How to teach your baby to talk



When I am working with a little one (12 -18 months) on expressive language development (that means the sounds/words she is producing-her use of words) the challenge can be getting the little one to understand that I want her to imitate (say) the sound I am  producing.  It is a very hard concept for a child this age to understand and grasp that you want her to repeat what you are saying.

A very simple strategy I use to help her understand sound imitation is to first get her to understand gross motor imitation (imitating a motor movement) and the phrase “you do”.  So I like to start off with simple gross motor directives such as: clap hands, touch head,  or push (maybe pushing open hand on play doh).  The goal is for the little one to understand and imitate the gross motor directive.  So when I am clapping my hands..I am saying “clap hands, you do”.  Now at first of course she may not understand the direction…so hand over hand I will help her to clap her hands.  I will give her this assistance until she is able to understand the direction on her own just hearing the words: “clap hands, you do”.  I follow the same model with all the other gross motor directions indicated above.  What is amazing to me is that once I see that the little one is able to follow a gross motor directive she usually then is ready to follow verbal directive and she is able to make an attempt to imitate sound or words!

I have had the pleasure of working with a little girl named Emma (thank you for allowing me to share part of her story mom and dad).  I have been with her since about September of 2014, she was just about to turn one in October of 2014.  Emma suffered a stroke in utero and this stroke impacted the language area of her brain.  Following the model indicated above the right side of her brain (the non language side) has compensated and she is acquiring language.  Emma is imitating sounds and simple word forms (and more complex sounds-ones I actually would not expect to hear in her repertoire!)  It was great to see that once Emma understood the phrase: you do in reference to a gross motor directive-she was ready to understand sound imitation!

I am in the process of putting together early sounds and words picture cards that you can easily use with your little one to reinforce sound imitation and word production.

Great work Emma!


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My first Pay it Forward Post!

Meet Sophie and read her story…please consider clicking on the donate button to the right of this post and make a donation to Sophie.  In the form below you can if you want write who you are and comment regarding your donation for Sophie!

Sophie Pellegrino is a special little girl who is always happy and energetic. Sophie was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate. She spent a year and a half with a G-tube for feeding because she could not eat orally. She would throw up 90% of her feedings and lacked the proper nutrition to grow. Sophie had a bleed on the brain from trauma from delivery which resulted in hydrocephalus and the placement of a VP Shunt. Sophie also was born with two holes in her heart a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD).
Sophie will be having a multifaceted surgery due to the cleft lip and palate. Her surgery will consist of having a prosthesis that is currently screwed in to the roof of her mouth covering her opened hard palate, removed. During the same surgery, she will have the cleft in her hard palate repaired, as well as a revision to her soft palate which is not making proper closure and is affecting speech. Sophie will also have reconstruction to her inner and outer nostril, and upper lip, as well as tubes placed in her ears.
Prior to Sophie’s surgery, preoperative appointments are needed for clearance with specialists overseeing her health care. Sophie will also have to have extensive presurgical testing due to her health related issues.
Sophie’s recovery will be very stringent. She cannot attend school, eating will be a challenge, and she will have to have a speech/feeding therapist work with her daily to ensure the mechanics of her mouth are working properly and speech progresses. Proper wound care will have to be procured for the internal parts of her mouth and nose, as well as the external parts of her lip and nose to ensure sutures stay closed, heal, and are safeguarded from infection. Sophie is an amazing little girl who has stolen our hearts from day one. She attends my Learning Center, Kiddie Academy of East Setauket and is a very special part of it!


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A change to my blog-The Pay it Forward Project

As many of you know over the past three holiday seasons I hosted a family and provided them with gifts for the parents and young children in each of the families.  With the help of so many family and friends we were lucky enough to give all three families an incredible holiday.  But the holiday season is not the only time of the year that people are in need.  I am writing this post and asking you to share this on your FB page, on Twitter, email…wherever you can.  If you know of someone who is in need of something (I will be more specific below)…have them send me their story…and I will be happy to blog about it and share with as many people as I can.  Once I blog about their need…I will be asking people to donate to their cause (like a Go Fund ME)…but I will be doing the work…collecting the donations..reporting on how much we have collected and then sharing with the family.  There are many people in need who often times have a hard time asking for help from others…and may even feel ashamed to do so.

There are many times of the year people are in need: holidays, birthdays, back to school items, clothing, food, medical bills, therapy for their child (if not provided in the town they live in).  Tell me your story and I will be happy to blog about your need, a cause, or a foundation in need.

So I start off my pay it forward project with information I am so thrilled to share from Janson West who crochets barefoot sandals and is donating them for free to those in need!  How awesome.

I make crochet barefoot sandals and I am very interested in making some for girls and boys who cannot wear traditional shoes.
PM me if you would be interested. This will be entirely free!
All I will need is for you to visit my page, choose a style, and let me know where to send them! smile emoticon

The only condition is that I would like a picture of your angels wearing them, and permission to post to my page ^^


Janson Marie West's photo.
Janson Marie West's photo.
Janson Marie West's photo.
Janson Marie West's photo.


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Click on the link below and vote and help me to pay it forward!

I love giving back and paying it forward.  My family and I do every Christmas and throughout the year.  If you read my blog you will see the many times I have given back and always pay it forward.  All I ask today is for you to vote on the chips my four rugrats and I created.  Help us to win and of course give back.!/my-flavors?type=my

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How to treat the lateral lisp?

Wow!  It has been since September of 2014 that I wrote a blog post (not in reference to speech though…more about thoughts on life)…and it has been over a year since I posted anything related to speech and language…ahh!

Over the past year I have been taking courses, reading, studying, and learning anything I can about feeding concerns related to toddlers who present with significant aversions to textured foods…and really making it my primary focus for therapy.  It has been so rewarding to help the many mamas out there with little ones who really will not move past the Stage One and Stage Two baby foods.  I look forward to writing a post about JM…who came to me only nursing (at the time he was 18 months of age)…with a diagnosis of failure to thrive and at great risk for a G-tube due to limited nutritional intake, only nursing, and complete refusal to have anything at all near his mouth or in his mouth (except when he nursed).  How scary for the mama!  She said to me: what if I get sick?…what if I was ever hospitalized?  Scary!

The doctors recommended that she just stop nursing him…and said “eventually he will be so hungry…he will eat”.  I have found with the children I work with…that kids will not eat what they do not want to eat ( I sure as heck do not!)…and more importantly they will not eat what they CAN NOT eat due to significant feeding aversions. They do not have typical hunger cycles like we do…and sometimes they actually are not hungry for longer periods of time.  Ok…well I have really diverged from the topic of today’s blog post…and will be sure to come back to this at a later date.  But am thrilled to say..that JM is now eating all table foods, drinking from a straw and trying all new foods (the youngest of four he eats better than all of them!).



(great to see a messy eater!)

Well my connection with JM…actually connected me to another mama…she too has a little one with feeding concerns…when reading my blog she indicated that she was looking for information regarding her older son and how to help him with his lateral lisp.  So I write this blog post for her!

I would like to start off  by indicating that there are four types of lisps:

1. Palatal lisp:this in when your tongue hits the soft palate (velum) while making the /s/ and /z/ sound.

2.  Lateral lisp: this is when air escapes out of the sides of the tongue

3. Dentalized lisp: when your tongue hits the teeth during production of the /s/ and /z/  sounds

4. Interdental lisp: when your tongue goes between your front teeth and produces the TH sound for the /s/ and /z/ sounds.

*It should be noted that the palatal and lateral lisp are not typical developmental errors.  Children will not just “grow out” these errors.  If you note that your child has either of the two it is suggested that you investigate private therapy.

Strategies for lateral lisp:

This is a very simple strategy that I use during therapy (but refer to you to the link below for more comprehensive information regarding treating the lateral lisp).

Have your child produce the T sound.  In general the placement for the T sound is the same for the S sound.  I ask the child to produce the T sound repetitively and fast: TTTTTTTTTTTTTTT…which will then shape the T sound into the S.  As you quickly repeat the T sound…you can actually “slide” it into the S sound.  Try it and you will see that you have produced the S sound.

Now for more of the comprehensive information.  Dr. Caroline Bowen…..I had the pleasure of having many conversations with her over email and Twitter last year.  She has an incredible website with a plethora of information.  I  frequent her website and share her site with others.  It is a fabulous resource and am thankful to have her site as a resource for me.

Dr. Bowen talks about using the Butterfly procedure:

The main idea for the “Butterfly Procedure” is that your tongue should be a representation of a butterfly.  The sides of your tongue are up just slightly like the wings on a butterfly..and the middle of your tongue the body of the butterfly. With the sides of your tongue touching slightly on the sides of your teeth…as air flow goes down the body of the tongue.  Your first step would be to have the child hold the position of the tongue for the E sound as in SEE or the I sound as in RIM…and then attempt for the S sound keeping the butterfly position with the tongue.

Dr. Bowen outlines ten steps….so for more information please click on the link above…as the above information was just a little synopsis.

Hope that was helpful!



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Sometimes you just don’t get the truck dog.

Sometimes you just don’t get the truck dog…

 Over the weekend I met up with some old friends in New York City.  It had been just about ten years since we all saw one another. It was great to re-connect and to catch up…..time sure does go faster than you think.  Me and Greg…Chris and her husband spent many weekend summers together following college graduation…and as time passed and life became busier…we watched our children grow through our Christmas card exchanges…not through our visits.  And despite the fact that so much time has passed..we will forever be connected in some way.  Always remembering what brought us together…and what will keep us connected: friendship.


Chris reminded me of something my husband Greg once said..(I have a vague memory of him saying this)…however, I keep repeating it in my head & applying it to my daily challenges of work…life…family…children….&  trying to keep the balance between it all.  I guess also to accept what is…and to move forward…to keep moving despite the challenge and to accept what I can not change.


“Sometimes you just don’t get the truck dog”

Truck Dogloves the truck, sits with enthusiasm next to his master in the truck-tongue hanging out, gets excited and starts wagging his tail just at the sound of keys jingling-he knows its time to take a ride, cries and whimpers when he gets out of the truck, & he always jumps right into the truck without anticipation.

Not the Truck Doghates the truck, sits on the floor of the truck and vomits the entire car ride, hears the sound of keys jingling and looks for refuge in your house, cries and whimpers when he has to get into the truck, has to be dragged, pulled and carried to get into the truck~you sometimes even need the muzzle because he nips at you.


I applied my husband’s words of wisdom the other day when I watched my Gregory strike out four times and miss every ball in the field…ugh..why him…why can’t he hit the ball (not for me)…but for him.  And when I worry about my Andrew…that maybe he is too tiny for a boy his age…and will he struggle with that?  Will he worry?  Will he be upset?  Will kids bully him…make fun of him?  And I should have applied it when my oldest was broken-hearted for weeks…not able to function due to the incredible loss he felt…or when my Katie…last year not making a team she tried out for.

And by no means am I equating my children to a dog…I am equating the actual experience of not getting what was expected…feeling disappointed because the plans you had…what you expected to be..was not.  Equating this to not getting the truck dog…not getting what you expected…but still accepting it…ah!…yes…that was the key…accepting the unexpected…….


Sometimes you just don’t get the truck dog (that’s the type of dog Greg always wanted)..and prior to getting married we adopted Bo….she was a disaster of a dog.  She was hard to control…she barked all of the time…rarely listened….was horrible around company….had epilepsy…took seizure medication…and hated…hated the car…she threw up in the car…she really H A T E D the car.  Greg did not for sure..hands down….get his truck dog.


But we loved Bo


She was our first baby

We adjusted and made accommodations when we had to bring her in the car

She loved us

We loved her

We sobbed when she died right before Zach was born

We sobbed for weeks after she died

We loved Bo

And Bo loved us



Just like Greg not getting the dog he always wanted…the truck dog.  Sometimes in life we don’t get the truck dog…but we still push forward…we embrace what we have been given…we are grateful for what we have…and thankful for the path we were asked to follow.   Sometimes you just don’t get the truck dog~so now I will apply these words to many of the expectations I have for my kids..maybe my goals for them…things I hope for them.   And I will know that they may not always get what they wanted…  But I will know that it is about embracing and accepting the unexpected.


The unconditional love we have for our children…the no matter what feeling you have for them…the no matter what life brings you feeling….no matter the challenge…no matter what God presents to you….you keep moving forward….you just keep swimming.

Because even if you do not get your truck dog…when it comes to any component of your life….it’s still your dog…and you love it/her/him unconditionally…and even if your expectation was not what life presented to you…it’s still your dog…despite not being a truck dog.


And not having the truck dog + things not working out as you planned-I guess have the same meaning for me.  And I know that what you had planned and what was planned for you are often two different things.  And sometimes you may not realize why you are on the path you are on and why what was meant to be was meant to be…until you actually get where you are meant to be and realize the why.  Even when it’s not your truck dog.




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Zach Marino playing some Rush

Be sure to click on the link above to see my Zach playing some Rush…pretty cool and incredible..taught himself this song in about two days!

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How to teach straw drinking…and amazing Mary!

speech8915 copy speech8916 copy (1) speech8922-2 copy



Thank you to Mary’s mama for allowing me to post these great pictures.  Mary is an amazing little girl…and I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with her and her great family.  When teaching straw drinking…I start off with the Honey Bear straw cup as seen above.  What is incredible about Mary is that when presented with the Honey Bear cup…on the very first presentation she was able to draw the liquid up the straw….at five months of age only….I am amazed.  Thanks again to Mary’s mama for allowing me to share…when Mary is able to drink four ounces from this cup on her own…we will then move to the first straw in the straw hierarchy.

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Thanks to my new friend Ashley…from across the US

Although this contest is over..I wanted to thank my friend Ashley for posting the blog post below on her site…be sure to visit her blog…I am so glad we got connected via the internet and blogging.

Play 2 Learn- The Speech Mama

When I first found out that Eli was going to come to us with Ds, I immediately dove into researching and trying to build networks and connections. It has been an invaluable part of our journey- all the friends we have made, the support system we have created and the awesome information that is out there.
One of the wonderful people God connected us with was my friend Kim, over at The Speech Mama. She is an SLP who is making a difference one blog post at a time. The information she posts on the site has been like my Bible.
I really feel all parents with any speech concerns would benefit from her site, it’s just so good.

Right now she is in the middle of revamping her Ds specific speech posts. The new info she is posting has been informative and helpful in guiding our future decisions with our speech journey. What I love most about her approach is the research behind it and that it always supports what our SLP is doing with Eli.

Check out her posts- they are worth more than a glance. Especially if you aren’t getting any speech services currently- she has great ideas to help children of all ages and abilities.

One of the neat things her site offers is the app she developed specifically for sound and listening.
Play 2 Learn– What Sound? is a fun and educational game that teaches your child to discriminate one sound from another.

I bought the app not too long ago. Eli really enjoys learning new sounds and associating them with images. I haven’t had much luck with sound or speech specific apps until I found Kim’s.

So what does that all mean for you? Well firs you should go check out Kim’s website- The Speech Mama. Second, it’s my second blog giveaway!! :) Kim has graciously offered to give away FIVE FREE PLAY 2 LEARN APP CODES! Awesome, huh?

To enter, please comment with your name + email address. I will use to select five winners.
Contest ends 5/20/13- Winner announced the morning of 5/21/13! Good luck and happy researching at The Speech Mama

Congrats to Leah, Stephanie, Sheri, Diane and Cheryl! I will get the app code sent out to you very soon! :) Please make sure you left your email address in the comments so I can email it to you!

A BIG thank you to Kim for making this giveaway possible! You rock, girl! :)

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Thanks iMums!


Play 2 Learn  – Review and Giveaway


Reviewed by Grace

Play 2 Learn by Speech2teach is a straightforward sound and picture matching app for practicing listening and auditory discrimination skills.   Close to 90 pairs of sound and corresponding pictures of  everyday items and occurrences are included in this app.  For the purpose of this review, this iPhone app was played on an iPad using the 2x mode.

This app is easy to play.   To start, tap the ‘Play’ button to hear the sound to be matched and ask your child to find the corresponding picture out of the nine shown in a deck.  To listen to the sound again, just tap the ‘Repeat’ button.  If your child gets it right, he will be rewarded with an audio reinforcement and see the picture being enlarged.  You then tap the ‘Play’ button again to proceed to the next sound.   If the wrong picture was chosen, a muted audio feedback will be heard and your child will have to try again.

Pictures are randomly shown in a deck but you can add some challenging fun by shuffling the 9 pictures in a deck during play or even shuffle all the pictures in a deck.  Some sounds are rather similar and your child may need your help to discriminate one sound from another.   It would be helpful if you point out the sounds that your child hears on a daily basis to sharpen his listening and observation skills.

Overall, Play 2 Learn is a useful app for exercising auditory discrimination skills and for learning the sounds that are made by different animals, objects and daily occurrences which our children (and ourselves too) may take for granted.

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