Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Everything from Bottles and Breathing

Today, I got the privilege of chatting with with Diane Bahr, a speech language pathologist and author of "Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) That! Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development". We discussed feeding, speech, and mouth development in children....and so much more!

Tell us a little bit about where you grew up and what you were like as a child.

I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. I am the youngest child of 3 children. My sister was on the autism spectrum which is probably one reason I became a speech-language pathologist. As a child, I loved to learn new things, and I still love learning.
You are introduced to someone at a child's birthday party. Describe what you do in two or three sentences. 
I’m a speech-language pathologist, specifically trained in feeding and motor speech disorders. I’ve authored two books Oral Motor Assessment and Treatment: Ages and Stages (a textbook) and Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) That! Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development (a parent book). I’ve taught undergraduate, graduate, continuing education, and parent education courses.
How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been a speech-language pathologist for almost 35 years.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about what you do and the work you do with your company?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that therapists know a lot of secrets that typical parents never get to hear. This is the reason I wrote my parent book.
In my book, I give parents detailed information that they don’t see in other parent books about feeding, mouth play, and communication development beginning at birth. It’s a proactive resource where parents can look up and read about “specific things to look for and do” in these areasbefore problems arise.  While the book has information on mouth development through adolescence, it is mostly focused on the birth to 3-year period when the majority of feeding, communication, and mouth development is occurring.
Many health and development problems can be traced back to early feeding and mouth development issues. As one example: a significant amount of mouth development occurs during the first year of life (particularly in the first 6 months). This is when the mouth and nasal areas are being formed for life. Many children, particularly those who are bottle fed, develop high narrow palates (roof of the mouth) and small nasal airways during this time. Small nasal airways can lead to many upper respiratory problems including sleep apnea. I talk about how to avoid these problems in my book and what to do about them if they occur.
As another example: Many children are not introduced to food tastes, textures, and utensils on time and become “picky eaters.” I have seen this frequently in my practice. We have changed the timing of food introduction from 3 months to 6 months to give children’s digestive systems time to mature. However, parents now don’t seem to know when and how to introduce safe solid foods, because they usually don’t have access to the developmental information that therapists have. Baby food companies make an attempt to provide some guidelines. But, the fact is that 6-month-old children are ready to begin to learn to eat from a spoon, take sips from an open cup and/or straw-cup, and finger feed. I teach parents how to safely and properly introduce foods and utensils in my book.
What’s your key piece of advice for new parents?
BE INFORMED. Get a good resource with accurate developmental checklists, so you can look up information as needed. My book is not a cover-to-cover read. We have free parent book guides by age and topic on our website, so parents can look up information as they need it beginning at birth. It is overwhelming to be a parent. You are bombarded with information, so you need to get a resource that is accurate and that you can use as you need it.
What keeps you interested in doing what you do? 
I continue to do what I do because I have learned a lot during my years of practice. I have had the unique opportunity to focus on feeding, motor speech, and mouth development most of my career. I speak with parents and therapists everyday who are dealing with problems in these areas.
Last week I helped a family and their speech-language pathologist develop a plan to resolve a child’s persistent thumb sucking which can ultimately affect a child’s dental and airway development. I have an 8-step process in my book to help resolve thumb and pacifier sucking. Good airway development is crucial for overall health.
What parenting or baby resource/product do you wish you had invented? 
I am still in the process of inventing resources for parents and professionals, so I haven’t stopped to think about this.
I would love to see the multitude of checklists in my book as an APP, so parents can just “plug in” their child’s information to see if the child is “on track” and what they need to do next. In my book I have many specific checklists for feeding, mouth play and development, and communication.
I would like create “pay per view” videos to go along with the information in the book about:
·     When and how to introduce spoons, cups, straws, food tastes, and food textures
·     When and how to introduce pacifiers and then move onto mouth toys as appropriate
·     How to avoid problems like drooling, tooth grinding, and other health and development problems
·     How to track and encourage communication development, because communication development is the first area to go “off track” when a child is on the autism spectrum. I have even placed a checklist in my book with the early characteristics of autism.

I also recently developed an e-course which is ready to launch. The e-course is entitled Everything You Need to Know about a Baby’s Mouth for Good Feeding, Speech, and Mouth Development.While this course was developed as a continuing education course for professionals, it is presented in such a way that parents and care providers can understand it.
What do you do to help your family get and stay connected?
Ironically, my family has rallied around our Ages and Stages mission “to provide the best possible feeding, speech, and mouth development information for families and professionals” in order to “prevent problems in these areas” for all children. My husband is our business manager, and my daughter (who is also a speech-language pathologist) has helped with social media, blogs, Q & A’s, etc. We have a lot of free information on our website (, and we encourage families and professionals to network with us. My daughter also has two young children who she has kept “on track” in feeding, speech, and mouth development by using the book. So, I guess that speaks well for the book.
Do you have inspirational quote or mantra for your family?
I always say, “Get the information you need WHEN you need it!” I recommend this for my own family and for parents.

Parents may not have the benefit of their own parents living close by to teach and show them what to do, so parents often find themselves guessing about information that many therapists know. My goal is to help parents find the information they need when they need it.
Share the title of a favourite parenting book. Why do you love it?
In my book, I provide parents and care providers with an annotated bibliography of parenting resources.  We also have an ever expanding resource list of related websites and companies on our website. However, I guess I would have to say that my own book is my favorite parenting book for feeding, speech, and mouth development. To my knowledge, there is no other book like it that gives parents the details of these processes for typically developing children. As previously mentioned, my book is a reference book loaded with checklists and specific techniques. The free parent book guides help parents navigate the information within the book as they need it.

Additionally, parents should always speak with their pediatricians about the methods and resources they are using. In my book I make it clear that I am educating parents and not giving medical advice. I also believe that parents know their children best and should trust their own judgment once they have the information they need.
Are you on Twitter? Facebook? Please share where we can find you.
I am on Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, Pinterest, and Google Plus. You can find these connections on our home page. Go to 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Signing "More" for More than More!

I have a signing question for you. My 10 month old has started using the sign for "more" but she often uses open hands, more like a clap. My problem is she also claps to show she's agreeable, so at the end of a meal, I sign all gone to which she claps but I don't know if she's happy we're done or asking for more. How do I tell the difference and also help teach her?

Great question, Tiffany I love that your 10 month old is signing…so wonderful! Babies learning to sign will often produce signs the way we do just a little differently. This doesn't happen with all signs but babies will often use what we call an approximation to the “correct” way of making a sign (I’m pretty relaxed about that word “correct” – there shouldn't be a strictness about teaching language but we do need to provide good models for our little ones).


The sign for “more” is produced by using a specific hand shape (two flattened “O”s); a body space (generally at about chest level) and a movement (tapping your fingertips together twice.

Now babies, because they have “wee hands” often get the body space and the movement correct but may have difficulty recreating the hand shape that we use. It makes sense – they have such wee little hands! What babies often do is approximate the hand shape – they may not use two flat “O”s but may use two flat hands, or one flat hand and a pointer finger, for the sign for “more”.  

When your little one does this following these steps:

1.    Acknowledge what they are trying to communicate, “Oh, you want MORE!”
2.    Respond appropriately and quickly, e.g., give them more bubbles, more cookies, more tickles!
3.    Model the correct sign and spoken word for them!
4.    Smile and make it fun!

Hey, that spells ARMS! Yes, use our long established ARMS principle (okay, I really just made that up – but it works doesn't it!)

Watch how this 9 1/2 month old baby approximates the sign for "more" while his mom, Sharon Weisz, responds, models the correct spoken word and makes it fun!


You also mentioned that she is using this gesture at different times, e.g., when the sign for “finished” might be a better sign. Children often overgeneralize words then they first learn them, every four legged animal is a “dog” (or a “cow”) and every man is “daddy”.

This happens whether words are signed or said. Your little one may be doing just that. She may be thinking,

Hey, mommy, likes it when I move my hands like this. Good things happen when I move my hands like this. I should move my hands like this all the time!”

When this happens again use our tried and true ARMS strategy:

  1. 1.    Acknowledge what they are trying to communicate, “Yes, you are FINISHED!”
  2. 2.    Respond appropriately and quickly, e.g., showing her the empty bowl, removing her tray.
  3. 3.    Model the correct sign and spoken word for them!
  4. 4.    Smile and make it fun!
What signs does your little ones use? What signs would you like to teach them? 

Sara Bingham is the other of The Baby Signing Book and the founder of WeeHands, a sign language program with instructors across North America. She is a frequent contributor to parenting magazines and baby-related professional websites.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

WeeHands in southern Grey County!

A big welcome to our newest WeeHands Instructor, Cheryl D Lindsay!
Cheryl D Lindsay, M.S., (S-LP), a registered Speech-Language Pathologist, is originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and graduated from Minot State University, North Dakota in 1998, with Master of Science Degree in Communication Disorders. During her studies, Cheryl has successfully completed American Sign Language Level 1 and Level II. She has worked in several clinical settings in several states, with a highly varied background in the treatment of children, as well as adults. She has lived and practiced in the Grey-Bruce area since 1999. She currently lives in Durham with her husband, daughter and son.

Cheryl has received specialized training in several Hanen® courses, and engaged in continuing education related to autism spectrum disorders, oral motor disorders and auditory processing disorders. She has owned and operated a private practice since 2003. Cheryl is an active board member with the Grey Bruce Youth Literacy Council. 

Cheryl shares, "I have always used sign language in my practice and embrace that communication is vital to the development of children and to the well-being of adults, no matter what form communication may take. I am excited to join the WeeHands team and provide an enhanced type of communication through singing, to my clients in a variety of settings!"

For more information about Cheryl's sign language classes for babies, toddlers and preschool children, please call 519-506-TALK (8255); email or stop in and see her at 137 George St W, Unit 302 Durham ON (above Mackhall Mobility Products)!

Do you live in southern Grey County? Which area? If you don't, what area are you from and how old are your wee ones?  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

WeeHands is coming to Baton Rouge

A big welcome to our newest WeeHands Instructor, Megan Dewberry!
Megan is a mom as well as a speech-language pathologist. She holds a Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Louisiana State University where she also took a number of American Sign Language classes. Megan has been working since 2009 as a pediatric speech language pathologist in an outpatient facility in Baton Rouge, LA. Megan works with many children diagnosed with speech and language delays and often uses sign language as a facilitative language technique to aid the children in communication.
Megan shares, "I would like to become a WeeHands instructor to educate the Baton Rouge area about the use of sign language in typical development and well as to assist my current caseload of children with delayed language development."
Megan looks forward to sharing, teaching and assisting parents the joy of signing and communicating with their young children.  Megan is an energetic person who is excited about sharing her knowledge of language development and American Sign Language.
For more information about Megan's sign language classes for babies, toddlers and preschool children, call 225-229-9382 or email:

Do you live in Louisiana? Which area? If you don't, what area are you from and how old are your wee ones?  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Guest Post: Let Mom Be The Judge of That

by Kathy Buckworth

When Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and notably, father of one,  made the comments that “women don’t apply to be judges because they fear the job will take them away from their children”, and that “children need their mothers more than their fathers”, (according to the Toronto Star),  with one fell swoop, he handed successful working women some more unnecessary guilt, and made Dads everywhere feel marginal, or even, optional, during the first few years of a child’s life. (I’m thinking maybe MacKay shouldn’t go after the Stay At Home Dad Vote in the next federal election.)
There are fewer women than men in every executive office and position of power; that fact is indisputable and statistically easily proven. But continuing to perpetuate the notion that a woman can’t be as successful, or shouldn’t be as ambitious simply because she has a child, versus her male counterpart, is ridiculous. Has MacKay heard of Sheryl Sandberg? Marissa Mayer? These aren’t the only two successful women in the world, although it seems like it sometimes, but they are the epitome of what women, not entirely defined by their motherhood, can succeed.

MacKay’s comments hit the news just as Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin’s “Darling You Can’t Do Both” book hit the shelves, which deconstructs the many “rules” women have to break to find success in the corporate world.  Vonk and Kestin are legends in the Canadian advertising world, and their experiences with gender discrimination and sexism ring true to many, including me, having worked in corporate marketing departments through the 90’s. I had hoped that the next generation of women (women like Sandberg and Myer) wouldn’t have to suffer through the same misogynistic setting.

In the early 90’s, I was employed as a product manager at a bank, and as I crunched numbers in a monthly budget meeting,  was called out to pick up my child from daycare, as she was running a fever of 102. When I returned to the office the next morning, my male manager pulled me in to his cubicle and asked me when he should be concerned that my family was more important to me than my job.  Isn’t everyone’s family more important to them than their job? Was this a Mother Issue? Does it mean that as a woman we can’t have a family and be a judge, or a vice president, or a product manager?

I started looking for another position, at other organizations.  I was being considered for a job at another bank, and the Senior Vice President asked me if I was married, and if I planned on having more children. I advised him that I didn’t have to answer that question (I had two children at the time).  His response?  “I know I’m not supposed to ask you that, but I assume you want the job.  Do you realize that this a real job, not girls playing house?”  I didn’t pursue that job, although I did make a stop at the Human Resources department on the way out. He’s still at that bank; he’s been promoted several times.

“It’s not fair”, said a manager in her sixties, sitting next to me at lunch one day. “Back in the 1960’s when I was your age I couldn’t have a family and keep a good job at the bank. They made us resign when we had children. I had to choose.  I think you should have to choose too.” I think Peter MacKay would have liked her.

These situations happened over  20 years ago, but it pains me that still, today, men in positions of power, who can get media attention, not only make comments like Peter McKay did, but ultimately, that they themselves believe them. Regardless of the fact that perhaps mothers may  have a more biological and emotional role to play in the formative first years of their child’s life (a fact many would dispute), it in no way indicates that they are not capable of doing whatever they want, and need, to do, to be successful and happy. And we all know when Mom’s happy, everyone’s happy, right? 

The blanket statement that “women don’t apply” perpetuates the myth that all women, and by definition, are a homogenous group.  They’re not.  Not all women like to shop, spend hours on Pinterest, bake cupcakes or breastfeed.  Just the same as not all men like sports, hardware, and excel in laundry avoidance.

As Vonk and Kestin have so accurately written about, it’s time to start breaking some rules, further, it’s time to start making some rules about what we can, and can’t do.  

Remember, it’s only work if you’d rather be somewhere else. For the ambitious and successful women who have a passion and talent for what they do, the jobs aren't taking them away from their children; they’re taking them on a path of professional and personal fulfillment. Can’t we choose to do that without being judged or perhaps even choose to be a judge?

Kathy Buckworth’s latest book “I Am So The Boss Of You” is available at bookstores everywhere.