Category Archives: Speech and Language

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Interactive Therapy Inc. hasn’t blogged in a while, so this post is a continuation of learning new words that was started in April, 2015.  These are more tips to help your child learn new words for improved communication:

6) Try to use meaningful situations at home to develop language learning.  For example, when your child wants or needs something, the child is more likely to pay attention to the word, or to try to say the word.

7) Repetition is very important.  It is possible to find many different responses to say a word in a given situation.  It may be necessary for your child to hear a word many times, in different phrases, before the child will try to say it.

8) Respond appropriately to your child.  Children acquire words because words bring results.  The big “payoff” for your child’s use of words is your natural and spontaneous response.  For example, your child might say, “More ice cream, please.” If you give more ice cream, the child is discovering that language gets results.

9) As your child learns new words, the pronunciation may not be correct.  It is important that you accept variations in pronunciation at first.  Encourage the use of the word without correcting the child’s pronunciation.  Pronunciation can be improved once a child has acquired a word and uses it without hesitation in appropriate situations.

10) Your child also needs to hear and see what the word is NOT.  Knowing what a hat is , is related to knowing that other things are “not hats.”  Putting different types of hats in a group is one way to help your child know what a hat is and for example that ” a shirt” is not a hat.  Point out to your child things that are not what you are currently working on.  In general, it is best to start by pointing out what something is before pointing out what it is not.

The above information was taken from “Communication Skill Builders”  and written by Leslie S. McColgin for instructional purposes and edited by me.

I would like to add that the target for increasing vocabulary from the time a child starts talking is to add 1-2 new words per week.  I want to reiterate that using objects in daily living repeatedly and in a variety of ways is the best way  to increase vocabulary.

Please check out to get more information about the speech/language services that Interactive Therapy Inc. provides. Please view Interactive Therapy’s face book page at Therapy Inc. and twitter @Pamela Hass to view interesting posts about speech language pathology.  If you like what you see on face book, please like Interactive Therapy Inc.

Pamela Hass, Speech Language Pathologist

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Teaching Tips for Parents on how to develop imitation skills in their children.

1. Frequently imitate your child including babbling, mouth movements, hand movements-any kind of movement, especially ones that the child does over and over.  Do this as often as you can throughout the day.

2.  Continue to imitate your child and change what you do just a little bit.  If your child babbles “pa-pa”, you babble “ba-ba”.  Be very enthusiastic, if your child imitates your “new” action.  Write down some of your child’s sounds and movements and how you are going to imitate them a little differently.  Put your list on the refrigerator or other obvious place as a reminder.

3.  Continue to imitate your child, but change your action a little more.  If your child says “pa-pa”, you say “pie-pie-pie”.  If your child claps hands together, you put your hands on the floor.  Praise your child and be enthusiastic when the child imitates you.  Write down your child’s actions and sounds and how you plan to imitate them.  Later write in how your child imitated you.

4.  Give your child toys that resemble things around the house: toy dolls, toy dishes, etc.  Let the child play with brooms, pots, and pans and “dress-up” clothes.  These will give your child opportunities to experiment with actions you perform during the day.  The child can dress dolls, “cook” food, sweep the floor, or “drive” cars.

5.  When your child begins to say words, add one other meaningful word to it to expand on his/her speech and language.

Write down each action your child imitates without seeing you do it at that time.  Write down ways your child does things that show the child is thinking-using an action that has been imitated before to solve a problem that requires a similar action.  The child who opened and closed a puppet’s mouth by relating an open and closed mouth (the familiar action) to opening the puppet’s mouth (similar action) is an example.  This helps you note and remember your child’s development. 

Written by Leslie S. Mccolgin.  Communication Skill Builders, 1988

Even though this information was written in 1988,  the principles hold true for present and future ages.- Pam Hass, Speech Language Pathologist

Consult your speech language therapist for more ideas on how to develop speech, language, and signing development to facilitate communication.

Please see my facebook page for updates at Interactive Therapy Inc.

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Reference: by Leslie S. McColgin
Communication Skill Builders, Inc

What is imitation?

Imitation is the ability to copy the behavior of another person.

How do imitation skills develop?

1.  One of the earliest forms of imitation is called “mutual imitation”.  This means that your child imitates you only when you have imitated the child first.  Parents often play “babbling games” with their child.  The child says “ga-ga” and the adult imitates “ga-ga”.  The child enjoys this response and tries again; “ga-ga”.  The child has just engaged in mutual imitation.  Motor actions can be imitated in the same way.  At first, you will have to let your child start the imitation game.  As your child develops, you can start the game by babbling or making some action that you have heard or seen your child do often.  Your child still isn’t ready to imitate a sound or action that the child does not already know.

2.  Next, your child begins to imitate sounds and actions that are similar, but not identical to the child’s own.  For example, a child might babble “pa-pa.”  The adult playing with the child might open and close the mouth without making any sound.  At first the child might imitate this by babbling “pa-pa” again.  However, this may soon change to the child opening and closing the mouth just like the adult model.  The child will  “figure out” how “pa-pa” and opening  and closing the mouth are similar.  then the child will be able to imitate this “new” action.  This is the beginning of having a “thought” that is symbolic.

3.  Now the child experiments and explores with sounds and actions to make them more like the adult model’s.  The child imitates the adult more and more exactly.  Soon the child will be able to imitate sounds and actions that the child has never tried before.

4.  In the final stage, the child learns to imitate without a model.  This is called deferred imitation.  For example, a child once wanted to get a necklace out of a matchbox with a small opening.  First, the child tried turning it upside down and shaking it with no success.  Finally, the child sat down, mouth slowly opening and closing.  The child had imitated this movement before.  Mentally, the child saw how opening and closing the mouth and the matchbox were similar.  The child immediately opened the box!  The child didn’t need a model to imitate.  Instead, the child used a similar action to the one the child had imitated before.  At this stage children will imitate “housework” with toy brooms and dishes and perform many actions similar to those of Mommy and Daddy.

Part II will consist of teaching tips for parents in how to develop imitation skills in their child.

Refer to my facebook page for updated information.  The link is on my website at

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Being a parent is a very special role.  Parents are responsible for teaching their children about life and how to live it fully.  This can be a very big job, especially if your child has communication difficulties.  Parents often need information about how to best meet the needs of their child.

Your child’s speech and languge pathologist can give you helpful information about your child’s speech and language development.  The speech language pathologist can also suggest specific activities to help your child learn at home.  In addition, there are a few basic guidelines on teaching and learning which can help you and your child succeed.

Tips for Parents:

1.  Let your child feel loved.  Touching, hugs, kisses, gentle words, or an approving smile will help your child feel relaxed and confident about learning.
2.  Remember that your child is just a child.  It’s important to keep your expectations appropriate to your child’s abilites.  Ask your speech language pathologist about your child’s language abilities.  That way, you won’t expect too much-or too little.
3.  Give your child approval.  Appreciate any success in learning your child accomplishes.  Compliments will encourage your child to continue to learn.  Let your child know that you accept both your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
4.  Help your child to feel important.  Take time to do things with your child.  Your child will appreciate your time and attention.
5.  Remember that learning can be fun.  Have a good time with your child.  If you do not enjoy what you are doing with your child, neither will your child.  Follow your child’s lead in f inding fun things to do.
6.  Talk to your child.  Talk often about what you are doing together.  Give your child time to respond.
7.  Really listen to your child.  Get down to your child’s eye level, and look at your child as you are listening.  Respond to what your child says. 
8.  Share your ideas and experiences with your child’s speech language pathologist.  Let her/him know about situations which may affect your child’s learning, such as illnesses or problems at home.
9.  Take an interest in your child’s schoolwork or therapy.  Help your child learn to be enthusiastic about learning.  Talk about school and therapy in a positive way.

You are your child’s first, and most important, teacher.  You set an example for your child of how to listen and talk with others.  You can make a big difference in how well your child develops communication skills.  As your child uses new skills in everyday activities, you can feel proud of your child’s success.

Even though this information is from 1988, it is timeless information.  These are basic building blocks for developing your child’s communication.  No amount of technology will replace what parents give their children as they go their day.

Pam Hass
Speech Languag e Pathologist

Margaret Schrader, M.S. CCC/ Speech Language Pathologist
Communication Skill Builders (1988)

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Reference: Advance for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (Oct. 3, 2011)

Mild Hearing Loss
Linked to brain atrophy in older adults

Declines in hearing ability may accelerate gray matter atrophy in auditory areas of the brain and increase the listening effort necessary for older adults to comprehend speech successfully, a new study has shown.  When a sense is altered, the brain reorganizes and adjusts.  In the case of people with poor hearing, researchers found that the gray matter density of the auditory areas was lower in people with decreased hearing ability, suggesting a link between hearing ability and brain volume.

“As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered not only to improve hearing but to preserve the  brain,” said lead author Jonathan Peelle, PhD, a research associate in the Department of Neurology, Perelman School of Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  “People hear differently, and those with even moderate hearing l0ss may have to work harder to understand complex sentences.”

In a pair of studies, researchers measured the relationship of hearing acuity to the brain, first measuring the response of the brain to increasingly complex sentences and then measuring cortical brain volume in the auditory cortex.

Older adults, ages 60-77, with normal hearing for their age were evaluated to determine whether normal variations in hearing ability impacted the structure or function of the network of brain areas supporting speech comprehension.

The studies found that people with hearing loss showed less brain activity on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans when listening to complex sentences. People with poorer hearing also had less gray matter in the auditory cortex, suggesting that areas of the brain related to auditory processing may show accelerated atrophy when hearing ability declines.

In general, research suggests that hearing sensitivity has cascading consequences for the neural processes supporting both perception and cognition.  Although the research was conducted in older adults, the findings have implications for younger adults, including those concerned about listening to music at loud volumes.

“Your hearing ability directly affects how the brain processes sounds, including speech,” said Dr. Peelle.  “Preserving your hearing doesn’t only protect your ears but also helps your brain perform at its best.”

Audiologists should monitor hearing in patients as they age, noting that individuals who still fall within normal hearing ability may have increasing complaints of speech comprehension issues.

Grants from the National Institutes of Health funded the research.

Peele, J.E., Troiani, V., Grossman, M., et al. (2011).  Hering loss in older adults affects neural systems supporting speech comprehension.  The Journal of Neuroscience, 31 (35): 12638-43


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Reference: The ASHA Leader August 30,2011

What parents do with their children, even before they begin to talk, has more bearing than children’s social background on how they ultimately perform in school.  According to a large United Kingdom study-the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children-children who visited the library more often and owned more books at age 2 achieved higher scores on school assessment tests.  Visit Premarin cheap price.

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Reference:  St. Louis Post Dispatch August 4, 2011

Disorder has roots in failure to recognize the sounds of speech.
by Pam Belluck New York Times

Many people consider dyslexia simply a reading poblem in which children mix up letters and misconstrue written words.  But scientists increasingly have come to believe that the reading difficulties of dyslexia are part of a larger puzzle: a problem with how the brain processes speech and puts together words from smaller units of sound.

Now, a study published last week in the journal Science suggests that how  dyslexics hear language may be more important than previously realized.  Reasearchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that people with dyslexia have more trouble recognizing voices than those without dyslexia.

John Gabrieli, a professor of cognitive neuroscience, and Tyler Perrachione, a graduate student, asked people with and without dyslexia to listen to recorded voices paired with cartoon avatars on computer screens.  The subjects tried matching the voices to the correct avatars speaking English and then an unfamiliar language, Mandarin.

Nondyslexics matched voices to avatars correctly almost 70 percent of the time when the language was English and half the time when the language was Mandarin.  Experts not involved in the study said that was a striking disparity.

“Typically, you see big differences in reading, but there are just subtle general differences between individuals who are afflicted with dyslexia and individuals who aren’t on a wide variety of tests,” said Richard Wagner, a psychology professor at Florida State University.  “This effect was really large.”

Sally Shaywitz, a director of the Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University, said the study “demonstrates the centrality of spoken language in dyslexia-that it’s not a problem in meaning, but in getting to the sounds of speech.”

That is why dyslexic children often misspeak, she said, citing two examples drawn from real life.

“A child at Fenway Park watching the Red Sox said, ‘Oh, I’m thirsty. Can we go to the confession stand?’ ” she said.  “Another person crossing a busy intersection where many people were walking said, ‘Oh, those Presbyterians should be more careful.’  It’s not a question of not knowing but being unable to attach what you know is the meaning to the sounds.”

Gabrieli said the findings underscored a critical problem for dyslexic chidlren learning to read: the ability of a child hearing, say, a parent or teacher speak to connect the auditory bits that make up words, called phonemes, with the sight of written words.

If a child has trouble grasping the sounds that make up language, he siad, acquiring reading skills will be harder. 

The research shows that spoken language deficiencies persist even when dyslexics learn to read well.  The study subjects were mostly “high-functioning, high-IQ young adults who had overcome their reading difficulty,” Gabrieli said.  “And yet when they had to distinguish voices, they were not one iota better with the English-language voices that they’ve heard all their life.”

Experts said the new study also shows the interconnectedness of the brain processes invoiced in reading.  Many scientists had considered voice recognition to be “like recognizing melodies or things that are primarily nonverbal,” Gabrieli said.

Voice recognition was thought to be a separate task in the brain from understanding language.

But this research shows that normal reading involves a “circuit, the ability to have all of those components integrated absolutely automatically,” said Maryanne Wolf, a dyslexia expert at Tufts University.  “One of the great weaknesses in dyslexia is that the system is not able to integrate these phoneme-driven systems” with other aspects of language comprehension.

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To start the discussion:

A speech language pathologist is often involved with a child’s articulation and/or phonological disorder at earlier ages before a child starts to read.  One cannot predict if a child with an articulation or phonological disorder will have a reading/writing problem.  It behooves us as educators and speech language pathologists to monitor a child’s development in reading and writing for those children who may be at risk for dyslexia because of difficulty in perceiving, processing and producing sounds in speech.  If anyone is doing research on predicting dyslexia based on articulation/phonological disorders, please let me know.  It would be a worthwhile study.  It would be good to know if  those of us working in the field of speech language pathology could lessen the degree of dyslexia before a child learns to read/write or even prevent it. 
Pam Hass, Interactive Therapy Inc

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Reference: Learning Disabilities of America May/June 2011 Newsletter

Healthy Children Project

Article by Maureen Swanson
Healthy Children Project Coordinator

At the beginning of April, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee decided that there is not sufficient evidence to support a link between artificial dyes in foods and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  The committee failed to recommend any ban or regulation of dye additives in food products.  They did call for more research.

There are seven primary food dyes used in the United States: Red #3, Red #40, Blue #1 & #2, Green #3 and Yellow #5 and #6.   There are two limited use dyes: Orange B used in hot dog and sausage casings, and Citrus Red 2 allowed only for coloring orange peels.  The dyes are used to make foods, candy and drinks more appealing, especially to children.  European countries already have banned some food dyes, including Blue #1 and Yellow #5 and #6.  In many cases, manufacturers now use natural colorings for food products in the European market.

According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, Yellow #5 may be more likely to cause problems with attention and behavior than other additives.  Yellow #5 is found in beverages, candy, ice cream, custards and other foods such as macaroni and cheese mixes.  The FDA requires manufacturers to label foods that contain Yellow #5 in the list of ingredients.

Many parents and teachers have their own anecdotal evidence that food dyes and preservatives seem to contribute to a child’s hyperactivity, behavior or attention problems.  LDA often takes a position that it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to children’s health and learning.

If you want to avoid food dyes and preservatives for your family, summer is a great time to change eating and food shopping habits.  Foods to avoid include brightly colored, processed foods, which are most likely to contain one or more food dyes.  Another good rule of thumb is that if you cannot understand or pronounce the ingredients in a food product, you shouldn’t eat it.

To quote Michael Pollan, well-known author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “Food Rules”, one of the best ways to ensure a healthier diet is to “Eat Real Food.”

By real food, Pollan means fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy and meat that have not been “processed” with other ingredients into packaged foods.  In summer and early fall, farmers markets and backyard gardens make this kind of eating much easier.  If possible, load your plate with locally grown fruits and vegetables.

To have healthy, locally grown produce available year-round, one option is to can fruits and vegetables.  Another way to preserve some fruits and vegetables is to freeze them – this works well with blueberries, corn, beans, peas, rhubarb and many other fruits and vegetables.  For a “how-to” guide on freezing fresh food, see the charts at the following website: buy brand name Premarin

While European governments seem more willing to take precautionary measures to protect people, especially children, from the possible harmful effects of food dyes, the FDA’s recent ruling means that in the United States, we have to take our own precautionary measures.

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A new free relay service allows people with speech and voice disorders to place telephone calls using their own voices or augmentative and alternative communication devices.

The speech-to-speech (STS) relay system is provided by the Federal Communication Commission.  It was created by Speech Communication Assistance by Telephone, Inc., a nonprofit founded by Robert Segalman, whose cerebral-palsy-related voice difficulties hamper his ability to communicate by telephone.

STS allows a person to speak with a communiction assistant, who revoices the words of the caller for the person on the other end of the call.  Assistants are specially trained to understand the speech of callers with a variety of conditions affecting clarity of speech, including cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, stuttering, laryngectomy, and stroke.

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When I tried to visit the above website, it said to check back soon.  Hopefully it will be available soon.