Social Pragmatic Disorder vs Autism: What's the Difference?

Social Pragmatic Disorder vs Autism: What’s the Difference?

Despite similarities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is not Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder (SCD). SCD first appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 2013. SCD is a newer discovery and the symptoms of ASD and SCD are similar, even overlapping, yet different.

A person struggling with SCD may have trouble with tones or sharing their thoughts. Speech-language therapy is a main part of treatment. Speech, nonverbal communication, and social cues are the most common problems for individuals.

People with SCD will have trouble understanding the meaning of their interactions. Individuals with autism will experience symptoms common of SCD and have other symptoms.

If you suspect someone you love has SCD, keep reading. This article will outline the signs and treatments of SCD. To learn more about it, let’s start with how it gets misdiagnosed.

Diagnosing SCD vs. ASD

There are many ways to separate Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder from autism. Visits to doctors and speech pathologists will be necessary. Hearing tests and other screenings ensure the person is not misdiagnosed.

People with autism repeat certain behaviors and have disruptive behaviors. Individuals with SCD will not display these behaviors. People with SCD struggle to adjust their communication based on the specific situation.

Collecting information from parents, teachers or significant others is an ongoing process. Interviews, questionnaires and personal observations are examples of the type of information needed. A look at family medical history will provide insight in making an assessment.

ASD Specific Behavioral Signs

There are some consistent signs shared among those along the autism spectrum. Here are the most common:

  • Twirling, jumping, rocking, flipping the hands, headbanging, and other repetitive behavior.
  • Obsession with putting things in order or items having a certain placement.
  • Extreme fixation on rituals and routines.
  • Repeating of sounds, syllables, words and/or phrases in excess.
  • Very preoccupied with specific objects or subjects.
  • Odd responses to sensory stimulation, especially sound, and visual chaos.
  • Doesn’t take part in pretend or make-believe activity.

SCD Behavioral Signs

In comparison, there are some Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder-specific signs. They differ slightly from ASD, but here are some important distinctions:

  • Not responding to people in a way that is understandable.
  • Interrupting others during conversation.
  • May not use gestures such as waving and pointing.
  • Difficulty expressing feelings and emotions.
  • Changing the topic or losing track of what is being discussed.
  • Difficulty using words as needed to make conversation.
  • Trouble making friends and maintaining friendships.
  • Delays in speech or language development which can even include disinterest in talking.

Treatment of SCD and ASD

There are many different types of treatment available. Speech and language therapy is very helpful in the treatment of people with either SCD or ASD. Early diagnosis is also great because it gives the person a headstart.

Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder Treatments

Bear in mind many of the treatments for SCD are also helpful in the treatment of ASD. Treatment should focus on improvements in functional communication skills specific to social situations. A focus on the individual’s needs will also need to take precedent.

Develop tools that will be most beneficial in the person’s daily engagements. In some cases, scripts help the person handle common conversations. These can help identify weaknesses and practice overcoming social roadblocks.

Social interactions need encouragement within and outside of observable settings. A therapist can train family members on a variety of strategies to help with engagement.

Involvement of school staff is likely the best route for children. This will ensure practice and feedback in a variety of social situations is taking place. It’s also important to prevent any bullying situations.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatments

Trial and error, a great team of people and patience will be necessary to properly treat ASD. There are four categories of treatment when dealing with autism.

Treatment of Behavior and Communication

Approaches that help involve structure, organization, direction, and family participation. Below are some specific treatments.

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is popular. ABA comes in several forms but generally speaking, involves tracking and measuring behaviors. Promotion of good behavior and discouragement of bad behavior is the general goal.
  • Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based Approach (DIR) or floortime is another form of treatment. DIR focuses on the development of feelings and relationships. It works for peers, caregivers or family. How the child deals with sensory stimulation like smells and sounds is also addressed.
  • Occupational Therapy teaches everyday skills. Independence is the goal here. Focus can be on getting better at eating, bathing and understanding others
  • Sensory Integration Therapy helps the person handle things like sights, sounds, and smells. This form of therapy is good for people that struggle with touch or noisy environments.
  • Speech Therapy helps to improve a person’s communication skills. This therapy will help the person develop the style of communication best suited for them. Some people may be better at using pictures to communicate or gestures rather than words.

Dietary Approaches

Consult a doctor before trying a dietary approach. Methods used include removing foods that contain gluten, milk, soy and/or sugar from the diet. Vitamin supplements fill in any nutritional gaps and can increase cognitive performance.

There isn’t much scientific support for this method, unfortunately.

Medication

There are medicines that can help with some of the symptoms of ASD. Medication that helps with an inability to focus or even high energy levels may be quite helpful.  Medicines treating seizures and depression have also been effective.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Several treatments falling under this category also fall under dietary approaches. Consult a doctor before beginning any form of alternative medicine or complementary treatment.

Epsom baths, gluten-free diets, and use of natural home products are good practices. These practices have come under controversy because they lack scientific support.

The More You Know

We know this can be a lot to take in. Hopefully, this article has helped with understanding Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder. You may have more questions about SPCD and we’re here to help.

You may even be ready to begin treatment for your child or even a person you provide care. Take a moment to look over our online speech therapy services.

You can always find updated information available on our website. Contact us if you can’t find what the answers on our page. The more we know about SPCD, the better the quality of life we can provide.

How Vocal Therapy Can Treat Vocal Nodules

Frog in Your Throat? How Vocal Therapy Can Treat Vocal Nodules

Speech is one of the greatest abilities we’re given in life. It’s one of the most important and diverse forms of expression which draws people closer together and helps individuals stand up for themselves, too.

Not to mention, for singers and talk show hosts, their voice is how they make their money! If you’re among the talented group of people who can make a living off the way your voice sounds, you need to keep your vocal cords in great shape. Part of this means preventing vocal nodules and carefully treating them if they ever occur.

Here’s a closer look at this condition and how vocal therapy can benefit your cords.

What Are Vocal Nodules?

Vocal nodules are rough growths on the inside of your vocal cords. They typically appear in groups, with each growth ranging between the size of a pinhead and a pea.

These growths are non-cancerous, but they do affect how your voice sounds when you speak and sing. These can also cause strain in your throat, and the pain progresses if not treated.

Vocal nodules occur when the voice has been overworked. This can happen if you’re constantly using it to sing, speak loudly, or yell for a long period of time. They may sometimes appear if a person is a regular smoker or drinker, or if they have a medical condition like hyperthyroidism or sinusitis.

The Benefits of Vocal Therapy

Whatever it is that has caused your vocal nodules to appear, you have to figure out a form of treatment as soon as possible. The longer you let this progress, the harder it will be to make these growths go away. More nodules may appear and the ones you have will continue to grow until you begin treatment.

Before you jump into surgery, though, consider all the benefits vocal therapy can offer you. The 5 biggest benefits of vocal therapy for vocal nodules are listed below.

1. Enjoy a Non-Invasive Form of Treatment

Getting surgery is not exactly the easiest thing to go through. It’s a scary process that involves a lot of intricate medical details.

Not to mention, it may take some time to find the right surgeon who understands your unique needs and is readily available to perform the operation. This prolongs your treatment and creates a lot of unnecessary stress. Then, there’s also the recovery process to deal with which further sets you back from performing again.

2. Save Money and Time

Vocal therapy is readily available to you as soon as you decide to take this approach to treatment. It’s not as expensive as surgery and it’s provided via both online and in-person services.

Whichever approach you decide, you’ll be well on your way to treating your vocal nodules as opposed to schedule doctors appointments. This is the more cost-effective form of treatment and it gives you the most value for the time you’ll be investing in taking care of your voice.

3. Learn More About How Your Voice Works

Another benefit of vocal therapy is that it actually teaches you about how your voice works.

When you perform various vocal exercises and work with a specialist, you become much more aware of the things you do with your voice every single day. You start learning about how to take better care of your voice and to be smarter in the way you use it.

This improves your likelihood of preventing future vocal nodules. It’s an empowering form of treatment that not only makes your current vocal nodules go away but enhances the long-term health of your voice.

4. Discover At-Home Treatments You Can Do on Your Own

As you work with a vocal therapist, you’ll start to pick up on habits that you can do on your own time. The at-home exercises and natural treatment suggestions they give you eventually become a part of your day to day routine. Before you know it, your nodules will be gone and you’ll be able to care for your voice much better than before.

5. Improve Your Voice’s Strength and Power

With everything you learn from a vocal therapist, don’t be surprised if your voice’s strength and power improve. This is arguably the best benefit of all.

When you take the time to treat your vocal nodules naturally, you’re conditioning your voice to work better. This minimizes how much strain is put on it between your work and personal life. It makes it easier to use your voice when singing high notes and talking a lot throughout the day.

Before you know it, you’ll be hitting new notes and being able to perform better without working as hard as you used to. This will transform the way you enjoy what you do – and how well you do it.

Start Treating Your Vocal Nodules Today!

You can read about the benefits of vocal therapy all you want. But, it’s only when you start to put in the work that you’ll begin to notice the differences in your voice.

It’s worth learning more about how your vocal cords work and the best ways to take care of them whether you’ve already been diagnosed with vocal nodules or not. In fact, the smartest form of treatment against vocal nodules is prevention!

Start learning how to strengthen your voice today so you don’t have to worry about vocal nodules tomorrow. Click here to access all the vocal therapy you need to protect your beautiful, money-making voice.

 

 

Communication Skills: Speech Therapy as a Treatment for Dementia

Communication Skills: Speech Therapy as a Treatment for Dementia

Each year, there are 9.9 million new cases of dementia. This disorder poses financial strife for both patients and our health care systems. Its economic impact is huge- the fight against dementia costs nearly $818 billion per year.

Many patients opt for rehabilitation or occupational therapy, in addition to cognition-enhancing medication. An increasingly popular option of the treatment for dementia is speech therapy.

Learning how to effectively communicate with others is imperative for dementia patients. But, speech therapy doesn’t just treat lost speech and language function, as many think.

It also improves memory loss deficits and many other cognitive functions. Let’s take a further look into why speech therapy is a viable treatment option.

What is Speech Therapy?

At its core, speech therapy is an intervention service focused on improving both verbal and non-verbal language. There are two basic components that a speech pathologist teaches.

  1. Addressing articulation, fluency, and voice-volume recognition through mouth coordination
  2. How to use and express language through a variety of traditional and alternative communication forms (i.e. written, body, sign, social media, computer, etc.)

Dementia patients tend to seek speech therapy to improve their current functions. It’s common for speech-related issues to progress with the onset of dementia.

But, in some instances, patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias speak just fine. They still often seek an individualized therapy to combat their cognitive deficits.

Stages of Dementia

Before we discuss the benefits of speech therapy, let’s look at the three stages of dementia.

Early Stage

Gradual confusion and mood/personality changes mark the early signs of dementia. It’s common for patients to become irritable or frustrated over unusual things. You also may notice your loved one to develop anxious and/or antisocial tendencies.

Routine chores become far more taxing, as initiative slowly declines. Not only does it take longer for patients to complete tasks, but they’re also less focused to finish.

Patients tend to get lost more easily, so going out in public also becomes more challenging. You may also notice your loved one is commonly misplacing their personal items. They could accuse others of stealing or hiding and grow more irritable.

Middle Stage

The middle stage of dementia is more of an ongoing progression of early symptoms. You’ll notice their confusion is much more evident than before. Their memory loss has heightened, so they’re forgetting even the most recent events.

Dementia symptoms are much more prevalent in the late afternoons and nighttime. You may find your loved one struggles more right before bed. It’s common for them to be suspicious, irritable, fidgety, and restless.

They start forgetting who their family members and close friends are in this stage. They may be more talkative towards strangers or mistake strangers as someone they know.

Final Stage

The final stage of dementia is very distressing for both patients and caretakers. Most patients have lost the ability to recognize those closest to them. They may even not recognize themselves in the mirror.

Without treatment, patients may lose the ability to communicate with others. You’ll notice they hardly use words to interact, but rather groans, moans, and screams.

Even with a good diet, it’s common for them to lose weight. They grow self-conscious about their eating habits because they’re more fidgety and shaky. They may also sleep more than usual.

Speech Therapy Treatment for Dementia

Dementia affects a variety of cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and visual perception. This accumulation of symptoms often leads to impaired judgment, disorientation, and even depression.

Speech therapy is a great way for patients to maintain a level of independence for longer. It helps stimulate cognitive ability through activities related to the underlying cognitive domain.

Individuals working with a speech pathologist learn how to compensate for their deficits. They learn to modify their environment, which is crucial. This helps them adapt to the ongoing cognitive changes caused by dementia.

There are several different memory regurgitation techniques such as spaced retrieval, errorless learning. Many dementia patients also rely on the use of memory Books and other types of external memory aids.

Speech-language pathologists can also assess how a patient eats, drinks, and swallows. If there appears to be any dysfunction, they’ll offer management strategies for mealtime.

They can also gauge the individual’s capacity to consent to treatment and care. Caretakers should rely on this person to communicate relevant information to the patient. This ensures they’re able to process the information as accurate as possible.

Caregivers of Dementia Patients

If you care for someone with dementia, you could also learn quite a bit from a speech therapist. They offer support to caretakers who wish to learn how to manage their loved one’s symptoms.

Learning how to communicate with your loved one can make a world of difference. After all, dementia patients’ behavior is hardly random. It’s often triggered by specific conditions related to their direct environment.

Improved communication among patient and caretaker can also lead to a better quality of life on both ends. It minimizes stress and anxiety and fosters a stronger sense of peer relations.

Final Thoughts on Speech Therapy

Dementia is a heartbreaking condition that claims millions of new victims each year. Patients eventually lose the ability to communicate and use other cognitive functions. That’s why it’s imperative they find the right treatment.

Great Speech offers videoconferencing technology to deliver individualized therapy sessions. Those seeking treatment for dementia no longer have the need to go into an office. They can tap into the power of speech therapy right from their homes.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our team members today!

Speech Therapy Exercises for Remediation of the R Sound

Rip, Rug, Run: Speech Therapy Exercises for Remediation of the R Sound

Does your child have a language disorder? If so, they’re not alone. Approximately 8-9 percent of young children have some kind of speech or language disorder.

One of the most common speech and language disorders a child may experience is an inability to pronounce the /r/ sound correctly. This particular speech impediment is known as rhotacism.

If your child has been having a hard time pronouncing the /r/ sound, these speech therapy exercises can help.

Variations of the /R/ Sound

The “R” sound is a very challenging one. This has to do, in part, with the fact that there are so many different ways in which it can be pronounced. It all depends on that letters with which it’s combined.

There are actually 32 different /r/ allophones (sounds) and 21 different /r/ phonemes (collections of sounds).

Clearly, there’s a lot of room for error.

The good news, though, is that your child likely doesn’t have a problem pronouncing all of these different variations of the /r/ sound.

They might be fine with consonant blends (words like free or cream) but struggle with vocalic /r/ sounds (words like are or air).

Before you start teaching them speech therapy exercises that will help them with their pronunciation, it’s important to do some screening to figure out which variations are difficult for them.

You can test how your child pronounces the basic /r/ vocalizations by seeing how they pronounce the following types of /r/ sounds:

  • /ar/
  • /air/
  • /ear/
  • /ire/
  • /or/
  • /er/
  • /rl/
  • the letter /r/ by itself

You can also schedule an evaluation with a speech therapist for a full assessment to figure out which sounds your child needs help with.

Start and End with Success 

During their initial screening or test, you’ll likely identify some /r/ words that your child can pronounce correctly.

Make a list of these words. This will become your child’s warm-up list. They should say these words at the beginning of each practice session.

When your child pronounces these words, have they pay attention to the way their jaw, tongue, and mouth move. Have them listen back to their pronunciations, too. That way, they can learn to distinguish between correct and incorrect /r/ sounds.

You also ought to have your child say these words at the end of their practice session. That way, even if they’ve had a particularly difficult time, they still end the session with a victory.

Connect /R/ to a Vowel Sound 

Now, let’s get into some specific exercises you can do with your child to help them improve.

It’s often easier to pronounce the /r/ sound when it’s connected to a vowel sound.

Have your child start the with a vowel sound like “eee.” Have them hold it for a few seconds, the slowly teach them to combine with the /r/ sound. By drawing it out this way, they’ll soon learn to combine the two sounds and turn an /e/ sound into an /r/ sound.

Repeat this exercise with all the other vowel sounds (long, short, etc.).

Use Visual Cues

It can also help to give your child visual cues to teach them how to pronounce the /r/ sound properly. In order to pronounce the /r/ sound, they will need to change the way they move their tongue. Obviously, this is easier said than done.

One way to teach your child the proper tongue movement is to use your arm to demonstrate.

For example, extend your arm in front of you, then pull it up and in toward the body. Explain to your child that this is the same movement their tongue should make when they’re trying to pronounce the /r/ sound.

Make it Fun

If you want your child to stick with these speech therapy exercises long enough to see results, you need to find ways to make it fun.

Luckily, the /r/ sound is a fun one to learn.

Try having your child pretend they’re an animal. They can practice growling like a bear or roaring like a lion to work on their /r/ sounds in a fun and entertaining way.

You can also play pirates and have them work on their “argh” sound while wearing an eye patch. The options are endless!

Tips for Encouraging Kids to Practice

There are lots of benefits that come with practicing speech therapy exercises.

But, in order to see improvement, it’s important to encourage your child to practice regularly. They won’t see much progress if they only work on these exercises during their speech therapy sessions.

Of course, getting kids to practice is easier said than done. This is especially true when you’re practicing something difficult like changing the way you speak.

So, how do you get your child to practice their speech therapy exercises? Start by giving these tips a try:

  • Use the TV as a tool: When your child is watching TV or a movie, have them listen to what the characters are saying and repeat words or phrases back to you.
  • Find learning opportunities in everyday tasks: When you’re eating out at a restaurant or shopping for groceries, look for opportunities for them practice (have them point out the grapes or raspberries).
  • Combine practice with something else they enjoy: Try pairing these exercises with something fun, like kicking a soccer ball or playing with Legos.

Don’t underestimate the benefit of offering rewards, either.

Sometimes, you just have to offer your child something in order for them to practice. Maybe they can earn a piece of a toy after every practice session or points they can cash in later for a larger prize.

Want to Learn More Speech Therapy Exercises? 

These speech therapy exercises are highly effective for teaching children to pronounce the “R” sound correctly. Do want to learn more helpful exercises? If so, be sure to contact us at Great Speech today.

Schedule a free consultation and learn how our services can help your child improve their speech and pronunciation.

Our services aren’t just for children, either. We offer speech therapy services for a wide range of people, including those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, those looking for accent modification, and those who are recovering from traumatic brain injuries.

 

Finding Your Voice Again: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury

Finding Your Voice Again: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury is getting more notoriety these days now that we know more about the brain, concussions and the risk of such injuries. In recent years, there were close to 3 million emergency room cases related to brain injuries.

If you happen to suffer one of these injuries, it’s important that you work hard to heal up and get your full cognitive function back. In this regard, you will want to use the tips below to guide you.

Get Speech Therapy After a Traumatic Brain Injury

One of the biggest dangers of traumatic brain injury is the fact that your speech and communication capability may start to slip.

You may deal with some clarity issues or temporarily lose your ability to communicate as a whole. In order to bounce back from such an injury, speech therapy might be just what the doctor ordered.

This can help you not only formulate words and conversations, but also formulate thought.

After dealing with an injury, you may have trouble finding the right words or getting them out. You might also have some difficulty following conversations or understanding what others are talking about.

When you get full speech therapy, you’ll gain these faculties back, in addition to working on your reading, writing and listening skills.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

Since a traumatic brain injury makes it difficult to focus and formulate thought, you should look into mindfulness meditation.

You will be able to build cognitive function and create neural pathways by regularly engaging in meditation each day. There are lots of different ways to meditate, so do your due diligence to make sure that you are able to find the practice of meditation that works for you.

For instance, some forms of meditation include simply focusing on your breathing, while others require you to feel into your body and make note of sensations as they come and go.

This is an incredible exercise for your brain that you can carry out each and every day. It will also help you to promote a sense of calm and allow you to get the most out of your recovery as a whole.

Further, meditation can also help to build faith and inspiration, which will be necessary on your road to recovery.

Do Some Jaw Exercises Regularly

Jaw, tongue and lip exercises are incredibly important for your recovery.

When you rebuild this muscle memory and motor skill, you will be in a great position to communicate. This is necessary since many people even have trouble chewing and eating after dealing with an injury.

The sooner you are able to get these skills back on track, the sooner you will gain your full autonomy. There are lots of exercises that your speech therapist or physical therapist can help you with, so make sure that you acquire the tools and practice these exercises on a daily basis.

Add Yoga to Your Life

Practising yoga after a brain injury will not only help you physically, it will also help your brain.

People that use yoga in their recovery build their body and their brain at the same time since the practice builds new connections and promotes balance. You will be better able to get back on your feet and also sharpen your thinking skills.

You can take advantage of some yoga therapy that is specifically catered to recovering from a brain injury to make sure that you are on the path for a full recovery.

Continuously Challenge Your Brain

The best thing you can do after a brain injury is exercise your brain day in and day out.

When you give yourself daily brain challenges, it’ll sharpen your mind and build your reflexes and cognitive thinking. This is why so many people incorporate chess into their recovery while they are going through rehab.

Practising chess every day will help you with neurorehabilitation and will let you bridge the gap in your thinking process. This is a life skill that will carry you far since games like chess are also great for long-term cognitive thought.

Build Your Body to Full Health

Simply put, when you work your body, it is great for your mind.

If your body isn’t healthy, it’ll be difficult for your brain to fire on all cylinders. Get a physical therapist that will work you out, while protecting your safety and making sure that you are constantly pushing yourself.

Exercise is great for the brain because it produces endorphins and can help you think more clearly as a whole.

Fix Your Nutrition as You Heal

Taking the time to get your nutrition under control will help with your recovery.

Eat healthy brain foods, like green vegetables and mushrooms, so that you can think clearly and avoid brain fog. You should also drink lots of water since a dehydrated brain isn’t a functioning brain.

Make sure that you are also avoiding sugary foods, processed food, and high fructose corn syrup. It adversely affects your brain health and will also dampen your recovery efforts.

Bounce Back From Your Traumatic Brain Injury

So there you have it. If you suffer a traumatic brain injury, all is definitely not lost.

You simply need a recovery plan that works, and you can start by using the tips above. We’d love to help.

To learn more about our speech therapy services and how they can help with your traumatic brain injury recovery, reach out to us today.

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Social Pragmatic Disorder: What you Need to Know About It

If you suspect that your child might have a social pragmatic disorder (or social communication disorder), you probably have a lot of questions.

Social pragmatic communication disorder is a diagnosis, and it’s gone by many different names in the past.

This disorder is characterized by the difficulty with the use of spoken language in socially appropriate ways. Children with SCD may be able to pronounce words and construct sentences, but they will struggle to hold conversations. This can make it difficult to make friends and perform well in school.

Let’s break down SCD as a disorder–and how you can find help.

What Is Social Pragmatic Disorder?

So why is it called social pragmatic disorder? Children with SCD have trouble with pragmatics, which are the underlying and unspoken rules of spoken language. The pragmatics of language include changing the way you speak in different situations, altering the tone or loudness of your voice, and understanding social cues in speech.

Clients with SCD might not understand how to hold a conversation. Some of them might talk too much and interrupt frequently, while others might not talk at all.

People with social pragmatic disorder will often have difficulty mastering these verbal and non-verbal communication skills:

  • Responding to others
  • Reaching language milestones
  • Using gestures (waving, pointing, shaking head)
  • Staying on the same topic
  • Discussing emotions
  • Adjusting speech to fit different people or situations
  • Taking turns when speaking with others
  • Understanding sarcasm
  • Comprehending implicit references
  • Asking relevant questions
  • Making Friends

This has nothing to do with the way the children were raised or how they were taught manners by their parents. For reasons that still aren’t clear, people with social pragmatic disorder struggle to learn how to use language in a socially appropriate way.

How Is It Different from Autism?

In many ways, this difficulty to communicate can overlap with signs of autism. Many medical professionals might diagnose children with SCD with autism. However, new research has shown that some children with SCD don’t show any signs of autism–and therefore, they’re not getting the right treatment.

Social pragmatic disorder was only recognized as an official diagnosis in 2013. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) added it to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in an effort to bring light to the condition. For years it was considered a symptom of language impairment, a sign of autism spectrum disorder, or a different developmental disorder.

Autism also involves difficulty with social communication, but it also involves restricted and/or repetitive behaviors. Before a diagnosis of SCD is reached, an evaluation must rule out autism.

Making this distinction can be difficult because many behaviors overlap between autism and SCD. In fact, SCD can occur alongside other disorders including learning disabilities, speech sound disorder, and ADHD. You should always consult a professional for an official diagnosis.

What Causes Social Pragmatic Disorder?

It’s not clear exactly what causes social pragmatic communication disorder. These kinds of disorders occur in about 5 to 15 children per 10,000 births–but it’s unclear how many of these include SCD as a diagnosis. Because it overlaps with so many other disorders, the cause and prevalence of SCD are unknown.

It’s thought to be a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the brain’s right hemisphere. This may make it more difficult for individuals to process both verbal and visual information at the same time. It may also be related to challenges with executive functioning.

What Are the Next Steps If Your Child Is Diagnosed?

Symptoms are most often present in early childhood, but they may not be recognized until years later. If you think your child exhibits signs of SCD, take them to a physician or a psychologist for an official diagnosis.

You can also seek out a speech-language psychologist, or a speech therapist. They will do the following:

  • Observe your child at home or in the classroom
  • Interview the parents and teacher of the child
  • Perform one-on-one testing to assess communication and language skills

The goal of this testing is to analyze your child’s verbal and non-verbal communication in different settings. This will help identify whether these skills are underdeveloped or affecting your child’s ability to learn and form relationships with others.

Once you’ve gotten an official diagnosis, you can start thinking about treatment for social communication disorders.

Treatment plans can include a speech therapist to work one-on-one with your child to teach them strategies and reinforce their skills. You can also work with your child’s school to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which can include speech therapy, skills training, and in-class support or accommodations.

Activities You Can Do at Home

While getting professional help is the best step to move forward, there’s more that you can do at home to encourage social communication skills. Just make sure that you’re discussing goals with your child’s therapist and guiding your activities to meet those goals. Here are a few examples:

Taking Turns

Play some games that help your child practice taking turns. This could be as simple as tossing a ball back and forth or repeating words or sounds. Start with just you and your child before you move on to other people.

Reading

Read books and stories aloud to your child. Encourage them to engage with the material by asking open-ended questions like: “What do you think about what this character did?” Focus on emotions or feelings, such as what a character in a story might be feeling and why they feel this way.

Play Dates

Plan some structured play dates for your child. You can begin with just one friend at a time and set a time limit. Later on, you can introduce more friends or increase the length.

Use Visual Support

Children with SCD may have trouble understanding your verbal or non-verbal cues. Try using visual aids to help set expectations or rules.

What You Need to Know About Social Pragmatic Disorder

If your child has social pragmatic disorder, there’s a lot you can do to help them develop their communication disorders. It’s important that you know what to expect–and get your child to a professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Looking for more resources to get your child on track? Contact us to learn more about speech therapy.

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6 Tips on How to Improve Reading Comprehension in Your Child

Any child can read a book, but it takes good comprehension skills to be able to absorb and retain the information. If your child has this skill, it will carry them through their entire school career, from preschool to college. It also means they are less likely to get bored with reading.

Sometimes children struggle with this a little bit and it’s up to parents and teachers to work as a team to get them on the right track. Here are 6 tips on how to improve reading comprehension and ensure that your child won’t just be reading books, but thoroughly enjoying them and increasing their vocabulary.

  1. Point Out Connections

Many parents elect to read out loud with their children. This opens up great learning opportunities. One of those opportunities is to make connections.

For example, if you’re reading a book with your child about a beach, and you and the family have been to the beach on vacation, you can bring that up. The child will be able to make a connection about the reading and identify with it a bit more.

You can talk a little bit about the memories you had there, or what the beach looked like. This will make the child more focused on the reading and helps with improving reading comprehension.

  1. Stop and Ask Questions Often

When you’re reading out loud with your children, you can stop and ask questions. This will encourage the children to backtrack and reread to search for answers. It will also leave them wondering about the content they just read.

Allow them to ask you questions and discuss possible answers, as this helps with improving reading comprehension.

If your children are reading a book by themselves, you can still be involved and ask them a question. When you notice your children reading a new book, you should ask them questions about it. This will make them really think about what they’ve read so far so they can give you satisfying answers.

The questions should cause them to think. For example, asking them what they enjoy about a book will make them think of common themes in the story.

Ask them what’s going on in the book because then they will have to think of parts that they read recently and revisit them to tell you. When they’ve finished the book, ask them if it ended the way they thought it would, or to summarize it.

  1. Make Inferences

To make inferences is to guess how you think the story will go based on the clues it’s given you so far. For example, if character A is blushing while talking to character B, we can infer that A has feelings for B. You may guess that they will get together before the end of the story.

Don’t be afraid to make these inferences out loud so your child can make their own. Respond to their inferences as they would yours. This stimulates conversation and will help the child pay closer attention to the plot and characters.

  1. Have the Child Read Out Loud

When a child reads out loud they read a bit slower which allows them to really take in the information that they are reading. Also, many people learn easier when they aren’t only seeing information but listening to it as well.

Even as adults we tend to catch things that we wouldn’t when hearing it aloud. This same idea works for a child. Listen to the child read, and help out when you can.

By doing the things we’ve listed so far while reading out loud, you will stimulate learning and change the way the child reads. They may even find a lot more enjoyment from it.

  1. Find the Right Reading Material

It’s important that your child is reading books that are on their reading level. If they stumble on words that are too big for them, they may become frustrated, and the reading won’t be enjoyable. Not only will the reading not be enjoyable, but the frequent stops they will have to make will prevent them from absorbing the information.

On the flipside of this, if the reading is too easy for the child, they will become bored because they aren’t being given a proper challenge.

  1. Talk to Their Teacher

Some children struggle with reading comprehension more than others. If you notice your child isn’t grasping it, don’t be afraid to schedule a meeting with their teacher. Together, you might be able to come up with a plan to help them.

This doesn’t end with reading comprehension.

If you notice that your child really enjoys reading, but isn’t doing as well in other subjects, you can meet with the teacher to find out what they are currently studying.

For example, if your child is failing in science, you can ask the teacher what subject they are covering in their science class at the moment. Get a book that revolves around this subject but is interesting to read. The child might be able to understand the information better this way.

Steps on How to Improve Reading Comprehension

Taking these steps on how to improve reading comprehension will help open new doors for your child. They will be able to take this skill and soar to new heights throughout their entire educational career. All it takes is reading with them.

Are you ready for your child to start back school? Visit our blog for great tips for back to school success.

How You Can Improve Executive Functioning Skills in Kids with ADHD

How You Can Improve Executive Functioning Skills in Kids with ADHD

Children with ADHD struggle with their impulse control. They can often be disorganized and struggle with following any tasks that are made up of many steps. This can translate into problems at school, affect friendships and harm their career prospects in the longer term.

The technical term for the skills they are lacking is executive functioning skills; sometimes just called executive function or executive skills. These skills are important for a successful and independent life. So how can we help our children master these?

What Are Executive Functioning Skills?

Executive Functioning Skills are related to self-regulation. These are the skills that help with planning, focus, recollecting the steps in a complicated process, and coping with having multiple things to do at the same time.

These skills are vital to organizing yourself, which becomes more important as children get older and are expected to manage more of their lives. Poor executive skills lead to forgotten or late homework, getting lost in school, and forgetting social engagements. If you think your child might have an executive functioning problem, more signs of the disorder are outlined in this article.

The good news is that improving executive function is possible. With a combination of executive functioning interventions, to make life easier, and executive functioning skills training, you can help your child to do more for themselves.

How to Improve Executive Function

Teaching executive functioning skills is something that can be done at any age and can continue through until adulthood. While these skills may not come naturally to a child with ADHD or some other learning disorders, they can be acquired and coping strategies can be adopted to help set your child up for success.

These exercises work to improve performance in three areas that are important for executive function; working memory, impulse control, and cognitive flexibility. Working memory helps with retaining the different steps needed to complete a task. Impulse control is what stops a child doing something they know they shouldn’t. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to change mental gears quickly.

Games for Toddlers

Pat-a-cake and other songs and rhymes help babies to develop their working memory. As the songs are repeated, so they learn what to expect. Songs with a surprise ending, such as ‘Round and round the garden,’ which ends with a tickle are particularly well received.

Copying games help with impulse control. If you can come up with a game, for example, taking turns to put toy animals into a zoo scene helps them to master self-control.

Younger Children

Usually, it is when children get to school that challenges with executive function are noticed. But this is also a great time to begin interventions. For example, storytelling can be a powerful tool in helping children to improve their working memory and cognitive flexibility.

Telling a story, or recalling what happened in their day so far, means that they need to get events in order and tell them in a logical fashion. If you tell a story together, taking it in turns to decide what comes next, you are working on both impulse control too.

To help with focus, play a version of musical statues where the pose of the statue is agreed ahead of time. Get the children dancing to fast music, then when it stops they have to concentrate in order to stop and get into the same pose as the statue very quickly.

Older Children

Board games and card games are helpful as children get older. Taking turns helps to improve impulse control, and the need to remember the rules; for example, what happens when you land on a snake or a ladder and apply them correctly challenges their working memory.

Sport and other physical activity can be useful too. Not only does it burn off some energy, but it also gives your child the opportunity to work together. That helps them with working memory and cognitive flexibility. Perhaps more importantly, it can improve social relationships and self-confidence, too. If your child isn’t sporty, don’t worry. The same is true of learning to play an instrument or singing in a choir.

At this age, some children begin using a smartphone or tablet computer more often. There are many apps available which can help to work on executive function.

Teenagers

As children grow up to become teenagers, it’s important to start supporting them to develop their own skills rather than trying to do things for them. When they go to college or get a job, you won’t be able to support them in the same way that you have done through their time in school.

Learning organizational skills can be done by working on a practical project. Choose something your child would like to achieve, whether that is college applications or a party for their birthday. Work with them on the plans, but try and let them take the lead. Only nudge when you really need to make sure that things happen.

Older children can be encouraged to ‘self-talk’ when they are struggling with impulse control. In a way, they act as their own parent. When faced with temptation, they mentally explain to themselves why following that impulse is a bad idea. Explaining this process and encouraging your child to find their own way to implement it can be very powerful.

Sport, music and other group activities remain important for this age group. The teen years can be very confusing and isolating, so helping your child to find their clan whether that’s the football team, the cinema club or something else entirely is really useful.

How We Can Help

Speech and Language disorders often go hand in hand with ADHD, and speech therapy can be a valuable part of the process in dealing with this. But if the thought of packing more appointments into your week gives you a headache, you’ll be glad to know that online speech therapy is just as effective as face to face work.

If you have any questions about how we can help you and your child, with executive functioning skills or anything else, please get in touch today.

Mastering Reading for Academic and Life Success, online speech therapy

Read to Succeed: Mastering Reading for Academic and Life Success

“There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book. “

—Frank Serafini, author

 

Kids generally learn to read until third grade. After third grade, they read to learn.

Reading is the basis of learning and the benefits are many. On a practical level, reading helps us navigate life. Following recipes, taking medications and obeying written traffic signs all require the ability to literally read and understand what we are seeing. On a more cerebral level, reading advances our mind, teaches us language skills, expands our vocabulary, builds our listening skills and develops our imagination and creativity.

Now just imagine a child who is experiencing difficulty reading.

Research has proven that struggling with reading is not a sign of a lack of intelligence. Nor should children who they be labeled as lazy or unmotivated. Often, they have just fallen through the cracks. Sometimes it is simply a matter of finding the right approach.

 

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

—Frederick Douglass, escaped slave, activist and abolitionist leader

 

Literacy extends to all academic areas, including math, where understanding the word problems are as essential as computing the correct numerical answer.

Difficulty reading not only affects academic abilities but also self-esteem. When reading skills are deficient, grades may suffer despite average or above average intelligence and self-confidence can go right down the tubes.

Our Reading Skills Mastery Program

has been developed to address grade-specific reading (literacy) skills and strategies. Our therapists are trained to assess each student and identify the issues before implementing a monthly individualized program tailored to the age of the child, the amount of intervention required, and the goals set in the initial session. Each session is 45 minutes with a minimum of three sessions per week.

 

From helping children acquire and master basic reading and writing skills to teaching compensatory strategies, decoding skills, essay writing and note taking, the Great Speech Reading Skills Mastery Program focuses on identifying missing skill sets and creating a targeted program using the check list below.

Literacy Skills:

  • Recognition and understanding of letters and letter sounds
  • Reading comprehension
  • Reading accuracy and fluency Recognition and use of letters and letters sounds
  • Learning and application of phonics rules
  • Automatic recognition and reading of sight words
  • Word attack skills (how to read an unfamiliar word)
  • Word study (root, suffix, etc.)
  • Reading speed and accuracy

Writing Skills:

  • Handwriting or typing of letters
  • Learning and applying spelling rules and patterns
  • Learning different writing styles and purposes (e.g., persuasive, descriptive, etc.)
  • Using various aids when writing (e.g., graphic organizers)
  • Learning and applying planning/organization strategies (e.g., outline, brainstorm, timelines, etc.)

Vocabulary Skills:

  • Definitions
  • Word Relationships (compound words, antonyms, synonyms)
  • Contextual Word Lists
  • Derivational Word Lists
  • Semantic Mapping and Feature Analysis

 

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”

 – Victor Hugo, French poet and novelist

Lighting the fire and keeping the spark alive is one of our areas of expertise. Word power is brain power and has been linked to improved health, socioeconomic status and creativity.  We are proud of the success of those who have enrolled in our Reading Skills Mastery Program and would love to provide services to those who are experiencing academic difficulties due to poor or limited reading skills.

Request a complimentary screening today and ask how we can help!

Vocal Nodules: What They Are and How to Deal with Them

Vocal Nodules: What They Are and How to Deal with Them

Approximately 7.6 percent of the U.S. adult population (17.9 million people) suffers from some kind of voice disorder.

There are many different voice disorders one can be diagnosed with, but vocal nodules are one of the most common.

If you suspect you have vocal nodules, keep reading to learn more about the condition and how to deal with it.

What are Vocal Nodules?

Your vocal folds are located inside your larynx, also known as your voice box. When you speak, air moves from the lungs through the vocal folds and into the mouth. The air causes these folds to vibrate and produce sound.

Nodules are benign growths that form on your vocal folds. Over time, if they’re not treated, these nodules can become larger and stiffer. They can also become harder, similar to the way a blister becomes a hard callous.

Vocal nodules go by many different names, including screamer’s nodule, vocal cord polyps, and vocal fold nodules.

Symptoms of Vocal Nodules

The symptoms of nodules are similar to the symptoms associated with many other voice disorders.

Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include:

  • A “rough,” “scratchy,” or hoarse voice
  • A “breathy” tone
  • Shooting pain that extends from ear to ear
  • Feeling as though you have a lump in your throat
  • Pain in the neck
  • Vocal and body fatigue

Many people also experience an increased ability to change pitch when they are speaking or singing.

Vocal Nodule Risk Factors

Anyone can develop nodules on their vocal folds. But, certain individuals are more prone to them than others.

Nodules affect people of all ages, but they seem to occur more frequently in adult females.

People who suffer from the following illnesses are also more likely to be diagnosed with nodules:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as GERD)
  • Hypothyroidism and other thyroid disorders
  • Allergies

Nodules are also common among people who have to use their voice a lot as part of their occupation.

For example, teachers are often diagnosed, as are singers, sports coaches, cheerleaders, and those who work in the media. People who inhale irritants like industrial chemical fumes on a regular basis also face an increased risk.

This condition is also associated with unhealthy behaviors like long-term smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and excessive caffeine intake.

If you do have one or more of these risk factors, that’s not an automatic guarantee that you will be diagnosed with vocal nodules. But, you made need to take extra steps — such as avoiding unhealthy behaviors like smoking — to prevent nodules from forming on your vocal folds.

Preventing Vocal Nodules

The most important thing you can do to prevent nodules from forming on your vocal folds is to avoid unhealthy behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption, etc.) that can contribute to them.

It’s also important to manage health conditions that are associated with an increased risk of developing nodules. Some specific ways you can manage these conditions include:

  • Taking medications and making lifestyle changes to manage GERD
  • Treating thyroid disorders with medication and lifestyle changes
  • Taking allergy medication regularly and avoiding allergens as much as possible

Reducing stress is also important for keeping nodules at bay. You may also want to try and control the volume of your voice as much as possible. Avoid talking too loudly or shouting unnecessarily.

When Should You Visit Your Doctor?

If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of vocal nodules for more than 2-3 weeks, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

If they think you have nodules on your vocal folds, they may recommend you visit an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) or speech-language pathologist (also known as a speech therapist) to get to the bottom of your issues.

When you visit a doctor or speech-language pathologist, they’ll listen to the way your voice sounds and ask you to change your pitch and volume. They’ll also likely listen to see how long you can keep talking before you lose your voice.

Your doctor may also look at your throat to watch the way your vocal folds move. They’ll do this by putting an endoscope in the mouth along with a flashing light, or stroboscope.

This will help them determine whether or not there are nodules present on their vocal folds.

How to Treat Vocal Nodules

If your doctor diagnoses you with nodules, they’ll likely look for the root cause of the condition.

If they believe that another medical condition caused the nodules to develop, they’ll likely recommend medication or other treatments to help you better manage your symptoms and allow your nodules to heal.

Your doctor will also likely recommend reducing stress and giving up behaviors like smoking or excessive alcohol consumption that tend to cause or make nodules worse.

Your doctor may also suggest that you work with a speech-language pathologist. They can help you improve the way you speak and teach you strategies that will stop you from causing additional damage to your vocal folds.

When is Surgery Required?

If your nodules are very large or have been present for a long time, you may need to have surgery to have them removed.

During this procedure, a surgeon will use fine surgical instruments or tools like lasers to carefully remove the nodules. Once the surgery is complete, you’ll need to rest your voice as much as possible and spend a few months using it only in a limited capacity.

After the surgery, you’ll likely need to work with a speech-language pathologist to learn how to avoid abusing your voice and help you recover properly from the surgery.

If you don’t prioritize recovery after your surgery, you may end up dealing with permanent voice changes.

Do You Need a Speech Therapist?

Are you interested in working with a speech therapist to treat your vocal nodules or recover properly from your surgery? Do you want to work with a professional without having to leave your house?

If so, you might want to consider online speech therapy.

Contact us at Great Speech today to schedule a free consultation and find out whether or not our services are right for you.