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Posted by analiciafernandez@gmail.com on May 23, 2017

4 things you should know about stuttering

by Analicia Lucas, SLP
Analicia Lucas provides pediatric and adult speech therapy services in San Diego.

 

1) How should I talk to a person who stutters?

 

Many people think that saying “slow down,” “take a deep breath,” “don’t be nervous,” or “just say what you want to say” will help a person who stutters. Of course, well-meaning friends and family members are just trying to help. It can be hard for them to know the best way to respond when they hear stuttering. But how helpful are these suggestions in the middle of a conversation? It turns out that we should be doing just the opposite and simply give the person who stutters time to finish their thought.

 

People with fluency difficulties are usually aware of their stutter once they are older than 4 or 5. They know that speaking fluently is much more difficult for them than it is for other people. When we try to offer solutions in the middle of a conversation, the person who stutters may feel more time pressure, try to finish their sentence as quickly as possible, and stutter longer than they would have. In general, people who stutter will stutter less around listeners who give them time to talk with no interruptions. When the pressure is taken off, they can get their message across much more efficiently.

 

2) What causes stuttering?

 

About 1% of the world’s population stutters. The exact cause of stuttering is not known for sure, but there are some factors that place a person at risk for stuttering:


• Genetics: a person is more likely to stutter if they have family members who stutter.
• Atypical development: those with a language or other developmental delay are more likely to stutter.
• People who stutter have also been seen to have neurological differences in the way they process language.
• Men are about 4 times more likely to stutter than women.
• People from families with a high-paced lifestyle are more at risk for stuttering.
• It is important to not that stuttering is NOT caused by psychological or emotional problems, although this is a popular myth.

 

3) What can speech therapy do to help?

 

There is no overnight cure for stuttering, but speech therapy can help people to greatly reduce their stuttering and be in better control of their speech. A variety of techniques are used to help a person become aware of their muscle tension, breathing, and any secondary behaviors (such as moving their head or arm) as they speak. They build body awareness to learn how to start a word with less tension. More relaxed muscles and more airflow can be used with different types of consonants and vowels.

 

I like to help my patients practice their new techniques in words, sentences, and finally, in conversation. Practicing a good rate of speech and keeping a steady pace throughout a sentence is also very helpful and can be carried over to everyday situations.

 

Finally, therapy often requires some counseling. Research has shown that those who are accepting of their stutter and have positive feelings about speaking have better outcomes than those who describe their stutter in negative terms, such as something they “hate” or “dread.” It is important for people who stutter to feel confident and in control so that they can improve their speech skills.

 

4) When should I seek speech therapy?

 

If you are concerned about your own fluency, it is never too late to begin therapy. I have worked with clients well into their 70s as well as children who began to stutter at age 2.  With the right mindset and support, I have seen people of all ages make progress. Some people also may need a speech therapy session every few months for maintenance of their skills, even if they completed a course of intensive therapy.

 

If you are concerned about your child’s fluency, it is best to see a speech therapist as soon as possible. It is important to learn how you can help your child be a confident speaker by taking pressure off of communication situations. Young children (age 4 and under) may not be as aware of their stutter, so therapy is more geared toward reducing communication demands. That means not asking the child a lot of questions, giving them time to speak, and modeling speech at a slow, steady rate. Older children who are aware of their stutter can start to practice fluency techniques and to build more body awareness.

 

NOTE: Around 5% of all children will go through some period of time in which they stutter. For some children, especially those who begin stuttering before age 3½, their fluency may return. In fact, among children who stutter, 74% will recover naturally without intervention. However, if stuttering lingers more than 6 months, it is likely to persist and therapy is more urgently recommended.
Contact Lake Murray Speech & Language for a screening or evaluation today!

Hello! My name is Analicia Lucas. I’m a certified speech-language pathologist in San Diego. I’m the owner of Lake Murray Speech & Language, a private practice that provides in-office speech therapy as well as home visits. I graduated from Baylor University for my undergraduate and Gallaudet University for graduate school.  I strive to help each person I work with reach their full potential and I believe speech therapy should be engaging, empowering, and fun.  When I’m not working with clients, I enjoy cooking, reading, singing, playing piano, and spending time with my family.

Posted by analiciafernandez@gmail.com on January 7, 2017

3 ways to help your toddler learn to talk

by Analicia Lucas, SLP
Analicia Lucas provides pediatric speech therapy services in San Diego. 

Is your child 1-3 years old and hardly using any words?  There are many ways you can help them to become comfortable communicating.  It all starts with how you interact with your child and the things they see and hear every day.

1. Start with gestures, then move on to simple sounds and words

 

Many children are able to point and wave goodbye (or imitate hand movements) before they can say words.  Expanding on this skill and teaching many different types of signs and gestures can help children get their point across.  This also builds important imitation skills that will later help them to speak.  Remember to always use a spoken word along with a sign or gesture so that the spoken word is reinforced each time.  The research shows that children who use a simple sign system have an increased vocabulary by the time they are 3 years old! Are you wondering how to help your child learn gestures?  Click here.

 

2. Talk about what they are interested in. Then, repeat!

 

Plan out some time to play with your toddler on the floor, doing what they like to do! As they play, you narrate. For example, if your child is playing with their red toy car, you can say: “You have a car. Go, car! It goes fast. Push, push, push. That’s a red car!” (See how you can use the same word “car” in many different sentences within a short time span? This repetition is great for helping your child to learn that word!)

 

You can try to draw your child into playing with you, taking turns with a new toy or activity. However, if you introduce an activity and your child is consistently looking AWAY at something else, take their lead and go with what they are interested in first.

I often see parents distracting the child away from what they are playing with instead of talking about what the child is looking at. If your child is playing with a superhero figurine, that wouldn’t be the best time to start saying “Look out the window!” or asking, “Johnny, where are your eyes?” Talk about the toy they were playing with in the first place. Limit questions and try simple narration. As your child gets older, they will generally be more easily led to talk about another person’s interests.


3. Expand on what your child says or does

 

Once your child is saying a few words, expand on what they say, adding just 1-2 more words to the word they say. For example, if they say “ju” to request “juice,” you can add a word and say “more juice.” This gives your child nice bite-sized models to follow. They are much less likely to imitate you if you speak in really long sentences! NOTE: At the age of 2-3, it may be too early to try to get the pronunciation just right, so focus on adding whole words instead.

 

Be patient with this process. Even if you are speaking like this for a week or two, your child may not be ready to add those words for months. We can definitely encourage language, but each child progresses at their own pace! Most importantly, do not demand that your child repeat your phrases. This makes a lot of children shut-down and stop listening because they feed pressured. Instead of demanding “say ‘more juice!’” try to just let them listen to you for a few weeks. They will imitate when they are ready.

 

TIP: If your child isn’t saying any words yet, interpret their movements. If they reach toward something and cry because they can’t reach it, let them listen to an appropriate sentence and use repetition: “You want the cup. Cup! Here’s the cup.”

 

Need more tips to help your toddler learn to talk? I’ll be writing more on this topic soon! And it’s always best to ask your speech therapist for personalized help if these tips don’t seem to be working at home.

 

Contact Lake Murray Speech & Language for a screening or evaluation for your child today!

Hello! My name is Analicia Lucas. I’m a certified speech-language pathologist in San Diego. I’m the owner of Lake Murray Speech & Language, a private practice that provides in-office speech therapy as well as home visits. I graduated from Baylor University for my undergraduate and Gallaudet University for graduate school. I specialize in working with pediatric, deaf & hard of hearing, and Spanish-speaking clients with many different speech and language disorders and delays. I believe that we should never give up on any child, no matter the case, and I strive to help each person I work with to reach their full potential! When I’m not working with clients, I enjoy cooking, reading, singing, playing piano, and spending time with my family.

Posted by analiciafernandez@gmail.com on December 16, 2016

If I teach my child “baby signs,” will it delay their speech?

by Analicia Lucas, SLP
Analicia Lucas provides pediatric speech therapy services in San Diego.

 

There is a myth that your child will not use their voice if they rely on gestures or “baby signs” too much. But there is a lot of in-depth research showing that using signs will actually increase your child’s communication skills later on. Why is this research true? Well, gestures can reduce frustration and encourage learning. Has your child ever thrown a tantrum, perhaps because you couldn’t understand what she wanted? If speaking is challenging for her, gestures could help her to get her point across!

 

 

Dr. Elizabeth Bates, a leading researcher in language development from UC San Diego, looked into how gestures help language develop. In a New York Times article, she is quoted as saying, “It has to do with how easily one can imitate and reproduce something with a great big fat hand as opposed to the mini, delicate hundreds of muscles that control the tongue. You can also see somebody using a hand, which you can’t do with a tongue.” She saw that that the parts of the brain that control the mouth during speech and the parts of the brain that control gestures actually overlap.

 

Another study funded by the NIH found that children who had used a simple signing system between 11 – 23 months of age had a three-month lead in verbal skills over children who did not use signs by the time they were 2 years old. They also had an advantage of 12 I.Q. points over children who used only spoken language by age 8!

 

All of this research is great, but at the end of the day, what is most important is your relationship with your child. Gestures can help your relationship because they help you and your child understand one another. Remember that a child will always seek the most efficient way to have their needs met, according to their own developmental abilities. Gestures will not hinder their ability to talk; on the contrary, they will help your child reach this goal.

 

Childhood language expert and speech therapist Laura Mize states it very well: “Some parents are afraid that their children won’t learn to talk if they are given the option of signing…I have never seen this happen in all of my career. Children are not born ‘stubborn,’ ‘lazy,’ or simply ‘choose’ not to talk. Most of the time, there’s a reason we can suspect is the cause for a language delay, and although we may never know for sure, I am very certain that it’s not that a child is choosing to subject himself to the pain of not being able to communicate. When kids can talk, they do talk. When they can learn whatever skill has been missing, the words do come. Until then, doesn’t it make sense to give them another way to let you know what they want?” I completely agree.

 

Imitation is how we learn new skills! If your child is not yet imitating gestures or words, give him or her an opportunity to first copy your movements. This is a great building block for communication and many children will say words more quickly if they start out with gestures.

 

A good way to start encouraging imitation is to first imitate your child. If you see your child clapping, you clap, too. Laugh when your child laughs. Play the way your child plays. Make the same sounds your child makes. Do this throughout the day in situations where your child is paying attention to you. This is a great way to encourage your child to pay attention and then eventually, to imitate you.

 

You can also sing songs with hand movements with your child facing you. Twinkle Twinkle, The Wheels on the Bus, and Itsy Bitsy Spider all have hand motions! Kids who love music often love imitating the motions with songs.

 

Once your child is showing more interest in imitating you, you can try to use some signs to use at home for simple words: “more,” “water,” “juice,” “finished,” “clean up,” “bath time.” As you naturally go through activities at home, you can say and sign these words at the same time, then help your child’s hands to do what you just did. This is powerful, because you can’t make a child say a word with their mouth, but you CAN help their hands copy your movements!

 

 

If you don’t know any signs to use, you can find many resources online or even make up your own signs! As long as you’re consistent in the way you use the same gestures for the same words, your child will likely pick up on this and can use this system to ask for things (instead of becoming frustrated and crying). Again, this is just a stepping-stone on the way to speaking.

 

TIP: Some children will pull their hands away when you try to guide them. In this case, they may have an aversion to being touched or guided. Make sure to make the interactions fun and enjoyable, and not like a demanding test! If you have followed this advice and they are still pulling away, try waiting a month or two, then try again- or ask your speech therapist for advice.

 

Contact Lake Murray Speech & Language for a screening or evaluation for your child today!

Hello! My name is Analicia Lucas. I’m a certified speech-language pathologist in San Diego. I’m the owner of Lake Murray Speech & Language, a private practice that provides in-office speech therapy as well as home visits. I graduated from Baylor University for my undergraduate and Gallaudet University for graduate school. I specialize in working with pediatric, deaf & hard of hearing, and Spanish-speaking clients with many different speech and language disorders and delays. I believe that we should never give up on any child, no matter the case, and I strive to help each person I work with to reach their full potential! When I’m not working with clients, I enjoy cooking, reading, singing, playing piano, and spending time with my family.

Posted by analiciafernandez@gmail.com on December 14, 2016

Should I wait to see if my toddler catches up?

Why early intervention is important

by Analicia Lucas, SLP
Analicia Lucas provides pediatric speech therapy services in San Diego.

 

“Why isn’t my toddler talking?” As a speech therapist, I am often asked this question by concerned parents of 2 to 3-year-olds. The answer can be complex! If there is a history of speech or language delay in the family, children are more likely to have delayed speech or language. If a child is not exposed to enough language in their home, they can often have delays. There can also be a secondary problem, such as a learning disability or a second diagnosis.

 

This question can best be answered by seeing a qualified speech therapist for a personal evaluation. However, the most important question we can then ask is, “How can we help them to talk?” Many children end up showing negative behaviors because they have difficulty communicating.

 

When they notice a problem, some parents may decide to wait one or two years before they see a speech therapist because they have heard that kids will catch up on their own. While this may be true for a small percentage of the population, it is not true for the majority of kids!

 

Why, you ask? Well (getting into neuroscience here), I like to think of a child’s brain like a complex network of roads, with intersections helping people travel from one road to another. Imagine there were billions of roads in a certain city until the city planners decided to get rid of the intersections that were rarely used, only keeping the most commonly used intersections in working condition.

This is much like a child’s brain as they grow! Humans are born with 10 billion neurons, or brain cells. (This is almost all of the brain cells that a person will ever have through the course of their life!) The connections between them are called synapses, and are like the road’s intersections, where brain signals can travel from one neuron to the next. As a child grows, the brain weeds out the least-used synapses and keeps the ones that are most-used. For example, if a child hears the word “apple” many times while being shown an apple, each time, the connection between seeing the apple and hearing the word become stronger.

 

Eventually, the neural circuit for understanding “apple” would become very strong and efficient. Research tells us that neural circuits, or these connections between neurons, are the most flexible and changeable during the first 3 years of life. After age 3, neuronal connections that aren’t being used frequently start to be pruned away slowly, increasing the efficiency of other connections.

 

Let me be clear: it is never too late to start speech or language therapy and still have the possibility of achieving results! However, the earlier that therapy is started, the faster progress can usually be made. We call this fast approach “early intervention.” It is important to encourage children with language delays to use the skills they have and to develop new skills as soon as possible. This way, their very flexible brain will hold onto important neural connections.

 

Most children with speech delays need special help to start reaching their milestones. What can be done in the meantime, before you seek help from a therapist? Stay tuned for, “3 ways to help your toddler learn to talk.”

 

Do you need help tracking your child’s speech or language milestones? Here are some important milestones.

Contact Lake Murray Speech & Language for a screening or evaluation for your child today! 

Hello! My name is Analicia Lucas.  I’m a certified speech-language pathologist in San Diego. I’m the owner of Lake Murray Speech & Language, a private practice that provides in-office speech therapy as well as home visits. I graduated from Baylor University for my undergraduate and Gallaudet University for graduate school. I specialize in working with pediatric, deaf & hard of hearing, and Spanish-speaking clients with many different speech and language disorders and delays.  I believe that we should never give up on any child, no matter the case, and I strive to help each person I work with to reach their full potential! When I’m not working with clients, I enjoy cooking, reading, singing, playing piano, and spending time with my family.

Posted by analiciafernandez@gmail.com on December 14, 2016

Milestones

Speech Sound Developmental Norms

by Analicia Lucas, SLP
Analicia Lucas provides pediatric speech therapy services in San Diego.

 

These speech sounds typically develop within these age groups, with girls generally developing sooner than boys.

 

1 – 3 years old:         N, P, M, H, W, B

2 – 3.5 years old:      K, G, D, T

2.5 – 4 years old:       F, Y

3 – 7 years old:          R, S, L, blends (st, pr, gl, etc.)

3.5 – 6 years old:       SH, CH

3.5 – 7 years old:       Z

4 – 5.5 years old:       V

4 – 7 years old:          J

4.5 – 7 years old:       TH

6 – 8 years old:          ZH (as in “treasure”)

 

Language Milestones

 

Birth – 3 months

-Responds to environmental sounds
-Recognizes familiar voices
-Smiles at familiar people
-Coos/goos when happy
-Distinct crying for different situations

 

4-6 months

-Looks in the direction of sounds
-Responds to tone of voice
-Babbles with many different sounds
-Laughs and gurgles
-Expresses excitement and displeasure

 

7 months – 1 year

-Turns and looks in direction of sounds
-Listens to others’ speech
-Recognizes common words
-Responds to simple requests
-Variegated babbling
-Gains attention without crying
-Uses gestures and imitates speech sounds
-Uses 1-2 words

 

1-2 years

-Points to body parts when asked
-Follows simple directions
-Understands simple questions
-Vocabulary increases each month
-Uses 1- and 2-word questions
-Puts two words together
-Uses many different consonant sounds

 

2-3 years

-Understands simple opposites (up/down, stop/go, etc)
-Follows 2-step directions
-Listens to stories
-Speech is usually understood by familiar listeners
-Names objects
-Asks “why?”

 

3-4 years

-Uses 3-4 word sentences
-Talks about events/activities that happened away from home
-Speech is mostly understandable
-Answers simple wh- questions
-Asks “when” and “how” questions
-Understands basic shapes and colors
-Uses pronouns and some plurals

 

4-5 years

-Follows complex instructions
-Hears and understands most of what is said to and around them
-Produces all speech sounds, but may make some errors on l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, and/or th
-Tells short stories and maintains conversations
-Can adapt speech to listener

 

Adapted from information from the American Speech and Hearing Association

 

NOTE: It is always best to get a screening for your child as soon as you notice they are not meeting their speech or language milestones, to know what type of support they need!
Contact Lake Murray Speech & Language for a screening or evaluation for your child today! 

Hello! My name is Analicia Lucas.  I’m a certified speech-language pathologist in San Diego. I’m the owner of Lake Murray Speech & Language, a private practice that provides in-office speech therapy as well as home visits. I graduated from Baylor University for my undergraduate and Gallaudet University for graduate school. I specialize in working with pediatric, deaf & hard of hearing, and Spanish-speaking clients with many different speech and language disorders and delays.  I believe that we should never give up on any child, no matter the case, and I strive to help each person I work with to reach their full potential! When I’m not working with clients, I enjoy cooking, reading, singing, playing piano, and spending time with my family.