the longer they do it, the more possibility they could experience difficulty with a lisp and incorrect mouth position.   This is more likely for children who suck a dummy or thumb well past three years of age.

If your child is having difficulty making certain sounds, here are a few pointers:

  • don’t make fun of your child’s speech! For the young ones, it is likely they aren’t aware they are making errors
  • emphasise the correct way to pronounce the sound in the word (eg. ‘ohh the carrot’ for a child saying ‘tarrot’) but don’t make a big deal of it 
  • try not to exaggerate the sound too much or you risk your child learning to say the word with the sound exaggerated
  • be wary of children who may become upset with a lot of attention drawn to their speech errors (particularly the older children).  It is probably better to look into a speech pathologist if this becomes a problem before they really get put off focussing on changing speech errors
  • notice if your child changes the speech error over time – your child might start by saying ‘crown’ as ‘wown’, but then they might start calling it a ‘fwown’ which is getting closer as they are now putting a sound (‘f’) in place of the ‘c’ instead of no sound.  This is a sign your child is developing their speech skills and might resolve the speech errors on their own!

Remember!  The more you reinforce your child’s shortened versions of words, such as ‘nana/narny’ for ‘banana’, ‘bik bik’ for ‘biscuit’ or ‘puter’ for ‘computer’, the less of a model they get to eventually say the word correctly.  Model how to say words for your child!

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Related post – ‘We’re off to a speechie – finding a brilliant one’.

It’s not all lisps and stuttering!!!!

So what does a paediatric Speech Pathologist actually do?

Well, definitely more than just speech!  Having worked in a bar whilst I was at uni, I got my fair share of people pretending to have a ‘speech impediment’ or just thinking that I’d help them to ‘talk better’ (picture ridiculous lisps and the like!).  I think that’s how my uni friends and I started pretending to do anything other than Speech Pathology whilst we were out with drunken ones!

Anyway!  Sometimes we are called Speech Language Pathologists, as we also work with language difficulties.  A coming post on the actual difference between speech and language.  But we do much more than that….!

We can help children with delayed pretend play skills, those with attention difficulties, help teach cognitive skills, or help students who are struggling with literacy skills at school.  We teach social skills to children from pre-school to high school.  We can also help children with voice difficulties such as vocal nodules.  We work in hospitals with little newborns who have difficulties breastfeeding and those who have been born with a disability right through to supporting teachers at school.  We also work in community health centres.  Other Speech Pathologists work in private practice and cover some or all of the issues above.  We educate parents and other people involved with the child such as daycare leaders, teachers and even siblings.

Speaking for myself, I work with children with disabilities from birth to six years old.  We see children with autism, Down syndrome, many other syndromes, hearing impairments, intellectual impairments, Cerebral Palsy, medical complications, brain injuries and children with no diagnosis but whom are globally delayed.  Not only do I teach the children language skills, clearer speech, preliteracy skills, play and social skills but I also educate their parents so that they can continue ‘therapy’ for the rest of the time they are not with me.  Working closely beside physiotherapists, occupational therapists and psychologists, I also gain many skills off them which I can also pass onto the kids and families.  This job is where I draw my inspiration from in being an enthusiastic parent with my own children!

Speech pathology is now becoming quite a popular course at university as it is a rewarding career and is being sought out more.

Did you know Paul Jennings, author of some great books and the old TV series ‘Round the Twist’ is a speech pathologist?

So now you know a bit more about us Speech Pathologists!

Oh and of course we do lisps and stuttering!! 🙂