Kids health

National Backpack Awareness Day


Backpack Awareness DayStudent backpacks are synonymous with school and books, however, many parents are uninformed about the seriousness and long term effects of not using the backpack correctly or how to choose the right backpack in the first place.

Wednesday, September 21st, is National Backpack Awareness Day and its significance should not be taken lightly.  Parents should take careful note of the tips below to avoid potentially long lasting and serious injury to your kids.
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May is National Speech Month

Child Success Center sheds some light on speech and articulation issues in children.

Child Success Center Speech Articulation

Communication is a fundamental skill that lays the foundation for how each of us will flourish and interact in society.  Its importance cannot be understated, which is why we pay special recognition to National Speech Month.  We are happy to present a special interview with noted speech pathologists Gina Costello, M.S., C.C.C., and Micaela Sulham, M.S., C.C.C.-SLP, who will help to shine a light on some common challenges that can affect a significant percentage of children during their key developmental years – and if left untreated, they can have severe physical and psychological implications.  Speech challenges in children can exhibit overt symptoms such as delayed language development, but they also can lead to behavioral, self-esteem and de-motivational issues.

Some speech challenges can be “grown out of”, however others, left untreated, can lead to  more severe problems down the road.  To better understand Speech Articulation and the therapy process, Child Success Center’s licensed speech pathologists Gina Costello, M.S., C.C.C. and Micaela Sulham, M.S., CCC-SLP , share keen insight about the challenges, successes and the general information that parents want regarding the help their child needs.  Here are their responses to several essential questions surrounding these issues.

What are the greatest challenges you deal with as a therapist?

Micaela – My most challenging client is the client who understands how difficult it is for him/her to talk.  Those clients tend to use “compensatory behaviors” to avoid speaking which become secondary behaviors.  Some of the strategies include tantrums, avoidance, distractions, etc.  The secondary behaviors tend to mask the real problem.  As a therapist, we have to work on the problem while dealing with the secondary behaviors.  This task is very difficult especially with children who have been using the compensatory behaviors for quite some time.

Gina – In all honesty, there are two clients-the parent and the child.  I find parents that are in denial of their child’s problem to be the most challenging.   The parent can become very defensive in this situation. I have complete understanding and compassion about how difficult it must be to accept that their child needs help.  However, I have actually seen parents not get help for their child due to their own fears or ego.  This really makes me sad for the child.

As a therapist, you are always challenged with coming up with new and creative ways to do therapy.  Some children are very receptive to therapy and are very compliant.  Other children demonstrate avoidance behaviors, may lack internal motivation or challenge the therapist behaviorally.  It takes a special therapist to have patience, understanding, compassion and creativity to pull out the best in each child.  This is the beauty of experience.

What has been your greatest success story?

Gina – I worked with a child years ago who was 2  years of age and had apraxia of speech – with only 10 words at the time.  Most 2 year olds have 200-300 words.  His father was a very involved parent, but needed a lot of guidance in understanding how to communicate with his son.  He often drilled him with questions putting him on the spot, causing him to “shut down” when he talked to him.  The father was very educated and successful in his career, however, I could sense that he did not feel success with being a parent due to this child’s communication deficit.  After 6 months of treatment, both the child and the father, who also attended the weekly sessions made huge gains.  The father learned how to be a better communication partner with his son and the experience significantly changed the dynamics between them.  With therapy a success, I formally assessed the little boy and his communication skills were above his peers.  On the last day of the therapy his father cried and was so grateful.  That was beyond rewarding for me!!

Micaela – Hearing a 3 year old child with a diagnosis of apraxia of speech say his nanny’s name for the first time without any help.  This child was known to simplify the words in his vocabulary to very similar and short words (mama, dada, nana, pa, ba, etc.).  In (therapy), he was trying to share a story about his former nanny after Skyping with her the previous evening, and independently said his nanny’s full name.  His mother began to tear up.  It was that feel good moment that you want as a therapist with every client you treat.

So parents can better understand the process, for the most common cases, what changes, aside from what you are treating, do you observe in clients you help?

Gina – I definitely see more confidence and less frustration with most of my kids.  Some children are teased by their peers because of their communication problems.  I find that kids can become more confident in interacting with their peers too.

One of the most amazing and beautiful things that speech therapy does, is it helps children learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.  In therapy, you have to help kids learn new skills and sometimes they don’t want to do the work.  It gives them the confidence to work through their discomfort and know that they will eventually be successful with practice.

I also think that it is a confidence booster for parents too.  Some of my parents are shocked by what I can get out of their kids.  They can’t believe that their child is willing to do the work and be pushed at times.  I think it gives a parent a sense of pride in their child.

Micaela – As children progress through therapy, they show more confidence in their skills.  I have seen children start to stand taller, walk taller, and use a louder, more appropriate voice when unfamiliar faces are near.  However, these are also the children who teach us as therapists to “think on our toes”, or else they may use their new found skill to escape their work task.

What are the most common questions parents will ask?

Gina – Parents typically want to know how long the therapy process will take?  They also want to know what reason they should tell their child for going to speech therapy?  They ask what therapy is like and how will I get their child to do the work?  They always ask if the problem will go away on its own – without therapy?  They often ask if they have done something to create this problem (parents often blame themselves).

Micaela – How long will this process take my child?  Many parents are balancing a busy life with work and family.  They always ask how long the process will take.  This always is a difficult question to answer as the time varies from child to child.  It may take 3 months, but it may take over a year.  It depends on why the child is coming to therapy, what are the speech errors, how many errors, what type of errors, etc.  There are a lot of factors to consider which makes that question one of the most difficult questions to answer.

What are the most common questions kids will ask, if any?

Gina – Kids often want to understand why they are coming to speech therapy (especially the older ones).  As they continue to come and they are in the final stages of therapy, they want to know when they will be graduating and what we do for graduation parties.  They often ask about the kind of toys and games we play?

Micaela – Kids ask some silly questions, the saying “Kids say the darnedest things” truly applies in my line of work.  However, some of our older kids who have been in therapy for a while or have seen other children finish and leave therapy may start to ask when will they “graduate”?

Child Success Center is unique from other therapy facilities because it features a fully equipped and kid friendly gymnasium that the kids love to explore. How do you use the gym to help clients and why is it effective?

Gina – The gym is a great tool to motivate kids.  We sometimes use the gym as a reward in the middle or end of our sessions.  It’s also great for children who are not regulated and need movement to help them feel more regulated in their bodies.  Children that have high arousal levels and children that are under aroused benefit from speech work in the gym to help them stay internally organized and regulated.  This helps them to attend more to the speech work and also helps motivate them. Physical movement helps jump start the communication centers in the brain.

Micaela – The gym is often used as a special reward for students.  We see many children ranging in age from 2 years old to 12 years old.  These children always enjoy knowing that they have gym time after working hard in speech.  For other children, the gym is used to help the child during the speech session.  These children typically benefit from the repetition of drilling for specific sounds, requesting by using language, etc., by utilizing the gym equipment.  For these children, sitting in a chair at a desk is not the ideal situation because their body may need vestibular and proprioceptive input.  When working with these children, the occupational therapists are amazing at providing tips to help improve a speech session.  These tips may include providing the child with heavy work (e.g. climbing, moving pillows around) to help regulate a child or swinging in a specific manner (e.g. linear movement, spinning, etc.) and even jumping.

Child Success Center is offering an impactful and fun program to help your children improve speech and articulation skills through a special series of summer articulation classes. The process starts with a brief assessment of your child’s speech needs, age and schedule availability so that  a summer program can be created to support you and your child. Click here for more info or call our office to set up an appointment.

Additional reading: Incidence and Prevalence of Communication Disorders and Hearing Loss in Children

Child Success Center Speech Articulation Summer Camp

Early Childhood Literacy Development and Getting Ready to Read.


Developing Literacy SkillsWhen should I begin preparing my child to learn to read?

Early childhood literacy development occurs from the time a child is born until they are four or five years old. During this period of emergent literacy, children become aware of the world of print and sound. You are probably already teaching your child basic reading skills, even if you are unaware.The importance of written language is demonstrated through naturally occurring experiences in the home and preschool or daycare environments, such as watching mom make a grocery list, and learning to recognize the letters and colors of a stop sign (Roth, Worthington, 2005).

What are some signs that my child is developing emergent literacy skills?

Activities such as pretending to read and write from books show that children understand messages that are conveyed through print. After listening to stories from their parents and teachers, they may begin to produce their own narratives and act them out. Some children may point out familiar logos and words in their surrounding environment.

Parents should continue to read aloud to their children and encourage symbol and color recognition during daily activities. Our next post will discuss risk factors that can lead to impaired reading skills including language impairments.

Additional reading: Are Spoken Language and Literacy Connected?

The Holiday Break for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder


The joy of the holiday time is upon us and there is nothing more exciting for a parent than to watch their little one enjoy the childhood traditions of the season.  But while it is among the most special and cherished times of the year, it can also be a challenging one as children are out of their usual school routine for two to three weeks.

This break in anticipated schedules and activities can be especially unsettling for a child dealing with developmental challenges or with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  The holiday routine – the parties, the shopping, the larger than life decorations– for some, may be a source of over stimulation.  Parents can help their little one to ease through the season with a few helpful hints:

holiday break for sensory child

  • Try to stick to the most normal “holiday period” routine, as possible (keeping mealtimes and bedtime on schedule).
  • If at all possible, build in lots of downtime and try not to overexert or tire your child – dragging them from one social commitment to the next with no break.
  • Prepare activities – in advance – to engage and share with your little one that provide healthy, enjoyable ways to channel their focus.  Ideas include themed arts and crafts, cookie making, holiday shape pasting, construction paper “loop” making for the family tree, etc.
  • Enjoy holiday music listening, quiet book reading, and story telling together to help bring to life holidays past – without the stress of over-activity.
  • Create new family traditions that siblings can share to help your child feel that he or she is part of something special – and a unique and respected member of the household during the holidays and year round.

Most importantly, remember that the New Year will bring a return to calmer days and that the excitement and buzz of the December season comes only once every 12 months.

Handling the Hustle and Bustle of the Holidays

Mom and Dad set the tone at home during the holidays.

We often think about how our children will experience the holiday season, but what about Mom and Dad?  The holidays can be the most joyful, yet stressful time of the year.  And, sometimes it isn’t the kids we really need to worry about, but ourselves!  How parents handle the holiday season will have a direct impact on what their kids take away.  And since the holidays can be an especially magical time for little ones, it’s important that parents remember to take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.

Here are a few tips to ensure a more relaxing holiday season:

avoiding stress during the holidays

  • Try not to take it all so seriously.  The holidays will happen whether we’re “ready or not.”   Sit back and remember to enjoy the season.  Also don’t forget that the traditions your family celebrates are all routed in another meaning – and they usually don’t involve parties and gifts! Try to remember why we honor the holidays in the first place.
  • Give yourself – and your family – a break by not over scheduling social commitments, gatherings and festivities.  When you try to do too much, you risk missing it all.
  • Build in couples-only time for you and your spouse to “take five” and sneak away for a reprieve from the holiday madness.  Arrange for a babysitter, family member or friend to watch your children and enjoy a solo dinner or even a stroll through your neighborhood to catch the holiday lights.
  • Remember that for your little ones, the holidays are already filled with awe and joy because they’re different from the routine.  Many parents try to too hard to make it all special when it already is.  The only thing for parents of children who have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) issues to keep in mind is to shelter their little ones from noisy parties; the over-stimulation of lights, music and commotion; and unfamiliar family members that hug, kiss and touch kids who may be uncomfortable with that kind of attention.  By being aware of the “sensory world,” parents can help their children to be more at ease, and, in turn, can ensure a more relaxed holiday experience for the whole family.
  • Try to grab a little extra sleep, take a warm bath, indulge in one extra treat at the buffet table, and – if you can afford the time and cost – let yourself be pampered, even if it’s only for one hour.  Even parents deserve a little something extra from Santa because the joy of the season should always come for grown-ups too!


To increase your child’s hands-on learning and play, try these fun activities with him or her at home:

  • Do a puzzle with your child – this classic, fun “game” doubles as an exercise to stimulate visual, hand, and brain coordination.
  • When helping your child to learn his or her letters, try having him write the letters in shaving cream to enhance the feeling plus visual connection.  To avoid messes, keep an artist’s tarp handy to throw over your kitchen table, or engage in this fun, interactive form of “gooey” learning on a backyard patio table that can be hosed down!
  • Have fun learning numbers with a game of stacking toys – count with your child (1, 2, 3) as he or she physically moves a stacking piece to the top of the pile.
  • Learn about geometric patterns and shape names with the highly physical action of placing those items into a shape sorter (rather than just viewing a one dimensional shape on a piece of paper or in a book).  The same can even be done while baking with your child by picking up a few new types and shapes of cookie cutters to create an in-the-kitchen game that can dual as a fun, interactive lesson in size and depth!

With a few simple learning tools and a bit of imagination, you can easily enhance your little one’s hands-on learning experience in your own home.

When will my child talk?

Language is a development process and each step builds on the previous step.  A child begins to communicate at birth through the use of cries.  Typically, a caregiver can distinguish cries that indicate hunger, pain, tired, and frustration.  As a child grows, he/she begins to develop sounds.  The first sounds produced are   uttered from the “back of the throat”.  Eventually, a child will begin to babble (e.g. mamamama, dadadada, bababa).  These sounds are all very similar (i.e. repeated sounds).  Babbling is shaped into simple words.  As simple words emerge, a child produces jargon.  Jargon means a child is producing sounds that seem to portray the intonation of a sentence and have meaning but the child is using non-sensible words.  Again, each step during language development builds upon each other.
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Enrichment vs. Early Intervention & Remediation: What You May Not Know

It is a commonly held misconception that children require a diagnosis of autism, Attention Deficit (Hyperactive) Disorder or a medical diagnosis of cerebral palsy to require or benefit from early intervention. All that is required is that a child is struggling functionally in the areas of social emotional development, sensory-motor development, language and communication development, or foundational learning skills/academic development.
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Child Success Center
2023 S. Westgate Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Call 310-899-9597 to access our “warm” line.
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