21 Gifts for Parents and Caregivers of Children with Special Needs

A few years ago, someone shared with me a great system they used for buying Christmas gifts in their family. They bought only three things for each person: something they needed, something they wanted, and something to read. I put a little twist on this idea to share with you a list of items you might consider if you have someone in your life that has a child with special needs.


7 Things They Need

We can all agree that life with kids can get pretty hectic but can you imagine having a child with special needs that has multiple therapy appointments, out-of-town doctor appointments, or frequent meetings at the school? For families of children with special needs, the hours in the day seem to run out sometimes. Here are a few things you can purchase that might help fill in the gaps of things they wish they had time for.


  • Meal Service

    • Healthy meals are important for everyone! Find a local healthy food prep company or food delivery option and purchase a gift certificate or a subscription. Make sure to think about if there are food allergies or other food sensitivities that need to be considered.


  • House Cleaning

    • There isn’t much that compares to the feeling of walking into a clean house. Find an awesome house cleaning service or someone you know and trust, then gift a free month or two of house cleaning to make life a little lighter for the family.


  • Respite

    • Finding a babysitter can be the most daunting task for a couple with a child with special needs. Would you and your spouse or other friends be willing to give up a night to hang out with their child so that they can go on a date night – free of charge! Surprise the family with money to enjoy a special dinner together while you hang out and have fun with their kids!


  • Car Detailing

    • Crushed Cheetos, sippy cups stuck under the seat, empty drink cups, papers from different appointments, and so much more. They fill up the car quickly and can make for an unpleasant feeling when you are starting your day traveling to drop your kids off at school or go to a doctor’s appointment. Here’s an opportunity for another gift card – or offer to take their car for a couple of hours and empty all the contents then take their car to be detailed.


  • Gas Cards

  • Hotel Stays

    • Some insurance companies will help with the costs of transportation and overnight stays for doctor’s appointments but many will not. If you have a friend with a child who has to travel often, consider buying a gas card or gift certificate to a hotel near the hospital or doctor they frequent.


  • Money Toward an Account for Therapy Costs

    • While this may not be directly for the parent, easing the financial burden for a family of a child with special needs can have a significant impact. Here are some options.
      • Ask the family to create a PayPal or other similar account so that you and other family or friends can add money throughout the year to help pay for therapy costs.
      • Research kid’s savings accounts at a local bank.



7 Things They Want

Due to the costs associated with having a child with special needs, parents often sacrifice some of the things they want. Take the time to think about something that they might sacrifice so they can provide for their children and gift it to them this year.


  • Memberships or Day Passes

    • Science Museums, Theme Parks, Zoos, etc. – Think about places you love to take your children. Gift a pass that will help them to have fun all year round!


  • Starbucks or Local Coffee Shop Gift Cards

    • This is a no-brainer! Whether it be lack of sleep or stress induced fatigue, give them the gift of the caffeine pick me up.


  • Spa Day

    • A day of renewal! Don’t underestimate even an hour or two of time away to let someone pamper them and make them feel special. And don’t count out the men on your list for this gift!


  • Movie Tickets for the Family

    • Families need time together. Find a local theater offering Sensory Safe movie times and get passes for the whole family. Throw in an extra gift card to cover the cost of drinks and snacks.


  • Monthly Subscription Boxes

    • I am obsessed with these subscription boxes. There are so many options. From clothing to beauty, food to gaming, and grooming to fitness, there is a box for everyone. Here is a great website with some amazing options:
    • Find out what the parents or caregivers are interested in and give them the gift that keeps giving once a month all year long!


  • Support Groups

    • Local organizations may offer support groups for different types of disabilities. Help locate these support groups and find ways to make sure the parents or caregivers can attend.


  • Friendship

    • Lasting friendships are hard to find in general. However, the isolation of having a child with special needs can be overwhelming. Plan a monthly time that you can get together and stick with it! Dinner, coffee, a chat on the couch while kids are napping – whatever you can both squeeze in.

7 Things to Read

Reading can offer many things to a person – knowledge, passion, relaxation, joy. The list could go on. Here are some recommendations for both fiction and non-fiction.



  • Shtum by Jem Lester

    • Ten-year-old Jonah has never spoken. When he and his father, Ben, are forced to move in with Ben’s elderly father, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together. Jonah, blissful in his innocence, becomes the prism through which all the complicated strands of personal identity, family history and misunderstanding are finally untangled.  Shtum is Jem Lester’s debut novel and is based on his experience raising a child with autism.


  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

    • Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of this revelatory novel, relaxes by groaning and doing math problems in his head, eats red-but not yellow or brown-foods and screams when he is touched. When his neighbor’s poodle is killed and Christopher is falsely accused of the crime, he decides that he will take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and track down the killer.


  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio

    • Now a major motion picture, this novel chronicles ten-year-old Auggie Pullman’s journey from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan.  Born with extreme facial abnormalities, Auggie endures taunting, fear, and misunderstanding from his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.  The story is told from multiple perspectives as Auggie’s community ultimately learns the true meaning of empathy, compassion, and acceptance.



  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: Children with Special Needs: Stories of Love and Understanding for Those Who Care for Children with Disabilities by Jack Canfield

    • Chicken Soup for the Soul books are known for their inspirational and life affirming short stories and this edition is no different.  Parents or caregivers of children with disabilities will find support, reassurance, humor and heart within the pages of this book.


  • The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman

    • Every child has a unique way of feeling loved.  This book, based on the bestselling Five Love Languages teaches parents how to identify their child’s “love language” – how they understand and like to receive love – and how to speak that language to build trust with your child as they flourish and grow.


  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

    • Thought leader Dr. Brené Brown argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.  When we choose to dare greatly, the rewards are vast: We feel more loved and are more loving, we feel worthy of that love, we choose our path and commit to it with daily practice, and we live with courage, engagement and a clear sense of purpose.


  • The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida

    • Written by a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, this is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine.   Written with the aid of a special alphabet grid, the book features answers to 58 questions Higashida has been asked about his autism.


If you are worried you won’t know what they would like to read, purchase a gift card from Amazon or Barnes and Noble and print this list so they have some ideas. Also, consider whether the person on your list would prefer to have a physical copy of the book, read on an e-reader, or listen to an audiobook.


Well, there you have it – your 21 ideas for parents and caregivers
of children with special needs. Spend an extra few minutes and
share your love with them during this Christmas season!

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Top 5 Things to Know About TheraCare’s Summer Intensive Speech Therapy Program

Summer is just around the corner. Almost time for cook outs, pool parties, ice cream trucks and a whole lot of speech and language therapy.  Wait…what?

Did you know that TheraCare is offering an intensive speech and language therapy program this summer in TWO locations?  Here are five answers to our most frequently asked questions about TheraCare’s Intensive Summer Program:

  1. What is the “Intensive Summer Program”?

An 8-week program designed to provide short, intensive daily speech and language therapy services 3-4 days a week in a one-on-one setting to maximize your child’s progress and chance for success.

  1. Why would my child benefit from this program?

If your child:

  • Receives speech therapy from school during the school year, but no services over the summer
  • Has been identified as needing speech therapy but you haven’t gotten started yet
  • Is exhibiting some errors with speech and language skills but hasn’t been tested yet
  • Receives speech therapy somewhere but is only seen once a week or is making minimal progress

If you the parent:

  • Are worried your child won’t maintain his or her speech and language progress over the summer
  • Have concerns about your child’s speech and language skills but don’t know where to get started
  • Are dissatisfied with the rate of progress your child is making in speech and language therapy

This program is for you!

  1. When and where is it?

We now have TWO locations, our Springfield TheraCare clinic, and a new intensive summer program location in Branson!

Here are the dates:


June 5-July 28th (no sessions on July 4th)


May 30th-July 28th (no sessions July 4th or June 5th-9th)

  1. Does it really work?

In short, YES!  Out of 25 students who participated in all sessions of the intensive program at TheraCare last summer, five of them discharged from speech therapy, no longer requiring services in schools or the medical setting.  On average, these children met three goals during the eight week program.

  1. Can I afford it?

Most insurance companies cover these services!  Call 417-890-4656 to get more information.

For more information on our summer intensive programs, visit our website at:

Call 417-890-4656 or e-mail TODAY to reserve your child’s spot!


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Can Speech Therapy Help School-Age Children?

Can Speech Therapy Help School-Age Children?

When we talk about speech therapy, people often look at us with a sweet, smiling face and say things like, “Oh, it is so wonderful that you help kids say their ‘r’ and ‘s’ sounds!”  Don’t get us wrong, we can definitely help your child stop calling that furry animal with long ears a “wabbit”. But did you know that speech-language pathologists work with school-age children in many other areas outside of resolving errors with speech sounds?


Here are four examples of the areas we can provide help to school-age children at TheraCare:

1 – Executive Function Skills

Executive function and self-regulation skills are crucial to a person’s ability to get things done in their daily life. You may notice that your child has difficulties planning for upcoming tests, making decisions regarding the best ways to schedule their time, or remaining focused on a conversation at the dinner table. Executive function skills help us all plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks. If your child is having difficulty with these things, then schoolwork and social interactions may be negatively impacted.

2 – Auditory Processing Disorder

Have you noticed that your child has difficulty understanding instructions in noisy environments or continues to have difficulty with reading or spelling even given specific instruction? Sometimes children are able to hear words being said, but their brains have a hard time processing what they are hearing. Speech-Language Pathologists can help students discriminate, recognize, and comprehend auditory information to help them achieve greater success in school.

3 – Language Skills

Language skills are how we convey our thoughts and ideas to others. Adequate language skills are fundamental to academic and social success. This includes both receptive language (how we understand language) and expressive language (how we get our thoughts across). Language is such a broad area, but here are a few examples of the types of things we might work on with children of various ages:

  • Following directions (from simple, one-step directions, to multi-step, complex directions)
  • Grammar (subject-verb agreement, proper verb tense, grammatically-correct sentences, etc.)
  • Vocabulary (demonstrating understanding and using grade-level vocabulary)
  • Asking and understanding wh- questions
  • Writing a complete, grammatically-correct narrative

4 – Spelling, Reading, and Writing Skills

Is your child struggling with spelling words correctly? Maybe reading and writing has been a consistent challenge over the years? We can help with that! We focus on integrating all the functional elements necessary to help your child develop effective reading and writing skills. At TheraCare, we utilize a specific approarch that is proven to help improve skills for individuals with various levels of needs, including individuals with Dyslexia. We can help your child discover that learning these skills is fun while using our systematic, multi-sensory approach.


Whether it’s by saying that tricky /r/ sound, working on auditory discrimination skills, or helping your child succeed with reading and writing, the Speech-Language Pathologists at TheraCare would love to help your child communicate effectively and succeed in school! It is never too late to get help for your school-age child.

Check out our summer programs at for more information about upcoming learning opportunities or call us at (417) 890-4656.

We are excited to partner with you to set your child up for success!

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Therapists Unite!

Written By: Molly Duggins – MT Intern at Musical Bridges

Hello, my name is Molly and I am the intern at Musical Bridges music therapy. Theracare is one of the amazing facilities I am privileged to be working at. I am proud because of their unique blend of services offered to families. Not only do they provide a connection with occupational and speech therapists, but also my specialty, music therapy! This creates an exciting opportunity for whole health outcomes through co-treatment. You may be wondering what co-treatment looks like and that is what I’m here to shed some light on.

Each therapy field brings a unique contribution to help a client. Each also works by a code of conduct to stay within the boundaries of its own therapy. I will begin by viewing them individually before connecting the dots. After examining each one, I will offer an example of how specialties can complement and complete each other.

Speech-Language Pathologists work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive, communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults. This encompasses many facets, from sound production to receptive and expressive communication skills. It can also mean working on social and cognitive skills, both of which are necessary for daily life. Additionally, they can work with clients who are deaf, hard of hearing, or use assistive/augmentative communication devices. (

Occupational Therapists are trained to evaluate clients in their own environment to determine goals and create an intervention filled treatment plan. They help children to improve their interactions with their daily living environments by improving fine motor, gross motor, and visuo-spatial skills, as well as improve skills in activities of daily living. They work from a holistic approach, where the therapeutic environment is tailored to fit the needs of the client, who ultimately makes the changes themselves. The focus in on fulfillment and satisfaction of life and work and is evidenced based. (

Music Therapists use music to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship while working on physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs of clients. It is an evidenced-based clinical health practice. The therapist meets the client and assesses the strengths and weaknesses to develop a treatment plan. Music is the medium used to produce change that can transfer to other areas of life. (

Did you notice the words and concepts these professions have in common? Assessment, treatment plan, cognitive, social, skills, intervention, individualized, evidence-based….and when researching further, one can clearly see that they all want the same thing – for their client to grow towards health. So what would it look like if they came together to treat a client for the same condition?

Let’s take a look at a brief example, while understanding that there is much more involved in each one of these therapies.

Susie is a six year old who has autism. She is getting ready to enter kindergarten and her parents are worried about how she is going to interact with other children and handle the curriculum because of underdeveloped social and language/communication skills. They bring her to a facility where co-treatment is an option and each specialty does the following to help Susie improve in these areas.

The Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) is fully trained in typical development of speech and language. They can clearly assess Susie’s speech and language skills to find the baseline and then outline exact approaches to be utilized in a systematic way. They will create interventions with focus on proper positioning of the mouth and tongue. They can also help her understand words by using flashcards and other tools like gentle teaching. This creates an errorless environment for Susie to thrive in, while learning language skills. The SLP will also use cognitive-linguistic and behavioral techniques when working on social skills to help regulate emotions and control impulses.

The Occupational Therapist is fully trained to understand the happenings of Susie’s daily life They can determine her baseline social skills and develop interventions to learn about routines of school and understand rules. They can even work to adapt materials like school supplies so the transition is smoother, as well as focus on fine motor skills and visuo-spatial skills.

The Music Therapist is fully trained to understand music’s unique influence on the brain. They will assess Susie’s social and speech skills through songs and instruments, using interventions designed to work on these areas in a non-threatening way. Susie will sing conversation songs, designed to work on things like eye contact and turn taking when playing instruments. Songs will be utilized to work on speech intelligibility. Musical choices will be given to help Susie use expressive language. Music will also be used as a pneumonic tool, using songs that teach academic concepts. As Susie meets the criteria outlined in objectives, the therapist will fade the music out to make sure it transfers to all areas of life.

Susie will experience the utmost success as she learns to speak and communicate clearly and also demonstrate improved social skills. The team will collaborate towards the same goals, sometimes working in the same session and sometimes apart but consulting each other. This will fully utilize the knowledge of each profession to give a whole therapy experience.

Since we all want the same thing for our clients, why not put our knowledge together to give our absolute best. While all therapies use tools from each other’s’ belts, only the one trained in the specialty can use it to its full advantage without causing harm. Together we are stronger and can fill in any gaps where the other lacks. When you visit the hospital and have a specific health issue, you are referred to a specialist in that field, while still being in contact with your primary care doctor to receive a whole health benefit. So it can be with therapy. When specialties combine forces, it’s like having a superhero team to help the client tackle goals! We are all eager to help clients connect the dots.

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What is Music Therapy and How Can it Help?

Written by: Leslie Jones,MMT, MT-BC

Can you imagine a world without music? A week without it? Even a day with absolutely no music? Even if you can, you probably don’t want to because you are like majority of human beings, who love music. Music is a part of our culture, our daily routines, significant life events, even a part of our biological make up. If you think about it, we all breathe to a rhythm, speak with rhythm and pitch, and our hearts are a continuous rhythm filling us with life. We enjoy music so much because we are inherently made of music!
A music therapist takes this very idea and utilizes music in many different ways to help people reach their therapy goals. Since we are so affected by music as human beings, it is a great tool for therapy. Music is enjoyed throughout the lifespan and has the ability to affect people physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially and spiritually. Whether using music to help motivate speech and movement, distract, rehabilitate, express feelings, or bring people together, the focus in music therapy is the person and the therapeutic goals they are working towards.

The definition-“Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program”– American Music Therapy Association, 2010

Music therapists may hold a Bachelors, Masters or Ph.D. Graduates of colleges or universities from more than 70 approved music therapy programs are eligible to take a national examination administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). After successful completion of the CBMT examination, graduates are issued the credential necessary for professional practice, Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC).

So you may be asking yourself? Is music therapy a possible choice for me or my loved one?

Consider these questions:

  1. Does your loved one have an IEP? – Music therapists create musical interventions to work towards mastery of IEP goals in a fun and motivational way and can provide tips for using music outside of therapy at home, with teachers, and with other therapists.
  2. Does your loved one enjoy, or are they motivated by music? – This is usually a yes for most people, and why music therapy can have great success. A child wants to reach for that cymbal to play along and work on their core strength, without realizing they are working, because it is music and it is fun!
  3. Is your loved one currently receiving other therapies? – Music therapy is a great complementary therapy, which can aid with other therapy goals, ending up with quicker results. Music therapists often collaborate and work alongside other therapists (SLPs, OTs, PTs) combining expertise to create the best treatment plan possible for their patients.

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then music therapy may be something you wish to consider and look into. We can’t deny the power of music, so why not use it to our benefit!

You can learn more at the following links:

The music therapy profession:

Research and fact sheets for specific populations:

Musical Bridges Music Therapy:

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3 Songs, No Prep! Making Music Fun at Home

Written by: Allison Slone 

We all know that music is good for our kids. In fact, it can improve virtually every area of development: intellectual, social, emotional, motor, language, and literacy. But what if you’re not one of those Pinterest-y moms who enjoys creating rainbow sticks from tree bark and freshly-squeezed berry juice? Fear not, parents. Here are three songs you already know with a few easy ways to punch it up a notch—while keeping your sanity.

  1. “Old McDonald Had a Farm” – Use your toy farm animals you already have on hand to aid comprehension and boost the fun. For example, hide all the animals behind your back and pull one forward at a time as you sing “And on that farm he had a ________”. Wait for your child to say the animal’s name, then have them use the pig to oink, the cow to moo, etc.
  2. “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” – We all know the hand motions to the itsy-bitsy spider. Switch it up by having the GREAT BIG spider climb up the water
    spout (just like the itsy-bitsy motions, just WAY bigger). You can also try the “grumpy grouchy” spider by changing your voice and facial expression, the “silly, wiggly” spider, or anything else you and your child can come up with!
  3. “5 Little Monkeys” – Okay, this one is more of a chant, but you can easily turn it into a song. Get your body moving by acting out the story. How high can your child jump (off the ground, of course)? Can they grab their heads? Pretend to use the telephone? See who can use the strictest doctor voice to say, “NO MORE MONKEYS JUMPING ON THE BED!” Don’t forget to have your child count down from 5 each time a monkey falls off the bed.

Take some time each day to sing songs and be silly with your kids! After all, it’s WAY more fun than folding laundry.

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Three “Low-Tech” Options to Build Communication at Home

Written by Allison Slone, MS, CCC-SLP

The month of January TheraCare is spotlighting Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). What is AAC? According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, AAC “includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas.”

Maybe you’ve come across a man who has lost his ability to speak due to a disease like ALS, who now uses something that looks like an I-Pad to talk and communicate. This is considered “high-tech” AAC. Keep in mind though, it’s also considered AAC when you wrinkle your nose as your wife walks into the room eating chips with French onion dip. The facial expression of a wrinkled nose is conveying the message, “Hey! Your dip smells bad!” without needing to say the words.

Our ability to convey our wants and needs to communicate with other people is a huge part of what makes our lives rich and enjoyable. Parents have high hopes for their children’s lives, daydreaming about the day they’ll hear that first word (probably arguing about whether it will be “mama”, “dada”, or “pterodactyl”). So, when months pass and their child hasn’t made a peep, parents start to worry. Is there something wrong? Will my child ever find their voice?

Here are three “low-tech” things parents can do at home to facilitate (or “augment”) their child’s early speech and language skills:

1. Communication Boards
If your child is not yet using words to communicate, you can create a basic communication board at home to help them express their wants and needs. For example, you can use a piece of cardstock and have two highly preferred options for playtime, such as a picture of a trampoline and a picture of bubbles. You could ask the child “What should we play? Trampoline or bubbles?” and have the child select the preferred item. Your speech-language pathologist should be able to give you great ideas for what type of communication board matches your child’s current skill level, as well as suggestions for appropriate use.

Don’t feel like you have to start from scratch! There are a lot of great resources out there for pre-made communication boards, like this:

2. Picture exchange                                                                                                                                                        The concept of picture exchange is that the children are giving a picture (the symbol of the item that they want) to the intended communication partner in exchange for the item itself. An example would be having a Velcro strip on your fridge with pictures of the various contents of your fridge in it. Your child comes up to you and hands you a picture of milk. You say, “Oh! You want some milk!” and provide the child with milk.

Here is a link to some free picture exchange resources:

3.  Sign Language
Sign language is not just for people who are hearing impaired! It can be an effective form of adaptive communication for children who are delayed in verbal expression. Suggestions for beginning words to learn would be highly used/preferred signs like “eat”, “drink”, “ball”, etc. We would caution against using a sign like “more”—it’s a very abstract sign that can be overused, it makes more sense to teach the child to use signs that mean the actual items they are requesting.

This link provides the first 100 typical ASL signs used between a parent and young child:

If your child isn’t meeting his or her speech and language milestones, talk with your pediatrician and voice your concerns. Research has shown time and time again that early intervention, rather than the “wait it out” method is best practice for optimal results.

Seeking an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a great step. An SLP will be able to work with you to form a plan for intervention and to figure out an effective method of communication. Your speech-language pathologist will also be able to advise you on when a formal AAC evaluation is appropriate.

*Did you know that TheraCare has a trained Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device Evaluator on staff? Rachel Moore is one of the Midwest’s leading trained ACD providers. She collaborates with the other therapists at TheraCare to provide resources, training, and assistance for all AAC device users in-house.*

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To Be or Not to Be Dedicated

By: Rachel Moore, M.S., CCC-SLP
“Why should I spend thousands of dollars on a dedicated speech device or exhaust my funding source on this option when I can buy an iPad and download a communication app much cheaper?”

I often have families and caregivers come to me with this question. While this is a very valid point and tablet-based applications (TBAs) may be appropriate for some individuals, there are factors that deem dedicated speech-generating devices (SGDs) or augmentative communication devices (ACDs) more suitable in many cases. Let’s take a look:

1. Funding Sources

Medicaid/Medicare and private insurance do not typically cover the cost of iTechnology or applications. Durable Medical Equipment (DME) vendors generally have their own funding department that assists with the submission and processing of funding information to obtain recommended equipment at little or no cost to beneficiaries.

2. Warranties

In general, most DME vendors include a 1-5 year warranty that protects equipment from product defects occurring from normal or intended use and sensible repair options should a problem occur. Some companies even provide free loaner equipment for use while devices are being repaired. Warranties can come in handy should a device malfunction or break prior to the expiration of insurance/funding replacement windows (e.g. Medicaid will generally only fund one ACD every five years. Some companies’ warranty plans protect the equipment for the extent of this timeframe.)

3. Support

Technical support almost always comes as part of the package for dedicated communication devices. Most DME vendors offer tech support via telephone, live online chat, email and consultant visits for the entire team (i.e. parents, teachers, caregivers, therapists). Consultants can offer training on device set-up, programming and implementation. Support for TBAs is generally limited to online avenues such as video tutorials, email, paid trainings, social media groups, etc.

4. Accessories

Built into the price of many dedicated device options you will find certain accessories and added features that enhance the functionality of the equipment for daily use. Examples include carrying cases, carry straps, durable casing, kick stands, speech amplifiers, a stylus, editing software and add-ons like key guards, additional voices and different symbol options. TBAs require a “DIY- Do It Yourself” approach with researching, purchasing and applying these accessories separately.

5. Support pages and Profiles

Free access to support pages and the ability to create user configurations (e.g. bilingual page sets, snapshots for changing access needs) are only available on dedicated devices. These options usually require an in-app purchase or special subscription for TBAs.

6. Protecting content

Dedicated device options usually have their own editing software for backing up vocabulary files, while applications require file back-up to respective operating software (e.g. iTunes, iShare, Helium).

7. Access Options

If the individual using the device is unable to directly select (i.e. use their finger to select icons on touch screen), other access options must be considered (e.g. use of key guards, switch scanning, head pointing, eye gaze technology). These access options are generally easier to use and configure on dedicated ACDs.

8. Programming

In many cases, the convenience of programming vocabulary is increased when using dedicated ACD options. Applications can be more cumbersome to edit.

9. Speech Volume

Most tablets require a separate speaker to increase output volume. Dedicated devices generally have an integrated speech amplifier for increasing volume.

10. Differentiating use

What is the tablet used for already? Does the individual have an idea what the purpose of the equipment is? Communication vs. YouTube or gaming? Can the view be easily shifted to a communication focus if the technology was previously used for entertainment?

As you can see, there are many things to think about! A trained speech-language pathologist with experience in ACDs can help guide your family in making the best choice, helping give a voice to your loved one and improving their overall quality of life.

*Disclosure: Information for this blog was taken from a discussion on ASHA’s Special Interest Group 12 with input from a device representative/consultant.

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3 Reasons Why School-Based Therapy Is Not Enough for Your Child

reasons to continue private therapy


Your kids have spent the summer splashing in pools, eating ice cream, and staying up way past their bedtime. It’s hard to believe that in a few short weeks, they’ll be trading in those swimsuits for backpacks.

If your child has been receiving private speech, language, or occupational therapy services this summer, you may be considering cancelling these services for the school year.  After all, won’t their speech therapy services in school be enough?

Here are three important reasons to continue private therapy services during the school year:


1. One on One Setting

In the public schools, it is highly likely that your child will be paired with as many as three other children during therapy.  While school therapists are trained to make the most of therapy sessions involving several children, the simple math is that your child might only be getting ten minutes of therapy out of a 30-minute session.

In private therapy your child receives one-on-one therapy services, so every minute of a session is devoted towards working on his or her own specific goals.


2. More Collaboration with Parents

In private therapy, parents consult with the therapist directly after each session.  You are kept informed of the specific goals your child is working on, what strategies will improve their skills in these areas, and suggestions for what can be done at home to continue the progress.

More importantly, you as the parent get to know your therapist; together you prioritize what areas you want to work on first. As much as school therapists try to keep parents informed through quarterly progress updates and annual IEP meetings, they provide services for so many students that their ability to collaborate with you is limited.


3. More Therapy=More Progress

Public school therapy is free and takes place during the school day, making it a cost-effective and convenient form of therapy for your child. Unfortunately, not every child who is struggling will qualify for services in public schools. Research has shown that early intervention is a key to reducing the severity of your child’s needs and increasing the positive impact of therapy services.

Giving your child the ability to receive therapy services in public schools AND in a private setting maximizes their ability to make progress early. That means less services will be needed later on, when school coursework becomes more complex. Basically, the more therapy your child receives early on, the fewer services they will need later on!

Remember, the benefits of private therapy continue to last all year round! Public school services combined with private sessions makes for a one-two punch that tackles your child’s therapy needs early on.

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Debunking the Myths About Speech Therapy

Have you ever heard a conversation that went something like this?


Worried Mom – “I’m really concerned about my child’s speech. She’s two and half and doesn’t seem to be saying many words yet.”
Encouraging Friend – “Hmmm, well, maybe her older brother is just talking for her too much.”
Worried Mom – “Honestly, he kind of does his own thing so I don’t think that’s it. The other day she got so upset because we weren’t giving her the toy she wanted. Instead of telling us which toy she just kept pointing and grunting. By the time we figured out what toy she wanted we had a huge meltdown on our hands.”
Encouraging Friend – “Sounds like a normal 2 year old to me. Just wait it out. She’ll catch up.”
As a speech therapist, I hear stories like this all the time. Sweet moms and dads come into our clinic with a three, four, or even five year old kiddo and say, “I wish I hadn’t waited. I wish I had listened to my gut. I knew something wasn’t quite right.” So, what keeps parents from taking that step? I think it could be a few different things: fear of the unknown, lack of knowledge about local resources available, concern that others around them with think differently about their child, and maybe even some worry about the cost.


So, let’s tackle some myths about speech therapy for children five years
and under to help you find the truth.


MYTH: If my child comes in for an evaluation at your clinic, I’ll have to pay an arm and a leg. I can’t afford it.

TRUTH: Many insurance companies cover speech therapy services and while you may have to meet your deductible or pay a co-pay, you might be surprised at how affordable the services can be. At TheraCare we will call to check these benefits for you and we won’t schedule an evaluation or treatment without letting you know the costs upfront.


MYTH: You think everyone needs speech therapy and you see kids for services even if they don’t need it.

TRUTH: As speech therapists, we follow what are called developmental norms. Research has shown us the ages at which a child should be able to perform certain tasks and the testing that we use always goes back to these norms. If your child falls below what is considered normal, we will talk to you and come up with a plan that best fits the child’s needs. If your child falls within a normal or above average range, we will give your child an awesome prize and a sticker for having fun with us and send you on your way to enjoy the day!


MYTH: My child didn’t qualify for First Steps, Early Childhood Special Education, or Public School therapy services, so they can’t come see you for speech therapy.

TRUTH: If your child didn’t qualify for services within these programs that does not mean that they fall into a developmentally normal range. Strict guidelines have been put in place to determine eligibility in these settings and, while there must be a line drawn somewhere, there are certainly children who may not qualify but could still benefit from therapy services to address speech and/or language concerns.


The bottom line?

An evaluation of speech and language skills can never hurt. If you have a concern, call and find out more before you count out an evaluation as an option. Providing your child with speech therapy early and consistently can decrease the need services later while increasing the opportunity for success in school and life.


Do you have questions about speech therapy for your child? Wondering if there are other myths we could help to clear up? Leave a comment on our blog or on social media (Facebook | Twitter) and we will answer your questions!

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