Descriptive Animal Activity

7 Oct

Some of you may remember when Beanie Babies were the fad and many fast food places were giving them out with the kid meals.  My daughter was at the right age for the fad and managed to accumulate a lot of them.  Eventually she got tired of them and I inherited them.  She had kept them in a shoe rack with the plastic pockets that hang over a door.  I took the whole thing and hung it up in my speech room.   People have noticed it hanging there and have brought me even more animals.  I now have quite a variety of small stuffed animals, dinosaurs, and cartoon characters.  I bet if you keep your eyes open you may find some at garage sales or as donations.  It seems people are eager to move those collections along now.

These stuffed animal characters have become quite useful for playing descriptive games centered around animals.  I have a gift box that I bought at the dollar store.  It is decorated with a bow and has a removable lid.  I call it the mystery box.  The students put a mystery animal in the box and the other students take turns asking a question and then guessing the animal or cartoon character.  Some of the students have difficulty generating questions and I use communication board to help them.  Not only does this activity promote asking questions, it requires using memory and consolidation of the details to determine the correct animal.  An example of the cue card is posted in the vocabulary section and can be printed out.

When the spoken word is not enough

16 Sep

Often parents will be concerned about their child’s development when he /she is not speaking  or is not understandable at age 3 yrs.  They want the child to be able to say words.  They are surprised to find out that saying words verbally can be only part of the problem.

A Child with autism often needs to develop intent or a purpose for communication.  Without purpose there isn’t a  reason to talk.   Caregivers believe they can help by talking for the child or telling them what to say.   Communication is reduced to  repeating back what is said to them. Caregivers with the best intentions respond to wants and needs without requiring the child to communicate to them.  The child’s development becomes stagnant  because it can’t go beyond this hurdle.

Children with speech that is not understandable also run into difficulties.  They become frustrated because they can’t get their needs met and are asked to say words over and over again.  By first grade their peers begin to notice and they may be teased.  It’s not unusual for children to exhibit behavior problems along with a speech and language delay.

When children are slow to develop understandable speech at a reasonable rate, communication boards or pictures can make a difference.  They can bridge the gap between the speaker and the listener and reduce the frustration associated with speaking.  They allow for communication which is really the main goal.  It encourages the child to continue to speak because he is understood.  Parents often think that the use of communication boards will inhibit the development of speech, but actually the opposite is true.  The pictured words are often the words the child learns to say first.  If you are lucky you may have a program named Boardmaker which allows you to design your own communication boards or books.  There are also a lot of sites that have downloads available.   It is possible to access a communication book on this site, Boardmaker is a site that allows you to download already made boards that people have shared.  If you have Boardmaker,  you can edit the boards after you download them.  Otherwise you can download them and use them as they were shared.  It is free and well worth the registration.

If a child doesn’t have intent to speak, pictures may be linked with a consequence so that the child has a purpose to communicate.  For instance they may exchange a picture of a snack in order to get that item.  This can be built upon until the child is actually forming sentences.  This promotes the development of meaningful language rather than imitative speech or reciting of nonsense phrases.  The Picture Exchange Communication System is an example of  using an exchange method.  It has the advantage of being low tech and not expensive.

Often pictures are used to make schedules and help with transitions for children with autism.   However, do not confuse their use with communication.   Schedules are helpful for letting a child know what to expect with their day and reduce stress.  They can also be used as a bargaining tool.  The child can select a preferred activity after completing a number of tasks.  They tell the child what is happening but do not allow the child to express himself.   A schedule is not meant for multiple communication exchanges. A child benefits from both a picture schedule and a communication method.

Homework to Dismissal

11 Sep

Getting my kids working on articulation skills to generalize their skills to settings outside the therapy room is always a bit of a challenge.  I try to emphasize that this is their responsibility and I can not follow them around to make sure they practice.  In the end it is their parents and teachers that let me know when they are ready to be dismissed from speech therapy.  I’ve worked out a system of homework assignments to allow them to practice outside the room and give me input from parents, teachers and family friends.  I use the  homework rating scale form that is listed in the therapy forms page on this site.   I then allow them to pick poems and riddles from such sites as Ken Nesbitt’s site, print them out, and put them in the folder.  They enjoy reading these poems to other people.  They then get rated on the rating scale and bring the folder back to me.  I allow them to put marbles in a group jar according to the number they received on the rating scale.  When the jar is full I allow a reward such as popcorn or a shaved ice party.  I get more cooperation with bringing the folder back when I do this.  I also tell them that when they get a series of 5 s I know they are ready for dismissal.  Because the parents have helped monitor the last phase, I have no difficulty with them agreeing with me when I ask about dismissal.

Are you a new SLP in a new school?

3 Sep

I believe most people have started back to work in the schools by now.  The west coast always seems to be last and next week is our first week with children.  When I  started this blog, I reflected on when I first started working in the schools.   I was uncertain on how to start a year because I did my internship in the Spring.   At that point everything was scheduled and running so I had no idea what I should expect.   Since that first fateful day, I’ve started school years  in about 20 different buildings in 10 different districts with every kind of mix of caseload you can imagine.   Some things have changed over those 20+ years, but much remains the same.  This post is written for those people starting their first school year experience as a speech pathologist.  I thought I would give some words of encouragement because after those first few days of meetings your head is probably swimming.

For your sanity, it’s important to tell yourself  you will be overwhelmed for the next few weeks, and that is OK.  I’ve been overwhelmed the first couple of weeks  no matter where I started.  The first thing you will use is your skills of discrimination.  You will find  much of the information you are given doesn’t pertain to you directly.   Try to stay tuned long enough not to miss the information you need and don’t get overwhelmed by the stuff you can ignore. A lot of it is meant for general education teachers only.

As a new person, you need directions on how to get places, such as from the district office to your school/s and the floor plans of your buildings.  I am directionally  challenged so maps are very important to me. One year I worked in a district that had flipped the High School floor plan of one school to make a 2nd school across town.  I worked in both buildings.  I spent my year heading out in the opposite direction every time I stepped out of a room.  You would think I would have a 50% chance of being right but it didn’t work that way.  Other things we take for granted are phone numbers (district and within the building), voice mail, email (you probably have messages and you don’t know it).   Some districts are better at setting some of these things up than others.   If I travel between buildings,  I place all of this information in a folder for easy access.  Now, since I’m in one location,  I tack all of it to a bulletin board next to my desk.

One of the most important things to do is to get to know your teachers.  We may be tempted to do the more tangible thing such as paperwork and bury ourselves in our office. Getting to know the people will  be the most beneficial in the long-term.   The teachers you work with are your best resource and it’s good to have them working with you.   It’s important to introduce yourself so you are on speaking terms and they can recognize you.  In my district we are required to make copies of IEPs for  teachers, so they are aware of any special needs of students in their classroom.  I make copies and hand carry them to the teachers because it gives me a chance to talk to them.  I also ask them for their class schedules with circled times of when they would like me to see children from their rooms.  This comes in handy when I start scheduling.  Don’t forget to introduce yourself to the janitor and office secretary as well.

Many places now use computer programs for electronic IEPs and Medicaid Billing.  This may require some training, but it doesn’t take long once you start using a program. I recommend finding a mentor if at all possible to answer questions.   Computers have helped with keeping paperwork organized, but I’m not sure it has decreased any paperwork.  The paperwork load continues to increase as the powers above keep adding one more form to fill out.  The rules can be quite different on how IEPs and  CUM files are stored and who has access to them.  You will be lucky if there is actually a written form of the rules.

Then it’s time to dig into those files.  I usually have files from new kids that have moved in.  These need to be looked at and updated fairly quickly.  Hopefully someone knows where the caseload files are and can direct you to them.    The first year is the roughest because you do not know kids from last year and the file represents all that you will know about a child.  I try not to get too hung up on what it says in the files.  Most of the time the worse cases in print are not really as complicated as they may seem at first reading.  Usually until you put a face to the file you will not remember much of it.  I usually read it over and put the goals and objectives on to my data sheets I use for recording information from therapy sessions.  This goal sheet is what I use when I do scheduling for therapy sessions because it is easier to manage a one page synopsis when scheduling and making groups.  I use a simple excel template for each child.   I update the sheet as new IEP goals are written annually.  The 1st year involved a lot of time to put them together.  After that I’ve saved them from year to year and it has saved me a lot of time and effort as I only need to do the new students.

I do not start seeing children for the  first week of school.  The scheduling often changes after that first week and I found myself making too many changes.  A lot of kids need to become comfortable with their classmates and schedules anyway.  I spend the first day in the kindergarten room.  They always benefit from a few extra hands to get kids settled and parents assured that Johnny can do without them. The rest of the week is spent organizing the schedule, getting meetings set for new move ins, and checking on kids I haven’t seen since last spring that may be ready to test out.  I try to have everyone scheduled for services by the second week.

If anyone wants to chime in and give words of advice that would be helpful.  You can use the comment button.  I need to approve comments to prevent spamming, so you may not see it immediately, but  no worries as long as you aren’t spam.

New Card Game

1 Aug

I’ve been looking for new games to review  3rd and 4th grade vocabulary.  The reading and social sciences curriculum covers exploration and new frontiers.  It has vocabulary associated with space, pioneers, and science.  I’ve found that old card games can sometimes be adapted to review or introduce words.  The card game “Pig with a Stockpile”  looked like it could be used.  It’s very similar to a card game called “Spoons” I played when I was a kid.  I am hoping the repetition of the vocabulary and pictured items will help my language kids be familiar with vocabulary when it is introduced in class.  The game will hopefully provide some motivation.   I won’t have a chance to try it out until school starts again.  I thought others might like to get a head start with printing activities out.  If anyone gets a chance to try it out, would you please write a comment? I’ve named my version ” The Mission“.

Team Challenges

20 Jul

I’ve been looking for more team challenges.  I never seem to have enough when working with my social pragmatic groups.  I came across a site named “Great Solutions to Team Challenges”.  It has a variety of challenges posted and I think I will try some of these next school year.  I put the site on the blog roll so I would have an easy time finding it.  I’m also connecting it here in case you would like to try some of them.  Just click on the title.

BINGO for Speech Practice

29 Jun

Most people think of bingo as a game of numbers.  However, with a little variation it is great tool for teaching new vocabulary and language skills for about any age or ability level.  The traditional bingo is built on a 5×5 grid.  BINGO or some other 5 letter word is placed on the top of the grid with numbers underneath.  Each player’s card is a mix of numbers that are placed in different squares from other players cards. There is usually a free space in the center square.  Numbers are drawn randomly and called using the letters on the top and a number that would fall underneath.  Participants look for the numbers on their cards and place a marker on any that are found.  The winner is the person who gets five markers in a row or other designated shape.  When that happens, the person yells Bingo, is declared the winner and possibly gets a prize.

For educational purposes, the number squares can easily be replaced with pictures, vocabulary words, or phrases such as definitions or idioms.  These then provide the answers to questions that are drawn randomly.  This game allows players to search for the best possible answer from a closed set even though they may not know the correct answer from memory.  They are required to review the answers multiple times increasing the likelihood they will remember them in the future.  The difficulty can be adjusted by using pictures or written words.

In the past, to make multiple cards using the same set of items but in a different sequence required a lot of cut and pasting.  Now the internet has made a lot of cards available free of charge.  I have listed some sites that have ready made bingo cards using vocabulary in selected categories and themes.

Bingo cards can also be used for articulation practice.  The squares can have words that contain certain sounds for practice. This site has several.  One game suggested the player to roll a dice to determine which row they could choose a picture from before marking it out. 6 became roll again.   This allowed children to play with cards from different sound sets in the same group.

There are also sites that allow you to make your own cards. They can generate multiple cards from words placed into the program.  The program automatically switches the order of items so that each card is different from the previous one.

I used this program to make a set of cards to teach idioms. I placed the idioms in the squares on the cards and made a draw pile of the definitions.  The idioms and definitions came from

One Cut Books

25 Jun

Summer break is finally here.  Another school year has come to a close but as an educator I am always on the outlook for new things I can use for next year.  Our kindergarten students only attend school half day sessions.   I usually  schedule speech therapy  sessions for 30 minute once a week beyond our push in group sessions.  I make homework packets that students can take home for extra practice and exchange the next time they come.  I try to find things that can be replaced easily if for some reason they don’t make it back.  I use gallon zip-lock bags.  I put a letter explaining it is a homework packet and needs to be returned the next week.  I also put directions for the activity if necessary.  I then add whatever I think would be good for the student to practice on.  I’ve had good luck getting these back and I like that I can get multiple uses from them.

The June ASHA Leader listed   internet sites  for book making.  I think the One-cut books will be great for my homework packets.  They can be made from one 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper.

A group of them have already been made for you thanks to Judy Kuster and 22 graduate students at Minnesota State University.  Just go to this site Thank you grad students.

If you would like to make your own, here is a site that provides the template.

It’s a script

22 May

We’re getting to the end of our school year and I start running out of steam.  Quite a few of the students are working on spontaneous speech and I struggle on new ways to keep their interest in a somewhat structured activity.  A lot of student’s like the idea of being in a play.  However it is difficult to find scripts that have a minimum amount of cast and can be done in about a 20 minute period.  A coworker told me about this site and I’m finding it very useful.  The scripts are free downloads.  I’m finding they are also useful for new vocabulary and developing verbal problem solving.  So have a look and see if you can use it also.

The Importance of Props

18 May

I have realized recently how important props can be when conducting speech therapy in groups.  Groups provide a natural setting to practice such things as turn taking, using positive speech, and solving disagreements in a positive fashion.  The participants of the pragmatic  groups  generally have difficulty seeing another individuals perspective and do not even realize when they have given an insult.    The challenge is to provide feedback to individuals in a timely fashion without singling individuals out.  When pointing out mistakes in a group, an instructor runs the risk of provoking an argument and disrupting  the session for the rest of the group.  A few props and starting rules can make a lot of difference.  It often helps to have the group formulate rules that can then be posted on the wall and numbered.  Typical rules  are allowing everyone a chance to talk without interruption, speaking positively, taking turns etc.  They can be referred to by number as needed.  When expectations are set ahead by the group the instructor becomes less of an enforcer and more of a coach.  Other props I use are a plastic microphone from the dollar store and a spatula with a cardboard pancake taped to it.  The microphone is used to stress turn taking.  The child holding the microphone has the designated turn to talk. The spatula is handed to the student who made a cutting or discouraging remark to another student.  They are instructed to make a positive remark in replacement thereby flipping the pancake.