Do you want your children to communicate with you more at the dinner table? Here are some tips to encourage dinner conversations with your kids:

5 Tips for Encouraging Dinner Conversation with Your Kids

  1. Go beyond “How was your day?”I find that asking this open-ended question results in one of two answers: good or fine. Kids usually don’t elaborate beyond that, so we try to ask more specific questions about their day. For example, we’ll ask questions such as, “What did you guys read in class today?” or “What’s something interesting that happened today?” Usually that gets them thinking about their day enough that they’ll start to share more details.imgres
  2. Talk about your own day.What better way to encourage conversation than by modeling it? Sharing about your own day helps your kids understand that as adults, we also have ups and downs in our days. My husband and I will often share what happened in our day, what we worked on, where we went, etc.
  3. Share the good and bad.We know that not every moment of each day is always good. We have moments of frustration, anger, sadness, or a variety of other emotions intertwined with the good parts of our days. It’s good for your kids to share those ups and downs as well as hear your own. Each night, we share our good and bad as a family. We call it our “rose and thorn” time (rose=good of the day; thorn=bad of the day) and each of us shaimgresres one particularly good thing about our day and one not-so-good thing.
  4. Get them to imagine.Asking questions that get your kids thinking is a great way to have a fun conversation at the dinner table! From silly questions like “If you were a superhero what power would you want to have?” to more practical questions such as, “How would you get food if you were stranded on an island?” they love having fun debating and discussing! Be sure to add to the conversation by giving your own thoughts to such questions; often times, your answers will inspire deeper thoughts from the kids.
  5. Ask about the people in their daily life.It’s likely that your kids are with other people for the better part of their days – teachers, friends, and coaches – they all interact with our children regularly! Asking your children about those interactions or what’s going on with their friends can often provide a peek into your child’s daily life. A lot of times in sharing about others, it opens the door for further conversations.

At JHA the therapists are prepared and equipped to work with children of varying need levels. One area that we love helping our clients to explore is Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC). AAC involves different modalities to assist our clients in finding their voices—whether it be picture communication system, an iPad app or a dedicated device. Some systems or devices that our clinicians have experienimgres.jpgce with include Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), ProLoQuo2Go, LAMP WFL, and dedicated devices from manufacturers like PrentkeRomich and Tobi.

These special systems can help children who are unable to communicate verbally, or who have limited verbal communication, to find their voices. The use of AAC can be very beneficial as a part of early intervention. Often, the use of a device can alleviate some of the frustration that communicators with special or unique needs may feel when they are unable to state their wants, needs, or comments. At JHA, we can help to decide if AAC is a good option for your child and can help find the right fit. If your child is having a difficult time generating words to express their wants and needs, or if you are interested in exploring AAC, contact us for more information.


Our team at JHA loves to help our clients soar by helping them to achieve their goals and try new things! This fall, we are starting a kickball league for children with special needs. Being on a sports team improves coordination, strength, language, and social skills. Being part of a team can teach children important social and personal skills including kickballflyersportsmanship, cooperation, participation, and how to successfully be a part of a group.

Our therapists will be present at the kickball games to encourage and support the children. Come out and join the fun! Kickball starts September 22nd. Contact us for more information. We hope you’ll join us!




A new school year is approaching and we understand that this can be exciting and frightening for children with special needs and their parents. It will be helpful to get started with a plan for getting ready to go back to school. We have listed some tips to help with a smooth transition from summer break to back to school.

  1. Organize your paperwork- There are always a lot of paperwork and meetings to keep track of in the world of special needs kids. Keeping a family calendar of school events, meetings, conferences, etc. is a great way to help you stay organized. You may also want to keep a binder or folder with all of your child’s special education documentation, meeting notes, and IEPs in sequential order in order to help you stay organized. Make sure you have plenty of copies of special documents, such as IEPs, to give to teachers or other staff if needed. Getting this completed before the school year starts will help you to start the year on the right track!
  2. Communication log- Documenting various forms of communication is imgresimportant and can be very helpful! Keep a “communication log” for yourself in a notebook or Word document that is easily accessible. Note dates, times, and natures of communications you have via phone calls, emails, notes home, meetings, etc.
  3. Reviewing your child’s current IEP- It is very important to stay up to date on your child’s current IEP. Before your child starts back to school, review his/her current IEP to make sure you have a clear understanding of it. Note when it expires and if your child is up for a re-evaluation this year. Make sure that your child’s IEP still “fits” his/her current needs. If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s IEP, contact the school about holding an IEP review meeting.
  4. Communicating with the staff- Communication is important at the beginning of the school year and throughout the school year. Communicate any concerns, changes, or questions about your child’s IEP with the staff working with your child during the school year. The staff will be better able to meet your child’s needs the more proactive you are through communication wimgresith them!
  5. Plan for a change in your routine- Discuss and plan the changes in your child’s daily routine. Make your child aware of the changes that will be made once school begins. Communication of changes is important! It may be helpful to practice the new morning and night routines with your child a week or two before school starts. Take pictures of the new routine to review and narrate with your child in a visual manner. This will help make transitions and a change of routine easier for the first day of school.
  6. Stay up to date- You can be a better advocate for your child when you stay imgresknowledgeable about your child’s IEP and disability. Try to stay current on new special education legislation, news, and events. The more you know, they better prepared you will be to successfully advocate for your child!
  7. Go to school events- Attend open house, back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, etc. in order to help your child get a feel for the school and meet teachers, other staff, students, and other families. Share information about your child with the teachers who will be working with your child. Share the positives and challenges that may arise. Communicate any questions or concerns you may have regarding classroom instruction or your child’s IEP.
  8. Prepare a one page information sheet of your child- Type up or write a brief, one page document that covers your child at a glance. Report any food allergies or medical needs the school may need to know about, things that are likely to set your child off, and things that will calm him/her down, rewards your child responds well to, emergency contact information, etc.

Handprint Ice Cream Cone Craftimages

With the hot summer days here, there’s nothing better than cooling down with a sweet ice cream treat! This is a super fun and easy crafty idea!

Instructions: Paint your child’s hand and stamp it on a plain white piece of paper. If you prefer not to use paint, trace your child’s hand on a colorful piece of paper and cut it out. Let it dry and then cut around it. Cut the ice cream cones out of brown paper and glue the hand print upside down. Cut small hearts out of red paper for the “cherry” on top.

Therapy Practice: For practice with articulation skills, have your child produce a target sound, word, or sentence before completing each step. You can also have your child make up a story about ice cream in order to target carryover of sounds into spontaneous speech and to practice story telling skills in order to target expressive language. For social skills practice, role-play going to an ice cream shop and ordering ice cream. This activity is also good for working on fine motor skills with tracing, cutting straight and curved lines, and gluing.

Patriotic Star Wreath

The July is a great 5bf7e66264a36539b10be400d4eb9fbfmonth to show off your patriotism and this craft will have your door looking very patriotic!

Instructions: You will need paper plates, red and blue paper, red, white, and blue ribbon, scissors, glue, and a hole punch. Begin by cutting out the center of the paper plate. Have your child follow the line around the center. Draw or trace red and blue stars on the paper. A star cookie cutter is easy to trace. Cut out each individual star. Glue the stars to the paper plate, alternating red and blue. Once all of the stars are glued onto the plate, use the ribbon to make a bow at the top of the wreath. Attach a piece of ribbon to the back of the plate to hang the wreath.

Therapy Practice: This is a great activity for following directions! You can easily practice concepts, such as “first, second, third, next, then.” Ex.- “First, cut out a hole in the middle of the plate. Then, cut out red and blue stars from the red and blue paper. Next, glue the stars on the paper.” If you are targeting articulation skills, write target words on the stars and have your child produce the word as he/she glues each star on the wreath. If your child is practicing at the sentence level, he/she can make up a sentence using the word. For older children, research information or stories about Independence Day and read it to your child or have him/her read the information out loud and then ask comprehension questions. This activity is also great for strengthening fine motor skills by cutting out shapes, gluing, and tying.

Pom-pom CaterpillarPom-Pom-Caterpillars

This is a fun and easy activity that does not require many steps!

Instructions: You will need: 5 pom-poms, clothes pins, googly eyes, and glue. Put glue onto your clothes pin and then place the pom-poms on it. Glue your googly eyes onto the first pom-pom and wait for it to dry.

Therapy Practice: For articulation practice, have your child repeat target sounds, words, or sentences before completing each step. This is also a great activity for enhancing language skills. Talk to your child about the process of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. This will open up many opportunities for vocabulary practice. Read the story The Hungry Caterpillar with your child and then have your child recall details of the story and retell the story to you. This activity is also great for practicing fine motor skills with grasping small pieces.

Easy Sand Cup

d7ba5f0ad0e986acbc25bb2a5d1df8f4Summer snacks can be fun and delicious!

Ingredients: Jello vanilla or chocolate pudding cup, 1 square Graham Cracker, 3 bear shaped honey graham snacks, 2 ring shaped chewy fruit snacks.

Instructions: Top the Jello pudding cup with graham cracker crumbs for the sand. Decorate with teddy graham snacks and fruit snacks. This is a great way to work on feeding with children with limited diets. You may add some non-preferred foods into the pudding cup, such as fruits. Your child can also dip non-preferred foods into the pudding cup and lick the pudding off or take a bite. Have fun and be creative with the types of food you add, making feeding fun!

Sensory and Fine Motor Gift Ideas

The holidays are approaching quickly and many parents struggle with gifts for their children. Many parents want to get gifts that are fun but also functional. Following are some gift ideas that your child will love and at the same time will help promote and foster gross and fine motor, sensory play, and visual perception. The following games/toys can be found on, and/or walmart/target.

  1. Teeter popper by Fat Brain



  1. Kinetic sand and/or play dough
  2. Magnaformers


  1. Pogo stick
  2. Snap Circuits Motion
  3. Game “Rush Hour”
  4. Scooter board
  5. Swing
  6. Bike
  7. Jump rope
  8. Game “Perfection”
  9. Squigz
  10. Therapy ball or peanut ball


  1. Bilibo
  2. “Spot it” – there are several different “Spot it!” games depending on age of child


  1. Fine motor craft bucket

Silly Pumpkin Putty Recipe

Author: Growingajeweledroseimages

  • Combine in a small bowl
    • 3/4 teaspoons of borax
  • 1 1/3 cups very warm water

In a second bowl combine

  • 2 cups of white school glue
  • 1 1/2 cups very warm water
  • a few drops of orange food coloring
  • Pumpkin pie spice – added until you have reached the desired scent

Once the ingredients of each bowl are well mixed, combine both bowls. As the ingredients of both bowls are mixed the pumpkin putty will begin to form

Pumpkin Moon Sand Play Recipe


Author: Growingajeweledrose

In a sensory bin or similar container combine all ingredients and mix well.   We started with one cup of water and added more until we had the desired consistency.  Really, it depends on what consistency you prefer your moon sand to be.  We like it a bit more moist

Storage:  Leave the moon sand in an uncovered bin.  It will dry out, but that’s ok.  Next time you are ready to play simply add more water until you have the desired consistency.

 Homemade Pumpkin Spice Playdough

Author: Real Mommaimages

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I used McCormick brand)
  • Orange soft gel food coloring paste (you can also use food coloring)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar (this helps keep your play-doh from going rancid)
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil (I used vegetable oil)

Add flour, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, salt, cram of tartar, and oil into a medium sauce pan. In a bowl add the water and orange soft gel food coloring (or regular food coloring) and mix well.

In a small bowl (I used my large measuring cup) mix water with food coloring paste (or regular food coloring if that is what you are using).

Slowly add colored water into the sauce pan with the other ingredients and mix well. Cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. It will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and form a ball in the center of your pan. Remove from pot and cool. Once your dough is cool knead it all up and smell!!! The aroma is wonderful…..if you want the smell stronger just add more pumpkin spice or cinnamon and knead it again.

Grab your rolling pin, cookie cutters, pie pan or anything else you can think of and sit down with your kids and have a great time playing with your own Edible pumpkin Spice Play-dough and don’t forget to sniff!!