One of my favorite activities to use in therapy, especially group therapy, is BINGO! I love how such a fun, engaging, game that feels like a party can target so many skills – object identification/labeling, visual discrimination, auditory processing at the word/phrase/sentence levels, comprehension of wh questions, review of seasonal vocabulary, language formulation, use of vocabulary and related descriptive concepts, as well as speech sound production. These open-ended boards are perfect for differentiated instruction of students in small or large groups, as well as push-in lessons in the classroom. I’ve created a wide variety of theme-based Bingo boards over the years, and they are always a hit. I also use the calling cards from the Bingo sets to use as a memory games, vocabulary pages, card games, pictures for word walls, adapted books, and more. This particular activity set was created to target /k/ and /g/ velar sounds, but its versatility makes it also perfect for any student. I created color pages as well as black and white pages for the Bingo boards and the calling cards. Take a peek if you want!
P.S. I love using the PCS symbols from Boardmaker and Tobii Dynavox. I recently purchased a Maker License from the company (now required for copyright permissions) so I can create all sorts of visual materials and pass them on to other people! Anything you’d like to see? Just let me know!
Do you know about PACING BOARDS? Pacing Boards are a MUST for any therapy room. I usually keep a stash of pacing boards, with varying shapes and colors in different length sets–stored in a pocket chart or hung from a magnetic clip so I can grab them quickly when I need them. They are easily accessed during a therapy session and are useful in almost any therapy activity. My gift to you on this Giving Tuesday is a holiday themed printable containing two pacing boards. Use these festive pacing boards to give students visual/tactile/kinesthetic input for reducing rate of speech, increasing fluency, sequencing sounds/syllables in multisyllabic words, increasing mean length of utterance, formulating sentences, marking grammatical structures in a sentence, increasing conversational reciprocity and more!! These pacing boards can be essential tools to increase student independence as they practice skills — perfect for students to use at home, too — just print onto cardstock or durable paper and/or laminate. You can print multiple sets and then cut the boards to include only two or three shapes — perfect for targeting formulation of two and three word utterances. These boards can also be used as game score cards, schedule cards, token reinforcement cards, pattern sets or sorting cards!! Hope you enjoy this freebie, and put it to good use…I’d love to hear how you use this resource, so leave a comment to let me know! Thanks for visiting LiveSpeakLove!
Introducing a new series that I would like to share…Speech-Language Therapy in the Kitchen! Over the years, I have developed a real appreciation for the power of real-life activities to support speech-language and academic skills. As I continually seek ways to incorporate technology into my speech-therapy sessions, I am also seeking ways to motivate clients with engaging real-world application of the skills we are targeting. The winner, by FAR, is any activity that is cooking or recipe related. I have posted a few of my recipes in the past, but I decided to devote a blog feature to the wonderful cross-curricular activity that is all things cooking. The inspiration for this feature transpired over the weekend, as I made a batch of cookies with my six-year old daughter. We had great fun highlighting all the “fun facts” that were part of our recipe. We labeled, counted, measured, estimated, followed directions and socialized during our cookie creation, and our fun ended with the delicious reward of our “Best Ever Cookie” Tasting Party! I was reminded of other cooking activities I have used in therapy, and how I always recommend that parents cook with their children when possible to practice speech-language skills in the home environment. So, the Speech-Language Therapy in the Kitchen series was born…in my very own kitchen amidst a bit of mess and fun. Here is a pic of what we made; a truly Best-Ever Cookie, adapted from a couple of different cookie recipes with a surprise “twist” of an ingredient:
I decided to create a Recipe and Activity set using this very Best Ever cookie recipe (I didn’t want to forget this delicious creation, and I thought I would share a little “cookie love” with those who might use this engaging, edible activity in their own kitchens. By the way, this activity could also be completed in a classroom — just use a closely monitored toaster oven if you do not have access to a full-size oven.
Here is the full activity set, including what I feel is an award-winning recipe!
Target a variety of speech-language skills in this functional activity that students will love! This cooking activity offers a practical, motivating way to address receptive and expressive language skills, social communication skills, occupational therapy skills, academic skills and more! This tried and true recipe from the LiveSpeakLove kitchen will engage learners as they participate in this cross-curricular, multi-modal learning activity. Potential targets include:
receptive and expressive vocabulary (labeling, object identification, compare and contrast)
formulation of verbal requests
measurement and estimation
following sequential directions
ordinal and sequential vocabulary
answering WH questions
recall and retell of sequential events
cooperative group work
use of core vocabulary
What you get:
Nine (9) pages total including:
Cover page with real color photograph of Best Ever Cookies
Cooking Safety page to review safe practices, visual supports for each “rule” provided
Ingredients Page with full-color visual depictions detailing type and quantity of each ingredient
Directions Pages– Part One and Part Two – detailed visual directions in sequence to provide detailed instructions to create the Best Ever Cookies
WH Question Stimuli Page – to target WH questions, formulation of responses, recall and vocabulary (for use as you make the cookies, or after you finish to revisit concepts and target recall/memory skills)
Sequential Event Page – For formulation of recipe summary and retell of events; uses graphic organizer with sequential terms as visual support. Pair with visual direction pages as needed for differentiated supports
Taste Test page – visual support for use of core vocabulary to express preference/like/dislike. Can also be used to tally survey data of group or as a conversational support when students offer other people a cookie to try.
Look for more Speech Language Therapy in the Kitchen resources from LiveSpeakLove, coming soon!
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.
Grab this FREE DOWNLOAD – visual for simple wh questions. Provide visual cues and structured supports for answering simple wh questions in any therapy or classroom activity. Supplement auditory processing and reading comprehension tasks with this visual, and help increase independence during instruction.
I was supposed to be finishing my whole house cleaning and organization today! Oooops…after a long night of nearly NO sleep (due to the cutest owls ever) and a sick little owlet who needed some TLC in the wee hours of the morning, I haven’t exactly mustered the motivation necessary to get up and moving and find my bootstraps just yet. Ahhh, there’s still time!! For now, I am happy to bring you my next set of resources. Many of you may know I am a big fan of visuals. Aside from Universal Design for Learning standards, visual learning styles and the vast amount of evidence-based practice research that supports using visuals to increase communication competence and independence… well, here’s what I know. THEY JUST WORK. I’ve learned the theory, I’ve read the standards, I’ve seen the research and I’ve experienced the undeniable success first-hand, over and over and over. Are you using visual supports in your therapy room? In your classroom? With your whole class or only certain students? I challenge you to incorporate as many visuals as possible with ALL of your students. Here are a couple that you can use to help your students become more aware of their thinking, their self-reflection and their self-advocacy skills:
Road to Success Visual– With the implementation of Common Core Standards, it is now even more important to help students become independent thinkers and learners. Need a way for students to participate more in their learning and reflect on their progress? Increase student independence and help students persevere when “the road gets rough” with this Road to Success visual tool. This tool will also help students to advocate for themselves during instruction or independent work in a positive way. You can also use this tool to provide teacher feedback with a simple gesture without interrupting the flow of your teaching (pointing to yellow on the stoplight to indicate, “I know it’s hard, but keep trying.” ) Simple visual tools like this one become very powerful in the classroom!
The download also includes a printable with three visuals on the page — just cut out and laminate, then tape on each student’s desk for individualized feedback/student reflection.
Next, you will definitely want this visual tool created to increase students’ metacognitive skills. What are metacognitive skills??? Essentially, “thinking about one’s own thinking.” It is an important skill to develop in students for academic reasons, but also so that they will be successful in LIFE. To be successful in any situation, it is important to be aware of what you KNOW and what you DON’T KNOW. Start developing this critical thinking skill NOW using this visual that can be applied to any subject area – reading for learning, reading for memory, reading for enjoyment, mental math, basic math functions, independent seatwork, collaborative groups, and the list goes on!!! Read more about metacognition at education.com (for starters — this is a big buzz word and there is a growing amount of research and instructional materials dedicated to this area of cognitive skill.)
Laminate this visual and place on each student’s desk, make copies to post at learning centers or in 100 Book Challenge or reading folders, blow up to poster size to use as a visual/anchor chart…and more! Increase student indpendence by encouraging learners to become part of the evaluation process.
I hope you are finding these materials useful. I would love your feedback about the types of resources you would like to see, your impressions of my current pricing (I am new and apparently have a bit to learn in this area) and any other feedback you would be willing to share. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at email@example.com.
I was recently asked to offer some advice about correcting for those tricky sound errors — lateralized productions of the sibilants /s/, /z/, /sh/ and /ch/. If you are an SLP, you can probably detect a lateralized /s/ on every affected public speaker, casual acquaintance or celebrity you have ever had the pleasure to encounter. My husband makes fun of me for the way my ears perk up and how the expression on my face clearly changes whenever we are listening to someone with an /s/ distortion. I suddenly have the urge to offer these speakers nonverbal feedback as we interact. Sadly, I can’t help it; it’s an affliction. Even if you are not an SLP and have no desire to cure the world of lateralized airflow patterns, you may be able to detect that something is not quite right in the way a person says their /s/ and /z/ sounds— the words come out sounding “slushy,” “sloppy” or even “garbled.” I once had a teacher tell me that their student with a lateralized /s/ sounded like he was “pretending to be a ventriloquist.” This statement was actually not an off-target description.
Lateralized airflow sound distortions are unfortunately some of the hardest to correct. While I am an SLP, and therefore, an “expert,” I do not profess to have any secret knowledge or special talent in correcting these tricky sounds. I have struggled along with the rest of you in finding ways to train for correct sound production. I am happy, however, to share what has worked for me more often than not in the past fifteen years.
In my opinion, the issue of lateralized airflow distortions is two-fold, and requires training on both factors:
Students do not have a correct tongue position for these sounds (and often the tongue position at rest is incorrect as well.) These sounds must be produced with the tongue elevated to meet at the alveolar ridge or surrounding area.
Students do not have a correct frontal airflow stream (probably secondary to incorrect tongue position) . When the tongue is elevated at the alveolar ridge area, a slight groove is formed in which airflow is then directed in a stream out the front of the mouth. When the tongue remains low and flat, no slight groove in the center of the tongue is formed to direct the airflow out the front. The air escapes out the sides of the tongue and the distortion is produced.
Unfortunately, the tongue and airflow patterns are habitual and must be entirely retrained for correct sound production. Therapy on these sounds begins with ongoing student education for tongue position and airflow. I often begin with pure discussion and education using mouth diagrams, puppets, mirrors, and visuals. I then begin training with some oral motor tools or tricks like dots of icing on the alveolar ridge or other tactile feedback to elicit correct tongue placement. I have students practice in front of mirrors and watch me as well. My school recently purchased these mirrors for my therapy room so that each student has their own for practice (great for preventing “downtime” while I give individualized feedback to other students in the group):
Once the initial training and tactile feedback has been provided, I quickly move into practicing target sounds in isolation and then in syllables or words. I use a variety of methods including verbal, visual and tactile strategies to help students train for correct placement and airflow. I have visuals for each target sound that offer descriptions so students can more easily remember the placement and manner of the sounds. I usually start by targeting /s/ in isolation, though I do not believe that this sound is scientifically proven easier to produce than any of the others. I just personally find it easiest to elicit, especially when introduced as “the sneaky snake sound” and paired with different snake games/activities. Every therapy session I conduct is structured to include education, discrimination, direct training, and then practice (often using games or other motivating activities) to target sounds in isolation, syllables and words. These activities all include the following visuals (or similar.)
Below is a visual that introduces each sound and gives them all a “name” to represent sound attributes in some way. At the bottom of this visual is a three-step process chart that helps to elicit correct placement and airflow. I have had very good success using the cue “Teeth Together.” This cue is something much more concrete and outwardly visible than the more elusive “tongue elevation to the ‘bumpy spot’ behind the teeth.” For some reason, tongue placement seems to greatly improve and inhibit lateral airflow when the upper and lower central incisors meet in front (not in a smile, though, which tends to drop the tongue and foster lateral airflow. Think “show your teeth” in a Lady Gaga kind of way.) Students can see their teeth together; they can replicate it easily, and for whatever reason, it often works when it is done correctly. Students are also trained to hold their hand or finger in front of their lips and feel the airflow as they speak. Sometimes this trick is enough to elicit the frontal airflow pattern and progress is made quickly as the student has built-in cues and biofeedback wherever they go!
Another visual I like to use is this discrimination tool that can be used both with the student listening to modeled productions or when producing on their own. The clinician can provide the feedback using the visual, or the student can self-evaluate their own productions:
Students are encouraged to practice their sounds on their own using their hand as a self-cueing strategy for frontal airflow detection:
As we move into practice using syllables and words, I select the syllable or word targets to specifically shape and elicit correct tongue placement. I choose syllables and words using vowels that are produced higher in the mouth (usually /i/ and /u/) to move away from the low, flat tongue patterns used in /a/ or with a schwa. I also vary the position of the sound in the word or syllable:
Another way I elicit correct tongue position is to shape sounds across word boundaries using alveolar sounds that the student has already mastered. Here is a visual I use with students to shape the /s/ from /n/ across preceding and subsequent word boundaries:
As a student becomes more independent, the same pictures can be used to create sentences for practice at a higher level. My go-to games are often open-ended game boards, commercial games or interactive activities that can be paired with specific stimuli or picture cards using the currently targeted sound or sounds. I also use barrier games or student-led activities with a focus on peer feedback to encourage generalization to other settings. I often have peer partners that will develop their own nonverbal signal to prompt for correct placement or airflow.
Above all, a student needs to “buy in” to the training and practice their skills in other settings. This is why all of my speech therapy sessions incorporate the pieces of education, discrimination, targeted training and practice. If students are reluctant to practice or do not self-cue or self-monitor, then progress will likely be much slower. Systematic training in tongue placement, frontal airflow stream, how to self-cue and monitor, and how to practice are essential components of a treatment program for lateralized airflow sounds. The treatment program may seem endless some days as you train and educate, but eventually, most students “get it.” I consider my work with these students just as important as my work with nonverbal or language-delayed students and I applaud those of you who work tirelessly to improve communication skills on any level. Good luck with using these techniques, and I’d love to hear if there is something else that has worked for you. Please share — it’s exactly what I love about the internet!
It’s been a crazy week! My caseload seems to be at an all-time high, with some complicated and somewhat high-profile cases that keep my days (and nights) challenging. Paperwork, schedule changes, lesson plans, materials prep, preparing for presentations, meeting with parents and colleagues…and trying to stay afloat while still making time for things that keep me passionate about what I do. Some days I feel that it would be much easier to just “get by” and do things on a less complicated, less time-consuming level. But I believe it’s important to tackle all of the responsibilities I have with a touch of what makes me– ME. I prefer to be creative and thorough in my job and in my life, taking time to find inspiration for myself as I work to inspire others. It’s how I’m wired. Days that are filled with energy, accomplishments, enthusiasm and spark leave me feeling pretty super. I am probably known for accomplishing things “the hard way,” but somehow I tend to choose that route repeatedly. I prefer living life with inspiration, passion and enthusiasm.
My challenge lately has been to find ways to complete the tasks that keep me passionate about my work, while still accomplishing everything that leaves me, well…less than inspired. Attempting to find the balance lately leaves me feeling Not-So-Super. The days are not long enough to fit it all in, it seems. As a full-time SLP and busy mom to three spectacular kids, most of my waking (and should-be-sleeping-but-sadly-still-waking) hours are filled with redundant paperwork, laundry, chauffeuring, paperwork, cooking, laundry, dishes, paperwork, laundry, committee meetings, kids’ activities…did I say paperwork? Laundry?? Unfortunately, the daily commitments I face keep me from being and doing everything as perfectly pleasantly as I would like. Some days I realize I am Not-So-Super and that I just can’t do it all. Today is definitely one of those days! A long, cranky day where my middle-schooler missed the bus, lunches were packed in a mad, messy rush, lunch was missed in a frenzy of emails and paperwork, and my to-do list grew by at least 100%.
After a full day of work, I sat outside my daughter’s dance class (starving) where I opened my laptop without even an ounce of inspiration. I usually like to keep myself productive and write reports or create materials while I wait for my little ballerina (who, by the way, danced today in a wrinkled t-shirt, tights and a see-through frilly tutu because the Not-So-Super Mom here forgot the leotard that actually covers everything. *sigh*) Staring at my computer screen, I realized that writing or accomplishing anything work-related just wasn’t going to happen. I guzzled some caffeine to keep myself from keeling over in exhaustion, and I stared at my task list with all of its glaring, unchecked boxes. And I spent the rest of dance class in pretty much the same position…unchecked boxes, mothers chatting and children twirling all around me; me staring. Nothing accomplished today. I gave myself permission to just sit, and it was actually…pretty nice! Of course the frenzy resumed after dance with picking up the rest of my children—rush hour traffic, making dinner, starting laundry, sorting papers…you get the idea. But I have given myself permission to just sit again at some point tonight. Work is on hold, and I am going to bed early. This Not-So-Super-SLP-Mom needs a break!
Of course, I feel compelled to spread at least a little inspiration out into the world and call myself productive. People have been so wonderfully appreciative and kind in response to my post where I shared some visual supportsI’ve created. By request, here are a few more visuals I made and use quite often, free to download for your educational/personal use. Let me know how you like them…knowing I’ve helped other people in even small, non-super ways helps me find some of the inspiration that keeps me ticking! Here you go:
Visual for using color words to decribe objects or pictures:
Visual to help students provide verbal descriptions of objects or pictures:
Visual to help students offer compliments about their peers or use descriptive words about people:
Visual process strips to remind students of fluency-enhancing strategies:Visual reinforcement to increase homework/practice outside of the school setting. Can be signed/initialed by parent as documentation:
Visual cues and sentence starters/scripts for targeting similarities & differences:
Visual to help students working on final consonants:
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 roomstorage 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!
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.