Labels, Labels, Labels…

Recently, I was asked to get a second opinion on a mammogram and ultrasound that showed a nodule on the left breast. With barely enough energy to muster the strength to do so for fear of the dreaded label that I faced with my sister experiencing a double mastectomy only two years prior, I somehow managed to make all the contacts necessary to follow through. At my visit, I was asked to wait for the doctor to review my films because a biopsy was needed. I was seated in a waiting room with several other women awaiting the reports of their films as well. Interesting how the Universe works!! There were lots of technical difficulties on this particular day at the hospital, and we women were waiting together for what amounted to eight full hours; a full work day filled with mental exhaustion and anguish. Among these women were different cultural backgrounds, different races, and socioeconomic statuses. All the preconceived notions for all the different women may have been present, but it was hardly noticed once we all began to converse. For a moment in time, we all connected with one particular experience…one that we all related to; one that showed no preference for religion, color, or affluence. For this one moment in time, we were one. There were no labels and no preconceived notions. We were just women supporting each other through a scary time. In spite of my fears, I reflected on this and thought how fortunate I was to have experienced this connection with no prejudices to speak of. It made me realize the harshness of labels and the injustice it does for humanity as a whole. And although one may argue that labels have their place, and may be necessary under particular circumstances to move forward, I question what a world would be like if not for the labels we place on it. We spend so much time saying something or someone is good or bad. But isn’t good and bad a relative term? For instance, one may believe losing a job is a bad thing. But, if losing that job opened you up for a new experience and new opportunity that was in fact more fulfilling, would you then label losing the job as bad?

We use labels for so many circumstances. We read tons of labels for the foods we eat, as is recommended when dieting, yet we are having the largest obesity crisis we have ever known. Have the labels benefitted us? We do the same for our children. My client’s mother cries…genuinely cries every three years when her son gets reevaluated. The tests indicate extremely low scores, labeling him as multiply handicapped or rather many kinds of specific learning disorders. Are these labels benefitting my client or his mother? Some may say that it is, so he can be classified correctly and receive the services he needs. But, at what point can we stop labeling him and just treat him according to his needs? In other words, his mom was fine and happy knowing she has been doing all she can for her son, and going about her life. Yet, once the tests were implemented and the labels were passed out, and nothing other than that had changed, she was tormented and needed time to come to a place of acceptance. My heart aches each time she goes through this, and all I can do is be present. I tell all my client’s parents to let go of the labels. Your child is simply that…a child! It would be interesting to experience what would happen if we let go of the diagnoses. Would we treat these children differently? Would the therapy services differ? And what would happen if we let go of the religion or color or socioeconomic status of a person, and simply regarded them as…a person?

Sadly, we are a long way from deleting labels in our thoughts and in our vocabulary. Yet, I had a glimpse of utopia where several people came together and were one. I asked myself if this scary experience was in fact a “bad” experience or a “good” one. Once I surrendered the fear and opened up to the love in that room pouring from each and every woman, my name was called. I am well! All is well!

50 Repetitive Books for Children with Apraxia

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury

To Market to Market by Anne Miranda

If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Joffe Numeroff

If You Take A Mouse to the Movies by Laura Joffe Numeroff

If You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Joffe Numeroff

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Joffe Numeroff

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff

If You Give a Dog a Donut by Laura Joffe Numeroff

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr.

Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.

The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone

Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton

Red Hat, Yellow Hat by Sandra Boynton

Goodnight Moon by Margret Brown

Dear Zoo: A Lift The Flap Book by Rod Campbell

Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle

1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by by Eric Carle

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom

Who’s Making That Mess? by Jenny Tyler Stephen

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

Up to Ten and Down Again by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Is Your Mama A Llama? by Deborah Guarino

Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan

Wodney Wat’s Wobot by Helen Lester

It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw

“Buzz, Buzz, Buzz” Went Bumblebee by Colin West

I Don’t Care! Said the Bear by Colin West

I Went Walking by Sue Williams

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams

The Napping House by Audrey Wood

The Big Book of Exclamations by Teri Kaminski Peterson

Pacifiers Are Not Forever by Elizabeth Verdick

Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! by Dr. Seuss

The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper

Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s Farm by Joy Cowley

She Sells Seashells: A Tongue Twister Story by Grace Kim

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Nadine Bernard Westcott

White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt

The Pirate Who Couldn’t Say Arrr! by Angie Neal

Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London

Sheep in a Shop by Nancy Shaw

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Wood

The Yak Who Yelled Yuk by Carol Pugliano-Martin

The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord

What books would you add to the list?

Looking for more resources on Childhood Apraxia of Speech? Check out my Apraxia Pinterest Board:

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Making an App for the Computer Illiterate

Monitor, Keyboard, and MouseWhen computers began becoming a way of the world, I was home busy watching Barney and changing diapers.  Technology just seemed to pass me by as I was learning every nursery song to sing to my baby girls. Once my daughters were old enough to attend school, I ventured back out into the workforce, only to find complicated photocopy machines, fax machines, and yes…the dreaded computer!

Throughout the years, and throughout my struggles with technology, I have been reminded on more than one occasion that raising my children was no excuse.  I should certainly know computers by now.  But frankly, my brain does not process the workings of a computer as easily as it does for others. On the contrary, my brain processes more creatively and clinically. My creative process led me down the path of creating books to help children learn their sounds in a unique way…a fun approach whereby I infuse language into each sound, and have children associate themselves with a character that represents their target sound. On this journey, I had the opportunity to meet Timothy Michael Harrington, the founder and CEO of Happy Medium Interactive Productions.  You can imagine my fears when he suggested I turn my books into interactive apps.  I know what that meant…COMPUTERS!!

My desire for the success of my project outweighed my fears of computers, and so I willingly accepted the challenge. Or should I say Mr. Harrington accepted the arduous task of teaching me how to navigate through a computer! As part of a team effort, I can now proudly say I know how to Skype, create a Google Doc, download material, download an IPA onto my iPad, utilize Dropbox, create online schedules, download music, record my lyrics, and send them off to the sound designer, scan, create business cards, and blog.  Not bad for someone who could barely email!!

So let me tell you what I really learned.  I really learned that when you want something badly enough and you allow love to overrule fear, the Universe has a funny way of putting the right people and opportunities in front of you.  My skill set as a speech language pathologist and a creative storyteller with a beneficial concept was all I really needed to have.  Mr. Harrington showed up on my path with countless skill sets of his own, one of them being the ability to use computers and the patience to work with someone who didn’t have a clue. Each and every individual is born with a gift.  We need to know that the gift we have is truly enough.  Sharing that gift with others is when opportunities arise to mesh our gifts with theirs to create magic.

My daughter has recently been going through a difficult time within herself, as teenagers often do.  She has a high achieving, perfectionist personality.  Although it acquires her good grades, it pains her emotionally if she perceives that she doesn’t know it all, and compares herself to others.  She feels angst if she can’t quite live up to everyone else’s expertise.  So, this is the lesson I teach her. We can’t spend our lives comparing ourselves to others.  There will always be someone who knows more, does more, achieves more.  We can only spend our time here comparing ourselves to who we were yesterday.  If we are better than we were yesterday, we are on the right path.  As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” Trust that life has given you all you need to succeed.  Do your best and be passionate about what you do, and the walls will open up to introduce you to the people who acquire the very thing you were lacking so as to facilitate your dreams coming to fruition.  It’s a hard concept for anyone to grasp, let alone a teenager. But, if we could teach our future generations this simple concept, we could probably be happier, more successful, more accepting of ourselves, and more willing to share of ourselves with others. We are all a work in progress.  It is one of our common threads as people.  Although I have much more to learn, I can proudly say I am no longer computer illiterate.  I trusted life.  It put me on a path toward some very amazing people, creating a team I had always envisioned. I can proudly say I am fairly literate in computers! And more importantly, I can enjoy the simple fact that I don’t need to know it all to be a success and live my dreams!

A Well Integrated Child is a Well Integrated Universe

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I recently attended the Mocca Arts Fest 2014 in NYC.  While I was there, I had the great pleasure of engaging in one of my favorite past times: People watching!  There were all sorts of people with different ethnic backgrounds, different languages, unique attire, and as many different color hair you can imagine.  It was wonderful and fascinating. All these people were celebrating a world of “art”.  The creativity in one place was astounding. It was, as my children would say, totally awesome! I couldn’t help but think of the brain, and the constructs of this device, and how so much “right brain” was at play here.  This of course, led to a gasp at the thought of how our school systems are geared so much toward “left brain” and how remiss our educational system is for not integrating the two in all dynamics of teaching to facilitate an integrated working brain.  It is our right hemisphere of the brain that leads to success early on when a mother holds her child.  This sense of attachment, and safety leads a child to becoming well developed and secure.  So why abandon this side of the brain when we reach our academic years?  If we connect and integrate, we will allow for more productive, engaged citizens who not only become increasingly more productive in the work force, but who also make a difference in their interpersonal relationships.  An integrated person is someone who is “flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized, and stable”. On the contrary, an unintegrated person is filled with chaos, and rigid.

Interestingly enough, one week prior to attending the Mocca Arts Fest, I enrolled in a seminar taught by Tina Payne Bryson, PhD. where she presented on her book titled The Whole-Brain Child. As you may know, the left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for logic.  It thinks in a linear fashion, and is based in a literal understanding.  It is our “linguistic” or “language” side of the brain.  It is here where we have a narrow view of reality, focusing only on what is directly in front of us.  Our right hemisphere of the brain, on the other hand, is responsible for the “big picture”.  This side of the brain senses emotion and body information.  It is non-verbal. It is considered our creative side.  Although both sides of the brain technically do both things, we tend to categorize these characteristics for each hemisphere as it is considered their specialties.  When integrating these two hemispheres, it can dramatically change how we perceive the world, and how we relate to each other, and ourselves.

Strategies for integrating the left and right hemisphere of the brain include:

1. Connect and redirect:  If your student, or your child, or your spouse is upset, and their reaction is hyperaroused presenting itself as yelling, screaming, deer in headlights, or panic attacks, or hypoaroused presenting itself as “shut down” and dissociative, they are, in essence, demonstrating an activated right hemisphere and so this is where we need to connect.  We can connect with the right brain by comforting through touch, a soft tone, facial expressions, empathy, and pausing.  This, then allows us to redirect with the left brain by first validating their feelings, and slowly build in to words, solutions, plans, logical explanations, and boundaries.

2. Name it to Tame it: If you are with someone who is clearly upset about an event or situation, it may be helpful to help them tell their story. This can be achieved by utilizing both the left and right brain.  Together, you can create a book based on facts, feelings and internal experiences, along with empowerment strategies to facilitate giving their story or your own a happy ending.  Telling your story and integrating it with a way to feel safe and produce a secure attachment can be most effective. It has been studied and proven that journaling of any sort can increase the immune system.

Strategies for integrating the upstairs and downstairs of the brain (the brainstem and limbic region with the mid prefrontal cortex and cortex)

1. Engage and don’t enrage: we can reduce the fright, flight, and freeze response by being more emotionally responsive and understanding to others’ sensitivities. Knowledge of the simple fact that our capacity to handle things fluctuates with many factors such as sleep, health, good day or bad day can be enough to become emotionally understanding and validate another’s outburst.

2. Use it or lose it: To exercise the upstairs of the brain, we must provide attuned communication and empathy. We must help another reflect by stopping, thinking, acting, and then reflecting in a mindful manner.  This helps expand tolerance for flexibility, and encourages a secure relationship with us.

3. Move it or lose it:  Exercise, exercise, exercise!!  Movement creates emotional shifts.  Playfulness expands tolerance and creates teachable moments, giving oneself the ability to withstand frustration when things don’t go your own way.

4. Rewind and remember: Engage in memory talk daily asking about each other’s day.  This activates the hippocampus. Sometimes, if things are too difficult to remember, we can play a game where we can ask the other to rewind or fast forward to a point in time that is easier for them to remember.  This can allow for a sense of control and is less threatening.  Little by little, we can begin to recall the target memory.  Again, begin where a person is, and then move forward!

5. Remember to remember:  Kids, and all people enjoy recalling pleasurable moments of their lives. Conversing about it is where we integrate the two hemispheres. Here is where we have an opportunity to practice what we choose to keep in our awareness. When we are mindful and aware of our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, we can choose to focus on those things we want and make us feel energized internally rather than those things we don’t want and make us feel depleted. By doing this, we create new neuro synapses which can literally change the brain to a healthier state.

6. Let the clouds of emotion roll by: feelings are like the weather.  They constantly change.  Did you know that a feeling lasts for only 90 seconds unless you give it attention?  So, in order to utilize this strategy effectively, we must change our language about any event or situation.  Rather than making statements which say “I am…”, you may encourage making statements such as, “I feel…”.  This can allow negative feeling rise and release within you so that you do not identify and define yourself as such.

7. S-I-F-T (Sensations, Images, Feelings, Thoughts).  Pay attention to what is going on inside of you.  Be mindful!  If something feels good, keep moving in that direction. If something does not feel good, stop doing it.  Self awareness and insight are keys to a healthier you!

8. Exercise mindsight:  Take control. You can practice this with a technique of closing your eyes or having your child close their eyes, and focusing only on the stomach.  How does it feel?  Then move your attention to your head.  Keep going to all parts of your body.  Create images for yourself that reflect health and beauty.  This is what creates new neural associations.

In summary, I have culminated the teachings of Tina Payne Bryson PhD. to help us consider incorporating these strategies within the educational system within the dynamics of our academics.  This way, we are sure to create more fascinating, well integrated children, citizens, and artists of our time as those whom I had the pleasure of watching at the Mocca Arts Fest

Better Hearing and Speech month is upon us!! 

Better Hearing and Speech month is upon us!! 

Getting Through A Monday!

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