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The Sonoran Sun Blog

Plenty of information every parent can find useful!

One of the great things about language is that it is constantly expanding and developing no matter where you are at in life. Some of the ways adults expand their language is by reading, listening to others talk, and/or speaking with others. For children their language comes from similar situations. Children will hear you talk and pick up on both positive and negative words. They will start to read and ask “what is that?” They also talk with others, siblings, parents, peers, other adults in their lives.

Some simple ideas for at home expansion would be:

Narrating Their Lives:

  • Everyone loves a good narration and doing this with your child can help them hear and relate words to items.
    • Example: “That’s a red ball.” “You threw the red ball!”


  • Not all kids love to listen to books but interacting while reading can be a game changer!
  • While reading you can point to the different items on the page that the story is talking about.
  • You can also pause and ask “Where is the _______?” This helps with your child’s ability to identify objects! Which is a form of expanding.


  • When going through the day, your child might be used to pointing or grunting to receive things they want.
  • You can try to pause before giving them things. This is called a delayed model.
  • Saying “I want.” then leaving a small pause to give your child time to answer. After a few moments you can say “cookie/ desired item.” Before giving the cookie, encourage them to imitate the desired object.

Giving Options:

  • When you might be unsure what your child is wanting or maybe they only have a few choices to pick from.
  • You can show them two items (one in each hand) for them to pick. After they point/grab the item that they want, you can move back to our “pausing” technique.

These are a few easy items to sneak into your daily routine! Hope these tips and tricks help with expanding that language at home. Along with the homework/ assistance that is given to you by a speech therapist.


Bryce Gohn, SPLA


Sensory bins are plastic bins that are filled with various items. Typically, they include dried beans, dried rice, packing peanuts, sand, or water beads. Ideally if you can find a plastic bin with a lid on it, it will make clean up, storage, and transportation of the sensory bin that much easier.

Sensory bins provide sensory input to a child’s hand and upper extremities. In addition, items can be added to the sensory bins to work on specific goals.

For example,

  • To work on Sensory Play with a sensory bin hide items inside the bin (puzzle pieces, small toys, small figurines, Lego pieces, etc.) Next have your child close their eyes and feel around in the sensory bin until they find the hidden items. While doing this, children are receiving lots of sensory input to their hands and upper extremities while having to be aware of what they are touching and notice differences in the items in texture, shape, size, etc.
  • Fine motor skills are another area that can be addressed while playing in a sensory bin. To work on fine motor skills with a sensory bin, try the following:
    • Practice using a pincer grasp (thumb and index finger) to pick up items in the sensory bin as opposed to use a scooping fist grasp. By picking up different items with a pincer grasp, children are able to develop their fine motor coordination. Picking up item like dried beans, dried rice, and packing peanuts with a pincer grasp provide a good challenge. For an extra challenge, try picking up water beads with a pincer grasp as water beads are slippery and smooth and tend to easily slip out of our hands as we try to pick them up.
    • Practice scooping items up with a spoon. Practice using a spoon to scoop up the contents of the sensory bin and then practice spoon control by either slowly turning the spoon over to pour out the contents back into the sensory bin or by transferring the contents of the spoon to another container. Working on these skills with a spoon in a fun play setting will help the child when they are feeding themselves with a spoon.
  • Add an extra challenge to puzzles by hiding puzzle pieces inside the sensory bin. Now your child will get to practice the visual motor skills of putting together a puzzle, in addition to locating the pieces hidden inside the sensory bin.
  • To work on visual tracking and visual scanning hide some items in the sensory bin but leave part of them exposed and practice playing “I spy with my little eye.” This will help your child with their visual tracking and scanning as they need to visually scan the entire contents of the sensory bin to try and find the desired item.

The possibilities are truly endless with sensory bins. Give them a try and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your therapist.

Mike Jankowski, MS, OTR/L

Occupational Therapy Director


Understanding the difference between reinforcement and punishment –

When we think of the word reinforcement it is most likely looked at in a negative connotation; however, it didn’t start off that way! Kids thrive off of structure and rules. Yes, they like rules –even when they are not excited that dinner comes before dessert. Our friend reinforcement is a huge part of making kids’ lives better!

There is positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement, both are able to be utilized and loved at home, when they are used correctly and in a loving manner. To start, we can look at what the definition of reinforcement is: The process of encouraging or establishing a belief or pattern of behavior, especially by encouragement or reward.

In the definition it is looked at in a more positive light! How can this be? Let’s look at some ways to look at in its true positive nature.

  1. Giving stickers for going potty on the potty (positive)
  2. Getting dessert after finishing dinner (negative)
  3. Pressing a button that makes a loud scary noise (negative)

Positive reinforcement is for when a child has done a desired behavior and you give them something they desire! It is a win/win situation. Negative reinforcement is when an undesired thing is happening and it is taken/finished to make the desired behavior.

Reinforcement is supposed to increase a behavior we want to keep happening. Now, there is punishment and that is when we want to decrease a behavior we do not want to happen. Just like reinforcement has a negative and positive side, punishment does as well. Both can be effective depending on the child’s personality and how they are delivered.

Positive Punishment, adding something that is unwanted.

  1. Rocking on the chair and falling.
  2. Touching something hot and being burned.
  3. Getting in trouble and being put in time out.

Negative Punishment, taking away something that is wanted.

  1. Not behaving well at the store and no longer getting their favorite cookies.
  2. Hitting a sibling and taking the iPad away.
  3. Yelling at someone and their dessert is no longer being given after dinner.


Being able to balance both reinforcement and punishment can be tricky but watching your child’s behavior change depending on the reaction from each will help you know how to handle each situation that comes your way!


It’s Better Speech and Hearing Month and we want to Spot Light another one of our Amazing Speech Therapist!!

Kristina Burnham is our Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Therapist. She is also our Speech Department Director. Kristina graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech-Language Sciences and a Master of Science in Clinical Speech-Language Pathology. She originally started out as a music education major playing the viola until she had what she called her “mid college crisis”. She took a speech therapy class online and fell in love with the profession. Of all the areas that a speech-language pathologist may work in, her greatest interests are in early intervention and feeding therapy.

Kristina loves hanging out with her family, visiting with friends, and baking desserts. Whenever possible, she tries to escape to the mountains for vacation. One of her newer hobbies is finding the best local coffee spot that makes a good latte.

Kristina and her husband our parents to two little ones, Julie (3yrs old) and Amy (5months old). They also have a dog named Raja!


We are so lucky to have Kristina as part of our wonderful staff and have her as the leader of the ST department here at Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy!!


It’s Better Speech & Hearing Month and we want to Spot Light one of our Amazing Speech Therapist!!

Cynthia Pollard is one of our Speech-Language Pathologist. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton and her Master of Science Degree in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Northridge. Cynthia became a Speech Therapist because she was interested in helping people.  She initially took American Sign Language classes as an undergraduate because of her interest in working with the deaf, she then learned more about the field of Speech Pathology and knew that was her calling.

Cynthia’s hobbies are listening to live music, hiking in the mountains, playing pedal steel guitar, and stand up paddle boarding. Cynthia’s significant other, Rick Schmidt, is a professional musician. She also has a cat named Puff.

We are beyond lucky to have Cynthia as part of our wonderful staff here at Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy!!


It’s Better Speech & Hearing Month and we want to Spot Light one of our amazing Speech Therapist!!

Jessica Ruiz AKA Ms. Jess, is one of our Speech-Language Pathology Assistants. She received her Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Speech Language Pathology Assistant degree at EMCC in Avondale, Arizona. She has been in the field for four years, and has been working with individuals with special needs for over fourteen years. Originally, Jess wanted to be a special education teacher, but speech therapy won over her heart. She is a passionate and animated therapist who strives to create a fun learning environment tailored to each patient’s needs.

Jess has three passions in life: traveling, sports and DOGS! She is a self-proclaimed “crazy dog lady” and currently has three dogs of her own (looking to add a fourth very soon). Jess has been fortunate enough to travel quite frequently in her adult life and has visited multiple places in Asia and Hawaii. Jess is also passionate about living a healthy, active life. She played softball for 16 years of her life, landing her a full-ride softball scholarship for college. Jess currently plays in an adult co-ed dodgeball league and is constantly looking for ways to be active.

We are so lucky to have Jess as part of our wonderful staff here at Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy!!



Happy Better Hearing and Speech Month! Our speech team at Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy is excited to celebrate with all of our families who share their time and energy with us. It can be a lot of work, but seeing children make progress every week is so rewarding. Have you wondered what your child’s “speech teacher” is working on every week? There are so many areas of speech-language that we target with a variety of ages, ranging from Early Intervention (birth – 3 years) all the way up to teenagers. Some skills your child’s therapist may work on can include (but are not limited to):


-social skills

-problem solving

-listening comprehension

-expressive language


The amazing thing about a speech session, is that sometimes children do not even realize that they are doing “therapy”. You may see your child playing with animals to practice sounds, or going down the slide to request “more”, or blowing bubbles to say “pop”. Everything is done with purpose. If you’re not sure what skill your child is working on, please ask! We love to give recommendations for home activities to make speech practice fun and to help language skills progress quicker.

For more ideas on working with little ones at home, please visit some of my favorite websites that I frequently refer families to:


As always, if you ever have questions about your child’s speech and language development, please speak with your pediatrician or come visit us for a free screening!

Better Speech & Hearing Month


It’s Occupational Therapy Month and we want to Spotlight another one of our amazing Occupational Therapist!

Allison Heitzinger is one of our Occupational Therapist. She is a wife and mother of two young children. Allison went to A.T. Still University Arizona School of Health Sciences for her Masters Degree and completed her Bachelors in Psychology at Seattle University. Allison’s hobbies include running, hiking, gardening, cooking, and exploring the outdoors with her family. Allison also spends lots of time neck deep in toddler/preschool activities (frequenting parks, playing tag, building train sets, baking with my kids, and both making and cleaning up messes). 

We are beyond lucky to have her as part of our wonderful staff here at Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy!!



It’s Occupational Therapy Month and we want to Spot Light another one of our amazing Occupational Therapist!!

Michael Jankowski AKA Mr. Mike, is our Occupational Therapist and Department Director. He received his Masters in Occupational Therapy from Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA. Mike really enjoys working with people. He loves getting to hear people’s stories and learning about other people’s experiences. Mike discovered Occupational Therapy when he was in high school, and knew it was the field for him. Occupational Therapy allows him to interact and get to know many different people, while in the process of helping them live their life to the fullest and living the life they want to.

Mike’s two big passions in life are the outdoors and music. He really enjoys hiking and camping. Whenever he is near a body of water he loves to swim and surf. Mike has been fortunate enough to receive music lessons throughout his life. Mike loves listening to live music, and currently plays the guitar in his spare time.

We are so lucky to have him as part of our wonderful staff and have him as the leader of the OT department here at Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy!!



It’s Occupational Therapy Month and we want to Spot Light one of our amazing Occupational Therapist!!

Melissa McCormick is our Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, a wife, and mother of two wonderful boys. She graduated at Summa Cum Laude from Brown Mackie College Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. Melissa grew up taking care of her younger sisters and helping out with the children in her mother’s in-home daycare. She developed a passion for working with children at a very young age and has been working with children ever since. When Melissa found out about Occupational Therapy, she immediately knew her purpose in life. She feels very blessed to have a career that focuses on helping amazing children develop skills and self-esteem through meaningful and fun activities. When she is not at work she enjoys spending time outdoors with her family camping in the forest or playing at the beach.

We are so lucky to have her as part of our wonderful staff here at Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy!!



At Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy we consider our staff members as family. Are you looking to join a therapy team to help improve the lives of as many children as possible, while working in a positive work place with ethical values? If so, please click on the link below to see if any current therapist or support staff positions are available.


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Mission Statement

“We provide compassionate care and hope to help every child and their families live the most fulfilling life”

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