Chatter Box Newsletter (Issue 9 | Winter 2017)

Welcome New Therapists to the Chatty Child Team: Sarah Abraham, MS, OTR/L and Chantal Ghalchi, MS, CCC-SLP, TSLD and Paulina Smietanka, MS, CF-SLP; Vivian & Her "Talker"; Out & About in NYC; News & Blogs; Diagnosis & Management of Childhood Apraxia of Speech Workshop; Apps Corner; New Winter Book Suggestions

Issue 9 | Winter 2017

Welcome New Therapists to the Chatty Child Team  

Sarah Abraham, MS, OTR/L
Sarah became a registered and licensed Occupational Therapist in August 2015.  She graduated with a Bachelors in Health Science and Masters of Occupational Therapy from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She completed her level II fieldwork at a sensory gym in New York City and at a hand therapy clinic in Miami, Florida. Sarah has been working in pediatrics since she graduated, working at sensory gym and school settings. She is experienced in treating early intervention to school aged children with various diagnoses including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Downs Syndrome, and Developmental Delays.  Sarah uses her creativity to improve fine motor skills, visual perceptual and visual motor skills, sensory integration, social skills, motor planning, and self-care skills.

Chantal Ghalchi, MS, CCC-SLP, TSLD
Chantal Ghalchi is a Speech & Language Pathologist with licensure in the states of New York and Connecticut. She is an alumnus at the University of Connecticut and received a Master of Science at the Center for Communication Disorders at Southern Connecticut State University.

Chantal spends her clinical hours servicing preschool through elementary school children, both in and out of the school setting. She believes in a multi-disciplinary approach to therapy, working closely with occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other members of the child's care team to provide holistic speech & language therapy. Through her work with children ages 3-10, Chantal has gained expertise in the areas of autism spectrum disorder, expressive language delays, phonological impairments, receptive language deficits, literacy, social language skills, and more.

Other clinical experiences include inpatient acute care and rehabilitation services for the adult population, as well as an intensive adult stuttering treatment program at The American Institute for Stuttering.

Paulina Smietanka, MS, CF-SLP
Paulina is a speech and language pathologist in her clinical fellowship year. She received her Masters of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Teachers College/Columbia University,  and her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Queens College/City University of New York. Paulina  has gained her experiences working in a preschool, elementary school, aphasia group, and acute care hospital. Paulina worked with a diverse population, including but not limited to, receptive and expressive language delays, autism, apraxia of speech, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, genetic and chromosomal disorders, aphasia, traumatic brain injuries, articulation impairments, medically-fragile children and multiple-global disabilities. Paulina's interests also include augmentative and alternative communication. Paulina is Level 1 PROMPT trained and is certified in Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (LSVT), and Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluations of Swallowing (FEES). Paulina incorporates interdisciplinary discussion, parental involvement and generalization into her treatment. She has an energetic personality that engages and motivates children to become active participants in therapy. Paulina provides individualized therapy that enables children to maximize their potential through play and age-appropriate tasks.

Paulina  has been with Chatty Child since 2012, originally starting as an intern but has since began her career as a speech-language pathologist. During that time, she shadowed sessions, assisted in group therapy sessions, and acquired administrative skills in regards to NYDOE paperwork and guidelines. Overall, Paulina's acquired skills and passion for the field is evident throughout all her therapeutic sessions.


Vivian & Her "Talker"

Guest Article By Jeremy Abarno & Eve Colavito

Eve and I are the very proud parents of three wonderful children. Marlon, 11 years-old, Lucia, 8 years-old, and Vivian, who will be 3 years old in March.

Though we didn't know it at the time, Vivian was born with Angelman Syndrome. AS is a rare neuro-genetic disorder that makes some of the most simple things, like walking, holding a pencil, or feeding one's self into significant challenges.  She has fine and gross motor challenges, and other developmental delays but by far her biggest challenge is communication. Many children with Angelman Syndrome never learn to speak and those that do, develop only a few words. Due to the fact that she struggles with fine motor skills, Vivian will not likely learn to sign. Basically, expression just doesn't come easy for her.

Too often, when a child has speech and language impairments, many assume that they are cognitively impaired. With Vivian and so many others, this is just not the case. Vivian's receptive language and social awareness are quite developed actually. Vivian understands nearly everything her teachers, therapists, parents, and siblings say. This became clear to us even as an infant, when she would bring us objects that we were discussing, or look in the direction of something that was mentioned or when she engaged in play with her brother and sister - she would play along in a way that showed she understood.

She has shown such determination in figuring out how to get her message across even without speech. She's invented clever ways of letting us know what she wants and needs and even how she is feeling: Her facial expressions are just amazing and you can get a good idea of how she's feeling just by looking at her; She often pulls us where she wants to go; She grunts and uses various tones to make sure we know how she feels. With lots of specialized speech therapy with Heather and others, called "prompt therapy" she has even come up with a few sounds that approximate words. While we have seen important progress we were positive that there was more that we could do to give her a voice.

In June, when genetic testing showed that Vivian had Angelman Syndrome, our world expanded. We became part of a very special community that we never knew existed. Through this community we began to learn the ways in which families, therapists, and doctors were supporting kids with AS. It was through this community that we learned of a movement to get kids to use assistive technology to communicate. We started hearing about kids using "talkers" and we were compelled to learn more.

We learned that a "talker" was a device, usually a tablet like an iPad, that had a collection of symbols that when pressed, uttered words or phrases that matched the symbols. These are also referred to as AAC devices or Augmentative and Assistive Communication devices. My wife and I, both educators, were familiar with the idea of using symbols to communicate but had only seen very crude devices that did not allow for complex communication. When we started to see videos of children using talkers and especially upon meeting other children with Angelman Syndrome using their talkers we were filled with hope for Vivian. It was clear this AAC device might be Vivian's voice.

While we still have a lot to learn, we have already gained so much from those that are using talkers with their children and from the research that exists around AAC devices. We initially thought that the AAC device might inhibit Vivian from speaking verbally but the research suggests the exact opposite. Using a talker will actually support her speech! We also fretted about the fact that she would be mocked for having to speak through a computer but her classmates in preschool and other children she interacts with have been fascinated to learn that the AAC device is her voice. We also worried that it might not be something that would be easily portable but other families with AS have found creative ways to harness the talker to their child so that it is always there (no one should ever leave their voice behind!). We were worried that she wouldn't have role models who communicated using devices but we have been inspired by Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist, and Micah Fowler, the main character who plays J.J. Dimeo in ABC's Speechless.

We believe strongly that AAC, lovingly called her talker, is going to be how Vivian finds her voice and that it is the world's job to figure out how to listen to all kinds of voices.


Out & About in NYC

Don't get stuck in the house with the kids this winter. Here are some fun places to take the kids to get out and about in New York City:

Discovery Times Square is an exhibition center presenting changing exhibits with topics from the Titanic to King Tut to China’s Terracotta Warriors. Kids love the shows featuring some of their book and film favorites like movie sets from Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Topics are often unique and the displays are well done.

New York Transit Museum - Housed in a 1936 decommissioned subway station, this museum tells the amazing story of New York’s subways, beginning with how tunnels were dug underground from 1904 to 1927 for the opening of the system. Exhibits continue to follow the construction of the enormous 842 miles of track to the present. Visitors can walk through actual vintage subway cars and see the many kinds of tokens used to enter the subway before the advent of the Metrocard. Another popular interactive exhibit, On the Streets, traces the development of trolley and bus transportation in the city and invites kids to board a 12-seat bus and child-size trolley. 

Sony Wonder Technology Lab - Sony’s introduction to the secrets of technology allows kids (and parents) to have a ton of tech fun, creating video games, animated movies and music. Learn what makes the internet work, be a virtual surgeon, program a robot, see yourself on TV.

DiMenna Children’s Museum at the New York Historical Society - Children ages 8 to 13 are invited to become history detectives learning about early life in New York. Turn a dial to see photos of a street as it was 100 years ago and as it looks today, put your face into a cut-out of George Washington and imagine your own inauguration speech, practice making a cross-stitch like early New Yorkers who had to sew their own clothes, meet the young newsboys who went on strike against the city’s biggest dailies—and won! The library areas is a place to rest, play interactive games, see early children’s books and find current books about the city. The museum offers programs to entertain younger children while older siblings explore. 

Children’s Museum of the Arts - A hands on museum inviting families to explore art through intriguing exhibits and the chance to actually experiment with art materials, clay, sound and animation. The Fine Arts Studio is open for everyone to paint, draw, or sculpt a take-home art work and the Clay Bar lets novice sculptors go to work. Check for hours when the Media Lab and Sound Booth are open, places where you can learn how to animate a short film or record a song. Children under five have their own WEE Arts studio and the Ball Pond lets everyone work off excess energy before you leave. 

Chelsea Piers, once defunct piers on the Hudson River has been transformed into a 27-acre riverfront sports complex that can be a welcome break. Activities include a bowling alley and indoor ice skating in winter and a summer skate park. The Field House, which serves many leagues and classes, offers a selection of Drop-In Programs for its facilities between scheduled sessions. These include batting cages, soccer fields, basketball courts, a gymnastics area, and a rock wall. Children age 4 and under have their own indoor play area. 

The New Victory Theater - New York’s first major theater devoted entirely to family entertainment offers troupes from around the world presenting a changing array of plays, circus acts, dancing, puppets, and surprises. Arrive an hour early for Arts Express, pre-performance hands-on activities inspired by what is on stage. “Try This” in the lower lobbies gives the chance to engage with props and design elements from the current show. Some performances have “talk-backs” where the audience has the chance to ask questions of the performers. Many workshops are scheduled with the artists teaching performance skills from puppetry to circus arts to hip hop. These are mostly for ages seven and up though there are a few for ages four to seven. 

Lower East Side Tenement Museum - This restored actual tenement building gives a rare chance to experience what brave immigrant newcomers actually faced in their confusing new world. Among several tours offered, families will most enjoy interactive sessions where costumed interpreters represent past residents, from countries such as Ireland, Italy and Eastrn Europe. Though many tours are recommended for age eight and up, the museum says youngsters as young as five can appreciate the Victoria Confino tour, visitng the apartment of a Greek Sephardic family and meeting 14-year-old “Victoria” who lived in this tenement in 1916. Visitors also play-act. taking the role of new arrivals and asking questions about life on the Lower East Side. Children are allowed to handle the household object

The Cloisters and Ft. Tryon Park - There’s a fairy tale quality to this medieval castle high on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. The late John D. Rockefeller,Jr donated the land and the building, which holds his incomparable collection of medieval art. To make this art more fun for children. make a game of searching for the heroes, saints and fanciful figures like unicorns to be found in the tapestries, paintings and glowing stained glass windows. On many Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. free family workshops for ages 4 to 12 cover topics such as Robes and Regalia, pointing out what heroes wore from monks’ robes to knight’s’ armor or Looking at Shapes showing how medieval artists used familiar forms like circles, squares and triangles. 

 New York City Fire Museum - Collection of historic fire engines and equipment from the late 18th century to the present tells the story of firefighting from the days of bucket brigades to hand pumps, horse drawn steam engines to high-tech fire boats. The accessories are fun to see, as well; who knew that some firemen once wore top hats to work? The enormous, shiny fire wagons of old will wow all ages and everyone can enjoy the fun of posing for souvenir snaps in firemen’s coats and hats, available in sizes from toddlers to grownups.  A moving memorial gallery to the firefighters lost at the World Trade Center in 2001 is tactfully set apart so that families can decide whether they wish to visit. 

Looking for more winter activities, click here to check out the Activity page.


News & Blogs

News of Interest for Caregivers and Families

Can Singing Mice Reveal the Roots of Human Speech?
(Source: The Atlantic)
Long considered an oddity, mouse songs are now being used by researchers to explore the basics of vocal communication.

Study Shows Visual Cues Predict Babies' First Words
(Source: The Atlantic)
A new study suggests what a toddler sees plays a major role.

10 Ideas to Increase Pencil Pressure
Here are 10 ideas to increase pencil pressure when writing.

10 Lessons I Learned While Parenting Through Sensory Processing Disorder
(Source: Blog)
It’s been eight years since my oldest son was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (SPD).

Effects Of Tablet Use On Fine Motor Skills
Ppublished research on 80 children to determine the effects of touch-screen tablet use on the fine motor development of preschool children without developmental delay.

Why So Many Kids Can't Sit Still in School Today?
(Source: The Washington Post)
The percentage of young people diagnosed with ADHD: 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 and to 11 percent in 2011.

White Paper Explores the Unique Challenges Facing People with Special Needs and Their Caregivers
(Source: Voya Financial)
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that one in five children and adults will experience a special need or disability during their lifetime.

"I'm Overloaded!" Responding to Sensory Dysfunction
(Source: ADDitude Magazine)
Use these brain-and-body activities to help a child with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder who has fallen out out of sync.

Diagnosis & Management of Childhood Apraxia 
of Speech Workshop

In December 2016, Speech Therapist Anne Freilich attended a 2-day workshop “Diagnosis and Management of CAS (Childhood Apraxia of Speech): Dynamic Temporal and Tactile Cueing” presented by Edith Strand, PhD and sponsored by NYU and the Once Upon a Time Foundation.  This workshop focused on how to manage and treat those clients that we service with motor speech impairments.  The primary focus was to determine a series of target phonemes for each individual child and then address motor learning, the practice of the required movements to produce the target sounds.  To maximize the progress, Dr. Strand, stressed the importance of increasing opportunities for imitation of a few and short syllables during each session until mastery.  This approach is dependent on a child’s ability to maintain attention and imitate oral movements with and without sound.  It is a retraining of messages from one part of the brain to the next until it ends in the mouth so the articulators move as intended. You may view Dr. Edith Strand explaining her approach and demonstrating examples of her treatment here.

Did You Know???

Heather B., Speech Therapist is PROMPT 2 trained, certified in Yoga for Special Needs Children, the Beckman Oral Motor protocol and sensory integration techniques..

Anne F., Speech Therapist is NDT and HANEN trained. She has training in using Apps and technology for speech-language therapy and childhood apraxia.

Caitlyn M., Occupational Therapist has experience in fine motor skills, visual perceptual and visual motor skills, sensory integration and regulation, motor planning and self-care skills therapy.

Chantal G., Speech Therapist is trained in the Linda Mood Bell Program.

Jennifer W., Occupational Therapist, is infant massage trained and has experience in sensory integration.

Paulina S., Speech Therapist is PROMPT 1 trained, is certified in LSVT and FEES.

Sarah A., Occupational Therapist is trained in sensory diets, hand writing and sensory integration strategies.

Chatty Child is Growing!

Are you or someone you know a Speech or Occupational Therapist?
We are interested in expanding our team of talented therapists. Send inquiries to info(at)

Socialization is 

A child’s speech and language skills are extremely important for learning, literacy, socialization and school success. Treatment groups increase the social use of language, build vocabulary, and peer interactions. One hour group sessions are formed according to age and development level.

**Sign Up for Spring Classes**

Social Butterflies
3 - 7 year olds
Wed 5.30 pm - 6.30 pm
Plus on-going groups available.

Other groups offered:

  • Mealtime Magic
  • Ready, Set, Write
  • Stepping Stones to School Skills

To register or learn more
about a class, call us at 347.491.4451 or email

Apps Corner

Eric Carle’s Brown Bear Animal Parade

The classic story by Eric Carle gets a new twist in Eric Carle’s Brown Bear Animal Parade. In this app, kids lead Brown Bear on a journey around the forest. Along the way, they meet a host of animals. At first the animals are gray, but kids complete fun activities to reveal the animals’ colors. Then the animals join the line, adding their own special tune to the animal parade.

123 Awesome Park

There are lots of counting apps out there for preschoolers and one of the best we’ve found is 123 Awesome Pack. This cute counting app helps kids learn to count from 1 to 20, one number at a time. Kids learn to count through a series of fun counting activities. As they do, they get to interact with characters, play fun games, and win silly prizes. Overall, 123 Awesome Park offers a fun, quality way to teach kids to count.

Cutie Mini Monsters

Preschoolers will love learn to count with Cutie Mini Monsters. Preschoolers will learn their numbers using jigsaw puzzles and a simple counting book. They will love the cute monsters in this app that is easy-to-use.

New Winter Book Suggestions

There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow!
By Lucille Colandro

My Snowman, Paul (Volume 1)
By Yossi Lapid

100 Snowmen
By Jen Arena

Bramble and Maggie: Snow Day
By Jessie Haas

Baby Bear's Not Hibernating 
By Lynn Plourde

Sneezy the Snowman
By Maureen Wright

The Snow Globe Family
By Jane O'Connor

Snowmen at Play
By Caralyn Buehner

The Biggest Snowman Ever
By Steven Kroll

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