I have a dream position as an SLP. I work in one school with an amazing staff, and I've accumulated all the materials I need.
Why, then, lately have I found myself wondering about change, wondering about other school districts and if they do things differently? I've been quick to dismiss those little wonders, after all the staff at my school has supported me through 2 babies and maternity leaves; family illness and changes. I have felt so lucky.
As SLP's we are so fortunate; at least in this neck of the woods there are usually SLP openings. When I finally listened to the little voice in my head, I discovered some available opportunities; I tentatively decided to move forward, just to SEE what would happen.
Have YOU been at your school or schools for a long time? Have you made a change? Did you regret or discover a new beginning?
Stay tuned to see what I decide!
Please share your stories below or on the ADVANCE Facebook page.
I'm writing this blog with only four and a half more student days to go (followed by in-services on Friday afternoon, Monday, and Tuesday morning, but if students aren't there, does it really count as a workday?). In some ways it seemed like it would never get here. On the other hand, didn't the year just start? Either way, it's time for self-reflection on my "What I Hope to Learn This Year" post from back in September. Here's an update on the three things I hoped to learn this year:
1)How to use a SmartBoard. I am proud to say I'm officially a SmartBoard user! I have some kids who beg to use my iPad when they come to my room. I have others who beg to use the SmartBoard. It's been a great addition to the technology I'm already using with my students. I've found numerous uses for my SmartBoard including using it as a whiteboard, doing speech-language activities from websites (i.e., Quia), reading stories (i.e., Tarheel Reader), and it has even been compatible with some Boardmaker activities I've found on Boardmaker Share. There tend to be technical glitches with the SmartBoard, but I've learned to problem solve a bit. I can fix it when it is blurry and sometimes help it move along when it is slow or frozen. My SmartBoard goal isn't completely achieved, however. I have not yet learned how to create my own activities on it. Maybe next year!
2)How to efficiently and effectively program AAC apps on my iPad. This is certainly a work in progress, but I definitely able to do this much better than I was able to do it at the beginning of the year! I now consider myself to be proficient in programming Sonoflex and Proloquo2Go (both the basic and core vocabulary set ups). I've also had success learning to program other AAC apps, such as Sounding Board. It's wonderful to be able to have a camera to take pictures of student choices in the moment and be able to immediately (ok within a minute or two) create a board using the photo or incorporating it into an existing user area. Just a few years ago for me at least, being able to do such a thing was unheard of! The GoTalkNow, well, I wish I could tell you that I've also learned how to program on this app. I tried and tried to create boards in this app, and it never went well. I went so far as talking to an Attainment representative at an Assistive Technology Expo I went to in November. Even with his suggestions, I'm still light years away from being even remotely efficient at programming this app. Are any of you using the GoTalkNow app successfully? Any helpful hints you can offer? I think this app could be very useful to my students, if I only knew how to program it!
3)How to ask for help. I've written several blogs throughout this school year on this topic. Just to give you an idea of things I've gotten help for just in the last few weeks - shredding, photocopying worksheets for Extended School Year, laminating/cutting a bingo game, and copying IEPs. My guess is there as always been help available for me at school. I just had to ask for it!
In a few short days the books on the 2012-13 school year will be closed. I'm happy to say I've made progress on all the things I've hoped to learn to do this year! How about all of you? What did you learn to do this year?
Has anyone else out there downloaded Disney's free app "Story?"
Essentially, this app uses your photo stream from your iPad or iPhone, and you can easily create albums and stories in minutes. I was able to throw together a social story in less than 10 minutes! The possibilities are endless.
Yes, you can even insert video! Videos are a wonderful and engaging means for students to learn social skills and self evaluate (if you are inserting videos into a social story, you would, of course, only show the "right" way to do something!)
It is SO easy to add text!
The "story" runs as a little movie on the iPad. The ONLY disadvantage I can see for now, is that you cannot print. I did read a review which mentioned that this feature would be added.
You can send your little movie/social story to parents to use at home. You could use this app not only as a social story, but as a tool for students to share the events of their day, and parents could make little movies/stories for kids to share with their peers at school.
The possibilities are endless!
Last month I did a survey asking for two topics from my state's annual convention you'd like to hear about. One of them was "Strategies for Transitioning from PECs to SGD." I had the privilege of hearing Lori Frost, the co-author of the PECs training manual, speak on this topic. I learned so many things that I am just going to go over a few highlights and things to consider when considering trialing AAC devices and apps with PECS users.
Core Vocabulary - I really am a big supporter of using core vocabulary with students as I've had many students successfully use core vocabulary to express themselves. However, Lori offered a completely different perspective on it. The research behind core vocabulary is based on language developed in typical children. Children with autism do not develop language in the typical way, so core vocabulary might not apply as it assumes a child has intact social communication. This was really eye-opening for me, because it never occurred to me to look at core vocabulary before. I'm such an advocate of the eclectic approach and doing what works.This is a perfect example of taking two different approaches that I believe in and use with my students and meshing them into something that takes the best of both worlds and leads to student success. I don't think one approach is "right" or "better." I just do what works for my students!
Task Analysis - I never considered this before when trialing AAC devices and apps with my students who are PECs users. Students who are PECs users that would be candidates for trialing high-tech AAC can easily create requests such as, "I want two cookies" with their communication books. However depending on the device or app being used and the vocabulary set-up on it, the amount of steps and the way to create the sentence could change dramatically. I've spent hours programming loaner devices to somewhat "look" like their PECs books. Although this is time-consuming to do, it is well worth the effort and makes the trialing of high-tech AAC devices and apps go much more smoothly.
What to Teach - There are a lot of new skills a PECs user must learn with high tech AAC. Skills that might need to be taught include: clearing the device after speaking a message, turning the device on (and opening the app if using an iPad), and repair strategies.
Keep the PECS book! - Students trialing devices still need their PECs books. I speak from experience! In recent trials of a loaner device, in one session the battery kept dying even though the device had been charged. Prior to another time working with a student the loaner device completely stopped working and had to be returned. Keep that communication book nearby at all times during AAC trialing - you never know when you might need it!
I hope the highlights I've presented above gave you some things to consider/think about when trialing high tech AAC devices or apps with your students who are proficient PECs users.
I have a new app find that I'm excited to share with you!
The App is "TURN TAKER" by Touch Autism. Since I discovered it (for $4.99) at the app store, I have used it with many students.
First, I show the kids the social story. It uses simple language and pictures to teach about playing games, taking turns, deciding who should go first, and winning/losing.
After watching and discussing the social story, I pull out a one step board game , select the "game play" feature within the app, and have my students play!
The iPad is in my BIG GRIP stand, turned to face the students. The giant finger points to whoever's turn it is.
Once the child is finished, they press the "finished" button. There is a voice that says "your turn" each time the finger changes; I usually turn the volume off after a while.
I've found this app helpful with several populations of students. I have a lot of little students (not just students with autism) who have trouble waiting for their turns during conversation, speech activities, and games. I HIGHLY recommend this app; let me know if and how you use it!
I realize that not all of us school-based SLPs are mothers, or even women for that matter. I apologize for those of you I'm leaving out with this blog, but many of us are both SLPs and mothers. I am one. I'm the working school-based SLP mother of a 6-year-old boy. The job of an SLP is a busy, but rewarding, one. The job of a mother is also crazy-busy, but even more rewarding. The hard part is trying to balance the two. SLP by day...mother 24 hours a day. Being a working mom isn't easy. Being a stay-at-home mom isn't easy. Being an SLP isn't easy. Being a school-based SLP allows us the luxury (or is it insanity?) of being all three. (I realize some SLPs work in the summer; however I choose to be a stay-at-home mother from mid-June to mid-August every year).
Being a mom and a school-based SLP certainly comes in handy at times. Here's just a sampling of ways my son has helped me with my job over the years:
My poor son! I've put him through the ringer in his short life! Is it bad that I look forward to the day that he'll be too old to enjoy his current stash of games so I can bring them to school? (I'm talking about you, Uno Robot!) However, he has done much more for me than just help me out with my job over the years.He gives me a reason to put down the work at the end of the school day and hurry home. He gives me a reason not to get to school at the crack of dawn and stay well past the end of my contracted day.
I don't know if saying this makes me a "bad" SLP or not, but I've said it over and over again. My son will always come first over my job and all of the students on my caseload. Although I love being a school-based SLP, I love being my son's mother even more. Working mothers out there, don't forget your priorities. Family first. Happy Mother's Day, school-based SLPs!
Summer isn't too far away, and in some parts of the country you get out of school in May! Last year I wrote a blog entitled the "Great Summer Packet" debate, and I worked hard at creating summer packets for my students. I surveyed my parents to find out who wanted work for the summer, and then attempted to create packets which targeted each child's goals. Well, unfortunately despite all my hard work, NOT ONE student returned a completed packet!
As a parent, I know that it can be difficult to insist upon much work over the summer, and this year I'm going to take a more relaxed approach. Perhaps I won't send home packets, perhaps I'll just send a letter with some suggestions, or maybe I'll print off some of the following less specific packets from the internet:
Here are some simple and free calendars and schedules:
I like the idea of this very simple activity schedule:
I have used this with some good results in the past:
This looks like a possibility for lower functioning students:
And here's another cute calendar:
Perhaps the most important thing to recommend is reading! Most libraries have a summer reading program. I know in our town, children earn experiential types of prizes, such as free tickets to the zoo or Children's Museum. Reading paired with some free fun experiences can be the most enriching summer activity of all!
Are you sending home a summer packet this year? How much time will you spend getting it ready? And do you reward your students upon your return? Please let me know below or on the ADVANCE Facebook page.
Thank you to my fellow blogger, Alexander Streeter, for being the only voter on my last blog (regarding which topics I attended at my state convention and what the readers would like me to blog about). Per her request today I'll start to blog about the presentation on transitioning from PECsTM to SGD. There is so much I could blog about this topic that it will be continued in my next blog. In a future blog I'll honor her second vote and write about free apps I've learned about.
I've never had any sort of training or guidance before on how to transition a child from PECsTM to SGDs. This year, I've used my own clinical judgment, SLP instincts, and knowledge of my students to determine when they were ready to begin trialing SGDs and/or AAC apps. I figured once they could navigate through several pages of a book and create a variety of Phase IV sentences without prompting, then looking towards something more complex is warranted. When loaner devices and apps arrived for student use, I made sure to take the devices home and do the necessary programming to make sure whatever I was offering the students matched as closely to their PECsTM communication books as possible. It just made sense to me to do things that way. Although it isn't part of the PECSTM protocol, I always include a "core" vocabulary page (with words I think would be functional and useful for them) once they've mastered Phase IV Sentence Starter and are beginning to request attributes. I've always felt that students need to do more with their communication books than just mand for objects repeatedly. I never had any sort of verification this year that what I was doing was the "right" way to do things. Well, no verification other than the fact that what I was doing seemed to be working. Kids were picking up on using SGDs or AAC apps with ease. So, student success led me to believe my instincts were at least remotely heading me in the right direction. That is, until I heard Lori Frost (co-developer of PECSTM) speak a few weeks ago.
I was pleasantly surprised that much of what I was doing to help my students transition from PECSTM to SGDs was right on track! For examples, some of the considerations with transitioning to an SGD included: large PECSTMvocabulary, voice output is desired/needed, mastery of at least Phase IV. Check, check, and check! I felt like I had just been guessing hoping what I was doing for my students was the "right" thing to do. I needed someone to guide me in the right direction or tell me that my SLP instincts were right. Maybe I do know what I'm doing? (at least on occasion?)
I will blog more specifics of what Lori spoke about in my next blog. The purpose of this blog was to let all of you SLPs know about the valuable lesson I learned. We DO know what we're doing. We ARE able to do the right thing for our students without being told or trained on what to do. Trust your instincts, fellow SLPs! More often than not they'll be right!
Over the last 2 weeks a group of upper elementary girls and I have enjoyed an app named Cookie Next Door-Rainy Days.
This app is essentially an animated cartoon to which students provide the narrative using their voices. Cookie is a little guy who takes to the ocean on his boat and encounters an adventure with other characters including a huge wave and a whale; ultimately he ends up on a dessert island.
The children get to record the dialogue, and there is a voice changer which lowers and increases the pitch of the recorded voice, depending on the character that is talking!
While my students took turns recording, they had to negotiate how to figure out sequence the story. A couple of them do not use much expression in their conversational speech, and were able to practice that in their voices through the main character Cookie! I love seeing how my students use language in less structured activities. For example, I was surprised to discover they were fond of using the on the word "stalking" (we worked on that!) and was reminded how significant the word finding issues are of one student who called a "coconut" a "poconut."
After completing the recordings, the students can watch and listen to their movie. I can't wait for this app developer to put out the second installment! I know my students will love it.
Cookie Next Door is currently FREE in the app store! Enjoy.
This past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I was lucky enough to attend my state's annual convention. I was even luckier that it was held only 20 minutes away from where I live! But the most fortunate part of the whole thing (other than getting approved for the professional leave time from work) was attending numerous excellent, relevant presentations by some wonderful speakers! Here is a sampling of the presentations I attended and what thoughts went through my mind leading me to choose them:
"Therapy Feedback Apps and Programs: Easy, Free, and Fun"-Therapy? Apps? Free? Three of my favorite words! How could I go wrong?
"The SLP's Role - The Common Core State Standards (Speaking, Listening, Reading, Writing, Language)"- The Common Core is impacting all instruction in my state, so knowing how I can help my language-impaired students achieve these standards is very important to me.
"Using iPads to Increase Core Vocabulary in Students with Autism" - It's no secret that I think core vocabulary is important for students with complex communication needs. Throw iPads in there, and I'm sold.
"iTechnology Applications for Children and Adults with Significant Communication Impairments" - Here we go again - iPad apps and Significant Communication Impairments - welcome to everyday at my school-based job! How could this NOT be relevant and useful to me?
"Communication Development with Young Children Using Eye-Tracking Technology" - I don't really have any students who use eye tracking right now; however, who knows what the future may hold? I need to be prepared!
"Evaluating AAC Apps and/or Devices: Tools and Resources" - I have so many students with whom I'm trialing various AAC apps. I could use some more direction to systematically determine which apps might work best for my students.
"Strategies for Transitioning from PECS to SGD" - I have multiple students on my caseload right now in various stages of this transition. Am I going about things in the right way?
Needless to say by looking at this list of presentations, my two biggest interests right now are AAC and apps (and AAC apps!) Each of these presentations was relevant, useful and immediately applicable in my day-to-day job as a school-based SLP. I literally could blog pages and pages about each one of these presentations, but I don't want to bore any readers!
So instead of me choosing which presentation(s) to blog about, I'd love to hear input from all of you! If this was your state convention, what would be YOUR top two presentations out of this list? Vote on ADVANCE's blog page or Facebook page. Whichever presentations you, the readers, would like to hear more about, I'll write about in a future blog.
Spring is slow to arrive around these parts, however the internet is full of downloadable spring activities to use in therapy!
I've talked about it before, and will continue to do so, check out Teachers Pay Teachers for a plethora of spring themed activities! By the way, I "liked" Teachers Pay Teachers on Facebook, and this was in my news stream the other day:
"Wowie zowie! We have two $75,000 TpT profit milestones to announce this week. First up is Jenna Rayburn from Ohio who runs Speech Room News. She's a school based speech-language pathologist who shares intervention resources for a variety of speech and language disorders. She calls TpT "the ultimate collaboration!" Click to her store from the first comment."
I love that there are creative SLP's providing materials for the less creative like myself! Thank you Jenna!
Anyway, back to spring! Check out some fun ideas at http://www.speechpathologizing.com. I am a big fan of printable books to use in therapy, and was delighted to find some spring books at DLTK. A favorite activity of my students is practicing giving and following multi-step directions using coloring pages. It's a simple and useful activity that targets sequencing, listening, and concepts (first color the butterfly in the middle of the page, next color the butterfly at the bottom.) I get an email once a week from Dover Publications, which includes some free coloring pages. I also find some simpler coloring pages through good old Google Images...just type "spring coloring pages" into the search engine and you'll find all sorts of pictures!
Finally, spring is a good time to work on lifecycles, which, in turn is a great activity for sequencing. Years ago I stumbled upon these Life Cycle books by David Schwartz.
I created my own sequencing cards from the pictures in the book ( Yes! I actually created something on my own without squeezing the internet dry!) and my students love reading the book together, putting the pictures in order and retelling the sequence.
This time of year is definitely my least favorite time of the school year. Crunch time! The perfect storm of having to do progress reports for the end of the third marking period, monthly medical access, and numerous Reevaluation Reports and IEPs all in basically the same two week period is here. I have two negative "ize" words that are simply taking over my daily work and brain at this point...
Criticize - How in the world can she expect me to get this report by then? Why in the world would she schedule a meeting for that date? Doesn't she know I already have 6 other meetings that same week? Why didn't she respond to my email? Don't they GET it? I'm only one person and not a superhuman! I spend the majority of my day doing direct student contact, how in the world can I be expected to finish all of this paperwork? (I'm using "she" because I pretty much work with all women...)
Agonize - How will I EVER get all of this paperwork done? Will I ever be able to spend my planning time doing actual planning instead of doing paperwork? Will I ever get to spend my weeknights and weekends with my family instead of having my face in front of the laptop doing school work? Will the month of May ever get here?
The "ize" have taken me over in the last week or so, and I don't anticipate them going away any time soon. I need to find "replacement" behaviors because I know from experience these "ize" behaviors are simply getting me nowhere and don't help me get anything done. So I thought of two "ize" that maybe can help...
Organize - Paper to-do lists and a black Sharpie ready to cross things out as they get finished. Post-it notes on students' files of what needs to be done. Sticky notes (the program, not actual post-it notes) on my laptop with what reports need to be done listed in the order they are due. Writing meetings down in my planner (yes, I still use pen and paper!) and putting checkmarks next to the ones for which I have the paperwork complete. I feel like I know how to organize. I have a system, and it seems to work for me.
Prioritize-This is definitely the positive "ize" behavior with which I have the most difficulty. Sometimes if I know a report is quick and easy I'll do that one (even if it isn't due for a few weeks) over a more difficult one that is due much sooner. I realize that isn't prioritizing. I need to keep due dates first and foremost in my head my prioritizing which reports to complete when. I feel like I just don't have a good system for prioritizing which is what makes this so difficult!
Fellow school-based SLPs, I'm looking for new ideas...How do you ORGANIZE and PRIORITZE this time of year? How do you avoid the criticizing and agonizing that goes hand-in-hand with paperwork demands? I know many of us are in the same boat and are experience the same stress level right now. If anyone has any strategy or suggestion that works, please share!
I am sure that most of us search for free iPad apps to keep therapy fun and kids motivated. Here are some of MY recent faves (and sometimes the price changes, so I apologize in advance if some are not free.)
1. EGG ZOO! This is a free app that teaches verbs to the younger set. This app features some cute characters performing actions such as spinning, catching, and hitting balls with a baseball bat. The app introduces the verbs and the child touches a dot on the screen after the verb is named. The character then performs the action. After hearing the verb a few times the child says the word in order to activate the action! This is my favorite feature! I've been looking for voice activated apps and this works well. The iPad does not discriminate whether a production is correct, and I do use it sometimes for articulation practice. I hold the iPad slightly out of reach and give the child feedback and cuing for the correct production.
2. Tiny Dentist! I got this app for free one Friday (Friday is a good day to check for free apps. Don't forget to check http://momswithapps.com/app-Friday) Your student gets to be a dentist; clean and polish teeth, give fillings and braces! It's a great activity for sequencing and asking and answering questions. It will be fabulous for dental health month in February, and it might also work well for a child who is afraid of going to the dentist.
3. Finally, if you haven't discovered the plethora of freebies that TABTALE puts out, you need to check them out. My students LOVE Pizzamaker and Burger Crazy Chef. (See Megan's blog about virtual cooking here.) There are also some interactive stories which feature some opportunities to record speech and ways to interact with pictures and text.
4. Have you found anything fun lately? Please share!
Recently at school someone had contacted me about something in regard to assistive technology. When I had mentioned this to the individual the next time I saw her (as to what made her think to contact me first) she commented, "You're the speech assistive technology expert!" Expert? Me? So this is my SLP reputation? I have to admit, being viewed by co-workers (SLPs and non-SLPs) and administration as an "expert" within the district in any aspect of our field is quite the compliment!
Afterwards, the question I asked myself is - others consider me an "expert" with assistive technology in speech, but do I? Do I love assistive technology as it relates to speech-language pathology? Absolutely! Augmentative-Alternative Communication has been a huge interest and love of mine since graduate school. Working with low-tech and high-tech devices and trialing these devices to find the best match for a student is definitely one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of my job. Do I feel I know a lot about this area enough to call myself an "expert?" That I'm not so sure about. Do I feel I know a decent amount about AAC ? Yes. Do I use my knowledge with my students? Yes. Do I know where to go or whom to turn to if I have a question I can't answer or a problem I can't solve? Yes. When colleagues ask, I am more than willing to offer assistance and share my knowledge with them. Does this qualify me an "expert" in my school district?
I think all of school-based SLPs are an "expert" in one or more aspect of our field. I know I have certain SLPs I'll consult with regarding questions and concerns with students on the autism spectrum (one for higher-functioning, one for lower-functioning). There are other SLPs I'll consult with regarding topics such as stuttering therapy, voice therapy, school law/procedures, childhood language, and AAC (as even "experts" need assistance!). I know many wonderful school-based SLPs out there, and all of them are fabulous resources.
Being the lone SLP in a school is not always easy. We all have questions and problem situations with which we need help. What would we do without a network of SLPs? Don't hesitate to consult one of your "expert" SLP friends for assistance when ended! I'm sure you can return the favor by offering him/her assistance in your area of expertise some time down the road!
Do you (or any of your coworkers) consider you an "expert" in one aspect of school-based services? Do people seek out your "expertise" in that area? Do you have go-to school-based SLPs you consult with whom you consider to be "experts" in what they do?
Visit our AAC resource center
AAC camp benefits SLP students and clients
Are you doing anything for St Patrick's Day?
These are some of the things I am considering or have done/used in the past.
On the web:
From the Library:
There are tons of children's books about St Patrick's Day and hunting for Leprechauns.
- In our school library, I found "Lepruchans Never Lie" by Lorna Balian which you can purchase at Amazon.
- One of my favorites is Clever Tom and the Leprechaun by Linda Schute. These books have a good narrative structure and are fun for kids of all ages.
In the Kitchen:
I love making simple recipes with my students. I try to use picture recipes that I make using Boardmaker. My students are always excited when I lug my toaster oven or electric skillet to work. My caveat for cooking at school: KEEP IT SIMPLE (and as healthy as possible!) Here are a couple of simple St Patrick's Day recipes:
Finally, kids LOVE to make Leprechaun traps! After they are complete, have the kids go to recess and create a simple "mess" in the classroom (knock over a chair or two, drop a book on the floor, nothing major!) Leave a series of clues for the children written from the leprechaun that finally takes them to a pile of chocolate gold. Target positional concepts and descriptions for preschoolers or younger students as they search for the clues
- Examples of leprechaun traps here and here!
- A scavenger hunt here!
I hope all our ADVANCE Readers enjoy St Patrick's Day with their students!