by Katie, SLP and Contributing Writer
With the holiday season upon us, I want to take this opportunity to encourage parents to embrace family traditions as a therapy tool. While children diagnosed with CAS often have difficulty verbally participating in holiday festivities, their involvement can greatly increase with your help!
Begin making a list of words, phrases, and family members’ names you would enjoy hearing your child say. For example, as Halloween approaches, target words and phrases may include “Trick or Treat,” “Happy Halloween,” “Boo,” “pumpkin patch,” and specific costume or character names. Many of these targets contain complex phonemes, syllable shapes, and consonant blends. However, by providing a personalized list to your child’s speech therapist, meaningful gains can certainly be made.
As a therapist, my ultimate goal is to increase each child’s ability to functionally communicate with the important people in his life and to express those thoughts and ideas which motivate him the most. Based on a speech therapist’s specialized knowledge and experience of speech sound development, error patterns, and CAS, she can assist you with breaking chosen target words and phrases into manageable parts or approximations.
“Trick or Treat” may become “Tih-uh-Tee,” “Happy Halloween” turns into “Haa Haa Wee,” and “pumpkin patch” can transform into “puh-kuh pat.” In context, many listeners can interpret these dear phrases, and communication is enhanced.
When “MiMa” and “Pepa” or “Aunt Patty” are coming to town, prepare your little one to call them by name. Take photographs of these special family members to his speech therapy sessions and add these words to your target list. Think of the joy and smiles that will result when approximations of these names are uttered!
Do not be afraid to break away from set goals during your therapy sessions. You know your child better than his therapist, and you know what you deem worthy of attention. I always openly receive such initiative and expertise, and I thrive on partnering with parents to achieve maximum benefits.
The principle of personalizing your child’s speech therapy experience extends beyond holidays. You are the one watching your child “do life.” You know her favorite television show is “Peppa Pig” (“Deh-da Ih” to others). You know that toy he cannot fall asleep without. You know the ice cream flavor she tasted when the family took a trip to Bruster’s. You know the name of his new bestie at pre-K. Team up with your speech therapist to guide your little talker as he shares his heart with the world!
The mother of one of my clients brought to my attention that he could not pronounce “Chloe,” his sister’s name. After spending most of only one therapy session working toward production of “ko” + “ee” and then “ko-ee” (with Chloe present and active in a joint game), this personal goal was successfully reached. It was so much more rewarding for all involved parties (especially the now smiling sister) to have won this small battle than it would have been to practice consonant-vowel combinations (e.g., “hippo,” “beetle,” “Mona”) using flash cards.
A little girl with whom I am currently working with loves to say “dinosaur” followed by an animated “roar.” Unfamiliar listeners are unable to decipher this communicative attempt, preventing continuation of an initiated interaction. Despite her hard work, Mom had been unable to facilitate production of “dino,” an appropriate modification. During therapy, we used hand cues to attain “di-nuh!” Victory!!
Repeated practice of these meaningful words is already built into your daily routines allowing for effective additions to your child’s expressive vocabulary. Furthermore, homework takes on new purpose!
Now . . . Make your list. Suit up. Hand your child her plastic jack o’ lantern. And listen to her say “Tih-uh-Tee” this Halloween. That jack o’ lantern won’t be the only one smiling ☺.
Bio: Katie is a speech-language pathologist who has been serving children of all ages for 15 years in home, daycare/preschool, school, and clinic settings. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC, in 1996 and her Master of Education degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA, in 1999. In her free time, she enjoys working out and running.