Sensory Integration

Sensory Integration

Does your child demonstrate oversensitivity to certain noises, tastes, smells, or textures? They may be showing signs of sensory defensiveness. Sensory defensiveness is a negative reaction to a stimulus that most people would not perceive as negative. Children with sensory defensiveness show negative reactions to one or more types of sensations (e.g. touch, texture, taste, smell, or sound). Children with sensory defensiveness over-react to sensory input and become easily frustrated and/or bothered. These children may have difficulty processing sensory information. There are four different types of sensory defensiveness, including tactile defensiveness, gravitational defensiveness, auditory defensiveness and oral defensiveness.

  • Tactile defensiveness involves the tactile system, which is our sense of touch. Children with tactile defensiveness may overact to touch experiences, avoid daily activities (e.g. brushing their teeth, taking a bath), avoid light touch (e.g. taps on the shoulder, kissing, etc.), or seek deep pressure.
  • Gravitational defensiveness involves the vestibular system, which is our sense of movement and balance. Children demonstrating gravitational defensiveness may have abnormally fearful emotional reactions to something like swinging or climbing.
  • Auditory defensiveness involves fearful reactions to sound, such as covering ears when exposed to loud noises. Children with auditory defensiveness may display atypical emotional reactions when they hear a vacuum cleaner or leaf blower.
  • Oral defensiveness involves taste, smell, and tactile input. Children with oral defensiveness may be picky eaters, gag from certain textures, tastes, and/or smells during meals, and/or dislike brushing their teeth.

Sensory stimulation kits are utilized by parents, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and teachers. Sensory kits are used to expose children to new feelings and encourage responses.  Sensory kits can be used for children of all ages to build schema, describe sensations, incorporate motor movements and play. When a child plays with a sensory bin, they are playing with a variety of materials and textures which stimulate the mind beyond what other toys can achieve. Sensory stimulation can help children develop focus, expand vocabulary, engage their mind through senses, improve fine motor skills, etc. Sensory kits can be paired with any of your favorite books! Here are some examples of easy sensory bins to make:


-Kristen Meaney, MA, CF-SLP

Source: Super Duper Publications


Central Auditory Processing Disorder in Children (CAPD)

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is defined as a breakdown of auditory information beyond the physical ability to hear, at the level of the central nervous system. In other words, CAPD occurs when the central nervous system has problems processing information that comes through listening. Research suggests that 3% to 20% of children have CAPD, and that a significant number of those children also have attention issues, along with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Although children with ADHD, autism, pervasive developmental disorder, and other global deficits may demonstrate poor listening skills, they do not necessarily have CAPD. Other disorders such as these often affect a child’s ability to attend to and interpret auditory information because they usually affect the same areas of the central nervous system. This can make the differential diagnosis quite difficult. However, CAPD is not a symptom, nor a result of global deficits (Bellis, n.d.).

Children with CAPD display several behaviors similar to symptoms associated with sensorineural hearing loss. For example, children with CAPD often demonstrate significant difficulty in the presence of background noise. In addition, they may have difficulty recognizing subtle differences between sounds in words or may have difficulty with interpretation of longer strands of auditory information, such as verbal directions. In school, children with CAPD may have difficulty spelling, reading, and understanding information presented verbally in the classroom. In addition, these children may demonstrate a significantly higher performance in classes that don’t rely heavily on listening (Bellis, n.d.). These behaviors may become apparent in the early school years, such as kindergarten or first grade, or at a later stage of the child’s life. This is likely due to increased academic demands placed on children in the elementary grades.

To diagnose CAPD, an audiologist administers a variety of tests that require the child to attend to a variety of signals and to respond to them via repetition, pushing a button, or in some other way. Most CAPD assessments require the child to be at least seven years of age because younger children do not have the advanced brain function to interpret auditory stimuli of each assessment.

Speech-language pathologists help to treat children with CAPD and incorporate goals targeting the child’s strengths and weaknesses. It is important to provide the child with a quiet environment, especially when listening to important information and completing homework tasks. In addition, it is important to have the child keep a visual day planner and write down important information as soon as it is presented. Parents and caretakers should decrease their rate of speech when talking to the child and allow more time for the child to answer questions. Furthermore, it is extremely important to follow any goals and/or recommendations set up by the child’s audiologist and speech-language pathologist.

-Kristen Meaney, M.A. CF-SLP









Why are Sippy Cups So Bad?

More recently we’ve been frequently hearing that sippy cups are bad to use with our children. But why? They seem like a good option after transitioning from a bottle; they are easy to use when on the go and don’t make a mess. What could possibly be so bad? There are NUMEROUS detrimental effects of sippy cups, not only on the physical development of our children’s mouths but also on their speech development. Here is why we should be transitioning our children from bottles to an open cup or a straw.

  1. Tooth Decay: Sippy cups encourage children to sip, however constant sipping on anything besides water is not good for the health of a baby’s new teeth. Acid from the drink may wear down the enamel and de-mineralize teeth, leading to tooth decay.
  2. Lack of hunger pains: When children are continuously carrying around sippy cups and drinking in-between meals they are not as hungry for nutritious meals when it comes to mealtime. Babies as young as six months are ready for scheduled meal and snack times to eat mindfully, as a response to hunger. Space snacks and meals about two hours apart and offer water in between.
  3. Oral Motor Delays: Babies under 12 months old utilize an immature swallowing pattern that is typical for their age. However, after 12 months of age babies learn to lift and push up the tongue tip inside the mouths to swallow, just like an adult. When anything holds the tongue tip down, such as a sippy cup, with each swallow it can cause a tongue-thrust and a delay in oral motor development.
  4. Articulation Errors: Due to the oral motor delays and possible creation of a tongue thrust, sippy cup use can also lead to articulation errors. This is because of the anterior placement of the tongue which can lead to what is called a “lisp”.

Instead of transitioning from a bottle to a sippy cup, teach your child to drink from an open cup or use a straw! If you need to offer a sippy cup on occasion just for your sanity, it’s fine! Just try your best to limit them (or skip them all together) and teach your child to drink from a spill-proof straw cup to prevent spills.

-Erin White, M.A., CF-SLP, TSSLD

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Tips

Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices can be incredibly helpful for those children who need assistance when communicating. However, one frustrating factor that parents often find themselves struggling with is how to implement the device at home. Often the child becomes very accustomed to performing well with his/her device with his/her SLP or teacher in school, but will not use the device at home for their parents. This can be incredibly frustrating for the parents and the child because of how helpful this device can be! One of the hardest parts about using alternative and augmentative communication devices with children, is knowing what to do with it once you have it. There are two very important things to keep in mind when working with AAC devices: 1. Teach a child to use AAC devices and systems in the same way you would teach them to speak. 2. Be a good model for your child when using the device. Instead of speaking verbally to your child and having them communicate through the device, you communicate through the device as well so they can see you create novel utterances and feel more comfortable communicating with it themselves.

Here are some more helpful tips when using AAC devices.

  1. Have someone who specializes in AAC devices find a good fit for your child.
    1. Contact a SLP to trial a variety of AAC devices and programs to find the best fit for your child and his/her needs.
  2. Get everyone familiar with the child’s AAC device.
    1. Have everyone in the household get familiar and comfortable using the AAC device so that they can all take turns communicating with the child through the device to not only be good models but to show the child that everyone supports him/her.
  3. Model using the AAC device around the child.
    1. Talk with your child using the device instead of talking to your child and having them communicate back to you with the device. This gives them the opportunity to learn new utterances and feel more comfortable with their device.
  4. Encourage the child’s attempts using the AAC device.
    1. Encourage your child to use the device. If you do not support them or encourage them, they will not want to use it either! If your child pushes a button, even if it’s accidental, you can still respond as if it is meaningful. This helps the child to understand that the words they are creating with their device have real meaning.
  5. Have the AAC device present at all times.
    1. A child who does not have a device has his/her voice with him/her at all times, therefore your child with a device should have his/her voice with him/her at all times.
  6. Set up opportunities for the child to use the AAC device.
    1. Show your child an item and then model the word using the child’s AAC device, then give him/her the opportunity to trial this new word on their own.

-Erin White M.A., CF-SLP, TSSLD

Ways to Help Young Children Who Stutter

When a young child begins to stutter it can be a very scary experience for not only the parents, but the entire family. Fortunately, there are ways that you can help! You can help build a solid foundation for your child’s speech and language skills and give them the best opportunity to improve his/her communication and fluency.

  1. Learn about stuttering

The more you know about stuttering, the more you can help your child. Take time to educate yourself about the nature of fluency disorders and how you can help.

  1. Seek the advice of a specialist

If you are concerned about your child’s speech contact a speech-language pathologist who specializes in the treatment of fluency disorders. The sooner you can get an evaluation, the sooner you can help your child.

  1. Respond to your child in an open and supportive way

Talk to your child about his/her stuttering! Treat stuttering in a positive, patient and supportive manner.

4. Read books or sing songs that have a lot of repetition in them, and engage your child in helping you read the story or sing the song.

-Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

-The Bear Books

-Old MacDonald Had A Farm

-Wheels On The Bus

-Down By The Bay

  1. Decrease time pressure

At mealtime, take turns talking and try to slow down your interactions. Reduce interruptions and encourage good turn-taking in your home environment.

  1. Model communication

You can provide an important, positive model of communication in your child’s life. Use an easier, smoother, and more relaxed way of talking. This can teach your child to speak in a relaxed, unhurried manner.


-Erin White M.A., CF-SLP, TSSLD


Sound and Fury: Cochlear Implants and the Deaf Community

The documentary Sound and Fury focuses on a family who is Deaf and their decision to implant their daughter with a cochlear implant. The documentary raises many popular issues surrounding the topic and how one family’s decision can impact the life of their child. Nita and Peter Artinian are Deaf and their daughter Heather, one of three children all Deaf, has been showing some curiosity towards a cochlear implant. Peter’s brother and wife Mari, who have normal hearing, have just given birth to twins, one of whom is profoundly deaf. The movie follows the family’s’ journey towards finding what they believe is best for their child. Nita Artinian, Mari Artinian and Peter’s mother each had a very unique perspective on the decision and their understanding of “Deaf”.

Nita Artinian thoroughly believes that being Deaf and apart of the Deaf community is the best for her and her family. While her initial perspective towards the implant was that she didn’t want her eldest child to have a childhood like her own, she was afraid that if Heather received the implant, she would no longer be a part of the hearing or Deaf world. She was afraid of the invasive surgery, discouraged by the outcomes, and felt that cochlear implants would create robots. However, she stated that if Heather is happy, she is happy and ultimately expressed concern when presented with the statistic of the average reading level of a deaf person. Nita is a mother above all and wants the best education possible for her children, which is why she chose to move her family to Maryland. As a mother her perspective is unique because of she wants to give her children the best of everything, and she believes this is done by immersing them in the Deaf culture, as she is. While she admits to experiencing difficulties in her youth, Nita is a strong advocate for the Deaf community and believes it is a part of you that shouldn’t be changed. Nita has a strong sense of pride with her deafness and wants to instill in her children the same.

Mari Artinian provides an exceptionally unique perspective on the matter because she herself has normal hearing, however she was raised by Deaf parents. Mari was raised in Deaf culture and supports and accepts it as a part of her life. When Mari and her husband were told one of their twin boys was profoundly deaf, she was faced with a difficult decision. She explained that her decision to implant her son stemmed from the reality that his entire family is hearing, and that he should have every opportunity like everyone else, in both worlds. Mari makes a point to acknowledge that her son will be raised in both worlds, because of the strong impact the Deaf culture and community has on her life. While Mari feels like she is betraying the world that she knows, she also wants a normal life for her son. Mari believes that the Deaf culture should not mean you are segregated from the rest of the world, and that they should be accepting of people who choose this decision. Her son Peter will always be deaf, but she wants him to be able to communicate with the rest of the world as well.

Lastly, Peter’s mother who has normal hearing provides another interesting perspective because she has raised a deaf son. She believes that Heather will suffer more without the cochlear implant because she knows what Peter went through as a child. She saw his isolation and frustration and realizes that the hearing world is not going to learn sign language. While she can accept his deafness she explains that the Deaf world is changing, and if Peter was born today she would have gotten him the implant. She even exclaimed that Nita and Peter are hurting their children by not giving them all the opportunities available in life, and are trying to escape the decision by forcing them into a Deaf world only. Because she raised a deaf son and watched the turmoils and trials that he experienced, she is confident that the best thing for Heather is to receive a cochlear implant and be a part of both the hearing and Deaf world. Due to her own experience with deafness, she believes the children will have more opportunities and a better life with the implant.

Deciding on whether to implant your child with a cochlear implant is a difficult one regardless of if you come from a Deaf family or not. Many different people are involved in the decision making process, all coming at the decision with unique personal perspectives. This can be seen in the documentary Sound and Fury and the Artinian family. While ultimately the decision to receive the implant is made by Heather and her parents, each family member demonstrates a unique perspective which is related to their understanding and philosophy of “Deaf”.

-Erin White M.A., CF-SLP, TSSLD

Resources about Teasing and Bullying For Parents of Children Who Stutter

Books about Teasing and Bullying for Children who Stutter

Children, especially young children, often respond favorably to the use of books as a learning tool. There are several books on the market that relate to teasing and bullying that parents, teachers and clinicians may find useful when discussing teasing and bullying with a child.


King of the Playground by Phyllis Reynolds

-Making a friend of the bully

Bully on the Bus by Carl Bosch

-Asking for help from an adult

-Standing up to the bully

Ada Potato by Judith Caseley

-Getting other kids on your side


Suggestions for Parents

  • Enroll your child in a leadership course
  • Strengthen your child’s friendships
  • Get help from school authorities
  • Enroll your child in something s/he is good at such as a sport, music, etc.



Teasing between siblings is common in anyone’s home. When a sibling teases a child who stutters it can be particularly hurtful. It is important that parents sit down with the whole family and educate all family members about stuttering. Parents need to make other children in the family understand how unkind it is to tease a sibling who stutters about something over which they have little control (Lew, 2004).

The Speech Language Pathologist can also play an integral role in educating siblings about stuttering. Including siblings in therapy sessions can help siblings, especially younger children understand more about stuttering and how hard it is to change one’s speech.

-Erin White M.A., CF-SLP, TSSLD