Pondering about Pacifiers?

Prior to becoming a mother, I was very cautious about pacifier use for babies. After having my very lovable, very demanding son, my staunch views have become more practical. Pacifiers have been around for decades for a reason: they work. More specifically, they assist a child in soothing himself during instances of discomfort and initiate a child’s ability to soothe himself. Once upon a time, the speechie in me would have told every mother to discontinue pacifier use prior to 12 months of age (milestone marker for the production of first words). My knowledge base coupled with many sleepless nights have given me a new-found respect for a miraculous 2-inch piece of rubber. As a proponent of whole-child development, I believe that social-emotional development in addition to cognition (thought process), language, and physical elements is critical. What else is critical? A new parent’s sanity.
So what does the research say? Speech experts have noted that prolonged use of a pacifier can keep a child’s mouth in an unnatural position, making it more difficult for some muscles of the lips and tongue to develop naturally and thus may contribute to tongue-thrust patterns. Dental experts often encourage patients to discontinue use prior to a child’s permanent teeth coming in, as a pacifier may cause lasting dental problems.
What does a practical SLP say?
Use a natural rubber, rounded pacifier (it tends to depress the tongue less than the other types) when needed until more mature coping mechanisms have developed. On a related note, Eco-Piggy round pacifiers are made of natural rubber and are brilliantly constructed. Regarding a cut-off age, I strongly feel this recommendation is situationally based. If milestone-markers are being attained (i.e., babbling at or around 4 months, transition to solid food at or around 6 months, first words at or around 12 months), I would use parental intuition coupled with pediatrician recommendation in determining an appropriate cut-off age. If you have any questions or concerns, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and reach out for a professional opinion.

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Humor in Language

An MIT linguistics professor was lecturing his class the other day. “In English,” he said, “a double negative forms a positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative. But there isn’t a single language, not one, in which a double positive can express a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room said, “Yeah, right.”

—Sai Kishore K

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Language-here, there, everywhere

My favorite way to fight that car ride, rainy day, anytime boredom is, yes, you’ve guessed it, with language.

This language-rich game ensures loads of laughter and learning. A great companion on your next car ride or flight.


Crazy Face Magnetibook

Ages: 3-5

Visual-Perception Skills: check

Fine-Motor Skills: check

Applying Attributes: check

Answering/Responding to Y/N questions: check

Descriptive Language: check

Loads of laughter: check

This language-rich, well-made game is both educational and fun. The game can be adapted to target specific skills/goals and can be played individually or with a small group. By placing a picture card on the inside cover of the game box, the player then uses the magnetic pieces to recreate the displayed design. Players may also want to mix and match the magnetic pieces to create their own silly motifs. Magnetibook is so much fun that descriptive language, attributes, and many other aspects of language may be incorporated seamlessly.

1. Initiate the game by holding the box upside-down, sideways, and backwards while making a perplexed face. Can your child orient the game correctly through his fits of laughter?

2. Open the box after being prompted (either in a phrase or sentence) to do so. Have your child pick the design to be displayed (from a set of two or more). Can your child describe the design using adjectives and nouns? Ask your child why he chose that specific design.

3. While recreating the design, I typically play “silly” in order to elicit more language. For example, if a child requests a magnetic hat, I will purposely give him a different piece until I am able to elicit or model an expanded phrase (“I want big blue hat,” in lieu of “I want hat.”).

4. Upon completion of the picture, I typically encourage children to use descriptive language in conjunction with prepositions to tell me what they’re doing with the magnetic pieces as we clean up (e.g., “Take off hat and put away.” or “I (I’m) taking off blue hat and putting it on you (your) head.”).

5. During the game, I often assist in eliciting the following pieces of information (depending on ability): descriptions using adjectives, where the item/feature belongs, applicable attributes, and the prepositions on, off, in.

Wishing you and your little language learners loads of fun!

*Tanya’s Game Tips are intended to encourage language learning and are in no way a substitute for formal speech and language therapy. If you feel that your child may be having difficulty communicating, I encourage you to seek out professional advice.


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Student Success Plans

Do you know about Tanya’s “Gear up for Success” plan* for students? This one-on-one consultation includes a Skype or phone conversation with parents, document (IEP/evaluation) review, recommendations/accommodations for a successful transition back to school, as well as follow-up. This document is frequently requested by parents to share with home-based and school-based support teams to ensure that learning is optimized. Tips for language comprehension, literacy, fostering good study habits, as well as strategies for homework/project completion are included.

Grades: Pre-k through 12

For more information regarding pricing and setting up an appointment, please email Tanya directly.

*Tanya’s “Gear up for Success” plan is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, but rather support students in making a successful transition back to school while developing a positive regard to learning. Please allocate 2 weeks for the completion of “Gear up for Success” plans.
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Positive Spin on Learning

It’s almost that time of year again. Back to learning. Back to homework. Back to fun? Yes. Back to learning, homework, discovery, exploration, and even fun. A positive spin is just what some of my favorite teachers recommend. In my experience, positivity goes a long way especially when related to various elements of learning. So I pose this question: how can parents instill intrinsic motivation, teach positive actions, and make learning relevant all the while maintaining a positive vibe?

I will start out by relaying that in over 15 years of working with children, I have never met two children that are the same. What works brilliantly for one child may not work at all for another. Intrinsic motivation is one of the single greatest attributes I could hope for any child to possess. While fostering intrinsic motivation, I often encourage children to have a clearly defined thought. I then encourage them to monitor their actions to ensure that such actions are in line with their thought. Finally, children are guided to reflect upon their actions and implement any pertinent changes. I maintain a philosophy that not succeeding initially is a part of life and means that effort was put forth, which is, in my opinion, a very good lesson to learn and concept to learn and accept early on. Not trying is not an option.

Teaching positive actions is a cornerstone in life. Encouraging a child to understand that the importance of positive actions is to feel good about oneself extends far beyond learning. Positive actions relating to learning may include, but are not limited to the following: thinking, problem solving, deductive reasoning, and overall decision-making. Positive actions relating to getting along with peers may include, but are not limited to the following: fairness, kindness, trust, and respect. Positive actions relating to self-improvement may include, but are not limited to the following: short and long-term goal setting, accepting responsibility, and admitting mistakes.

Making learning relevant is key in adopting and maintaining interest, instilling motivation, and encouraging the generalization of concepts and ideas. Children become more engaged in learning and retain knowledge better when they are able to see that it is relevant and vital to their own success and happiness. As parents, by understanding your child’s talents, learning style, and interests, you can adjust methodology, strategy, as well as any necessary support.

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Music and Learning

Music has long been considered an innovative teaching modality for researchers and educators alike. Research dating back to 1978 conducted by Donald Mahler suggests that, “Music has significant implications for the teaching-learning process in special education.” Mahler also states that increased hemispherical differentiation and school left-brain (logic, language, critical thinking) emphasis (as opposed to right-brain functions which include intuition, creativity, reading emotions, facial recognition, music), beginning music early and continuing it frequently is important in curricular and extracurricular achievement. In addition to music providing repeated opportunities for language learning for younger children, incorporating music and/or rhythms while studying assists older children in the acquisition of concepts. I am including some of my favorite songs, albums, and music applications below; I typically incorporate music that supports a specific set of skills to provide additional linguistic, literary, and/or academic information. I often use tunes/rhythms from common songs and change the lyrics to teach a specific task (e.g., The Farmer and the Dell, Bingo, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star). For children who are having difficulty learning a concept via one modality, music may provide an additional modality for skill acquisition.

Tanya’s Tunes:

Song: Animal Action 1 & 2 (Greg and Steve) (Ages 2-4)

Song: The Body Rock (Greg and Steve) (Ages 2-4)

Song: We Are the Dinosaurs (The Laurie Berkner Band) (Ages 2-4)

Song: Sammy (Hap Palmer) (Ages 2-4)

Song: Say the Opposite-Extended Version (Hap Palmer) (Ages 3-5)

Song: Shake Your Sillies Out (The Wiggles) (Ages 2 & 3)

Album: We All Live Together (Volumes 2-4) (Greg and Steve) (Ages 2-5)

Album: Learning Basic Skills Through Music (Volumes 1 & 2) (Hap Palmer) (Ages 2-5)

Album: States & Capitals (Kidzup) (Ages 5+)

Application: ZoozBeat (Ages 6+, as applicable)


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Making Each Moment a Teachable One

Fellow speech pathologists will likely agree that almost every interaction a speech path has with a child tends to be educational, and dare I say it, overly verbose. Proud to provide those teachable, language-rich experiences to any child, I found myself instinctively shaping the interaction between a mother and her child during a recent trip to the grocery store. While selecting my produce, I overheard the child exclaim to his mother, “Wow! Those oranges are HUGE!” To which the mother replied, “Just put them in the bag.” I was borderline devastated. So, after greeting the mother with a smile, I casually replied, “You’re right, they are gigantic! They’re so round and smooth. Did you feel the rind?” A beautiful 2 minute conversation ensued about oranges, where they grow, how they feel, taste, and what is derived from them. And by seizing this moment, I felt a sense of bliss as I brought a bit of vocabulary, topic maintenance, and general knowledge into this child’s world. I then ran into the duo in the checkout line and overheard the mother commenting, “You’re right Jake, that line is longer than ours. Ours is short.”

Mission accomplished.

‘Making each moment a teachable one’ is easily accessible to any parent and not unreasonably time consuming. I encourage you- acknowledge and expand on your child’s comments, employ open-ended critical thinking questions (what do you think of…), play language-rich games in the car (e.g., I spy, categories), and seize teachable moments.

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A Gem in Early Literacy Methodology

This past week I had the honor of attending a seminar by TLC (Telian-Cas Learning Concepts), a company founded by the dynamic and talented duo, Nancy Telian and Penny Castagnozzi. Nancy, a certified speech pathologist, is not only innovative and creative, but has taken her expertise and coupled it with her many talents to create this ingenious (and long overdue, in my opinion) approach to early literacy. Penny, an eternal teacher, possesses the knowledge and pizzaz to pass on the concepts of TLC’s programs, encouraging every teacher to create an appropriate forum for improved literacy. TLC  provided an engaging and comprehensive training seminar for their Lively Letters and Sight Words You Can See programs.

Lively Letters is technically a letter-sound recognition program, but with its multi-modal approach, it is so much more. Lively Letters is a ‘lively’ set of character letters created to represent the sounds in the English language (47 total). Along with the memorable artistic drawings (imagery), the program incorporates the use of oral kinesthetics, body movement, hand cues, music, and mnemonic stories to make it easier for kids to learn and remember letter sounds. Children will find the program exciting and fun-a nice break from the frustration that is often coupled with learning difficulties. Due to the comprehensive, holistic nature of Lively Letters, difficulties in the areas of phonemic awareness (the most basic building block of reading; awareness of the sound structure of language at the individual sound level), short-term memory (capacity for holding a small amount of information in the mind in an active, readily available state for a short period of time), visual processing (a hindered ability to make sense of information taken in through the eyes; should be differentiated from vision), and the rapid naming of visual symbols (how quickly individuals can name objects, pictures, colors, or symbols (letters or digits) aloud; strong predictor of later ability to read) do not have to dictate literary success. One caveat: as a speech pathologist, I found there to be excessive emphasis on non-naturalistic speech sound productions. For literary purposes, I understand the concept behind accentuating sounds such as /f/, /a/, and th, but from an articulation/coarticulation standpoint, I try not to encourage imprecise articulatory contacts. Minor caveat aside (and I do mean minor), I have recommended this program to all of my clients (including children of educators). All of whom are delighted. In my career, I have yet to find a dynamic, holistic, engaging approach to literacy that is comparable to Lively Letters.

TLC’s Sight Words You Can See program include mnemonic cues in and around the most difficult sight words (abstract words that are phonetically irregular or have infrequent spelling patterns). The mnemonic cues depicted connect all three aspects of sight words together (the way they’re spelled, the way they’re pronounced, and their meanings). The creative and witty drawings prove fun and engaging while keeping the focus where it should be-on the text.

As TLC’s slogan reads: “Changing lives, one letter at a time.” Yes, TLC, you are, and I am thrilled to be able to pass on some TLC to my struggling readers.

For more information/to purchase TLC’s Lively Letters and Sight Words You Can See Programs please visit: www.readingwithtlc.com

Look for the following new TLC products in the near future: iPhone/iPad apps, BINGO sheets, desk strips, computer fonts

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A Day in the Life of a Speech Pathologist

During a recent trip to the local zoo to focus on the generalization of skills with two 6 year-olds, I asked my companions to figure out where the restrooms were located. They were equipped with a map, binoculars, and were in close proximity to our target location. While I assisted them in identifying landmarks, utilizing the preposition words/phrases next to, in front of, and behind, and recognizing symbols on a map, I noticed another patron staring perplexly at us and at the restrooms, which we were now directly in front of. The helpful woman gasped, and in her most shocked voice exclaimed, “The restrooms are right here!” At which point I thanked the benevolent patron, and proceeded to conclude our excursion by employing language expansion techniques (expanding a child’s utterance when speaking with that child, utilizing adult grammar without adding new information). Upon relaying the experience to the children’s mothers, we all had a good laugh. At which point I realized, there is not a day that goes by when I am not acting in a silly, disbelieving, impenetrable manner to facilitate communication; which I am proud to say always works like a charm.

A Few of Tanya’s Techniques to Encourage Communication (please note that not all techniques are appropriate for every child):

-Play coy/silly

-change up a stable routine

-use an item/wear an article of clothing in an incorrect manner

-play with a toy in a way it’s not intended to be used

-narrate your way through everyday routines

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What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)?

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder. Children with CAS have difficulty saying and sequencing sounds, syllables, and words. Apraxia is not due to muscle weakness or paralysis, however, it may sometimes present alongside muscle weakness. The motoric involvement observed is thought to stem from the brain, resulting in difficulty planning movement of body parts (e.g., lips, jaw, tongue) needed for speech. Children diagnosed with CAS often know what they want to say, but the brain has difficulty coordinating the movement necessary to say or sequence speech.

Signs or Symptoms of CAS (please note: not all children with CAS present identically; if you have concerns, please contact an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist to obtain a comprehensive evaluation):

  • infants who do not coo or babble
  • the emergence of first words are late
  • only few different consonant and vowel sounds are produced
  • Sounds in words are missing and/or substituted with a simpler sound (e.g., /^/ “uh”)
  • difficulty combining sounds
  • difficulty producing multi-syllabic words
  • inconsistent productions of the same word
  • groping (a trial and error behavior demonstrated while trying to deliver speech)

Carolyn Bowen has created a great reference for geeky SLPs like me and concerned families:


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