Archive for February, 2014

Tantrums vs. Meltdowns

Parents with children of all different disabilities might experience a tantrum and/or a meltdown at some point. It is, however, very important to note that there is indeed a difference. Thus, effecting the way you may handle the situation. Take a look at these facts from

1. During a melt down, a child with autism does not look or care, if those around him are reacting to his behavior. A child having a tantrum will look to see if their behavior is getting a reaction.

2. A child in the middle of a meltdown does not consider their own or others safety. A child in the middle of a tantrum takes care to be sure they won’t get hurt.

3. A child in the meltdown mode has no interest or involvement in the social situation. A child who throws a tantrum will use the social situation to their benefit.

4. Meltdowns seem to move along under their own power and wind down slowly. With a tantrum, it will end suddenly when the situation is resolved.

5. A melt down gives the feeling that no one is in control. A tantrum will give you the feeling that the child is in control, although they are pretending they are not.

6. The meltdown usually begins when a specific want has not been permitted and after a point, nothing can satisfy the child until the meltdown has run its course. A tantrum is thrown to achieve a specific goal and once the goal is met, things return to normal.

Now knowing the characteristics of meltdowns as opposed to tantrums, it is important to know how to handle the situation. Autism-Causes gives the following suggestion:

  • When your child launches into the meltdown, remove them from any areas that could harm them or they could harm. Try to avoid having objects at hand to throw at people. Try to separate them from other people. Avoiding injury is the top priority during the meltdown. Don’t try to reason with them. They aren’t listening and too much talking just adds to their sensory overload. There will be plenty of time to discuss it after they calm down.

Posted by on February 27th, 2014 Comments Off on Tantrums vs. Meltdowns


Shoot for the SSTaRS!

We are always trying to teach our child new words and ways to effectively communicate. Shoot for the SSTaRS is a program that promotes early literacy and provides a strategy to teach vocabulary to children in a very practical way. SSTaRS is an acronym that stands for the following:

  • Stress the new word to focus the child’s attention

Highlight the new word while introducing it. Ask them if they know what the words means or if they can define it based on the way you used it.

  • Show the children what the word means

Use facial expressions and dramatic gestures when you can. Also, change the way you say the word. For example, if you are teaching them the word “excited”, say “EXCITED!” in a higher pitch and increased loudness to portray meaning.

  • Tell the children what the word means

Describe the word’s meaning and give specific details about the word. Describe what the word is and what its not. This will give the child a really good idea of the word’s particular meaning and how to use it appropriately in conversation.

  • and
  • Relate the word to children’s personal experiences and knowledge, as well as to other words and situations

New information makes sense to a child when they can relate it to something they already know. Help children develop a deeper understanding of new words by using their preexisting vocabulary knowledge.

  • Say it again – and read the book again

The more times children hear a word, the more contexts in which they hear it, the better they will understand it, and the more likely they are to use it.

For the complete article from the Hanen Centre, click HERE.


Posted by on February 26th, 2014 Comments Off on Shoot for the SSTaRS!


Spread the Word to End the Word

The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign is an ongoing effort by the Special Olympics, Best Buddies and other supports to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the R-word and encourage people to stop using the R-word.

The campaign is the first Wednesday in March every year, this year landing on March 5th.

One of the main messages the Spread the Word to End of the Word campaign broadcasts is to “build awareness for society to stop and think about its use of the R-word. Most people don’t think of this word as hate speech, but that’s exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and friends. The R-word is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur.”

Click here and pledge to end the word. You can also order t-shirts and learn ways that you can help!

Posted by on February 24th, 2014 Comments Off on Spread the Word to End the Word


Communicating with a Non-Verbal Child

The Friendship Circle offers 23 ways to communicate with a non-verbal child. Some of these techniques we see often in our clinic, both with our parents and therapists. I am sure that many parents use some of these techniques with their children now, however you many learn a few new tips and tricks when it comes to your child making choices, telling you how they feel, and interacting with others.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make it mean something; if they can’t verbalize yes, have them clap their hands.
  • Use eye contact to let the children feel more engaged.
  • Use mirrors if looking into your eyes is too invasive.
  • When making choices, hold up your hands and have one represent one choice, and one present the other, this way the child just has to point.
  • Create social stories to work on different tasks, or explaining an event that will happen. Simple as using clip art and some text.
  • Make flash cards.
  • Make a free personal portfolio for your child to introduce themselves to others with Cerebra.

Visit the Friendship Circle – 23 Ways to Communicate with a Non-Verbal Child to learn more!

Posted by on February 20th, 2014 Comments Off on Communicating with a Non-Verbal Child


Critical Questions to Ask at an IEP Meeting

As we are already in the second half of the school year, many children are having their yearly IEP meetings with teachers and other special education staff. Be sure as you attend these meetings that you are asking useful questions as you have the opportunity to speak with the team that supports your child. Not only do these questions benefit your child, but you and your family as well. Here are some ideas provided by from the NYC Department of Education:

  • How has the teacher accommodated my child’s learning and behavioral needs in the classroom?
  • Are there things I can do at home to support the IEP goals?
  • What type of learner is my child? Does the teacher attempt to use my child’s strengths while teaching him or her?
  • How frequently is my child’s progress monitored? What are the best ways for me to stay in touch with my child’s teachers to be informed of academic or behavioral progress?
  • Is my child making progress towards his or her IEP goals and the curriculum?
  • If a service is not working, how can I work with my child’s IEP Team to explore better services for him or her?
  • What sorts of programs or other supports might help my child? How can we get those?
  • What are the promotion criteria for my child? How will he or she be evaluated according to grade level?
  • In high school, what are the graduation requirements for my child? What are the diploma objectives for my child? What progress has he or she made towards those objectives?
  • Specifically, how many credits does my child have, and how many RCT or Regents’ tests has he or she passed?).

Linked here is the WAC information for Special Education!

Posted by on February 19th, 2014 Comments Off on Critical Questions to Ask at an IEP Meeting


Therapy Dogs for Children with ASD

There have been many studies that show how dogs can help children with autism. The dog can help kids with ASD become more independent, calm behavior, and even interrupt behavior when trained. One of the most fascinating impacts a dog can have on a child is improving their social skills. states that:

“The animals also help improve kids’ social skills. “It gives them a reason to communicate and something appropriate to talk about,” says Shirk. Walking around with a dog gives kids a natural chance to discuss something everyone is interested in—their canine. Organizations like Paws for Ability also note that kids become more comfortable speaking to others as they get more practice talking about their pup in a variety of situations. All this bragging often results in an increased vocabulary and decreased anxiety around social interactions, and creates a social bridge for kids who are often unsure as to how they should interact with their peers.”

Here at CLASS Inc., we have our very own therapy dog, Bijou! Bijou has a very calm and loving nature and even helps to break up a behavior outburst. She is often used a therapy partner for back and forth ball throwing or being a companion on a walk along the water!

Our therapy dog, Bijou!

Our therapy dog, Bijou!

Posted by on February 17th, 2014 Comments Off on Therapy Dogs for Children with ASD


iPad and Speech Therapy Grants

Listed below are some amazing opportunities for grants towards iPads and other health-related materials as well as speech therapy that can benefit children with special and/or medical needs. All have applications for eligibility in the hyperlink where you can also find information on the foundation/organization in charge of the grant. Enjoy! 

iPad Grants

Babies with iPads

Babies with iPads will be granting an iPad to deserving children as often as funds allow.  I will personally screen all applications to determine if eligibility requirements are met,  then a team consisting of at least a parent, ST, and OT will review the applications without identifying information and choose the top 3 deserving children.  Of the top 3 children one will be randomly chosen and mailed a refurbished or new iPad. For eligibility and more information, click here.

Apps for Children with Special Needs – iPad Assistance Program

Apps for Children with Special Needs has already helped over 230 children and professional around the world by gifting them iPads. Out goal is to help as many children as we possibly can to benefit from this amazing technology and to be able to utilize the great apps out there. Find out more information on how to get iPads and more here.

Speech Therapy Grants

Small Steps in Speech

Small Steps in Speech is a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization which provides grants on behalf of children with speech and language disorders for therapies, treatments, communicative devices, and other services aimed at improving their communication skills.
A grant from Small Steps in Speech provides financial support to families seeking speech and language services for their children, either not covered or not fully covered by their health care plan. Small Steps in Speech also helps other qualified non-profit organizations by awarding grants to help fund programs and services aimed at improving the communication skills of children. For application information, click here.

United Health Care

The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides medical grants to help children gain access to health-related services not covered, or not fully covered, by their parents’ commercial health insurance plan. Click here for more information on this awesome opportunity!

Posted by on February 13th, 2014 Comments Off on iPad and Speech Therapy Grants


Sensory Friendly Clothing!

Could your child benefit form sensory friendly clothing?

The Friendship Circle Blog has many resources for where to buy sensory friendly clothing online! From soft shirts to tag-less tees and seamless socks, there  is something for everyone here and resources to get them! They even mention bathing suits!

Another great resource for materials and products that provide sensory input is the National Autism Resources website. The sell weighted blankets, vests, and chewable jewelry for any kiddo that benefits from sensory integration throughout the day. National Autism Resources also offers flashcards, social skills workbooks, and more! Enjoy!


Posted by on February 12th, 2014 Comments Off on Sensory Friendly Clothing!


Child Literacy and Books

It can often be a tough decision on what book to read with your child. Are they going to understand the book? Is this book too challenging for my child? Is this book too easy for my child? This leaves the question, which type of books are best for my child to learn language?

Before we go on to answer this question, let’s understand why books are important in the development of children’s language and literacy development. The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) tells us about the importance of book with specific points:

  • Learning to read is learning to see: The child “reads” his mother’s face since he is born, or his father’s or any other close person’s face: the child learns to look at the features and facial expressions of those around him and to react in an adequate manner
  • Learning to read is learning to listen: Literacy does not start only with watchful eyes, but also with listening ears. During the first months of his life, the baby listens to his mother’s voice, his father’s voice or that of the person taking care of him. From these voices, the baby starts to build up his own voice and his personal language. At the same time, he learns to identify the voices of those who surround him.
    Learning to read is also learning to communicate: When the child and the adult look together at a picture book, their regards are automatically converging toward the same end, the book and its story. It is a joint regard that creates, for the first time, the triangular space among the child, the adult and the book, and is the origin of every cultural transmission

IBBY also discusses this tidbit:

“All literature, and literacy, is born from the human need to tell stories, to tell stories about one self or about others, to tell stories about the world to better understand our existence, the others and the universe we live in. All the stories, the myths, the fables and the novels, including those addressed to children are, in fact, the result of this wish and this basic need: they help us to live, to survive; they help children to grow up and develop.”

Literacy is important. Reading books with your child is a way to develop language and literacy. The Hanan Centre discusses how to choose books that will best help to develop language. Here is what they recommend to consider when choosing a book to share with your child:

  • The type of pictures in the book – colorful, realistic photos are probably a good option for a young child (under 24 months) or a child at an early age of development.
  • “Bells and Whistles” – moving parts in a book such a flaps, tabs, and pop-ups may help a child with language impairment to participate nonverbally, which may stimulate more language. For other children, however, moving parts and electronic games can detract from conversation and understanding of the story.
  • How you read the book – It is important to be responsive to your child when reading together. This means following your child’s lead, and talking about what interests your child. Encouraging conversation about the story and connecting it to your child’s life builds his/her language and thinking skills.

Posted by on February 11th, 2014 Comments Off on Child Literacy and Books


Early Literacy Development

Literacy is the ability to communicate by reading, speaking, listening, and looking and begins from a very early age. Before we can learn to read we must develop the chills that act as building blocks for literacy. Get Ahead Speech Therapy offers us a list of factors that can affect Early Literacy Development and what you can do to promote it.

Factors that Affect Early Literacy Development:

  • Language Ability: You child’s ability to speak, listen and understand. (Ex. Following directions)
  • Letter identification and knowledge: Knowing what each letter says and the sound that it makes.
  • Understanding conventions or print: A child’s awareness of print in books, on signs and in the environment around them. It is understanding how we read and knowing that print can convey a message.
  • Phonological Awareness: The ability to identify and manipulate sounds in words. It involves skills like identifying and making rhymes, identifying words in sentences and segmenting words into their individual sounds.
  • A Literacy Promoting Environment: This includes access to books as well as creating awareness of print in the environment and encouraging reading.

What YOU can do!:

  • Encourage scribbling, drawing, and painting activities. These encourage you child’s ability to use print.
  • Set up a ‘grocery store’ with empty food boxes and a cash register. Help you child to make signs for the food and the price. These helps teach your child that signs and print can send a message.
  • Play ‘restaurants’ and have your child help to write a menu. You can also involve your child in cooking activities. Encourage them to ‘read’ the recipe and let them help measure and stir.
  • Sing nursery rhymes and other songs. These help develop memory and rhyme awareness.
  • Read books! The best way to read books is to put o funny voices and involve the child.
  • Identify letters, words, and sentences in your home, at shops, and when driving. When identifying letters, use the sounds also and link it to an object they are familiar with.
  • Visit the library for new and exciting books every week.

A small tidbit about what research shows!:

  • Literacy skills improve academic performance and motivation to learn.
  • Encouraging early literacy development is more effective then attempting to rectify later difficulties.
  • Not all children start school with the same literacy abilities.
  • The children of families who are actively involved in early literacy activities have a larger vocabulary, faster vocabulary growth and better cognitive abilities than those who are not.

Click here for some Easy Language Games that Get Ahead Therapy recommends for help with expressive and receptive language can be played pretty much anywhere and anytime!

Click here for the common misconceptions of ASD and Early Literacy as told by the Hanan Centre. They state to ” Follow your child’s lead and have conversations about whatever reading material interests him or her.”

It is never too early to start!! Early Literacy is important for any child with any ability!!

Posted by on February 6th, 2014 Comments Off on Early Literacy Development