Sensory Friendly Halloween costumes

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So you think you’re going trick or treating.  You’ve bought the costume, maybe even tried it on a time or two.  Maybe even heard a few complaints about the seams, the tags, it’s too tight, it’s too long.  But you know come Halloween, the  lure of candy will outweigh your’s child’s sensory “issues”, right?  You sure hope so ‘cuz you spent a lot of money on that costume and she looks darn cute!


I’ve been there.  I’ve  fought with her getting ready, dragged her around the neighborhood collecting fun size cavities, watched her squirm and pull and pout between houses.  And those were easy Halloweens.

Was it worth the photo op? Sure.  Did she eventually work through it?  Sometimes. Would I do it different now?  Yup.

Halloween Sensory Hindsight:

  • Feel the stitching at the seams.  If I can feel it,  she can too.
  • Is there enough room in the costume to wear her own t-shirt/leggings underneath?
  • Does it sit well?  Can she sit down at school and not flip out because the costume bubbles in the middle?
  • Does it make noise when she moves?
  • Does it pull at the neck (especially capes)?
  • Does it smell?  Face paint smells.  So does cardboard and plastic, if you’re constructing a costume.
  • Props can be lifesavers.

Halloween should be filled with excitement, giggles, trick or treat screams and thank-you’s.  Not tears and anger because you can’t deal with your costume.  There’s plenty of time for that in the mornings before school, right?

Check out some of these sensory friendly costume 

Love this idea!!Walter

Toys to Give : 12 months to 24 months

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Installment 2 of Toys to Give, this time for ages 12 months to 24 months.  wooden blocks

A spinner

a trampoline or two

beginners basketball



rolling pull toys!!  I haven’t met a little one who didn’t squeal with laughter when their toy puppy chased them

Are you noticing a theme?  Why am I recommending all of these toys that have more to do with movement than speech, you ask?  Because we know that gross motor precedes fine motor in development (speech is a fine motor movement).  Get your squirrel movin’ and shakin’!  Movement helps connections in the brain grow, establish, and fire the way they are supposed to do.  Here are some more toys I love.

Duplo!! or MegaBloks

toys that aid in visual tracking like this or Car track by Fisher Price

V-Tech’s smart garage

Mr. Potato head to start learning body parts

Little movers airplane for teaching beginning concepts in, on, up

toys that encourage the beginning of self-play, functional play, and imagination like


toy food like that or this or this (New Sprouts brand toy food is an investment that your kids will play with for years to come.  I use these in therapy and they’re durable and easily cleaned.)

pots and pans


babies to wash, dress, feed

jumbo sized beads for fine motor skills and color learning, matching, and beginning patterns

Don’t forget the MESSY PLAY


cups and brushes

dot art

huge stamp pads

rollers and stamps

play doh and this awesome truck or dentist kit

water play

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Infants 0-12 months: Gift List

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This is the beginning of my toy recommendation list.  It’s not all inclusive by a long shot.  What I’m striving for is a few good go-to ideas of what to give your little squirrel this Christmas (or any occasion really).

0 to 12 months

Lamaze Discovery crib toys or floor mirror for tummy time

Classic Sassy toys

Suction cup high chair toys like this or this

Teethers and Chewthat offer multiple textures and shapes to mouth like this one or this one

Cause and effect toys like this Bright Starts chicken barn or for the lil’ guys Bright Starts cement truck or this Gumball fun

Edushape Sensory Balls like these or Pull and Go Cars  get infants exploring texture and motivated to move 

Things to entice crawling or rolling after like this Fisher Price Snail

Little Shopper playset  putting in, dumping, pre-linguistic vocabulary development

Music toys like this or this

and of course, books, books, books!  Some of my favs include :

basic animal photo books

books with other babies and different expressions

baby sign books, research teaches us that babies can sign and understand sign before words

board books like this or this or this

Toolbox Tuesday: Preschool Language Activity With a Side of Fuzz.

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Its toolbox Tuesday!  Let’s see what’s in the bag today.

Fuzzy Puzzle

The Fuzzy Puzzle by Ceaco KIDS!  I came across this 24 piece farmyard puzzle at my local Target.  I was intrigued at the “fuzzy”.  Lucky for me there was a sample piece attached to the outside of the box!  WELL PLAYED Ceaco, well played.

It’s fuzzy, but not overwhelming fuzzy.  The backside of the puzzle pieces are soft diamond pattered squish.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  Squish.  Again, not overwhelmingly squishy so it was PERFECT for my kiddos.  It offered a subtle tactile experience.  But that’s more OT, and I’m here to talk about speech, language, and feeding.  Right?  Right.

This little puzzle is only four weeks old.  So far, I have been able to work in a number of receptive and expressive language concepts (understanding and producing) at a variety of skill levels.  So I will do my best to organize and present what I do with this little tool.

Let’s start with RECEPTIVE language, or understanding  language. The following are language targets that you can focus on using the fuzzy puzzle.

  • Vocabulary (cow, pig, sheep, chicken, rooster, dog, cat, bunny, birds, chicks, ducklings, butterfly, dragonfly)
  • Animal sounds
  • Basic concepts (together/apart)
  • Counting
  • identification

For example, at the most basic level, begin with one section of the puzzle, placing the pieces together .  Bombardment is the first step in teaching a skill, so the phrase “Let’s put the (pig, cow, horse) together!” should come out of your mouth no less than twenty times as you construct your fuzzy farm.

After each animal is made, model the name and sound it makes.  You could even drag out the Old MacDonald Had a Farm song through the entire fuzzy activity (approx. 10 mins).  Sing a round of “moo moo here, and a moo moo there” each time you’ve made a new farm animal.  Be sure to really ham up the animal sounds.  Kids love it when you make a silly fool of yourself.  If you’re working on sign language, note:  make sure you have reviewed your farm animals and are ready to sign them!

Have the child find an animal that you name (identification).  Have a race- see who can find it first. Of course, you can win once or twice, but praise him/her for how quick he/she found it.  “You’re the fastest finder!!”

Model counting the animals.  Again, bombardment is the key here.  By the time you’ve completed the activity, you’ve had an opportunity to count to 5 (blackbirds/crows) and at least ten opportunities to count different animals.   “How many cows do we have?  One, two… TWO!”

For advanced concepts, target on top/under, next to.  “the bunny is next to the birdhouse.  Can you find the bunny next to the birdhouse?”  There’s lots going on in the puzzle.

Now for EXPRESSIVE or producing language (speech).  The skills you can target are infinite if you think about it.  From one word to a thesis paper, depending on who you’re working with.

  • Animal sounds
  • One word animal names (labeling)
  • Two words- “see ___”
  • Three word sentences “I see ___.”
  • 2 types of sentences, expository and interrogative
  • Initiating the next piece to put together, or a turn
  • Requesting using words (help, puzzle piece)

So, beginning at the basic level assemble the puzzle (with or without help from your friend)and name the first animal that is made.  “Look!  We made the horse!  What does the horsey say?”  HERE YOU MODEL WHAT YOU WANT THE CHILD TO ANSWER.  It’s the perfect starting point.  It gives support, lets them know what the right answer is (errorless learning), and is easily faded as you proceed.  Woo-hoo the child when he/she tries to imitate what you’ve modeled.  Any attempt to speak is worth gold at this level because the goal is to get them vocalizing with intention.  It may not resemble the target modeled sound that you made, but hey- how good did you look the first time you tried to roller blade, ice skate, or surf???

To work on 1 to 3-word sentences, the foundation looks the same.  PROMPT, MODEL, PRAISE, MODEL, PRAISE repeat.  This might look like the following exchange.  The child’s utterances are in parenthesis.

“Look at this one.  What’s he called?  (sheep)  That’s right!!  A sheep.  Tell me “I see sheep.”  (sheep) Good try.  Let’s try “see sheep” (see sheep)  YES!!  See sheep (see sheep).  Awesome, you’re a rockstar!”

The types of sentences you can target are expository (It’s a sheep) or interrogative.  I like working interrogatives into my receptive task of finding the animal in the constructed puzzle.   It looks like this:

“Can you find the dragonfly? Let’s call him.  Dragonfly, where are you?”  Depending on the child and his/her skills, answers may range from (are you?) to (fly, are you?) or (Dragonfly, where are you?).  I’ll incorporate this as many times as I can for speech practice.  I like to teach functional phrases from the get go.  For some reason I have the vision of a small child misplacing his mommy or daddy in a store, unable to find them because he can’t say “where are you?”

Finally, requesting can be targeted with many activities.  The fuzzy puzzle pieces could stay in your box, close to you, or somehow in your control.  Note that in order to request, MOTIVATION MUST BE HIGH.  So if your friend is “meh” interested in the puzzle it might be better to save the requesting for another activity.  Focus instead on hamming up the other targets.

Labor Day Dog

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Lots going on behind the scenes the past two weeks, my apologies!  While I’m bustling about, take a look at some of my recipes here or here.  I leave you with a happy photo and wishes for a safe, enjoyable Labor Day.

Now all Willie needs is a grill like Sabrinut's.

Now all Willie needs is a grill like Sabrinut’s.

Coming Soon, The Holistic Interviews: Speech Therapy and Complimentary and Alternative Medicine

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I am ABSOLUTELY STOKED.  Yes, I said stoked.  Enthusiastic beyond words, exhilarated and excited about something new.  What’s new you ask?  WELL.  I am stoked to announce that I will be interviewing an outstanding family chiropractor, specifically regarding pediatric treatment.  Dr. Charles Langrebe of Langrebe Chiropractic  has agreed to collaborate with me to bring YOU answers.  I would like this to be the first in a series of interviews that takes a look at Complimentary and Alternative medical (CAM) professionals dedicated to treating the CAUSE of dysfunction instead of only the symptoms .body

Now what does chiro-practice have to do with speech?  HA.  What does speech have to do with movement?  What does a lion have to do with a hyena?  Am I losing you yet?  Remember the circle of life from Lion King?  It’s all connected.  Brain to gut, ears to  balance, vertebral subluxation to reflux, reflux to feeding disorders.  Ah-HA.

Our bodies are funny like that.  One disruption creates a ripple effect that I, for one, am prone to ignore. That is until I am completely out of sync and crippled.  It’s only then that I begin taking the steps to uncover the root of my aches and pains.  I’ll admit here, though, it’s usually after a few weeks of trying to “band aid” my pain with medicine, or worse, compensating with awkward movement and making things worse.

Health is like spaghetti, not waffles.  Our body’s amazing systems work together as one whole string of noodle, not in separate waffle boxes.  There is abundant research that confirms the interdependence of one system to another.  For example,  our brain and spinal cord (central nervous system, or the supreme overlord) receives and sends all information through the nerves to muscle and regulates our organ systems.   I am grossly oversimplifying, but my point is, there isn’t one part of you that isn’t affected by another part of you.   I have to go off on a tangent here. If you know how a computer works (and I know very little about how one does), there’s a constant scan at some ridiculously fast speed that detects key stokes and user input.  Well, our bodies are still CRAZY FASTER than a computer in detecting, processing, and adjusting to user input.  Can you tell that I am a huge neuro-geek?    I am in awe of the brain.



Now, where was I ?  OH, yeah.  Interconnection.  Body systems,  Information.  Chiropractice.  CAMs.

In 2013, it is not uncommon for families of children with Autism, SID, ADHD, reflux, CAS and other diagnosis to seek out alternatives to the “here’s your script” approach.  From a therapist perspective, information n about CAMs and their benefits is not mainstream,  just yet.  There is not a  largely available and publicized bank of research and information.  You really have to dig.  Instead, I feel like it’s a still a mystery to many.  It’s the 1920’s “speakeasy” that you have to know someone to find its entrance.  As I am a holistic therapist, it’s my passion to be a detective and look at all of the evidence in differential diagnosis AND treatment.  That’s where CAMs come in.  Why not compliment speech therapy with alternative medicine that optimizes progress?  Why would you say, “no thank you, I prefer to draw out my recovery” or “Nah, I don’t want my child’s development to be optimal.”

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.  In anticipation of my pending chat with Dr. Langrebe, what would YOU like to know about chiropractice and pediatrics?

Many People Thinking of Questions


Alcantara, J. (2009, 10). The Safety and Effectiveness of Pediatric Chiropractic: A Survey of Chiropractors and Parents in a Practice-Based Research Network. Science Direct. Retrieved 08, 2013, from

Alcantara, J. (2007, 10). The successful chiropractic care of pediatric patients with chronic constipation: A case series and selective review of the literature. Retrieved 08, 2013, from

Gotlib, A. (2005, 03). Assessing the evidence for the use of chiropractic manipulation in paediatric health conditions: A systematic review. NCBI. Retrieved 08, 2013, from

Meade, T. (1995, 08). Randomised comparison of chiropractic and hospital outpatient management for low back pain: results from extended follow up. BMJ. Retrieved 08, 2013, from

Pickar, J. (2002, 05). Neurophysiological effects of spinal manipulation. Science Direct. Retrieved 08, 2013, from

Ressel, O. (2004, 10). Vertebral Subluxation Correlated with Somatic, Visceral and Immune Complaints: An Analysis of 650 Children Under Chiropractic Care. Sierra Chiropractic. Retrieved 08, 2013, from

Toolbox Tuesday: Speech and Language Therapy with a Bear. WHAT??

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Since I’m doing in-home sessions some days, I have to make the most of what I bring.  I try to pack what I think will be the “perfect” therapy toy.   Truth is that all plans are tossed out the window if my little friend isn’t interested.  Then it’s all about improvisation and expertise with what I might have in my bag of tricks.    It was after one such session that I thought “Hmm, it might be interesting to someone to know how to take a toy on the fly and  turn it into an amazing speech toy.”  Well, maybe not amazing, but pretty cool.  I had planned a session for my friend Gus*.  Gus had no interest in it, but was eyeing a puzzle he happened to have caught sight of at the bottom of my bag.  Therefore, without further delay, I bring you Toolbox Tuesday.

Today’s challenge?   one small wooden treasure chest and a bear puzzlebear puzzle

Target skill:  Receptive Language (think comprehension) & increasing vocabulary

Place said empty wooden bear puzzle in front of your buddy.

Lay out three faces, describing each (ex.  Here’s happy bear, here is sad bear, and here is angry bear).  Change your voice up- cry for sad bear, smile for happy bear, and make angry eyebrows for angry bear.  Ask your friend to pick which his bear happens to be.  Is he happy, angry or sad today?

Next lay out two articles of puzzle clothing.  I will talk about making this a more difficult task later.  Ask your buddy to “find”, “pick out”, “give Mr. Bear  the ____”.  This is a basic task to get your guy’s language processing center to decipher information and formulate a response.

Making this harder.  If your child has his basics down and is ready for a challenge, you can increase the task complexity by either adding additional clothing pieces to choose from OR increasing the characteristics you are asking him to identify.

For example, if you have a field of two items to choose from, he has a 50% chance of choosing the correct item you’ve asked for.  By adding the third item, there is more information for him to visually process and identify.

Similarly, placing two items of clothing that belong to the same semantic group (ex. 2 shirts or 2 pants) and increasing the target identifiers (the pajama pants) requires a higher level of identification skill.

Once Mr. Bear is fully dressed, talk about his fine outfit with the child!  If he is wearing pajamas, what does your friend think Mr. Bear will do?  If he is in his winter clothes, what does that mean?  Chat Mr. Bear up about where he goes and what he does.

Vocabulary:  Next, you can cover more basic toddler vocabulary:  eyes, nose, ears, mouth, arms, paws (hands), tummy, legs, shoes.  Following is an example of what this would look like:

Ask your guy to show you where Bear’s eyes are.  Make a big fuss when he gets this right, high fives and woo-hoos.  Then ask your child where his eyes are.  Follow it up with your eyes.  You have now practiced finding eyes 3x!  If you want to get crazy, get anyone else in house in on the action.

By now you might be wondering what to do with the little wooden treasure chest.  I like to keep my puzzle pieces hidden as we work through this kind of task.  It eliminates too much info, keeps control of the complexity level (I only take out what I need), and it looks cute.  What kid doesn’t like a treasure chest?  So parents and SLPeeps, what’s in your toolbox?  ooo…. maybe there will be an Iron Therapist show……..







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