Are you a Ravensfan? Here in Baltimore, it is hard to go anywhere without seeing the color Purple or hearing about how the Ravens are headed to Denver for the playoffs. But did you know there is a deeper story? A story that may appeal to SLPs, or to those of you who love someone with a communication disorder or life-threatening illness? This story struck me not just because I am an SLP whose mission is to help others communicate — it struck me because I love someone living with ALS. My mother-in-law, Nancy, was diagnosed with ALS on July 3, 2011. Her spirit and passion for loving others and making a difference in people’s lives continue to shine, just as they do with Ravens Player O.J. Brigance. Take a look at this video that premiered on ESPN just before the most recent Ravens game:
The holidays are very quickly approaching! Who am I kidding, they are already here. Before busy moms and dads had even finished their school supply shopping, stores were convincing us that holiday preparations must immediately begin. Even though I am still creating my back-to-school organization system (a nevr-ending process, apparently,) I am clearly in full holiday mode and planning for the hustle and bustle that will carry us all into 2013. How about a FREE DOWNLOAD to spread some holiday cheer!?
With family dinners, parties and get-togethers planned, the holidays can be a
hectic time–possible overwhelmingly so to an individual needing pragmatic or
communication support. These pragmatic communication cards containing core
vocabulary/functional phrases provide visual support for expressing wants and
needs in a variety of social situations. The cards can be left as-is and used as
a communication/choice board, or cut apart and placed on a ring for easy access.
The cards can also be used in conjunction with an AAC/AT device or low-tech
communication board for communication support that is portable and
functional.The cards are applicable year-round, but may be especially useful
during holidays, family get-togethers or parties.
Wow, what an overwhelming response I received after being featured as a guest contributor on PediaStaff, sharing some of my Earth Day activities! I decided to share a few more ideas for those of you looking to plan your week with Green therapy, technology and activities that incorporate UDL strategies. Please feel free to click, download and share any of these resources. Enjoy!
Here is a lively video teaching kids to Reuse, Reduce Waste, Recycle. It will get everyone up, dancing and moving as they learn about the 3Rs of helping the world:
Are you looking for even more visuals/activities to address goals with Earth Day vocabulary? Here are a couple of creations for you — Free downloads!
Looking for some Earth Day Books to share with your students? Check out some of my favorite theme-based books that will reinforce the concepts you review in therapy sessions. Many of these books are available in e-reader and audio versions as well as print:
Also, I previously posted about a site that offers free online versions of books. For every book read, they make a donation to literacy campaigns around the world. What better way to help your students feel good about working to make the world a better place?? If you are not yet convinced, please watch this video that gives you an overview of the Pearson Foundation inititative. It is well worth a couple of minutes of your time:
So get reading! Use your computer, laptop or smartboard to create a multi-media, interactive story time that will also make you and your students feel good about helping others. Here are a few Earth Day selections (by the way, this post is not a solicited review of their site or program…I simply think it is a wonderful idea for many, many reasons!):
I hope you enjoy these ideas designed to offer engaging activities with multiple modes of presentation. The more I learn about what works in speech-language therapy, the more passionate I become about incorporating technology into my sessions. I would love to hear from those of you who are using similar technologies with your students. Thank you for visiting LiveSpeakLove!
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:
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!