Developing Interview Skills

I often help my high school students create resumes and sample job applications. SLPs working with young adults are in a perfect position to support the language and social skills required for job interviews. Young adults with language disorders are expected to obtain and keep jobs, even though their disability may be a hindrance. This is perhaps most true in the interview process, when first impressions are key— “… the ability to communicate effectively during the interview process is paramount when job applicants are considered for a position…”

 

How can we support a student during this process?

 

Possible therapy activities may include:

 

1) Mock interviews, recorded, for student and SLP to identify positive and negative interviewing behaviors, and set personal goals in preparation for the interview day, (e.g. choosing appropriate clothing, timeliness, schedule)

 

2) Practicing responses to common interview questions, such as:

“What are your reasons for applying to the job?”

“What are your strengths?"

“How do you feel about working weekends?”

… plus alternative wordings of such questions

 

3) Spending considerable therapy time devoted to helping students understand and respond appropriately to potential interview questions

 

4) Focusing on what an interviewee should do, using role play and prompt cards

 

5) Practicing positive non-verbal behaviors, such as eye contact, smiling, and standing when the interviewer stands, practicing positive verbal behaviors, such as requesting clarification and using specific examples to answer questions

 

For more information and research behind working on these skills, see Mathrick, R., Meagher, T., Norbury, C.F. (2017). Evaluation of an interview skills training package for adolescents with speech, language, and communication needs. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12315

Harold, M. (2017, Sept). Research Watch Report, Issue 4. SpeechPathology.com, Article 19235. Retrieved from: http://www.speechpathology.com.

Front-Loading and Carousel Brainstorming: Helpful Tips for Writing

Helpful Homework Tips for Writing

 

I have many students who are unable to read their own work because it's too sloppy, words are misspelled, or sentences don't make sense.

Handwriting skills affect how easy it is to jot down ideas. Spelling and syntax difficulties make sentences confusing.

Add to that the kids who are just unable to get started and get... the... words... out, and the writing process becomes formidable, if not impossible.

Students can often get stuck going in the wrong direction. What can we do at home to support them?

photo-1422479516648-9b1f0b6e8da8.jpg

 

The first step to writing is for your child to figure out what they are supposed to do. It's not as easy as it sounds. What is the teacher asking? What kind of answers are they looking for?  In other words, analyze the writing prompt or question.

With homework, helping your child get started on the right track can make all the difference. I call this "front-loading" the help.  Rather than completing your child's assignment for them (ahem, not good, I'm looking at you three-ring binder with perfect penmanship), you are helping them learn a process. 

For many children, especially those with weaker executive functioning skills, this can mean the difference of spending 30 minutes doing the right assignment or 30 minutes working hard to create an incorrect finished assignment.

Many children who struggle with homework need to talk it out or draw it out first. Then, with a little help from parents, they can circle the ideas that apply to the problem, scratch out those that don't, and create a framework to connect their thoughts.

As you create a brainstorm map, be your child's recorder (or "computer", as I like to call it). Write for them, and later your child can use this map to refer to when creating an essay. At school, many teachers use "carousel brainstorming", where the students are moving around the room talking to other students. This is great for our kids who can use movement to activate learning! To replicate at home, have your child stand up and move one step around the kitchen table or counter for every idea generated.

A word of advice to those parents worried about too much "helicopter" parenting or helping with homework: Pose open-ended questions to your child.

"Why do you think this idea works well with your topic?" while still guiding them in the right direction. Let the learning process occur, but front-load the experience so they head down the right path.

Once you see they are working in the right direction, step back and let them own the process. Walk away from the table, and check back after 5 or 10 minutes. If they are continuing to answer the question, step back. If not, guide them back to the assignment and the question posed by the teacher.

Remember, the goal is the learning process that occurs in creating a finished product, not necessarily the product itself. When the homework is finished, briefly talk about the steps that had to occur to get to the end result, then give a hug and a break.

Moving Away From APD Diagnosis

In the world of diagnostics, we are currently moving away from using the label "Auditory Processing Disorder" as the research supports the idea that the characteristics of APD are just subsets of other disorders. Language, cognition, and physiological measures are all impacted. The children in the studies with suspected APD “scored lower on language and communication scales; experienced attention and memory difficulties; and achieved lower scores on tests of NV-IQ, language, and reading.” So, if your child has received a diagnosis of APD in the past, it is worth looking into the cognitive and language factors at play.  It's not that the child isn't hearing the sounds, it is that the brain isn't interpreting those sounds correctly.  Language intervention can be helpful - especially targeting phonological processing and short term memory skills - and help remediate the deficits.  For more information, this large-scale review article examined almost 50 research studies to give a general consensus that APD is not a distinct clinical disorder:

de Wit, E., Visser-Bochane, M.I., Steenbergen, B., van Dijk, P., van der Schans, C.P., & Luinge, M.R. (2016). Characteristics of Auditory Processing Disorders: A Systematic Review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 59, 384–413.

Assessing Narrative Language in Students with ASD

 

When assessing the language skills of children with ASD, it is important to examine their narrative discourse. As we look beyond sentence-level productions, we can observe how they are putting conversations, storytelling, and social interactions together.  While this is often tricky to ascertain using a standardized test, the double interview, a story retell, and observation in natural settings (think "playground" or "after-school club") are important to add to a complete diagnostic picture.  What's more, these discourse-level productions help pave the way for goal-setting!  We see students who perform adequately on a question-answer standardized test, but have trouble coming up with the right words to say when speaking to a peer in class.  Our intervention should target these discourse-level interactions, as well as the underlying language structures needed for communication.

For more on narrative assessment, check out:

Volden, J., Dodd, E., Engel, K., Smith, I. M., Szatmari, P., Fombonne, E., … Duku, E. (2017). Beyond sentences: Using the Expression, Reception, and Recall of Narratives Instrument to assess communication in school-aged children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60, 2228–2240.

 

5 Tips for Raising a Quirky Child

5 TIPS FOR RAISING A QUIRKY CHILD

While we want to celebrate what makes each child unique, there are times when we see our children standing out from the crowd and we worry they are standing alone. Our hearts ache when we see our children left out of play, gossiped about, or ostracized from the group because of the little quirks that make their personality their own.

 

As a parent, there is a fine balance between allowing our little quirky child to brave his own path, and helping him learn and understand the way people interact, why they act a certain way, and how we may better “fit in” at certain times. This is learning that is ongoing, as our quirky kids will experience new situations throughout their lifetimes. But as parents, we can often be by their side, helping them navigate the nuances of the social world.

1. Practice entering into a conversation or play scenario. Initiating a conversation with another child gets trickier the older your child gets. It’s often hard for a child to come up with a way to enter play. At your child’s level, role play some ways to join a conversation. Hi there… I love Legos, especially Star Wars ones! Can I play, too? Practice together, then let your child practice with another parent or sibling.

2. Be straightforward and matter-of-fact about social rules. After you witness an awkward encounter, talk with your child about appropriate ways of interacting. It’s great to say hello and smile when we see our friends, Aidan. We don’t want to hug or kiss them, though, because we need to respect their space. We save our kisses for Mom and Dad.

3. When you know a tricky situation is coming up, prep your child ahead of time. Give them some strategies on how to interact. It’ll be fun to see your friends on the soccer field, Sarah. Let’s smile and say “hi” when we get there.

4. Problem-solve with your child. From problem behaviors to extreme anxiety, the best solutions usually come from letting your child have their own voice. If they are part of the brainstorming, they will be that much more vested in a solution.

5. Give them a chance to express shyness or anxiety in a loving environment.  Everyone gets stressed or anxious by tricky situations. Let them know that you are there for them and will try to help them if they have a question. 

Your child’s quirks may one day reveal themselves to be his strengths and individual glory. Celebrate him, support him, and love him for his gift to the world.

Home Tips for Writing Assignments

Helpful Homework Tips for Writing

During the writing process, there are many obstacles in a child's way. Handwriting skills may affect how easy it is to jot down ideas. Spelling and syntax difficulties may make sentences confusing.

An OT can often help with your child's fine motor strength and range of movement. Programs like "Handwriting Without Tears" are used in the local school district to help with letter formation.  But what happens when it's more than a fine motor issue and your child is struggling with the writing process?

I have many students who are unable to read their own work because it's too sloppy, words are misspelled, or sentences don't make sense.

Add to that the kids who are just unable to get started and get the words out, and the writing process becomes formidable, if not impossible.

Students can often get stuck going in the wrong direction. What can we do at home to support them?

 

The first step to writing is for your child to figure out what they are supposed to do. It's not as easy as it sounds. What is the teacher asking? What kind of answers are they looking for?

With homework, helping your child get started on the right track can make all the difference. I call this "front-loading" the help.

For many children, especially those with weaker executive functioning skills, this can mean the difference of spending 30 minutes doing the right assignment or 30 minutes working hard to create an incorrect finished assignment.

Many children who struggle with homework need to talk it out or draw it out first. Then, with a little help from parents, they can circle the ideas that apply to the problem, scratch out those that don't, and create a framework to connect their thoughts.

As you create a brainstorm map, be your child's recorder (or "computer", as I like to call it). Write for them, and later your child can use this map to refer to when creating an essay. At school, many teachers use "carousel brainstorming", where the students are moving around the room talking to other students. This is great for our kids who can use movement to activate learning! To replicate at home, have your child stand up and move one step around the kitchen table or counter for every idea generated.

A word of advice to those parents worried about too much "helicopter" parenting or helping with homework: Pose open-ended questions to your child.

"Why do you think this idea works well with you topic?" while still guiding them in the right direction. Let the learning process occur, but front-load the experience so they head down the right path.

Once you see they are working in the right direction, step back and let them own the process. Walk away from the table, and check back in after 5 or 10 minutes. If they are continuing to answer the question, step back. If not, give them guidance back to the assignment and the question posed by the teacher.

Remember, the goal is the learning process that occurs in creating a finished product, not necessarily the product itself. When the homework is finished, briefly talk about the steps that had to occur to get to the end result, then give a hug and a break.

Early Speech and Language Milestones

Speech and Language Milestones

Birth – Three Months

Cries
Makes throaty sounds, goos and gurgles
Moves eyes to source of sound and tends to voice

By Three Months

Coos in vowel like sounds
Squeals and chuckles
Maintains eye contact with familiar speaker

By Six Months

Babbles with same consonant-vowel syllables (ba-ba)
Cries differently when hungry, uncomfortable, tired
Attempts to imitate pitch changes in other’s voices

By Nine Months

Imitates babbling sounds produced by adults with varied consonant-vowel combinations
Uses pitch variations in vocal play
Eye contact increases
Comprehends “no” and will inhibit to its use
Initiates vocalization and uses different vocalizations for different intents

By Twelve Months

Uses a wide variety of sounds and jabbers loudly
Understands five words in additional to own name
Follows one step directions
Points
Knows three body parts
Hands toy to adults when asked
Waves bye-bye
May say first words
Uses intonation

By Eighteen Months

Uses sentence like intonation
Understands new words everyday
Responds to simple commands without gestures (come here, sit down)
Imitates words spoken by others
Uses jargon with some true words embedded
Says approximately 20 words

By Twenty-four Months

Uses more words than jargon
Speech is approximately 60% understandable
Understands 300 words
Responds to familiar requests (get your shoes, find a book)
Uses single words to request actions or objects (“Shoe” meaning “Put my shoe on.”)
Combines two words consistently (“Daddy work. Doggy go.”)
Answers “What’s your name?”
Uses some pronouns (I, me, you) and prepositions (on, in)
Says 100-200 words but uses fewer words in a core vocabulary

By Three Years

Uses all vowels and p, b, m, w, h, consistently and may use t, d, k, g, s
Leaves off final sounds
Speech is approximately 75% understandable in connected speech
Understands 500-900 words
Carries out a series of two related commands (Go your bedroom and get your pajamas.)
Listens to a 10-20 minute story
Identifies ten objects and five body parts
Knows in, on, under
Uses 2-3 word utterances consistently
Uses 200-500 understandable words
Names six objects by use
Takes conversational turns but changes topic frequently
Starts to answer simple questions involving who, what, where
Uses doll figures to act out simple themes from own experience
Dramatization and imagination begin with realistic props
Waits for a turn

By Four Years

Adds s, y, ing, l, sh, j to sound repertoire (although not mastered)
Speech is almost 100% understandable in connected speech
Understands 1500-2000 words
Responds to commands involving 2-3 actions or objects
Knows “in front of” and “behind”
Uses 4-5 word utterances with an 800-1500 spoken vocabulary
Names 8-10 pictures
States action
Tells two events in order of sequence
Uses plurals (balls), pronouns (he, she), possessives (baby’s hat), present progressive (is running)
Uses complex and compound sentences (and, because)
Uses one object to represent another
Prefers to play in groups of 2-3 children and chooses companion of own sex
Often silly in play and may do things wrong purposely
Likes to dress up
Uses doll or puppet as participant in play and begins to act out scenes

By Five Years

Adds ch, z, th, f, v, zh to sound repertoire
Speech is 100% understandable but developmental errors may occur
Understands 2500-2800 words
Classifies according to form, color, use
Knows concepts between, above, below, top, bottom
Uses 5-8 word sentences with a spoken vocabulary of 1500-2000 words
Defines four words in terms of use
Uses “What do…” “Does….” “Did…” questions
Tells long story accurately
Uses irregular plurals (mice), pronouns (ours, they), possessive pronouns (his, hers) and comparative words (bigger)
Shows off dramatically and plans a sequence of pretend events
Likes working on projects, cutting out and pasting

By Six Years and Older

Almost all consonants mastered
Comprehends over 20,000 words
Sentences are complete in form and are complex
Narratives are more elaborate
Uses conversational skills

Talented and Gifted

Can my child be in a Talented and Gifted program if he's on an IEP?

Interestingly, I have fielded this question from several of my families the past year. Many children who need specialized instruction or assistance in one area also need accelerated or advanced curriculum in another area. An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) does not exclude a child from a Talented and Gifted program (called TAG in Oregon, or AIM/GATE in California.)

As a speech-language pathologist, I spend most of my time focused on a child's areas of need. His weakest skills in language and processing, his delayed articulation, or his poor executive functioning. I measure progress with data and reports from parents and teachers. I pore over discrepancies in test scores and reports from other professionals to try to determine precisely where the child is struggling. Parents often hop on board this process, providing me with wonderful detail about the interactions where their child's social skills failed that day, which essay problems on the science test were giving their child the most difficulty, and what neighbors witnessed the behavioral meltdown outside as the child refused to get in the car. With many of the students, their ability to perseverate on a topic, or, as one teacher put it: "drone on and on and on about the same thing..." is often an area we focus on to increase conversational flexibility and theory of mind skills.

And yet...

Sometimes I will just listen to my students and marvel at their areas of STRENGTH. Oh-my-goodness, these are some of the brightest children I've come across. Whether it's listing all the U.S. presidents (and their wives and children!) in order, detailing the process of spontaneous combustion and where it occurs in the universe, or creating an imaginary world full of characters, these students have gifts that need to be celebrated. And, in the case of some students, their gifts make them exceptional when compared to their peers, even in the academic setting. When I look to the future and try to predict what my students will be doing when they graduate and enter the "real world", I see them in jobs capitalizing on these skills that they have. Which is why, yes, it is entirely appropriate for a student who needs accommodations and specialized instruction to also have opportunities for deeper study and research. It also reminds us as parents and educators that a child's strengths should be celebrated... everyday, every chance that we get.

Deciding when your child needs help with speech sound production

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by other parents is when to get help for their child’s articulation problems.  Before I touch on that,  I wanted to make sure I separate “speech” and “language” in your mind.  A child who is having difficulty with language is often having trouble using or understanding words like their peers (2-word combinations by age 2, picking up correct grammar, following directions, understanding or retelling stories, etc.)

A child with speech sound difficulties (“articulation”) is having trouble pronouncing speech sounds (saying sounds like “th” correctly, sequencing sounds together, moving their tongue/lips/mouth precisely enough to be understood).  There are numerous causes for these speech difficulties, and the severity also dictates the course of action.  But, some general rules for seeking out help:

  1. If your child is frustrated by not being understood, get a professional opinion.  Frustration leads to acting out or withdrawal from communicative situations, neither of which are beneficial to your child.
  2. If your child is not as intelligible (easily understood) as his/her peers, and the trend continues for several months, get a professional opinion.
  3. If your child is in first grade and continues to struggle with speech sounds, talk to the Speech-Language Pathologist at school or a private SLP.
  4. If you feel like something else is going on, and your gut is telling you to get help, do it.  At best, an SLP can rule out a diagnosis.

 

 

Homework Tips and Tricks

*Many of our students are quickly overloaded when it comes to homework.  They have unfinished work from the day to complete, as well, and are often fatigued from working so hard at school to "hold it together". I encourage parents to help their children find a balance. Encourage quality over quantity, and keep in close communication with teachers to determine what is necessary for your child.  Good teachers understand this balance, and while they can’t change what’s required on state testing, they are usually very willing to work with a student on a bit of balance. If your child is on an IEP, there can be modifications to the type and amount of homework added to your child's plan.

 

After a long school day, it can be difficult for children to sit down and tackle their homework.  Make sure they have eaten a snack and exercised outside, and then use an analogue clock or a Time Timer to allow for short bursts of homework activity.  For early elementary students, try 10-20 minute work sessions; for older students, try 20-30 minute work sessions.  (I always recommend analogue clocks rather than digital clocks to help your student understand the passing of time, rather than just a single moment in time.) The Time Timer is helpful because it shows a countdown of time in bold red, so even preschool students are aware of time passing.

 

 

Is your child having trouble sitting in one place for homework?  Make sure they have exercised after coming home.  Then, try a wiggle cushion on their seat, let them stand at the kitchen counter, or sit on an exercise ball.  After holding it together all day at school, their little systems may be fatigued, and sitting still in one place too challenging. 

 

 

 

Decide what the goal of the assignment is.  Posture and core strength are necessary for good handwriting.  If the focus of the assignment is good handwriting, make sure both feet are solidly on the floor, they are sitting upright, and using their non-dominant hand to hold their paper in place.

 


If the focus of the assignment is language, ideas, creativity, allow for some body wiggling and poorer handwriting.  Many of my students stand, rock back and forth, and use a wiggle cushion for tactile and vestibular feedback.  I can tell they are focused and attentive when their body is moving and they are helping to regulate their engagement. As we analyze the task, brainstorm and organize ideas, and get a preliminary essay completed, the focus is on their language and the ideas they are generating.  We can go back later and clean up the handwriting during the editing phase of the writing process.


Homework taps into the executive function skills your child is developing.  For a child who has worked hard holding it together all day at school, this can be a very challenging process.  Focus on completing a few tasks well and enjoy the time you spend with your child.  Allow them to share their work with pride, and encourage them as they progress.

What are some homework tips that have worked with your child? Please share.

Teaching Your Child to Advocate for Themselves

One of the hardest (and most rewarding) things for a parent is watching your child brave new situations alone.

 

Without you by their side, it can be challenging for them to learn to advocate for themselves.  Some children come more naturally to these skills, but many have to learn them slowly and systematically through experience.  It can be the difference, however, of sitting and staring blankly at a test with no solution in sight, or raising a hand and asking a teacher to clarify a question. 

Self-advocacy can mean that your child writes an assignment down completely and then checks in with the teacher at the end of class to make sure all the assignments are copied correctly. It can help them take control of any struggles they may face, accept their learning challenges, and find ways to navigate their school experience.

 

Below is a quick list of ways to work on self-advocacy with your child. As I discuss self-advocacy with my students, I always follow up with the benefits of looking out for yourself.  That being better organized and on-top of our assignments and tests is a win-win situation.  By taking control of our needs and becoming more efficient with our time, we condense the time we have to spend on homework and other tasks, opening up more time for free time and play.

  • Work with your child's teacher. Sure, all our teachers are busy, but they want what's best for your child.  If your child needs a more structured system, work with them on ways to achieve it.
  • Role play. I can't say enough about rehearsing possible situations that may arise in the comfort of your own home, while your child is relaxed.  Make it a priority to discuss with them different ways we can ask for help when confused or upset.
  • Practice.  Self-advocacy at school can be practiced early on, when you are present.  Have a question in pre-k or kindergarten about what snack to bring?  Encourage your child to ask their teacher for help, with you behind them. Let them be their own advocate.
  • Encourage your child to be specific. Requesting additional time on a test to work through problems is more specific and focused (and an easier thing for a teacher to allow) than just saying "I don't know" or leaving answers blank. I've met many children who get test anxiety and draw a blank, leaving answers empty and throwing in the towel. Many children don't do well with timed assignments, and most teachers are willing to work with them for a solution. After all, they'd often rather test knowledge than speed (exceptions might be fluency tests and state-mandated testing). But it's helpful for a teacher to know specifically how to help, with extra time for assignments, more clarification for long division, or a book on tape so a child can listen and read. Your child can practice with their teacher on how to answer parts of questions, skip questions and come back, and maintain a rhythm through testing.After all, a child who self-advocates becomes a college student or young adult who can independently navigate the complexities of adult life.  Just this morning I worked on my own self-advocacy (and self-control) skills calling Comcast for the 4th time in two weeks about incorrect billing charges! ;)

Self-advocacy means independence and confidence, and allows your child to feel in control of their academic success.  It's that peace of mind that is essential, as self-confidence can make all the difference in school achievement.