Category Archives: Early Intervention

My Child is Stuttering; Will He or She Grow out of it?

By: Valerie Heneghan, M.A., CCC-SLP/L

You may have noticed that your child appears to be getting stuck on words or repeating words and sounds recently, what do you do?  Your friends and/or family may have told you not to worry about it as they will likely grow out of the problem, is this true?  How can you tell if my child is stuttering?  When do I seek help for this problem?

In this post, you will be provided with a brief summary addressing questions related to childhood stuttering.

Prevalence

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), in preschool age the prevalence of stuttering can be as great as eleven percent. The prevalence of stuttering is also greater in boys than girls up to 4:1 as the stuttering progresses.

Characteristics of Stuttering

Disfluency is anything that interrupts the forward flow of speech. Stuttering occurs when this disruption occurs within a word.

There are two forms of stuttering:

1) Sound/Syllable Repetition: repeating a single sound or syllable (e.g., g-g-g-going, bi-bi-cycle, etc.) and 2) Sound Prolongations; pausing or stretching out single sound (e.g, g__oing, ____bicycle).

Associated and/or secondary characteristics may also be present for a child who stutters.  These are described as movements as a reaction to the stuttering including but not limited to: distracting sounds, facial grimaces, head movements, movement of the extremities, etc.

Risk Factors

Stuttering is a disorder of childhood with typically emerges between the ages of two and a half and five years old. While genetics and neurophysiology appear to be related to the underlying causes of stuttering, environmental factors, temperament, and speaking demands may influence a child’s reactions to stuttering.

Recovery

80% of children will outgrow stuttering within four years.  During the first year however, 12% recover spontaneously.  Indicators that your child may continue to stutter includes but not limited to: no changes in frequency of stuttering, changes in stuttering type, duckpersistence of associated behaviors six months post onset, family history of stuttering, increased communication demands, etc.

When therapy is recommended

If you notice that your child is stuttering, mark when you first noticed the problem begin.  Initially, do not draw attention to the stuttering, decrease the communication demands and model slow and smooth speech when speaking to or near your child.

If you are concerned about your child’s stuttering, have them evaluated by a Speech-Language Pathologist who specializes in assessing and treating children who stutter.

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7 Tips for Learning and Loving it!

By: Jessica Drake-Simmons M.S. CCC-SLP

Does helping your child with their homework ever feel like a laborious task?  These learning strategies will help you teach your child in a way that increases their understanding and retention.  Above all, these tips are meant to make the learning journey an enjoyable experience for all of those involved!

  1. Relate new information to known information.  Our brains are pattern-seeking devices.  They are always searching for associations between information being received and information already stored.  Linking new information with familiar information creates a connection that your brain will hold on to.blog
  1. Multi-Sensory involvement: the more varied experiences a child has with a new concept, the more neural pathways will be developed.  Whenever possible, teach the concept in a way that the child can experience.  If your child is learning about volcanoes, you can have them:

Role play being a volcano OR create a visual Venn Diagram comparing it to something they already know about.
volcan

  1. Active learning-the more a child is involved with the information, the more efficiently he will consolidate and recall it.  When a child passively receives information, he will understand and remember less.  Passively receiving informcloudation would be listening to a lecture or passing your eyes over the print from beginning to end in a chapter. Active learning would involve making predictions about the chapter, taking notes and discussing what was read or learned.
  1. Rhythm and Music: Rhythm and music stimulates both sides of the brain.  It activates our attention system and multiple neural pathways which facilitates memory and retrieval.   Create a song, set to a familiar tune that reviews key concepts in a curricular area.  Memorizing the 50 states, days of the week, or spelling words can all be easier when taught within a song or chant.
  2. Movement: Adding movement to an activity provides extra-sensory input and enhances attention.  Movement helps increase cognitive function while also helping children get rid of “the wiggles”.

It is also beneficial for children to have downtime for movement built into their days. Many studies have found that students who exercise do better in school.   Exercise triggers the release of a substance that enhances cognition by boosting the ability of neurons to communicate with each other. Below are some ideas to incorporate movement into learning:

  • Air writing letters
  • Playing charades to act out a history lesson
  • If the answer is correct, make a sign like a referee
  •  Jumping on the trampoline while doing math facts
  • Playing catch while reviewing information
  1. Humor– Humor wakes up the brain cells!  It also encourages attention and relieves stress.  Humor keeps learning an enjoyable experience for teachers, parents and children.  Using humor lets students have an increased feeling of safety in making an error or getting an answer wrong.  Make time for laugh breaks to keep your child alert and attentive while learning
  2. ReflectionDowntime is important to help the brain process new information and strengthen neural connections.  Have your child learn and study in small chunks of time.  Implement breaks for movement, listening to music, doodling or having a snack.

For more information on strategies for learning and about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit: eastersealsdfvr.org.

Toe Walking in Toddlers…is it Normal?

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

Walking on the balls of the feet or “toe-walking”, is quite common in children just learning to walk. The good news is that many children out-grow it within a few months of walking.  However, if your child is toe-walking beyond the age of 2, it is worth talking to your pediatrician about it, as there may be an underlying cause associated with this.

There are a few main reasons why children toe-walk:

  • Shortened Achilles tendon

A shortened Achilles tendon (bottom part of the calf) can cause less flexibility at the ankle, making it more difficult for a child to get his heel down when walking.  When this is thetoe walk case, physical therapy can help stretch the calf muscle group and strengthen muscles in the core and front part of the lower leg. This therapy can help the child learn to walk with a more typical “heel to toe” walking pattern.  Sometimes your therapist will recommend a brace to wear during the day and/or at night in order to help get a child’s heel down when walking and stretch the Achilles tendon at night.  In some cases, a series of casts may be used to help gain range of motion at the ankle.  Surgery may be recommended for correction in rare cases or when “toe-walking” persists into later childhood.

  • Sensory Processing

“Toe- walking” can also be a sensory-seeking behavior. Children who need more proprioceptive input will lock their knees and ankles. Children may also lock these joints to feel more stable and better prepare them for physical activities, such as running. Some children walk on their toes as they are hypersensitive to different textures or temperatures on the floor. “Toe-walking” can become a habit and if done frequently, can lead to tight Achilles tendons. This is why, if you or your pediatrician feel like your child has sensory concerns, that they are evaluated by an occupational therapist to help with strategies.

  • Underlying Medical Diagnosis

If “toe- walking” persists beyond the age of 2 or if it is accompanied by muscle stiffness, difficulty with communication or language delays, coordination problems, or if your child toe-walks just on one side, it is a good idea to speak with your pediatrician about it so you can find out if there is an under-lying cause.  Diagnoses including Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Charcot-Marie Tooth and Tethered Cord have all been linked with early “toe-walking”. Some (but not all) children with Autism and other Pervasive Development Disorders (PDD) have also been noted to toe-walk.Caroline-PE Selected Photo

  • Idiopathic “Toe-Walking”

Idiopathic “toe-walking” is used to describe a child who toe-walks without any known reason.  Children who walk on their toes may have frequent falls, lean more forward when they walk, and show more difficulty with balance. “Toe-walking” may also be hereditary, where more than one child in the family toe-walks.   Early recognition and intervention is fundamental to prevent a shortened calf muscle and help develop a normal walking pattern and balance reactions.

Many children “toe-walk” as they learn to walk, and with a proper heel-to-toe walking pattern, they learn fairly quickly. However, if you are concerned that your child is toe-walking beyond the age of 2, or is showing other difficulties with development, it is important to speak with your pediatrician.  They may refer you to a physical or occupational therapist who can further assist you and your child.

Learn more about Physical Therapy services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley: http://eastersealsdfvr.org/physical.therapy.

Future Budget Outlook: Early Intervention

By: Scott Kuczynski, Senior at University of Wisconsin, Political Science major

Read part 1 in this budget series here. In part 2 of this Illinois budget series we take a closer look at the future outlook of the state Early Intervention program.

The ongoing budget impasse has had profound consequences on nonprofits throughout the state of Illinois. Court orders, laws and federal money have funded many state services and programs.  However, 10.6% of the budget currently remains unfunded as the state is not authorized to spend money on these programs without a budget in placepattiThese unfunded programs primarily involve higher education and human services which include child care and many other grant funded programs.  Up to this point, there’s been a lack of urgency between the two sides in resolving the budget impasse sparking fears that a budget won’t be reached into the spring or much later.

Unfortunately, the prospect of ending the budget impasse early in 2016 looks bleak.  This concern is confirmed by Illinois State Representative Patricia R. Bellock who notes:

“My most important priority in 2016 is to help pass a responsible budget that meets our essential priorities in securing a safety net for the most vulnerable children and families in our community.

Budget negotiations are still ongoing, but I feel it is unlikely that anything will happen until March.  The reality that we work with is we cannot tax our way out or cut our way out of this budget shortfall.  A balanced budget can only be achieved with a responsible combination of new revenue and long overdue reforms and agreement by the leaders of the General Assembly and the Governor.”

The budget stalemate has created an atmosphere of uncertainty in Springfield that has trickled down to individuals in need, human service agencies and communities causing permanent harm in the process.

What can you do?

One of the most important things you can do is to communicate the importance of Early Intervention and reaching a budget agreement to State Representatives (Click here for Legislature Mailing List).

This involves emphasizing the importance of keeping Early Intervention funding at current levels. Previously there were discussions in Springfield of potentially raising the definition of a developmental delay from 30% to 50%.  Increasing the definition of developmental delay would deny thousands of children early intervention services in Illinois.

Early Intervention is a crucial program serving more than 20,000 infants and toddlers EI Costsfrom birth to three-years old.  In addition to the developmental benefits of Early Intervention for children, it’s critical that policy makers understand the fiscal benefits the Early Intervention program provides. Potentially restricting eligibility for Early Intervention will escalate the number of children who need more intensive and costly services in the future.  It’s estimated that every $1 spent in Early Intervention saves up to $17 in future costs.  By conveying to our elected officials the importance of Early Intervention services we can help ensure its proper standing in the next budget agreement.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Email Governor Rauner through his constituent page and let him know you oppose potential Early Intervention cuts:
  • Email / fax / call your Illinois General Assembly Legislators to let them know the importance of protecting the Early Intervention program! Don’t know who your rep is? You can look it up online through the state’s board of elections site:
  • Send a letter to your Legislator.
  • Continue to raise awareness on social media using the hashtag #EImatters.

Our commitment

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley remains committed to continuing services.  While we are committed to service continuity, we question our ability to do this if the budget stalemate continues. It’s also important to understand how the budget impasse might be impacting families and human services throughout the state.

Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley here: https://eastersealsdfvr.org/.

 

5 Reasons To Enroll Your Child in Private Therapy

By: Jennifer Tripoli, M.S., CCC-SLP

A question I am often asked is about working at a private, non-profit pediatric therapy center. What makes us different?! Well some unique qualities that compliment other services! Below are the top five reasons to enroll a child in private therapy (primarily from a speech-language perspective!).

  1. Enhancing School Services

Many children have significant issues that require more frequent, intense services in order to progress. Unfortunately, the public school districts are limited by the hours in the school day. Participating in outside therapy services allows for a child to work on similar goals or additional goals.

For some children, the repetition of school goals helps them progress faster and allows them more time to understand concepts. For other children, the school therapist may be working on one area of need where the private therapist is targeting another area of need. We are happy to collaborate with school therapists. I find that this is the best recipe for success!

  1. Your child did not qualify for Early Intervention Services (EI)

Currently, the Early Intervention Program for the state of Illinois requires a child (0-3 years of age) to have a 30% or more delay in 1 area of development in order to qualify for services, have a qualifying underling medical diagnosis (e.g. Down Syndrome), or have 3 or more risk factors for delayed development. In many cases, children do not meet the criteria as listed above for services through the Early Intervention system, but still present with developmental delays.

For example, a child may be evaluated for speech and language delay

Frank in therapy
Photo by: Nancy Kerner

through the early intervention system and only found to have a 20% delay in expressive language. In most cases, a child with a 20% delay would not receive services through EI, but may benefit from private therapy in order to improve their expressive language skills to a more age appropriate level. Just because your child has not qualified for EI does not mean they will catch up to their peers without assistance. A private speech and language evaluation may be warranted to determine if your child would benefit from speech therapy services.

  1. Your child has feeding or oral motor issues

Often, feeding and oral motor skills are not addressed in the school system as these skills may not be considered as educationally relevant as other skills. It can also be difficult to find a Speech Pathologist who has experience in working with children with oral motor and feeding deficits. Private speech therapy services can address your child’s feeding and oral motor deficits as these skills are extremely important. Here at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley our speech pathologists have an extensive knowledge of oral motor and feeding deficits in pediatrics.

  1. Your child can participate in co-treat Sessions

When appropriate, co-treat sessions may be of benefit for your child. A co-treat session is when 2 therapies are rendered simultaneously. Often children may be receiving speech therapy along with occupational therapy or occasionally physical therapy. This allows both therapists to work together in order to improve different skills.

For example, the occupational therapist can assist with improving sensory regulation so the child is better able to attend and understand speech and language concepts. The physical therapist can assist the speech pathologist with body positioning/posture to achieve the best speech/voice possible for a child with motor deficits. This is a strength at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. We often have multiple disciplines work together to get a holistic picture of a child’s needs. Voice Box Photo

  1. Your child has minor speech/language deficits that are not addressed by the school

Some children may present mild articulation issues that may impact their ability to communicate, but are not severe enough for a child to qualify for school therapy. Private speech therapy can address these issues if found developmentally inappropriate through a private speech and language evaluation.

If you feel your child would benefit from private speech and language intervention, please visit our website here. Let me know in the comments if you have additional questions!

New Year, New Budget?  Understanding the State’s Budget Stalemate 

By: Scott Kuczynski, Senior at University of Wisconsin, Political Science major

Illinois is entering its seventh month without a state budget.  A lack of a budget for this extended period of a time is unprecedented in the state’s history.  The prolonged stalemate has resulted from political and ideological differences between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrats who hold a supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature.

Negotiations between the lawmakers have made little progress since the July 1, 2015 budget deadline as there is very little middle ground between the two sides.

patti
Representative Patricia R. Bellock

This is confirmed by Illinois State Representative, Patricia R. Bellock, who notes, “Budget negotiations are still ongoing but I feel it is unlikely that anything will happen until March.” There’s concern in the state that the budget impasse could continue well into the spring or not at all as Governor Bruce Rauner and Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, have been unable to make progress towards a budget compromise.

Despite the lack of a budget, the state is currently receiving a majority of its funding due to court orders, laws and federal money.  This has funded 89.4% of the total budget, leaving the remaining 10.6% unfunded.  The unfunded percentage primarily consists of higher education and human services such as child care and many other grant funded programsThis has put enormous strain on nonprofits, many of whom are receiving delayed payments from the state and operating on the premise that they’ll be paid back for human services provided.

Until that time, many nonprofits are forced to make tough decisions which have already resulted in cutting the number of clients they serve, cutting staff, utilizing their full cash reserves, and tapping into lines of credit to continue operations.  In order to avoid further irreparable long-term consequences for human services agencies across Illinois, it’s critical that the state reaches a budget agreement as soon as possible.

Budget Stalemate effects:

The lack of a state budget has created uncertainty and put tremendous stress on nonprofits during the past seven months. United Way of Illinois recently released a survey of human service agencies across Illinois putting the impact of the budget impasse into perspective.  The survey describes the impact on individuals and communities as:

  • 85% of agency respondents have cut the number of clients they serve, up from 34% in July.
  • 84% of agency respondents have cut programs, most impacting children and working adults.

The survey also reveals the fiscal condition of many human services agencies has deteriorated since the budget impasse, forcing these agencies to take measures to ensure the continuation of operations for their clients:

  • 49% of agencies have tapped into their cash reserves
  • 26% of agencies have tapped into lines of credit.
    • Taking on a combined $35 million in debt
    • The average credit extension taken on by respondents was $300,000
  • 27% of agencies have laid off staff as a result of the budget impasse.

The protracted budget stalemate has caused lasting long-term impacts on human services throughout Illinois. Some agencies have already closed their doors while others are in danger of doing the same the longer the budget impasse endures.  They have continued to operate in an atmosphere of uncertainty over delayed payments and potential cuts to critical programs.

What does this mean for Easter Seals Dupage & Fox Valley?

OElectionsne of the biggest concerns for Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is the uncertainty in relation to the State Early Intervention program and whether Early Intervention will face small or large cuts in a potential budget.  Early Intervention programs are essential to enhancing the development of children across Illinois and their services are considered 2 ½ times less costly than special education services in preschool and elementary years. Lawmakers need to recognize the importance of the Early Intervention services and reflect its significance in a final budget agreement.  Here’s what you can do:

  • Email Governor Rauner through his constituent page and let him know you oppose potential Early Intervention cuts:
  • Email/fax/call your Illinois General Assembly Legislators to let them know the importance of protecting the Early Intervention program! Don’t know who your rep is?  You can look it up online through the state’s board of elections site:
  • Send a letter to your Legislator.
  • Continue to raise awareness on social media using the hashtag #EImatters.CI110442953630484434

Our commitment

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley remains committed to continuing services.  While we are committed to service continuity, we question our ability to do this if the budget stalemate continues. It’s also important to understand how the budget impasse might be impacting families and human services throughout the state.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series about the budget outlook. Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley here: https://eastersealsdfvr.org/.