Thursday, June 5, 2014

Stop and Smile

One thing I especially love about blogging is the ability to network, learn from, and be creatively energized from my peers across the United States.  Their passion is assuredly contagious and their lesson plans have given me the ability to become a better therapist.  I like to believe that my approach to speech-language therapy is both fun and functional for my clients, meaning that the children are having a good time while learning strategies that will support their communication and daily living skills.  The handcrafted materials that I have acquired over the last couple years from my peers have allowed me to not only be the therapist that I want to be, but also have given me the time to wear a few other hats.  I'd like to share a little more about my personal life with you in this post and give you a glimpse of what my busy life is like beyond my speech-language pathology world.

Besides having this rewarding career for the last 14 years, I live a blessed life as a wife and mom in Naperville, Illinois.  Fortunately, my husband's career allows me the opportunity to work part time under a school contract while establishing a private therapy practice right in our home:  Naperville Therapediatrics.  Today, will be the last day that I clock in at the school that I have come to love, but I am so excited with the growth of my private practice and I'm more than ready to dedicate time to my business!  I can honestly say that in all my years of practice, which I incidentally began as a speech-language assistant, I have never once questioned my career choice.  I consider myself so lucky to be part of such a rewarding field.  This new chapter of owning my clinic has been a goal of mine for some time, and now I am seeing my dreams come true.

Working privately gives me the luxury to be an important part of my eight year old son's life from getting him to swim practice a couple times a week to teaching his weekly religious education class and volunteering at least once a month to work in his classroom.  Our days are busy and I'm sure I'm not alone in this type of lifestyle. I was under this misguided impression that as I got older, things would slow down a bit, but instead, my forties have become my busiest decade to date!  I could tell you how important it is to "seize the day", but I'm sure you already know that given the times we are living in now.  Instead, I will share my realistic approach to this motto and it doesn't include making and doing all that I pin on Pinterest!  Rather, it's a simple, stop and smile.  At least four years ago, I was rushing down the stairs holding my then, four year old boy's hand, when I thought how easy it would be to stop for a few seconds, every couple steps, look at him and smile.  We honestly continue to carry on like this every now and then and I love it!  I recently told him that whenever I smile at him, I'm thinking, "Thank you God for this child."  Now, he tells me a similar message back as he looks at me and smiles with his loving expression and it melts my heart every time.  He doesn't care if I make the best holiday cookies or create the fanciest of lunch bag meals, he cares that I take a moment to stop and smile even as our days get busier by the minute.

Simple, right?  I encourage you to find someone in your life to stop and smile with every so often.  Think about it, it may only take a couple minutes a year to brighten someone's days.  As always, thanks for following speech2me and for getting to know a little more about me beyond my speech-language world.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Expected & Unexpected Behaviors Role Playing Activity

We have been using the very popular social skills book:  You are a Social Detective by Michelle Garcia Winner in our group at school.  For those not familiar with this book, it begins with a discussion of the things we are good at, termed "smarts", and then proceeds to review behaviors that we expect to see in a school setting.  The next part of the book gives examples of unexpected behaviors and discusses how these impact others' perceptions of us.

Every Thursday, our "Lunch Bunch" eats their lunch in the social worker's office as we talk about various social skills topics.  Due to time constraints, we barely have 15 minutes for a formalized lesson plan, so we have been reading the book while they eat and then we have the kids act out role plays before going back to class.  To make things move along even quicker, I made up some slips of paper with either an expected or unexpected behavior on each for the role plays.  You can grab your copy of these options here:

Expected & Unexpected Behaviors

I'm using a refurbished plastic container covered in mustache duck tape to store the role play scenarios.  We have been calling it, "I mustache you to role play."  Kids simply reach in the container and draw a paper.   All in all, this game has been a huge hit with my fourth graders working on social skills.  I hope you find it useful too.

Sticker play- A Peek Through the Keyhole Edition

While cleaning out my materials closet in preparation for an upcoming move, I stumbled upon several sticker collections that I scored on a buy one, get one free deal a while ago.  So, I dusted them off and started using them with my preschoolers.  Take a look at how I am targeting comprehension skills with stickers in my private practice:  Naperville Therapediatrics.

First, I have two, reusable sticker pads that include five background scenes in each book with the appropriate stickers to go along with the scenes.  The "Play House" unit has backgrounds of a dining room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and backyard, while the "Habitats" collections includes adorable backgrounds of a farm, prehistoric land, river, rainforest, and ocean.  Recently, I broke out the backyard scene with stickers to work on following one-step directions with concepts such as above/below, next to, and on/in.  I really like that I can work on these concepts with the same pictures for a few sessions, especially since some of my little ones need this repeated exposure.

Next, I have two collections with a combined 1200 stickers!  One set is geared more towards girls since it contains princesses, tea party images, dress-up, fairies, and horses.  The other set is my favorite one right now: hands down!  It's called: Sweet Treats and it comes with 15, awesome paper backgrounds.  There are bare cupcakes, cakes, ice cream cones, donuts, gingerbread men, and cookies, all just waiting to be decorated with colorful toppings.  I have been using this collection for picture and color identification by placing three stickers on my fingers and asking clients to retrieve a target to place onto one of the paper backgrounds.  Clients take the completed artwork home and I encourage caregivers to cover the paper with clear contact paper so little ones will be less apt to remove stickers.  The longer the paper lasts at home, the more opportunities for carryover practice.

Here are some other ways you can use sticker play to promote communication skills:
  • Prompt initial sounds or sound-syllables in words
  • Imitate animal sounds and environmental noises
  • Model requests for continuance (more) or termination (all done)
  • Encourage asking for help when the client has difficulty removing a sticker
  • Make comments about the picture scenes
  • Label pictures of objects and colors/shapes/sizes
  • Pretend to take bites out of food
  • Take turns decorating background scenes
  • Identify emotions using stickers of people/animals (She looks happy/ The dog is hungry)
How do you use stickers to enhance speech and language skills?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts below.  Thanks!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Easter Fun: A Peek Through the Keyhole Edition

With over two, snow-free weeks, buds on the trees, and some green popping out from the ground, I think it's safe to say that spring is making itself known in the Midwest!  I nearly did some sad looking cartwheels on my front lawn when I saw our green flower stems bursting through the cold ground!  After this winter in Chicago, I can honestly say that I've never been more excited to see temperatures in the forties.  Feels like a heat wave after months of crazy, below zero days.  In celebration, I decided to post what spring looks like in my speech room at Naperville Therapediatrics.

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about three activities incorporating plastic eggs that I use at my elementary school site.  Today, I will show you some of the preschool Easter activities I recently created for my private clients.  Since the majority of my private caseload is in preschool through first grade, these activities seemed most appropriate for little ones working on communication.

First, I put together a matching game with plastic eggs shaped like cars.  I used my son's, former basket to hold matched items and I cut the plastic eggs apart so they could be scattered in my grass-filled sensory table.  My goal was to have my client successfully match the same colors and then request help from an adult to put the two pieces together.  In previous sessions, I had him sorting colored bears into cups, but this task with eggs seemed a bit more functional and appropriate for this time of year.

Next, I took some Easter stickers and cut each one in half.  Then, I placed each half of the sticker along the seam of one egg.  This task is for a few of my older, preschool clients that are working at a higher level for matching.  Once the pairs are assembled, I set three eggs at a time on my therapy table and work on color and picture comprehension by asking clients to "get", "give", or "show" a target.

I am also working on comprehension skills while having some clients identify a target sticker in a field of three while making a cute, Easter craft with foam die cuts. Sometimes, I use this same activity for one client who is practicing making requests and responding to directions with her voice output device.  She is very good at identifying and expressing colors, so this craft task is perfect for her!

Before you know it, we will be fully launching into spring with activities about bugs and flowers!  Be sure to check in next month again to peek through the keyhole at my private speech and language practice!  Happy Spring! We earned it this year!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Three Speech and Language Lessons Using Plastic Eggs

Like many of you that have braved the winter along the East Coast and Midwest regions, I couldn't wait to celebrate spring!  Although, spring is just a tease right now with a day or two of 40 degree temperatures followed by snow!  Nevertheless, I pulled out my Easter decorations and spring materials over the last week and I have some oldies and a new idea to share that will surely put a smile on your face even if you're still drinking hot chocolate at the end of March!  All of these activities involve plastic eggs, a good ol' fashion egg hunt, and a side of speech and language.

Back by popular demand from last year are my idiom eggs.  So many of my students struggle with interpreting figurative language, and this is a fun way to make something challenging a little more tolerable.  I used a sharpie to write idioms related to spring and Easter on each egg, and then I cut small scraps of green papers and wrote a simple interpretation on one side and points on the other.  Since some idioms were easier to interpret than others, I designated those to be worth just one point, while harder, less familiar idioms were worth two to three points.  After students collect these eggs in a hunt, they sit down, pick an egg from the basket, try to guess the meaning, and finally, open eggs to see if their responses are similar. Earning points adds a little more incentive to take some time to process interpretations.  Here is a list of the idioms that I have on my plastic eggs:

  • He is all ears when we talk about Mindcraft.
  • We have candy coming out of our ears!
  • The grass is always greener in someone else's yard.
  • You're no bunny until some bunny loves you.
  • We always have to walk on eggshells around her.
  • You have egg on your face.
  • He cracks me up!
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket!
  • Please don't spill the beans!
  • Chicks rule!
  • He just loves to egg people on!
  • You're such a good egg!
  • Her ring is 24 carrots.
  • Grinning from ear to ear.

Next up, I have my famous, early intervention eggs.  You can read much more about this activity (here).  I actually use these eggs all year round to stimulate little ones to communicate using a variety of intents such as requesting "more", "help", and "all done". These eggs filled with mini treasures are also great for labeling/naming objects, greeting, imitating simple actions with sounds, pointing, following directions, and commenting.  The skies the limit!  If you want, you can hide the eggs for an egg hunt or just sit on the floor and play with them one at a time.

Finally, I recently came up with an idea for practicing EVERY target speech sound using just a couple bags of eggs, some paper bags or baskets, scrap paper, and an iPad or speech sound card decks.  I found several of these adorable carrot eggs at the Dollar Tree and couldn't resist buying a bunch.

Since they are see through, I folded pieces of paper with numbers one through three written on them and then placed one paper in each egg.  This time, each child should have his or her own paper bag or basket to collect eggs for the hunt.  Using either your iPad with your favorite articulation app or speech sound card decks, have students take turns opening eggs in their baskets to reveal how many productions they need to make for each target word.  If working on a motor memory for speech is important, then have them practice the same word a couple times.

I hope these activities help bring some signs of spring to your speech room!  Enjoy!!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Expanding Expressions Toolkit (EET) Product Review- Peek Through the Keyhole Edition

This month's edition of:  Peek Through the Keyhole features the Expanding Expressions Toolkit (EET) by fellow Speech Pathologist, Sara L. Smith.  Over the last few months, I have been using this program with great success with a fourth grader in my private practice.   I was so delighted to open this EET package when it arrived a few days before Christmas that my husband contemplated returning the gifts he bought me because he didn't think his presents could bring as much joy.  Pretty sure I did an exceptionally long happy dance.

I have been following all the buzz from other SLP bloggers about this multi-sensory approach for improved oral language and writing for students in kindergarten through high school.  Here are some links to a few of my favorites:

Speech Room News
Crazy Speech World
Speech Time Fun
The Speech Bubble
Carrie's Speech Corner

Just in case you have not seen an EET kit, here are the basic components:

First, you get the manual with the kit which includes five sections:  introduction, general descriptions, additional prompts, organizers, and parent program.  You will find baseline data sheets, worksheet activities for each descriptor bead, classroom prompts, student organizers, home activities, and much more in this manual. Basically, this book is a GOLD MINE!

Also included in the kit are two sets of beads, a large one for classroom instruction and one small strand for individual use.  The latter helps students become more independent with expressive language skills in a less conspicuous manner while still getting visual and tactile cues.  One item not pictured below is a collection of small, circular, color-coded stickers that can be used during writing activities in place of the beads.  Basically, each bead represents a descriptor cue for target vocabulary and here is the breakdown:

Eyeball=What does it look like?
Wood=What is it Made of?
White=Where can you find it?
?=What else do I know?

Also included in the kit are picture cards with familiar objects, which you can break out for immediate EET practice.  Some of the cards include the EET coding, which is great for cuing students at their desk.  A few of the other cards in this deck offer lesson plan ideas.  

The foam dice in the kit are perfect for small group games.  Just roll the dice and answer the color coded question about the target object.

Finally, there is a large cardboard stand that you can display on your therapy table or in the classroom that explains what each color represents.

For the last couple months, I have been using EET with a private language client who is in the fourth grade and receives special education programming.  She attends private speech and language sessions at my practice: Naperville Therapediatrics twice weekly for 60 minutes.  In August 2013, language testing revealed limited vocabulary use, reduced sentence structure, and delayed comprehension.  While she does very well during discrete learning trials, she struggles with retaining and recalling information.   Her school special education team asked if I could help increase this student's ability to use and comprehend vocabulary, especially homophones, so I began to research the EET program to address these delays.

My first step was gathering baseline information.  I used the chart included in the EET manual and some target vocabulary that we had covered in previous therapy sessions.  After I collected a baseline, I started teaching the representation for each bead.

Then, I introduced worksheets from the EET manual starting at the top and working my way down the beaded link.  Some of these activities sheets were more challenging than others, so I used my discretion for ones I felt were appropriate for a child my client's age.

One strategy that was particularly useful involved incorporating our notes into a guessing game.  For example, during a therapy session that focused on the "white bead with the eyeball", we generated a list of descriptive words in the client's notebook.  I wrote category titles:  colors, size, shape, and quality, and then we brainstormed words that could be classified under each of these.  Using this list and picture cards, we played a guessing game.  The rules were that you could only describe the picture by referring to the "What does it look like" list.  Instead of getting a point for guessing the target accurately, I gave points to the person giving the best clues.  In the end, this guessing game was a powerful motivator for my client to use descriptive words.

The other target that my client needed some extra support with was homophones.  Although it was pretty challenging to use the EET beads when defining verbs like "dress",  I found I could definitely use the EET system with homophone noun pairs as in the word "ball."  My ultimate goal was to help this client grasp that you can use some words in multiple ways.  Incorporating the EET beads in homophone descriptions appeared to increase her ability to define and describe these vocabulary terms during clinic sessions.

When I compared how this client responded at baseline to her responses while using the EET beads, she recalled a little more detail about each subject.  Here is one before/ after example taken recently after having covered worksheets for the following:  group, function, and "looks like."  At this point, we had discussed the meaning for each bead at every therapy session, but we had only covered half of the EET manual.

Tell me everything you know about Beluga Whales-

Baseline response on 1/7/2014:  
"It has sharp teeth and of course it has to eat fish.  It swallows fish.  It's a carnivore too because it likes to eat meat.  And it can make an echo.  If its danger and it makes sound."

Halfway through program on 3/7/2014:
Animals (ocean/sea)
Swims underwater; moves its head (modeled demonstration); eats fishes; uses echolocation
White and Brown
It has little teeth.  They don't chew, they swallow.
See them at aquarium

At baseline, she told me about its: group (carnivore), parts (teeth) and what it does (eats fish and echos.)  Using the EET beads, she added a few more details about the following:  what it does (moves head, swims underwater), what it looks like (white and brown), made of (bones), and where you may see them (aquarium.)  If we look at this data from a percentage standpoint, then she used 3/6 (50%) description points at baseline and 6/6 (100%) details with EET beads.  She increased the number of details provided in three other samples too.  I would not only call this program a success for this client, but I also predict continued improvement as we progress through the workbook programming.

Since I'm a big fan of seasonal units and visual cuing, I thought it would be appropriate to take clip art and add lines to the image for EET description.  Below are some of my ideas for each season/ holiday:

New Year's party hat, hot chocolate mug, Valentine cupcake, basketball, umbrella, flower, sun, fireworks, pail and shovel, swimming pool, leaf, pumpkin, turkey, snowman and Christmas tree/ dreidel.

Follow the highlighted word to view a sample worksheet that I made to describe a cupcake using free clip art from Blooming in First.  If you want to print this sample, then go to 'file' and select 'download' as a 'PDF.'  

I'm always looking for new ways to incorporate EET into my language lessons.  Please share in the comments any new and unique ways that you have used EET in your therapy programming or attach a link of your materials in the comment section below.

I am so appreciative of Sara's efforts and hard work in designing this EET program and I look forward to implementing it with more clients in my speech and language practice!  If you would like more information about the EET program, you can go to the links below for descriptions and ordering details:

A complimentary EET kit was provided for this review.  No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed in this post are solely mine.

Friday, February 14, 2014

March though May Speech and Language Homework

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!!  I thought I'd spread a little love this morning by sharing my remaining monthly, speech and language homework sheets for March through May.  If you missed my previous post about how I am managing homework this school year, then go to this link and read all about it!

I had such a great response to my homework post that included attachments for December through February homework plans, that I decided to share my spring packets!  My students at my private school contract setting continue to respond well to these monthly assignments as opposed to weekly ones.  On average, 85% (13/15) of my small caseload returns the homework on time.  Most parents have enjoyed the new homework routine and it has saved me a tremendous amount of time with only needing to make copies once a month!  I'm calling this plan a win and hope that it has helped make your SLP lives a little easier too!

March Language Homework
March Articulation Homework

April Language Homework
April Articulation Homework

May Language Homework
May Articulation Homework