Articles & Free Stuff!

We wish we could help every child who struggles to communicate, eat or learn so we are sharing free resources and lots of ideas for how to help your child’s communication & feeding development.

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Impacts of Speech and Language Difficulties

The impacts of speech, language and communication difficulties in childhood are significant and potentially lasting. Speech therapy might not be able to prevent these impacts for all children but we can minimise them as much as possible by giving children the support and skills they need. The type and amount of impact for each child varies depending on the type and severity of their difficulties, their environment and their personality. It is also influenced by how early, how much and how good their speech therapy and other interventions are. Here we give you a brief summary of the known impacts of speech, language and communication difficulties in children’s lives. This list can be daunting and depressing for some parents but it highlights the importance of accessing a good Speech Pathologist as soon as possible to help your child develop. Sometimes parents don’t fully understand the impacts of their child’s difficulties which means they don’t prioritise therapy amongst the other many demands of life as a parent, not because they aren’t good parents but just because they don’t understand the significance of the problem. This list will explain that significance.   Speech and Language Difficulties are Common: It has been estimated that between 16 and 21% of five year olds experience speech or language difficulties, with up to 50% of these children have problems in both areas (Reilly et al., 2010).   General Outcomes: Children with speech and language difficulties are at risk for ongoing communication problems in adulthood as well as cognitive, academic, behavioural, social and psychiatric difficulties (Bashir & Scavuzzo, 1992). Children with speech and language difficulties in...

The hidden dangers of silent reading

“Reading is good for you!” I hear you say, “How could it possibly be dangerous!?” Well there are 2 main dangers I see: Reading silently results in poorer comprehension even for mature readers (see reference below). Practicing a skill incorrectly means you will get better at doing the task incorrectly therefore systemic decoding errors are reinforced while reading silently and that is certainly not the foundation we want to lay for our early readers! I have noticed an increasing trend towards encouraging “silent reading” even in the very early stages of literacy development. I was recently in a meeting regarding a student in grade 1 and the teacher reported he was having behaviour problems during their daily silent reading session. It highlighted to me that many teachers, speech pathologists and parents aren’t aware of the danger associated with silent reading particularly for young children. The other dedicated and experienced health and education professionals within that meeting weren’t aware that reading aloud enhances comprehension and is vital in laying solid foundations for future literacy success. A study by Hale et. al. (2007) identified that reading comprehension for readers of a variety of ages was enhanced when they read aloud. Here’s a link to the article if you are interested in reading more: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ800965.pdf So, the take away message is that encouraging our children to read aloud more often and even as they become more independent readers may help to enhance their comprehension. Go forth and READ...

Irlen syndrome, coloured lenses and reading: the facts

The lure of the lens When a parent or teacher is watching a child struggle to read, and dealing with tears every night at homework time, the promise of an easy cure and simple diagnosis is alluring. One of these promised cures is the use of coloured lenses or coloured transparent overlays to address visual sensitivity or processing difficulties aka.  U2 head man Bono is particularly famous for wearing coloured or dark lenses. As much as I love U2 I’m going to have to recommend you don’t go trying to make your child look like Bono in the interests of solving his reading problems though. Learning to read is a complex skill that requires high level interactions between dozens of different skill areas to work. In fact reading’s so complex it has even been shown to make physical changes to our brain structure. This complexity is why reading difficulties are so common. It’s a natural human tendency to want to reduce such complex problems down to simple solutions. However, in reviewing the evidence for the efficacy of coloured lenses or overlays for dyslexia, there are some large pitfalls that parents and teachers who want to help children with reading difficulties should be aware of.   The Theory The theory behind the use of coloured lenses for dyslexia is that reading difficulties are primarily caused by a visual-perceptual issue due to a weakness in the pathway of the visual system. People who support this theory claim that the cells in this pathway are sensitive to coloured light (especially yellow light). It is suggested that the use of coloured lenses in glasses or coloured transparent overlays placed over the text should correct visual ‘distortions’ (Ray, Fowler,...

Specific Learning Disorders and Dyslexia – making sense of jargon

We often get asked by parents and teachers who are worried about a child’s reading difficulties, “do they have dyslexia?”. Others ask, “is he just lazy?”. In an attempt to help everyone make sense of the terms used to describe different types of learning difficulties and the underlying causes we’ve summarised this and provided explanations of some of the alternative terms in this post for you. A Bit of Background: Historically children with reading difficulties were often incorrectly assumed to have an underlying cognitive deficit (intellectual impairment) and then there was a surge of interest in underlying visual deficits being the cause. There have been so many different terms and theories that have risen in and fallen out of favour in the past 100 years. It’s no wonder everyone is a bit confused now. The latest terminology is described  in the updated 2013 DSM-5 diagnostic subtypes of Specific Learning Disorder: 1. Specific learning disorder with impairment in reading. Includes possible deficits in: Word reading accuracy Reading rate or fluency Reading comprehension DSM-5 diagnostic code 315.00. Note: Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding and poor spelling abilities. 2. Specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression.  Includes possible deficits in: Spelling accuracy Grammar and punctuation accuracy Clarity or organization of written expression DSM-5 diagnostic code 315.2. 3. Specific learning disorder with impairment in mathematics. Includes possible deficits in: Number sense Memorization of arithmetic facts Accurate or fluent calculation Accurate math reasoning So all of these 3 types of learning disorder are now considered under the one...

Teachers need help to teach literacy

The Problem with Reading It’s estimated that between 10% to 16% of children aged from five to 16 years will have reading difficulties such as dyslexia and inadequate comprehension skills. For these students, regular literacy teaching will be insufficient. They need alternative teaching pathways. Despite numerous initiatives, such as the Literacy and Numeracy National Partnership, and the A$706.3 million spent between 2008-2014 on reading programs to support students, literacy underachievement continues to plague Australian education, suggesting that current interventions are not working for many students. Teachers don’t necessarily know how to teach these children and it isn’t the teacher’s fault. The problem is not a lack of research about what works. The problem is not a lack of caring teachers (they care more than many parents know)! It is more the lack of guidance for teachers and schools and inadequate training in how to use this knowledge in teaching. They need clear and explicit instruction on how to choose effective literacy interventions that will work for students and the tools to implement these interventions so that they work for teachers as well. Why do students struggle with reading? Reading comprehension is an incredibly complex process. There are two key elements to reading though: decoding and comprehension. Decoding involves being able to break apart and blend together the sounds in a word, understand the sounds that make up spoken words and knowing which letter makes which sound in what context (phonological and phonemic skills), using letter patterns accurately (phonic skills) and sequence letter and sounds correctly. Difficulties with these skills lead to word reading and spelling difficulties, or dyslexia. Reading...

Free Learning About Food Placemat

You can get your free copy of this tool that Rachel uses in feeding therapy to help children learn about new foods. Just select “EAT” and enter your email address and we’ll send you your copy to your inbox today: Free Speech Parent Placemat (tick EAT)   Print it off, laminate it and then head over to Speech Parent on Facebook to let us know how you used it! https://www.facebook.com/SpeechParent/ Some tips for how to use it are here: Here’s the link again. Don’t forget to tick the “EAT” box so we send the placemat straight to your inbox: Speech Parent Free Placemat              ...

Hope for parents of picky eaters

It’s on again! Transforming Picky Eaters into Peaceful Feeders – the parent workshop with a twist. After a sell-out workshop event last year we are once again opening the doors to help you learn how to stop table tantrums, manage mealtime meltdowns and nourish your child who struggles to eat or refuses foods. Trying to parent a picky eater is exhausting and nerve-wracking. And being forced to eat is frustrating and distressing for children. We want you and your child to find joy in sharing meals together and for your child to enjoy the nutritional benefits of eating a wider variety of tastes and textures. If you are ready to learn how to help your child, our “Transforming Picky Eaters into Peaceful Feeders” parent-training course has been designed specifically for you. This course provides a comprehensive and evidence based approach for parents to develop the knowledge and skills they need to support their picky eater to develop successful feeding skills. The course is also suitable for carers and teachers. Let us help provide you with the knowledge and skills you need so you can start moving from stress and frustration towards long term feeding success for your child. Friday 20th May 9am-2:30pm at Chatterbugs. A delicious morning tea and lunch and all learning materials are included. Because the workshop is personalised and hands on it is strictly limited to a 12 participants. Tickets are only $197 per participant (payable a minimum of 7 days before the event) To reserve your seat, BOOK NOW before it sells...

Exciting new service: Unique Child Educational Experiences

We are proud (and very excited) to announce that the amazingly talented Jane Loveday (teacher by background) will soon be offering uniquely tailored educational experiences for children to help them learn how to learn. Described as a “whole classroom and curriculum tailored to one unique child”. Jane will guide your child to learn how to learn, step by step. This isn’t tutoring or teaching or therapy, it’s a holistic educational experience specifically designed for your child’s personal needs and preferences. She is amazing with children with ASD, ADHD, SPD etc and will be offering this unique service from our rooms at Chatterbugs soon. Jane will also be offering consulting services to help train teachers and school staff in how to help your individual child to learn and participate more fully. If anyone is interested just send us an email at chatterbugs@gmail.com and we can provide some more details. These services will be such an asset to our community and are sorely needed for “those children”. Maybe your child is one of “those children”. The kids that try their hardest but struggle to fit into a system that doesn’t work for them. The kids that the teacher just doesn’t seem to understand. The kids whose behaviour is communicating something but others can’t see through it to the feelings behind. We believe “those children” have something special to contribute to the world and deserve to learn how to learn and to love learning like any other child. Jane has the heart, skills and experience to be able to reach and understand what children need and then create an environment where they...

The importance of customer feedback

We are lucky in Toowoomba to have a wide variety of medical and allied health services that deliver excellent care, but none of us can improve if we don’t get feedback. We’ve had some new families choose us to help their children recently and these parents have commented on how different our service was to some other health services they had experienced in other locations. I hope that the experiences they relayed were rare experiences but the feedback they’ve provided on our service has helped us to know how we can continue to improve our service. We encourage families to provide as much feedback as possible to their health service providers because we know from firsthand experience that it makes a real difference and often if there’s an issue there’s a simple solution we can easily put in place if we only know there is a problem. Sometimes people only provide feedback when they have a complaint to make so were were extremely grateful to these clients for providing feedback on the things they loved. This helps us to know what to keep doing or to do more of. Here are 3 things we are continuing to focus on at Chatterbugs because our clients love it: 1. Parents get the answers they need. One mother related how with many medical and health appointments she feels like she answers a barrage of questions from the professional but that then her questions don’t get clearly answered in return. She said, “I love Chatterbugs’ Simple Steps Plan that outlines exactly where are are, where we are going and the first steps to get there.” For every new assessment...

Sight words success

Sight words are vital for developing fluency in reading – and they can be the bane of a parent’s existence after the first flush of excitement of starting to learn to read settles down! The pressure that comes with trying to keep up with the expectations for reading progress can get in the way of a child developing a love reading and all that comes with it. In this episode, Lisa Hudson interviews fellow Speech Pathologist and author of “The Essential Sight Words Guide For Parents”, Rachel Tosh. Rachel and Lisa discuss some key (and simple) strategies to take the pressure down several notches when teaching children sight words and help to make reading easier and more enjoyable. Listen to the interview here Buy the ebook...

10 Common Myths about Speech and Language Development

Well-meaning parents and friends love to give advice about your child and how to support their speech and language development, but how do you know what’s true and what’s simply an old wives’ tale? Here we break down a few of the common things parents are told about speech and language development and give you the truth.   Talking in simplified ‘telegrammatic’ speech helps babies and toddlers learn to talk. Speaking telegrammatically means you use main content words, and telegrammatic speech usually contains no grammar, or grammatical errors (e.g. ‘he big’ instead of “he is big”, or ‘I jump’ instead of “I am jumping”). Some people think that this kind of talk will help a child’s language skills develop, because it gives them only the most important words to focus on and is very simple. Actually, the opposite is more likely to be true. Telegrammatic speech may actually limit a child’s language development as they are given a poor language model to learn from. They need exposure to good grammar in order to learn to use it! Also, the words, and parts of words, we use when speaking grammatically often provide cues to help your child figure out what you are saying (e.g. when your child hears a word ending in “-ing” they know you are using an ‘action’ word). Simplifying the way you talk by using shorter, simple sentences can be very beneficial for your child’s language development, but even the short sentences you use should always be grammatically correct.   If you use baby-talk you are stunting your child’s development Using baby-talk (as long as it is...

Foundations for Communication

As Speech Pathologists, there might be moments where the things we do in therapy sessions may surprise or confuse parents. To the untrained eye therapy sessions may look like we’re not accomplishing much, just having some fun playing together. This can be especially frustrating when you have come to speech therapy because your child’s not talking. The truth is that there are many key foundations to successful communication, and these foundations are necessary before other skills can be learned successfully. For example, if a child has difficulty paying attention, they will struggle to understand much of what is said to them simply because they haven’t attended fully to it. Similarly, if a child has difficulty understanding language, they will have difficulty learning new words and grammar skills. Most language is learned by hearing, and if you are having trouble understanding what you hear (or aren’t really hearing it because your attention is poor) you will struggle to learn to use it. Five of these foundations to communication are: Joint Attention: The ability to understand that we can pay attention to the same object as someone else. For example, your child is able to follow eye gazing, pointing, or other gestures from another person (a communication partner) which leads to both paying attention to the same object. Shared Enjoyment: The ability to share an event or feeling with another person. For example, your child sees something funny on TV, laughs and then looks at you to see if you also enjoyed it. Intent: The ability to use different forms of communication (verbal or non-verbal) to send messages to other people. This can involve using verbal (like saying “look”, “watch”, “come here”, etc.)...

Toy Tales

This simple idea is lots of fun, encourages imagination, teaches oral language and literacy skills and results in a special home-made book your child can treasure for years to come. All you need is a smart phone or a camera. The child helps to take photos of their favourite toy/s in little activity scenes such as eating breakfast, watching television, making a mess in the bathroom and sleeping on the couch. Be creative – you can search the internet and use “Elf on the Shelf” ideas to inspire your own scene creations if you want. You and your child can print the pictures out and stick them into an exercise book or display folder to tell a little story. Alternatively, you could tell the story while scrolling through the photos on your phone or camera. An app that can also be used to create these stories on your phone or iPad is Little Bird Tales. What adventure is teddy going on...

10 Tips for Supporting Language Development at Home

If you are concerned about your child’s language development the best thing you can do is see a Speech Pathologist. But perhaps it’s not possible for you to access support immediately, but you’d like to be doing something while you wait. Maybe you have a child who you feel could benefit from just little bit of extra help, even though their language is within the normal range. Whatever the reason, if you want to help boost your child’s language development, here are 10 tips for things you can do at home. 1. Talk every day. The most important thing your child needs to develop their language skills is to hear you talk. Spend as much time interacting with your child as you can. This doesn’t have to be playing or doing structured activities together. You can talk while you do just about anything – cooking, washing, getting dressed… Talk as much as you can. Try to limit the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen and substitute interaction instead. Most of my son’s first words came from doing housework together! 2. Get on the same level. When you are talking, it will help keep your child’s attention if you are on the same level. If they are playing on the floor, get down on the floor with them. If you are cooking at the bench, perhaps they can stand on a chair beside you. Having easy access to your face makes it easier for your child to watch and hear how you speak and will make them more likely to copy you. 3. Take a...

Parents, YOU are the expert! (aka “The mysterious case of the red spaghetti server”)

I had the privilege of helping babysit my nephews the other day. It’s always fun hanging out with my sibling’s kids and it amazes me how different they all are. When my sister and I asked if the boys had any particular sleep routines I was surprised when my brother almost reverently handed over something that looked like this: He then proceeded to tell us how once it is bedtime if you gently rub his son’s head and back with the spiky bits of the spaghetti server he goes straight to sleep. We accepted the pasta sleep sceptre dutifully but somewhat doubtfully. Sure enough when it came time for bed he protested because he didn’t want to miss out on the somewhat dubious excitement of my sister and I doing some housework together. I took him to the bedroom and used my best therapist voice to be understanding and gently encourage him to lay down. He kept crying but eventually lay down (possibly only because I was cuddling him and I lay down hehe). I then remembered the red spaghetti server. I fetched it and asked if he wanted “tickles” and he eventually nodded (while still trying to escape) and pointed to his back. The moment I placed it on his back he visibly relaxed; within 5 minutes he was fast asleep. Take that doubting me! This experience was a gentle reminder to me of a key lesson that many health professionals forget sometimes. As the parent YOU are the expert on YOUR CHILD. You might not know everything about their medical or developmental needs but, more importantly than any of that,...