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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Easy way to help a child understand other’s perspectives

Just thought I’d share a little trick I’ve used a few times now to help children who can’t understand that someone else might have different priorities to them and therefore might feel differently about the same situation. It has been really useful in particular for high functioning ASD students in their relationships with peers, teachers and family members. Here’s how it works: Get the child to list some values they feel strongly about (either that it matters a lot to them or they really think it’s not important) eg friends; being able to make your own choices; having a clean room etc. Get them to rate each one out of 10. Make a list of values they think the other person might have and then rate each of those out of 10. Create a scenario where the weight of those values might contrast eg Mum wants the child to clean their room. Having a clean room is a 1/10 for the child but 8/10 for the Mum. See the problem now? Extend it further by creating equations adding multiple values together and then contrasting again e.g. for the child clean room is 1/10 but having Mum not cranky is a 5/10 so that makes it more important than just the room. You can even use a visual scale for this if you like so that the child can see how “full” the value scale is to see how important something is for someone....

Story Time in the Park – free community event this Friday!

We’ve been proud to support our fabulous local library together with First Five Forever in this fantastic series of community storytelling events. Our team have had heaps of fun and met some new friends. The good new is…it’s on again this Friday 5th February at Laurel Bank Park. If weather is looking less than ideal we will be in the hall at the park (near Hill Street). There are lots of stories, activities and singing for the kids and friendly conversation for parents. The fun kicks off at 9am and is completely free – hope to see you there! If you are looking for things to do with your child then this is perfect: Things to do in...

The questions you’re too scared to ask your speech therapist (but really want to know!)

Q: Why did the emu cross the road? A: To prove he wasn’t a chicken. Sometimes as a parent in speech therapy sessions you might have some questions but feel too chicken to ask, such as: “Why does the therapist just play with my child?” “Why won’t she just get him to say some words?” “We’ve been in therapy for X weeks and my child’s still not talking! How long does this take?” “How many times do I have to repeat this? I feel like a broken record.” “Why does speech therapy cost so much? It looks like an easy way to make good money.” No one wants to seem rude or like they don’t care about their child, so often these questions go unspoken. So, rather than wait for you to ask those questions we want to make it easy on you and answer them upfront. Parenting is hard, and raising a child who also needs speech therapy is even more complicated, so we’re doing what we can to lighten your load. As a speech pathologist I sometimes feel a bit like a duck – I look like I’m gliding along floating on the surface but underneath I’m paddling like mad! Here are a few insights into what’s going on underneath the surface so that you and your child can understand and enjoy the therapy process more. 1. It’s not “just” play We seem to have a preconceived idea that playing is somehow goofing off and is in direct opposition to working and making progress. So when our child has trouble with something we expect them to have to “work” to learn it....

Best ever strategy to help a child’s eye contact

I often have parents ask me for ideas to help their child learn to use more eye contact. I first used this trick many years ago (can’t remember how or who I learned it from or I would give them a hug and BIG thankyou!). Years later, I still use this strategy regularly with children who struggle to make eye contact. Here’s how it works. During play choose a preferred/interesting toy (eg one with light/sound if they don’t have favourites) and hold it near your eyes. As soon as they look at the toy, give it to them. Then gradually as they get the idea of the “game” wait longer until their eyes flick across to your eyes then give them the toy. This would be the sort of activity you could do very quickly throughout the day without having to do any formal practice time. The really beautiful thing about this trick is that it not only teaches children how to make eye contact but also that eye contact is purposeful and makes things happen in the child’s communication world. Happy eye contact...

How to Read with your Child (and love it!)

We are pleased to announce the launch of our free online course for parents, “How to Read with Your Child (and love it!)”. After extensive community consultation we observed a growing need for parents to be able to access practical advice regarding how to successfully read with young children. So we wrote a course…then decided it was too good to keep for just our clients so we have decided to give it away free to any parent who wants the best for their child. Access the course here: http://chatterbugs.com.au/free-online-course Here’s what you’ll receive (for free!): Amazing video content designed to teach you everything you need to know to help your child learn through reading together (and have fun in the process) Easy to understand and use downloadable resources Real life examples of babies and children learning to love books Tips and tricks to make reading time learning time and to enhance your relationship with your child Happy...

Thank you, thank you, thank you

2015 has been a great year at Chatterbugs and we just wanted to say thank you to the Toowoomba community. To everyone who has referred children to us so we could help them, thank you. To everyone who has trusted us with their special children as your speech therapy service provider of choice, thank you. To all the professionals we’re had the pleasure of working with in 2015, thank you. Because of you we are making a difference and helping children in the Toowoomba region to communicate, learn and eat more successfully. As you are probably already aware we are the largest speech pathology practice in Toowoomba dedicated exclusively to paediatric clinical care. In addition to speech and language skills our team also gets great results for children with literacy (reading/spelling/writing including dyslexia) and feeding difficulties. Here are just a few examples of the outcomes we are achieving: Here are a few of our highlights for 2015: We changed a child’s life every day – in 2015 we helped over 365 children learn to communicate, read and spell, eat and interact with others more successfully. We’re proud of the number of children we help, but more than that we are proud of the individual outcomes we can achieve for each child and their family. We recently worked with a 12 month old girl who was having difficulty chewing and after only 3 therapy sessions and her parent attending our “Transforming Picky Eaters into Peaceful Feeders” workshop we are so excited that she is now successfully able to eat a variety of table foods. Her Christmas was so much more enjoyable because of...

Joining words together – 3 strategies to help your child use two word phrases

When children are using lots of single words, they may need some help to learn how they can put words together to make short sentences. There are also a number of different types of two word phrases. As a quick refresher for those of you who can’t remember school English a noun is a naming word. Here are some of the different types and some example phrases for each type: Action + Noun eg. “running horse” Noun + Action eg. “boy is jumping” Noun/Action + Location eg. “teddy in” or “jumping the log” Descriptive Word + Noun/Action eg. “soft kitty” or “silly walk” or “one apple” Social language + Noun/Action eg. “ta Mum” or “more tickles” It’s important that children have lots of chances to hear a variety of these different sentence types used every day. Remember as a parent you are the best language teacher your child has and it’s more about talking throughout life rather than formal sit down practice that will make the biggest difference. Most children start joining words together at about 18 months of age. Here are a few of the strategies that we find consistently work with most children who have a number of single words (50+) and are ready to start moving towards joining two words together. 1. Model: Use 2 and 3 word sentences to demonstrate the sort of phrases your child could use. For example, when having a drink of juice you could use some of these phrases: All gone No more juice Drink juice Pour juice Uh oh! Spilled the juice. Cold juice Let’s pour slowly It’s your juice My juice. 2. Expand: Expansion is...

How Children Learn to Read

 This post will be decidedly more technical than most of our articles but we feel it’s a vitally important subject area for parents and teachers to understand despite it’s complexity so pardon the jargon (we’ve tried to explain terms throughout for you)! Learning how to read requires several skills working together in a complex, harmonious dance. There are many challenges children face as they learn how sounds are connected to print, as they develop fluency, and as they learn to construct meaning from what they read. The primary challenge is the complexity of the task at hand and the number of different skills that can affect reading development. Three primary skills are fundamental to successful literacy development: sounds to letter links; reading fluency; and reading comprehension. Sound to letter links In English,  individual letters on a page are abstract and meaningless by themselves. They must be linked to equally abstract sounds (speech pathologists call these “phonemes”), then blended together and pronounced as words and then ultimately connected to word meanings. To learn to read English, the child must figure out the relationship between sounds and letters. A beginning reader needs to learn the connections between the approximately 44 sounds of spoken English (the phonemes), and the 26 letters of the alphabet. Research has taught us is that in order for a beginning reader to learn how to connect or translate printed symbols (letters and letter patterns) into sounds, the would-be reader must understand that our speech can be segmented or broken into small sounds (phoneme awareness) and that the segmented units of speech can be represented by printed forms (graphemes). This principle is at...

The value of play

According to Albert Einstein, “Play is the highest form of research”. If we want our children to figure out the world we need to allow them time and space to play in a variety of ways. Beyond that though we also need to teach our children HOW to play. Earlier this year I attended a workshop by the talented Karen Stagnitti, author of “Learn to Play” (amongst many other books etc). Apart from feeling like I’d found a kindred spirit, one of my favourite things was the way Karen outlined a framework for understanding pretend play. Here’s the framework in Karen’s own words: A Framework for Understanding Pretend...

Help your child learn to eat (and enjoy!) vegetables

        I came across a really interesting new study this year investigating how parents can help their children learn to eat a disliked vegetable. They compared the following five groups: A control group that didn’t get any intervention Parents presented the vegetable every day Parents presented the vegetable every day and modelled eating that vegetable (i.e. the parent ate it in front of the child) Parents presented the vegetable every day and praised/rewarded (with a non-food item) the child for “trying” it Parents presented the vegetable every day, modelled eating it and praised/rewarded the child for “trying” it   At the end of the study significant differences in liking were found between the experimental groups. Liking was highest (>60%) in the modelling, rewards and repeated exposure group and the rewards and repeated exposure group, intermediate (>26%) in the modelling and repeated exposure and repeated exposure groups, and lowest in the control group (10%). This tells us that repeated exposure to a disliked food, modelling and rewarding eating behaviour can potentially increase children’s vegetable consumption. So the key message is that although your child “doesn’t eat/like” a specific food it doesn’t mean they never will. Keep exposing them without forcing, model eating it and praise/reward if they make an attempt. In summary, here are 3 simple steps to helping your child learn to eat a food they currently dislike: Present the food regularly Model eating the food Praise/reward any attempts to touch, eat or interact with the food Here’s the link to the article if you are interested in reading more: ‘Why don’t you try it again?’ A comparison of parent led, home based interventions...

Junior Art Competition: Kids only, free entry, great prizes

Junior Art Competition Our “Chatterbugs Gallery” is in need of an update and we need your little artist’s creative genius to make it happen. Entry is free and open to any child under 18. Entries from children with disabilities is strongly encouraged. Our first online entry has already won a prize and a position in our gallery. For full details check out the offer on Facebook. You can enter online by posting a photo of your child’s masterpiece or in person by dropping off A4 or A3 sized art pieces to Chatterbugs 164 Margaret Street Toowoomba. Don’t forget to like our Chatterbugs Facebook page to complete your child’s...

Transforming Picky Eaters into Peaceful Feeders

How to stop table tantrums, manage mealtime meltdowns and nourish a child who struggles to eat or refuses foods. Picky eating and feeding problems is frustrating for children and exhausting and nerve-wracking for parents. 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. To reserve your seat book online now: What this course gives you: • Understanding why your child can’t or won’t eat a variety of foods • Strategies to enhance your relationship with your child through eating together • Easy to implement mealtime rules that help both you and your child when things get hard • Strategies to keep everyone calm at mealtimes • Easy ways to apply course content to real life in your family • Case studies of other picky eaters • Answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions such as, “Should I offer dessert?” • How to ensure your child is safe at mealtimes and red flags that mean...

What to expect from your child’s speech therapy assessment

A Mum asked what to expect from an assessment the other day and I thought there are probably lots of other parents who feel overwhelmed or confused by this process. So today I’m going to let you all know what is reasonable to expect from your initial consultation with a speech therapy professional. Then I will let you know what to expect from your first consultation if we are your speech pathologist of choice so you can understand the unique process the team at Chatterbugs has developed to consistently deliver an exceptional service in your first consultation. First of all, the terms speech therapist, speech pathologist, speech-language pathologist, speech and language therapist, SLT, SALT, SLP are all used internationally to identify speech therapy professionals. Different countries have difference registration requirements and terminology but you should always check the professional registration of the speech professional you are considering seeing to make sure they are appropriately qualified. To make this easy for you here are a few of the professional associations for different countries: USA American Speech and Hearing Assocation (ASHA) UK Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists (RCSLT) Canada Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) Australia Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) Ireland The Irish Association of Speech & Language Therapists (IASLT) South Africa South African Speech-Language-Hearing Association (SASLHA) Here at Chatterbugs all our Speech Pathologists (or speech therapists if you prefer that term) are fully qualified and registered with Speech Pathology Australia. So once you’ve found a speech therapist and booked an appointment what can you expect for you and your child? 1. Normally the Speech Pathologist will gather some information...

Is speech therapy worth it?

I had a friend ask me the other week whether speech therapy was worth the time and money or should you just wait and see if they grow out of it. It was an honest question and I appreciated his forthright approach. In response to that I want to share a few little known facts: 1. Economics: Speech therapy for specific language impairment in children yeilds 6.64 times the lifetime value for every unit of investment. So that means for every $1 spent on speech therapy there will be $6.64 worth of value produced by that investment. These results are based on the RCSLT analysis of cost benefit for >170,000 children. Available here: RCSLT Cost Benefit Analysis 2. Emotional/Social/Mental Health: In later life children with unresolved language difficulties show a paucity of friendships, fewer intimate relationships and poorer social adaptation than their normally developing peers. Plus they are more than twice as likely to develop serious mental health problems. 3. Numerous studies have demonstrated that intervention for speech and language difficulties is more effective and more cost effective than a “wait and see approach” (for example BUSCHMANN, A., JOOSS, B., RUPP, A., FELDHUSEN, F., PIETZ, J. & PHILIPPI, H. 2009. Parent based language intervention for 2-year-old children with specific expressive language delay: a randomised controlled trial. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 94, 110-116.) Further to this scientific evidence are the examples we frequently see in the clinic. For example, in the same week we had a one year old with feeding difficulties (who now has a treatment plan in place and is progressing well) compared with a six year...

Strategies to help children with listening difficulties

• Remember listening difficulties are not the same as hearing difficulties, speaking more loudly or clearly will not always help. The difficulty lies not in receiving the signal but rather the quality and then internal processing of the auditory signal. • Eliminate background noise (e.g. fish tanks, traffic, computers, people talking) or if this is not possible ensure the child’s back is to the source of noise. • In classroom situations ensure the child is as close to the front and towards the center of the classroom as possible. Try to position the child so that students immediately surrounding the child will not be distracting. • Gain the child’s full attention – i.e. eye contact and stopped all other activities- before giving any oral (spoken) information or directions. • If possible ensure the child is facing you when you give instructions (don’t shout to them from the next room!) • Use gestures and other visual supports (e.g. draw pictures, write keywords) wherever possible. Be tolerant of children watching other students for cues when following instructions. • Break instructions/ideas into smaller steps. • Repeat spoken information emphasizing key points. In the classroom this can be achieved by asking another student to repeat information covered for the benefit of everyone in the class! It can help to re-state key ideas before beginning more in-depth discussion. • Ask the child to repeat back to you the key ideas or the steps in a list of instructions. • Try not to jump from one idea to another, provide logical sequencing of ideas. This is because children with listening difficulties are often relying on...

Top three tips for teaching your child to talk

It can be heartbreaking watching your little one frustrated and unable to communicate. Late talkers who don’t get the right support are at risk of literacy and social difficulties. You want desperately to help them learn how to talk but how do you teach a child to talk? The most powerful and proven strategies for teaching young children to talk are what I call the Teaching Toddlers to Talk Trifecta. Without further ado, here they are! 1. Modelling 2. Repetition 3. Waiting Firstly, modelling has two key elements: self-talk and parallel-talk. Self talk is where you provide a running commentary on everything you are doing using short, simple phrases (yes you sometimes sound like a crazy person doing it in public but it works!) e.g. “Mummy is eating, yum, eating a carrot. Crunch crunch. Mmm yummy carrot. Oh look I ate the carrot. All gone!” Parallel talk is similar but you are providing a running commentary on what your LO is doing eg “Jimmy is looking at the book. Open the book. Hmmm what’s that? A sheep. Jimmy is looking at the sheep. Turn the page. More sheep! Uh oh. Shut the book. Finished reading. Bye sheep.” Secondly, repetition means that you say the same word over and over but in slightly different different word combinations eg car, fast car, big car, the car is red, I love cars, more cars, stop car, go car. I found a car! Finally the third part of the Teaching Toddlers to Talk Trifecta is waiting. This means that after you’ve done some modelling with repetition built in you lead in with a...

10 Tips for helping your child learn to play

Playing might seem like it should be the most natural thing in the world for a young child to do. But, for some little people, especially those with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) it is extremely challenging and they need extra help to develop these skills. Here are a few tips to help you teach your child how to successfully play with a wider variety of toys and activities. 1. Get down and play with them. Being on the same level as your child creates a totally different feeling for both you and your child. Lay or sit on the floor and try to get your eyes at the same level as your child so you can see what they see. If your child has trouble engaging with people socially then play next to them. Often this “next to” position or a right angle type position is less confronting for children who have difficulty making and maintaining eye contact. 2. Imitate. Watch what your child is doing, copy what your child is doing and then wait to see how they respond. 3. Extend. Once you have copied what they have done (e.g. hitting the blocks) change the play with that toy just a little bit (e.g. put one block on top of another or put the blocks in a circle). Wait and see if your child copies you. If they don’t imitate you don’t worry just go back to copying them and then try it again a little later. 4. Encourage “one more”. If your child quickly moves from one play activity to another encourage them to just have 1-3...

Getting help for fussy or picky eaters – red flags to look for

Red flags are an indication that you need to call in reinforcements for your picky eater or fussy feeder. The following red flags mean your child needs a referral to a feeding therapist if you don’t already have one:  Restricted variety of foods, usually less than 20 foods  Loses foods that they have previously eaten and foods aren’t re-gained after a two week break  Child has a meltdown when new foods are presented  Highly distressed when familiar foods are presented in a different way e.g. a banana is presented sliced rather than whole  Refuses entire categories of food textures (e.g. no chewy foods)  Refuses entire food groups (e.g. no meat or no vegetables)  Family is fighting about food and feeding (ie. Meals are battles)  Almost always eats different food to the family  Often needs a separate mealtime to the family. The following are additional red flags for referral that indicate referral to a medical professional for further assessment is also needed for a child of any age irrespective diagnosis etc:  Poor weight gain (rate re: percentiles falling) or weight loss  Ongoing choking, gagging or coughing during meals  Ongoing problems with vomiting  More than once incident of nasal reflux  History of a traumatic choking incident  History of eating and breathing coordination problems, with ongoing respiratory issues  Parents reporting child as being “picky” at 2 or more well child checks  Inability to transition to baby food purees by 10 months of age  Inability to accept any table food solids by 12 months of...