Live Speak Love, LLC

Lisa M. Geary, MS CCC-SLP lisa@livespeaklove.com

Simply Speaking February 27, 2012

Want to learn my newest, most fabulous idea for keeping up with data logs for each student? Read on right here!! I am very excited about this discovery, and for the potential it has to make my world a lot easier. Keeping up with the logs in the course of busy day of therapy is no easy feat. My school district requires us to keep data on all students, every time we see them for therapy. Our data is kept in computerized logs using Microsoft Excel, so all therapists are using the same log system across the county. Many times during the week I conduct classroom-based interventions and whole group lessons. Other times I have three to four students around my therapy table, making meaningful data entries/anecdotal notes difficult to write at the end of our sessions. And with sessions back-to-back with little time in between to consult with faculty, write reports, plan or even use the ladies room…life gets crazy and I often find myself playing catch-up, transferring written notes from a spiral notebook onto the computerized logs (translation: working at home long hours to keep up with data!)

So what’s the Time-saving Tech Tool? All you iPad and iPhone users might be out of luck on this one…Voice-to-text data entries using my Android phone (so far not available on Apple devices, I believe.) This idea is so simple and so ingenious, I am still overwhelmed at the significance of this discovery. WHY I didn’t think of this idea sooner is beyond me! I use my phone’s voice action feature to complete many other tasks already — why not speech-language logs??? Check out this video for a quick overview of how voice-to-text with Android works:

Using this voice-to-text feature, I can enter student therapy data into a file by simply speaking. With some students, I may input data in a quick moment in between therapy sessions, or even when walking down the hall to get my next group. With most students however, I can input the data at the end of the session during the time I would review progress anyway. A simple, “Ok, it’s Adam’s turn.., ready, listen!” And then I can speak a quick sentence or two into the phone to summarize the data (e.g., Given picture scenes, Adam formulated simple sentences using is/are auxiliary verb forms with 70% accuracy and minimal verbal prompts. Progress and strategies reviewed with student.”) To ensure student understanding, I can then  summarize the note, “Wow, Adam, that means you used those helping verbs correctly in 7 out of 10 of your sentences! Keep up the great work!”  And it’s done, all while maintaining student engagement. Students seem to enjoy this chance for extra attention, and it provides opportunity for additional review and feedback. My voice entry is saved into the document on my phone, and it’s done. I am using Quickoffice Pro to create, edit, and store and transfer student data into files. Here is a video about the features of QuickOffice Pro and the potential it has for working on the go:

Are you ready for the best part??? Here it is…Dropbox. Some of you may be using this online storage tool already, but the combination of voice-to-text, QuickOffice Pro and Dropbox is a powerful case management tool that has changed my working world. QuickOffice Pro allows you to instantaneously transfer your updated files to a “cloud” storage. With QuickOffice Pro and Dropbox, my Excel files are instantly saved and uploaded, and those same changes are automatically stored on all of my computers and mobile devices.This means that the log entry I dictated into a student’s Excel spreadsheet while walking down the hall is already updated and saved on my computer when I arrive in my therapy room. I can dictate those last few notes while waiting in the carpool line at my daughter’s school, and the notes are automatically updated and stored on my work and home computers without me even being there. The files are secure and in compliance with HIPAA requirements, with Dropbox’s 256-bit SSL encryption. Is anyone else impressed by the significance of this discovery?? Check out the Dropbox video for an overview of the possibilities:


Click here to get more info on using Dropbox.

If you are a busy therapist (like ME) struggling to meet the demands of a large caseload while still maintaining accurate, data-based documentation, then this type of tool may be just what you need. It certainly is just what I needed! Let me know what you are using to track student data — I am curious to know if similar technologies are being used. Thanks for visiting LiveSpeakLove!

EDITED FOR UPDATE:

I wanted to update that I have actually changed the office program I am using on my Android device. While Quick Office Pro is a very useful program, I did run into some difficulty with my spreadsheet template and the formulas it involved. I am now using Office Suites Pro, which preserves the formulas and transfers the documents seamlessly from mobile to desktop versions.

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Come on In! February 24, 2012

Inspired by SLP and fellow blogger, Jenna Rayburn of Speech Room News, I decided to respond to her Anatomy of a Speech Room challenge and take some pictures of my therapy room. This challenge came at a good time because I have been playing around with the configuration of my little room a lot this year. In the past, my tiny room has been overpowered by my desk, two large file cabinets, and a large round table that sat smack in the center of the room. This arrangement left very little room to stand or move, which proved a bit tricky in some of my therapy sessions (picture me, children with wheelchairs or walkers, a graduate student intern and an additional adult assistant all wedged in around a circle table — yes, can you say CROWDED???) Earlier this year, my super-organized and ambitious student intern helped me brainstorm a bit to come up with a better layout. We packed old files into boxes to rid the room of a file cabinet, traded out the round table for a small rectangular table (a feat which involved me following our building custodian into the boiler room storage  area– seriously, that “room” is straight out of Nightmare on Elm Street; Freddy Krueger just may have been lurking in the shadows! But, I got my table.) Suddenly, the room seemed much larger and brighter, and my groups could all fit in the room without experiencing claustrophobic attacks. I could also access therapy materials or files without fear of gouging my leg on a file cabinet drawer (yes, that actually happened to me. Ouch.)

All was well until earlier this month when I got my new ActivPanel interactive smartboard (note: I am NOT complaining about this gift, but setting up the device and adjacent laptop did require some more shifting.) After some trial and error with cords, placement of the ActivPanel, student access methods and ways to connect to the Internet, I think I finally have a room layout I like.   I am feeling pretty happy about the space — even though it’s small, I think about how the room is a big step up from the room I had right out of graduate school, when I shared a book closet with the school psychologist! (That was another creepy Freddy Krueger space…dark and dingy with stacks of books all around me.)

Check out the pictures below for a tour of my new and improved, geeked-out therapy room!

Here is my room as you walk in the door. I have the therapy table and also a (new) rug where I do floortime play with some of my little ones (as young as three years old.) 

Once inside the room, you can see the table and the ActivPanel set-up, with my chalkboard and the visuals I keep handy.

Here is a closer look at the ActivPanel and the board. The lower right quadrant of the board is where I write my objectives — definitely a challenge in groups with varying skills and goals, but I usually try and write something all-encompassing so that they have an idea of what we are doing:

Underneath the ActivPanel (housed on an old, door-less cabinet) I keep printer paper, construction paper, and bins for easy access to lesson plan materials:

At the table, students sit on one side and the end (enough for 4, which is my largest size pull-out group,) and I sit on the side with the laptop and board. This way, students can all see the ActivPanel and they can walk up to it when it’s their turn. I previously had the ActivPanel sitting at the far end of the table, but students were reaching across each other, and trying to get close enough to the board to use the stylus was difficult. So far, this new set-up is working out very well. The laptop sitting to the left of the smartboard provides input to the smartboard. I also use the laptop to enter student data into log spreadsheets (which is actually difficult when I have the students there with me, so really I end up entering data into my log files later…but I do try. More on that topic in a subsequent post.) I also have frequently-used supplies within reach in the space around me while I conduct therapy sessions:

The shelf behind my therapy table (on the left in the above picture) is covered in fabric. I attached fabric to the shelf unit using heavy-duty velcro as a way to hide visually alluring items from easily-distracted and/or impulsive students. When needed, the fabric is easily removed to access books, puzzles, and a variety of games I use to target speech-language skills:

To the right of the chalkboard, I have a vertical file on the wall where I keep picture schedules, low-tech communication boards, core vocabulary boards and other useful visuals. I also have an emergency clipboard I keep handy for fire drills and other emergency procedures:

Here’s my desk (ok, I admit I did organize the surface of the desk a bit before I snapped this picture! I often have IEPs, reports and other papers in a stack, among other things. I am trying to make sure the desk looks at least this neat before I leave each day.) The wall behind my desk technically leads to another office, and you can see there is a two-way mirror there. My “neighbor” has her side covered with paper, but I have grand visions of having the whole office suite to myself, creating a therapy room and separate observation room:

To the left of the desk, I have a storage cabinet covered in fabric, my printer, and a pocket chart with visuals I have hanging on the wall (door.) The fabric keeps the toys hidden until they are offered, and the pocket chart allows easy access to visuals I often use to prompt students for behaviors.

                                         

Toy bins under the fabric:

At my desk I also have a Pinterest-inspired place to store my Team notebook (holds parent questionnaires, assessment logs, and anything else I may need at Team,) and activity files/other materials that I am currently using (activity files not in use are stored in the file cabinet underneath this desktop storage.) I got the dishrack at a thrift store for $1.00…works for me!

I even use the space underneath my desk — a “shred” bin for those confidential papers, and a rolling file cart that houses a “working file” for each student on my caseload. I use these files to store individualized therapy materials, most-recent progress report and a current copy of the IEP. Some of my students have speech-language files several inches thick that date back as many as six years; this working file system rolls out when I need it and helps keep current information easily at my fingertips.

Beyond my desk is a built-in shelving unit that is not quite accessible, due to the large file cabinet I needed to put about a foot or so next to (in front of) it. I store mostly books and materials I don’t need that often on this shelving unit, accompanied by pictures of my kids and other trinkets:

I also have a built-in cabinet where I house art supplies, story board characters and pieces, cooking supplies, picture cards (ones I do not use frequently,) seasonal items and miscellaneous therapy supplies. The cabinet is spacious and holds a lot of items in an organized fashion:

At the far end of the room, I have a refrigerator (my own) with some storage on top. In the storage drawers I keep things like glue sticks, stickers, game pieces, dice, and magnetic chips. Markers, crayons, pens and pencils are also within reach:

Above the refrigerator, there are some open shelves where I keep enticing toys (up out of reach so that students have to make verbal or picture requests. No rewards for pointing in this room!) I also have free-standing therapy mirrors, and roughly two-ton pottery pieces that my sons made at pottery camp many years ago; I can’t yet bear to part with them…perfect top shelf office decor! :)

To the right of the refrigerator (and behind my therapy table,) I have a bulletin board atop the shelving unit. I use this board to display our school-wide behavior plan poster — a nice reminder for the students and a nice way to prevent me from having to continually update bulletin board displays!  Look closely on  the lower right side of the bulletin board and you will see some visual prompts I keep on pocket rings…I use these often with students who need behavior supports; many of these students have their own pocket rings I gave teachers use with them throughout their school day.

On the counter below the bulletin board, I keep my artic cards, picture vocabulary cards and other Fun-Deck materials. I also keep binders with adapted reading program materials, Core curriculum standards and other resources.

Well, there it is. My small but sweet therapy space where amazing things happen! Hope you have enjoyed this up-close and personal tour of my home away from home. I would love to know how this room compares to rooms that other SLPS use — I am grateful for this space but always wishing for a bigger room to allow for even more creativity (I’m thinking circle-time area, play house, puppet theater, pretend store, gross motor area and more!) A girl can dream, right?! Thanks for taking a peek and for visiting LiveSpeakLove!

 

Ode to the Doc February 22, 2012

Filed under: Free Downloads,Holiday Theme,Resources — livespeaklove @ 10:33 pm
Tags: , ,

I didn’t forget…his birthday is almost here. Most people who work in an Elementary school know exactly who I am talking about.  THE Doctor. The ultimate genius in early learning, phonemic awareness and word family skills. Yes, the inspiration for celebrations like Read Across America and Tasting Parties featuring green eggs and other foods…You guessed it, Theodor Seuss Geisel; A.K.A., Dr. Seuss.

I received a few messages asking me if I have any Bingo Boards with the Dr. Seuss theme. Of course!! Every SLP could have their own as well, with the fabulous creation tool (Boardmaker) and the ever useful “shuffle button.” If you have ever created even one Bingo board in Boardmaker, you just need to edit the pictures to reflect your new theme; save as; highlight the buttons; shuffle; save as (repeat 4 more times to make a set.) That’s it…seriously SO easy and the creations can be used to target a multitude of skills. I will say that I am using Bingo boards and similar activities less often now, with my focus on incorporating  interactive technology and multi-media resources into my regular therapy. But I firmly believe that every holiday deserves a good Bingo Board….and so, in honor of the Doc himself, here you go…

My Birthday Bingo Board Based on Books Poem:

 

So, without further debate or delay,

I bring you this resource, a game to play.

Just click and download each Bingo file

For you and your kids to enjoy awhile.

The pics are great; the pics are grand

And help kids express and understand

So play; discuss, with smiles and looks

A birthday game that’s based on books.

This game is more than Mother Goose…

We are talking Dr. Seuss!!

 

 

Question-able Material

Many students on my caseload have language difficulties impacting their ability to answer simple questions — a deficit that has the potential for considerable effects on a student’s ability to perform successfully in their educational environment. Think about a typical classroom activity, and the types of things a teacher might say…odds are pretty good that a majority of a teacher’s utterances involve a simple or higher level wh question word (what, where, who, when, why, how, what if?)  Reading comprehension is especially dependent on these powerful words (Who is the main character? What happened at the end of the story? Why did they make that decision? What do you think will happen next? Where did the story take place?)  Math is also tied to these questions (What is the first step? When do you combine groups?)  Because teachers continually elicit responses and assess skills, questions are routinely asked and answered in the classroom. Students with wh question difficulties need training on exactly what the individual words mean and appropriate referents that can be used as an answer. When asked a simple question like, “what did you eat for lunch?” a student with comprehension deficits might answer, “I eat my lunch.” Many times correct answers can be elicited with scaffolded supports such as yes/no questions or given choices. Systematic practice on these types of questions help students to more automatically comprehend the intended meaning and successfully respond. I often use visual supports to provide cues and structured practice on choosing appropriate referents.  Here is a visual prompt that I use to prompt students in therapy activities and also to use in their classrooms as a resource during instruction:

Simple WH Questions 

To help students differentiate between the types of simple questions, I often use a sorting activity (this activity works very well on my Promethean ActivPanel, where students can drag the pictures to the appropriate column. I also send home the hard copy for practice using verbal responses, or to use as a cut-and-paste activity):

And here are several practice activities I made to address simple wh questions:

 

 

I have had good success using simple, Boardmaker-created activities like these to provide structured training on wh question comprehension. As a student becomes more proficient at answering these types of questions, I extend this skill to simple picture scenes, story sequences, and eventually, story recall and comprehension in the classroom. I also spend time educating staff in using wh questions whenever possible, rather than simpler yes/no questions  or even just plain directives. For example, instead of saying, “Put that paper in your folder please,” a teacher might instead present, “Ok, where do you think the paper should go?” Embedded opportunities to practice these comprehension skills throughout a student’s day help to reinforce the therapy activities and promote generalization of skills. Finding opportunity is really not a difficult task…questions are everywhere!

Enjoy the resources — click the images to download and thanks for visiting me at LiveSpeakLove!

 

American Girl Dreams February 20, 2012

Filed under: Thoughts and Inspirations — livespeaklove @ 11:00 pm
Tags: ,

I almost didn’t post this entry. I admit that I am probably over-dramatic, and posts like these probably detract from the competent, professional image I often try to project. But I am trying to be authentic in my blogging efforts, and perhaps admitting that I often feel rather incompetent in the scope of my work is very authentic indeed. No downloadable resources in this post; sorry…today is a day for a bit of reflection. Enjoy, or not….this is me, doing my best to LiveSpeakLove.

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Today I entered the beautiful, picturesque world of American Girl. After years of playing super heroes, dragons and ninjas with my older boys, I was now perfectly delighted to sigh and squeal in delight at exquisite eighteen-inch dolls and their miniature shoes, clothes and numerous accessories. I had no idea how inconspicuously captivating this world would be. Visiting one of their stores today was admittedly a sensory-rich experience, with endless displays of distinctive dolls in various poses. Their charming accessories, furnishings, pets and attire all documented their participation in the most wonderfully enjoyable activities. Slumber parties, sports games, music & theater performances, cooking extravaganzas and acrobatics…these American Girls were apparently living the American Dream. I watched my own American Girl, her eager smile and glazed expression slowly taking in the scenes around her. The hours she had previously spent in  “research,” poring over each page of all the catalogues that came in the mail could not have prepared her (or me) for the hypnotic confections that surrounded us as we walked through the store. I watched her eyes dance and shine, her breath catching a bit as she glimpsed one item after another which brought delight to her mind and heart.

My girl carefully but adamantly chose the doll with glasses, Molly, and a cooking kit so Molly could bake cupcakes (generous gifts from her grandmother.) We then lunched in the Bistro with Molly, who sat in a high chair provided by the restaurant. The day was carefree, fun; full of wonder and possibility. We cheerfully left the store feeling happy and content. As we drove home, my girl clutched her doll tightly and whispered to her throughout the ride. My thoughts drifted to the scenes of the day….my mind recalling the swarms of girls entering the store; group after group all having similar, wonderful experiences. All of the girls beaming with excitement to share in this real-yet-make-believe world.

My mind then drifted to my students at work, and it dawned on me that many of the girls in my school might never have even a similar experience. Never. I took note of this abject disparity –as a mom, I felt grateful to share days like today with my girl; her pure delight in this perfect, childhood experience warmed my heart. As an SLP working with some complicated kids, I ached to give these same experiences to all of the children on my caseload. My thoughts acknowledged that many of my students could not have tolerated the sensory input of the store, and many of their families could not have afforded the gifts that we were given today. The SLP in me sat thoughtful for a long while, dreaming for a way to make things different.

Dilemmas like this one strike me every so often. I wish there were a way to help my students, in all of the ways they need to be helped. The work I do with and for these children is often over-shadowed by clouds of paperwork, federal IEP timelines, caseload management constraints and factors over which I know I have no control. While I do my very best to give students engaging, differentiated therapy experiences to promote growth and success, I always wish that I could do more. I wish I could fix the disorders; dissolve the difficulties. I wish I could give disadvantaged families the money they need. I wish I could give parent-less students a stable home life. I wish I could erase harsh moments that forever shadow a student’s life. I wish I could give them all exactly what they need; give them everything they need, with lives as abundant  and rich as the fictitious characters of the American Girl world. But I know I can’t.

Tomorrow, I will go to work and immerse myself in the therapy activities I have planned; collecting data, writing reports and helping each child to the best of my abilities. My work will help them progress toward mastery of IEP goals and objectives. Their skills will slowly improve.  Tomorrow I will teach, and my students will learn. But today; right now, I wish that I could take each child on a trip to the American Girl Store.

 

St. Patrick’s Day Fun February 19, 2012

It’s a nice , three-day weekend for most school-based SLPs! If you are like me, weekends  (especially long ones) are a time to relax, yes, but also a time to plan lessons, catch up on paperwork and reflect on students’ progress. Looking forward to the month of March, I have many St. Patrick’s Day activities planned to target a variety of speech-language goals. Feel free to download the resources; just leave a comment if you can. Thank you!

First, I made a quick, introduction video using Animoto to educate students about St. Patrick’s Day and related vocabulary. Animoto is a wonderful resource to create dynamic videos set to music that will engage students in learning activities. I created this multi-media resource using my own mp3 file and Google images. This video will be used in various flipcharts I will develop for use on my therapy room smartboard (ActivPanel.)These flipcharts can target a variety of levels and skills using a fun, St. Patrick’s Day theme. (Pre-made smartboard resources using a St. Patty’s Day theme can also be found at Smart Exchange.) Here is the short video I made:

If you are interested in using Animoto for yourself, click here.

Other activities planned for various groups include four-leaf clover templates to target word knowledge, wh question comprehension and story elements. Here are some examples:

Template (use an idea below, or adapt for your own activity):

Here is an example of how I used the template for brainstorming object attributes (very important foundation skill for teaching students to compare and contrast.)

Here is the same template used as a graphic organizer for wh questions. This activity could be used to discuss objects and object functions, etc., or it could be applied to stories to teach identification of story elements.

Here is a vocabulary page for introducing/reviewing simple vocabulary words related to the St. Patrick’s Day theme. This page could be used as a low-tech board for St. Patty’s Day games, or as a visual word bank for worksheets and activities:

A fun game that my students always love is Memory. Just print out duplicate copies of the Memory Card page onto cardstock, laminate and you are ready for an open-ended game that could be used to target a variety of speech and language skills. On each turn, students can practice sentence formulation using the vocabulary words, or they can identify similarities and differences using the picture vocabulary. Students can also give their peers “mystery clues” about their chosen cards and see if the rest of the group can guess what the pictures are. You can adapt this game into differentiated activities to address just about any objective:

And, if you are not yet tired of Bingo Boards, feel free to download the set I made using Boardmaker. Take a look at a previous post  for a summary about how I use these board to target a variety of skills:

For more ideas, check out these links for books, stories and crafts you could use in speech-language therapy sessions:

Wishing everyone a happy, safe rest of February, and a wonderful start to March. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

Visual Supports for Behavior February 17, 2012

I was trying to think of a clever title for this entry…some alliterative phrase  that captures the essence of my theme. I quickly decided to stick with the matter-of-fact title, “Visual Supports for Behavior,” because matter-of-fact is what my message is intended to be — children often need visual supports for behavior. We know that certain students respond particularly well to visual supports. Research documents the need for visuals with the autism population, and there are many great options for visuals to use throughout these students’ school day. But what about students who do not have autism? Might they need visual supports as well? Absolutely!

Using visual supports in a school environment targets diverse needs across student populations. Visual supports can tap into the learning styles of students with a preference for visual presentation, assisting them in the processing and storage of information. Visuals can also increase comprehension in students struggling with auditory comprehension, providing a visual prototype that can hold meaning for them in a confusing world of fast-paced direction and instruction . Students with attentional difficulties often need visual supports as well. For a student overloaded with environmental stimuli in a busy classroom, visual supports can help capture their attention and give them a concept on which to focus as they process verbal information.  In addition, many students with executive function difficulties (related to attentional difficulties) might appear to grasp a concept well during group instruction. Students can follow along with information as a teacher visually demonstrates a concept and walks the class through tasks in step-by-step fashion. However, when asked to apply that same skill to complete individual seat work, students with attention and/or executive function  difficulties often flounder. But visual process charts and graphic organizers can help students complete tasks with independence as they practice the skill. A great site for graphic organizers is found here, but I often make my own to meet individual students’ needs.

One way I frequently use visual supports is to address (or prevent) behavior problems. Many students with special needs have deficits that can trigger behavior issues. Students with language difficulties often have difficulty expressing how they feel, or what they want. Issues with impulse control may interfere with classroom routines and social interactions. Students living in poverty or unstable homes may have difficulties coping with the demands of  a structured learning environment. Little three and four year-olds without any prior school experience are now attempting to navigate the social world of new people and new expectations. They long to interact with peers but do not yet know how to properly initiate that interaction. Sitting on the rug at circle time is a challenge when they are accustomed to free play and exploration. All of these issues can cause negative behaviors to emerge, behaviors that can interfere with the learning of others. SLPs are frequently involved in the problem-solving process and are uniquely skilled at developing materials to address such behaviors. Social stories, super pictures, behavior charts,  incentive charts, picture schedules and communication boards are all strategies SLPs keep in their toolbox so that students can make progress in the classroom.

 Here are a few of my favorite visuals, resources that I specifically designed for students needing visual input to assist with comprehension of expectations. I have experienced great success using these simple but powerful tools.

Visual display to help students express how they are feeling (sometimes they don’t even know until the visual seems to “match” what they are experiencing):

 

Another visual display that was made for a student to keep on his desk so that he could express the emotions he was frequently experiencing: 

Often students need individualized prompting during instruction time to follow classroom rules and expectations. Younger students and/or students with impulsive behaviors need one-step verbal commands to remind them of what they should be doing. These pictures can be cut apart, laminated and placed on a key ring for portability and easy access, or they can be enlarged and cut apart to use as a super-picture presentation. I keep these pictures and other similar visuals in a pocket chart on the wall in my therapy room:

One of my FAVORITE, most often-used visual is the First-Then board. I am posting one template below, but I have many other styles I frequently use. I have also been known to grab post-it notes in a therapy moment when necessary, and draw pictures depicting the first-then expectation. I verbally use this terminology to communicate expectations, even with my own children. “First homework; then T.V.”  The idea is to state the expectation, and when it is finished a more preferred activity can be completed. The first-then chart posted below was used most successfully with a high-functioning student with autism who could complete his classwork with assistance when he tried, but he often became overwhelmed and refused to attempt anything. The classroom teacher and I worked together with the student to identify a list of brief, preferred activities that could be used as a reward after he finished his assignment. The student chose pictures of the preferred activities to place on the bottom row of the chart each day (things like get a drink, color a picture, take a walk, say hi to people in the office, etc.) For each activity he was assigned, he chose one of his preferred options and placed it on the “then” spot. (e.g., First – math worksheet; Then – color a picture.) With a motivating goal easily within reach, the student was able to complete chunks of work and take mini-breaks for rewards throughout his day. His meltdowns literally vanished within a day or two of introducing this tool:

For students needing a visual reminder of how to make “happy” choices, I often use these supports:

A great tool to give (positive and negative) feedback to a student while you are teaching is a non-verbal signal or visual — no need to stop instruction and give negative attention to a child who is misbehaving. With older students, a simple thumbs up or down could work. With younger students, I like to use the happy face/ sad face flip visual. Just cut out the two circles, laminatend tape to opposite sides of a craft/popsicle stick. Present any student with nonverbal feedback as you continue with your lesson. I have witnessed more than a few students break their cycle of negative behaviors by experiencing confidence and success when they are rewarded positively with the “happy” side (catch them doing something positive whenever you can — it works!)

The beauty of visual supports is that they can be tailored to exactly fit the situation at hand. Programs like PowerPoint, Boardmaker, ActivInpire, MS Word, and many others allow for creative design and image selection. The internet hosts a wealth of ideas, templates and other resources to help in the process. The bottom line? Many SLPs and teachers encounter students who are struggling to meet curricular and behavioral expectations. Can we eliminate what is causing those issues?  Unfortunately, not usually. But visual supports are a wonderful tool (and in my experience, sometimes the solution) to helping these students move beyond barriers that block their progress. Increased comprehension, independence and compliance result in better learning opportunities for students, and better relationships with those around them.

 

President’s Day in the Speech Room February 16, 2012

Well, Valentine’s Day was a hit in the speech room; now it’s time to move to the next theme-based holiday, President’s Day! (Does anyone else think the year is just flying??) Each year, I am surprised to hear how little my students know about the Presidents. Today I asked a group of students, “What does the President do?” Aside from saying generic statements like, “He’s the boss” or “He is in charge of things,” the students had great difficulty telling me more specifically what the President does, or even who he is ” bossing around.”  As I prompted them with WH questions to elicit more details, the students responded with comments like, “He is in charge of Maryland” and “He is the boss of the whole world.” Granted, these students are language-delayed and have difficulty retaining information, but  the conversation made me realize that I need a way to help them visualize the organization of our world. I plan on using this idea to give them a concrete representation of where they live (and who the President is in charge of bossing!):

I also plan on using some fun, educational vidoes in my ActivInspire flipcharts to give students some background knowledge of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and related vocabulary. Here are some that I like:

George Washington:

Abraham Lincoln:

A President’s Day Song:

 And this video I’ve included about the 50 Nifty United States, mostly because it’s a really cool song that my oldest son learned and performed years ago when he was in Elementary school. He practiced it so often that our entire family learned to sing with him and can now list all the states in alphabetical order!

Along with the flipcharts and embedded videos, I have some materials prepared that can be inserted into the flipcharts and also printed to send home with students or to document their ideas and annotations. These activities can be used to elicit basic communication and higher-level language skills, as well as to practice articulation skills. Click to download if you liek them!

 

This open-ended game board can be used to target virtually any speech-language skill. Check out this post for a glimpse at how I used a similar open-ended board on the ActivPanel:

I am looking forward to exploring vocabulary, discovering facts and having some genuine conversations with students about the President’s Day theme, incorporating these fun materials. Hope you enjoy them too! Leave a comment to let me know if/how you used the materials. Thanks!

~Lisa

 

Feeling the Love February 14, 2012

Filed under: Thoughts and Inspirations — livespeaklove @ 7:07 pm

Happy Valentine’s Day from LiveSpeakLove! I am feeling the love today. Not only did I get valentines, candy, hugs and smiles from amazing students on my caseload, but I got some blog-love today from people I have never even met. PediaStaff, a national pediatric-based company for therapists, found my blog and Pinterest Speech Therapy Board, and added me to their database of resources. With over 12,000 Pedistaff followers, some of my speech-language ideas and materials are spreading across Pinterest pretty quickly, generating an amazing amount of blog hits. I am getting emails and messages from other therapists, educators and parents, thanking me for sharing my ideas and resources. A nice treat for me in the form of inspiration — what better tribute to this special day???

Here is a snapshot I’ll share with you of a Valentine’s Day activity in my therapy room…two of my older students using my open-ended Valentine Game board on the ActivPanel smartboard. I first took a screenshot of my Boardmaker file and saved it as an image, then inserted the picture into a desktop flipchart. Then, I “locked” the image into position for use as a game board. We used the shape tools to create colored icons to use as game pieces, which could be moved around the game board as they took turns rolling the die. Ta-da…instant, interactive, virtual game board that we paired with articulation cards to target /s/ blends in sentences and sentence formulation skills. The girls loved the game format, and told me they, “can’t wait” to use the board again.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, and thanks for spreading the love!

~Lisa

 

Achoo!

Yes, it’s that time of year. I have been liberally doused with a sluice of sneezes, and my tissue supply is precipitously dwindling. My own family has been sick off and on for the past few weeks, including myself, an annual affliction that makes me yearn for spring’s fresh air and sunshine. I know, not yet.

While I am waiting for Spring, I often choose the month of February to remind students of important healthy habits. I’ve included a few favorite resources to share. If you like what you see, feel free to download — just click on the images and leave a comment under the post below to let me know. Thanks!

Given the popularity of the recent posting of my Valentine Bingo Boards, I thought I would share my ACHOO! Bingo boards as well, loaded with concept and theme-based vocabulary. I often spend time discussing the vocabulary words, and the steps necessary to maintain a healthy body. Extension activities include listing/sorting items in given categories (e.g., healthy foods vs. unhealthy foods, types of exercise, signs of being healthy vs. signs of being sick) asking and answering wh questions about vocabulary, “turn and talk” time with peers to discuss how being sick feels, etc. The Bingo boards are merely an entryway for language-rich activities and discussion. Enjoy!

I also take time to discuss proper hand washing to prevent germs from spreading. A website with lots of ideas for teaching K-3 kids about germs can be found here. I also like to use a handwashing picture sequence to illustrate our discussions. The images can be used as picture cues for students needing step-by-step prompting, and older students can place individual pictures onto a story board using the correct sequence. Sentence formulation skills can be addressed as students retell the picture sequence using ordinal and sequential vocabulary.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so I often use this month as an opportunity to review dental hygiene themes and vocabulary. Kids love to make paint designs using toothbrushes, and I sometimes will co-teach with the occupational therapist in my school to create toothbrush crafts that target fine motor skills (snipping edges of paper to make toothbrush “bristles,” etc.) The American Dental Association has a database of resources to educate children about good dental habits, including downloadable worksheets and posters in English and Spanish.

 

Here is a picture vocabulary page I made to supplement lessons and discussions on dental health:

One of my favorite ideas is to use the book How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? by Jane Yolen to create  literacy-based activities using the “Staying Healthy” theme. The rhythm and rhyme of this endearing story target phonemic awareness and decoding skills. The themes of the book allow for discussion of content vocabulary and social skills like making good choices. Here is a picture vocabulary page I made using real images from Google Image search and Picture This photo software in Boardmaker: 

To promote student engagement and active listening during the story presentation, I use pinch cards to target the “happy choices” vs. “sad choices” that the dinosaurs make (quick side note –I prefer the terms “happy” choice vs. “sad” choice because I just don’t like using the word “bad” with my students. Even if I am clear about saying it is the choice that is “bad,” I personally prefer not to highlight the negativity that many students hear all too often…and using happy/sad terminology focuses on how they might feel versus other people’s perceptions of who they are or what they do.) Using the happy/sad choice pinch cards, student can respond to “I wonder” statements and WH questions as the story events are revealed (e.g., “I wonder if the doctor thinks the dinosaur made a happy choice or a sad choice?” or “Oh no! The dinosaur is making a big mess! What kind of choice do you think he is making?”) Students “pinch” the correct picture and hold it up in the air…every student has a way of responding and answering the question at the same time using the basic concept vocabulary.

Thanks for checking out LiveSpeakLove! I am enjoying this format to share some things that have inspired me, and I appreciate the feedback from those who feel inspired as well. Stay Healthy!

~Lisa

 

“SMART” Speech-Language Therapy February 12, 2012

I am fortunate to work in a Title 1 school with supplemental funding to provide rich, technological experiences for the developing minds of our children. ELMOS, document cameras, mobile computer labs, and interactive whiteboards are familiar terms to teachers and students throughout my building. Today’s generation of children are ostensibly at a disadvantage if their education does not incorporate technology on a regular basis…a sign of the times. I’ve heard students in my school ask questions that make  me chuckle, like, “What’s an overhead?” or “Can we just Google it and find the answer?” I also had a student recently point to a picture of JFK on the wall in the hallway and remark, “Hey, I know him! He’s in my Black Ops game!” Ahhh yes, sign of the times.
  

Children today are surrounded by multi-media sensory input; instant gratification in the form of video games, cell phone apps, texts, on-demand video streaming, internet search engines and multi-media lifestyles. As a young, hip SLP (just go with it…I’m making a point here :) ) I prefer to reach students where they are and provide therapy activities  incorporating technological resources, whenever possible. Feeling a bit passionate about the idea of addressing multiple learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile) and building brain connections through  a multi-modal approach to instruction, I even began a technology initiative for the SLPs in my school district this year. A Technology Committe was formed with interested participants, and we have been meeting periodically to develop systems for  creating and sharing technological resources. We hope that other SLPs in our county will take advantage of opportunities to incorporate technology into their therapy sessions. Our work is to be “unveiled” at a professional development next month, and preparing for the presentation is getting me even more excited about the work we have done.

In the LiveSpeakLove spirit of sharing resources, I thought I would post some of my favorite ways of incorporating technology into therapy sessions. My county has a strict policy for the use and approval of technology, so all the ideas I have here are limited to what is currently approved for my school distrcit (i.e., no iPad, iTouch or related technology; web-based applications and sites have been approved through our filter process.)

ActivInspire Flipcharts – My school system uses the ActivInspire software program as one way to create “flipcharts” or lessons to be used on interactive smartboards. I now have a desktop version of the classroom-sized whiteboard in my therapy room, so I am using ActivInpire Flipcharts for individual, small and classroom-sized groups. I really do not work for Promethean or ActivInspire, but this technology has changed the way I provide therapy. Check out this video for a quick overview:

You can create your own flipcharts using the program’s resource libraries merged with your own content, or find unlimited resources to download and adapt at the following sites:

Online Games/Activities - The internet is filled with language-rich games and activities that will engage learners and provide instant reinforcement for task completion. Not to take the place of traditional speech-language therapy with individualized instruction and feedback provided in a monitored, systematic format, online games are a unique supplement to the personal interactions we create in therapy. Some of my favorite sites are:

TinyEye Online Therapy – I found this wonderful, internet-based company several years ago when I worked for them providing online speech-language therapy (via Skype and the ingenious online therapy system they have created) with a school in China. Taking advantage of the time difference, I logged on several times a week after my own children were in bed and provided instruction and feedback to students in China (who were assisted by their teachers during our sessions.) This service delivery model is perhaps the REAL wave of the future. With critical shortages of SLPs throughout our world, companies like TinyEye have devised a way to use technology to meet students’ needs in an efficient, global model for services. Even if you have no desire to Skype with China during your normal snoozing hours (perhaps not for sleep-deprived souls with crazy lives, but I would do it again if a mutually-agreeable contract became available,) you can still take advantage of their online therapy games–FREE for school-based SLPs. Just register with them to receive access to games addressing myriad goals, objectives, skills and targets. Games can be added to online “backpacks” with access even given to students for homework practice. Here is just a sampling of the abundant online resources they offer:

Online "Backpack" of games to target individual students

Farm Game - students click to answer WH qestions involving concept vocabulary

Animated Mermaid Matching game to target articulation skills through matching words or minimal pairs

PBS Kids Online Games - online games linked to curricular content, featuring characters from the PBS shows.

Nick Jr. Online Games - More online games featuring kids’ favorite characters. All of the games feature educational content linked to curriular vocabulary.

SMART Exchange - Images and smartboard lessons that are directly linked to State Curriculum Standards. Simply click on your state, identify the standard, grade level and subject area, and VOILA!! Instant resources available to you that address those standards. Here is a glimpse of a search I did for third grade language arts activities using the Maryland Core Standards:

Online Multi-media resources – Images and videos can be directly inserted into flipcharts, smartboard lessons, or PowerPoint presentations to increase student engagement through visual stimuli, sounds and animation. I frequently search for images to use in Boardmaker documents, to target  populations that comprehend and store vocabulary labels significantly better when real images are used (see this article for a brief rationale.) I also use sound effects and videos frequently in computer or smartboard-based lessons. Children in today’s world — a world filled to the brim with t.v. shows, video games, computer games, cell phone games and so on and so on and so on — love the power in clicking an icon or button to create instant visual or auditory feedback. Here are my favorite tools for creating multi-media delight in therapy activities:

  • Google - Wow, images and animations galore, many of them free! (just make sure you have an antivirus program installed before you click on links you find.) You can search for gif animations, videos, and even use their image search feature to locate the exact image to insert into your lesson.

Snapshot of Google Image search results for "bears"

  • YouTube – Not just for watching Ellen’s Favorite Videos or  the latest Adele performance  — there are amazing, inumerable educational resources found on youtube. Read this entry to see an example of one video I used in a language lesson for young students. My seventh grade son reviews algebra concepts each night by watching youtube videos from KhanAcademy. You can even learn how to increase your use of technology in therapy by watching podcasts from one resourceful SLP!
  • Watch Know Learn – free, organized database of educational videos covering all subjects and grade levels.
  • Self-made video clips – my school purchased several flip cams that many of us use. With these cameras, students can be video-taped (abiding by confidentiality requirements) and inserted into presentations. Therapy sessions can include self-assessment and monitoring pieces with this tool, and provide documentation for acquisition of skills. Plus, kids just like it.
  • Video Montage Programs – Pictures and video clips can be set to music and preserved using slide show programs like Animoto or Windows Movie Maker . I often use programs like these outside of therapy as well (e.g., to document accomplishnents during school-wide assemblies, or to document my own family photos in a creative way.)

This is just a quick overview of some of the tools I routinely use to increase student engagement and give them multiple ways of processing and responding during our sessions. For even more ideas, check out suggestions from the National Center on Universal Design for Learning (UDL.) In addition to technology ideas, their list of suggestions includes ways to adapt materials for various disabilities and activate background knowledge in students across populations. A fantastically huge database of web-based resources is presented as it relates to UDL checkpoints.

Feel free to let me know what types of technology you are using and how your students or children respond. We live in a dynamic, fast-paced world where “smart therapy” means more than just keeping up with the latest reseatch. To be truly “smart,” we now need to step out of our comfort zones a bit and embrace the technology that surrounds us.

 

Valentine’s Day Activities February 11, 2012

I stopped at the store today to buy goodies and cards for my own kids to give their friends on Valentine’s Day. Our home is now equipped with pre-made cards and card-making supplies (for one child with a bit of artistic ambition,) treat bags and several kinds of candy doused with liberal amounts of pink and red. We are just days away from the holiday, and almost all of my kids are getting pretty excited. (Did you know that middle schoolers are now “too cool” for Valentine exchanges, even casual ones under the pretense of spontaneous candy-sharing?? Hmmmph.)

I am not necessarily a huge Valentine’s Day fan, but I do enjoy the chance to mark the swiftly passing days with entertaining, theme-related activities and the chance to celebrate with the people around me. I have a few favorite Valentine’s Day activities to share.

Valentine Bingo Boards – The term “Bingo” is used loosely, due to the fact that I use games like this to target almost every speech or language skill possible before we actually get to any of the “Bingo.” During a typical game, each student’s goals are addressed through differentiated activities involving speech production, identifying vocabulary given verbal descriptions, sentence formulation to respond to wh questions about vocabulary, or following simple and multi-step directions using unique ways to mark the square (no Bingo chips or dotters in my groups…we usually mark our squares by following directions like, “Draw a blue square next to the valentine card.”) We also use related vocabulary to highlight critical attributes and identify similarities and differences. Children often spontaneously share background experiences with the theme-related vocabulary and we take a few minutes to “turn and talk” to relate a past event or experience to a peer or peer group. What might look like a simple “game” to the casual observer is unquestionably a language-rich, engaging experience with opportunities for differentiated instruction tailored to meet multiple learning styles. Made with Boardmaker software, Bingo Boards are cinch to replicate for multiple versions using the “shuffle button” tool. Enjoy these free downloads, and feel free to let me know how you used them.

Valentine Bingo Boards, created using Boardmaker software
 
Free Download Links:
 
Low-Tech Picture Boards: Another activity I’ve used with success is this simple language activity targeting WHO questions using low-tech picture boards as stimuli. Descriptive words (heart shape, color words) are highlighted at the sentence level, while categorical labeling skills are also featured. Extension activities can be created to target related skills such as comprehension of embedded clauses, asking wh questions, using color words in sentences to describe pictures, etc. I use this document (created in Boardmaker) on my ActivPanel smartboard with the “annotate desktop” feature that will allow students to circle, draw lines, manipulate objects and add text to supplement the pictures. Animal sounds inserted as mulit-media files next to each animal (easy to do if you have smartboard software like ActivInpire )complete this fun, engaging activity that my students love!

Another Valentine’s Day activity that could be adapted to meet any therapy objective — this open-ended Valentine’s Day game board. I pair boards like this with picture stimuli, articulation cards, pragmatic question cards, sequence cards…ANYTHING than can be used to elicit a response as students take turns to make their way to the “mailbox” in time to deliver their Valentine’s Day card. This game board was created in Boardmaker on a legal size grid and then converted to PDF. Enjoy!

Thank you for visiting, and Happy Valentine’s Day to you from LiveSpeakLove. <3

 

The Power of Paint Chips February 10, 2012

Most teachers, SLPs and parents know that the internet is packed with creative ideas for turning regular, ordinary items into useful tools and treasures. If you have spent any time on Pinterest, you may have a sense for just how crafty people can be in their DIY endeavors. Something I recently discovered. more than just clever or cute in its purpose–with aesthetically pleasing qualities, combining with elements of function and organization to create an invaluable visual aid– paint chips. The power of paint chips is pretty exciting to a visually programmed SLP like myself, with a love for all things crafty and colorful.

Using paint chips to create treasures is apparently as basic as scribing a single character with a magic marker, or as complex as combining mixed-media techniques to fashion an abstract expressionistic design. Etsy is filled with ideas for creating home decor, gifts and other designs using…yes, paint chips. Here are some of one crafter‘s clever projects:

PediaStaff explains the word family game that can be used in a variety of educational or therapeutic activities. Extending the idea they describe,articulation therapy tools could be created by changing the “word family” unit to target sounds in the initial or final positions of words (e.g., words that end in /k/ or words that start with /b/.)

Inspired by finds like these and others I’ve come across on the Internet, I decided to adapt helloliteracy‘s idea of using paint chips to increase vocabulary and word knowledge skills:

Teachers in my school have been reading and discussing a book, Donavan’s Word Jar, with students daily as part of a school-wide initiative to increase vocabulary use and comprehension. I have been working with many of the teachers by recommending developmentally appropriate words on which to focus, as they expose and incorporate higher-level synonyms into everyday classroom vocabulary. The paint chip idea clearly became the perfect tool to jump in on this initiative and reinforce word knowledge, word relationships, and synonym usage. I soon trekked eagerly to my nearest hardware store and made a slow, casual approach down their paint chip aisle. Seeing the spread before me, I wanted to grab handfuls of every luscious, vivid color. Unfortunately, frequent glances from the staff member at the paint counter, combined with the guilt I felt at the idea of taking items meant for customers actually buying paint…I chose only twelve strips and silently vowed to shop at that very store the next time I found myself in the market for paint.

Using the coveted, colorful strips and PECS symbols created with Boardmaker software, I created a visual display, a Synonym Word Wall which I titled, “Color Your Words With Shades of Meaning.” I hung the display outside my therapy room where students  frequently pass while traveling through the building. I’ve seen and heard many students already reading the word wall and commenting on how the colors and words “match” as they “change a little.” Students who come to me for therapy are excited to arrive and label the pictures they see, identify colors, or list synonyms for basic words.

Reflections on paint chips and their many applications randomly appear in my mind throughout the day and, admittedly, the night (isn’t that what all busy moms do — lie awake at night and make mental lists of everything that deserves more attention?) I envisioned paint chips used as pacing board activities, phoneme segmentation , multi-syllabic word production, formulation of 3-4 word utterances, topic boards, visual process charts, graphic organizers for sequencing and story retell….can you SEE why I am so excited about rows of gradient, colored squares??? I also wondered (possibly out loud) if there are ways to obtain paint chips without feeling like a shoplifter. Obviously, asking the stores for old paint chip samples could work, or possibly scouring yard sales and second-hand stores in hopes of finding old paint chip books. With neither option really fulfilling my desire to use these paint chips -RIGHT NOW- I decided to make my own. You could easily make your own too, in whatever shades you desire using one of the many graphic programs available. I quickly made a sample using Boardmaker software tools, and converted the file to a PDF.  You may download the sample for free and enjoy the technological advantage of digital paint chips. Add your own text, clipart, visual prompts, etc. to create the exact activity or tool you need:

Digital Paint Chips - FREE Download

 
Feel free to share your ideas for other ways to use this tool in your classroom, therapy room or home. I would love to hear how others are using re-purposed goods like paint chips. Thanks for checking out LiveSpeakLove!
 
Lisa, SLP obsessed with colorful, pretty things :)
 

Communication Temptations February 9, 2012

Here it is…the NUMBER ONE question I get asked as a speech-language pathologist….

What can I do at home to help my child learn to communicate?”

A perfect question to ask! Speech-language therapy is important, but often people underestimate the importance of what occurs after little ones have left my room, when the speech supplies are packed away and I am at home resting (righhhhtt!) What occurs outside of the speech room that can help kids learn to communicate?  TEMPTATION.

Temptation is a pretty incredible motivator. Have you ever been tempted by a piece of chocolate cake? Or another few minutes of snoozing after the alarm yanks you out of a perfect, deep sleep? Maybe a more-than-accidental look at that reality t.v. show that adds nothing to your intellect but is so mindlessly enjoyable? Ok, clearly I am bringing my own background experience into play to illustrate a point, but nonetheless…temptation causes you to think. To act…to react. Temptation is motivating and at times pretty powerful (I admit, visions of that chocolate cake are lurking in my brain as I highlight this concept.)

For a child, communication temptations often bridge the gap between “I’m getting by ok with things the way they are” and “I need to let someone know I really mean business here!” Parents are often surprised and a bit embarrassed when they realize how many opportunities they miss to “tempt” their language-delayed youngster to communicate. As a mom, I recognize how easy it is to let these opportunities slip by us. We know our children better than any other people on the planet. We are in tune to their every need, mood, curiosity and disappointment. It’s only natural to anticipate what our child wants or needs, and help them get it. But communication temptations can provide gentle motivators to express those wants and needs, and have a huge impact on a child’s functional communication.

As an SLP, I regularly build communication temptations into therapy sessions, starting right at the door to my therapy room. The door stays locked, and “opens the door,” if you will, to allow some natural communication to occur. Requests for “open” and “help” can be elicited, or for higher-level students, answers to questions like, “What do we need to unlock the door?” or “Look through the window, at the table…what do you see inside?”

Once inside, I often employ a few favorite “tools” to tempt students to communicate. I love presenting therapy activities encased in a closed bag or box (I’ve even been dubbed, “Bag Lady” before, due to the bags I often use in therapy…usually accompanied by piggy-backed tunes with lyrics I “write” as we discover items and reinforce language concepts. Music, by the way, is also a great therapy tool and does not need to be sung well to be effective…I will save that topic for a different blog entry!)

Anyway, hidden materials invite children to make guesses, to make requests, to watch closely as items are revealed. My favorite items to create further temptations include containers with tight lids, wind-up toys, building-block toys and cause-effect toys.

Wind up toys are a great way of getting students to direct action and make requests. More, stop, go, my turn, and help are functional words that go hand-in-hand with wind up toys (that can be difficult for a child to wind on their own.) I even have a broken wind-up toy that is great for eliciting language in developing communicators (Uh oh! What’s wrong??  Oh no! It’s broken. The toy is broken!  Need help!) If we get the toy working, we can excitedly shout things like, “Yay! Go, Go, Go! Here we go! The toy can go!”) Simple? Yes. Effective? Definitely.

Containers are another great therapy tool. Clear, acrylic containers filled with colorful objects are very motivating when presented to a curious child. They can’t wait to reach inside and…oh, wait — the lid is stuck. They need help. They want you to open. They want the lid off.  Containers are very motivating when students can see what is inside but they have a hard time accessing it. Here is a fun container I recently discovered. It’s a Michael Graves container from Target that opens by squeezing a butterfly clip on the top of the canister (read: difficult for kids to do on their own!):

Other favorite therapy tools are things like bubbles (with lids tightly closed,) toys that produce sound or light when activated, and toys that have pieces that build/go together (e.g., train tracks, housed in tightly-sealed containers!) Throughout a play session, students get repetitive practice making verbal requests (help, more, turn,etc.,) directing other people’s actions, labeling actions (stop, go, pop, open, etc.) and communicating their ideas as they explore and play. Language modeling, expansion and stimulation is built into the play, with instant reinforcers for any communication attempts.

To support verbal language or for use with nonverbal students, I often use communication boards (made with Boardmaker)  using core vocabulary words that convey a variety of language functions. These same words are a focus when used on a voice-output device. The word combinations that can be modeled using these few words are quite numerous:

Functional Communication Board - Download

Helping students acquire functional communication skills is very rewarding. Progress can be made quite quickly with the right set of motivators and expectations. I may be the “Bag Lady” who plays with toys for a large part of my day :) but what is more tempting or motivating than a bag of fun? And what is more fulfilling than helping a child learn to communicate their basic wants, needs and desires? Not even a piece of chocolate cake can top that experience!

 

My New Present February 8, 2012

Today I received a new present for my therapy room — a desktop version of a smartboard made by Promethean technologies. Information about this particular model can be found here.  This piece of hardware is a smaller, desktop version of the classroom-sized interactive whiteboards that many schools are using. I requested this piece of equipment for use in my small therapy room, to work with small groups and individual students. With the trend in education moving swiftly in the direction of incorporating technology and meeting Universal Design for Learning standards (in addition to enjoying benefits we savvy SLPs have already discovered about the application of technology in the therapy setting,) my somewhat lavish request for the ActivPanel was granted. Today, it arrived! Feeling a bit like a five year old on Christmas morning, I eagerly worked through my lunch and planning period to unpack, set up and install my new geeked-out therapy tool. Here is a picture I snapped with my phone:

 

Are any other therapists out there using equipment like this? I am interested to know. Prior to this wonderful purchase, I often used smartboards as a resource in classrooms when teaching whole-class lessons. Now this same resource can be applied to small groups in my therapy room. I am excited at the possibilities I now have for technology-based multi-modal therapy sessions, beyond what a touch-screen PC or iPad might offer.  It’s quite energizing to think about incredible advances in the tools we use for therapy. As I ponder the immeasurable impact of technological advancement on our world in general and specifically on the field of S/L therapy (visions of graduate school and hours spent cutting pictures out of magazines or photocopied workbook pages to create therapy games flash in my memory,) I end my day with renewed enthusiasm.  Yes, it is an exciting time to be an SLP!

 

Valentine Video February 6, 2012

Did you know youtube is a wonderful resource for educational videos that can be used in speech-language therapy? I am fortunate enough to work in a school with interactive white boards in most of the classrooms. Often, I will create a lesson with a youtube video embedded into the flipchart. The students love the multi-media presentation!  This video below worked especially well to increase attention and engage students in the lesson. I used this video to target  receptive/expressive language tasks for lower level students working on descriptive concepts and sentence formulation. The visual stimuli paired with the repetitive, scripted sentences served as a wonderful model to elicit imitation and spontaneous language from the students. As a follow-up to the video, we “re-enacted” the story using our own colored paper hearts placed around the room. Students chose a colored heart and then formulated their sentence using the model from the video. Lower level students filled in with the name of the color or produced/ imitated a two word phrase, e.g., “red heart.” The students also practiced receptive language skills as they placed their heart in a special bag when their color was named. Here is the video that built the foundation for this interactive, holiday-themed lesson:

 

Pinterest Finds

Probably the best way to spread some SLP love is to introduce you to the wonderful resource known as Pinterest. For visual people like myself, Pinterest provides beautiful, engaging images of all things deemed clever, lovely and inspiring. I admit to being completely sucked in by the aesthetically and intellectually pleasing images, spending way too long on the computer “researching” things that I need/want/like/should remember for my house, wardrobe, dinner table or future holiday extravaganza. But did you know that Pinterest is a goldmine of speech therapy resources? Check out some of the resources I’ve discovered already:

 

Birth of a Blog

Filed under: Thoughts and Inspirations — livespeaklove @ 2:22 am
Tags: , , , ,

“What inspires you?”  A friend recently asked me this question about my work as a speech-language pathologist, and I found myself pondering the idea longer than I expected. As a busy mom and full-time school-based SLP, I admit that it is often easy to get lost in the routines, the necessities and basics of everyday life–with more on my daily to-do list than often seems feasible. I prefer to check items off as they are completed; nice, neat little boxes with the checks in order and the plans made in advance. I feel great when I can look back and see the plans, the check marks and the accomplishments. However, as many busy SLPs and moms in this crazy world know….life is not about the to-do lists or the check marks. It’s not about whether you accomplish everything on your agenda for the day, or whether your plans are even realistic. As I acknowledged these thoughts and continued to ponder the question of what inspires me (and all the daily challenges that often preclude any degree of inspiration) a memory suddenly emerged in my mind. A simple recollection of a moment during a speech therapy session, when the small boy I was instructing stopped and smiled at me. It wasn’t a huge grin or an animated expression. Rather, it was a brief flash of a smile that spoke to me in a subtle tone, “I get it now.” That sweet glimpse of a smile that suddenly appeared in my mind triggered dozens of examples that all whispered, “inspiration.” I finally nodded to my friend as I matter-of-factly answered her question, “I am inspired by opportunities to connect with other people.”

If you have connected with someone in a meaningful way, you may know the feeling of what I consider to be truly inspiring. Inspiration seems to often occur in those incidental encounters that can’t be planned carefully or placed on an industrious to-do list. For me, inspiration occurs at that moment when I realize that perhaps my best-laid plans need to be moved aside to make room for the unexpected.  It’s in the look on a child’s face when they are captivated, or even confused. It’s in that chance to really connect with someone else and add something to their life–in whatever small ways possible. At the risk of sounding too cliché or pretentiously altruistic, I believe my inspiration often comes from the chance to make a difference in the lives of those in need — to help them live, speak, love.

Not surprisingly, what inspires me as a speech-language pathologist is what also inspires me as a mom–and as a person. I find personal satisfaction and enjoyment in searching for new ways to connect with my kids, run my household or teach the students on my caseload. I get excited about creating opportunities for building connections through new ideas or tools to use– perhaps a clever theme-based lesson plan, a fascinating use of technology, or a simple-but-brilliant idea for using something old in a completely new way. I admit to scouring the internet in the wee hours of the night for the next bright idea, and every now and then I come up with a good idea all on my own! Yes, it is true that ideas sometimes need to be set aside to make room for spontaneous connections in life, but it is also true that creative ideas tend to spark ways of embellishing everyday moments. For me,  it’s those everyday moments that make all the difference.

And so begins my season of blogging…my newest plan for how I can connect with others in a meaningful way. I hope to share what inspires me, so that others may also be inspired. We all know that life is full of unexpected challenges, worries and setbacks. To-do lists and check marks really do not tell the whole story of who we are or what we find important in life. Despite all our planning and preparation, busy days run into the next until we discover a chance to stop and ask (or be asked) the question, “what inspires you?” I hope you find some answers in this blog, and some ideas to inspire or connect with someone else.

P.S. Please be patient as I develop my blog; I have a lot on my to-do list. :)

 

 
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