May 21, 2024
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May 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Getting Back on the Path to Better Communication

Since we began providing speech and language services 22 years ago, we have treated over 2,500 clients of all ages, weathering challenges and learning along the way. Most of our staff members have been with us for almost 20 years and we are all continually brainstorming, and growing as professionals. Even during COVID-19, our staff met via Zoom and took numerous courses online, since we could not meet in person.

After the initial COVID shutdown, we were excited to reopen our office on July 1, 2020, offering services both in person and on Zoom. We then moved to a new suite in our building in June 2021, and had a wonderful summer, but we faced another challenge when our office was flooded by Hurricane Ida on Sept. 1, 2021. We pivoted yet again, working out of our homes, schools, backyards, garages, etc., until our beautiful, newly renovated office was ready. We were delighted to move back in and reopen in January 2022.

The pandemic changed everyone in different ways. Together with the ever-increasing reliance on texts, emails, social media and the pressure of modern life on every family member, we are seeing significant changes in children’s communication patterns. The disruption of regular in-classroom learning over the past two years has taken a toll on many children’s learning abilities, impeding mastery of both skills and information, as well as focusing and executive functioning abilities. So many of our children have suffered from the lack of social interaction, leading to increased anxiety and underdeveloped social and pragmatic language skills. Many children’s abilities to understand what they hear and read and to express themselves, both verbally and in writing, have regressed. These areas of weakness affect children’s ability to function at home, in the community, and in the classroom, and often exacerbate any existing academic problems. In addition, and perhaps even more obviously, face masks have not helped the communication situation. Without the usual visual and facial cues, children are having increased difficulty making themselves understood and understanding others’ non-verbal messages. For many children, their articulation is less precise, resulting in reduced intelligibility.

The good news is that children are resilient. Since the masks have come off, we are beginning to see improvement in overall communication and play skills. While some children have spontaneously regained the natural rhythm of communication, others could benefit from simple, fun activities that you, as parents, can do at home in order to ease your child back into more effective communication. Try to incorporate one or two of these into your routine each day. As you know, there’s nothing like play in a natural environment to help children learn.

  • Prepare a scavenger hunt either indoors or outdoors. Create clues, using pictures for young children and written clues for older kids. Play “I Spy” as you walk around.
  • Create a puppet show based on a familiar story. Making paper bag puppets, popsicle stick puppets, or sock or mitten puppets is a fun, creative activity
  • Cook together, constantly talking about the ingredients, steps in the process, colors, textures and flavors. Highlight same and different characteristics and use describing words as you talk about what you are doing and seeing.
  • Visit an elderly or sick neighbor. You might want to bring them a treat or an art project that your child creates. Before you go, talk about possible topics your child could share or ask them about.
  • Put on a talent show. Involve as many family members and/or friends as you can. Encourage your child to prepare a new skill like a magic or card trick, learn a new song or dance or tell jokes.
  • Word games can be a wonderful way to encourage language, descriptive and social skills. These can include old favorites, such as Bananagrams, crossword puzzles, Zingo, Hedbanz, Guess Who, Anomia, Scrabble or Scrabble Junior and jigsaw puzzles.
  • Have your children take pictures of people, activities, places you go, etc. Have them print them, write captions, make albums and talk about them together.
  • Encourage your children to plan an activity or outing for the family. Have them “be in charge” of the planning, scheduling, preparing, explaining, and the recap afterwards.
  • Read to and with your children. Talk about the stories you read. Go to the library or bookstore and let your child choose whatever books interest them.

Your only limit is the limit of your and your child’s imaginations. Don’t be afraid to get messy. Be spontaneous. Avoid letting devices distract you. Talk about everything. Have fun. Create memories.

The summer is a wonderful time to take advantage of the more relaxed schedule by giving your kids a jump-start on skills they may have missed during the pandemic or since then. Wishing you all a safe, fun and “communicative” summer.

As part of your child’s team, Teaneck Speech and Language Center is always available to evaluate and treat articulation, oral-motor, and language, and social/pragmatic issues. We also offer Orton-Gillingham reading therapy. Freda Attinson, Diane Augelletta, Lea Bronstein, Alyssa Forman, Yael Green, Joanne Kornbluth, Sharon Motechin, Batsheva Preil, VV Ramras, Tammi Schacter, Nadine Walker, and Hallie Wannamaker all look forward to greeting you.

By The Clinicians at Teaneck Speech & Language Center

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