Anti-Bullying Awareness

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By Victoria Vanderstoep (Student Communicative Disorders Assistant, Durham College)

It is not uncommon to hear that bullying is a big problem in schools, workplaces, homes and especially on the Internet nowadays. Bullying, in any form, can be detrimental to a child’s well-being and self-confidence.

When I was younger, I remember chanting the nursery rhyme ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. But that nursery rhyme has it all wrong, words can really hurt. As technology continues to advance cyber-bullying is on the rise, people are using language to taunt, demoralize and torture their peers behind the anonymity of a computer screen.

Unfortunately, the reality of this bullying epidemic is that kids who are shy, timid and appearing nervous or withdrawn, and who present poor social communication skills are often the target of bullies. As caregivers and adults we need to have the important conversations on the power of language with the children in our lives.

There is an excellent resource available to parents called ‘Don’t Pick On Me‘ by Susan Eikov Green. This book has 37 simple, fun activities to teach kids how to deal with teasing, name calling and cyber bullying, cope with feelings of being left out and to get help when necessary.

Bullying

These activities are intertwined with discussions of the various types of bullying and strategies to cope with or counteract them in nonaggressive ways. The activities are possible real-life examples and scenarios that kids can think through and apply strategies to. There is opportunity for reflective thinking based on past experiences, as well as ideas for how children can make themselves feel better by focusing on the positives rather than the negatives. This book is an instant help resource that can be used to avoid bullying or to help give your children a voice if they are already being bullied.

Yesterday was (February 25, 2015) was Pink Shirt Day, a day where society comes together to show that we will not tolerate bullying anywhere. Let’s stand together to give our kids a voice and help put an end to bullying.

Family Literacy Day

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By Victoria Vanderstoep, Student Communicative Disorders Assistant, Durham College

Does your child enjoy reading stories before bed or singing silly songs throughout the day? What about playing word games or writing notes to their friends and family? Did you know that these are just some of the activities that will help a child develop their literacy skills! Family Literacy Day, which was on January 27th is a national awareness initiative to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.

What does ‘Literacy’ mean?

Literacy is not only the ability to read and write. Literacy also includes the ability to understand and use printed information, like letters, words and numbers, in daily activities both at home and in the community. As a child is exploring and learning about the world they live in, they are using their literacy skills to develop knowledge about the new experiences they are being exposed to each and every day.

The importance of Literacy

Literacy is viewed as a crucial skill. In order to raise awareness of the importance of engaging your children in literacy-related activities as a family, ABC Life Literacy Canada has developed Family Literacy Day, on January 27 each year as an awareness incentive.

Developing literacy early on is crucial. Promoting and encouraging literacy activities in your child’s life from a young age will better prepare them for the rest of their lives. There are so many skills and responsibilities as a child grows up that require a foundation of literacy skills to build on.

How can you help build literacy in your home?

There are many ways that a family can use literacy each and every day that isn’t limited to the home. Sharing a story book together, playing word games, singing, writing letters to friends or relatives, involving your child in day-to-day tasks like writing your grocery list, using a recipe and surfing the Internet for interesting sites.

Some specific activities that target early literacy skills include:

  • Talking and singing activities: many children love to sing, singing nursery rhymes with your children teach them about language, rhyme, repetition and rhythm.
  • While you’re making dinner, you can talk about the food you are preparing with your child, what are you doing to it, what it tastes like and what it looks like.
  • Imitate the sounds your child is making, or make up new sounds and see if they can repeat them.
  • When you are in the car, talk about objects you are seeing – for example, the sounds of traffic, the cars on the road, the rustling of leaves.
  • Playing word games that encourage children to learn sounds is a good strategy in building early literacy skills. You could play a game of ‘I Spy’ – ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with b, what starts with that sound?”

These are just some suggestions of the many activities you can use to target developing early literacy skills in your children. Remember to keep an element of fun in your activities, we want our children to enjoy learning, reading and writing!

If you’re interested in speech language-pathology for your child, contact us today or stop by and take a tour.

 

Jess is approved for SEAC role

SEACWe’re so proud to announce that Jess has been elected as alternate representative on behalf of Autism Ontario for the Halton Public School Board SEAC. She’s teaming up with Carla Marshall who is the representative on behalf of Autism Ontario. Carla works for the City of Burlington as a Communications Advisor.

What is SEAC?

SEAC stands for Special Education Advisory Committee, it’s purpose is to help the School Board protect the rights of students with special learning needs. SEAC is made up of trustees and their alternates, representatives and their alternates from local associations, and member at large. There are a total of six community associations represented on the SEAC, each one has a rep and an alternate rep.

Meetings

There are 12 meetings scheduled throughout each year. The public are encouraged to attend the meetings, although must submit any questions/comments in writing prior to the meeting.

The first meeting is  January 27th starting starting at 7:00 pm and usually take place at the J.W. Singleton Education Centre, 2050 Guelph Line, Burlington.

If you would like to submit questions or comments, Jess can be contacted by email at halton.publicseac@autismontario.com

A Thematic Approach to Speech

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By Victoria Vanderstoep, Student Communicative Disorders Assistant, Durham College

The first few days of 2015 have certainly been some cold ones! Hitting wind chills deep in the -20’s. However, winter is not all bad! While we are curled up inside, maybe by a warm fire or enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, winter still offers lots of fun activities. Reading books, playing games and doing different crafts and activities that use winter as the main theme are excellent tools to use in a thematic approach to speech and can keep you warm on those chilly winter nights.

What is a thematic approach to speech?

The thematic approach to speech uses a variety of meaningful activities created around a central topic or idea. It is important that you select themes that are relevant to the child.

Why use themes?

Using themes allows children to learn about different concepts and helps in connecting these various concepts together cognitively. Language is stored in semantic categories; by teaching a child language that belongs to a category of language we can relieve some of the cognitive demands of filing new vocabulary within our brains. Thematic teaching can help develop a child’s ability to understand a story, retell a past event, and predictions and inferences about a situation.

Themes provide a practical foundation for learning that is relevant for life outside the therapy room because themes carry over into real-life situations. It’s an engaging way to teach facts and new concepts to a child that may otherwise be challenging or not as interesting. Building on the selected theme to create hands on activities allows the child to be actively and physically involved in their learning.

For example: As I am sitting here writing, the wind outside is gusting and blowing the fresh snow that fell last night – it looks like another cold day out there.  As I think about bundling up to go outside later, one children’s book comes to mind.

1. ‘The Jacket I wear in the Snow‘ by Shirley Neitzel

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The Jacket I Wear in the Snow

 

Within the pages of this book, the reader rhymes their way through the process of a child getting ready to go outside in the snow, putting on layer after layer of warm winter clothing.
Reading this book, children are presented with a chunk of new vocabulary that is needed for going outside in the winter.

There is a variety of follow-up activities for this book that can target various areas of speech, such as building vocabulary. The online version of the book provides printable versions of all the clothing pieces that the little boy puts on, which allows us to create numerous activities for our kiddos to do after reading that are directly related to this book. Designing activities is a chance to let your creativity show, but of course, if you run stuck there are tons of ideas on Pinterest as well as the wider web to get you started!

Contact us if you need additional help improving your child’s social and communication skills contact us today!

Typing versus Printing: The Great Debate

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Written by Sandra Ellis, Student Occupational Therapist McMaster University

When should kids who struggle with printing focus on printing and when should they type instead?

Many parents of children with fine motor difficulties struggle with the question of when they should put printing skills on the back burner and focus instead on typing. On one side of the debate, parents are concerned when printing is left unattended because many important day-to-day activities require basic handwriting skills such as signing cards or documents and filling out forms. On the other side, many parents become concerned when too much focus is placed on printing because they feel their child could produce so much more in school if they were allowed to type instead of print.

It’s a complex issue and both sides have valid concerns. It’s important to look at the overall functional goal of the writing. For example, if the main focus of an assignment or class is the quality and organization of ideas, a child who struggles with the physical task of printing could be at a significant disadvantage if printing is their only option. Printing is a complex fine motor process involving many systems working together – a child who is unable to do this efficiently or effectively may sacrifice their ideas to take make the printing process easier. In this situation, a child may write shorter sentences, and/or use less complex words and concepts to express their ideas, especially if there is a time limit. Not least, the kiddo might become frustrated with the task or be disappointed with their work.

Typing can be easier for a child with fine motor difficulties because the finger movements are repetitive and less complex compared with printing. And added bonus is that since the keys on a keyboard never move, children do not have to monitor their output as much and may even learn touch typing. All of this means the child has more energy and brain capacity to focus on the content of their work. In this situation, allowing a child to type instead of print will reduce the demands placed on the child and can enable them to express more complex ideas that more accurately reflect their abilities.

If the focus of the activity or assignment is the quality of the printing itself (for example, being able to write your name on a form), then it can be preferable to continue developing printing skills. In cases where a student needs to produce an assignment that will be marked on presentation, it can be beneficial to have them type or dictate a draft where the focus is on creating the content, and later copy the draft to create the finished piece.

So, the take home message is: when deciding whether to print or type, it is important to ask “what is the functional goal of the writing?” Is the child writing to express ideas (that may be more effectively expressed through another means), or to demonstrate the skill of printing? If a child is struggling with either printing or typing, they may benefit from Occupational Therapy to develop their skills in these areas.

Holiday Gift Guide: For Kids with Special Needs (part 2 of 5)

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Par Jess Urcuyo

We’re excited to give you part 2 of our Holiday Gift Guide, which includes gifts to help tune your children’s motor skills. Here at Canoe, we love finding creative ways to get your child engaged to work. We’ve got five kid-tested, therapist-approved activities to build hand strength, coordination, and dexterity.

1) Discovery Putty. What better way to wake up your hands than by rescuing animals from a mudslide or finding tasty treats in a custardy goo! Discovery Putty puts a fun spin on traditional therapeutic putty exercises and gives kids a workout for their finger muscles without even realizing.

Awards:

  • Winner of the 2014 Dr. Toy’s Best Vacation Products Award.

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2) Eye Popping Squeeze Stress Toys. Next in our workout, these crazy characters, which I’ve graded by level of difficulty based on the amount of force and positioning of the fingers required to pop their eyes out of their heads. The iconic Sock Monkey gives an easier warm-up, with the Dinosaur providing a medium resistance, and the slim-line shape of the Cow proving to be one of the harder challenges. How many times can YOU make those eyes pop in 30 seconds?

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3) Happy Puzzles by Oops. As a self-correcting activity, puzzles are a great way to teach children problem solving. Manipulating each piece to fit correctly requires our brains to assimilate both visual and physical skills to be successful. The trial and error involved in completing a puzzle teaches persistence and adaptable thinking skills. Although rated for infants twelve months and above, we’ve found the abstract nature of  Happy Puzzles bring a unique challenge to children as old as five years. And we agree…they make us happy too!

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4) Balancing Cactus by Plan Toys. A hands-down favourite, the Balancing Cactus challenges both strategy and coordination. Ideal for turn-taking social play, kids can also play by themselves practicing bilateral hand use by stabilizing the base with their non-dominant hand and positioning the pieces with their dominant hand. Encouraging creativity and abstract design, kids can build their cactus a different way each time.

Awards:

  • The German Design Prize (Deutscher Designpreis Holzspielzeug)
  • Good Toy Award by Spiel Gut, Germany
  • Good Toy Award by Good Toy Association, Japan
  • Good Toy Award by Thai Toy Industry Association.

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5) Stormy Seas by Hape Toys. The Stormy Seas balancing game is a great way to teach a child to grade the force of their movements as they learn to place the items carefully on the deck without tipping the ship off balance. Each type of cargo is weighted differently to add to the challenge. Turn-taking, language development, and imaginative play are all potential extension activities. Roll the dice, choose your cargo, and load ‘er up!

Awards:

  • Able Toys Awards – Rated Toy
  • Parents Choice Awards – Silver

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Holiday Gift Guide: For Kids with Special Needs (part 1 of 5)

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Written by Marie-Eve Dubois

Tis’ the season for giving! Do you or anyone around you have a child with special needs and you’ve been trying to find great gift ideas that would not only be fun, but helpful? Over the next few weeks, our team will be sharing with you some of their great finds. We hope this will inspire you!

Gifts for Children with ADHD

A few weeks ago, I bought two little pieces of twistable plastic, and put them on my desk for children to fiddle with. I used to have them in my office back in Quebec, and they were quite popular. However, I didn’t expect the kind of reaction I got at Canoe! All my colleagues were trying them, and while they were initially intended for the children I see, it turns out many parents have enjoyed them too! Everyone (including clients of my colleagues I had never met) were now asking where they could purchase them! This is where the idea of this blog series came from: what if we shared our favourite tools, toys and books for all to enjoy?

Here are three of my favourite items for children with ADHD

1) The Tangle! This is the famous piece of plastic referred to above! I currently own a bigger version with textured rubber and a smaller, fuzzy one. The simple plastic ones are also great for children who do not like the added texture. These are meant to be manipulated to increase calm, focus and attention, and provide additional sensory stimulation. These are quite inexpensive and make a great stocking stuffer!

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Tangle Therapy (available at Scholar’s Choice $14.99)
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Tangle Jr. Fuzzies Fidget Toy (available at Scholar’s Choice $5.99)
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Tangle Jr. Neon & Sparkle Fidget Toy (available at Scholar’s Choice $3.99)

2) Cushions. We’ve all known a child (or adult!) who had trouble staying in their seat, kept moving around, etc. Some may have tried sitting on an exercise ball, but sometimes that’s just too much movement, or is inconvenient. A great alternative are cushions designed to allow the child to sit on a surface that moves and gives them additional sensory input. You may need to look for the perfect one for your child, but luckily, many different styles are now available, from the spiky one (it’s not nearly as uncomfortable as it seems) to the wedge cushion.

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Spiky Tactile Cushion – 13′ (available at Scholar’s Choice $32.99)
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10″ Wedge Cushion (available at Scholar’s Choice $32.99)

3.) My Brain Needs Glasses. This little gem exists in an extended parent version in French, but this children’s book is pretty awesome too! This book reads as the journal of Tom, a child diagnosed with ADHD. He shares helpful information for children with the same diagnosis, but also their siblings, parents and educators (did you say you were looking for a gift for your child’s teacher?). The fun part is that there is also a version for adults with ADHD called My Brain STILL Needs Glasses.

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My Brain STILL Needs Glasses Book for adult with ADHD (available online $19.95)

Hope you enjoy these! Check back tomorrow for part-2 of Holiday Gift Guide!

5 Holiday Activities to Build Your Child’s Language

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Written by Aynsley Warden

There are many great opportunities that you can take to build your child’s language skills while you are busy getting ready for Christmas. The best part is, your child is included and has fun! Here are a few ideas of things you can do with your child, while highlighting language skills:

1) Read Christmas or holiday stories with your child. Here are a few favourites:

  • “Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas” by Jane O’Connor
  • “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Suess
  • “Dream Snow” by Eric Carle
  • “The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah” by Bill Berlin and Susan Berlin
  • “The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • “Olive the Other Reindeer” by J. Otto Seibold
  • “Bear Stays Up for Christmas” by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
  • “Biscuits Hanukkah” by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
  • “That’s Not My Snowman” by Fiona Watt
  • “The Wild Christmas Reindeer” by Jan Brett
  • “Li’l Rabbits Kwanzaa” by Donna L. Washington

2) Decorate the Christmas tree. Talk about sizes of the ornaments you are hanging (big or little?). Talk about where to hang the ornaments (top, middle, or bottom?). Teach new words by highlighting the names of any ornaments (reindeer, Santa Claus, sled, candy cane, angel, bell, wreath, snowflake, Rudolph, etc…). Emphasize colours when hanging the lights on the tree.

3) Bake holiday cookies. Highlight new words by emphasizing the names of ingredients and kitchen utensils you use to make the cookies. Talk about the steps to follow for making cookies. Use icing and sprinkles to decorate the cookies and emphasize colour and descriptive words.

4) Make crafty ornaments to hang on the tree. Highlight new words and talk about the steps to follow when making your crafts.

  • Cut out Christmas tree shapes from green felt. Glue buttons on it. Thread and tie a string or ribbon at the top of the tree to hang it with. Materials needed:  green felt, buttons, glue, string or ribbon, scissors.
  • Collect pine cones during a walk outside near a forested area. Let them dry inside the house before painting them. Use sprinkles or glitter glue to decorate if you like. Materials needed:  pine cones, paint & paintbrush, sprinkles & glue (or glitter glue).

5) Let your child help you wrap presents or wrap presents they made. Talk about the names of things you need (scissors, tape, ribbon, etc…). Your child can practice printing, naming letters, and sounding out words when making name tags for the presents.

Remember to highlight new words by saying the word many times using emphasis. Add gestures to demonstrate what you mean and show pictures or real objects of the new words. Encourage your child to use these words on their own and to use more language by telling you the steps of activities. Most importantly, have fun!

How to increase independence in a child with a disability (part 10)

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Let your child with disability do a load of laundry and so what if a white t-shirt got mixed in the wash with the brand new jeans…and it’s now light blue. That’s a lesson!

This is Part 10 of our 10-Part blog series about the challenges and experiences of the siblings of kids with a diagnosis. Be sure to check back for future posts in the series.

Read all posts from this series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Our sibling series is coming to an end! As Jess pointed out in her last blog, families often walk a fine line between nurturing a child with a disability (like autism) and promoting their independence. As parents and siblings, it’s normal to want to protect the individual from making mistakes. But haven’t we all had a terrible relationship, bought shoes that were too expensive, or broken a wine glass? If we ALL made mistakes growing up, why is it that a child, teenager, or young adult with disability can’t? While we may want to protect them from any additional hardship (haven’t they faced enough already?!), doing so may also prevent them from achieving whatever level of independence they may be able to reach. Unfortunately, independence doesn’t happen in one day, and while these tips are meant for parents of children with a disability, they in fact apply to all children. The level of independence that can be reached will, however, depend on physical and mental limitations.

Here are a few tips to help you increase independence:

  1. Let’s all take a deep breath! Have a chat with overprotective siblings and explain to them that they have to let Junior gain some independence, and that might involve a few missteps here and there. And that’s fine…maybe you can take advantage of this to get the sibling to show some skills to their sibling (and then you get twice the load off you!)?
  1. Choose realistic target goals and break them down. We can probably agree that managing finances independently might not be the first step. But understanding the value of money and how to create a budget can be started early. When you go to a store, encourage your child to pay and take the change. As your child gets older, give him a budget he can use to buy a treat (how quickly do you think he’ll realize that the best and biggest chocolate bar is more expensive when he has to pay for it?). The same can then be done for buying clothes and shoes, doing laundry (have hampers to sort clothes, use pre-measured soap), setting the table and doing the dishes (maybe with unbreakable dishes; buy pods for the dishwasher so no measuring needs to occur), preparing food (start with easy sandwiches, then grilled cheese, followed by pre-packaged pasta and sauce, and maybe you’ll make it to a a more complex meal).
  1. Accept mistakes. Obviously, if you (or an older sibling) did everything, it’d be quicker, better, etc. But will you always be there? Or will a sibling want to do everything you’re doing for your child? So you let your child do a load of laundry and so what if a white t-shirt got mixed in the wash with the brand new jeans…and it’s now light blue. That’s a lesson! It’s not the end of the world if your child spent too much on a few items of clothing, and doesn’t have enough money to buy as many different outfits as you hoped. They are all great lessons.

We hope you enjoyed our Sibling Series! Stay tuned for our next series starting next week! Our team will be posting a Holiday Gift Guide for Kids with Special Needs!

Let It Go – Independence versus vulnerability (part 9)

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It’s wonderful to see my brother reach milestones and see both his self-confidence and his autonomy develop.

This is Part 9 of our 10-Part blog series about the challenges and experiences of the siblings of kids with a diagnosis. Be sure to check back for future posts in the series.

Read all posts from this series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Written by Jess Urcuyo

My brother has always been very positive that autism is just a part of who he is and how he thinks, much like having a British accent. These days as he continues to develop his strengths, learn new skills, and find better ways to accommodate his needs, he often speaks of ‘outgrowing’ his autism. It’s wonderful to see him reach these milestones and see both his self-confidence and his autonomy develop.

The reality is that as we’re seeing his amazing strides forward, he’s also finding opportunities for growth in new areas – maintaining a significant relationship, the value of money, knowing how much to trust new acquaintances – the list goes on.

No matter how functional a school education is, it doesn’t prepare young adults for some of the most challenging decisions and dilemmas they will face. There is a vulnerability in disability that should be acknowledged, but should it be always protected? Haven’t most young people had a tragic relationship, made terrible financial decisions, or hung out with the wrong crowd at some point, and doesn’t the life experience these situations bring make the person a stronger adult? Failure is a friend on the journey to success, and without the rite of passage to make one’s own mistakes it’s arguable that we never really learn.

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I hope that he achieves everything he dreams for.

We may need training wheels initially to help our balance, but we also need to pedal our own course, steer our own way, and know when to jam the brakes on. When we wipe out, family supports are helpful to get us back on our feet, but unless we experience the fall, we’ll never understand the importance of maintaining our own balance.

Does this mean the safety net is pulled away immediately a young person turns 18? I hope not! But do I ask that we consider turning the safety net into a support network of people who can facilitate the young person’s path to independence, and not necessarily avoiding the obstacles and hiccups they will face along the way? Absolutely.

While many typically-developing 20-somethings are happy to live with their parents, my brother is adamant that he wants the same independence he sees his siblings enjoy. I hope that he achieves everything he dreams for. He’ll always be my baby brother, but as he stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall, I look up to him with absolute respect for his drive to be the best version of himself.