Why Reading to Children Is So Important

Does your child have a favorite book they like to hear? Do you enjoy sharing your favorite childhood book with your child? That’s a win-win! Reading to children is important for many reasons including cognitive benefits, stronger social, emotional and character development, decreased levels of aggression, and stronger vocabulary. It strengthens your relationship with your kids and—best of all, helps kids develop a lifelong love of reading.

At just several months of age, an infant can listen to your voice, look at pictures and point to objects on pages. Children learn to love the sound of language before they even notice words on a page. Reading to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand written words.

Supported Cognitive Development

Reading to a child has been proven to improve cognitive skills and aid in cognitive development. Cognitive development is the emergence of the ability to understand and think, the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving and decision-making, from childhood through adulthood. How a person perceives his world through areas such as information processing, reasoning, language development, attention span and memory are parts of cognitive development. Reading also stimulates brain cell activity. The more an adult reads to a child, the larger their vocabularies grow, and the more they understand about the world around them.

Better Language Skills

Reading exposes children to new speech patterns and vocabularies. They learn to absorb information on how to form a sentence and use words effectively, helping them develop better communication skills. Reading stimulates the part of the brain that allows children to understand the meaning of language and helps build key language, literacy, and social skills. This is especially important when you consider that, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than one in three children start kindergarten without the skills they need to learn to read. Research has shown that kindergarten children who were read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness than did children who were read to less often.

Prepare for Academic Success

By helping children to grow their vocabulary skills with exposure to new words and listening skills, they are better positioned for academic success. Studies show that students exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do better when their reach their period of formal education. By jumpstarting a child’s reading success, they experience stronger growth in the following areas:

phonemic awareness: being able to hear, identify and play with individual sounds

phonics: being able to connect letters of written language with sounds of spoken language

vocabulary: words needed to communicate effectively

reading comprehension: being able to understand what has been read

fluency (oral reading): ability to read text accurately and quickly

Reading Helps Children with Special Needs

For children with special needs, looking at faces and body language in a story helps them learn about nonverbal cures of communication. More than just being able to read or write, literacy is a key component of learning, development, communication, and a richer life. It’s not only about being understood, but also about being able to comprehend your world. Developmental delays can affect a child’s motors skills, social-emotional development, daily skills, and cognitive abilities. Reading can augment other learning styles—visual, auditory, tactile, and more. A child can look at an apple, bite it, do an apple puzzle, and read about apples. Looking at picture books can enhance a child’s ability to recognize pictures and what is happening in them, to generalize into his environment.

Literacy helps a child learn about herself and her feelings. When a child is stressed or had an afternoon meltdown but can’t tell you how he’s feeling, reading can often be a comfort. For example, a fun rhyming book about emotions, ending with “how do you feel today?” can offer a child a way to share feelings they might not be able to express otherwise, by allowing them to point to a picture in the book relating to their emotions.

Special Bonding with Your Child

One of the most important things you can do to positively influence a child’s development is spend time with them. Reading to your child provides a wonderful opportunity to have a regular, shared event where you look forward to spending time together. Reading provides invaluable nurturing and reassurance to a child, even as a baby. Young babies love to hear familiar voices and reading is a perfect way to foster this connection. A strong parent/caregiver-child relationship can develop from a child knowing you’ll read together at a predictable, scheduled time that fits into daily routines. Reading aloud together gives you and your child something to talk about, which can also be used to discuss real-life experiences.

Increase Concentration and Improved Creativity

According to earlymoments.com, along with reading comprehension comes a stronger, self-discipline, longer attention spans and better memory retention. Additionally, reading can open doors to new worlds for your child as they use their imaginations to explore people, places, and events beyond their own experiences, shared with them through reading aloud.


Take a look at this comprehensive list of 100 Books Every Child Should Hear Before Kindergarten. https://files.constantcontact.com/de0ceffa301/83882bd3-3d51-4f8c-a258-132be9314128.pdf

PBS Kids Read! https://www.pbs.org/parents/read

Life is hectic and parents/caregivers are busy. Taking the time to read with your child on a regular basis sends an important message that reading is worthwhile. Go to the bookstore together and let your child select a new book. Go to the library and borrow several books by different authors. Get excited! Help your child grow into an adult who reads easily and frequently whether for business, knowledge or pleasure.






Developmental Screenings for Children are Important

If you are a parent or guardian of a child, you know the importance of regular doctor visits. In addition to the standard components of a visit, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that pediatricians talk with families about their child’s development at every well-child visit between birth and 3 years old, and conduct developmental screenings at 9, 18 and 30 months of age.

During the first three years of a child’s life, their brain undergoes a remarkable period of development, and these years are considered the most important in a child’s development. These years are an important time for developmental monitoring and screening.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental monitoring observes how your child grows and changes over time and whether a child is meeting typical developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving. A milestone checklist such as the one on MKSA’s website is a useful tool for this. All family members can participate in developmental monitoring. If you feel your child is not developing like other children of the same age, speak with your child’s pediatrician. At well-visits, doctors will do developmental monitoring and will ask you questions and will talk and play with your child. Childcare providers can also be a valuable source of information on your child’s development.

Developmental screening is a more in-depth look at your child’s development. Parents will complete a questionnaire about their child and your child may get a brief test. Screenings may be done by a doctor as well as other professionals in healthcare, early childhood education or school settings. Developmental screening is more formal and done less often than monitoring. Your child should be screened if you or your doctor have a concern, but developmental screening is a regular part of some well visits for all children. The AAP recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children during well visits at the following ages:  9 months, 18 months, and 30 months. AAP also recommends that all children be screened specifically for autism spectrum disorder during well visits at 18 and 24 months. If your child is at a higher risk for developmental problems due to preterm birth, low birthweight, family history or other factors, your doctor may discuss additional screening.

Parents are sometimes hesitant about developmental screenings, believing that doctors are looking for problems. The opposite is often true. Parents—especially first-time parents—often have many questions about their child’s development. All aspects of a child’s development and life are considered, and doctors often reassure parents that behaviors and development are in fact typical. And if there is a concern, early help does make a difference.

If a developmental screening identifies an area of concern, a formal developmental evaluation may be suggested. An evaluation will identify and diagnose developmental delays and conditions and determine if a child is eligible for early intervention services. A developmental delay means a child has not reached age-appropriate milestones in one or more developmental areas. If the delay is significant enough to meet eligibility criteria, early intervention services are available at no out-of-pocket cost. To learn more about this, click here.

Many families have delayed well-child visits due to the pandemic, resulting in missed screenings. Schedules were altered, and ‘getting back to normal’ should include resuming regular checkups for children. Many milestones can only be measured by doctors in person. Parents can also discuss any concerns they may have about their child, and receive guidance, and resources if necessary. If well-visits were missed, now is the time to reconnect with your child’s doctor and discuss any concerns.

If you have any questions about your child’s development, MKSA is here to answer your questions. Please reach out by email at info@mksallc.org or call 516-731-5588.


Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.



https://cdc.gov Developmental Monitoring and Screening

https://aap.org Developmental Screening

Holidays for Children with Sensory Needs

We are deep into the holiday season and all of its shopping, visiting, dinners and more. For children with special needs and especially those with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), this time of year is very challenging and often downright impossible to navigate. A child with SPD who is trying to handle the sights, sounds, smells and crowds of the holidays can experience a rapid meltdown.

Sensory Integration is the process by which we receive information through our senses, organize the information and use it to participate in daily activities. Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to external stimuli. SPD may affect a single sense, such as taste, touch or hearing. It may also affect multiple senses, and people can be under-responsive or over-responsive to things with which they have difficulties.

It can be viewed as a spectrum, with sensitivities that range from mild to debilitating. Difficulty processing information from our senses leads to a variety of issues including:

-trouble communicating

-uncoordinated movement, balance and gait

-difficulty with spatial orientation

-discomfort and pain

-dietary restrictions

-depression and anxiety

-learning disabilities

SPD is an ongoing issue that becomes elevated during the holidays. With so many additional situations, such as lights, sounds, odors and crowds it’s important to have coping strategies to help your child during this time of year. It’s also important to know your child, and know his/her triggers as you plan for the holidays.

The most important aspect of the holidays and SPD is remember that you know your child. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Before outings, shopping and get-togethers prepare items, toys and foods that offer calm and peace to your child when he/she is stressed. Involve your child in packing these items. Reminding your child that you worked together in planning will help assure him that he’s not alone in the overwhelming situation. Speak with family or friends who will be attending seasonal activities with you. Explain that you are preparing some strategies in support of your child’s sensitivities.

We’ve put together a list of some situations and strategies that might help:

This time of year means extra crowds. There will be a lot of people at the mall, shopping centers, small stores, and holiday get togethers. Certainly, if you can leave your child home while shopping, that’s the best option. For those times you can’t realistically avoid crowds, you can try to shop at non-peak hours to help your child adjust. You can also try some of the following:

-use headphones if external noise is troublesome; this is a good way to keep a constant, comfortable sound level

-try sunglasses to help deal with excess visual stimulation

-use weighted vests and ankle weights to provide the physical pressure to stay calm

Each family knows their child best, and knows what items and strategies work best during travel. Favorite electronics and other activities can help with a long car ride.

Photos with Santa
We’ve heard of extremes regarding children with SPD and having photos taken with Santa. Some children are—let’s be polite here—not happy about it. Red-faced, screaming and sweaty, these children are not pleased when propped on Santa’s lap. There are also children who are so interested in Santa they touch his beard, play with his bells, and take a long time with the bearded man. For those children, it’s worth exploring ‘Caring Santas,’ available at certain malls this holiday season. Here are two links to these events: https://www.instagram.com/mksallc/  and https://events.longisland.com/caring-santa-at-smith-haven-mall2.html

Plan ahead with regard to houseguests, whose presence can cause over-stimulation like any other crowd. Be sure your child has a quiet area in which to play or rest. Let relatives know if hugging is ok or off limits. Overall, it’s important to try to keep your child’s routine as normal as possible, even if it means parents wind up rearranging their own routine or schedule. It’ll be worth it!

The holidays are synonymous with big meals and a lot of special foods. Oral defensiveness is a common issue for children with SPD, and this can lead to picky eating. While this is likely something that is worked on throughout the year, the holidays mean new, unique holiday dishes, many with strong odors. Some strategies for handling this include sticking to your regular routine with regard to meal times and placement of dishes and silverware. Notify guests of your child’s dietary issues when appropriate to avoid hurt feelings when a child refuses to eat new foods. At mealtime, allow your child to explore new foods, respectfully and discretely. If possible, prepare one or two of your child’s non-holiday favorites. New foods, a large crowd at the table and a lot of distractions are very difficult for a child with SPD to handle. Reward good behavior with special treats, extra play time or special praise.

For additional coping tips, take a look at this list: https://sensoryprocessingdisorderparentsupport.com/tips-for-a-more-successful-sensory-christmas.php


We’ll circle back to the most important point: remember that you know your child. Trust your intuition; no one knows your child better than you do. Make no apologies for your child and surround yourself with people who understand you, and what your child is going through.

Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday season.



Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development or about Sensory Processing Disorder. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.






Are You and Your Children Washing Your Hands Properly?

Kids are back to school, cold weather is coming and we’ll be spending more time indoors. It seems like a perfect time to review handwashing practices to keep everyone clean and healthy. Did you know that frequent handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself, your family and others from getting sick?

While it seems simple enough, there are some dos and donts for washing your hands, including how and how often. If you’re not washing properly, you’re missing out on its benefits. Did you know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls handwashing a “do-it-yourself” vaccine?  Studies show that frequent handwashing helps prevent the spread of certain illnesses, including stomach bugs, strep and the flu. With most children picking up 6-10 colds each year, handwashing is an easy preventive measure.

Some handwashing facts:
-For every 15 seconds of handwashing, 10 times more bacteria are removed.
-A research study showed that school children who washed their hands had 51% fewer sick days due to stomach bugs and 24% fewer sick days due to colds.
-Compared to dry hands, damp hands are 1,000 times more likely to spread bacteria.
-Hands spread approximately 80% of common infectious diseases.
-Only 1 out of 5 people wash their hands before preparing food.
-95% of people either don’t wash their hands, or don’t wash properly after using a public restroom.

It’s also worth noting that antibacterial soaps, such as those containing triclosan, are no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap, and they may lead to antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. As of 2016, liquid, foam and gel hand soaps, bar soaps and body washes containing antibacterial ingredients can no longer be marketed to consumers. If you or your child are not near running water, hand sanitizer can be used in a pinch. Be sure the sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol and is used properly: apply gel to the palm of one hand, rub your hands together, covering all surfaces, until hands are dry. Be sure to supervise young children using sanitizer; swallowing these products can cause alcohol poisoning.

When should you wash your hands?

Always wash:
Before, during and after preparing food, especially raw meat, poultry or fish
Before eating food
Before treating wounds or caring for a sick person
Before inserting or removing contact lenses
After using the bathroom
After changing diapers or helping a child use the bathroom
After contact with bodily fluids
After treating a cut or wound
After touching an animal, animal food or treats, animal cages or animal feces
After touching garbage or outdoor garbage pails
After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing (try to cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder)

It’s also a good habit to teach children to wash hands when they come home from school. This is especially important if they are going to eat a snack as soon as they come home. You can teach children to Wet-Lather-Scrub-Rinse-and-Dry. Those five simple steps are all it takes.

How to wash your hands properly:
-Turn on water and wet your hands, preferably with warm water.
-Apply soap and lather well.
-Rub hands together, palm to palm; clean all surfaces including fronts and backs of hands, wrists, fingers, between fingers and under fingernails.
-Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. You can hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice, and that about covers it.
-Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
-Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel and use the towel to turn off the faucet.
-If you’re in a public place, use the paper towel to open the (dirty!) bathroom door as well.

It’s important to teach children how to wash their hands, and to encourage them to wash frequently. If a child can’t reach the sink, explore keeping a step stool handy. Make handwashing an important and fun part of your day to keep you and your family as healthy as possible! For more resources, including handwashing videos, and some additional hygiene tips, read more here.

Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Handwashing
Mayo Clinic Handwashing Dos and Donts
Duquesne University School of Nursing Proper Handwashing Techniques and Hygiene Tips: Guide for Teachers and Parents
Fastmed Back to School Checklist: A Handwashing Lesson



Answers to 5 Common Speech and Language Concerns in Children

One of the most common concerns among parents and caregivers of young children is speech and language development. This post’s contributing author is Betty Aboff, an MKSA Speech-Language Pathologist with 25 years’ experience in evaluating and providing therapy for children.

Is your child developing speech and language skills like other children? Is your child at age level? Children develop these skills at different ages, and there is a wide range of normal development. Let’s learn more about children’s speech milestones and when one should be concerned.

1. Why can’t my 2-1/2-year-old child say “s” and “th” sounds?
A child at age 2½ is only expected to be approximately 65-70% intelligible when speaking. We are not concerned with difficulties in articulation (the production of certain sounds) until a child is at least 3 years old unless it’s severe. Even at age 3, it depends upon which sounds the child is having difficulty with. At age 3, a child should be able to say sounds produced using his lips, including “b,” “p,” “m,” and the tongue, including “t,” “d,” and “n.” At age 4, a child should say the “r” sound and “back sounds” such as “k,” and “g”. At age 4 ½, the “s,” “sh,” and “ch” sounds should be produced. At age 6-7 a child should say “later sounds” including: “v,” “th,” “j,” “z” and blends (2 consonants together).

2. Why does my 3-1/2-year-old child stutter a lot?
Stuttering among children ages 2½-5, when they are still learning how to speak, is very common and is not a cause for concern. This is called “developmental dysfluency,” which appears in about 25% of all children at that stage and will usually disappear if left alone over time. As therapists we don’t address it and we discourage parents from telling their child to “slow down” or “think about what you want to say.” We don’t want to call attention to the dysfluencies. Never finish a child’s sentences for him. Act as if you have plenty of time to hear what your child has to say. Model slower speech for your child. When at home, insert extra pauses, simplify your own language and maintain normal eye contact with your child. Reassure your child that talking can sometimes be hard for everyone. If your child develops what are called “secondary characteristics” such as eye-blinking, foot stamping or facial grimaces, or if the stuttering gets worse, the dysfluencies should be addressed by a speech therapist.

3. Why does my 2-year-old child only say a few words?
Normal speech and language development in children can proceed at very different rates. It is common for many 2-year-olds to have a 40-50 word vocabulary and to be just starting to put 2 words together. Other children develop language skills faster, and can manage to conduct a conversation at that age. However, if a 2-year-old child only has a few words, isn’t imitating words, and is having trouble understanding language and commands addressed to him I would suggest having the child’s hearing tested, and a speech and language evaluation is recommended.

4. Why must my 4-year-old child be told something multiple times before he follows directions? He also has trouble with answering questions and repeats what you ask rather than giving you a response.
If he has not been already, your child should be tested for auditory processing (the ability to understand spoken language) difficulties as part of a complete audiological evaluation, to discover if the source of the difficulty is behavioral, processing or a combination of both. In the meantime, before giving your child directions, make sure you have gained his complete attention. Speak slowly and clearly, but don’t over-exaggerate your speech. Your directions should be simple and brief. Try to use visual aids such as pictures or actual objects and written instructions to supplement your spoken words. While speaking to your child, emphasize key words, and ask him to repeat your instructions back to you to make sure that he understood what you told him. Next year in Kindergarten he will be expected to follow directions and answer questions. If he has auditory processing difficulties, it will become more apparent in the classroom setting. This is the time to work try to give him compensatory strategies in order to function better in the classroom setting.

5. I have three children under the age of 5. Can you give me tips for helping them develop their language skills?
Below are some recommended techniques:
Expansion: Expand what your child says. If your child says “mommy,” you say, “Where is mommy’s car?”
Modeling: Provide a good model for the child to follow. If your child says, “baby hurt,” you say, “put a band-aid on it.”
Parallel talk: Comment on the actions of yourself or your child, with the hope that your child will begin to do the same.
Imitation: Have your child imitate your words after you, to hopefully begin to use them spontaneously.
Association: When a child comes across a new experience or word, supply additional vocabulary words. If your child says “car,” you say, “It is a car and it has wheels like daddy’s car.”
Repetition: Repeat the same new words over again in front of your child in many different contexts; eventually your child will begin to use the words himself.

Try these techniques at home and keep praising your child each time he tries to use a new word. Encourage him to want to learn new words and use them.

As with any concerns, speak with your child’s pediatrician first. MKSA is always available to answer questions and make appropriate referrals. For more information about MKSA’s services including speech-language therapy, click here.

Top 6 Things to Know About Early Intervention

When a parent first learns their child is being evaluated for a developmental delay, it can be a confusing, emotionally-charged time. It may be the first time a parent learns that their child may have long-term special needs. Or it may mean that their child needs some extra help to ‘catch up’ to his/her peers. Whatever the definition, it also means they will be navigating unchartered waters replete with new information and new people entering their life and the life of their child. Below are answers to some of the most common questions about early intervention (EI) in New York State, taken from the NYS Department of Health’s Early Intervention Program’s A Parent’s Guide:

1. How much do early intervention services cost?
If your child is determined eligible for the Early Intervention program, services are provided at no cost to families. Health insurance (including private insurance and Medicaid) is used to pay for early intervention services in New York State. In New York, family insurance policies are protected from being affected by payments for EI services. Only if your insurance company is licensed or regulated by New York State would your policy be used. Use of your insurance is voluntary if your policy is not subject to New York State regulation. When your insurance is used, co-pays or deductibles do not apply, even if your insurance company is not licensed or regulated by New York State and you volunteer to use your insurance for service.

2. How is eligibility for early intervention services determined?
All children are entitled to a free multidisciplinary evaluation to determine eligibility. Children with a diagnosed condition (i.e. Down syndrome) will always be eligible for services, however an evaluation will still be necessary to help plan for particular services. If your child does not have a diagnosed condition, but has a developmental delays, the evaluation will determine if your child is eligible for services.

3. What kinds of services are available?
EI services can include:

Special instruction

Speech-language pathology

Occupational therapy

Physical therapy

Vision services

Social work, nutrition, nursing, and psychological services

Assistive technology services and devices


Family training/counseling/home visits/parent support groups

Medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes

Transportation to/from EI services

4. Where are services provided?
EI services can be provided in your home, your child care center or family day care home, early childhood programs and center, or at recreational centers, play groups, playgrounds, libraries, or other community places parents and children go for fun and support.

5. What is a Service Coordinator?
The Initial Service Coordinator is appointed to you by the Early Intervention Official (in NYS, an appointed public official who functions as the “single point of entry” for children into EI; all children under 3 who may need services are referred to the Early Intervention Official). He/she assists families through all the beginning steps along the way to having your child receive services. Once it is determined that your child is eligible for services, you will choose your Ongoing Service Coordinator, who coordinates all the services your child will receive.

6. What is an IFSP? Will my child need one?
An IFSP, or Individualized Family Service Plan is the written plan for the EI services your child and family will receive. All children that receive EI services have an IFSP. An IFSP includes the following:  people and organizations involved (service coordinator name, professionals who will provide services, organizations/people responsible for paying for services), child’s current level of functioning (including any medical conditions, results of vision and hearing tests, as well as cognitive assessments and information on your child’s communication abilities and social development), family information (concerns, strengths and needs of your family and child) and list of services (specific services, frequency, provider(s) and outcomes (relevant, specific and measurable goals for your child).

For more information about early intervention services and how MKSA can help you navigate the process, click here.