I want to make sure to hit some topics for the SLPs out there.  Of course, the parents can always benefit from this too!  There are a TON of sites out there to help out SLPs with FREE stuff!  I love the word FREE for many reasons, but when it comes to materials and a budget (there's that dreaded b-word) that word FREE is even sweeter.

The site that I'm going to send you to is:  www.speakingofspeech.com.  This site has it all!
  • FREE PRINTABLE MATERIALS (probably the most valuable for parents and SLPs alike)
  • ideas message board
  • things that are "highly recommended" (since we've all bought something that turned out to not be as great as the advertising had promised)
  • a "help line" if you have questions or need an idea
  • IEP goal bank - this is the best since we tend to get in a rut and our goals start to sound vaguely familiar...
  • Lesson plans (these come in especially handy if you work with young children or do themed therapy)
  • Data forms
  • Links that are helpful
  • And my personal favorite... the "Speech Swap Meet".  It's a forum where you can post what items you are selling and which items you want to buy.  I've already sold some materials that I don't use anymore and plan to buy a few from others.

Check them out!
I took a blog-break last week.  I was on vacation at my parents' house and thought about blogging, but couldn't quite pull myself away from my 5 week old cousin who was also visiting.  What a precious delight it was to hold her.  But now I'm back... and I'd like to think, "and better than ever", but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

TV.  Oh those two letters have so much behind them.  Is it ok?  How much is too much?  What programs should be allowed?  These questions come up all the time.  I am a mom of a very active 8 month old.  I'm more prone to read and knit, but do I ever want to sit in front of the TV and "veg" out some nights?  Sure!  However, do I let my son veg on TV?  No way!  

As a speech therapist (and a mom), I suggest that kids not watch TV (not even baby learning videos) from birth until age 2.  There are several reasons.  The first is that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that children not watch TV at all from birth to age 2 (http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/pages/Where-We-Stand-TV-Viewing-Time.aspx).  Secondly, I have read in the past that kids under the age of 2 do not see the flashes of color on the screen like we do.  Their little brains can't interpret the colors fast enough to know what they are looking at on the screen.  They say that their little brains get overloaded and it simply shuts down.  So instead of learning, they too are "vegging" in front of the TV.  Therefore, even the baby learning DVDs that move slowly and show the child the name of the object and the object at the same time are not better than you yourself doing that.  Watch your child (or any small child) sometime.  They will take a new object and stare at it for a long time.  He/She needs that time to see it clearly and figure it out.  They are learning with their hands (how it feels), their eyes (what they see), their mouth (what it feels like and tastes like), their ears (what does it sound like when it shakes) - all these things are not available when its being viewed via the television.  Lastly, children need HUMAN INTERACTION.  The TV, even though it has humans on the screen, is NOT human interaction.

Now, what about kids ages 2 and older?  Again, the AAP suggests 1-2 hours of AGE APPROPRIATE shows after the age of 2 (same link as above:  http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/pages/Where-We-Stand-TV-Viewing-Time.aspx).  Watch an adult show and pay attention to every time the stimulus changes.  What do I mean by that?  A stimulus change could be:  camera zooming in or out, camera angle change, change scene all together, dialogue when both speakers are not in the picture and so the screen flashes back and forth, etc.  You will notice that the stimulus is changing every few seconds, on average.  Our children are very vulnerable and their minds can be trained very easily.  Adult TV with their fast stimulus changes can actually show a child that his/her stimulus should also change as rapidly.  What happens when that child sits down to play with a toy?  It may not change enough for them and they may lose interest.

Alright, what about older kids and teenagers?  My suggestion is always less TV.  Turn it off and learn what's going on around you.  Play outdoors.  Play a game.  Games teach kids many things like:  social rules (taking turns, being patient, winning gracefully, losing without pouting), counting, matching, colors, strategy, etc.  Plus, the more interaction you have with your child the more opportunities you have to teach him/her.

Turn off the tube and play with your little ones!
I want to give you a little insight into my life and my vision (or lack thereof) for this little site.  Let me start off with a visual.  Above, you will see a photo of my house.  You might be asking yourself, what does a house have to do with speech therapy?  Well, its a metaphor - so stick with me.

I am an Army wife.  We move where the Army tells us to go and we live in the house the Army provides.  This is our house right now and we love it.  It's simple by design, it's not large, every house in the neighborhood is the same, many have lived in it before me, and many will live in it after me.  That's kind of like my site and my activities - they are simple by design, they may look the same as things you have done, many have used them before me, and many will use them after me - they have withstood the test of time.  However, you can't see the inside of my house. It may have the same floorplan as the other 34 in the neighborhood, but I have put my touch in it to make it a home.  The walls have been painted, pictures have been hung, curtains don the windows, and the sounds of my family fill the home.  The same goes for my site and my ideas - they may be simple, but I've added my personal touch to them. They are filled with my livelihood and my family has shaped what I know to work and doesn't work.  I can't change countertops like most can in their homes, but I wouldn't want to drastically change the focus on simple ideas that get kids to talk, either.  

Do I sound sad or envious or others?  I surely hope not.  I enjoy my simple life.  It's a good life.  It's filled with friends who come and go, but whom we often meet up with again down the line.  It's a go-getter kind of life where you don't have time to "get to know people", you just have to be instant friends (like when your neighbor knocks on your door in the middle of a snowstorm to get you involved in the neighborhood activities because she sees you moving in).  I have the rest of my life to live in a house with stainless steel appliances and built in cabinets.  For now, we will stick with our simple furniture (that gets knocked around ever 2-3 years and we'll keep covering up those knicks the movers leave) and our simple homes, but always leave a mark on each place we live.  I hope, too, to leave a mark on each child I meet and each family I help.  This site will be my one constant through the moving and hopefully will leave a mark on you.  (if you message me, then you too can leave your mark on me, which I would love)

My plan is to take a simple toy each week and blog how it can be used in every different area of speech therapy.  They are simple things that have stood the test of time, but may be used in a way you had not thought of before and that is my mark on it.

Look forward to next week's simple toy (blocks) with many ideas.  
Auditory highlighting is something that can be used to help clue kids into the important things they should hear.  When you use a highlighter on a page, you are making key phrases or ideas stand out from the rest.  You want to do the same thing with your voice with your using auditory highlighting.  You do this by making the key word a little bit louder, more drawn out, and a bit more high pitched.  You are giving emphasis to that word.  Something like this:  "Dylan, give me the red car".  Now Dylan knows to the get the red one and not the blue one or yellow one.  

When would you use auditory highlighting?  You can use it when you are trying to introduce a new topic to a child of any language level.  If you working with prepositions you may want to highlight the preposition (the block is under the table.)  You can use it when you're reading to your child to help him/her pick out the most important details.  You may then want to go back and ask comprehension questions and see if the verbal emphasis helped your child to remember the information.

Practice this the next time you are working with your child!  See if he/she clues into the important things you're saying.  Don't forget to have fun!
I've seen it written - DON'T USE BABY TALK!  I agree with that statement.  However, many mothers think "baby talk" is the natural intonation pattern that mother's use with children and so they simply talk to their child like the baby is an adult.  The problem with that is that the baby is NOT an adult.  So, let's clear some things up.

Baby Talk is using nonsense words for real items.  We all do it.  "Do you want your Baba?"  Hmmm... what is that?  Is a Baba a blanket, bottle, or favorite lamb?  We should always strive to be the best language model for our kids.  That means that we should use the real words.  Why would we teach our child "baba" to only change it down the road to "bottle"?  I know, I know, I know... it's cute.  It's definitely cute when a two year old says "baba" and we want to encourage that language.  So, when your child says, "baba" and holds out his/her hands, then respond with, "Oh sure, Suzy!  Here's your bottle."  Always acknowledge that your child are communicating (because he/she is), but use the proper word.

Now, what's this about "motherese"?  Most of you have probably never heard the term, but you use it everyday.  Motherese is the natural high-intonation, slow pattern of talk that mother's use with children.  If you're not sure what I'm talking about, just pay attention the next time you talk to a child or a beloved pet.  Motherese is actually important for kids to hear.  It encourages them to copy your speech and teaches them variable intonations (high and low pitches) that are used during conversation.  You may sound or feel silly, but keep talking in that silly voice.  It's actually encouraging your child to speak and communicate!
I don't know if the phrase "launching my website" is the correct term to use.  "Launching" seems like something a large corporation does in order to start a new product line or make their next million bucks.  All I'm doing is starting a simple blog connected to a simple website to share simple ideas to simply get the job done.  My hope for the site is that it can help therapists, parents, and (most importantly) KIDS!  Here are my ideas.  They may not be grand, but I've seen them work.  They may not be innovative, but the kids usually learn while having fun.  They may not be ground breaking, but I hope they are life changing in the lives of the kids who need it most.

So here's to a new chapter in my life.  The life of blogging.  Lets hope its more successful than housework (which I always seem to be playing catch-up with).