Tag Archives: learning

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. 

Back to School Organization

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L

With many of our children returning back to school, I thought this would be a good time to review some strategies to help with school organization. Kids need organization skills in order to function during their school day as well as to get their homework done efficiently at home. If your child struggles with a messy desk, overstuffed backpack, keeping homework and classroom assignments organized, or lost and missing parent/teacher communication slips then hopefully you can find some tips and tricks in this blog. Remember every child is different and what works well for you or another child may not necessarily work well for your own child.backpack

  • Most importantly develop routines and stick to them as closely as possible. Some children might benefit from additional support to help learn the routine such as checklists, picture schedules, and/or social stories. Younger children might also benefit from turning the routine into a fun song.
  • Create backpack organization systems. Look for backpacks that offer multiple compartments to denote separate spaces. A backpack with at least two compartments is highly recommended. Use a zippered pouch (clear is the best) for pencils, erasers, calculators, etc. in the backpack.
    1. Please check out my previous post on backpack safety.
  • Place a laminated checklist clipped to your child’s backpack zipper that lists what needs to be brought home each day. This one from Understood.org is great. 
  • Go through the backpack on a regular basis with your child until he/she gets the hang of keeping it organized. Gradually give your child more responsibility and continue to check in even when you have turned in all the responsibility to your child.
  • Create a simple schoolwork folder system. A simple 2 pocket folder often works best. Use a bright sticker to place on one side for “KEEP AT HOME” and another bright sticker for the opposite pocket for “BRING BACK”. If your children are older, you can create a color coded system that corresponds to each class. Books and notebooks can use prefabricated book covers or you can use colored paper to create book covers in a variety of colors.
folder
Picture from caffeinatedconclusions.blogspot
  • Depending on the age of your child you might start to create a really good binder system. The best ones have a locking rig. Some binders have a clear plastic cover which can be used to create large labels on the outside for different subjects (if you are using a different binder for each subject) or you can use it to hold assignment sheets.
    1. If you are going to start a binder system, then you should invest in a few more organization assistants. Things like subject dividers, a zippered pencil pouch, sheet protectors, two pocket three-hold punched folders, and a portable three-hold punch are really helpful. You can organize each subject section the same. Label each subject divider tab and then include an empty sheet protector immediately behind for important handouts. Behind the sheet protector you can include a folder which follows the same simple schoolwork folder system idea above.
    2. A different option could also be to continue to use the subject divers, zippered pencil pouch, sheet protectors, two pocket three-hold punched folders, and a portable three-hold punch; however, instead of using the simple schoolwork folder system idea above with the two pocket folders, you can create one global folder that is in front of the binder where your child put homework for each class in front. At the end of the day, when at home, you can then sit with your child and help organize their homework when completed back into each individual subject folder.

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  • Some children might do also better with an accordion file based system. One suggestion for organized would be using the front section to keep your child’s homework planner or global two-pocket folder homework folder. Each additional pocket would be labelled with the different subjects and might include a separate pad of paper for that subject. I like to avoid loose sheets of paper as much as possible with an accordion system as I find they tend to slide down.
  • Create an organization system for lockers. Some children like to create a container system where they use separate containers for different belongings which are labeled with pictures on the outside to know what goes inside each bin. You can also add a picture to the locker for a visual cue for where each item belongs which the locker to further help keep things organized. Shelves are also helpful to better divide the space.
    1. lockerTo help you and your child determine the most logical and efficient way to organize the locker and backpack, here are some helpful questions (source: The Organized Student)
    2. What is your child’s schedule like? If the schedule is consistent, you can probably just separate the locker into two sections, morning and afternoon. If it changes every day, you might want to organize differently
    3. What extracurricular activities does your child participate in and what supplies/equipment is needed?
    4. Does your child keep supplies and equipment in a locker at school or do they travel back/forth between school and home on a regular basis?
    5. How many books is your child required to keep track of throughout the day
    6. Does your child’s school offer a second set of textbooks on loan?
    7. What type of storage and accessories does the locker already contain?
    8. Does your child have time to go back to his/her locker between classes?

 

  • Create a homework station at home. Include all necessary school supplies such as pencils, pens, crayons, markers, glue, scissors, paper, etc. You can use everyday items (mason jars, muffin tin) to help organize items. Containers available at any office/home good are great ways to help organize. You can attach labels made from a label marker or also just use post-its and adhere using clear tape. Every item has its own place and it is easy to spot. Ask your child’s school if it is possible to get a second set of textbooks to eliminate the need to bring books back and forth between school and home. Mark off spaces for items like books and pencil box using painter’s tape. If your child is older, you might think about creating a “desktop file box” which is described in a lot more detailed in The Organized Student book.

 

  • Help your child learn to breakdown assignments into manageable chunks. One example includes folding worksheets into sections that can be completed before moving onto the next section.
  • Invest in some telling time systems. It is often helpful to breakdown into the concept of telling time, daily time, weekly time, and monthly time. I prefer to use analog’s watches or timers for this as you can see the passage of time which is missing from digital systems. When first learning to tell time and gauge time, create from fun activities to experiment with by guessing how long it will take and then compare guess to actual. It might be useful to have several timers. One for the global amount of time your child/you think he/she needs to complete the assignments and an individual one to break down individual assignments into manageable chunks and to add a spot for a quick break. If you can find an analog clock that also allows for a quick glance to see the time digitally, that might also help.clock
  • Finally, if you have read any of our previous posts on executive functions or attended our executive function client group, then you might be familiar with the group Cognitive Connections. They developed an app that allows users to create a time marker to get ready for work, a timer marker to check in during work, and a marker when the work is planned to end. There are tones activities when the time reaches each marker. This could also be a good choice for some children.
  • The key to any organization system is be flexible to your child’s unique organizational style and needs as well as be consistent and offer check-ins until your child has mastered the system. Even when your child has mastered the system, continue to offer periodic support.References and Helpful Resources:

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.

Routines and Why They Can Help

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L

Routines are very important for all children, but they can be particularly important for children with developmental delays. Routines help provide a sense of certainty and security for children by offering them a predictable pattern that allows them to know what to expect, which will result in less frustration as well as fewer tantrums or meltdowns.

Certain routines are almost universal, such as morning and bedtime routines, but others may exist for specific circumstances or stages of life, such as your family’s weekend morning or school or summer routine.

A great place to start a routine is having a set bedtime. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 3-5 should get 10-13 hours of sleep a day (including naps) and children ages 6-12 should get 9-12 hours of sleep each night. The benefits of getting enough sleep are numerous and include mental/physical health, attention, memory, learning, behavior, and more. The AAP also recommends no screen time 30 minutes prior to bed, no electronics in children’s bedrooms, and having a set bedtime routine.

Setting up a bedtime routine:

Ryan - web
Photo from Take Three Photography

Bedtime routines can be anything you want them to be, as long as they are familiar and predictable. For my infant son, he takes a bath every other day. After his bath (or mom and dad quiet playtime on non-bath days), he gets a nice massage and we read a couple goodnight books. When he shows us signs of being tired, we turn off the bedside lamp, swaddle, and turn on the white noise machine.

This routine is something I hope to keep as he gets older. For an older child, you can do a similar routine but you will need to add in time for personal hygiene and perhaps next day activities such as pick out your clothes, pack your backpack, etc. You can use a similar routine for naps, except they would just be shorter.

Aside from bedtime, morning routines, can also be beneficial. Some families have different weekday and weekend morning routines, but other children may need to have one routine that stays the same regardless of the day.

Mealtime can also present an important routine. An easy place to start is to try to have meals around the same time each day. I know this isn’t always possible- but getting as close to a specific time each day can be beneficial and having everyone sit together to eat.

Additionally, having chores to do in family routines helps children develop a sense of responsibility and some basic skills, like the ability to manage time. These are skills children can use for later in life that you can begin at a young age. One great example is singing the “clean up” song when it’s time to finish an activity and move onto something different.

“Clean up clean up
everybody everywhere.
Clean up clean up
everybody do your share.

Clean up clean up
everybody everywhere.
Clean up clean up
everybody do your share.”

Routines can also be great for teaching personal hygiene. Ever heard a parent sing the ABC song while their child washes their hands? This is just one great example.

Here are some tips if you are looking to introduce routines into your daily life:

  1. Only change one part of the day at a time.

2. Come up with your basic non-negotiables and then give your children some                    choices (bedtime stories together or separate?).

3. Make a poster with the routine, including photos in the right order, to allow for              self-monitoring. In a good routine, everyone understands their roles, knows what              they need to do and sees their roles as reasonable and fair.blog_visual

4. Follow the same routine every single day for at least one month, after which it will         become habit and your older kids should be able to keep themselves on schedule for         the easy routines.

Establishing routines has lots of great benefits that can help both you and your child develop scheduling abilities, and increase the likelihood that your family will have a smooth day.

For more information on Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit eastersealsdfvr.org. 

Through my Parenting Eyes

By: Theresa Forthofer, CEO & President of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley

While I am the President and CEO of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, I also happen to be the mother of three children.  Two of my children have Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy and Autism. My oldest, Ryan, was diagnosed when he was 7 years old.  He is now 24 years old. My youngest was diagnosed with the Congenital form of Muscular Dystrophy within days of his birth and he is now 18.

forthofer family

Having two boys with Muscular Dystrophy, meant lots of doctor visits and hours of therapy every week.  Throughout the years we had several different therapists and we liked them all.  They were all very nice and the boys were making progress.  Therefore, we assumed everything was great and the boys were doing the best they could.  Looking back, I sincerely wish I knew then, what I know now.  While they were progressing, they were not reaching their full potential.

I may be biased, but what I have learned since becoming President and CEO isn’t as significant as what I have learned about raising two boys with disabilities.  I share my story to help at least one other family find their child’s true potential.

For nearly 7 years, my son had (unsuccessfully) worked on putting his shoes and socks on independently.  His Early Intervention therapist worked on it, his private therapists from a nearby clinic worked on it, and his school therapists worked on it.  Over and over again we were told, he doesn’t have the strength.

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Photo by Alexi Procopos

However, when I came to Easter Seals, I asked about Occupational Therapy for Justin.  I wanted him to put his shoes and socks on independently.  In just two sessions, his therapist asked me what our next goal was because he was putting his shoes and socks on independently.  I didn’t believe her and made her show me.  He did it and is still doing it!  His therapist explained it was a motor planning issue not a strength issue for Justin.  For years, I dreaded leaving the house because putting his shoes and socks on became something to battle over. Now those days are long behind us.  No more excuses for being late!

Occupational therapy worked so well, I signed Justin up for the feeding clinic.  At 12 years old, he weighed 40 pounds and we had tried everything.  We saw an endocrinologist, feeding therapists, nutritionists, etc.  The best solution was growth hormones, but Myotonic Dystrophy has cardiac complications, so this was not advised.

After attending the feeding clinic and starting a few relatively small changes, he gained 10 pounds in three months – 25% of his body weight!  He will likely always be small for his age, but we wish it hadn’t taken us so long to figure out these needs and find the experts at Easter Seals.  They imagined a future beyond what we had been told to expect by other professionals and without any limitations.

leadership meetingI hear these same stories like mine, nearly every week.  Children who have been seen for years and aren’t reaching their fullest potential.  When they find their way to Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley they often can’t believe what they have missed out on.  The progress their children are making so quickly surprises their families, their doctors and sometimes even us.

If you are looking for a therapy center or therapist for your child, here are the top 10 questions to ask:

  1. Is the center CARF Accredited and have a Medical Advisory Board?
  2. Is the center directly affiliated with any major research hospital systems?
  3. Who are your primary referral sources?
  4. What are the published results of your satisfaction survey and where can I find them?
  5. Is the therapist NDT (Neuro-Developmental Treatment) trained?
  6. What diagnoses has the therapist personally treated?
  7. What is the average level of experience of the therapists at the center?
  8. How many children do you treat annually?
  9. What training do you receive on a regular basis?
  10. How do you support parents and siblings?

As parents, we all want the absolute best for our kids. I found it here at Easter Seals and you can too!

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is a CARF accredited facility with a medical advisory board and affiliations with University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University and RIC (Shirley Ryan Ability Lab). With 87 therapists and professional staff with an average tenure of 19 years, the majority of therapists are NDT trained and are required to receive on-going training. The therapists are specialized in many specific areas including feeding, motor, sensory needs and more.

Easter Seals serves more than 1,000 families a week with locations in Naperville, Villa Park and Elgin.  Through an annual client survey, 99% of families report satisfaction with the services they receive and 98% of families report progress. The parent liaisons and social workers on staff provide support and family activities for all members of the family. Learn more at eastersealsdfvr.org. 

What is Tinnitus?

By: Cynthia Erdos, Au.D., CCC-A , Audiologist

When I was about 7 years old, I remember lying on my bed listening to my brain work. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t hear a little humming, or buzzing in my ears.  Not until I was in graduate school did I realize the sounds I heard was considered a “symptom” of a possible problem in the ear or within the entire hearing system.  When the professor starting discussing something called “tinnitus”, I turned to my fellow grad student and said, “Do you mean when it is quiet, you don’t hear anything?”  She just gave me a funny look and nodded.

For me, the humming or sounds of crickets is just something I have always heard. If the sounds were suddenly gone, I might be worried and wonder what was happening.  I can only imagine if your ears have been quiet since you can remember, and suddenly you heard a buzzing, humming, ringing or any new sound in your ears, it could be disturbing.  The American Tinnitus Association reports over 45 million Americans struggle with tinnitus, making it one of the most common health conditions in the United States.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the clinical term used for a sound heard in the head or ear when no external source is present.  It can be constant or intermittent and can be heard in one ear or both ears.  Tinnitus is usually not a sign of something serious.  Tinnitus is a symptom of a dysfunction with the auditory (hearing) system and is usually associated with some degree of hearing loss.

For some individuals, tinnitus can be a debilitating condition.  It can negatively affect a person’s overall health and social well-being.  Tinnitus has been associated with distress, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances or even poor concentration.

What causes tinnitus?

There are many causes for tinnitus.  Almost any condition that can cause hearing loss can cause tinnitus.

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The most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noise-it is very important to protect your ears from noise.  Some other causes include:

  • Meniere’s disease
  • TMJ disorders
  • Head injuries or neck injuries
  • Obstructions in the middle ear
  • Ear wax
  • Middle ear fluid
  • Tumors of the head or neck
  • Blood vessel disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Medications, including over the counter
    • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Certain antibiotics
    • Certain cancer medications
    • Water pills and diuretics
    • Quinine-based medications

Treating the cause of tinnitus often eliminates tinnitus.  Unfortunately, often the cause of tinnitus is related to permanent damage to the hearing system, such a noise exposure, or the cause is unknown.

Is there a cure for tinnitus?

It is important to understand that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease or condition.  The most effective way to treat tinnitus is to treat the underlying cause of the tinnitus.  For many people, however, it is impossible to know the exact cause of tinnitus.  If you have tinnitus, you should be evaluated to determine if there is a treatable medical condition.  A thorough tinnitus evaluation often includes a medical examination by an otolaryngologist and a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.   Currently, there is no safe and consistent way to cure tinnitus.  There are evidence-based practices to help patients improve quality of life by learning to manage tinnitus, or manage their reactions to the tinnitus.

There are many ways to learn to manage tinnitus.  Research studies show the best ways to manage tinnitus include education, sound therapies and counseling. For example, be aware of the toys your child plays with, as some can be very loud for little ears. The Sight & Hearing Association releases an annual list of the loudest toys that you can check before making holiday or birthday gift lists.

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If you or a loved one is suffering from tinnitus, the first step is a complete hearing evaluation.  To find out more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s audiology services and scheduling an evaluation visit our website: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/audiology.html .

Myths and Facts About Raising Bilingual Children

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

There are many misconceptions about raising bilingual children.  Many well-meaning professionals can perpetuate myths that scare parents away from speaking to their children in their native language.  However, research supports the many benefits of being bilingual.  Let’s disprove some of these perpetuated myths:

MYTH: Parents should primarily speak English to their children regardless of their native language.

01_Lucas_VasquezFACT: Parents should be supported to speak in the language they feel most comfortable.  Speaking their primary language will provide the most complex language models.  If a parent is learning English himself, he will not provide rich vocabulary and grammar models.  The child will be exposed to simpler linguistic models than if the parent spoke to the child in their stronger language.  Providing a more complex model in the stronger language is more beneficial to the child than reducing to just speaking English.

MYTH: Raising my child bilingual will cause a delay in language development.

FACT:  Children all over the world learn more than one language without developing speech or language problems. Bilingual children develop language skills just as other children do. If a child has a speech or language disorder it will show up in both languages.  However, these problems are not caused by learning two languages.

MYTH: Raising my child bilingual will cause him to suffer academically.

FACT:  Research indicates that being bilingual makes your brain healthier and more actively engaged.  It leads to better executive functioning skills, enables one to learn more languages easily and have more job opportunities in the future.

MYTH: My child will feel different than his classmates if he speaks another language.

FACT: Your family’s heritage and culture is a valuable part of who your child is.  Keeping him connected to your community and feeling secure in his identity will give him more self-confidence.

MYTH:  I shouldn’t expose my child to my family’s native language because he has a language disorder.

FACT:  It is a common misperception that when a child has a language disorder, its better to reduce to one language.   It may seem counterintuitive to continue to expose the child to two languages but the evidence does not indicate that bilingualism will impede a child’s English language learning growth.  If it is important to the family, they should feel supported in their decision to raise their child with two languages.

MYTH: I should only speak English to my child until he starts school so that he is ready academically.

FACT: The younger a child is, the easier it is for them to learn a language.  The most effective ways to raise bilingual children are:

Successive language learners: Speak to your child exclusively in your family’s native language. Developing a strong foundation in the first language will pave the way for developing the second language of English.

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Simultaneous language learners: Use two languages from the start.  Some families choose to have one parent speak their native language and the other parent speak English.  Some families choose to speak a given language on certain days of the week or certain times of the day.

If you are concerned about your child’s language or other development, take our free online developmental screening tool for children birth to age five. The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) will showcase your child’s developmental milestones while uncovering any potential delays. Learn more at askeasterseals.org. 

Executive Functioning Skills: CO-OP Model Part 3: Time Robbers

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

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I was recently asked by a parent to elaborate more on a concept I integrate within GoalPlanDoCheck called “time robbers”.  The concept of “time robbers” was first introduced to me at a continuing education class taught by speech therapist Sarah Ward. A “time robber” is something which keeps us from doing other things which have more value or importance to us.

The concept of “time robbers” can be a fun way to call to attention all the little (or maybeclock not so little) things we do that take away from our goal. Time robbers can occur to everyone. They can occur anywhere. They can also be anything. Time robbers can be things we do as well as things other people do. Sometimes time robbers are imposed upon us by others or circumstances and are less in our control. Other time robbers are self-inflicted. Some examples of time robbers are being hungry, tired, or worried. They can also be sounds in our environment, noises/shows on the television, or games on the iPad.

The following is a handout I developed to help introduce the concept to children.

What? Time robbers are a little like impulses. Impulses are the feelings we have to do or say something…sometimes without even realizing! Time robbers are just like impulses. They are the things that we do that take away time from our overall goal and plan.
When? Time robbers can happen all the time. They don’t have to be limited to just school or home.
Examples? Time robbers can come in all forms. They might as easy as a thought that should remain in my thought bubble or as complicated as getting your bike out, riding to the store, buying a snack, and returning home to finish your homework. Other examples can be having the television on when doing homework, wanting to play longer with a favorite toy, arguing, changing ideas, etc.
Consequences? Time robbers are not our friends. They take away time from us getting things done. If they take away from one thing it means there is less time to do something that might be more preferred or fun.
How to fix? Practice your thought bubbles and keeping any time robbers hidden away inside our brains until we are finished with our goal and initial plan. STOP and Think – monitor your space, time, objects, and people. Think if this is an expected time to bring up your time robber.

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When beginning any new strategy or tool with your child, I often find it helpful to first identify in yourself examples and then start calling attention to different tools you use to help defeat the different time robbers. When your child is starting to recognize time robbers, then it is a good time to introduce the concept to your child to help identify and address them.

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. 

 

10 great books to help you talk to children about disabilities

By: Karyn Voels Malesevic, Au.D., CCC-A

Many of us have struggled to find the right words when talking to our kids.  Knowing how much to say, or how little, or what type of words to use can be a challenge.

Enter the power of a good book!

Sitting down and reading a book about a character that may have the same disability as your child can be a great way to start the conversation.  Sharing stories is also a great way to help siblings and classmates understand and appreciate differences, or to help your child(ren) prepare for a big transition or difficult news.  A good book helps finding the right words much easier.

We’ve complied a list of ten great children’s books to help confront tough issues.

To view our complete list of book recommendations for parents, caregivers and children, follow us on Goodreads.

  1. Rolling Along with Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Cindy Meyers- In this story baby bear uses a wheelchair, goes to physical therapy, and ultimately makes friends with Goldilocks. The story unfolds many of the familiar scenes of the classic tale ending on a hopeful note.349042
  2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio- August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity preventing him from going to a mainstream school that is until now. He’s about to start 5th grade and being the new kid can be hard. Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
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  3. We’ll Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve- Bodeen- Six-year-old Emma is gladly waiting for  the birth of her new baby brother or sister. She imagines all of the things they can do together. They’ll go to Grandpa’s farm to feed the calves, ride in the back of the mini-van making faces at the cars that go by, fly on airplanes, and someday, they’ll even go to Africa on a safari.264878
  4. Kids Talk about Bullying by Carrie Finn-  People make fun of me for wearing glasses. What should I do? Super Sam the problem solver will give you some strong advice on bullies.1172876
  5. The Way I Act by Steve Metzger- This vividly illustrated story is a fun way to show children how their actions may affect others. This book explores a variety of attitudes and traits, like compassion and bravery. Children will instantly recognize and identify scenarios such as meeting new kids, romping on the playground, and finishing a puzzle. Each scene illustrates proper ways to act and encourages readers to do the right thing.10253343
  6. Rolling Along: The Story of Taylor and His Wheelchair by Jamee Heelan- Taylor and Tyler are twin brothers and best friends. But the twins are different in one significant way: Taylor has cerebral palsy, while Tyler does not. Taylor explains to readers why wheelchairs allow many people to be more independent. This triumphant story offers a valuable look at both adjusting to a wheelchair and facing physical limitations with boundless energy and determination.1403392
  7. No, David! by David Shannon- When author David Shannon was five years old, he wrote a semi-autobiographical story of a little kid who broke all his mother’s rules. He chewed with his mouth open (and full of food), he jumped on the furniture, and he broke his mother’s vase! As a result, all David ever heard his mother say was “No, David!” Here is his story.1062516
  8. Nobody Knew What to Do: A Story about Bullying by Becky Ray McCain- This story tells how one child found the courage to tell a teacher about Ray, who was being picked on and bullied by other kids in school.805575
  9. Sara’s Secret by Suzanne Wanous- This author skillfully manages to go beyond the message to the heart of Sara’s guilt and embarrassment. Sara and Justin are more than stiff cardboard characters, and their humanity poignantly validates the feelings of children who have disabled siblings. Haas’ fluid, striking watercolors convey Sara’s emotions with an intensity that is well matched to the text.3937661
  10. Let’s Talk about It: Extraordinary Friends: Let’s Talk About It by Fred Rogers- How do you get to know someone in a wheelchair? Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. In his characteristically wise and gentle way, Rogers challenges the stereotypes that often plague children with special needs and celebrates six children who are extraordinary friends.

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There are many great books out there, too many to list here!
Click this link to take you to our virtual bookshelves.  Here you will find the entire list of our recommendations, all available to check out in person at our Parent Resource Library.  Your local library should have many of these as well.

Another extensive list of books can be found HERE.

If you find your family confronted with a serious  issue or unexpected change that impacts your child, it’s important to prepare yourself before having a difficult conversation.  Here are some resources to help guide your first steps in talking about illness, death, divorce or autism:

  1. Helping children when a family member has cancer HERE.
  2. Helping your child deal with death HERE.
  3. An age by age guide for talking with kids about divorce HERE.
  4. Telling your child that they have autism HERE.

It often helps to connect with a professional who can answer questions and recommend an approach.

 

To connect with a social worker or parent liaison at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley visit: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/explore-resources/for-caregivers/family-services.html


 

SpellLinksLearn more about how Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is supporting literacy for children with special needs, check out our latest course offering in partnership with Dr. Jan Wasowicz and SPELL-Links.
Building the Brain for Literacy: Prerequisites for Successful Spelling & Reading A Multi-Linguistic, Prescriptive Assessment and Speech to Print Instruction