Help for Haiti

Help for Haiti
This organization has been in Haiti for many years. They are trustworthy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mouth Breathing and the Mama Bird

Some of you may have read an earlier post about the varmint that moved into my attic this spring. It turned out to be a raccoon with four babies, but they are gone now after spending six weeks with us. Bear with my city girl excitement here...we now have a robin's nest in the tree in our front yard. I have been watching the mama bird since she started building the nest. I've noticed on multiple occasions that she sits in the nest with her beak slightly open. At first, I thought perhaps she was "giving egg" (as opposed to "giving birth") but she has continued to do it off and on for over a week now. I have seen her with her beak closed, so I'm curious about the open beak posture. When I work with kids who are mouth breathers, I encourage the parents to rule out allergies if they have not already done so. A child with swollen tonsils and adenoids may also be a mouth breather. Children who are chronic mouth breathers tend to have chapped lips with reduced sensation, so drooling may be more of a problem because the children are not aware of it or do not feel the wetness as acutely as most. For some children, the initial physical cause may have cleared up but mouth breathing has become a habit. If a child's mouth is open because that's the only way he can breathe comfortably, however, there is no point in addressing the open mouth posture until the underlying cause has been treated. Breathing will always come first. Once breathing is not an issue, you can begin to work on lip closure and better mouth and tongue postures. As for the mama bird, she seems to be doing well. I've decided that birds (at least the mamas) must not ever have AD/HD, or they would not be able to sit there for hours and hours being as immovable as a statue. They may, however, have swollen birdie adenoids for all I know!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mom's Summer Reading Club

When my kids were younger, they looked forward to joining the local library's summer reading club. They would read and earn a prize like a pencil or a coupon for miniature golf. It was great fun for them, but they did not usually choose books that I would consider educational. I don't mind having them read books at an easy level or just for fun. At the same time, I would prefer that they read some more challenging material as well. So I started a new tradition I call "Mom's Summer Reading Club". My children could join my club in addition to the program at the library. My club was a bit different from the library's, however, since I printed off a list of books and the children had to select titles from that compilation. Occasionally one of my children would approach me with a specific book in mind and ask if it could be added to my list. Sometimes I agreed, and other times I did not think it was a fit for my list but reminded them that they could read that title for the library club. I assigned a point value for the books, with harder and longer books earning a greater number of points. I also individualized the prize list with items or activities that I knew my children would enjoy. I had a long list of book titles for the children to choose from, and they were all books I would be happy to see my kids reading. In fact, some of them were going to be read during the school year anyway even if the children did not select them as part of their summer reading choices. The prizes earned were also based on a point system, with smaller items such as a Dairy Queen Blizzard requiring only 5 points while $10.00 to use at the thrift store cost 20 points. I think it's important to have a range of point prizes, because some children need the reinforcement and reward sooner rather than later. As quickly as my Beckie acquired enough points to cash them in for a prize, she would come and find me to collect what she had earned. My Beth, on the other hand, would save up her points and enjoy the anticipation of a trip to the thrift store. That was my most popular prize with her, and she did a lot of reading during Mom's Summer reading club. To this day Beth enjoys reading classics that Mom would happily add to the book list, although Beth no longer expects prizes for reading. My Josh was somewhere in the middle, able to push past the early prizes but not as interested in accruing points for the bigger items on the prize list. I posted both the book list and the prize list on our refrigerator. Several of my kids' friends thought it was a great idea and hoped their moms might do something similar with them. It's such a simple way to encourage our reluctant readers or motivate our children to read a variety of materials over the summer or anytime.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Watch Where You're Going!

I've noticed something about children who are learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Some of them focus their vision down toward their feet and hands, and end up tumbling off the bike because they are not watching where they are going and it throws their balance off. Others are so determined not to run into trees or telephone poles that they stare at the object they want to avoid and steer right into it. After a few crashes and spills, most kids get the idea that they have to look ahead to where they want to end up. I see similarities in my own experiences as I've worked with struggling learners. Sometimes I am so focused on what I don't want to have happen that I mentally steer right into it and crash into anxiety, fear, and discouragement. I find myself obsessing over what's not going well and how to fix it. I think for the millionth time that I'm failing at the most important things in my life. I see a cloud for every silver lining. I look down instead of up and lose my balance. The future is overshadowed by the present. If there are good things, they are buried beneath my pile of thoughts about all the mistakes and things I need to work on. I think I need to try harder. Crash! I fear I will never succeed. Crash! I'm not sure I can go the distance. Crash and off the bike I go! When this happens, I need to take a deep breath and make a decision to find the good things. They are there. I may have to push some of the obstacles aside in order to see them, but they are no less real when I'm not aware of them than when I am. Instead of concentrating on the obstacles in front of me and the things that are not going my way, I need to watch where I'm going. Appreciate all the things I love about my kids. Not miss the beauty in life just because there's ugliness, too. I need to lift my head and see where I am headed. Be deliberate. Take in a bit more of the big picture. I love the Bible verse in Psalms 27:13, "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." I want to see that goodness more clearly than the things I crash into!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I dedicate today's post to my little friend, Brian. Brian's parents are friends of mine, and I started doing speech therapy with Brian late in August 2008. It has been a privilege to get to know Brian during his first year and now past his second birthday. He is one of the few children I've worked with who attempted to say my name, "Melinda" which came out as "Minda" when Brian said it. I think it's the best nickname ever. To impress me further, the next week he came out with my last name, "Boring", using a good "r" and everything! His parents were great at following through with all the strategies and suggestions I offered them. Brian has made steady gains in his language skills and now frequently imitates words and short phrases that he hears adults using. Imagine my surprise when we met in the community for a therapy session and Brian took one look at my bottle of Diet Pepsi and pointed to it while loudly announcing, "Beer!" It was one of his new words for that week, and in typical fashion he was over-generalizing it to every drink he saw. His mom and I shared a good laugh over the fact that I couldn't persuade Brian to say "pop" and his insistence on calling it "beer". Incidentally, I don't even like beer, so the accusation was even more amusing. I saw Brian again yesterday, and administered a standardized test that confirmed my impression that his language skills have reached an age-appropriate level. His mom informed me that thanks to a news story and the adult discussion following it, Brian has added the word "alcohol" to his vocabulary. I'm proud of Brian and his family for how quickly he progressed in his skills and he can now be discharged from speech therapy. He'll never remember our speech therapy work together. But Brian, I'll never forget you! Super job, buddy, and have a cold one! Milk, that is!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Okay! What?

Sometimes our inattentive kids can be a bit impulsive as well. When that happens, you may ask them a question or tell them to do something and get an immediate answer. They learn to answer right away because we train them to respond when spoken to, and we don't tend to respond well when we feel they are ignoring us. So our kids get used to us telling them things to do or asking them questions, and they sometimes respond automatically without thinking about what was said. Once I was administering a test to a boy and I explained the instructions for a subtest and asked if he understood what he was supposed to do. He immediately replied, "Okay" followed by a brief pause and "What?" because he hadn't really been tuned in to what I was saying. This happens a lot at my house. I say something and get the reply of, "Okay! Wait! What did you say?" Usually the repetition helps, but I'm not always patient about having to repeat myself. For those of you with a distractible spouse or if you are easily side tracked yourself, you know this "Okay! What?" type of answer is not limited to children, either. If you give in to your ornery tendencies, you can claim that your child or spouse agreed to doing something they don't even recall responding to and would never have conceded to doing if they had been paying close attention. I don't recommend that, no matter how tempting it may be. Taking advantage of that weakness will not help you become the person you are intended to be. Instead, continue to work on strategies that promote "Think before you speak"... and pray for patience.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some Big Pants to Fill

My daughter is finishing up finals at college this week. She is planning to become an occupational therapist, but for now is still doing her undergraduate work in special education. About a month ago, she told me that many of her friends think she is going to be a speech therapist and she keeps correcting them that she wants to go into Occupational Therapy. I told her that I thought she would make a good speech therapist if she wanted to pursue that, and since I'm already a speech therapist I could teach her a lot about it. She was in a typical college student sleep deprived state, and replied, "I could never be a speech therapist like you. The pants are just too big to fill." While that statement is definitely true in that my pants would be far too large for her, it cracked me up. I still think Beth could be a great speech therapist in her own right but I want her to follow her passions and not try to reproduce mine. Have you ever noticed that no one is as good at being you as you are? I pointed out to Beth that most people talk about SHOES being too big to fill, but I got her point. She of course knew that, but in our case what she actually said might be more accurate since our feet are closer to the same size.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Socialized Into A Rut

This weekend has been packed with seeing relatives who were in town for the state high school track meet, graduation parties, church, and my kids' friends coming and going at our house. It's been fun and we all enjoyed it, but it has to be a bit over the top for my introvert son at times. Josh has to work harder than most to read and regulate nonverbal signals, and he really doesn't require a lot of time with people in order to be content. My daughters are extroverted and love being around people - the more, the merrier. For introverts, a little goes a long way. I really admire how Josh has learned to take in stride the invasion of my daughters' friends coming to our house, often without any warning that they are coming over and frequently resulting in overnight guests. This weekend, Josh joined in many conversations and even initiated several with people he doesn't know well or had just met. He pushes himself and he's getting increasingly better with his social skills and conversational exchanges. I had to smile when he went to a "Young Adults" social time at our church recently in an attempt to make some new friends his age. He wasn't gone as long as I'd expected. When I asked him if things had gone o.k. and if he had talked to anyone his reply was, "Sure, but I realized that I'd pretty much socialized myself into a rut. I was starting to repeat myself because I'd run out of things to say." And so he left. He had a goal of talking to three people he didn't already know, and he accomplished his goal. Upon realizing he was in a social conversational rut, he departed. God bless Josh for pulling himself out of the rut and being willing to keep working at it. He did great this past weekend, and I'm proud of him.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Less Expensive Communication Device

I recently learned about a more affordable option for children and adults who could benefit by using communication devices to help them convey their thoughts. Specialized augmentative communication devices can give a voice to non-verbal children or those who have unclear speech, but unfortunately can be expensive with some of them costing $8,000 to $10,000. In addition to the expense, they are often large, heavy and cumbersome. Now there is a more portable and less cost-prohibitive option with the iPhone or the iPod Touch. There is an application that allows the user to touch icons and the device will voice commands, comments, and questions that are programmed into it. It's small and lightweight enough to be worn strapped to the arm or kept in a pocket or waist pack for easy accessibility. The application is called Proloquo2go and can be downloaded from iTunes. This tool is being used by individuals with cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, Lou Gehrig's Disease, autism spectrum disorders, and stroke survivors. The Proloquo2go application costs $149.99. The iPhone and iPod Touch are available at Apple stores and even Best Buy. I just searched on Wal-Mart's site and they have the iPod Touch, too. It is probably available more places, but I only did a quick search. Basically this is a readily available device that has tremendous communication potential for a variety of people with disabilities. For the cost of the device and the application download, you can potentially open up a world of communication opportunities for about $500.00. As a speech/language pathologist, I get excited when people who cannot communicate effectively through verbal means nevertheless find ways to express themselves and interact successfully with others. I love that a Penn State doctoral student named Samuel Sennott has developed the Proloquo2go app so that people can use a tool they can buy at a local store, download the app, and help someone have a voice to express their thoughts. Imagine the frustration of knowing what you want but being unable to convey it in a way that others recognize and understand. For some, this application has the potential to alleviate that frustration as thoughts are expressed simply by touching a selected icon.