Is My Toddler a “Late Talker”? Classic Signs

Many parents have clear recollections of the day their child first uttered the words, “Mama” or “Dada.” Once those two words come out, a string of words typically follows: “Doggie,” “Up,” “No,” “Yankees” (Unless of course you’re a Red Sox household), and so many more…

But some children don’t begin speaking as quickly as others. And this can cause parents a lot of anxiety. Perhaps their first and second children began talking around 18 months, but child number three has yet to utter a word and is 22 months old.

Child development has a lot of gray areas. Each child is unique and will develop at their own pace. While we may have “typical” markers for development, there is no one “normal.”

A Growing Trend

If your child seems to be a late talker, don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to Marilyn Agin, MD, a developmental pediatrician in New York City and co-author of The Late Talker: What to Do If Your Child Isn’t Talking Yet, the number of late-talking cases seems to be on the rise. Interestingly, this growing number correlates to the growing number of chronic ear infections seen in babies and toddlers.

Ear infections can impair hearing and, in turn, contribute to speech delays. With so many households requiring both parents to work, more and more young children are spending time in child-care settings, where they are exposed to illnesses of playmates that often lead to ear infections.

The “Typical” Language Development Milestones

Your child may be labeled a late talker if they are speaking less than 10 words by the age of 20 months or fewer than 50 words by the age of 30 months.

To determine if your child is a later talker, here are speech milestones set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Children should be saying single words at the age of 12 months. They should also be able to understand simple requests (Ex: Finish your food).
By the age of 24 months, a toddler should be able to speak in two- to three-word sentences.
By the end of the third year, children should be able to follow instructions of two or three steps as well as recognize common objects. He or she should be able to speak clearly enough that they are understood by non-family members.
By the end of year four, children should be able to ask abstract (“why”) questions and have mastered the basic rules of grammar.
And by age five, children should be able to retell a story in their own words and construct sentences of at least five words.

It’s important to encourage speech in your child by simply talking with them and talking with them simply.

If you’re concerned that your child is a late talker, see your pediatrician to check for an ear infection. You may also want to have your child see a speech-language pathologist who can administer tests and analyze your child’s speaking abilities.

4 Games to Improve Your Young Child’s Vocabulary

We take it for granted that babies grow into little people that eventually know how to talk. We don’t typically send them to language school and they don’t order “Rosetta Stone – Human Adult Language” courses online. Babies normally pick up language all on their own.

There have been different theories on how children learn to speak, and while we don’t have a complete handle on the entire language development process, we understand that children are naturally curious and driven. Language helps them make sense of the world around them.

Experts agree the human brain seems to be hardwired to learn language. Otherwise young children would never be able to effortlessly pick up the complexities of grammar, usage, and meanings. Have you ever tried to learn a second language as an adult? It’s not easy!

While children seem to be born with a deep desire to learn language, some theorists suspect that interaction with adults, particularly parents, is the key to helping children learn language and develop a robust vocabulary that will help them better communicate as they mature.

With this in mind, here are some activities you can enjoy with your child to not only have fun but build their vocabulary at the same time.

Story Time

Kids love being told a story. Heck, adults love it too, which is why we spend countless hours streaming TV shows and movies from Netflix! Make sure to spend time each day reading to your child. Babies and toddlers love picture books, and preschoolers love illustrated books with strong characters and storylines.

Word Games

Once a child reaches the age of five or six, they have a pretty good handle on basic language. Now it’s time for them to have fun with word games. Have fun with games like “I went on a picnic,” “I spy,” or rhyming games. These can be played on car rides, while doing the dishes together or taking a walk around the block.

Family Photo Albums

A wonderful way for kids to interact with you while learning about their heritage is to put together a family photo album. Have preschoolers help you arrange the photos in the album and tell stories of what is happening in the old photos that were taken before they were born.

Improve Your Own Vocabulary

The best way to help your child’s vocabulary is to expand your own and use a variety of words naturally. For example, instead of saying to your child, “Come on, let’s walk through the park,” you could say, “Let’s meander through the park.” Meander! What a magical word. You’ve just opened up a whole new world for your child with one word.

Instead of “Did you have fun at school today?” Try “Did you enjoy school today?”

Instead of “Pick up your socks,” try “Retrieve your socks from the living room!”

And instead of “Are you feeling confused?” try “Are you befuddled?” That one will REALLY get them giggling and wanting to learn more.

 

At the end of the day, the best way to improve your child’s vocabulary is to engage with them, play, talk, and have a lot of fun!

Dresses & Ties: How to Come to Terms with Crossdressing Desires

Societies like to make the complex simple. They insist on taking gray situations and ideas and making them black or white. In this way, people and situations can be more easily controlled and predicted, and the normal order can reign supreme.

Except, that isn’t realistic. We all know that human beings are very complex creatures and that life isn’t black or white. While others may like to put us in a box to make things easier for them, some of us simply don’t fit.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know quite a few crossdressers through my practice. They have come to me with feelings of guilt and confusion over their desire to wear the “wrong” clothes, the clothes that only the opposite gender is “supposed” to wear. Though they tried on their own to handle these desires and even conquer them, the majority felt powerless to stop.

Before we discuss “dealing” with your crossdressing desires, however, we need to make sure we are talking about the same thing.

Crossdressing vs. Transgenderism

Transgender refers to a person who identifies with a gender that does not match their biological sex at birth. While a person may have been born a female with a female anatomy and female chromosomes, that person identifies as a “he” in their daily life and may even choose to have gender-corrective surgery at some point.

People who crossdress often have a gender identity consistent with their biological. For example, a heterosexual man may identify as a male and be attracted to only females and still take pleasure in cross-dressing in women’s clothing. (In fact, you’d probably be surprised by how common and truly normal that situation is.) He does not wish to be female and he is not attracted to men, but he has a strong desire to explore his own femininity and feel beautiful.

Are Crossdressing Desires Really Something You Need to “Deal” With?

That’s not an easy question to answer, as everyone’s situation is different. What’s really important is to feel good about yourself and accept yourself for who you are. If you have feelings of shame or guilt, it’s important to talk to someone about those.

You may feel perfectly happy with yourself, but your partner may not like the fact that you crossdress. What do you do in that situation? Leave the relationship, or stop a behavior that makes you happy and is harmless to others?

The best advice I give my clients is to take some time to figure out what cross-dressing means to you. What value does it bring to your life? How does it affect your relationships? Does it negatively or positively impact the connection you have with others?

Though society would like to put you into a box, you are a unique individual and your journey in life is yours alone. Only you can decide if cross-dressing is right for you.

If you’d like to discuss your cross-dressing desires, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Are the “5 Stages of Grief” Real?

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance: these are the very well-known five stages of grief, as postulated by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. At the time of the book’s publication, very little instruction was given in medical school on the subject of death and dying, which was what motivated Kübler-Ross to share her findings in her work with terminally ill patients.

Since the book’s publication, the five stages of grief have become so well-known it’s now engrained in pop culture. Despite its popularity, some people may be surprised to find out that Kübler-Ross didn’t create the stages to indicate a linear progression of grief, but rather to describe the process of the patients she observed. Before her death in 2004, Kübler-Ross noted in her book On Grief and Grieving that the five stages were not meant to be a linear and predictable progression of grief, and that she regretted that the stages had been misinterpreted.

Coinciding with Kübler-Ross’ own remarks on the five stages, there appears to be no evidence that people go through any or all of these stages, or in any particular order. As unique as is each individual and their relationships, so too is their experience with the grieving process.

Since mourning the loss of a loved one can be such a devastating experience, many who grieve yearn for a checklist, a time to look forward to when the sadness and grief will end. Unfortunately, there seems to be no definitive “end” to the grieving process; much like our own personal growth, we’re never really “done” or complete with grieving.

As we deal with life as it continues, hand in hand with the experience of mourning a loved one, we find a “new normal” – a new way to be in the world without that person in our lives.

Although grief has no particular stages, timeline or ending, it doesn’t mean that we will grieve in the same way forever. The people that we love and lose are forever engrained in our hearts and minds. Over time, the indescribable sorrow of grief morphs into a sort of bittersweet gratitude: still sad that we lost our loved one, but happy and grateful for the gift of sharing our life and time with them.

If you are struggling with grief and need support and guidance, a licensed therapist can help. Please call my office today, and let’s set up a time to talk.

4 Tips for Controlling a Stutter

Just about everyone has experienced a moment in their lives they stammered nervously or struggled to get their thoughts out, but for over three million Americans, stuttering (or stammering) is a communication disorder that can cause frustration, fear, embarrassment and anxiety.

If you stutter, you may find yourself remaining silent in conversations, withdrawing from social situations, or even isolating yourself completely to avoid having to speak. While there is no definitive cure for stuttering, there are things you can do to help you learn to communicate more effectively. Following are four tips to help you control a stutter.

1. Take a Breath
One way to control stammering is to take a deep breath and speak slowly. If you know you’re about to stutter on a word, exhale first. Exhaling on the word you’re about to stutter on will help you slow down before you speak, which leads us to the next tip.

2. Enunciate
As you use deep breaths to slow yourself down, you can also use deep breaths to help you enunciate. Taking the time to enunciate words will help your brain control the movement of your mouth, rather than the muscle memory of your mouth controlling you. For example, if you have trouble stuttering on the word “bread” you can enunciate “buh-read”; if you have trouble with the word “kitchen” enunciate “kih-tchen”, and so on.

3. Read Out Loud
Make it a daily habit to read aloud. You can read to a close friend or family member, or read to yourself. Pick up a book or magazine, or read an article online out loud to yourself.

4. Practice
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. If you go a day or more without speaking out loud, you will likely have difficulty the next time you try to talk to someone. If you make an effort to practice daily, you will find yourself more at ease when you speak. You can practice speaking in front of a mirror, or practice by taking every opportunity you can to speak. For example, instead of ordering food online or using the chat option to talk to customer service, make the phone call. Do the things you’re uncomfortable with to push yourself.

If you’re having difficulty controlling a stutter, speech therapy can help. A speech-language therapist can work with you on ways to manage your stuttering, and help you better handle speaking situations. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call my office today at (123) 456-7890.

How to Practice Self-Care as a New Mother

While there are many surprises and challenges that await you in motherhood, one of the biggest shocks may be time management, or the feeling of being overwhelmed. No matter how happy and fulfilled you may be as a new mom, if you don’t take time out of your busy day to take care of yourself, you’re not giving your precious baby your best self. Ensuring that you practice self-care might seem like the lowest of your priorities, but being rested and cared for yourself is an essential part of being a mom.

While it will be challenging, it’s not impossible to make sure you take care of you. Below are some pointers that can help.

Get Your Sleep

While sleeping for a solid chunk of time may be a pipe dream for some, sleeping when your baby sleeps will allow you to get that much needed rest. If you’re worried that you won’t wake to baby’s cries, keep a baby monitor on your nightstand or bring the crib into your bedroom. Ignore the temptation to do chores while your baby sleeps, because it’s vital that you get your rest.

Stay Well Dressed

While it’s tempting to wear your maternity clothes out of convenience and to save money, it will help you feel your best to have comfortable clothes that fit. Get a couple of outfits in your size to wear until you get back to your pre-baby weight.

Make Time to Shower

If you neglect the simple routine of taking a shower, it will take a toll on your mental health. To make sure you shower regularly, try taking a shower when someone is home. You can also bring your baby in the bathroom with you, or take a quick shower while the baby is napping.

Accept Help

Regardless if you’re single or have a partner, trying to go it alone in caring for your baby is a big mistake. You may hate to ask for or accept help, but raising a baby is a lot of work. By recruiting help, you can make sure you have enough time to not only take care of the baby, but to take care of yourself. To try and do it all yourself does nothing but put unrealistic expectations on you, giving you feelings of guilt when you’re unable to accomplish the impossible. It’s important to ask for and accept help.

Make sure your partner is making an equal effort when it comes to baby’s care, and enlist the help of family and friends. If you have a friend that loves to cook, see if they’ll cook you an occasional meal. You might also ask for help with laundry, running errands, or babysitting (even if it’s just half an hour so you can take a long hot shower.)

 

Are you a new mom looking for parenting support and guidance? A licensed professional therapist can help. Call my office at your earliest convenience, and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

Starting Over: Dating After the Death of a Significant Other

Whether it’s expected or sudden, losing a partner is always a devastating heartbreak. The finality of the loss of the love of your life, and the idea that you will move forward in the world without them by your side, might be one of the most difficult challenges you will face.

If you’ve suffered the death of a significant other, have grieved and come up on the other side, you may be at a point where you want to find love again. You might have feelings of fear, anxiety, or even guilt, and you’re not sure how (or if) you should start dating again. Read on for some advice that can help you begin the process of starting over.

There’s No Timeline

In grief, there’s no handbook or checklist; how you mourn and move forward is completely personal. Whether it takes you 3 months or 3 years, your timeline is your own. When you begin to feel the sadness lift, and you find yourself yearning to share your life with someone again, it is probably time to begin the process of dating. Sharing every day with someone is a very intimate and special experience, and it’s healthy and natural for you to move forward with your life in a positive way.

Letting Go of Guilt

While it’s important to take the time to heal and recover from this devastating loss, it’s also important not to prolong the period of mourning. Your partner would not want you to live the rest of your days in sorrow. If you find yourself feeling guilty, know that your feelings are natural, but know also that you deserve to be happy.

Family Expectations

Your children and other family members who are also grieving the loss of your spouse may not be ready for you to date again. While it’s important to be sensitive to their grieving process, you must also remind them that it’s your decision to make. Keep in mind that their journey of grief is personal to them. As you remain sensitive to their process of mourning, remain true to yourself and move forward when you are ready.

Overall, when you begin dating again is an entirely personal choice. As someone who has suffered such an incredible loss, it can be a difficult decision; but it’s a decision that is only yours to make. Moving on with your life doesn’t erase the memories of the past, nor does it do a disservice to the spouse that you loved and lost. A new relationship will bring you joy and happiness, creating more loving memories you can add to your life.

 

Are you struggling to move on after the death of a significant other, and need support and guidance? A licensed therapist can help. Call my office any time, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

3 Everyday Pronoun Exercises to Do with Your Toddler

Long before your baby has said her first word, she’s learned to communicate. Her responses to you – such as a cry or a smile – help you understand her needs. As your baby grows into a toddler, her communication will begin to develop. She will go from babbling, pointing and simple words (such as “mama” and “dada”) around 11 months, to understanding simple commands and saying two and three word phrases (such as “all gone” and “I see truck”) around age 2.

But not all children develop language at the same pace. Pronouns can be one of the most challenging things for any child to learn. Additionally, for children on the autism spectrum or who have a language or developmental delay, it’s very common to have difficulty with pronoun usage.

Teaching Pronouns

When teaching your toddler about pronouns, it’s important to always pair pronouns with gestures as a visual cue. For example, when you refer to yourself, pat your chest; when referring to your child, tap their chest. If you’re having the child refer to themselves with “I”, “me,” or “my”, take their hand and place it on their chest.

To help your toddler improve their use of pronouns, here are three simple exercises you can practice with them daily.

1. Photos, Books & Toys
Use your child’s books and toys to learn “he” and “she.” Identify toys with boy and girl faces, or gesture to pictures in books, and talk about “he” or “she”. You can also look at family photos with your child and point to people in the pictures. “Who is that? Yes, he is daddy. Daddy is a boy. Boys are ‘he’.”

2. The “Who wants?” Game
Take something your child loves, such as a doll, toy, crayons, or some kind of treat, then ask them, “Who wants this?” For example: “Who wants a piece of candy?” To teach them, you answer “I do!” You can also model “Me!” to mix it up, once they successfully repeat the first phrase. You can also use “this is for you” and “this is for me” as you hand the treat to the child or yourself to teach additional pronouns.

3. The “I Spy” Game
When you take your child shopping or to the park, point to something people are holding or wearing to show examples of he, she, her, and his. For example, if you see a girl wearing a pink dress you can say “I spy with my little eye, something pink.” When your child identifies the girl correctly, say, “That’s right, that girl is wearing pink. She is wearing a pink dress,” or “Yes, her dress is pink.”

 

Are you a parent concerned about your child’s speech and language development? A licensed speech-language pathologist can help. Please give me a call at your earliest convenience, so we can chat and book an appointment.

Get Some Sleep! 5 Tips for Busting Through Your Insomnia

If you find yourself struggling to fall or stay asleep, you’re not alone. Insomnia, the chronic inability to get sufficient sleep, is a common problem affecting millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 study, more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a daily basis.

With a lack of sleep at the root of serious medical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, getting a decent amount of sleep on a regular basis is crucial to a long and healthy life. Here are five things you can do to change your routine and start getting to, and staying, asleep.

1. Just Two Things in Bed
Make sure that your bed is used only for two things: sex and sleep. By using your bed almost exclusively for sleep, your body will associate your bed with rest and relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep.

2. Exercise Regularly
Getting regular exercise (the recommended thirty minutes a day, five days a week) will help you promote healthy sleep habits. Your post-exercise temperature may promote falling asleep, and exercise in general will help eliminate insomnia by decreasing arousal and anxiety.

3. Naps, Caffeine, & Alcohol
Short naps are helpful for some, but for others it impacts their ability to fall asleep. If you’re struggling with insomnia, avoid naps during the day. Caffeine, a known stimulant, may keep you up longer than you’re aware. You may need to avoid caffeine entirely if it prevents you from falling asleep. And, while alcohol is a sedative, it can disrupt your sleep; so if you have trouble staying asleep, avoid alcohol.

4. No Screens Before Bedtime
Screen time, such as computers, smart phones and television, prevent you from falling asleep due to cognitive stimulation. Too much light at bedtime affects your melatonin production, giving your body the impression that its staying awake, not ready for sleep. Help your body get ready for sleep by eliminating screen time at least two hours before bed.

5. Create a Nighttime Routine
Creating a regular nighttime routine will help your body get into the habit of winding down and relaxing as it prepares for sleep. Create a nighttime routine an hour or two before bed. Maybe have a glass of warm milk, brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and read a book every night before bed. Make sure you go to bed around the same time every night too, including weekends.

Changing old habits and establishing a new routine is never easy. But as you make changes and sustain new practices, it will get easier. Before long you’ll have a new set of healthy habits, and you can finally settle in for a good night’s sleep.

Are you struggling with insomnia and need help maintaining healthy sleep habits? A licensed professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

“Who Wears the Pants?” Advice for Balancing the Power in Your Relationship

When it comes to relationships, it seems there is often a driving force behind the couple, or one partner who seems to always have the upper hand. This is often referred to as “wearing the pants.” The partner who “wears the pants” is the one most often in control of the relationship.

“Wearing the Pants”

But what does it mean to have control in a relationship? For one partner to have more control over the other often means that one partner in the relationship is more committed to and interested in it than the other. If one partner is less interested than the other, then the partner with more interest is frequently the one giving up their power in the relationship. This partner may do a lot of chasing and begging while the other wields the upper hand, giving little.

Self-Respect

To avoid this scenario, each person in the relationship must value themselves. Each person should see themselves as “a catch” – a person with value, who deserves an equal and loving partnership.

Maintaining a balance of power in a relationship requires self-respect. If one person in the relationship doesn’t value themselves and they’re willing to do anything to keep the other person in a relationship, they are also setting the relationship up to fail. The person in control will lose respect and attraction, while the person giving up control will build resentment towards their partner.

Balancing Power

To create or maintain balance in your relationship, you must learn to stand your ground. Make your demands known, figure out what your deal breakers are, and be prepared to walk away if necessary.

As you make your needs known, be sure to do so in a calm manner and don’t create an argument. If there are important things that your partner needs to change, set a time limit. For example, if they frequently put you down or name-call, give them a period of time in which they have to make significant improvement. Know in advance what you’re willing to accept, and what behavior is unacceptable. It’s possible that your partner won’t change, and if so you need to be prepared to walk away while your self-esteem is still intact.

 

Are you having difficulties in your relationship, and require the help and guidance of a licensed professional? Call my office today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.