Anti-Bullying Awareness


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Unfortunately, the reality of this bullying epidemic is that kids who are shy, timid and appearing nervous or withdrawn, and who present poor social communication skills are often the target of bullies.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.


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


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.

Holiday Gift Guide For Kids With Special Needs (Part 5 of 5)



By Nancianne Chin

As we round up our 5-part blog series we take a look at gifts that focus on literacy, an incredibly important life-skill. We’ve complied some great reads for children of different ages. But don’t worry we haven’t forgotten about the parents – we encourage you to check out  a couple highly-recommended books in Part 3 of our holiday blog series.

While shopping for gifts this holiday season, remember that children learn through their play. Which means parents don’t need to feel guilty if they choose to sneak a little bit of education onto the Christmas wish lists. Here are a few gift suggestions for targeting literacy.

Ages 0-2 

For children ages 0-2 literacy is about exposure to books and letters. Visit the 0-2 year old section of your local book store and you’ll find Peek-a-Boo books with flaps to move for any child who likes exploring, and Touch and Feel books to support children who enjoy a sensory experience. These are great for showing little ones that books can be fun. To build on alphabet familiarity choose toys that sing the alphabet, or giant blocks with letters on each one will help your child learn while they build, bang and chew away.

Peek-a-Boo books

Ages 3-5

For ages 3-5, kids are learning the alphabet and that letters make sounds. Try LeapFrog Alphabet Pal Caterpillar for a many footed friend. A letter sits on each one of this caterpillar’s feet and says the letter’s sound when pushed. LeapFrog also makes Word Whammer Fridge Phonics Set. Magnetic letters that move around, and can be placed in the set to sound out your letters, read your words, and provide positive verbal praise.

The Leap Frog Alphabet Pal Caterpillar

Older Children

In kindergarten, literacy ability ranges across the classroom. Some kids are learning letter names and sounds, others are learning site words, and sounding out 3 letter words, while some kids will be reading simple sentences. Boggle Junior and Scrabble Junior are nice games for this age group. Both involve searching for letters that match the given 3-4 letter words with their brightly coloured pictures.

Boggle Jr.
Boggle Jr. is a great game for older children!

Books continue to be good for all age groups. Some kids prefer stories, while others prefer pictures of items of interest. Try a book on pigs for the piggy lover, a book with many tractors for the car lover, or Charlie Brown’s Encyclopedia for the child who generally likes to learn. Starting the tradition now of giving your child a book now will definitely benefit them today, tomorrow and in the future.

Holiday Gift Guide For Kids With Special Needs (Part 4 of 5)


Gifts to Build Your Child’s Language Skills

By Aynsley Warden

Our 5-part blog series has covered lots of great gift-giving ideas for kids with special needs, and now we’ve got ideas that can help build their communication skills and still have fun! Here we focus on great gifts help build your child’s language skills. At Canoe Therapy we are committed to making children’s therapy fun so that you as a parent, as well your child, are comfortable. Here we share some of our favourite books, toys and games that we use in speech-language therapy sessions.


1) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This book builds food related vocabulary, rote counting skills, and descriptive vocabulary. Take things one step further and get real objects and puppets and act out the story with your child to engage them in pretend play.

2) Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
This book is a repetitive story that has a fun flow to it and allows your child to remember and say parts of the story easily. Work on animal vocabulary while looking at the bright colourful pages. Start talking about rhyming words that repeat throughout the story.


Some other great books include the following:

  • “The Napping House” by Audrey Wood
  • “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman
  • “Pajama Time!” by Sandra Boynton
  • “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin Jr. and Bill Archambault
  • “Toes, Ears, & Nose!” by Marion Dane Bauer
  • “Peek-a-Moo!” by Marie Torres Cimarusti
  • “Yummy Yucky” by Leslie Patricelli


1) Barnyard Bingo is a simple game to learn matching skills, animal names, and to practice turn taking.

Barnyard Bingo

2) Cariboo carries an element of surprise by letting your child find hidden balls that will help open a secret treasure. Work on colours, turn taking, alphabet and word knowledge with your child in this fun game!


3) Pop-Up Pirate allows for turn taking with multiple players and can be used to work on colours, counting and as a fun motivator for language learning.



To help encourage a child’s problem solving skills and functional exploration of toys, think about getting blocks, puzzles and shape sorters. These are great, especially for the little tiny tots.

1) Melissa & Doug produces a variety of excellent puzzles that make noise and are fun to touch. These can keep your child engaged and help you highlight new words.

2) Toys that resemble real life activities. Build your child’s imagination and pretend play skills using toys that resemble real life activities. Toy food that you can cut apart and dishes are great for acting out kitchen activities. Dolls and dress-up clothes are abundant and allow your child to play parent.

3) Little People has a variety of toy animals and people that can live in a farm, house, or zoo and drive in buses or planes.



4) The Twist and Drill Set lets your child work with child-friendly tools.Twist and Drill Set

5) The Critter Clinic toy lets your child pretend to be a veterinarian to toy animals.

Critter Clinic

Play With Your Child!

Whatever your child likes to play with and read, remember to join in! Building your child’s language skills is never something limited to their speech therapy sessions but rather something that should follow them home as they develop their social skills. Follow your child’s lead as you play with him or her and have fun!

Holiday Gift Guide: For Kids with Special Needs (part 3 of 5)


By Diesje Hiltemann

We’re excited to give you part 3 of our Holiday Gift Guide, which includes gifts to help children with Sensory Integration Difficulties as well as their parents. Here at Canoe Therapy, we love finding creative ways to get your child engaged as well the rest of the family!

Not only do the kids need gifts at this time of year, but mom’s and dad’s too – especially those who have recently received the diagnosis for their child(ren)! While there is plenty we can do at Canoe Therapy including speech therapy, behavioural therapy and more. So many of the skills we work on can be easily integrated into home life. The best way to do this is to educate you as the parent so you can better understand and work with your child.

Here are two fantastic books for parents. The first is one to help identify where your child may fit and see that there are many areas where they could fit in the spectrum of sensory integration dysfunction! Both these books are available at Chapters as well as in paperback ($12.64) and for the kindle ($13.99).

The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Stock Kranowitz

 TUntitledhe Out-of-Sync Child broke new ground by identifying Sensory Processing Disorder,  a common but frequently misdiagnosed problem in which the central nervous system  misinterprets messages from the senses. This newly revised edition features additional  information from recent research on vision and hearing deficits, motor skill problems, nutrition and picky eaters, ADHA, autism, and other related disorders.

The Out-of-sync Child Has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Integration Dysfunction by Carol Stock Kranowitz

Untitled1A collection of more than 100 fun, easy activities designed to be used under adult supervision to help children develop and strengthen their sensory-motor skills. Grouped into: general issues, touch, balance and movement, body position, vision, hearing, smell and taste, oral-motor skills, motor planning, motor skills, and bilateral coordination.

And now for the children… here are some amazing toys that can be used in the home to assist with generalizing skills learnt in their therapy sessions to the home environment. The items mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog are also amazing to assist with the sensory needs that our children have and would also be fantastic to have in the home.

Therapy / Exercise Ball

This can be used in the home as a ball to sit on while watching TV, playing games or sitting at the dining table; in order to keep your child focused on the task at hand while still allowing for movement Therapy Exercise Balland core activation. Furthermore it can be used while jumping on the trampoline or just standing on the floor for a game of catch. It is versatile and oh so helpful in calming the over-aroused child or waking up the under-aroused child.

Hope you enjoy these! At Canoe Therapy we are always looking for ways to assist our patients and their families in whatever way possible. These fantastic gifts allow our your child and family to take the skills they learn in therapy home with them. Check back soon for our next gift suggestions!

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


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.


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


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?




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!



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.


  • 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.


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!


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




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


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!

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

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

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!