Hello friendly faces! It’s that time of the week! We’re back with a new Chicago North Shore Moms spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law.
Glencoe boy mom, Michelle Meltzer, understands the essence of community. The speech-language pathologist and owner of Chicago Speech and Reading Center, has also been very involved in her children’s preschool, Glencoe Junior Kindergarten (GJK), for the last six years. This year, she is the marketing and enrollment VP at GJK, and it will be her last as the littlest one graduates. While Michelle grapples with the completion of this milestone, she tells us the many reasons why GJK was the best choice for her family, what you can expect from this supportive community, favorite local date night and family spots and a speech-language milestone checklist from the expert herself. Welcome, Michelle!
Photo credit: Sophie Baron Photography
Hi Michelle! Please introduce yourself. Where are you from originally? What city do you live in now? What brought you here?
Hi, I’m Michelle Meltzer! I am originally from the Detroit suburbs and I attended the University of Michigan for undergrad. I moved to Chicago after graduation to earn my Masters in Speech-Language Pathology from Northwestern. I met my husband here in 2009 and never left! I have been living in the Chicago area for over 15 years and in Glencoe for over 5 years.
You’re a mama! Tell us about your three boys.
Our Identical twin boys are 6.5 and in 1st grade. Our youngest is 4.5 and in his last year of preschool at Glencoe Junior Kindergarten (GJK). We have a very active, fun crazy house, and I wouldn’t change a thing! All three boys went through the full 4-year program at GJK.
What are one or two fun facts to know about you?
Finding out I was having twins was one of the most memorable and surprising moments of my life. Almost as surprising…we thought our twins were fraternal for the first 6 years of their lives, as this is what we were told in pregnancy. They are DiDi twins, meaning they had two sacs and two placentas in utero (most of the time, this means they are fraternal twins, but not always)! Our friends and family could never tell the boys apart, so we finally had a DNA cheek swab test done this past summer. Surprise! They are identical!
What are your favorite North Shore places, spaces and eats to frequent with little ones?
Our favorite spots and activities include biking on the Green Bay Trail or Skokie Lagoons, Sunset Woods “Rocketship Park,” Hubbard Woods Park, Friends Park, Kohl’s Children’s Museum, The Botanic Gardens, Glencoe Beach and Lifetime Northbrook
Kid friendly Restaurants: Hometown Coffee & Juice in Glencoe and Winnetka, True Juice in Glencoe, Mino’s in Winnetka, Guanajuato in Winnetka and Happ Inn in Northfield.
What’s something you do that gets you through a tough day?
I am obsessed with reading and I especially love audiobooks. To me, there is nothing better than winding down with a good audiobook and a jigsaw puzzle. I prefer a book over TV any day! I also exercise regularly and enjoy dance classes (WERQ), tennis, running and yoga.
You are a speech-language pathologist and the owner of Chicago Speech and Reading Center. Why did you choose to become a speech language pathologist and how did you decide to launch and open your own practice.
Language development fascinates me! I first became interested in language as a psychology major at Michigan. I loved my language psych class, and knew I wanted to work with kids in some capacity. I explored a few fields (such as teaching and social work), and I loved the scientific basis of speech. Upon graduation, I decided to job shadow a couple of SLPs while working for the University of Michigan conducting educational research studies. After falling in love with the profession and taking a few prerequisite courses, I never looked back!
I started my career working in the schools, primarily a preschool /kindergarten elementary school. While this was honestly my dream job, I missed the clinical aspect of speech pathology and saw a need for accessible, in-home private speech in the city of Chicago (especially for students attending private schools without these resources). I have been in private practice since 2013. While Chicago Speech and Reading Center originated in the city of Chicago and continues to primarily service the pediatric population in the city, we have expanded to the north shore suburbs and have speech therapists on staff in the Glencoe, Highland Park, Deerfield, Northbrook, Winnetka and Wilmette areas. We are in network with Blue Cross Blue Shield and also submit to other insurance companies out of network, allowing our services to be accessible to so many families.
What are a few developmental milestones that parents of young children should know about?
0-3 Months: You can start to distinguish between your baby’s cries: hunger, excitement, sleepiness, discomfort, etc. He/she will also start to make cooing and gurgling sounds like “ah, oh, eh” when content and happy.
3-6 Months: This is when you start to see more vocal play through increased cooing, gurgling, laughing and blowing raspberries. Your baby establishes eye contact, has a social smile and can discriminate between strangers and familiar people.
6-12 Months. Babbling starts around 6 months, beginning with reduplicated babbling (e.g., baba, mama). Later, you will see variegated babbling (e.g., “bamiga”). Children speak their first words around 12 months, As a general rule of thumb, your child should have at least 1 word (other than “mama” or “dada” by 12-14 months. A 12 month old also responds to “no” and his/her own name.
18 Months: Vocabulary starts to increase and children should have around 50 words (including nouns, verbs and action words). You should be able to understand around 25% of what your child says.
2 years: A child’s vocabulary grows to around 200 words by 2 years of age, and he/she begins to put words together in 2-3 word phrases (e.g., telegraphic speech). You should be able to understand about 50% of what he/she says. It is normal for children to produce approximations of words (e.g., “da” for dog).
3 years: Vocabulary grows to around 1,000 words. A child produces a variety of sounds such as p, b, m, n, w, h, t, d, k, g, y, ng and many vowels. His/her speech should be around 75% intelligible and sentence length should be increasing to 3 or more words.
4-5 years: While a 4 year old may still have some age appropriate speech errors (r, l, th), he/she should be almost 100% intelligible by age 4 or 5. Grammar is improved and sentences become more adult-like in nature.
In addition to being a busy mom and business owner, you serve on the board of Glencoe Junior Kindergarten. Tell us more about this amazing preschool and your role on the board.
This is my 6th (and final) year at GJK. The experience as a parent and board member of this amazing school has beyond met my expectations. I served as board treasurer for two years from 2021-2023. This year, my new role as marketing and enrollment VP has been extremely fun and rewarding!
Having worked as an SLP in many preschools in the past, I had a pretty clear idea of what I was looking for when it came to preschool for my own children. First and foremost, I wanted a play-based curriculum with a strong focus on social-emotional development, language enrichment and interpersonal relationships. I was so impressed with this when I originally toured at GJK. The teachers are extremely hands on and engaged with the children, and you can truly see their love for teaching in every classroom. There is a strong emphasis on peer relationships, play, social skills, and all of those really important early learning goals. That really aligned with what I personally value in the early preschool years.
GJK follows an emergent curriculum, and each classrooms’ activities grow from the ideas and interests of the children. Each class brings new, tailored ideas and adventures, and it has been so much fun to watch my kids shine in new ways each year. Furthermore, GJK works together with Glencoe School District 35 in order to fully prepare students for a full education beyond the preschool years. I can honestly say I felt my kids were enormously prepared before beginning Kindergarten at Glencoe South School, and I believe GJK has a lot to do with it.
Advice to young families looking for preschool…
I think a lot of families want to see strong academics in a preschool. From a speech and language perspective, while early literacy and math skills are extremely important, I feel a curriculum that is able to incorporate literacy and math into play are most successful. More than anything, we want our children to learn how to be empathetic, social and happy little people. Therefore, a truly successful preschool includes academic experiences and emphasizes social/emotional learning, play skills, language skills, interpersonal skills, etc. in conjunction.
When is enrollment for GJK in 2024 open? Do they have spaces open now?
Enrollment for the 2024-25 school year opens in February. For families interested in enrolling for the current year, we do have a couple spots open in the 3s and 4s programs. Please reach out to our fabulous director, Laura Vocke, for more information! [email protected]
Are there any events at GJK coming up?
Open House for Prospective Families: November 1, 2023
2nd Open House for Prospective Families: December 1, 2023
Tours are ongoing! Please contact Laura Vocke for more information: [email protected]
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about GJK or Chicago Speech and Reading Center?
When I first came to GJK, I kept hearing about the wonderful community of families, something that can be hard to achieve with so many working parents like myself. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant at the time, but now I can say it truly feels like we are a family. The phrase, “It takes a village” comes to mind when I think about GJK. I have found my people and my kids have found their lifelong friends. When my older two boys started Kindergarten, they were not only fully prepared for school, they had a support system of friends and were surrounded by familiar faces. Overall, GJK is a fun, happy, vibrant preschool and I feel so lucky to have found this option for my family!
In terms of my practice, CSRC provides in-home and in-school speech, language and reading services to children ages 0-21 all over the Chicago area and surrounding suburbs. Some of our areas of specialty include (but are not limited to): articulation/phonological disorders, receptive/expressive language disorders, dyslexia and other literacy delays, fluency disorders, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, ASD and more. We do offer free consultations and screenings, so please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding your child’s speech and language development! I am always happy to chat. Please visit www.chicagospeechandreading.com or email me at [email protected] for more information!
GJK is located in Glencoe’s Takiff Center at 999 Green Bay Road, Glencoe, IL 60022. Reach out by emailing [email protected] or call 847-835-4455.
About our Meet of Mom Sponsor
A very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Firm (wills and trusts). Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities! Learn more about Mary by visiting her Meet a Mom spotlight here! Contact Mary directly here: [email protected].