May 2013

My Say Survey

Recently, Monash University Emeritus Professor Bruce Tonge launched the MY SAY survey in Melbourne to help researchers gather information on what it is like to parent a child with special needs in the year 2013.

Professor Tonge (Child Psychiatrist) stated at the launch that: “The extra demands and day-to-day stresses of parenting a child with a disability are enormous”.

I would encourage parents to visit this link if you would like to participate.

I would encourage professionals to visit this link if you would also like to make a positive contribution.

Completing the survey online gives you the opportunity to register your details to be part of the project.

Once the survey is finished, free parenting and professional support will be offered across Victoria through the “Evidence Based” Internationally acclaimed /Stepping Stones/ Program. /Stepping Stones/ is part of the Triple P- Positive Parenting Program and is designed for parents of children with disabilities.

The Triple P - Positive Parenting Program is one of the most effective evidence-based parenting programs in the world, backed up by more than 30 years of ongoing research. The program provides simple and practical strategies to help parents confidently manage their children’s behaviour, prevent problems developing and build strong, healthy relationships.

I have completed the survey which was quick and easy. I hope to participate in the PPP Positive Parenting Training Program in the near future.

Take a moment to have your SAY

If you are looking to participate in a free group PPP-Positive Parenting Program and you are a parent of children aged 2-12 years living within the Eastern Region. Please contact Rima (from Connections) promptly on 9875 4222. A booking would need to be made for the programs coming up in July/August 2013 in Croydon, Victoria.


How to empower yourself to help your children through knowledge

Welcome to my introduction 101 on “How to empower yourself to help your children through knowledge”.

Whilst working on my blog this week, I was reminded of the Raising Children Network an Australian parenting website:

Sponsored by FaHCSIA Department of Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, it is a resource for parenting newborns to teens.There are featured articles such as /Common myths about Autism Spectrum Disorders/Starting primary school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders/

There is a Disability Services Pathfinder

The website is speech-enabled with BrowseAloud an assistive technology that reads the content website aloud. There are parenting podcasts available too!

Let’s Read provides access to an Australian program that supports families to share words, rhymes, songs, books and stories with their children Resources include reading tips sheets and books suggestions sheets for ages 0-5 years.

In the Special Needs section you can find a Guide to Therapies.
Types of therapies are described, the claims and suitability and whether research has provided evidence of positive effects.

For example: One approach I use as part of my intervention is Pivotal Response Training; a set of teaching techniques (targets children aged 2-6 years) that can be used in a child’s everyday environment. These naturalistic teaching techniques are used to improve social, communication and play skills and behaviour. This is an established approach and research has shown positive effects.

What is the idea behind it?

The theory behind PRT is that there are four key areas of child development that are ‘pivotal’ to later development:

  • Motivation: encouraging learning by giving children choices, varying tasks, combining previously learned tasks with new tasks, prompting, using rewards and rewarding attempts.

  • Self-initiation: encouraging and rewarding children’s curiosity, such as when they ask questions about something they see.

  • Self-management: teaching children to be more independent and take responsibility for their learning.

  • Responsiveness to multiple cues: teaching and encouraging children to respond to various forms of the same prompt or instruction – for example, ‘Get your jumper’, ‘Get your pullover’ or ‘Go and get your jumper now’.

Supporters of PRT believe that improvements in more complex skills (such as social skills, communication and play skills, and behaviour) will follow if children can first learn and develop in these foundation areas.

What does it involve?

PRT occurs in a child’s natural environment (at preschool, home or school) and uses everyday activities to teach the child.

For the person working with the child, PRT involves:

  • Setting up goals specific to the individual child (such as ‘saying a two-word sentence or phrase’)

  • Using the child’s interest in an item or activity as an opportunity to teach and help the child reach the goal

  • Praising and/or rewarding every time the child makes an effort to reach the goal (successful or not). Rewards are based on what the child likes.

The National Professional Development Centre on Autism Spectrum Disorders:

A multi university centre (USA) to promote the use of evidence based practice for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders, also provides an overview of Pivotal Response Training as an evidence based approach: (and others below)

For instance the following three evidence based intervention approaches are routinely implemented through Healesville Speech Pathology.

  • Pivotal Response Training,

  • Naturalistic Intervention: practices designed to encourage specific target behaviours based on insights into the learner’s interests and to provide responses that build on more elaborate learner behaviours that are naturally reinforcing and appropriate to the interaction.

  • Parent Mediated Instruction and Intervention: This entails parents directly using individualised intervention practices with their child to increase positive learning opportunities and acquisition of important skills.

These interventions can be supported by a tool such as the iPad. Whilst iPADS themselves are not an intervention, there are applications that support evidence based practice for both speech and language therapy and autism spectrum disorders, through an iPad interface.

PRT and Naturalistic Intervention can be supported by apps such as TOCA BOCA House, Hair, Store etc. The apps are cost effective and time saving and accessible for busy families. Apps are an organised, accessible, predictable and repeatable framework for children. They are a flexible tool because /no two children can be supported in exactly the same way/. Attention-focusing therapy, that is directly managed and facilitated by a carer can promote learning through sharing and engaging in play in a fun and meaningful interchange. The role of the Speech Pathologist is to demonstrate change through intervention whilst providing accessible strategies with those significant others in the child’s environments.

Access to knowledge available via the internet remains unprecedented in human history. Knowing where to find what is useful and relevant can sometimes be challenging.

All the best Eva

Welcome to our first ever blog

It is a wonderful opportunity to write my first ever blog!

Many thanks to my talented son Adrian Harrold who has inspired me to take the plunge and create the website: Thanks also to Jeremy Blaze Design, who designed the user friendly website interface. Jeremy displays tremendous talent and pride in his workmanship.

I warmly welcome all of you and hope that navigation of the information links is easy and rewarding. I have showcased all the best and most helpful information I could gather.

Thanks to all the children and their families who inspire me in my work as a Speech-Language Pathologist. The schools and preschools that have welcomed me into their communities including: Mt Evelyn Special Developmental School, Primary schools: Mooroolbark East, Gladysdale,Yering, Silvan, Healesville, Chum Creek , St. Brigid’s Healesville, Little Yarra Steiner School, Yarra Junction, Hoddles Creek, Haig Avenue Preschool, Launching Place Preschool.

I would also like to acknowledge the support I have received from my Speech Pathology colleagues:Andrea Houlihan [Medicare Local Rural and Regional Program for Preps Healesville], Patricia Cieslar [EACH Early Intervention Program Healesville], Megan Murphy [Eastern Health Yarra Valley Community Health Program], Tamara Dowling [Tamara Dowling and Associates, DIR Floor-time Specialist], Victoria Denahy [Gameplan Education], Tanya McGuire [Irabina Childhood Autism Services], Vidette Turner [Interact Speech Pathology Services Albury] and Julie Kiroluch [Work on Words Speech and Language Centre Bendigo], Tiffany McErlain [Formerly of Eastern Health], Amanda Webb [Mt.Evelyn SDS], Mary de Graaf, Christina Dowling and Beth Petersen [Student Services Eastern Network], David Fitzsimons [Cleft Palate Team Westmead Hospital]

I am grateful for the acknowledgement I have received since moving from Albury/ Wodonga and commencing work in the Yarra Valley in 2010. Special thanks also to Occupational Therapists: Sarah Watterson [EACH and Eastern Health], Brett Waddell [Early Steps], Emma Brady [EACH Healesville], Jenny Parkes [EACH Ringwood], Brianna Chivers [Eastern Health] .and Susan McDonald Maternal and Child Health Nurse [Healesville and district], Claire Allen [administrative and clinical assistant] Jennifer Knol [Physiotherapist] ,Megan Turner Psychologist and Michelle Toy, [Healesville Back Clinic Chiropractor]. The Early Intervention Teachers and support staff at Mount Evelyn SDS including Libby Anderson, Fiona Wicks, Helen Jeffs and Cindy Horsley. Thank you to Helen Johnston Principal of Mt Evelyn SDS for the opportunity to work directly with staff and students in the new Early Years Centre.

Most sincerely, I would like to acknowledge the dedication of Bronwyn Forster of EACH Early Intervention Program who through her tremendous leadership in child and family centred care, strengthens all those with whom she is in contact. Also I want to congratulate Andrew Fildes on his ongoing commitment to his Foundation for Childhood Language Learning Difficulties SHINE: I have been proud and grateful to be involved with SHINE, in particular the opportunity to supervise Post-Graduate Students.

When I started my first job 27 years ago at Student Services Wodonga, I had access to a telephone, a roneo machine (for you young ones look it up on google), and had to walk across a road and one block and stand in a cue to use a photo copier. Needless to say I burnt out quickly with my endless waiting list and lack of resources. 1986 was also the time when students with special needs were first being integrated into mainstream schools. Whilst at Wodonga Hospital, the mothers of the children I saw, fundraised for a desk top computer for the clinic.This gesture of kindness and understanding will remain with me always. It has been a long journey to come to this time of sharing information through the internet and therapy with iPad apps. Bravo!

In closing, thanks to my dog Nibbler who keeps me walking, the children who keep me talking, my friends and family who keep me loving.