Posts Tagged ‘autism symptoms’

It’s Not About the iPad Tool, It’s About the Technique

Hi. My name is Lisa Luna DeCurtis, and I have been a bilingual speech-language pathologist for almost 20 years focusing on early intervention and family coaching. As I continue to integrate the Apple’s iPad’s apps in my private practice, as well as in my home with my 3-year-old, I will share with you my focus for using it in a meaningful way.Although the iPad is a markedly beneficial tool with impressive potential for educating children, I believe the key to maximizing the benefit of technology as a teaching tool is all about the technique one uses when interacting with children, especially to young children.As I have previously spoken about why the iPad is such an intuitive tool for toddlers, noting how it maps how young children already think, act, and learn, I have now summed up a few points to ponder for both parents and professionals to get the most from your child’s technological experience.The plan            Think about why are you using a tablet computer’s applications, specifically the iPad’s apps, versus reading actual books or building with blocks or coloring on paper? Is it to associate and extend an activity that the child already knows while introducing new technological concepts? Or is it acting as babysitter or form of entertainment? Feel confident about your plan before handing over your iPad to a child.The participants             Who are you using it with? Is it for one individual or a group of children simultaneously? What are their ages? What are their current developmental levels regarding their attention? What are their special needs? If there are apps that are inappropriate for that child’s developmental level, it’s important to have it hidden and inaccessible. The parameters            How long do you plan to let the child spend on the iPad? Are there certain settings when it’s not appropriate to have it? Consider the American Pediatrics Association’s Recommendations that children under the age of 5 should engage in no more than 1-2 hours of combined screen  time daily, including time watching TV, DVDs, and all computer time.The purpose            What is the advertised purpose of the app that the author reported? What other reason would you want to use that app? Is it truly educational teaching of a new skill or building on previously learned material? Or is just for entertainment? Children will learn something when they’re interacting with the apps, so it’s important to know what you want the child to intentionally learn.The positioning            Are you thinking about the benefits of sitting next to the child while the iPad? Or the benefits of being in front of the child so you’re face-to-face? Are there times it is beneficial to hold the iPad up near your face or down by your lap? Do you alternate between table time and couch time and floor time taking advantage of the versatility? Do you want to maintain control of the iPad to lead the interaction or hand it over to the child to allow him to explore it on his own? Although this will change base on your participants and purpose, it’s beneficial to do some research to see which position will yield the best outcome.The proof            As the iPad has just celebrated its one year anniversary and even Apple’s iPhone apps are only a few years old, there is no current research-based evidence on the effects of using the iPad’s apps with children of all ages. Although young children appear to benefit from various apps, and there is an extensive amount of anecdotal evidence throughout the web (mostly by bloggers) about its usefulness, it’s important to proceed with caution and use good judgment rather than assuming this tool is educationally beneficial.The potential             Between the ongoing excitement of the recent release of the iPad 2, the media’s attention on children with special needs benefiting from the iPad, and the explosion of world-wide developers and programmers infiltrating Apple’s iTunes store on a daily basis, there is no doubt the iPad has an excellent foundation as “game changer”, especially in the field of education.However, both parents and professionals, particularly therapists like me who are utilizing this technology regularly, will benefit from focusing on developmentally appropriate activities and tried-and-true techniques. Also, it is important to seek out sound advice from educators rather than getting caught up in the frenetic pace of this new app-obsessed culture and forgetting what research has shown about how children learn.Going back to the beginning, I encourage you to consider your “plan” before handing over any of your iDevices to children and be honest about its role in providing an interactive teaching opportunity or its role as a babysitter or entertainer. Especially because this is only the beginning.

Books for Your “Autism” Shelf

Books for Your “Autism” Shelf

As soon as my son with diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at UCSF, my husband and I walked across the street to the campus bookstore and got all of Bryna Siegel’s books. From there, I started ordering books on autism and collecting them at conferences. Everyone I know who has a child on the spectrum has a shelf dedicated to books on autism, OCD, anxiety, IEP preparation, and a variety of other special needs topics. A lot of what’s out there is helpful, but because our kids are so individual, some of it just doesn’t apply to everyone. I’ve compiled a list of books I’ve found particularly helpful. Some of them are worth buying for your library; others aren’t worth the investment. Many of them you can borrow from your public library or organizations like Parents Helping Parents.

Typical Communication Development 18 months to 3 years

Typical Communication Development from 18 months to Three Years Old and Related Red FlagsThe focus of this blog is to provide an overview of typical communication development for young children from 18 months to three years old, as well as pointing out behaviors that could be a red flag for a delay or a disorder at which point you would seek help from your pediatrician and/or a pediatric SLP.As I have discussed when speaking about development from birth to 18 months, children’s communication skills are divided into areas of development that include how they gesture and imitate adults’ actions (i.e., non-verbal skills), what they hear, what they understand (i.e., receptive skills), what they say (i.e., expressive skills), the sounds they make (i.e., articulation), their ability to move their mouths and oral articulators, such as their tongue or jaw (i.e., oral-motor skills), respiration coordination, their voice and fluency skills. All of these skills develop and work together to allow the children to become independent and successful communicators. If any of these skills are delayed and developing in an atypical manner, it can disrupt a child’s successful communication development.On average, children who are 18 months are using approximately 50 true words and up to 300 words by 2 years old (although there can be a range of 100 words to 500 words that fall within normal limits). Around 18 months children begin combining words and using 2-word phrases so that by 3 years old they’re using consistent 3-5 word phrases for a variety of purposes, such as to request, to name, to comment, to question, to give directions, and to negate or contradict what has been said. They still understand much more than they say and understand new words daily, as well as categories, descriptions, location words, questions, and lengthier sentences. Between the ages of 2 to 3, the communication usually becomes richer, more complex, and abstract so that the child is no longer talking about what is right in front of him but can tell you about his experiences that happened to him or what may happen in the future. He’s more curious about his extended environment and makes associations with things he sees at the moment with things he learned about or experienced before.  He changes his voice so that a parent can differentiate between when he makes statements, asks questions, makes commands, or when he’s confused, needs help or needs comforting. Although he may repeat himself often or repeat words (that sound like a stutter), his speech is generally fluent and his speech sounds are becoming clearer so that by age 3 he is intelligible even to unfamiliar people. Also, his pretend play becomes more creative and elaborate so that his language is used for acting out his imagination and goes beyond just getting his wants and needs met.If by 3 years old the child is not expressing himself clearly so that most people understand when he speaks about a familiar topic, or if the child stutters more often than just occasionally repeating whole words and is frequently repeating sounds and syllables, or if a child isn’t improving in his ability to understand what is said to him or express himself to his fullest potential, it may be time to seek a pediatric SLP for a speech-language evaluation. Parents must remember the range of communication skills is great and highly dependent on many factors. The amount a child understands and uses language can be affected by gender, with girls typically being more talkative with bigger vocabularies than boys. It can also be affected by siblings, birth order, bilingual or multilingual homes, life experiences, and cultural expectations to name a few influences.However, if a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, or a pediatrician strongly suspect that the child’s communication skills may be delayed or are interfering with his growth, then an evaluation can both rule out any disorder that may be causing it as well as provide suggestions for building those communication skills.

iPad Apps for Building Young Children’s Narrative Skills

Narrative skills, or the ability to tell a story, are a key skill set for communicating effectively. They begin for young toddlers by simply naming individual events, such as “I fell down” and then become heaps of information “The boy fell down. He hurt his knee. He cried. The teacher put a band-aid on it”. As narrative skills progress in preschool and kindergarten, the child includes more detail about the characters, more cause and effect sequences, the problems that occurred and how they were resolved. This could sound something like, “A boy in my class was riding too fast and he didn’t see the big rock. So he rode right into it and then fell off his bike. He scraped his knee so it started bleeding. He cried until his teacher came outside and helped him by putting a band-aid on it. I think he’ll ride slower next time.”

Non-Verbal Communication

The use of Non-Verbal Communication is very important when working with young children to improve speech and language, as well as help children become confident and independent communicators.
Very often, a goal of parents who bring their child to see a speech therapist is to help the child talk more, perhaps by talking in longer, fuller sentences, or by telling stories, or talking more socially to their peers. Although how the child expresses himself verbally is important to parents, I am also often focused on how the child communicates non-verbally, or without words.

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