Improving Language Development through Play

Chciago Play Therapy

Play is an important part of all of our lives. The way that we choose to play develops throughout our lives, but from our very first days until the end of our lives, we all take great joy and satisfaction from play.

For young children, play is a way to explore the world, learn new skills, and meet developmental milestones, all while having fun. Play should be a part of every daycare and elementary school environment, and it should also be part of speech therapy.

Play is regularly used to improve language development in children under the age of five. By combining speech goals with games, therapy feels less like “work” for children and becomes a more enjoyable experience. This is referred to as play therapy.

In school settings, play therapy and language development often get separated. Many school speech language pathologists overlook the benefits that play therapy can have for older children. Whether your child is just learning to speak or several years into school, your speech language pathologist can – and probably should – use play therapy to help your child achieve their speech goals. In addition to making learning more fun, play therapy also makes learning more effective. Children are more likely to pay attention and stay focused if they are engaged and having a good time.

Creating a play therapy session begins with your child’s speech and language objectives. (Play therapy can also be used as a diagnostic tool to assess vocabulary skills, ability to follow commands, and other functional language skills.) With your child’s goals in mind, the speech therapist can create a game that lets your child practice their communication skills without feeling like he or she is being drilled or tested. Games can be designed to suit the interest, maturity level, and age of the child.

Play therapy is particularly well suited to teaching basic language concepts, phrases, sentences, and requesting skills. For example, a simple game of “restaurant” can help a child identify different objects like a spoon and a cup or practice their articulation of words like “salad” or “soup.”

If you think your child would benefit from speech therapy, give us a call to schedule a consultation with a highly qualified Chicago SLP. A short assessment can help you determine if your child is dealing with any language disorders. If needed, we can work with you to create a personalized plan for play-based therapy in your home or school to help your child communicate more effectively. 

What Issue Costs Companies $62.4 Million Per Year?

Chicago Executive Speech Coaching

A survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees found that each of those companies was losing an average of $62.4 million every year due to poor communication. The problem extended to smaller companies as well. Companies with one hundred employees lost on average $420,000 every year to poor communication.

Clear communication is vital to the health and success of any business. It must be found between co-workers, between managers and their team members, and perhaps most importantly between the company and its clients.

To that end, one of the core focuses of BNM’s executive speech training is presentation skills. Being able to organize, edit, and orate a great business presentation is essential to both overall company success and individual advancement.

Here are some of the most common problems that hold back company presentations and the executives who give them:

One-size-fits-all presentations. If your company is using the same basic presentation to market to all of your potential clients, you’re missing huge opportunities to show off the greatest strengths of your business. Likewise, the presentation should be customized to the person giving it. If every executive is making the same cookie-cutter pitch, the individual strengths of each speaker are likely not being utilized.

Presentations that aren’t up-to-date. If your presentation relies on stats from a few years back, uses your company’s old logo, or relies on dated references, it is unlikely to resonate with clients. Customers want professionalism and attention to detail. An out-of-date presentation is a sign of carelessness.

Unskilled communicators at the helm. You may know the topic you’re presenting on inside and out, but if you don’t also know how to captivate an audience and read the room, your presentation is likely to flop. Skills like pacing, clarity, energy, and appropriate emphasis can make or break a presentation.

Stress. Perhaps you know exactly what to say and exactly how you should say it, but stress and/or stage fright can get in the way.

Working with an executive speech coach can help address all of these issues. By helping executives learn not just how to focus their presentations but how to speak in a way that connects with listeners, the right speech coach can help executives overcome their nerves and better represent both themselves and their companies.

To learn more about Chicago executive speech coaching, give our office a call. 

Understanding Echolalia

Echolalia is both a speech disorder and a normal part of speech development. The term refers to the action of repeating a word or phrase that’s been said by someone else without being prompted. As toddlers learn to speak, it is common for them to use this sort of echoing to communicate their needs.

For example, if a parent says, “Is that your toy giraffe?” a toddler might respond, “Giraffe.” Responding with the word itself rather than a “yes” or “no” is a way for children to make themselves understood. When “giraffe” comes out sounding more like “jaff,” echolalia can be an effective method for communicating.

But by the age of three, most children will have stopped using echolalia on a regular basis. Instead, they’ll start to communicate with their own simple words and sentences. If echolalia behavior extends past a child’s third birthday, it could be a sign of a language delay, and a speech language pathologist should be consulted. 

Echolalia and Speech Language Pathology

Echolalia can occur on its own, though it often accompanies disorders like autism and Tourette’s. It has two main types, immediate echolalia and delayed echolalia.

With immediate echolalia, the person repeats words that have just been spoken to them. Being limited to the words used by others can be extremely frustrating for the person who suffers from immediate echolalia.

With delayed echolalia, the person repeats words, sentences, or phrases that they have heard before, sometimes years before. A perfect example of this can be seen in the recent documentary, Life, Animated, which features an autistic man who, as a child, started repeating lines from animated Disney movies to express his wants and needs.

In both cases, the person who relies on echolalia repeats verbalizations (words), not vocalizations (sounds).

If your child is three years of age or older and still relies on repetition of your words as his or her primary communication method, you should talk to a speech language pathologist for kids about echolalia and speech delays. A speech therapist can assess your child’s speech and come up with a customized plan for addressing any problem areas.

Give our office a call to get your questions answered or to schedule a consultation today. 

Winning through Communication as an Executive

Executive Speech Coach Chicago


Working with an executive speech coach is a helpful and direct method for improving communication as a leader. But many executives have misconceptions about what speech coaching entails. They tend to think that executive speech coaching is about learning how to deliver a good speech and nothing more. In fact, a great speech coach can help you learn not just how to speak well but also how to handle tough situations that require strong communication and leadership.

Here’s an example of what we mean. Say a project that your team is working on is behind schedule. Your team members are frustrated with one another, and one of them lashes out at you with a pointed question about your leadership of the project.

In this sort of situation, it can be all too easy for an executive to lose his or her temper, say regrettable things, demotivate the team, and fail to get across his or her points clearly while speaking from a place of frustration.

With executive speech coaching, you can gain the skills to tactfully defuse this situation and get everyone on the same page:

  • You’ll work on listening skills to help you decode the question that’s being leveled at you and understand what’s really being asked.
  • You’ll learn how to weigh the situation and take a moment to decide upon a thoughtful response, rather than letting your emotions get the better of you.
  • You’ll learn how to assess whether or not the question should be dealt with publicly or in private, helping you keep better control of your team.
  • You’ll learn how to tactfully disseminate information.
  • And you’ll learn how to communicate your directives clearly and ask follow-up questions to ensure that you are understood by your whole team.

In addition to presentation skills, these sorts of everyday communication habits are vital to the success of any executive. Most executives tend to overestimate their own communication abilities. If you have any doubts about your communication practices with your team, or if you simply want to keep bettering yourself and prepare for the next step up the corporate ladder, give our office a call to learn more about our Chicago executive speech coaching. We can provide you with a free assessment and discuss a personalized plan to help you meet your leadership development goals. 

What is the Role of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) in SLP?

Augmentaive and Alternative Communication

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) is an important part of how we all communicate with one another. The term describes the different methods that we use in addition to speech to communicate with one another. Regardless of our speaking ability, most people use common ACC methods like waving, giving thumbs up, and pointing to supplement the things we say and make our communication clearer.

ACC can be used by school-aged children with speech language pathology issues to help them find more effective ways of communicating. It can even be used by infants who have not yet developed language skills. Baby sign language, for example, has been shown to help babies express ideas before they are able to form words, reducing their frustration and encouraging them to start speaking earlier. In severe cases, children and adults can use advanced ACC methods to supplement their speech abilities or replace speech if they are unable to communicate verbally.

There are three levels of augmentative and alternative communication:

No Tech ACC – This is supplementary communication that we all do using just our hands, expressions, and bodies. Gestures, vocalizations, and signing all qualify as no tech ACC.

Low Tech ACC – When you write someone a note instead of speaking to them, that’s a form of low tech ACC. Simple objects like picture boards, photos, word boards, and pads of paper can all be used to communicate simple ideas.

High Tech ACC – When speech is severely limited, a more technical approach to ACC is often required. These systems often use tablets, computers, or special mobile devices to let the user get across the idea they want to express. For example, Stephen Hawking’s communication system is a famous example of high tech ACC.

If your child has a significant speech impediment or a disability that hinders normal language development, you should talk to a speech language pathologist for kids about different ACC methods that might be helpful. With the right ACC tools, children with speech and language difficulties can become much more confident and relaxed, because they can have the joy of speaking their mind and being understood, which is an incredibly powerful thing. 

Need an Executive Speech Coach? Here’s What to Look For

Executive Speech Coach Chicago

You know your business inside and out. You are great at your job, and you love doing it. But when it comes time to direct your team or make a presentation to your bosses, you’re not as confident as you’d like to be. You worry that you’re not making your points clearly. The tenor of the questions you receive makes you doubt the strength of your voice. You’re afraid you might be boring your audience or losing them in the details.

The good news is, you’re not alone. Virtually every business person could benefit from the help of an executive speech coach. Improving communication as a leader is an essential part of growing within your field, expanding your business, and/or moving up the corporate ladder. The better you can communicate, the better you can inspire, motivate, direct, and command the people around you.

A great executive speech coach can help you improve your style of speaking, your clarity, your presentation skills, and your confidence when speaking in public.

But how do you know whether the coach you’ve chosen is going to deliver what you need? Here are seven questions to consider when choosing your coach: 

  1. How many years of experience do they have?
  2. Do they have good references? (Do you know anyone who they have worked with, or are they willing to let you speak to some of their past clients?)
  3. Do they have expertise in your field?
  4. Are they a licensed speech language pathologist? (Do they really know what they’re talking about, or are they just passing themselves off as a speech coach?)
  5. Are they good at listening to your needs?
  6. Are they willing to be flexible with their curriculum or to customize their sessions to your unique needs?
  7. Do you get along with them?

At BNM, our highly experienced executive speech coaches are all licensed speech-language pathologists with multiple years of experience coaching leaders at every level. If you’re looking for Chicago executive speech coaching, give our office a call to schedule a free assessment. We can help you identify your presentation strengths and weaknesses and provide you with a personalized plan for improving your communication skills.  

Top Signs of Communication Disorders Among School-Aged Children


Signs of a communication disorder among children can begin in infancy. If at two months a baby is not yet smiling or interacting with people, that could be a mark of a speech or language disorder.

Speech and language disorders can come in many forms ranging from mild to severe, so noticing a sign of a disorder isn’t necessarily something to get too worried about. That said, the earlier you can identify a potential problem, the sooner you can take early intervention steps which could greatly help your child’s communication, socialization, and academic success.

If you notice signs of a possible speech or language disorder, you should talk to your pediatrician. He or she might refer you to a speech language pathologist if they agree that there are communication disorder signs present. About one in twelve children from the ages of three to seventeen have a disorder related to voice, speech, language or swallowing, according to the National Institutes of Health. You can see a list of the speech milestones your child should be hitting at various ages here.

By the time your child begins first grade, he or she should be able to:

  • Understand most of what is said to him or her at home
  • Follow two- to three-step directions
  • Say letters and numbers
  • Repeat back phrases and short sentences
  • Relate events
  • Say most sounds in words with a few mistakes
  • Ask and answer simple questions
  • Hold a simple conversation

Causes of speech-language disorders vary, and not all of the causes are known. Some factors that might affect speech-language development in young children include family history, medical issues, poor nutrition, and developmental delays like autism spectrum disorder or Down’s Syndrome.

Signs of Speech-Language Disorders in School-Age Children

One sign of a speech disability or articulation problem in young children is problems with intelligibility, meaning adults have great difficulty understanding the child.

Some of the signs of language disorders are:

  • Limited vocabulary
  • Trouble making sentences
  • Using a limited number of phrases and sentences
  • Seeming frustrated by the inability to communicate basic wants, thoughts, and needs

Signs of a fluency disorder include sound, syllable, word, and phrase repetitions and pauses which don’t appear to be average.

Signs of a voice disorder include:

  • Speaking unusually softly or loudly
  • Having an unusual quality to the voice
  • Breathiness

If you notice any of these warning signs in your child who is about to start school, talk to your pediatrician as well as your child’s school about whether speech language pathology might be appropriate. You can also give our office a call to schedule a screening at any time.

The True Value of Leaders with Great Communication Skills

Leaders with Great Communication Skills

Miscommunication is a rampant problem in business. A survey of 400 US and UK corporations found that employee misunderstanding cost those companies a total of $37 billion over the course of one year. However, improving communication can lead to greater success for individuals and the entire company. Another study found that companies with leaders who are highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns than companies with ineffective communicators.

How do you know whether you’re an effective communicator? The simplest litmus test is to assess whether your employees deliver what you ask for when you ask for it. Do they fall short of goals? Do they fail to meet your expectations? A likely culprit is poor communication.

With our Chicago executive speech coaching services, we do a full assessment to find out where your communication strengths lie and where you could use improvement. Communication is about more than the words being spoken. It is about tone, organization, clarity, and connection.

That final piece – connection -- is often overlooked by executives, which is why miscommunication is such a big problem. Taking the time to ask follow up questions and providing your employees with the opportunity to ask questions of you goes a long way toward improving communication as a leader. Here are a few tips for effective questioning:

  • Leave time in meetings for questions. If you say you’ll answer questions but limit the time or the number, employees won’t feel like you actually want to hear their questions.
  • Don’t embarrass the asker. There is such a thing as a dumb question, but if someone asks about something that you already covered, bear in mind that you may not have been as clear as you thought you were.
  • When asking questions, never be hostile. Your goal should be to connect, not to antagonize.
  • Remember that different people learn in different ways. If something you’re saying isn’t sinking in, try to find a new way to frame your words or incorporate a whiteboard to sketch out your meaning more clearly.

Both asking questions and giving your employees regular opportunities to ask questions of you will help minimize miscommunications. Being open to questions might also highlight problem areas in your communication skills if you get the same sorts of questions on a regular basis.

If that happens, BNM can offer customized executive speech coaching to help take your communication and presentation skills to the next level. Give us a call to learn more. 

Employees Say These Are the Top Communication Issues from Leaders

Executive Speech Coaching Chicago

A 2015 survey found that 91% of employees think communication issues can drag executives down. If you feel that you don’t connect well with your direct reports, it could be effecting their job performance and yours, holding all of you back. Effectively communicating with employees requires high emotional intelligence as well as the ability to connect, to organize your thoughts, and to present your ideas with confidence and clarity. These are all skills that can be developed and improved with executive speech coaching.

You may be saying to yourself, “I talk to my employees all the time.” But what do they hear when you speak? According to the 2015 survey of about 1,000 US workers, most executives have the following communication issues:

  • They don’t recognize employee achievements (63%)
  • They don’t give clear directions (57%)
  • They don’t have time to meet with their employees (52%)
  • They take credit for ideas that aren’t their own (47%)

How do your employees respond to interactions with you? Do they seem motivated? Are they comfortable asking you clarifying questions? Do they avoid talking to you for any reason? If the answers to any of these questions give you pause, it is worth considering the benefits of executive speech coaching.

With our one-on-one coaches in Chicago, executive speech coaching focuses on both verbal and non-verbal communication. Your coaching begins with an assessment of your skills to determine where you are strong and what areas could use improvement. Through practical exercises and instruction, you will learn how to integrate the following skills into your business communication:

  • Encouragement – how to show your employees that their work is appreciated and valued
  • Feedback – how to offer constructive criticism that is tailored to the sensibilities of the person being addresses
  • Questioning – how to ask questions that encourage engagement and respond to questions clearly
  • Empathy – how to show your employees that you understand them and care about their wellbeing
  • Attitude – how to do all of the above while still maintaining authority and garnering respect 

If you’re interested in learning more about executive speech coaching in Chicago, contact our team today. We can tell you more about our coaching services, all of which can be tailored to your unique needs. 

The Magnitude of National Aphasia Awareness Month

Asphasia and Language

Aphasia is a communication disorder that affects over two million Americans, and the number of new cases is on the rise. In fact, the number of aphasia cases diagnosed annually is expected to double by 2020. If aphasia affects you or a member of your family, read on to learn more about what causes this disorder and how it can be addressed with speech language pathology.

Aphasia is always the result of a brain injury – it’s not a disease that occurs on its own. The most common cause of aphasia is a stroke, but it can also result from head injuries, brain tumors, or some serious infections. Typically, when damage occurs to the left half of the brain – the half that contains language – aphasia can result.

The symptoms of aphasia can vary greatly in severity from person to person. It can present itself as difficulty speaking, listening, reading, or writing. Intelligence is not affected by aphasia, and language skills can sometimes be recovered with therapy, depending upon the symptoms.

There are many different types of aphasia, and speech is affected differently with each type. For example, a person who has suffered damage to the front part of their brain may have broken, jerky speech but be able to understand what other people are saying to them. A person who has suffered damage to the back of their brain may be able to speak in a normal tone and rhythm, but have difficulty finding the right words, or they may make up words.

Aphasia symptoms often don’t fit neatly into a single category, and a person’s aphasia classification can change as their communication improves over time. It’s also possible for aphasia not to be the only communication disorder present. Sometimes aphasia occurs in tandem with language impairments such as dysarthia or apraxia.

Proper assessment by a speech pathologist is essential to ensure that the type and level of speech function available is appropriately identified. After careful assessment, a speech language pathologist can work with the affected person and their family to determine the types of therapeutic interventions to be pursued based on the person’s needs and goals. Through regular therapy, some of the symptoms of aphasia can be lessened and new methods of communication can be forged.

To begin therapy with a speech pathologist in Chicago, contact our office. To learn more about aphasia, visit