Family Literacy Day


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.


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

A Thematic Approach to Speech


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

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


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.