Meet Our Lead Pediatric Feeding & Speech-Language Pathologist: Melanie Coetsee

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Melanie Coetsee, SLP-CCC Lead Speech Language Pathologist

Melanie Coetsee, SLP-CCC
Lead Speech Language Pathologist

Melanie graduated from Erskine College with a BS in Biology in 1997 and received her Master of Speech Pathology from the University of South Carolina in 1999.  As our lead SLP Melanie has extensive experience in feeding therapy and has completed numerous oral motor and feeding conferences and is known in our area for her skills as a feeding specialist.  She is trained in The Beckman Oral Motor Assessment & Intervention, Talktools Sensory Motor Approach to Feeding, as well as the Talktools Oral Placement Therapy for Speech Clarity and Feeding.  Additionally, Melanie is gifted in working with clients with Down Syndrome, Childhood Apraxia of Speech and early language development.  She is also trained in Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets (PROMPT) as well as the Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol for children with Apraxia of speech.

Melanie served as a school based Speech Language Pathologist prior to joining her husband in the pediatric home based setting five years ago.  While working for ten years at C.C. Pinckney Elementary on the Fort Jackson Army base, she was named Teacher of the year 2006-2007.  Melanie is passionate about learning and started the Midlands SLP Think Tank for Speech Language Professionals to have an ongoing avenue to share ideas and new approaches to providing therapy.

Melanie says, “I love being a part of “firsts” for so many children as they learn to speak and communicate.  Seeing a child say her first word after months of hard work, or accept food from a spoon after months of oral defensiveness, pre-chaining, and food play is so rewarding!”  She also shares that she truly enjoys the sense of community we have with our staff and the families we serve.  Every therapist on the Sprout Pediatrics team brings unique experiences and gifts to the table and desires to know more.  Sharing expertise and therapy strategies within our speech therapy team helps us positively impact more kids and families.

Melanie is married to Rhyno Coetsee.  They have been married for 15 years and have three boys, Noah (10), Landon (9) and Bennett (4).  She enjoys cycling, swimming, running and watching her boys play ball!

Do’s and Don’ts of Sign Language with Young Children

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Julieanne signing title

 

If you are a parent or professional working with typically developing young children or children who are challenged, you have probably been introduced to the notion of using sign language with them.  As a pediatric team of professionals, we find sign language to be the one of the most exciting skills children learn and grow from using.  We use sign language with our late talkers, our children who have signs of Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Down Syndrome, Autism, and many other developmental and genetic disorders.  Here are some do’s and don’t of using sign language with young children.

Do introduce sign language as a way to give them a way to communicate their wants and needs.  Some of the first signs we teach are milk, cracker, more and cookie! We find both the Wee Hands Online Dictionary and the Lifeprint websites to be invaluable! If a client is frustrated or expressing an extreme desire for a given object, we can quickly plug in the word and see a picture or video of the sign. While the Wee Hands Dictionary is good for the most useful toddler and children’s signs, some of our children might love grapes and this sign hasn’t quite made it to the dictionary and the Lifeprint dictionary is more exhaustive.

Don’t teach words that aren’t useful or don’t mean anything to them.  If you are interested in learning specific words from a local professional here in the Midlands of South Carolina, we recommend the Signing Time Instructor – Jill Eversmann.  Click this link to learn more about the classes she offers!

Do hand over hand demonstrate how to sign a word.  Take their hands and do it with them and then stand in front of them and sign it again so they can see you doing the sign.  It might take you doing it with them 7-10 times before you see them attempt to do it but then again, if it’s a highly motivating food, we have seen boys sign “candy or cookie” after one demonstration!

Don’t think they won’t sign if you have been trying for several months and not getting any results. Toddler’s need to be sitting up independently and be able to bring hands to mid-line to do many signs, so if you begin before these motor skills are possible, you may frustrate yourself.

Do clap and praise them as they begin imitating and using the signs spontaneously! When toddlers begin using signs spontaneously, care givers and parents can begin expanding their vocabulary to words like: stop, mine, please, thank you and night night! These powerful words give them a voice in their day to day lives and parents often report seeing their toddlers less frustrated.  If they do continue to pitch a fit or whine, encourage them to use their words.  Model the sign for what they want and make them sign so they can begin to see the usefulness.  If you had a typically developing 3 year old, you would not allow them to cry and whine but would expect them to talk to you.  Expect no less from a child who can sign, just adjust the talking to signing.

Don’t put them on display and have them perform for grandparents and friends.  Allow them to show what they know as they request and use it naturally.

Do verbally say the word you are signing and expecting your baby to sign.  As your baby begins to sign more and more and develop a vocabulary of 15-20 words, you will begin to hear some verbal approximations for the words they use most often or hear most often.  They may say “muh” for more or “bah” for ball.  Some later word approximations might include “op” for stop, “peas” for please and “tan too” for thank you!  One of the common questions we get is “Will they ever talk if we teach them signs?” Absolutely! Sign language is just a visual and kinesthetic way to help facilitate your baby’s language skills.  Teaching your baby to sign won’t keep them from talking any more than teaching them to crawl will keep them from walking!

Don’t discourage signing or verbal approximations! Toddler’s and young children often do not have the motor skills to precisely sign or say words, but accept their effort and know that they will get better and more articulate.

Take a look at this video and watch this two year old girl with Down Syndrome show you all the signs she knows on command!  It’s difficult to hear but she signs grapes, please, milk and stop!

 

A few other useful signs we encourage through therapy are: help, open, close, book, on, in, dog, bird and music!

How to Make & Use Colored Rice!

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Our lead Occupational Therapist was getting bored with her white rice bins so she decided to spice it up a bit and add color! Below are several recipes but the last one has step by step directions for making a kaboodle full for your therapy toy library!

Easy Colored Rice:

1 pound bag of long grain rice

1 food coloring tube of your choice

Large zip top bagmadelyns rice

Place bag of uncooked rice in zip top bag.

Add 3 tablespoons to 1/2 a tube of food coloring to uncooked rice in zip top bag.

If you desire a deeper yellow or orange, add more coloring.

Seal bag and shake to evenly color your rice.

Spread colored rice on a cookie sheet over night to allow food coloring to dry.

Store in plastic boxes with lids for easy clean up and use.

Kaboodle fulls of Colored Rice!

To make large quantities of rice, you may want to follow this recipe as it disperses and sets the food coloring for pounds of rice!  We have seen recipes with vinegar in the place of the alcohol but then the vinegar smell is present in the containers.  Once the alcohol dries, the odor is gone.

Recipe:

5 lbs of rice

1 cup of rubbing alcohol (we made 10 lbs so we used 1 bottle of alcohol)

1/2 to 1 tube of food coloring (You can mix colors! We added yellow to the green to get our “Sprout” green!)

Large mix bowl or storage box with lid.

Plastic trash bag cut open or shower liner for rice to dry on over night.

Step 1 Supplies

Step 2 mix

Step 3 pour

Step 4 coat

Step 5 dry

Colored rice is a great therapy tool.  Here are 10 ways we use rice on a weekly basis at Sprout Pediatrics!

1.  Let children who have busy hands and like to touch everything – dig, pour, measure and play!

2.  Children who seem uneasy or whiny often times calm down to enjoy rice.  Hide small plastic food in the rice for discovery and describing!

3.  Hide farm animals and zoo animals for them to find and as they find them have them sort into a basket for categorizing!

4.  Bury various sizes of beads in the rice and as they find the beads have them string them for fine motor skills!

5.  Create a themed rice boxes that correspond to various holidays.  Use red rice, hearts, cards, etc. for Valentine’s Day!

6.  Have the rice on top of an outside stoop.  As they practice their stepping skills they have an opportunity to play in the rice for a minute!

7.  Talk about action words like pouring, dumping, covering, sifting, hiding as they play.  Say, “You are pouring, I am hiding.” Model simple sentences with action words.

8.  Provide spoons, old medicine cups, measuring cups for practice in scooping and filling various sizes of containers.

9.  Hide marbles or glass beads of different colors for some Math fun!  Ask “How many blue marbles did you find?” “How many green ones?” “How many all together?” 

10.  Don’t forget the funnels! You will love playing with the funnels as much as your child.  Laugh and Enjoy!

Last but not least, use recycled soda bottles and create I spy bottles.  Funnel rice in and find small objects your child will enjoy finding and put them in the bottle.  Super glue the top for safety!

I spy

Books don’t have to break the Bank!

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At Sprout Pediatrics we focus on therapy with developmentally appropriate practices in mind, so we love books! Books are great for expanding vocabulary and teaching language concepts.

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For example, we might use the bunny book in the photo to teach animals or work on animal sounds with an Apraxia client. Or for a developmentally delayed client we might use the Dr.Seuss book to teach body parts or following directions! Our Autism clients need work on answering questions and general language development, so the Veggie Tales books are a wonderful tool.

One big thing most families forget is that having a variety of books around the home doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The Library is a wonderful resource as one can check out 30 books for 3 weeks! Pull out ten new books a week for free! Or zip by your local thrift store and check out their selection of children’s books. Often times families outgrow books and they are still in good repair. We also hit up TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and Tuesday Morning as these stores often offer books at a discounted rate. Oh and don’t forget Amazon as we find books for .01 regularly…shipping is 3.99 but it’s still a good deal on most books.

Quick Tips of What to do as You Read:
Read, read, read!
Have children 18 months and younger turn the pages or pat the picture after you do.
Point to pictures and name what you see
Ask your child to point to the rabbit, the tree, or the girl.
Ask simple ‘what’ questions about the story and then ask ‘How many’ questions.

Speech Development of Babies: Birth to 6 months

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Speech development of babies!

By the end of six months, your child may:

Beginning smiling at you and favorite toys
Startle when they hear loud or strange sounds
Begin to find their own voice by crying differently for different needs & by cooing vowel sounds
Listen when spoken to or quiet when sung to
Appear to distinguish parents voices from others’ voices
Continue talking to themselves by finding consonant sounds b and g
Also may begin to form syllables by joining the vowels to those consonants
Will look in the direction of a sound or familiar voice
Use facial expressions when hearing sounds of various toys
Use their voice in a happy way (panting & kicking) or whine when upset
May acknowledge inflection changes in your voice
Attend to and/or listen to music

Most children will exhibit most of these milestones by six months of age. If your baby is not able to do all of these, but are progressing through these stages slowly, they may have a speech delay. See your pediatrician for more specific questions on the development of your baby!