Ask teach2talk™ co-founder Sarah Clifford Scheflen any questions you may have about the research and clinical experience on which teach2talk’s™ products are based, or if you are an educator or therapist, how teach2talk’s™ products can be successfully integrated into your existing curriculum or treatment plan.
Many of you have called or emailed to ask us which of teach2talk’s™ products might be most helpful to the child in your life, whether your child is a more neurotypical child looking to get a head start on his or her vocabulary and language skills, a child who has a language disorder, or a child on the autism spectrum or with another developmental disorder.
Many of you have also asked some more technical questions about the research and clinical experience used to develop all of teach2talk’s™ products.
Sarah Clifford Scheflen, one of the co–founders of teach2talk™ and a practicing speech language pathologist, is the person at teach2talk™ best able to help answer those questions.
Sarah does her best to read and respond to every email she receives, but she’s a busy professional who works in a clinic at a research university and also has her own private practice.
So, Jenny and Sarah got together and decided to create a place on the teach2talk™ website both for other professionals to ask Sarah questions about which teach2talk™ products might be helpful for their clients or students and how they can integrate teach2talk’s™ products into their current therapy or instruction programs, as well as to let parents, family members and others who have a child in their life to ask Sarah questions about which teach2talk™ products may be appropriate for that child.
How to Ask Sarah a Question
- First Name
- Email Address
- City and State
- Your Relationship (e.g., Speech Therapist, Teacher, Parent)
- Your Question!
If you do not include all of the required information, we’re very sorry but we will not be able to use your question and Sarah will not read it.
Important Information About Ask Sarah!
Please note that by sending an email to Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org, you are:
- certifying that you are over 18 years of age
- giving Sarah and Teach2Talk, LLC and its other affiliates and representatives permission (which you cannot revoke) to read and to use all or any portion of your email in any way they may see fit, including posting all or any portion (or any edited or paraphrased version thereof) on the teach2talk™ website or otherwise using it in connection with promotional and advertising activities
- expressly waiving any rights of privacy you may have with respect to such email
- acknowledging that Sarah may not be able to read or respond to your message, and that by reading or responding to your message Sarah is not entering into a clinician / patient or health care provider or therapist relationship with you or anyone else
Please note that Sarah, operating with limited information and without the benefit of any formal assessment or testing of your child or client, is able only to provide her initial impression based on her own experience regarding what might be helpful or efficacious for any child, and that any suggestions she may make are not intended to be, and are not, guarantees of any particular outcome. Every child and every case is unique. Furthermore, teach2talk’s™ products are designed to complement and supplement traditional therapies and treatments, not replace them. Parents should always, to the extent possible, consult with their current medical, educational, speech and language, physical, occupational and other therapists and other providers regarding what may be best for their child.
Q: How can I potty train my son? He’s almost 5 and we’ve had no luck yet. A lot of approaches seem to focus on how going to the potty will make him a big boy like his friends and how doing this will make me and his teachers happy, but he just doesn’t seem interested in any of that. Is there a method you’ve used and had success with?
Joanne M., Chicago, Illinois, USA
A: Potty training any child is difficult, but potty training a child on the autism spectrum or a child who has another developmental disability can be particularly trying. Our little ones like their routines and are often resistant to any changes, and they often have sensory issues and ritualized and repetitive behaviors which make it difficult to transition from eliminating in their diapers (which, remember, is all they have known, and with which they’ve gotten very comfortable) to the potty (which is a new, unfamiliar place, with new sights, sounds, and feels to process). Furthermore, little ones with limited expressive language capacity aren’t able to easily tell us when they need to go to the potty, or what they don’t like about going so that we can help them. Here is how we approach potty training:
- Start by establishing a consistent schedule to “habit train” your child so that he or she is used to going to the toilet to eliminate. At first, you will need to take your child to the potty every 30 minutes (sometimes more frequently – for younger and lower-functioning children, you may need to start with every 15 minutes). When first starting, try to check for a dry diaper before bringing to the potty so that your child has a chance of success.
- At first, just have your child sit on the potty. When they do sit, get super excited and give lots of praise. For really stubborn children, you may have to slow the process down and break it into more incremental steps so there is less change to process all at once; for example start by just going to the bathroom and sitting on the potty fully clothed, then move to sitting while still wearing a diaper, and only then move to sitting on the potty with pants and diaper off.
- Gradually increase how long your child sits on the potty. Use a timer to help your child understand how long they need to sit, and to remind you. Better yet, because our kids are such visual learners, use a visual timer for this purpose. You can either buy or borrow a fancy one, or you can just use an old egg timer or hourglass if you have one lying around.
- Bring a favorite book, toy or other activity along, so that your child can look at it or play with it while on the potty. You want to make going to the potty a pleasant experience, not an anxiety–producing pressure–filled experience. I personally strongly prefer to avoid food–based rewards, but if that is what motivates your child, use it.
- Another visual aid that really helps is a chart that shows your child in pictures each step of the process. For example:
- pants down
- sit on potty
- toilet paper
- pants up
- wash hands
You can use the visual aid to prompt your child throughout the process.
- Another approach that helps is to create a visual schedule for your child’s day so that he or she can see when it is time to go potty throughout the day (remember, this will be every 30 minutes to start). On the visual schedule, you can put something highly motivating (favorite toy) after potty trips so that your child knows that he or she has something to look forward to after going, and begins to establish a positive association with going to the bathroom.
- Once your child successfully goes for the first time on the potty, throw a huge party in the bathroom, and give rewards. Make going to the bathroom so much fun! It is key to reward and reinforce success.
- By the same token, try not to be negative or to get frustrated when your child doesn’t go (which will be often, since you’re starting with every 30 minutes). Doing so may create more anxiety in your child, which often leads to withholding elimination and creating bigger issues. Unsuccessful trips are no big deal – you’re just training your child to go, and there’s always next time.
- To prime your child before going to the potty and then to reinforce after success, consider using a social story. If your child can read, you can have them read the social story to you.
- Make sure everyone in your child’s life (family members, caretakers, therapists) is on board and ready to help you be consistent across environments, which is the key for achieving success.
- To get off to a good start, we often recommend devoting an entire weekend when your life is at least slightly less crazy than normal to a potty party for your child. You can increase fluid intake so that your child has more opportunities for success and just devote the entire weekend to spending a lot of time in the bathroom so that you’re really focused on establishing good routines. If you can get someone from your therapy team to help for all or part of this initial period, even better.
- Video modeling is another approach you can use that is near and dear to me and to Jenny – click here to check out our complete line of video modeling DVDs. And because our children are such visual learners, you can use a camera to document the process and to record successes, and then later use the video models to prime your child before going to potty and later to reinforce success, similarly to the way you would use a social story. However, we don’t have a Teach2Talk video on potty training, and I’m often asked why. The short answer is that we would love to, but the best video models actually depict the desired behaviors, and we’ve been unable to come up with a way to do this in good taste and that would be legal in all jurisdictions.
Yes, I know that all of this is a lot of work for you (remember, I’ve helped potty train a lot of children on the spectrum – but of course I get to go home at the end of each day, while you won’t). But if this approach is applied consistently for long enough, it will work for almost any child. Of course every child is different and you may need to adapt the approach to your little one, but when doing so please try to remember that consistency and rewarding success are the keys. Also, remember to be realistic about your child’s current capabilities. Some children will pick this up in a few days, many in a few weeks, while others will take longer, and may need to have the experience broken down into smaller, more incremental changes to achieve success. Throughout the long process, please try to remember how much easier it will be for you and how much better your child’s day-to-day life will become when he or she is potty trained. Good luck!
Q: My child is just beginning to make sounds, but isn’t really using words yet. What videos should I use?
Kim S., Plainfield, Illinois, USA
A: For non–verbal children, I would recommend beginning with Volume 1 of our Nouns! series, which is Body Parts and Clothes to Go With ‘Em, because nouns are typically among the first words a child acquires. When you have success with that video, I would then start with Volume 1 of our Verbs! series, which is Action Verbs, in order to add to your child’s functional vocabulary. Of course, every child is different and learns on his or her own pace – there is no guaranty that our DVDs will make a child who is non–verbal start speaking, but several children have had success with those two videos.
Q: Do your play videos also help with “talking”?
Deb S., Des Moines, Iowa, USA
A: Each of the videos in our teach2play series of DVDs models appropriate language throughout the entire video. In the research study I conducted, many of the children not only learned the appropriate play skills modeled for them, they also imitated and learned much of the language modeled for them. So yes, the teach2play videos also can help improve your child’s speech.
Q: When I ask my son a question, he just repeats it back to me! Where should I begin?
Maria M., Bradenton, Florida, USA
A: Many children with speech delays are echolalic when asked wh- form questions; that is, when someone asks them a question, they will simply repeat the question back. Our WH Questions! series of videos helps children learn how to receptively process (that is, understand) and expressively process (that is, respond to) wh– form questions. Volume 1, Where?, is the first title in our WH Questions! series – ultimately, we plan to introduce videos for all of the wh– form questions (what, why, where, who and how). The Where? video can help teach your son how to provide an appropriate response to your questions instead of repeating the question back to you. If you want to get really creative, and really help maximize your son’s learning from the video, after watching the video through a couple of times, you can pause the video after each question is asked, and have your child answer the question himself before you hit play.
Q: Will the teach2play videos help my children play with other children?
Chandra K., Staten Island, NY
I like to be clear with parents and professionals that our teach2play series teaches children to play with toys in a developmentally appropriate way, but target solo play skills, that is, the child playing on their own as opposed to other children. Having said that, play skills are an important part of every child’s socialization. When children get together, what they do is play, and if your child doesn’t have appropriate play skills it will be harder for him or her to interact with other children.
Q: Hi. How do I know what toys to buy to use with your play series?
Emily H., Bear, Delaware, USA
A: All of the toys modeled in our teach2play series are very common toys which should be widely available in your area at local toy stores and department stores. In order to help you determine which toys are modeled throughout the series, you can click here to see the section of our website which contains a detailed listing of the toys used in each video. Please note that you do not need to use the exact same toys modeled, although some children do get more excited when they are able to play with the same toys modeled for them. If there is sufficient interest, we may in the future put together a bundle of the toys modeled and make it available for purchase over our website, so please let us know – but we really strove to use very common toys which we hope parents will either already have (e.g., from siblings, relatives or neighbors) or can easily obtain at low cost.
Q: My little guy doesn’t know how to initiate with other children, will the sharing video help him?
Katherine R., Los Angeles, California, USA
A: Our Sharing video, which is Volume 1 of our Social Skills! series, models a variety of scenarios where children have to initiate with other children to share or take turns. Sharing strives to teach children how to initiate ask to share or take turns, and reinforces those behaviors by showing how happy the child feels when they share their toys, food or activities.