Slow down, breathe, take your time ….

People who stutter face a lot of stress when speaking. Most of the time they are nervous because of the embarrassment. We think we’re helping when we are telling them to slow down, breathe, take your time, and think about what you’re trying to say. We are actually doing the opposite! We are putting more stress on the person who stutters.  The best way we can help a person who stutters is to LISTEN!! Don’t try to finish their sentences or give advice.  Be patient with the person, maintain eye contact, and most importantly LISTEN carefully.

It’s important to remember that young children have normal disfluencies during the time when they are starting to develop more advance language. How can you tell if your child has normal disfluencies or if they are truly stuttering? See chart below.

Typical Disfluency


Speech Characteristics

•   Multisyllabic whole-word and phrase repetitions

•   Interjections

•   Revisions

Speech Characteristics

•   Sound or syllable repetitions

•   Prolongations

•   Blocks

Other Behaviors

•   No physical tension or struggle

•   No secondary behaviors 

•   No negative reaction or frustration

•   No family history of stuttering

Other Behaviors

•   Associated physical tension or struggle

•   Secondary behaviors (e.g., eye blinks, facial grimacing,

•   changes in pitch or loudness)

•   Negative reaction or frustration

•   Avoidance behaviors (e.g., reduced verbal output or word/

•   situational avoidances)

•   Family history of stuttering

**Coleman, C. (2013). How can you tell if childhood stuttering is the real deal? Available from

 If you have a child who stutters, locate a speech language pathologist in your area and have your child evaluated. It’s ok to seek help. Educating yourself is the best way to help your child.  

Remember the most important way you can help a child who stutters, LISTEN CAREFULLY!

For more information regarding stuttering and ways you can help your child visit:

-Jennifer Henderson, M.S. CCC-SLP

**If you have any concerns with your child’s speech, language, and/or feeding development, please contact Deborah L. Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child. **

“What did you do in School Today?” – for Parents with Preschoolers

The way that you connect with your children on a daily basis is so important for their social and cognitive development.  What do you do when you ask your children a question about their day and they say nothing or cannot tell you anything new?

First and foremost, understand that very few preschoolers are able to answer such open-ended questions.  Preschoolers are concrete thinkers, unable to verbalize past events unless there is something available (such as a picture or toy) to help them remember, or the activity or event was so fun/exciting/memorable to them that they prioritize it in their thoughts.

Here are a few “conversation starters” for helping your child:

  • Look around the classroom, hallways and/or in book bags for pictures, art activities or classwork. Then comment on what you see (e.g., “Look at all of these dots.  You made the letter _____.”).  Let your child fill in the answer.  Don’t forget to use the information from your child’s classroom plans as a way to stimulate conversation about the day.
  • Be specific about an activity and give choices (e.g., “Did you have apple juice or water at snack?” or “It’s a sunny day today. Did you go outside?  What was your favorite thing to do outside?”).
  • Ask “who” questions to stimulate naming a specific friend or teacher (e.g., “Who did you sit next to at Circle today?”).
  • Affirm all of your child’s answers and comments.

Don’t shy away from asking your child about their day, but instead just change the way you ask! Good luck! 

-Nicole Reynolds, M.S. CCC-SLP

**If you have any concerns with your child’s speech, language, and/or feeding development, please contact Deborah L. Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child. **

A Parent’s Guide to Expanding Language Part 3: Bath time & Anytime

This is part three of a series! If you missed the other posts, you can find PART ONE and PART TWO here!

Language is ongoing. We use it constantly. Therefore, with these language ideas, it doesn’t have to feel like “homework.” You can be using them in daily living activities while you are doing the essentials as a parent you are already doing, such as giving your child a bath, going shopping for groceries, driving in the car, at mealtimes, and many more activities.

Below are a few more ideas of how to incorporate language into ordinary activities to help your child’s expressive language skills progress.

Bath time

Bath time is fantastic! It’s fun, and it involves play, so it’s a perfect setting to work on language while a child is having a fun time. Get those “Wh” questions flowing again:

  • What do we do with soap?
  • What does the water feel like?
  • Where do we take a bath?
  • When do we take a bath?
  • What is shampoo/conditioner used for?
  • Why should we take a bath?

Bath time is typically a daily routine. This is a great setting to talk about the steps for taking a bath to help a child with sequencing ideas:

  • Tell me the steps to washing your hair / taking a bath.
  • Use words such as “first, then, next, etc.”
  • What did you use BEFORE the conditioner?

Again, this is great way to incorporate various vocabulary, verbs, and concepts, such as opposites and descriptors. Bath time gives you an opportunity to introduce comparing and contrasting ideas that we talked about in the first two posts. When you ask, “What does the water feel like?”, for example, you can introduce “warm” or “cool” for the water temperature or comparatives like “hotter” or “colder”. You can also introduce:

  • before/after
  • wet/dry
  • clean/dirty
  • body parts
  • verbs
    • pour, blow (bubbles), scrub
    • floating, washing, splashing
    • crash, bump (toys crash into another toy)

ANYTIME – Strategies to try throughout your day!

  • Attention
    • Give full attention to your child when he/she is talking. We want our children to feel encouraged to express their thoughts! Make sure you give them direct eye contact and you’re not just “half listening” or it may discourage them from having a conversation.
  • Make sure they are fully paying attention to you when you are talking. If their head is faced down to the tablet in their lap, they probably won’t notice your language-rich narration about the bird out the window.
  • Talk
    • about what you are doing
    • where you are going
    • what you will do when you arrive  
    • who/what you will see

  • Count
    • shoes at the door
    • socks in a drawer
    • silverware on the table
    • cupcakes being frosted
  • Expand utterances
    • Introduce an unfamiliar word and offer its definition or use it in a context that’s easily understood. For older children, introduce higher level concepts such as “vehicle”
      • ex: I think I will drive the car, or vehicle, to the store.
    • Expand on what child says.
      • ex: If the child points to the cat’s nose, say: “Yes, that’s her nose. What does she do with her nose? She smells her food and the outside air. What do you do with your nose? You smell flowers and popcorn!”

As you can see, language is a continuous concept. It is a part of every activity that we do every day. As a parent, you can influence your child’s language skills just by modeling and providing more opportunities for him/her to use them! Good luck!

-Shannon Greenlee M.A., CCC-SLP

**If you have any concerns with your child’s speech, language, and/or feeding development, please contact Deborah L. Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child. **

Language goals in the Kitchen: Holiday cookies

With the holidays approaching, one custom that many families share in is making cookies. But as you are making delicious treats for your family and friends, you can also expand language skills!

Following directions

Target: Spatial concepts, or positional words, including: on top, over, under, up, down, bottom, in, out, in front, behind, beside, and between.

How to: After you roll out the dough, you can talk to and direct your child where to put the cookie cutters. For example, put the candy cane over the Christmas tree or Move that gingerbread man up. When putting sprinkles, icing, and candies on for decoration, you can continue to give these directions, or have the child direct you. For example have your child tell you where to put the candies on the cookie (up, over, under, etc.)

Target: Temporal concepts which include: first, then, next, last, before, after etc.

How to: As you make the cookie dough, explain to the child the order in which the ingredients will go into the bowl. Ask the child to help. For example, first put in the flour before you put in the sugar or mix together the wet ingredients before you add the flour.


Target: Add items to categories

How to: Talk about the items that belong into a category


  1. Desserts
  2. Colors (while using sprinkles)
  3. Christmas decorations
  4. Things that are cold
  5. Different types of measurements (cups, tablespoons, teaspoons, etc)


Target: Talk about how things are alike and different

How to: Try and see if your child can help you name one thing that makes two items the same, and one thing that makes them different. If one is too easy, increase the complexity by having them name two things that make them the same/different.


  1. Sugar/flour
  2. Spoon/fork
  3. Cookies/pie
  4. Measuring cup/ruler
  5. Oven/microwave

These are just a few ideas to get you started! Have fun with it, and enjoy a cookie together when you are done.

-Amanda Cox, M.S. CCC-SLP

**If you have any concerns with your child’s speech, language, and/or feeding development, please contact Deborah L. Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child. **

A Parent’s Guide to Expanding Language Part 2: Meal Time

Here is the second edition of this three-part segment. If you missed Part 1, you can find it HERE. 

Meal Time

Meal time is another great part of the day to offer chances for developing your child’s language. Again, incorporate those “Wh” questions! Discuss object functions, compare and contrast, make predictions!

  • What do we use to eat soup?
  • What do we use to cut food?
  • How is a spoon and fork different?
  • What do we drink out of?
  • Where do we put our dirty dishes?
  • Why do we use a napkin?

Many steps are used when preparing or cleaning up after dinner. Talk about them! Have your child help prepare the meal and have them tell the other family members what they did! This is also great for following simple and multi-step directions.

  • Tell me the steps for setting the table.
  • Tell me the steps for making a sundae/sandwich/muffin.
  • What did you add to the bowl AFTER the eggs?
  • What did we mix FIRST?
  • Add the sugar, THEN stir it together.
  • BEFORE you turn the mixer on, add the flour.

Describe your food! Talk about the categories: is it a fruit, a veggie, a meat? What does it look like? What does it taste like: sweet/sour/salty? What does it feel like? Compare and contrast. There are so many words you can teach with food!

  • Ice cream is a dessert. It is cold. It is sweet. It has many flavors. My favorite is chocolate.
  • A strawberry is a red fruit. It has seeds. They are smaller than a watermelon.
  • The ketchup is red, but the mustard is yellow. They are both condiments.

More interesting verbs are also a big part of meal time. Acting out the action is a perfect way to provide a visual definition for a new word.

  • whisk, stir, mix
  • pinch, layer, melt
  • dip, spread, taste
  • fry, bake, grill
  • Chop, cut, slice

When everyone is sitting in their place at the table, it presents a great visual to teach possessives as well.

  • Whose napkin is this? It is Daddy’s
  • Whose plate is this? It is mine.
  • This is my
  • This is his/her/your

Part three will include two more settings: bath time and ANYTIME. In the meantime, one of the best strategies for expanding language is modeling. It may feel weird to talk about everything you are doing, but narrating out loud is a wonderful way to model for your child how to incorporate more words into their expressive language. 

-Shannon Greenlee M.A., CCC-SLP

**If you have any concerns with your child’s speech, language, and/or feeding development, please contact Deborah L. Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child. **

A Parent’s Guide to Expanding Language Part 1: In the Car

You have been told that your child has an “expressive language delay.” I’m sure many questions begin to run through your mind, including “What does this mean? What is expressive language? Is there anything I can do at home?” To answer the last question quite simply: YES!

Expressive language is a very general term used to describe how we USE language. This is different from receptive language, which is the ability to take in and UNDERSTAND language. Expressive language encompasses many skills: vocabulary, sequencing, grammar, descriptors, pragmatic/social skills, asking and answering questions, and making inferences or predictions. There is no one way to go about treating expressive language disorders. Depending on the area of difficulty, your child’s speech language pathologist (SLP) will address his/her goals differently during therapy sessions. However, YOU as the parent can help more than you may think right at home!

Provided in three entries are ways and times during the day in which you can create a more language-rich environment for your child and help to expand his/her expressive language abilities.

On the way home from school

Ask your child questions about their day! Try to avoid yes/no questions so that your child must provide more than just 1-word answers. Incorporating various “How” and  “Wh”-questions will offer opportunities for longer responses:

  • How was school?
  • What was your favorite part? Why?
  • Where did you have recess?
  • What did you have for lunch?
  • Who did you sit with?
  • What did you do on the playground?
  • Why do you like the swings more than the slide?

Many children with expressive language difficulties have trouble sequencing their thoughts out loud. They may show weaknesses with retelling past events, stating steps of an activity in order, or demonstrating appropriate flow of conversation. Have them explain some of their school routines or activities to you:

  • Tell me how your class gets ready for lunch.
  • What do you do to get ready for going home?
  • What is Ms. Smith’s morning routine?
  • Tell me the order of your field trip activities.

Provide opportunities for your child to describe or use various basic concepts. Using adjectives, adverbs, and other descriptors make our messages more interesting and clearer to our communicative partners. Talk about what you see when you look out the car windows:

  • I see the stop light! What do the colors mean?
  • That car is moving SLOW, but that car is moving (FAST)!
  • The tree is BIG, but the bush is (SMALL).
  • Where is the bird/dog/man?
    • UNDER the tree
    • IN the sky
    • ON the bench
    • BETWEEN the bushes
  • Colors, shapes, categories
    • shapes: circle/sun, octagon/stop sign, triangle/yield
    • animals: bird, dog, rabbit, possum
    • colors: yellow/sun, green/grass, pink/flower
    • vehicles: bus, van, car, airplane, motorcycle

The next segment to be shared will focus on meal time. It can be so easy to enhance our child’s language just by taking a more active role in our daily routines and activities!

–Shannon Greenlee M.A., CCC-SLP

Speech And Language Fun During The Holiday Season

My favorite holidays are coming up – the ones with food! And that means extra time spent cooking in the kitchen. This is a perfect and FUN way to enhance your child’s language skills! You will want to choose a recipe that you can make with your child. Depending on your child’s age, you can choose something easier to make or something with more complex steps. Here are some goals you can target while completing a recipe:

  • Describing
    • You can compare and contrast the different ingredients. How are they the same? How are they different? You can discuss textures, shapes, smells, tastes, sizes, and other features. You can talk about categories too – vegetables, fruits, meats, grains.
  • Verbs
    • Cooking is filled with so many fun actions! Here’s a brief list: cook, make, drink, bake, boil, burn, peel, cut, eat, scoop, stir, mix, put in, taste, pour, fill, smell, feel, pinch, break.
  • Following directions
    • That’s exactly what a recipe is! Break down the steps into smaller tasks if they are too complex for your child. Sequencing the steps aloud can help teach your child concepts such as first, then, next, before, after. You can also have your child practice recalling the steps and stating them in order.
  • Vocabulary
    • Your child does not spend as much time in the kitchen as you do. There are fruits, vegetables, spices, and tools that he or she has never heard of before. Expose them to these new labels, uses (peeling, stirring, etc), and purposes in the kitchen.
  • Articulation
    • You can pick recipes that have your child’s target sounds. For example if your child is working on s-blends, you could make a fruit salad and target stir, strawberry, smash, smooth, small, sticky, spoon, spread, etc.

These are just a few goals that can be worked on while cooking in the kitchen. Try them at home during the holiday season and enjoy time with your children learning together!

–Shannon Greenlee M.A., CCC-SLP

Using Toys at Home to Enhance Language Learning

Children love to play with many types of toys, and these can be used in a variety of ways to enhance their language skills. One of my favorites, an oldie but a goodie, is simply a bouncy or soft (plastic, foam, etc) ball. You can expose your child to so much language just by playing catch or rolling it back and forth.

Kimberly Scanlon, M.A., CCC-SLP, author of “My Toddler Talks,” provides a variety of activities that parents can easily implement in their homes with toys they already own. Helping your child expand their language skills shouldn’t be expensive! Grab one of your child’s favorite balls and try out these simple ideas!

  • First, you’ll want to be in close proximity to your child and ensure their attention is on you and the ball. Label the ball as you show it to them.
  • You can target a variety of language concepts with balls. Make sure to label the action as you model it to your child.
    • Verbs: roll, bounce, throw, kick, squeeze, put, take, clean up, catch
    • Concepts: up/down, under/over, in/out, fast/slow, on/off, all done
    • Adjectives: colors, big/little, high/low
    • Turn-taking: my turn, your turn, his turn, her turn
    • So much more!
  • Roll the ball, state “I am rolling the ball,” then stop. Look at your child and state “roll” and try to have him roll it back to you. You may have to model this a few times for him or her to fully understand the routine.
  • You can also continue this social play routine by incorporating a dump truck, bucket, or stuffed animal. You can “roll” the ball, “put” it in the bucket, and “take” it out. All while taking turns.
  • At the end of the activity, you can teach a “clean up” routine by using “clean up” or “bye-bye, ball” as you wave good-bye.

Helpful Strategies

You will want to avoid asking too many questions and making your child feel like they are on the spot or need to perform. Make sure to acknowledge any gesture or verbalization as their attempt to communicate with you, using words of praise and affirmation as encouragement. Comment and narrate what you are doing to provide as much exposure as you can to the vocabulary. You can also expand your child’s utterances as well. If he or she says “ball,” you can respond with “Yes, that’s the little ball” or “kick the ball.”

Remember, you do not have to go out and buy new fancy toys. You can use anything! Be creative!

–Shannon Greenlee M.A., CCC-SLP


Scanlon, K. (2012). My toddler talks: Strategies and activities to promote your child’s language development. South Carolina: Createspace.

The iPad Isn’t Just For Fun- It’s For Language, Too!

Let’s face it–children love to play on the iPad!  I don’t base all of my therapy sessions around my LED screen, of course. However, there are a few apps that I just simply cannot live without.  Did I mention most of them are FREE?? 

Let’s start with the perfect “cause and effect” app for young children: Peekaboo Kids.  I use this app a lot when I am working with children on requesting things such as “more” or “open”.  It is also great for labeling and expanding vocabulary.  Children have the choice to open a barn and discover different farm animals, open a garage and discover different types of vehicles, or even open a stage curtain and discover different musical instruments.  It is a HIT with my early intervention children and my young school age children as well. 


Moving right along to my next favorite app, which consists of a funny alien that performs 25+ actions: POGG.  Most of my children are laughing and giggling while answering questions such as “What is he doing?” or “Can you show me the picture where he is eating?”.  This app is great for working on present progressive tense (verb+ing) and identifying actions as well as answering “Why” questions.


The last app that I want to share with you is called Sago Mini Friends.  I allow my children to pick a character and they can walk along to different friend’s houses.  Knock on the doors and find out what fun activity is in store.  My toddlers love these activities, which include dressing up, blowing bubbles, popping balloons, and eating a snack just to name a few.  This app is great for expanding sentence length, taking turns, and also for expanding vocabulary skills.  Hopefully your children will enjoy these apps and can work on improving their speech and language skills in addition to having fun!

–Breann Voytko M.A., CCC-SLP

My child eats fine… they are just picky!

This is the first thing most parents say when I walk into a home for a feeding evaluation. Most people assume that feeding issues occur only in children with a developmental delay, problems with gaining weight, or some type of physical/mental disability. While this is typically true, as a speech-language pathologist I have discovered that many typically developing children may in fact have severe food aversions.

What is a picky eater?

Simply put, a picky eater is a child that is very selective about what they will eat. One of my favorite feeding books, Food Chaining: The Proven Six-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Feeding Problems, and Expand Your Child’s Diet, describes picky eaters as children who will usually eat 30 or more different foods, and will want to eat certain foods for many days at a time. Toddlers, anyone?! They are the kings/queens of picky eaters, going days at a time only wanting chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese. A few days go by and they eventually get tired of eating that particular food, and move on to something else. Sometimes you even find that they suddenly refuse a food that used to be a favorite! (A tactic I am sure they invent only to drive their mothers crazy!)   However, when that particular food is presented again at a later date, they will usually accept the food without an issue.  These children may not have an obvious medical condition but may have contributing factors leading to their pickiness, such as food allergies or acid reflux.

What is a problem feeder?

A problem feeder is a child who eats 20 different foods or less, sometimes only a handful of different foods. These children may have a strong reaction to foods they dislike, such as crying, throwing tantrums, gagging, and vomiting. They may even reject entire food groups, such as not eating any fruits or vegetables at all. Meal times for the family of a problem feeder are stressful and exhausting experiences. Problem feeders may have some type of medical condition such as a sensory processing disorder, autism, delays in oral motor skills preventing them from eating certain foods, and/or acid reflux, to name a few.

How do I tell the difference, and what do I do about it?

If you find that your child is exhibiting characteristics listed above, then you may be looking at a problem feeder. So, as a parent, what is next?  You should seek the help of a speech-language pathologist. A speech-language pathologist will be able perform a feeding evaluation for your child, letting you know exactly what is going on and help you put a plan in place for feeding success.

If you have any concerns with your child’s feeding ability, development, and/or progress, please contact Deborah L. Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child. Meal times should be an enjoyable experience for all family members, and we are eager to work with any family to help achieve this goal. 

–Chariti Skinner M.S. CCC-SLP

Reference: Fraker, C., Fishbein, M., Cox, S., & Walbert, L. (2007). Food chaining: The proven 6-step plan to stop picky eating, solve feeding problems, and expand your child’s diet. New York: Marlowe & Company.