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The Magic of Disney and your Special Needs Child

Guest Blogger: Michele Boroughf, Renee’s Mom

Michele is the mom of an 11-year-old daughter with special needs.  She is always seeking out fun activities and adapting them to create new experiences for Renee and her family. She shares how she planned an accessible and memorable Disney vacation.

I won’t deny that for the longest time as a parent of a special needs daughter, I had put off a trip to Disney World. Why?  I said to myself, how could she enjoy the rides?  How would she manage the travel?  How would she do in the heat?  She has seizures!  How will we manage?  Well this past May we went on a family trip to Disney.  First & foremost was to honor the memory of my Dad who was such a fan of Mickey.  My mother has had this on her bucket list for some time now and all the stars were aligned this May that eight members of our family decided to make the trek to Disney.

I’m happy to say our family survived the trip.  Disney was magical for so many reasons, but for our family it has a different meaning.

I have a friend who summed it up best.  Disney’s motto (although not official and appears nowhere in print).  “It’s not our fault, but it is our problem”.  Disney bent over backwards in every way to ensure our trip was not only enjoyable, but memorable.

Why is it magical?  Because I have never been on a vacation where everyone is NICE!  Not just nice, but pleasant, cordial, and can’t do enough to help you.  Assistance is everywhere!

So here are a few helpful hints for those of you who might be considering a visit to this magical place:

  1. Traveling with a wheelchair? No problem!  The bus transportation for Disney on the property provides two spaces for a wheelchair and scooter.  There are retractable seats.  There’s a handicapped lane for boarding.  You’re accommodated first on every single occasion.  If it’s overlooked, just pleasantly bring it to your bus driver’s attention.  And everyone else has to wait until you’re accommodated.
  1. The Monorail also has a separate boarding line for those in a wheelchair or scooter. They even pull out a ramp for easy boarding.  You’re first yet again!
  1. With regards to accommodations, we stayed at Art of Animation in a family suite and we set up a mattress on the floor to accommodate Renee’s need for sleeping.
  1. Groceries? Who needs special food?  We do!  Coconut milk is what she drinks.  And I was able to find an online grocery store that delivers right to the Bell Hop at the hotel.  Order early enough and you qualify for a discount.  Not only will they deliver to the hotel, they’ll actually put the groceries in your room and perishables in your fridge.  Our mini refrigerator and microwave helped with feeding her daily meals.  Did I mention wine?  Yep, they have that too!
  1. For our family, meal plans don’t work for us. But for a lot of people they do.  Either you’re all on a plan or you’re not.  May was still a very hot month for our daughter and what we learned is we need to go earlier in the season.  At best, create an itinerary so that a sit down meal can be experienced at lunch & dinner which allows time for your special needs child who’s sensitive to the heat index a time to cool off inside.
  1. By using the Disney app on your phone you can avoid wait times for dinner by booking ahead! Definitely do this!  This gets you in and seated right away.
  1. You already know that your child might not be able to keep up with a busy schedule. So check out booking fastpass+ early in the morning hours.  Your options are to cool off with lunch indoors or perhaps head back to the pool to cool off.
  1. Our visit to Magic Kingdom resulted in a trip to the Emergency Quick Care. With a personal escort from the Castle’s Princess Breakfast straight to the walk-in clinic.  Thanks to the heat, Renee suffered from dehydration.  They offered us a private room without hesitation to cool her off and use it as long we needed it.
  1. No matter where we dined, all we had to say was “wheelchair accommodation” on the app and they gladly accommodated.
  1. Lastly, we needed an emergency run to a CVS Pharmacy for Renee. We have no car!  Were on Disney property…what to do?  Call UBER!  Yes, UBER picked up my husband in minutes to take him to the CVS in downtown Disney area.  Just load the UBER app on your iphone, and you’re good to go!

I’m so very happy we finally made this journey and we look forward to our return soon.  The time spent with family and Renee with her cousins are priceless.  Would we change some things? Absolutely, but I say find the itinerary that works for your family.  But know that it will be magical for your family because nowhere else on earth will someone go to the ends of the earth to make sure you’re are one hundred percent happy.  I hope these tips are helpful to you.  My biggest lesson is it doesn’t have to be perfect, but just learn to live in the moment!  Good luck to you on your travels!  May you enjoy every minute of the magic!

The social services staff at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley can recommend resources and pointers to help you plan your family’s next trip.  Click here to get in touch.

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.


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.


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.

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:


Stir Crazy Kids: How to Stay Active this Winter

By: Laura Bueche, Occupational Therapist


Oh the weather outside is frightful, and we are going crazy indoors. Just because there is snow and ice on the ground, does not mean your child’s arousal level is any lower.  On the contrary, it’s probably reaching a boiling point and you are looking for ways to get your kids the sensory stimulation and gross motor activity their little bodies are craving.

Getting your kids up and moving has a lot of benefits. The Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that children and adolescents engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days of the week, preferably daily. As an occupational therapist, I love physical activity because of the regulating aspects of proprioceptive input*, as well as development of coordination skills and strengthening opportunities.

*Proprioceptive input are sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that underlie body awareness. Input can be obtained by lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including one’s own weight. For example, climbing on a jungle gym, swinging across monkey bars, or pulling a wagon.

15_Brady PembrokeWhy is it helpful? Providing your child with more proprioceptive input throughout the day can help them:

  • Tolerate sensations and situations that are challenging
  • Regulate emotions, alertness and increase attention span
  • Reduce unwanted sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors
  • Handle transitions with less stress (

For more information about sensory processing check out the post, How Sensitive is Too Sensitive?

In these bitter winter months, it is difficult to get your kids the physical
activity they need. Here are just a few ideas for indoor activities to give you and your family a much-needed break from being stuck at home.

Ideas for Local Indoor Activities

Ideas if You Can’t Leave the House

There is a crazy blizzard outside, what can I do with what I have at home? Here are some ideas to get kids some movement breaks when stuck indoors:

  • Build a furniture fort by pushing and pulling furniture and cushions from around the house.
  • Make an obstacle course by army crawling, jumping and doing jumping jacks to get to the finish line in record time.
  • The floor is hot lava! We all know this favorite.
  • Animal walk relay races: bear walk, crab walk, wheelbarrow, and penguin waddle across the room to roll the die of a board game or get stickers for a craft project.
  • Jump and crash into a pillow pile or onto the bed.
  • Jump rope with rhymes and songs.
  • Squeeze, squish, and smash Play-Doh.
  • Use a scooter, tricycle, or scooter board to propel through the house.
  • Squish your kids in a pillow pile; making sandwiches.
  • Swing your toddler in a blanket between you and another adult.
  • Push a vacuum or mop, collect the garbage, wipe down the table, load the laundry, and push the laundry basket.Cooper


Today, is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving. This international movement started four years ago to follow the commerce focused Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Giving Tuesday was created to channel the generous spirit of the holiday season and inspires action around charitable giving.1

Each week, more than 1,000 infants, children and young adults with developmental disabilities come through Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s doors to receive the personalized services that help them build a foundation for future development and independence.

Click here to view a video which gives you a glimpse into the impact of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. It features Quinn, who has cerebral palsy.  He has made great strides because of the therapies he receives.  quinn

On this Giving Tuesday, please consider a gift to Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. Your donation will help us to provide therapy and services to infants and children, so that they can reach critical milestones, achieve their goals and live their best life.

Even better, every new dollar raised this Giving Tuesday will be matched 2:1! Thanks to a generous grant and our Board of Directors, we can triple your impact.

Click here for more information about Easter Seals and how you might choose to contribute!


Fine Motor Fun

By: Laura Bueche, Occupational Therapist

You have probably heard about fine motor skills from your child’s teacher, occupational therapist, or child development book. But what exactly are fine motor skills? Why are they important to develop? What should my child be able to do at their age?

What are Fine Motor Skills?

Fine motor tasks involve small movements of the hands and fingers and are necessary for performing many daily occupations.

Why Are Fine Motor Skills So Important?

Fine motor skills are essential to performing everyday tasks.

As your child grows and learns, fine motor skills are crucial in the education and participation in school. Your child will be learning concepts through using their fine motor skills to color, cut with scissors, and paint with a paintbrush. Later on, they will need more precise fine motor skills to write letters and numbers, operate a calculator, and type on a computer.

Play is also an area that requires fine motor skills, such as constructing legos, kenix, duplos, stringing beads, playing board games, manipulating play doh, and making crafts. 20150320_ES-LegoRoom-22.jpg

Self-care activities also require fine motor skills. Tying shoelaces, buttoning buttons, zipping up a jacket, and using a knife and fork to eat food, opening and closing containers, opening doors, all require fine motor control.

What Are Some Fine Motor Milestones?

The following list describes SOME activities that your child should be able to do at their developmental age level.

0-3 Months                  Can hold object involuntarily when placed in palm

2-4 months                  Swipes at objects independently

3-3.5 months               Clasps hands together often

3.5 – 4 months            Begins purposeful, visually directed reaching

3-7 months                  Can hold small object in hand

4-8 months                  Can transfer objects from one hand to another

4-10 months

  • Accurate forward and side reach
  • Rakes or scoops small objects to pick them up
  • Intentionally releases object

Age 1

  • Transfer items from one hand to another
  • Accurate forward and side reach
  • Able to grasp small object with finger tips of thumb, pointer, middle finger
  • Pokes and points with fingersNicholas_T

12- 18months

  • Hold crayon with whole hand
  • Emerging skill in picking up a small object with fingertips and moving it to the palm of the hand

Age 2

  • Take off socks
  • Take off shoes
  • Finger feeds self
  • Scoops with spoon or fork and brings it to mouth
  • Uses a fork and spoon well
  • Holds utensil with thumb and all fingers, thumb pointing down
  • Can draw and copy a vertical and horizontal line
  • Snips paper
  • Turns single pages of book
  • String large beads

Age 3

  • Fastens Velcro or elastic laced shoes
  • Completes simple puzzles (5-6 pieces)
  • Build a tower of 9 small blocks
  • Drink from cup with one hand
  • Holds pencil with 3 fingers (tripod grasp)
  • Copies circle, traces square
  • Draws person with head
  • Unbuttons small buttons

Age 4

  • Prepares tooth brush with toothpaste
  • Obtains soap from dispenser
  • Can cut straight, curved lines, and simple shapes
  • Draw and copy a cross, square
  • Folds paper in half
  • Dominant hand has better coordination (no longer switches)

Age 5

  • Puts on and zips up jacket
  • Uses a knife to spread, dull knife to cut
  • Laces shoes
  • Colors within lines
  • Cut out complex pictures
  • Draws a complete person

Age 6

  • Brushes hair
  • Brushes teeth well
  • Completes all dressing including fasteners and belt
  • Unlocks and opens doors
  • Can fasten a safety belt
  • Complex puzzles
  • Prints uppercase and lowercase

Age 8

  • Uses personal care devices such as contact lenses, glasses, hearing aids, and orthotics

Age 9

  • Folds laundry well
  • Uses small kitchen supplies for meal prep
  • Uses key to open door

How Can I Help my Child?

Besides the resources at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, there are some great websites with ideas for home activities that work on fine motor skill development.

If you are concerned about your child’s fine motor development, an occupational therapy evaluation will be able to assess your child’s fine motor skills, and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for their age. An occupational therapist can recommend ongoing therapy or a home program to help your child catch up to their peers.


Holiday Gifts and Toys For Kids


By: Jennifer Tripoli M.S., CCC-SLP

With the holidays right around the corner, everyone is beginning to purchase gifts for their loved ones. Christmas is a special time for kids (Santa is coming!) and you are probably looking for toy/game ideas that are worth your money. Not only do we wish to purchase toys that are children want, but also toys that are developmentally and educationally beneficial as well. Before you run out to the stores to get your hands on those “hot toys” (and fight those crowds!!), lets consider a few guidelines.

  • Is the toy developmentally appropriate for your child?

Just because a certain toy is the “it” toy, this doesn’t mean all children should have it.  Does your child have the skills to play with the toy in a productive way? You should buy toys that the child can play with functionally at this point in their development.

  • Will this toy grow with your child?

Toys can be very expensive nowadays, so we want to purchase toys that will grow with a child. Will your child enjoy this toy not only right now, but in the future? Are there a variety of different ways this toy can be played with? An example of a toy that may grow with a child is an animal set and barn. Toddlers may play with this toy by placing the animals in and out of the barn or learning the animal sounds. Older children may play the animals by creating stories or more complex play schemes with the barn.

  • How expensive is the toy?

Just because a toy is expensive does not mean it is the best toy for a child! Many of the best toys for children are in expensive such as blocks, balls, pretend play musical instruments, stuffed animals, etc. If you are on a budget, here are some toys you can make at home for next to nothing and even use some of those old things you have laying around the house! Click here for ideas!

  • Does the toy require batteries? Is it electronic?

My favorite toys for younger kids often don’t require any batteries!  Sometimes the toys do everything and anything and do not allow for the child to learn or do something independently. I think the best toys are old fashioned, basic toys. These toys don’t always make sounds, move, or have flashing lights!

  • Does the toy promote exploration and problem solving skills?

Toys that allow your child to figure out something by themselves should be given! E.g. Puzzles (for all ages), shape sorters (younger children), Playdough, building kits, etc.

  • Other questions to ask: Does the toy promote/allow for physical activity? Is the toy safe for child’s age/developmental level? Does the toy/game promote educational concepts? Is the toy durable?

Toy Ideas by Age

1-3 years

  • Musical instruments
  • Bubbles
  • Balls
  • Fisher Price play sets (bus, airplane)
  • Farm with animals (here) OR zoo with animals (here)
  • Elefun Game (here), Elefun ball popper toy (here)
  • Fisher Price Spiral Race Track (here)
  • Cause/effect type toys
  • Blocks (here or here)
  • Ball/hammer toys (here)
  • Stacking buckets (here)
  • Books with simple illustrations and early vocabulary
  • Basic wooden puzzles with early vocabulary (animals, vehicles, food, etc.)

*Note- Due to the “electronic age” many toy companies are pushing electronic/computer/ipad based activities for children under the age of 2 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics does NOT support the use of electronics for children under the age of 2 years.

For more information visit:

3-6 years (preschool and kindergarten age)

  • Dollhouse (any with family)
  • Pretend play dress up outfits- firefighter, cook, police officer, vet, etc. (here)
  • Doll/stuffed animal/puppets with clothes/accessories
  • Farm/zoo with animals
  • Play food with microwave
  • Stove, grocery cart, cash register, tea set, sandwich making set, etc.
  • Train set with city
  • Basic turn-taking games (Barnyard Bingo 3+, Zingo 4+, Candyland 3+, Chutes and Ladder 3+, Hi Ho Cheerio 3+, Diggity Dog 3+, etc.)
  • More complex puzzles that require higher level problem solving
  • Toys/games that target academic concepts (colors, shapes, numbers, letter, etc.)
  • Books with more pictures and words (compared to toddler books)
  • Play-doh and play-doh sets
  • Block set that allow for more creative/complex building
  • Art supplies, crayons, coloring books, etc.

6-9 years

  • Lego sets (look at age and complexity)
  • Board games (HedBanz, Operation, Zingo, Guess Who, Monopoly Junior, Charades game, Blurt, memory games, Trouble, Don’t Say It, etc.)
  • Books with more complex story lines- beginning chapter books
  • Games that encourage physical activity- basketball nets, soccer goals, baseball equipment, etc.
  • Art/craft materials to improve creativity

9 years +

  • Thinking games such as Chess, Sodoku, crossword puzzles, Checkers, Scrabble, Jeopardy, Catchphrase, Bop it!, Boggle
  • More complex Lego/building sets
  • Apple/Android apps or computer games (they aren’t all bad!) that target executive functions such as problem solving (apps- Cut the Rope, Rush Hour, Tetris, apps that aren’t just a game but actually make you THINK!) Click here for more on “executive functions” (here)
  • Check out Marbles-the Brain Store or other stores like it for unique games/activities that workout your brain! (Here)

Other Resources:

Click here for Toys R Us guide for differently abled kids!

Safety tips for toys:

Please visit my previous post on 3 classic games for targeting speech and language skills! here

Want ideas for speech and language? Please visit the Easter Seals DuPage Speech/Language Department’s Pinterest page! here

Lights, Camera, Action! A Parent’s Guide to Using Video Feedback for Changing Behaviors

video modeling

By Jessica Drake-Simmons

I keep finding myself pulling out the iPad during speech therapy sessions.  Not for the purpose of playing games or using therapeutic apps but simply to use the video camera.  Video feedback has been an effective way of capturing the attention and reinforcing a desired behavior with so many of my little friends. The implications for video feedback are endless but here are a few ideas to target:

  • Behavioral expectations:
    • Following directions
    • Cleaning up toys
    • Sitting at the dinner table
    • Walking next to you at the grocery store
    • Waiting in line
  • Executive functioning skills
    • Attention (e.g., The child watches a video clip of themselves doing homework and analyzes the time they stay on task)
    • Self-monitoring (e.g. The child watches the video and adult narrates the child’s initiation, persistence and completion of making their lunch)
  • Speech Production:
    • Discriminating correct versus incorrect productions of targeted sounds
    • Counting number of correct productions during a conversational sample
    • Self-correction of observed errors
  • Social Skills- Social skills can be hard to teach because real life social opportunities move SO quickly! Video modeling allows us to slow down the interaction, press pause, review the clip over and over and teach different aspects of the interaction such as:
    • Non-verbal Language
    • Eye Contact
    • Use of greetings
    • Conversation skills (staying on topic, conversational repairs, asking questions, responding)
    • Perspective Taking

The length of the video and the amount of behaviors reviewed is highly dependent on the familiarity of the task and the amount of information the child is able to process. Since positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways of changing behavior, I primarily focus on what the child did well when reviewing a video with them.  Depending on the child, I may choose 1-2 behaviors to teach/correct.

Example of praising desired behaviors:

“I like how your body is facing your brother when he is talking to you.  When you                                                            looked at your brother, he knew that you were listening to him.  That was a nice greeting when you said ‘hi’.  When you stayed an arm’s length away from your brother, he felt comfortable.

Example of correction:

There your brother said ‘how are you?’  You could have responded with _(Child’s response)______.  Yes, “fine” would be a great response! 

Why should you use video feedback?

  • It is quick and easy! Throughout your day you likely have a device with a video camera within arm’s reach.  It’s easy to take a video of your child and it’s quick to show it back to them as frequently as needed!
  • Most kids LOVE watching themselves on video! Their full engagement is one of the reasons that make this learning opportunity so effective.
  • It teaches your child what it means to ‘be good’! Using simple, affirmative language to describe the expected behavior in a situation helps prepare kids for what to expect in an event and prepares them to demonstrate the expected behaviors.
  • Videos provide multi-modal learning (visual and auditory). Multi-modal learning is effective for EVERYONE but especially beneficial for our kids who struggle with language comprehension.

I love watching children beam with pride when they witness themselves doing something well.  They love the recognition and praise that comes along with achievement in an area they sense can be challenging.  Watching a video of his or herself succeeding instills a feeling of confidence and they want to do it again and again!

Taking the Pain Out of Homework

Executive Functioning Blog

Article Review – “Homework and Beyond: Teaching Organization Skills to Individuals with ASD” by Michelle Garcia Winner

Let’s face it. No two people organize the same exact way. In fact, many of us have a variety of different organizational strategies altogether. It’s complicated and it doesn’t make teaching organizational skills any easier. When it comes to homework, being organized is just one step to helping the entire process go easier.  Many children struggle with homework which in turn leads to frustration for the entire family. Doing homework is a learned process and it can start with having better organization skills.

A recent article ( I read by Michelle Garcia Winner, CCC-SLP, lumped organization systems into two different systems: static and dynamic. Understanding these two very different types of organization systems and when they occur in development can help all of us target our teaching and work on more specific goals related to a child’s development. It can also help us understand why we encourage children from a very young age to clean up and start learning basic organization. Michelle Garcia Winner defined static organization systems as being: same thing, same time, same place, same way. These are the skills we introduce early in education. We assist students in breaking down tasks and students have to complete defined parameters. “Write your name at the top of the page, read the instructions, complete the work, when done turn over the paper and sit quietly until time is up.” In comparison, she defined dynamic organizational systems as involving constant adjustments to priorities, sustained attention, time management, and environments. Teachers start introducing these types of organization systems by 3rd or 4th grade on most occasions with moderate levels of support. By middle school and high school, there is a larger focus on these types of organization systems. Michelle Garcia Winner outlined 10 steps to foster organization skills. Please use the link above to read the full article. It has some great advice.

Below I’ve added some additional information I find helpful.

  1. Start with the end in mind

Sometimes this is easier said than done. Starting with the end in mind I think works really well with Michelle Garcia’s points 1, 2, 3, and 4. Having a picture of the end helps us get started and keeps us motivated. We all need motivation at different points in our day. We need it even more when our work might seem somewhat ridiculous and never ending. When we have a picture of the end in mind, it helps us keep going and work….especially when we know there is something fun at the end- like special time with mom or dad.

A fun strategy I like to use was taught to me by Sarah Ward ( Have children put on their imaginary future glasses and imagine what needs to be done. This helps in many different ways. For one it can help a child who is stuck get started because they now hopefully have an image in their mind to plan and get ready. The best model for teaching organizational skills is model, assist, and then have your child perform with you watching before they are expected to do it on their own. This is a teaching method called the Gradual Release of Responsibility (

  1. Think with Your Eyes

Thinking with your eyes is another concept taught my Michelle Garcia Winner. Thinking with your eyes means using your eyes to figure out what nonverbal messages others are sending or what the situation demands out of our behavior. Behavior is defined not only as what a person does with their body but also with their actions. Behavior in this context is not meant as being either positive or negative. Thinking with your eyes is accomplished through reading others’ eye-gaze directions, facial expressions, and body language.  Mrs. Garcia explains that receptively we use our eyes to gather information about what other people are thinking about, feeling, what is happening around us, and what might be someone else’s plan whereas expressively we use our eyes to indicate our focus, which in turn cues others in on what we are thinking about. When you think with your eyes, you are engaging in an active process that helps you be aware of what is happening in your environment, determine what others are thinking and feeling, and subsequently know how to respond. This ability to ‘think with your eyes’ can also be helpful in assisting your children to plan, gather, organize, and execute the number of steps required to complete a goal. One example of using this concept would be a child having difficulties transitioning because he/she is unable to filter out the multisensory information from the environment and they miss important directions. As a result, they are often the last one to the group or don’t get started on a task. We can use the concept ‘think with your eyes’ to help teach the child to stop, read the room, make a guess about what is occurring, and move their body to the correct location.

  1. Teach time management

How often have you heard from your child “but mom that is going to take FOREVER!”? Developmentally, young children, and even some adolescents, routinely don’t estimate the correct amount of time required. Nowadays kids don’t learn time as their parents did growing up. There are many reasons this is occurring. For one simple reason, kids are not as exposed to analogue clocks anymore. All they see are digital clocks. They never see the passage of time or how time adds up or goes away. I don’t want to do something if I think it is going to take forever; however, if I can just learn that my concept of forever is really just 10-15 minutes, then maybe I will be more likely to just keep going and finish my homework. After all, if I start with the end in mind, I know there is something fun and rewarding going to happen at the end hopefully. Again, Sarah Ward ( has some fantastic ideas on her webpage. Look up time trackers. One simple strategy I like is teaching kids the concept of time robbers and how to be a time cop. Having a consistent homework time can also help.

  1. Modify and prepare the environment

Once we have those troublesome time robbers identified, help your child to see how a little organization in their workspace can go a long way. Instead of having their cellphone with quick access to Instagram, Snapchat, twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc, let them see that those things are typical time robbers and would be better if we put our phone elsewhere when we are doing our homework. Maybe suggest keeping it under their chair? Having an organized workspace with paper, pencils, pens, markers, etc. will ultimately save time and the hassle of having to keep up and down multiple times or stopping to look for materials. There are some additional great books out there for identifying a child’s personal style of organization and make suggestions for purchasing school supplies as well as organizing materials. Some of my favorites include: 1) Organizing the Disorganized Child: Simple Strategies to Succeed in School by Martin L., M.D. Kutscher and Marcella Moran 2) Get Organized Without Losing It by Janet S. Fox 3) The Middle School Student’s Guide to Ruling the World! ® Work Habits and Organization Skills (

  1. Use visual structures

Michelle Garcia Winner recommended using visual long-term mapping charts such as Gantt Chart ( Her article, as well as the website, provides more information. Other great ideas are making up a mnemonic and color coding different subjects. I’m a partial fan of “GOAL-PLAN-DO-CHECK” but others such as “GET READY-DO-DONE” are also great. Find what works for your child and family.

If you are struggling in any of these areas, contact Easter Seals and find out if having an OT evaluation for your child might be beneficial.

3 Classic Games and How They Can Be Used for Speech-Language Practice


By Jennifer Tripoli

Does your child give you a difficult time working on speech-language homework? Does your child have the skill mastered when drilling flashcards/structured practice, but is unable to generalize the skill to conversation/spontaneous speech? Using games are a great way to assist with generalization of skills as it is a more naturalistic way to target a specific speech-language skill. Games are also a fun way to practice speech/language homework outside of the clinic! Open the box and see how many speech and language opportunities are in front of you!

Below are 3 games with ideas on how to practice a variety of different speech and language skills!

  1. Guess Who by Hasbro

Ages: 6+

How to play:

Skills targeted: Processing of yes/no questions, answering yes/no questions, question formulation, deductive reasoning (process of elimination), use of complete sentences, use of “is”/”has”/”have”, use of descriptor/color concepts, articulation of final /z/,

Processing of yes/no questions and answering yes/no questions: The game of Guess Who? Is centered on yes/no questions in order to deduct the mystery person of your opponent. When the child’s opponent is asking a yes/no question, they are required to understand the question posed in order to accurately respond to the opponent.

Question Formulation: This is a very difficult skill for children with language deficits. Asking questions require us to invert/reverse word order. Figuring out the correct word can be tricky. There are many different kinds of question formulation, but in the game Guess Who? Basic yes/no question asking can be targeted. The child needs to learn that in the English language we start a question by stating the verb (e.g. Is/does) and then produce the subject (e.g. person). Example questions in Guess Who? “Is your person a girl?”, “Does your person have a hat?” “Is your person wearing glasses?” Here is a visual to help with question asking!

Deductive reasoning skills: The skill of deductive reasoning is key for a child! Children need to learn that they need to wait and look at all the information before coming to a decision/answer. Guess Who? teaches just that. The child must gather all the clues from their opponent in order to make an accurate mystery person guess!

Use of complete sentences/ use of “is”, “has”, “have”:  You can have the child expand their answer from just yes/no. The child can respond with a full sentence such as “No, my person does not have a hat” or “Yes, my girl has glasses” or “yes, my person is a man”, etc.

Use of descriptor words/concepts/specific language: In the game Guess Who? The players must ask questions related to color or use of very specific language such as body parts (eyes, mustache, cheeks, beard, etc.), accessories (hat, glasses, earrings, etc.)

Articulation of final /z/ sound: Repetitive words/phrases are used during the Guess Who? game. Phrases such as “Is (final /z/ sound) your person a girl?” or “Does (final /z/ sound) your person have a hat?” “She has (final /z/ sound) glasses (final /z/ sound”.

Initially, this game may be too difficult for some children. It may be a good idea to find another adult to assist the child and make a “team”. If another adult is not around, you can play a “practice” round where you would guide the child through the game knowing their mystery person and making sure they are following the game appropriately.

Where can I find it?

There are many other versions of Guess Who? Here are a few more:            games&ie=UTF8&qid=1412709091&sr=1-8&keywords=GUess+who

Other games similar to Guess Who? Try playing Go Fish!

  1. Barnyard Bingo by Fisher Price

Ages: 2+

How to play:

Skills targeted: simple matching, naming/identifying farm animals, use of repetitive/carrier phrases (“I got ____” “It’s a match”, “no match”), sentence expansion (expression of colors), use of early vocabulary “in”, “open”, “shut”, “my turn/your turn”

How to play:

Simple matching: Matching skills are an early cognitive skill that must be developed in young children. Barnyard Bingo requires the child to not only match by color, but also by farm animal.

Naming and identifying farm animals: Barnyard Bingo includes pig, sheep, cow, and duck. The child is required to name the animal they pull out of the barn.

Use of repetitive/carrier phrases: Carrier phrases help children learn to produce longer sentences. Carrier phrases are any phrase that has the same beginning words, but a different ending word. The predictability of these phrases assists children in moving from the single word or 2 word level to talking in more complex sentences. In the Barnyard Bingo game, each time the child takes a turn they would say “I got_____” or “I see _____” and name the animal. Children can also use repetitive phrases during this game such as “It’s a match” or “No match” depending on what they choose.

Sentence expansion: Not only can the child use a carrier phrase to express a longer sentence, but the child can add a color concept to expand upon their sentence even more. For example, require the child to produce “I got a blue cow” or “I got a yellow duck”. This game not only helps the child learn colors, but also use colors to be descriptive in their utterances.

Exposure and use of early vocabulary: Barnyard bingo exposes children to early vocabulary such as “same” or “different”, “open” (open the barn door), “shut/close” (close the barn door), use of colors.

Turn-taking: Barnyard Bingo is a very basic game that can teach young children the concept of turn-taking. Children will be required to learn the skill of waiting and taking turns in order to function in their daily lives ( at school, on the playground, at play dates, sharing toys, etc.) During Barnyard Bingo, children can be required to verbalize “my turn” or “your turn” throughout the game.

Where can I find it?

  1. Hedbanz: The quick question game of “Who am I?” by Spin Master Games

Ages: Hedbanz 7+

How to play:

(These are the official rules, but to elicit some of my speech/language goals, I often change the rules!)

Skills targeted: describing skills, spontaneous language for generalization of sounds, receptive language/inferencing, sorting/categorizing, asking/answering questions

Expressive language/describing skills: For this skill, I change the rules of the game slightly. I have both the clinician and the child put the card on their head without looking! Instead of asking questions (the true way to play), I have the child describe the picture to me without saying the name! The child must be a “good” describer in order for the clinician or the “guesser” to come to the correct answer. For children who are beginning to work on describing skills, I often place a semantic map/web in front of them to assist with describing. Here is an example of one: This gives the child practice in producing functions of objects, coming up with category label/name, go togethers/word associations, production of other concepts related to size/color/location.

Spontaneous language for generalization of sound production: I have used this game to listen elicit spontaneous speech for generalization of specific speech sounds. Because the child is not focusing on 1 specific sound, you can listen to see if they can still maintain accurate productions of their target sound (whatever sound that may be!)

Receptive language/inferencing skills: When the child is the “guesser”, they are required to process and understand what is being said to them (whether it be questions- played the true way or other descriptive concepts). They also are required to make an inference (relate what they know to what is being described). For example: it’s an animal, it says moo, it lives on a farm, it can be black/white…. A cow.

Sorting/categorizing skills: Instead of using the headband to play, just use the cards that come with the game! Lay out all the cards, see if the child can sort them by basic categories (e.g. foods, animals, things in the house, etc.) For a more difficult approach to this, ask the child to sort into more abstract categories (less obvious categories) such as things that are yellow, or things you see outside. See if the child can come up with their own way of organizing the pictures!

Asking/answering questions: The true way to play this game, the “guesser” asks the other player yes/no questions in order to eventually get to the correct word/object. The other player answers yes/no until the object is guessed. This helps children practice not only asking yes/no questions (correct question formation), but also their ability to process yes/no questions and answer correctly.

Where can I find it?

There are a few other versions of Hedbanz. Find one your child will love!

Adult version for 14 years +:

Stay tuned for more speech/language game ideas! Want more ideas now? Visit the speech/language department’s pinterest page!