Tag Archives: communication

What is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication Evaluation?

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L

Did you know October was National Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) month? AAC is a specialized area of clinical services. Here at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley, we are very lucky to have several therapists who specialize in helping individuals find their voice through AAC. We have both Occupational Therapists (OT)  and Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) involved in a multidisciplinary team evaluation to determine the best strategies and/or communication systems to help a child learn to communicate.

As an OT, I first became interested in AAC when I was working with a little boy with autism who received a high tech speech output device. It was amazing to see how having his new voice provided so many new opportunities for him. It helped with his overall regulation as he now had a system to share his wants, desires, and needs.

assist-with-communicationAAC looks different from person to person and varies from low tech options, light/mid tech and high tech systems. If you think your child might benefit from AAC, our team evaluative approach may be helpful. Below is more information on what each team member does to best help your child.

  1. Many parents often have questions about whether or not a device will hinder their children’s ability to speak. This is absolutely not the case. Research demonstrates that AAC does not keep children from learning to speak.  In fact, users will make gains in language AND speech because AAC helps a child connect with others, produce successful communication, and provides consistent speech models. The child I described above, went on to learn a ton of new words after he got his device! When we begin to use AAC with toddlers, it doesn’t mean we believe they are never going to talk; instead, it often means, we believe they need a way to have a meaningful connection to others through a common language which helps serve as a bridge to spoken language.
  2.  Do try and introduce forms of AAC early. Using AAC can be very helpful for a toddler who is beginning to make gestures, eye contact or sounds to communicate messages, but isn’t yet using spoken language. Often these toddlers are frustrated they can’t communicate certain thoughts and messages. Once they start to see and learn the power of communication through signs, pictures, or more formal AAC apps/devices, they begin to feel a little less frustrated.

blog_visual3. Model, model, model. When using any type of AAC, we can never model enough. This means that everyone in a child’s life should use AAC too! As with all language learning, AAC is learned because those around the child speak the same language. If you think about it, early communication development (between birth – 12 months) is only modeling – caregivers communicating without any expectation while being connected with their baby using a common language. I love it when my clients bring their devices to therapy. If your child is already receiving therapy services, ask the therapist to use your child’s communication system during sessions to connect and engage with your child. When using AAC, continue to use verbal speech to model and help children understand the pictorial representation of language and develop the words.

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4. When you schedule an evaluation, you will see both an occupational therapist and a speech therapist trained in AAC. Both therapists are knowledgeable in a variety of access methods such as hand access, switch scanning, and eye gaze technology. The occupational therapist will specifically look at:

  • the child’s overall posture and strength to allow for upper extremity (or any other extremity) use while accessing the communication system
  • determine optimal positioning of both the child and the device to ensure the most efficient method of access
  • the child’s vision, auditory, and sensory processing needs
  • the child’s visual and/or auditory scanning ability
  • the child’s visual/auditory tolerance
  • any adaptations to engage different sensory systems, as well as monitor for sensory overload and/or assist in sensory regulation for device access.

The speech therapist is extremely knowledgeable in the vast array of AAC communication systems and AAC strategies available. They will help determine the communication system and language page best suited to bridge the gap between the child’s receptive and expressive communication skills. The evaluations are done in a play based manner to help the child feel comfortable. And play is how children learn!

DSC_1Here at Easterseals we offer a team approach for evaluating children for AAC needs. For children that could additionally benefit from AAC, we will see them for co-treats to help expand their language within play based therapy sessions.

When the child’s specific goal is to assist in overall regulation and play to support device access, then a co-treat can be extremely valuable between Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy. OTs are trained in setting up sensory rich environments to support regulation and drive play. These activities can be very motivating for your child’s communication. There are endless opportunities to model language depending on your child’s unique development.

To learn more about Assistive Technology at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley, click here. 

 

Additional resources: www.speechscience.org

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How Speech-Language and Occupational Therapies Work Together

By: Danielle Maglinte, MAT, MS, CCC-SLP

Ryan - webYoung children go through many developmental stages before they begin talking. One of the first stages of development is shared attention. In a baby, shared attention looks like the baby turning her head toward mom when she hears mom’s voice or a baby looking into dad’s eyes when dad talks to the baby. As children get a little older, shared attention looks like mom holding up a toy, the child looking at the toy, then looking back at mom and smiling. The next step in developing shared attention is dad looking at or pointing to a toy, the child looks where dad looks or points, then he looks back to dad. These steps towards developing shared attention typically happen within the first 12 months of a child’s life.

When a young child reaches a stage of shared attention where they can follow a caregiver’s point and they can shift their gaze between the caregiver and the object, they start to develop back-and-forth communication. At first, this looks like a child reaching for an object to tell the caregiver “I want that.”

As back-and-forth communication with gestures continues to develop, the child starts to vocalize. In the beginning, these vocalizations are mostly babbling. As parents talk back when the child babbles, these vocalizations turn into jargon where a child sounds like they are speaking in sentences but not actually saying words. Some parents comment that it sounds like the child is speaking in another language. Over time, the child’s vocalizations are shaped into short, simple words, such as mama, dada, and baba for bottle. Children with speech delays often demonstrate limited shared attention. Working to develop strong shared attention will help a child learning to communicate.

One challenge for some children with speech delays is that they need to maintain a calm, regulated state so that they are available for interactions and can share attention with another person. Read more about self-regulation from OT Maureen here.

15_JJAzariahIf a child is focused on seeking sensory input, they may not have the ability to focus on social interactions, developing shared attention and speech with caregivers. Occupational therapy can help figure out activities and ways we can include these activities in everyday life so that a child can remain in a calm, regulated state so that she is available for social interactions. This may look like a child with limited eye contact running away and looking back to see if you are chasing him or a child who is quiet asking for “more” when you stop pushing the swing.

When a child stays regulated for longer periods of time, she will be available for interactions so that she can continue to develop strong shared attention, and move on to using gestures and speech to communicate. By working together, speech-language therapists and occupational therapists can help a family find activities, such as climbing, playing chase, swinging, and swimming  or others that help a child with speech delays stay regulated and available to develop shared attention and communication skills.

To learn more about speech-language and multi-discipline therapy at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley visit: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/speech-language-therapy.html. 

Comparing School & Clinic Speech Services

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

 As a speech-language pathologist who has worked both in school-based and clinical settings, I am often asked questions about the difference between these two settings. Overall, they work together! I’ll explain more.

School-based setting

Qualifications

girls on desk looking at notebook
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Schools have entrance and exit criteria for qualifying children for speech services derived by their district or state. Using formal assessment protocols, children may need to demonstrate a deficit of a pre-set standard deviation before they are eligible for services.  There is usually a wide range of differences from district to district, so it is difficult to predict qualification criteria prior to the evaluation.

Services:

School services can treat children with language, articulation, pragmatic (i.e., social), and voice/fluency disorders to make educational progress. These services may be delivered in a variety of ways including one-on-one, group setting, or push-in to the classroom.

A Clinic-based setting (like at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley)

Qualifications

Clinics typically do not have pre-set qualification criteria as they are not regulated by state or governing bodies.  Clinicians will qualify children for services based on clinical judgement using both formal and informal assessment procedures. Coverage for these services however may be dependent on the child’s insurance and/or may be an out of pocket expense.

Services

speech therapist.jpgClinics may be able to provide more specialized, intensive, or varied skilled services based on functional and/or medical necessity. Often these services are delivered on a one-on-one setting in the clinic, however additional options may be available.

Easterseals

At Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley , we offer a variety of service delivery models including: one-on-one therapy, community base therapy (groups), co-treatment with multiple services, tele-therapy services in addition to providing services in our clinic, homes, and through our daycare setting.

We deliver a wide range of speech-language services cultivated by upholding ongoing continued education/ certifications, state of the art equipment, and collaboration with multidisciplinary teams.  Our speech-language services work to strengthen children’s communication and feeding skills so that they can participate fully in daily activities and achieve success.

Our speech-language therapy services address functional communication, language expression/comprehension, pragmatics, speech-sound production, voice, fluency, oral motor, and feeding skills. Areas of specialization include but are not limited to the following:

  1. The Voice Box: A Motor Speech Lab, focuses on improving articulation, voice and resonance skills through cutting edge and innovative technology.
  2. Oralfacial Myology addresses disorders of the muscles and functions of the mouth and face. These may address tongue thrust, dental malocclusions, breathing, speech, swallowing, and chewing.
  3. Feeding services seek to ensure safety and adequate consumption of a varied diet. Treatment may address feeding issues related towards chronic diseases or syndromes, disorders of oral motor structure or development, growth disorders, failure to thrive or obesity, tube feedings, food allergies and sensitivities, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological conditions, constipation, diarrhea, sensory-related or Autism Spectrum Disorder-related feeding difficulties.

Voice Box Photo 3Our services continue to expand to meet the needs of the current populations that we serve.  Additional initiatives that we have been growing this year include: tongue/lip ties, auditory processing, and Spell-Links for improving spelling and reading comprehension.

I see value in both school and clinical settings!  I often encourage families that I work with, to consider both options based on the needs of the child.  Our therapists work with other disciplines like our Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Audiology or Nutrition teams. We make sure to consult and involve all medical professionals and school therapists that work with a child, to  review goals and achieve maximal outcomes. To learn more about Speech-Language services at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley visit http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/speech-language-therapy.html.

5 Tips for Keeping Hearing Aids on Babies/Toddlers

By: Beth Rosales, Au.D, CCC-A.

hearing1

As both an audiologist and a mother of 2 young children who wear hearing aids, I definitely understand that keeping hearing aids on your child can be a very difficult task. Young children and babies seem to love to get their hands on those hearing aids and pull them right out of their ears! I often hear from parents of babies and toddlers that they have tried to keep the hearing aids on their child, but it seems impossible. As a result the child doesn’t wear the hearing aids regularly, which means he or she is not hearing very well most of the time, and this will likely delay oral speech and language development.

When 2 of my boys ended up needing hearing aids, I knew I had to do everything I could to keep their hearing aids on their ears when they were awake. Well, I can say from personal experience that the struggle is very real when it comes to keeping hearing aids on young babies and children, but utilizing some helpful tools and tips can make it a lot easier.

Tip #1 – Pilot hats

Baby nico on swingThis is best for babies up to 18 months old or so. I fell in love with pilot hats and here’s why you should too. Not only are they cute, but they will make your life so much easier!! For my boys, pilot hats worked better than anything else when they were very young. The pilot hats should be lightweight and ideally have mesh sides or very thin material that will not block the sound from entering the microphones of the hearing aids. It’s important to get a pilot hat that fits well. If it is too loose, then it will be too easy for your little one to get his hands under the hat.

Here are some great places to get pilot hats that work well with hearing aids:

  • LilNells: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LilNells  My personal favorite shop! The hats fit my sons very well, and she makes them with snap closures, as well as ties. I love the snap closure because they are harder for toddlers to undo (tie up closures can work too, but tie closures are easier for kids to play with and untie). The shop owner also has options with mesh sides available and unlined (thin) hats, both of which are good for hearing aids. She is great at making custom orders, so if you see a hat you like that doesn’t have mesh sides, send her a message to see if she can make it with mesh sides, or if you have an idea or color you’d like, just send her a message to see if it is possible. Hats cost about $15 – $18.
  • Anchor Your Hearing shop: etsy.com/shop/AnchorYourHearing. These hats come with mesh sides which are very breathable so there won’t be too much material covering the microphones of the hearing aids. You can email the owner of the shop through etsy with any questions about orders, sizes, etc. Hats cost about $15-$18.
  • Emmifaye shop: etsy.com/shop/emmifaye. Another etsy shop that sells pilot hats for hearing aids with mesh sides. Cost per hat is about $12.
  • Hanna Anderson hannaandersson.com. These hats are also an option ($14 for the Pilot Cap – not the “winter” pilot caps which are lined, but rather the regular pilot caps which are thinner, not lined, and less expensive than the winter hats).
  • Silkawear silkawear.com. Cost is about $28 per hat.

Tip #2 – Crochet type of Headbands

baby headbandIf pilot hats don’t work, but your child tolerates wearing headbands well, then consider trying crochet type of headbands (worn over the ear, somewhat like the mesh pilot hats). Some patients have found that tight fitting, crochet type of headbands are useful to hold the hearing aids on and these can sometimes be found at stores like Target or Walmart. They can also be found online at stores or on etsy.com.

Tip #3 – Toupee Tape

toupee tape.jpgHooray for toupee tape! Some children benefit from using toupee tape on the behind-the-ear part of the hearing aid. I use this on my 4-year-old son’s hearing aids when he has gymnastics class! It helps stop his hearing aids from flopping off his ears. This is basically like 2-sided tape that you can use on skin. You can cut the tape into a small square or rectangle to fit onto the hearing aid. Place the tape on the behind-the-ear hearing aid, and then tape it to the child’s head since it is meant for skin contact. Some people have found this helpful to use along with the hats or headbands. My 4-year-old no longer needs a pilot hat, so this is a nice solution for when he is doing sports activities. You likely need to replace the toupee tape daily or whenever you take the hearing aids off your child and then put them back on him. Toupee tape can be purchased at places like Sally’s Beauty Supply (local stores carry this). www.sallybeauty.com.

Tip #4 – Otoclips

octoclips.jpg

I love otoclips! Otoclips are helpful in preventing the loss of hearing aids when a child pulls them off. An otoclip is attached to the hearing aid and it has a cord and clip that is attached the child’s clothing so that if the child pulls the hearing aid off, it will be hanging from the cord attached to the clothing.

Here are some websites that sell otoclips:

  • Westone: www.westone.com. Search for “otoclip” and if your child wears one hearing aid, he will need “monaural” and if your child has 2 hearing aids, he will need “binaural”.
  • ADCO Hearing: http://www.adcohearing.com/. Website offers a very large variety of tools for hearing aids and hearing loss, including otoclips (under “hearing aid supplies”, “clips and loss protection”).
  • The Bebop Shop (etsy.com): https://www.etsy.com/shop/thebebopshop. Very cute otoclip options, as well as some matching hair clips.

For additional tips and resources, visit Hearinglikeme.com. 

Tip #5 – Positive attitude

Have a positive attitude about your child’s hearing aids! Young children pick up on how their parents feel about things. Remember, hearing aids are a very good thing. Hearing aids will help your child hear speech and other sounds that they otherwise would not detect. This will help your child develop oral speech and language skills. So if oral communication is what you want for your child, then hearing aids will help them move toward reaching this goal. Hearing aids are wonderful things!

For more information on hearing services for children or adults, visit eastersealsdfvr.org/hearing.

Communication Breakdown

By: Courtney Leonard, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Editor’s Note: Please welcome, Speech-Language Pathologist, Courtney, to the blog. She is a big fan of music and has sprinkled references to a number of songs below. See if you can spot them all!

The road to verbal communication is a long and winding road. This road is often met with many roadblocks (i.e., mismatches in communication) or “communication breakdowns” as well as many repairs which can then “lead you to the door” of effective and efficient verbal communication. Each breakdown affords us another opportunity to broaden and engage in a wider variety of communication opportunities.

Communication is happening all around you every minute of the day. From a baby cooing in response to a loved one’s verbalizations, a toddler pointing and grunting to his favorite snack, a teenager expressing frustration with the boys her age, to adults imparting wisdom on the next generation- communication is something we do day in and day out. We communicate for a wide variety of purposes including expressing wants, needs, thoughts and emotions. We communicate to build relationships, repair relationships, and grow relationships. We communicate to advocate for ourselves, to forgive, and to make promises. Communication often, becomes such a natural part of our day that we often forget just how complex communication is.

Communication comes in a variety of forms both verbal and non-verbal. The term “communication” often brings pictures of spoken words and conversation to mind; however, communication is so much more.

baby with block .jpgBefore we reach our destination of verbal communication, we have to learn how to be effective non-verbal communicators. We begin growing our non-verbal skills as infants and young babies by learning to regulate our bodies with loved ones, learning to attend to faces, maintain attention to faces, and responding to faces to which we are attending (e.g., smiling when smiled at, frowning when frowned at, cooing when talked to, etc.). As we continue our road to verbal communication, we learn to initiate engagement with our caregivers using our voices and smiles and learn to continue engagement with our caregivers by continually responding or initiating to maintain attention. As these circles become more frequent, natural, and smooth, purposeful non-verbal communication begins starting with gaze shifting (i.e., moving eyes toward preferred activity/toy), and joint attention (i.e., making eye contact with caregiver, shifting gaze to preferred toy/thing to comment on, and shifting gaze back to caregiver). I like to refer to “joint attention” as the skill we acquire so we can say “Did you see that cute guy!?” to a friend without having to use words. As gaze shifting and joint attention strengthen reaching, pointing, and gesturing begin to emerge. Once these skills are strongly in place, then we begin to see first words.

The crazy thing is all of this development happens within the first year of life! These skills often develop without much thought or ado and as parents, therapists, and caregivers, we are hardwired to receive and foster these very sophisticated communication opportunities just as children are hardwired to develop them.

There are times, however, that these skills don’t appear to have developed in children. This may happen for a variety of reasons including: physical limitations, sensory difficulties, early trauma, neuro difficulties, etc. Whatever the reason for the delay in developing these early communication skills, there are a few things you can do in order to begin working on developing these skills.

  1. Find times when your child is calm and regulated before interacting. This may be while you are swinging them in your arms, during diaper changes, bath times, laying on the floor or on the couch, or any other time your child is calm. Having calm and regulated bodies provides the foundation for meaningful interactions.
  2. baby2Be silly! Use big facial expressions and lots of intonation in your voice to catch your child’s eye. You can sing songs, blow raspberries, play peek-a-boo, or just talk with your child. When you notice they are attending to you, stick with the thing you are doing. Your child may need a break from the interaction at some point (i.e., they may look away or walk away) but you can use the same intonation and facial expressions to try and woo them back into the interaction. This takes a lot of practice and attempts to find what will work. Don’t give up, keep trying new things until you find what works best for you and your child.
  3. Move slower. Many times I find that kids need a slower pace in order to engage and maintain interactions. You can still use fun, giant intonation and facial expressions but use them more slowly and more exaggerated. This will give the child a chance to keep up with you and an opportunity to maintain engagement for longer periods.

Mmttfc comany things can impact a child’s development of his non-verbal and verbal skills. At times, it may be appropriate for a child to receive an occupational therapy or physical therapy evaluation and start a treatment plan to work on their sensory systems and/or strengthening of their bodies in conjunction with working on increasing their language skills.

Take our free screening tool, the Ages & Stages Questionnaire , to help measure and keep track of your child’s growth and development.

By detecting developmental delays early, you have the power to change lives and educational outcomes for children! If delays are identified, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley can offer the support needed to be school-ready and build a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Learn more at eastersealsdfvr.org. 

Is My Child Delayed?

By: Cassidy McCoy PT, DPT

It can often be challenging to determine whether or not your child is delayed. Some children may not exhibit difficulties in all areas, or the signs may be subtle. Common signs of a gross motor delay include but are not limited to: difficulty using both sides symmetrically, inability to sit independently between 6 and 9 months, and inability to independently walk between 12 and 18 months. However, not all signs of delay are as apparent as others.

15_Brady PembrokeOther signs that your child may have a physical delay, particularly with school aged children, is their ability to keep up with their peers. These children may appear clumsy on the playground, or stay away from obstacles that are difficult, such as climbing walls and monkey bars, or parents may receive reports their child is having difficulty with activities in P.E. class. Also, the child may be less motivated, or outright refuse, to be an active participant in extracurricular sports.

What should a parent or caregiver do if they think a child is delayed?

  1. Schedule an evaluation.

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Pediatric physical therapists utilize standardized assessments to accurately determine if a child is developmentally delayed. These assessments include all aspects of gross motor development including strength, balance, and gross motor skills. The resultant score of the assessments is able to provide the parent with information including the percent of delay and the age equivalent. This allows for the parents, child, and therapist to determine an appropriate, individualized plan of care and direction for treatment. The standardized assessments are also a way to show improvement following an episode of care.

  1. If you have any questions or are unsure if your child is delayed, use available resources to help.

mttfc comMake the First Five Count is Easter Seals FREE online child development screening tool to help measure and keep track of your child’s growth and development.

Take the ASQ-3 to look at key developmental areas: communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal social skills. You will be asked to answer questions about things your child can and cannot do.

Take the ASQ SE-2 for a more in depth look at a child’s social and emotional skills. This survey includes questions about your child’s ability to calm down, take direction, follow rules, follow daily routine, demonstrate feelings and interact with others.

Also the CDC offers a developmental checklist that takes you through 2-months-old to 5-years-old. This checklists offers an easy to read guide if parents are concern that their child is delayed. They also offer a Milestone Tracker Mobile App for Apple and Android phones.

By detecting developmental delays early, you have the power to change lives and educational outcomes for children! If delays are identified, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley can offer the support needed to be school-ready and build a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Learn more at eastersealsdfvr.org. 

Understanding Hearing Loss

By: Cindy Erdos, Au.D., CCC-A

Hearing loss can have serious consequences for individuals who experience it, as well as their loved ones.  We know that hearing loss has a negative impact on social, psychological, cognitive, and physical health.  Hearing is crucial to developing meaningful relationships and fully enjoying life.  People who cannot hear well are often cut off from their family, friends, and community.

seniors talkingAccording to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) approximately 48 million American have hearing loss; 30% of adults 70 or older have hearing loss; and 16% of adult 20-60 have hearing loss.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 America teens have some degree of hearing loss.

Based on this information, you should not be surprised to find yourself in a conversation with an individual with some degree of hearing loss.   Many people believe if you have a hearing loss, getting a hearing aid will fix the problem.  But not everyone with hearing loss is a candidate for hearing aids, and not everyone with a hearing loss is ready for hearing aids.  It may be a surprise to learn that hearing aids are not the only solution for individuals with hearing loss.

As an audiologist, I hear these types of comments from patients and family members almost daily:

  • “I don’t need a hearing aid, everybody mumbles”
  •  “I hear better with my glasses”
  • “Everyone yells at me so I can’t understand”

Let’s look at each statement to try understand what might be happening.

“I Don’t Need a Hearing Aid- Everybody Mumbles”

Understanding hearing loss can help us understand this comment.  There are two main types of hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.  Conductive hearing loss is often hearing loss caused by a medical problem such as fluid in the ears or even wax in the ear.  Conductive hearing loss mostly affects how loud sounds are heard.  Conductive hearing loss typically can be medically corrected.

Sensorineural hearing loss is often caused by damaged nerve cells in the inner ear most commonly due to age, noise exposure or hereditary hearing loss.  Sensorineural hearing loss typically cannot be medically corrected and is most likely permanent. For many individuals starting to develop a sensorineural hearing loss, the low frequency sounds are heard at normal or nearly normal level (or volume), but they gradually start losing higher frequency sounds.  For understanding speech, high frequency sounds, or consonants provide a lot of meaning.

Besides the Listener’s hearing loss, another key factor that contributes to the “Everybody Mumbles” comment is caused by the speaker.  Many of us speak very quickly during conversations which causes us to blur our speech.  For an individual who is missing key sounds, conversational speech often compounds the difficulty understanding and can make it nearly impossible to follow the conversation.  Here are two examples of how conversational speech is delivered and received.

“The shiplef ona twowecruise.”   (The ship left on a two week cruise)

“We’re lookin for a whitruck tabuy.” (We are looking for a white truck to buy)

One of the most important things we can do when speaking to someone with hearing loss is to slow down a little bit, speak clearly, and pause between phrases or key words. 

“I Hear Better With My Glasses”

pexels-photo-432722.jpegAlthough only 30-40% of the English language is visible on the lips, most people, whether they realize it or not, speech read to some extent.  Relying on lipreading alone can be extremely difficult, but speech reading can be a nice supplement to hearing and understanding a conversation.  And fortunately, a lot of the consonant sounds that are difficult for many hearing impaired individuals to hear can be “seen.”  For example, “death” and “deaf”.  The sounds “th” and “f” look very different on the face.  Speech reading is more than simply lip reading, or using what you see on the speaker’s lips, it involves watching facial expressions and gestures to understand conversation.

When speaking with someone with a hearing impairment, remember they may benefit tremendously by being able to watch your lips as you speak. To assist them make sure you are within 3-6 feet; face them ensuring the visible features of speech are available; do not cover your mouth with your hands other objects; and make sure there is good lighting.  Remember, “I hear better with my glasses on” because I can see your face better.

“Everyone Yells at Me so I Can’t Understand”

Having hearing loss does not mean someone can tolerate sounds louder than someone with normal hearing.  There are a few reasons louder is not always better for someone with a hearing loss.  The first is due to something called “recruitment.”  Related to the damage to the nerve cells, all individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have recruitment.  Very simply, recruitment is when we perceive sounds as getting too loud too fast.   Just as loud sounds can be uncomfortable for someone with normal hearing, loud sounds can be very uncomfortable for someone with hearing loss.

pexels-photo-272864.jpeg

Typically, we yell or speak loudly to someone when we are upset or frustrated.  Speaking very loudly to someone with hearing loss can give the impression that you are angry with them.  No one enjoys being yelled at and it can make the person feel embarrassed about their hearing loss.

If you find yourself in a conversation with someone with a hearing loss, remember it “Takes Two to Tango.”  Your part is to deliver your message in a way to maximize your communication partner’s ability to understand.   Some key points to remember:

  1. Make sure you are within three to six feet from the listener
  2. Get the listener’s attention before speaking
  3. Make your face is visible and look at the listener
  4. Speak slowly and clearly, but do not exaggerate
  5. Louder is not always better

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have hearing loss, contact an audiologist at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley for a complete hearing evaluation and more information on communication strategies. For more information, visit: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/adult-services/.

 

Helping Children Understand and Process Emotions

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

One of my favorite resources as a pediatric occupational therapist to help kids begin to understand and process emotions as well as come up with strategies for self-regulation is the Zones of Regulation curriculum developed by Leah Kuypers. The Zones of Regulation helps teach kids how to self-regulate and deal with everyday strong emotions or unexpected emotions for different social environments.

zones-of-regulation

The zones can be compared to traffic signs. When we see a green light, one is ‘good to go’ and can keep proceeding forward without making any changes. A yellow light, on the other hand, means to be aware or take caution. Sometimes we can keep going and other times we need to make a change. A red light (or stop sign) means stop. Often the behavior we are demonstrating is unexpected. The blue zone is most often compared to the rest area sign where you go to rest or re-energize.

 

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Photo by Christine Carroll

When teaching children to begin using the Zones of Regulation, I tend to follow three stages of learning.

  • In stage one, the child learns how to identify the terminology and sort emotions according to the physiological features of each specific zones
    • Examples:
    • Frowning, yawning, crying = blue;
    • Happy, calm, focused= green
    • Upset, butterflies in stomach, Heart beating fast = yellow;
    • Yelling, body feels tenses = red).
    • In this stage, there is a lot of detective work and identifying features of body language. I like to use a variety of pictures, books, and movie clips when possible to help during stage one.
  • In stage two, children start to learn strategies to adjust their zone and help them manage their internal emotional feelings. Children learn a variety of sensory motor strategies (e.g. swinging, taking deep breaths, walking, squeezing something) as well as cognitive behavioral strategies (e.g. expected versus unexpected, size of the problem, inner critic versus inner coach, stop/opt/go).
  • In stage three, children are more independent and are beginning to select appropriate tools to help with self-regulation. Depending on the child’s age, supports might still be in place such as visuals for choosing appropriate tools.

It is important to remember that ALL of the zones are expected to occur at one time or another. At some point we may feel tired in the Blue Zone, calm in the Green Zone, worried in the Yellow Zone, and possibly furious or elated in the Red Zone.

The Zones of Regulation focuses on teaching children how to manage their zone based on the environment and the people around them. The Zones of Regulation was designed to support people in managing all the feelings they experience, without passing judgment on what people are feeling or how they are behaving.

Leah suggests four main points to keep in mind with beginning to use the Zones of Regulation with any child:

  1. It is natural to experience all of the Zones; there is no bad zone.
  2. Our Zone is defined by the feelings and internal states we experience on the inside.
  3. Our behavior is a byproduct of how we manage our Zone; therefore, consequences should not be tied to a Zone.
  4. The context we are in helps us figure out how to manage our Zone so our behavior meets the demands of the social environment, and in doing so we are able to achieve the tasks we are trying to accomplish and/or the social goals we’ve set for ourselves in that situation.

Here are some additional tips to help kids develop their emotional intelligence and emotional self-regulation:

  1. Provide as much stability and consistency as possible. Consistent limit-setting, clear household rules, and predictable routines help children know what to expect. This is turns help them feel calmer and more secure.
  2. Model, model, model. We cannot do this enough. How we react and deal with emotions will establish the foundation for how those around us will also respond. We usually don’t have a choice in what we feel, but we always have a choice about how we choose to act regarding our feelings. Children learn from us. When we yell, they learn to yell. If we remain calm and speak respectfully, they learn to do the same. Every time you model in front of your child how to respond to an emotion, your child is learning.
  3. Connect. Spend time everyday unplugging and connecting with your child. Young children first learn how to regulate by being soothed by their parents. When you notice your child getting dysregulated, the most important thing you can do is try to reconnect.
  4. Name it and Accept It. Calling attention to your child’s feelings helps them understand what is going on inside them and learn that it isn’t okay to feel different emotions. Your child will know that someone understands, which might make him or her feel a little better.

The Zones of Regulation was designed to be used with students in early elementary through adulthood. Where relevant, the curriculum offers activities within the lesson plans for younger students. The Zones of Regulation was turned into a curriculum and published by Social Thinking in 2011, titled The Zones of Regulation: A Curriculum Designed to Foster Self-Regulation and Emotional Control. Since that time Leah Kuypers has expanded it into two apps, The Zones of Regulation and The Zones of Regulation: Exploring Emotions.

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s occupational therapy services visit: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/occupational-therapy.html. 

The Amazon Echo as an Accessibility Support

By: Judy Gardner, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech Pathologist/Feeding Therapist

Amazon describes the Echo as a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa (Amazon’s answer to Siri, Cortana and Google) to play music, control smart home devices, provide information, read the news, set alarms, and more.  It is exciting that people’s interactions with a computer device is much easier with no buttons to find and press.  The speech recognition still has some limitations but devices like the Echo show what the future may be around the corner.  The Echo works by constantly listening to a trigger word, by default, the trigger word is “Alexa” but you can change it in the Alexa app on your mobile device.    The communication devices we use in assistive technology allow a non-verbal child, or the child with some difficulty in oral speech to use the Echo independently.

Relationship Coordinator, Amy Liss, really enjoys this new device. “This is the most beneficial piece of technology I have ever received that can help me be completely independent.” Her favorite feature is playing daily Jeopardy trivia.

Some of these many uses:

Get quick answers for simple Web searches:  The most basic use of the Echo is to ask it questions it can answer by searching on the Web.  This ranges from simple math (Alexa what is 125 times 33?”) or spelling and definitions, etc.  The Echo is unique in that it will say the answers out loud  rather than requiring the user to read the responses.

Set alarms and timers:  So children with executive functioning is ability to self-regulate, including the ability to stay on task and manage and keep time.  For example, you can set a timer for someone to do an activity for one hour (“Alexa set a timer for one hour”) then set a second timer for each separate step that needs to be completed to accomplish the assigned task during that hour.  Just say “Alexa set a second timer for 25 minutes.  So you can have a 5 minute break.

Manage a to do list:  Just say “Alexa, add (name of to do item) to my to do list, or remind me to (name of task).”

Update your calendar:  “Alexa, add (event name) to my calendar.”  Gives the ability to stay organized.

Get your daily news fix:  (“Alexa, give me my Flash Briefing”)

Listen to Audible and Kindle books:  The Echo is a great way to listen to your books read aloud.  This can be a great way to use the Echo in the classroom setting.

wemoControl your lights:  Echo can be great way to control your home lighting using just your voice.  This can be especially helpful for those who have motor difficulties.  By installing the Hue Skill, you can get basic voice control of the lights in your home.

Control your appliances:  With a Wemo switch you can add voice control to any small appliance with an on/off switch (fans, lamps, etc.)

Listen to music and podcasts:  Echo supports a number of music services.

There are many more thing you can do with the Echo.  For more details go to www.luisperezonline.com for full details.  If you have a voice that is difficult to understand, have no fear- Alexa can use many speech generating devices to the rescue.

The Assistive Technology department at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley has received a grant to install Amazon Echo in their department.  Once it is installed we hope that you all will come down and give it a try.  Learn more about our assistive technology department by clicking here.

Tips for Practitioners and Specialists: Considering the Full Reality of Patients and Clients’ Lives

By: Sharon Pike, Parent Liaison & Jordyn Holliday, Communications Intern

Many parents will tell you that trips to the doctors office, specialists, etc. can sometimes make for stressful moments for children and families. When a child has complex needs, the level of stress can be increased. Once you consider factors and obstacles such as medical emergencies and other personal issues that a family may be dealing with, those appointments become tougher to make.

25_SheddJAMES.jpgIt is important for doctors and other specialists to be mindful and reevaluate the judgments they make on parents and caregivers. Before drawing conclusions on why a child may be missing appointments, it is imperative to consider the entirety of that child’s life.

Here are a few tips on how specialists can be more understanding of families:

  • Be Mindful: One important thing to remember is that in the vast majority of cases, no one is more concerned with the well-being of a child than that child’s parents and family. If there are appointments being missed or a lack of communication, there is likely a good reason behind it. Forming a solid grasp of this is a huge step in better understanding a client or patient.
  • Check for Signs: Often times, it is possible to gain a sense that something external may be happening in a child or family’s life. When you are visited by a patient or client, try to look for signals. Are there any noticeable signs of stress? Are there any patterns in appointment cancellations? Asking yourself these questions can lead to meaningful answers.
  • Appropriately Ask the Family: If you are unable to gain insight using the previous tip, think of a kind way to inquire information from the parent/caregiver. This can be done by simply asking how things have been going. By kindly asking how the child and family has been, or even asking about recent medical history, you are beginning dialogue that could help you understand the root of inconsistencies.

Acknowledging the lives of children and families outside of just the scope that you see them in as a specialist is a significant step in building better relationships with them. It’s important not to make assumptions, as they can often lead to uneasiness.

For more information on managing your child’s care and your own, connect with our parent liaisons and family services department at eastersealsdfvr.org/SocialServices.