I’m always excited for the month of May because it is Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM)! This gives me the opportunity to share my profession with the public while raising awareness of how Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) provide articulation, language, communication and social skills therapy for the pediatric, adult and geriatric populations. But we also provide life-altering treatment for feeding and swallowing disorders! Since most of the public does not understand the scope of our practice as SLPs, especially in the field of feeding and swallowing, it is always exciting for me to highlight what we do. Here are a few examples of how SLP’s provide feeding therapy and the ways ezpz products help in delivering that care.
Communication: As a Speech Language Pathologist, I teach parents that ALL children communicate during feeding. Infants will communicate non-verbally that they are hungry or full or being fed too fast. Toddlers will engage in a verbal exchange about the presentation of their food. Children who are talking may initiate a conversation about the appearance of their yummy meal. Using feeding products like the Happy Mat can bring the family together at mealtime by inspiring fun conversations about the food! Using creative products at the dinner table engages kids in the lost art of mealtime communication with their parents, siblings and peers.
Language: By two-years of age a child will say between 50-200 words and by three-years of age their expressive vocabulary increases to almost 1,000 words! A huge part of that word explosion involves food and mealtime related words like: milk, apple, cup, cracker, all done, cheese and (of course) "more!" The Mini Mat and the Play Mat are a great canvas for practicing early food vocabulary, food play and crafts with your toddler!
Social Skills: Have you ever had a meal where your child chews with their mouth open, screams about foods touching, burps or just wants to watch their iPad? These are all perfect opportunities to explore mealtime social skills. The social skills we teach during meals are important because the dinner table is where kids learn how to eat, react to foods in positive and negative ways, use table manners, discover how to initiate a conversation and make eye contact. I love using the Micro Mat to help foster the social skills of reacting to new foods. I also use it as a sensory fidget to keep kids calm during mealtime.
Speech: Reading books to children is one of the best speech therapy activities you can do. Whether you are reading with your child curled up in your lap, lying in bed or exploring colorful cookbooks in the kitchen, you are creating reciprocal speech activities. Reading the book Making Mealtime ezpz is a great way to introduce beautiful pictures of food art to your children and talk about interesting food vocabulary like beets, dragon fruit and Chia seeds! Make sure to point to pictures, be animated and imitate your child’s speech by adding more information. For example, if your toddler says “buh,” you could say “Banana, yes show me the banana.”
Play: SLP’s love using open-ended products in feeding therapy, as it can foster a toddler’s imagination and decrease their anxiety about trying new foods. The Happy Bowl is an example of an open-ended product, which means that it can be used in a variety of ways that encourage self-feeding and independent food play. Having toddlers make funny food art creations in the Happy Bowl while enjoying healthy food play is a critical aspect in development. You can also use the bowl for other uses other then feeding, for example sensory play, holding flashcards or manipulatives, painting and other craft activities. It’s a perfect companion for play since it suctions to the table, so your child can play more independently and focus on less mess and more fun!
Join us in celebrating the role Speech Language Pathologists have with infants, children, teens, adults and the geriatric community! Do you have an SLP in your life? Or a story you want to share about how an SLP helped your child with feeding or communication challenges? Share them with us and use the hashtags: #ezpzfun #SLP #BHSM.
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz