Browsing Category

For Parents

For Parents, Little Friends

One Speech Therapist’s Ideas for Giving THE BEST Baby Gifts for Speech, Language, and Feeding Development

I am going to be an aunt! (Again!)

This will be my first niece and my first niece/nephew since beginning my career as an SLP! Lemme tell ya. I. went. to. town. on her baby shower gifts.

I had so much fun shopping for her and wanted to pass along a few gift ideas for those of you about to welcome a new little nugget into the world! Here is what I bought for my sweet niece:

 

IMG_6877

 

Let’s break it down!

 

IMG_6434

Farm Animals and Bath Toys

Bath time is such a fun way to spend focused time on language. Farm animals are some of my favorite toys for my youngest patients for so many reasons! You can use them to work on vocabulary, colors, verbs, and silly animal sounds. I particularly like animal sounds because they provide such an easy syllable shape (CVCV or consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel) for babies to imitate. They also typically contain early developing phonemes. (A good rule-of-thumb for what speech sounds are easiest to produce- the further forward in your mouth a sound happens, the easier it is to imitate because it’s easier to see! Think: “moomoo” “baabaa”!)

 

IMG_6435

Cause And Effect Toys

Work on early play skills and joint attention with toys similar to this pop-up toy! Anything with a button that teaches the baby “if I do ‘this’, then ‘that’ happens!” Bonus: cause and effect toys are sure to make that kiddo laugh and laugh! It’s always funny when adults pretend to be startled!

 

IMG_6433

Teething Toys

If you read my previous blog post then you know how strongly I feel about babies learning to mouth! The pacifier on the left is unique because it has a bumpy texture to it- which I love for giving baby a variety of sensory input. The necklace in the middle is a stylish way for the baby to have access to a clean teether, even on-the-go. There are so many cute styles of teething jewelry these days! On the right, we have a practice tooth brush. It’s never too early to start practicing so your child doesn’t have an aversion when teeth start coming in.

 

IMG_6436

Food Toys

You can use play food to work on vocabulary, joint attention, and functional play routines. Your baby will love feeding you as you make silly “omnomnom” sounds! You can use foods to work on turn-taking as well and perhaps you can even get some imitation of “mmmmm” or eating sounds.

I chose this particular set of play food because of the variety in texture. Not only will this help baby explore their sensory world but it provides a great opportunity for language! Here we have hard, soft, crinkly, shiny, and so much more!

 

IMG_6430

Books

ALL THE BOOKS! I chose this cute little Curious George book because it was repetitive, has great language opportunities with its touch-and-feel pages, and it’s a board book. Books books books. You really can’t go wrong. A few of my favorites are Brown Bear, Hop on Pop, 5 Little Monkeys, and Are You My Mother. It is so important to our kiddos language development that we read to them from a young age.

 

IMG_6432

Fruit Feeder

I bring these feeders to every baby shower I go to. I love this for safely exploring new flavors from an early age. These are also featured in here my mouthing blog post. It is so important for babies to experience a variety of flavors in the world so that when the time comes to transition to solid foods, they are ready!

 

IMG_6437

An ADORABLE OUTFIT!

This has nothing to do with speech therapy. It’s just precious and 100% necessary.

 

I hope this post gives you some ideas the next time you’re buying a baby gift! The only other items I didn’t buy for my niece that I would also recommend would be some jumbo knob puzzles for fine motor development, a fill-and-spill toy (these target another great early play skill), a munchkin 360 cup (better for oral motor development than a sippy cup), and an amazing parenting book called Parenting With Love and Logic, whose principles have helped me in my own therapy room.

 

Happy shopping and congrats to the expecting families! Such a blessing!

signature

 

 

Please Note: As an Amazon Influencer, I may earn from qualifying purchases. I will only ever promote items that I believe in whole-heartedly.
Feeding, For Parents, Little Friends

Why Babies Need to Mouth and How We Can Encourage Them to Continue

Mouthing pinterest.png

“Did your child mouth as an infant?”

I ask this question all the time to the parents of kiddos with severe speech delays, picky eating habits, and other oral motor deficits.
More often than not, the answer is “not very much” or a flat out “no.”

Sounds like a dream, right? A baby who isn’t liable to choke on any little piece of who-knows-what lying on the floor? Jackpot!?

F A L S E

Why Mouthing Is Important:

Mouthing helps babies explore their world from a sensory and oral motor standpoint. They are learning about textures, tastes, and temperatures that will provide them with a solid foundation to move on from purees to solid foods (get it?) and avoid a picky eating rut. Additionally, they will begin to move their tongue and jaw in new, fun, and interesting ways. These movements will later develop into a mature chewing pattern that will allow them to eat a healthy variety of solid foods and help them produce lovely consonant sounds. As if all that wasn’t enough reason to encourage mouthing… it also helps the baby’s gag reflex move from the front to the back of their mouths.

Mouthing starts with the rooting reflex. This reflex is innate from birth and allows an infant to turn and attempt to suckle anything  that touches its face. The rooting reflex begins to diminish around the age of 4 months. At this same time, babies begin to gain the ability to bring their hands to their mouth. This is the opening of our mouthing window.

While it may be extremely convenient to not fear for your child’s safety due to the little babe putting ev.ery.thing. in his or her mouth… it may bite you later.

So what can we do?

  1. Provide lots of safe toys to mouth and gnaw on. You may even go as far as modeling what to do with these objects. That’s correct, adult reading this. I want you to put baby toys in your mouth. Lick and chew and move them around. Let that baby watch what to do.
  2. Make it a game. Think “puppy dog” and be silly so baby laugh and think its a fun game. Maybe they’ll be more willing to join in.
  3. Add some flavor. Try dipping an easy-to-wash toy in a juice or favorite puree to increase interest for the child.
  4. Make it cold. Place a toy in the freezer and see if it makes it more enjoyable. Again, we’re thinking about increasing sensory information.
  5. Provide texture. (sensory sensory sensory) We want bumpy toys. Soft toys. Squishy toys. ALL the toys! Bonus points for the language opportunities here.
  6. When your baby explores (safe) objects with their mouth, give praise. Make it a pleasurable experience and they are more likely to repeat their actions.

 

 

Some great options for mouthing can be found at your local retailers:

 

The Boon PULP Silicone Teething Feeder allows you to place a variety of flavors for your baby to safely explore and enjoy. Perhaps a juicy piece of watermelon or a frozen peeled grape? Yum!

 

 

 

A cute teething necklace like this one by BEBE by Me is another great option – you can’t lose it!

 

 

 

This nuby Banana NanaNubs gum massager is another adorable way to get your baby mouthing and ready for tooth-brushing. Here is the texture we’re looking for!

 

 


Perhaps my favorite is a good ol’ fashioned hard munchable. The key here, and this is very important, is that this is something the baby CANNOT chew or break off yet. The purpose at this point is only for sensory and oral motor exploration. Celery sticks work great too!

 

 

A few things to remember…

We never want to force, but we do want to encourage. A cry or a cold shoulder today could be a timid attempt to mouth tomorrow. Keep exposing the child to mouthing and be patient. Keep an eye out for little signs that they are becoming interested and try again soon.

If you are a parent reading this, it is always a good idea to reach out to a local Speech Language Pathologist for any concerns you may have with your child’s speech, language, and/or feeding. For more information, you may be interested in these parent handouts for late talkers.

 

Of course, safety is always first.

Please be sure that an adult is always present and watching closely as these options are explored. Use good common sense, folks. But we DO need that baby to learn all the awesome things their little mouth can do when it gets movin’!

 

Happy Mouthing, Speechy Friends!

signature

 

 

Please Note: As an Amazon Influencer, I may earn from qualifying purchases. I will only ever promote items that I believe in whole-heartedly.
For Parents, Personal

Holidays Shouldn’t Be Hard: Inclusive Vacations for Children with Special Needs and Their Families

We ALL deserve a break but for so many of our families…. the thought of a vacation may seem like just too much to tackle. Is it accessible? Too much sensory input? Is it safe? What food do they serve? Ayayay.

Recently, one of my favorite families told me a bout a vacation they took where specially-trained ski instructors taught kiddos with various delays and disabilities how to ski. “Well is that not just THE COOLEST THING!?”  <<that was me

It got me thinking… and thinking led to googling… and googling led to this:

 

Photo Sep 10, 8 55 48 PM.png

 

–  Ski Apache Adaptive Sports – Ruidoso, New Mexico –

Ski Apache is BEAUTIFUL and will be sure, no matter the needs of your kiddo, that the whole family has a great time. With specialized training and equipment, everyone can be a skier!

 

– Myrtle Beach – South Carolina –

Myrtle Beach has taken great strides to be an Autism-friendly destination. They provide quiet rooms, a specially-designed playground, and safety bands with GPS trackers. All you need is sun screen!

 

– Tradewinds Island Resorts – St. Pete Beach, Florida –

Tradewinds is your classic beach resort with a twist. They offer special diets, and even social stories that provide photos of virtually every space, activity, and restaurant available. Well done!

 

– Shared Adventures – Santa Cruz, California –

Shared Adventures provides camps specifically designed for all friends. Families and caregivers are welcome to join as well! They provide activities such as archery, rock climbing, ziplining, and so much more.

 

Splore – Salt Lake City, Utah –

Splore provides rafting, rock climbing, paddleboarding, canoeing, snowshoeing, and skiing. They are dedicated to creating an individualized experience for each guest. They set no limits on age or ability – they just want you to come “splore” with them!

 

Morgan’s Wonderland – San Antonio, Texas –

Morgan’s Wonderland offers water-proof wheelchairs, inclusion-themed packages (such as “make new friends!”), and specially-designed rides that allow friends (who travel by foot or wheel) to get the same wonderful experience.

 

Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee –

Dolly wants to take care of all of God’s children, y’all! This theme park includes accessible rides, calming rooms, and good ol’ wholesome southern fun.

 

 

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list. (A few other honorable mentions are Atlantis Bahamas, Smuggler’s Notch, Hershey’s Park.) This post is simply meant to inspire and encourage! We could ALL use a vacation now and again! (and again and again)

 

Happy Summer!

signature