Halloween and Trick-or-Treating with a child with special needs

It’s that time of the year again! Halloween excitement is in the air. Children get to dress up as their favorite character and collect treats with friends. For kids with special needs Halloween can present certain challenges. Here are tips for making trick-or-treating an enjoyable experience for both you and your child!

  • Kids Who Can’t Speak Can Still Ask for Candy- If your child uses augmentative communication, get the “trick or treat” message out this Halloween using high-tech (iPad, dynavox) or lowtech (cards or a sign) devices. Get creative and decorate a spooky Trick or Treat sign with your child!
  • Sensory Issues- your child may reject a costume that is scratchy, too tight, too loose, or just doesn’t feel right. Create a costume out of comfortable, familiar clothing. Your child’s favorite black sweat pants and t-shirt morph into a skeleton when you add white tape “bones.” A soft and loved hooded sweatshirt can be decorated as a dog, cat, bunny or devil with felt or construction paper. Your child’s costume may be as simple as a hat or as complex as their imagination — and yours — allows.
  • Scary costumes and tons of noise are frightening- If the noise and commotion bother, stay home and give out treats. Play a game of “guess what costume will come to the door next” to make the unexpected less scary.
  • Food Allergies- If your child has food allergies consider bringing highly preferred items that can be substituted for the candy they chose. You may also want to give neighbors safe Halloween treats in advance to hand out to your child.
  • Practice makes perfect- role-play, have your child practice ringing the doorbell, saying “trick-or-treat” and “thank you” after choosing a treat.
  • Read a social story for trick-or-treating:
    http:// chitchatandsmalltalk.blogspot.com/2012/10/trick-or-treating-social-story.html

My Child Gets “Speech”… What Does That Actually Mean?

Speech Language Specialists work on “goals” which are based on the type of communication difficulties your child has. A communication disorder may be evident in one or more of the following areas.

  1. Speech – encompasses articulation of sounds, fluency, and/or voice.
  • Articulation– production of speech sounds. Difficulties may be in sound substitutions, omissions, additions or distortions.
  • Fluency flow of speaking. Difficulties may be in rate, rhythm, repetitions of sounds, syllables, words, or phrases.
  • Voice vocal production. Difficulties may be in vocal quality, pitch, loudness, resonance, and/or duration.
  1. Language – encompasses an individual’s comprehension of spoken (listening and speaking), written (reading and writing) and/or other symbol system (American Sign Language). Language is often classified as expressive (speaking and writing) or receptive (listening and reading). There are five language domains that fall under three areas.

Form of language

  • Phonology the sound system of a language and the rules that govern it.
  • Morphology the rule system of “morphemes” (minimal units of language with meaning). For example, add the morpheme –s to the word “cat” and it changes the meaning of the word (cats).
  • Syntax– the rules that govern how words are combined to make sentences.

Content of language

  • Semantics– word and sentence meaning.

Function of language

  • Pragmatics using language functionally and socially appropriate.
  1. Central Auditory Processing – encompasses deficits in a person’s ability to process information without having a hearing impairment.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), also known as Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a learning difference where people have difficulty with listening to and processing spoken language. A person’s hearing may be fine, but they have difficulty making sense of what they hear. The brain misinterprets what is heard; therefore a child’s response may seem off target or not what their communication partner expected it to be. The term CAPD or APD refers to how the Central Nervous System processes auditory information. APD is not a result of a higher-order cognitive, language, or related disorder. For example, children diagnosed with autism may have receptive language difficulties due a higher order global disorder, rather than due to a central nervous system processing disorder. Those diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder may have trouble with comprehending and recalling verbalizations. This may be due to difficulty remaining focused and attending, rather than to a neural processing disorder.

CAPD may be suspected by a Speech/Language Specialist, but is diagnosed by a series of tests that are administered by an audiologist, no earlier than the age of 7. An audiologist will first determine if a child’s hearing acuity is within normal limits. The audiologist will evaluate a person’s ability to understand and recall speech in quiet as compared to the presence of background noise, and how each ear performs when it receives these messages. The ability to decode or understand sounds, combine sounds, listen for a pattern, and determine where a sound is coming from, is assessed.

If a diagnosis of CAPD is made, a Speech/Language Specialist will be helpful in not only providing therapy but also by affording in-class support to the teaching team. A whole class or personal FM system is often beneficial. FM systems allow the child to hear a teacher’s voice more clearly and loudly while making background noises less problematic. Rock Brook School uses both personal and whole-class FM systems when appropriate.

Strategies that can be employed both in the classroom and at home include the following:

  • Have the child sit in the front row or close to the source of the sound.
  • Reduce background noises when possible. For example turn off the TV or computer when giving directions to your child.
  • Always get a child’s attention, “eyes on me” when speaking.
  • Use visual aides to assist in understanding such as tangible items, gestures, pictures, or printed words.
  • Speak slowly and in short phrases rather than using long complicated sentences.
  • Have your child repeat the directions you have given. Keep them short and one-step, at least initially. For children that can read, write the directions on paper or use their iPad to record directions in pictures/words.
  • Repeat and re-phrase information if the message is misunderstood.
  • Teach your child to be a self-advocate!

September – Back to Routine!

It’s that time of year again — Time to shop for new shoes, backpacks and lunch boxes. Back to school time can be stressful for many parents and students, but for families with special needs children, getting back into the school routine, after summer break, can be even more of a challenge. Children, and many adults, benefit greatly from structure, organization and routine. Here are ten tips to help ease the transition:

  1. Provide structure as the beginning of school comes closer. (i.e. regular bedtimes, regular daily schedules of activities such as packing snacks and lunches as well as selecting clothing the night before).
  1. If appropriate, plan for the transition back to school with photos and/or social story.   It could include information about summer vacation to share with friends, but also pictures of school, teachers, etc.
  1. Learn the school routine – review the bus pickup, bus route, and if possible daily routine at school ahead of time so student knows what to expect.
  1. Visit the school a week or so ahead of school start date. If meeting the teacher isn’t possible, walk around the school, see the principal and office staff, and visit the classroom.
  1. Make sure all medical information is up-to-date and any special information that the school nurse or school staff needs to know is included. Prepare a one-page guide to your child if you feel it’s necessary for teaching, therapy and nursing staff.
  1. Talk to your child about what’s going to happen, and do so frequently so the information will sink in.
  1. Associate school with fun and remind them of enjoyable events and  past achievements.
  1. Make sure you have your IEP available and ready for any questions you may need to ask as the school program starts.
  1. Buying new clothes and school supplies are activities which also signal the beginning of school and the eventual adjustment to the school routine.
  1. Designate a “launch pad” or location for your child to keep their book bag and lunch box.