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Speech in the Schools

The BEST Part
July 30, 2014 8:51 AM by Valerie Lill

I'm a school-based SLP. If you're reading this blog, it is likely that you are also. Let me be honest here. There are a lot of things I love about my job, and other things that I don't love so much. However, by far, the best perk of being a school-based SLP is the summer "off." I'd be lying to you if I tried to pretend that I don't absolutely love being "off" in the summer. Here are just a few reasons why: Sleeping in a bit (though not much as I'd like to given that my husband's alarm blares bright and early at 7:00 a.m. every weekday!). Having time to go to the gym and work out multiple times a week (and being able to take morning classes instead of the dreaded afternoon and evening classes when I'm already exhausted). Getting together with my friends I rarely see during the school year - including those in education (all of whom are also off in the summer, as I discussed a bit in my last blog). Having time to clean my house (ok, maybe this is not a perk...). Being a stay-at-home mom to my son and all the fun that comes with it - taking him to swimming lessons, using our season passes to visit a local amusement/water park at least once a week, mini golf, fishing, bowling or going to the movies on a rainy day, playdates, going to the library, eating ice cream at one of the many local joints, family vacations, day trips ... the list is nearly endless. The bottom line is, having TIME is what I enjoy. I'm in the midst of loving every bit of my summer vacation (because once that calendar turns to August, I know it is the beginning of the end).

One of my biggest pet peeves is when non-education folks bash professionals who work in schools with declarations that we are overpaid and underworked because we have "three months off" every summer and get paid for it. I know all of you out there know (since you work in schools like me!) this statement simply isn't accurate. The last time I checked, mid-June through mid-August is only slightly more than 2 months off. We don't get "paid" for our summers off either. Depending on where you work, you likely either only get paid for 10 months of the school year or your salary is stretched throughout the year to get paid year-round (my district does this; however I opt to take the lump sum in June.)

To all the naysayers out there and those who constantly criticize and question those of us in public education ... Yes, I am "off" in the summer. Yes, I love being "off" in the summer. Yes, it is a great perk. Yes, I believe we deserve to be "off" in the summer. We work our tails off mid-August through mid-June, arriving to school early, staying late, and still bringing home our laptops so we can complete mandatory paperwork on our own time. If you add up all the hours I spend outside of my contracted day (8:15-4:15) doing schoolwork during the school year, it likely adds up to the number of work hours I'm "off" in the summer. Here is the real reason I think the public complains that no person working year-round would admit to: Yes, I understand that you are at least just a teeny bit (if not more) jealous of the life of leisure that I'm currently enjoying. I put "off" in quotes because I know that a lot of other school-based SLPs do a lot of work in the summer or even work another job in the summer. I'll be honest with all of you blog readers, I don't do a lot of school-related tasks/work in the summer. Thus far, I've watched a two-hour online training  while my son and some neighborhood kids were playing in the backyard, bought one new game - Magic Jinn, which I've blogged about before - on clearance for $2.98 at Target, voted on the proposed  teacher contract, exchanged my old school laptop for a new one at the high school, checked my email at least weekly and responded when needed, posted to a speech pathology discussion group on Facebook looking for ideas to decorate my room based on my school's Dr. Seuss theme this year, and wrote this blog every other week. That's it. Do I feel guilty about this? Not in the least. That's what summer break if for! Come August, I'll get back into "school mode" again, I promise!  I hope all of you are having a great summer "off!"

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A Speech Circuit!
July 24, 2014 1:14 PM by Alexandra Streeter

Today as I huffed and puffed through a circuit workout with a few friends, I remembered how well a "speech circuit" worked for me a few years ago. My goals for the speech circuit are to have the students evaluating themselves, get as many productions of their targets as possible (using a tally counter; the kids LOVE being in charge of their own!)

I used some of the materials and ideas from Articulation LAB.

NOTE: I used to have a copy of these materials, and they are neat, but you can create everything on your own if you want.

Depending on the number of students, I create three or four stations through which the children rotate. There is usually a game station where students take turns listening to each other saying their targets, and then they take a turn of a game.

Some of my favorite games to use include:

Pop up Pirate

Or Crocodile Dentist

Games that involve just ONE step are best; the goal is always to get as many productions of targets as possible, hopefully 100 in a session! I have a gross motor station; kids have to say their targets while doing jumping jacks, hopping or skipping. I always include a SILENT station; kids use a whisper phone and the ARTICULATION STATION app on the IPAD to quietly listen to their targets.

Finally, there is an SLP station where the kids worked with me. It helped to have the help of a paraeducator, but I've made it work on my own. Working with kids using these stations yields many repetitions, while I get to serve larger groups of kids at a time.

Have you used this approach either as an RtI intervention, or as artic services?

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Meeting of the Minds
July 16, 2014 10:22 AM by Valerie Lill

It is summer vacation for the majority of school-based SLPs. Time to relax, spend time with our families, go on vacation, maybe even take a few minutes to spend time on ourselves. One of my favorite things I enjoy doing in the summer is to catch up with friends I have limited time to see during the school year. Given that I work in the schools, many of my friends also work in schools and are available for get-togethers and playdates during the summer.

Today, I was able to get together with three very important friends - three other school-based SLPs. More than 6 years ago, we all worked together at the same school district. We all worked together for about 5 years - during that time we celebrated weddings and the birth of six of our seven children. Over the years, we have all gone our separate ways employment-wise (though coincidentally two of them still work together at a different place of employment), but continue to remain friends and school-based SLP resources for one another. I truly respect these ladies' opinions and advice on school-based SLP issues, concerns, therapy approaches, goals, you name it. I think it is so important to have friends who are school-based SLPs (we truly "get" each other and can post those ridiculous quotes on Facebook that only SLPs find humorous), but even more so to have friends who work at different places. It is always interesting and enlightening to hear about how different school districts handle all things SLP. Plus, in the heart of the school-year,  I know I count on my SLP friends. They always lend an ear when I need to vent. They offer suggestions and ideas for goals, assessments, and therapy activities. Most importantly, they know what it is like to be a school-based SLP (something regular ed and special ed teacher friends will never fully understand).

So on the too few and far between occasions when we four school-based SLP friends get together, it becomes a real meeting of the minds. School-based speech topics that came up in our chat today (while all of our children played in my yard) included changes of building assignments/caseloads, being a mentor, administration, auditory processing evaluations, caseload calculations (workload  versus caseload), and procedures for screenings (i.e., informed consent, child study teams). Among the four of us, there are three different school-based SLP employers represented, all of whom handle things a bit differently.

I don't want to make us sound like a bunch of speech nerds talking about speech things all day.  (Though I love this shirt http://teespring.com/slpphonetics and this https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1425215197760272&set=a.1394490800832712.1073741827.1394488657499593&type=1&theater so maybe I am a speech nerd?  Anyway, we of course talk about lots of other topics other than speech! Children, summer activities, vacations, family, and class reunions were hot topics this afternoon.

I hope you are all enjoying your summer and are taking a break from being a school-based SLP, if only for a little while. I can't stress how important it is to spend some quality time with your friends, especially those who are school-based SLPs!

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Keeping Our Kids Safe Over the Summer: Children with ASD
July 9, 2014 8:14 AM by Alexandra Streeter

In my last two posts, I wrote about keeping kids safe on the Internet over the summer. Today, I want to address the importance of keeping kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) safe. The summer is a particularly dangerous time, because of the lack of routine, and increased access to water.

Drowing is the No. 1 cause of death for children with autism.

If a family has  a pool or hot tub, they should purchase an alarm or cover.

Ensure the doors are locked, and again, consider an alarm for the door.

Teach the child to swim. (School staff could consider visits to a swimming pool to work on this)

Purchase an ID bracelet or a tracking device for a child who is non verbal.

Let neighbors know there is a child  with ASD nearby who might wander.

As SLPs, we  work hard to teach kids a way to provide personal information, whether that be using the ID bracelet, learning how to write the name/address (some children with autism have better written language than oral language), ensuring they have a little communication wallet attached to clothing.

We can create social stories for the higher functioning students that pertain to safety about water/wandering.

Teach children the universal "stop" sign, cut it out, laminate and give copies to parents to stick on doors, etc.

Share this resource with parents: http://www.projectlifesaver.org/

Do you have any tips/tricks that would help parents keep their children with autism safe? Please share below or in our ADVANCE Facebook page.

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When I Retire...
July 2, 2014 7:56 AM by Valerie Lill

The title makes it sound like it is right around the corner for me, but in reality, it is about 20 years away (Yikes!). The topic of retirement is never really one that crosses my mind as it is too distant to even give it a second thought. However, in  the past month I attended two retirement parties - one for two teachers retiring from my building and another for an SLP I worked with at my previous district - so seeing others at the end of long, successful careers made me think about mine and where I'd like to be by the time I retire.

For the two co-workers who retired at my building - one was a regular education teacher, and one was a special education teacher. On the last day of school, when co-workers spoke about these two women to the staff and students at our building, they raved about them as teachers but also as friends, mothers, school volunteers,  etc. I thought it was nice that these personal touches were included. Yes, they were teachers for many years, but that alone did not define them.

The retirement dinner for my former SLP co-worker was a smaller, more personal gathering. There were at least 10+ SLPs in attendance from throughout her career. It was fascinating to see all the different SLPs she worked with over the years (many of whom were still employed, a few now retired). It was also wonderful to see the look of surprise and joy she had as she walked into the room to be greeted by a roomful of SLPs. I'm not 100% sure how many years she spent in my previous district (many  more than I did!); however, during that time her presence on the SLP staff impacted enough of us that some of us came back to honor her at her retirement party. Some of the SLPs there worked with her 20 years ago, some like me worked with her in the past 5-10 years, and others were current co-workers. She expressed to me that although she was indeed retiring from her years in the school, she was not retiring as an SLP (i.e., looking into some private practice, PRN work, covering maternity leaves etc.).

How do I want to be remembered when I retire?  How do any of us want to be remembered when we retire? Do I think I'll become a "famous" SLP and come up with some fabulous treatment approach that will gain me national recognition?  I guess that's possible for any of us, but that's not a goal for me at this point. Suppose I remain in my current job for the next 20 years and subsequently retire from it. How do I want my SLP and non-SLP co-workers to remember me?  What can I do now (and keep doing) that will influence how others see me?

  • Remember that other SLP co-workers will remember me. I need to remember that my interactions with others SLPs now will be remembered, so let them be positive ones!
  • I'd like to be remembered as more than just the "speech teacher" at my building - I'm a co-worker, a friend, a mother, a volunteer, someone who participates in and attends activities at school rather than just the mysterious "speech teacher" whose office is located down a little hall next to the guidance counselor and only comes out on rare occasions.

I've just started scratching the surface as to how I'd like to be remembered when I retire. I have 20 years to work on it, so there's plenty of time!  Are any of you retired from the schools?  What influence do you feel you've had on co-workers and on your schools?  If you're not near retirement, start thinking now about the legacy you'll leave behind when you're done being an "SLP in the Schools."

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Keeping Our Kids Safe Over the Summer ...The Internet!
June 25, 2014 7:22 AM by Alexandra Streeter

In my last post, I discussed how extra important it is to help kids with cognitive, language and developmental disabilities understand safety when it comes to their smart phones and gadgets. Today, I want to share some resources I have discovered that protect kids on the Internet.

Here is an article which explains how to set global parental controls across devices:


If you are in the market for a new router, consider Linksys.


You can easily set the wifi controls, and set a timer so that wifi is OFF for certain periods of the day.

Review information at this website: http://www.netsmartz.org/internetsafety with your child.

Check with the parents of your children's friends. It always helps when other parents are on the same page. (Will kids be looking at the computer alone in a different room?)

Check out this parental control software: http://www.mobicip.com/

Read this book: I Rules: You Can Find It Here. 


This article reviews five parental control apps:


And check out the parental controls built into your child's phone or device.

As usual, ensure that the family computer is in a public space so your child knows what he/she is doing.

Finally, it's important to keep the conversation open with your child, and especially with your child who has a learning or developmental disability. Provide examples about what is OK and not OK, and be specific about consequences. Do not be embarrassed to use concrete language and vocabulary (in understandable ways). If they don't learn what is safe Internet behavior from their safe adults, they will be more influenced by friends.

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School's Over: It's a Wrap!
June 16, 2014 7:45 AM by Valerie Lill

I'm writing this blog on my second full day of summer break. Several bags are nearly-packed from my upcoming vacation. I realize that depending on what part of the country you are in, when you started your year,  and how many snow days you had this past winter, many of you are probably still in school. I'm not trying to make you jealous - you'll all be joining me shortly!

So another school year is in the books. This means it is time for a bit of self-reflection before my brain goes into complete summer mode. Did I accomplish anything this year? Did I learn anything this year? Is there anything I want to change or accomplish for next year? I'd like to say my answer to all of these questions, at least to some extent, is yes.

I'd say my biggest accomplishment, at least at a district level, after what seemed like eons of asking, our district how has its own loaner iPad for trialing AAC apps with students. In the past I either worked with kids on my own iPad (fine for in therapy but not good for real trialing as they could not take my iPad with them everywhere, every day in school), or I had students' names put on waiting lists. The wait could be anywhere from a few weeks to as long as several months. Not very practical when waiting to trial! I've had limited opportunity to trial the loaner iPad with students, but I look forward to the sheer convenience of having such an iPad available in house (and shared by only eight SLPs versus hundreds!).

I had the opportunity to attend three different professional trainings this year - including one on articulation/phonology (learned a method for getting a non-stimulable kid to produce /k/ that worked like a charm the very first time after months of frustration!), a LAMP training (which I had been wanting to attend for years), and one on training communication partners in AAC (I attended this training near the end of the year, so I have yet to use anything I've learned, but hopefully next year!)

From a "speech room" perspective, I finally went through and organized my books on my bookshelf. I organized them areas they address, theme, and/or characters. Next year I really need to make an effort that when I'm reading "spring" books to put them back on the "spring" section of the shelf.  I also bought a rolling cart with four drawers to organize my materials that I use to make adapted books versus having crafting supplies in plastic bags and random drawers throughout my room. On a related note, another accomplishment is that one of the Life Skills teachers and I got a grant for next school year to make an adapted book library for her class. This was my very first attempt at getting a grant, so I was thrilled that we received it!

Next year. Do I really want to think about this before August? Not really, but I sort of already have. Things to change, well, the OT and I have done co-treat sessions for many of our students with moderate-severe impairments. We realized that it is a great model, but it doesn't work the way it should for all students. We've already discussed which students for whom we'll continue the co-treat model and which ones we will see using more "traditional," separate, pull-out sessions. Since my initial grant request was fulfilled, I would like to pursue applying for future grants (my district offers them twice per school year). I already have a few ideas in my head!

So how did your school year wrap up? Did you have any exciting accomplishments for this year?  What are in your plans for next school year? Have a great summer break!

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Keeping Kids Safe Over the Summer: Social Media & Smart Phones!
June 11, 2014 7:39 AM by Alexandra Streeter
I have been thinking a lot about social media use in typically developing adolescents and adolescents with language impairments and disorders such as ADHD and autism. You might wonder what it has to do with us as SLPs, but in many schools appropriate use of social media and the Internet is part of the curriculum. I have been fortunate to work next to a librarian who made it a point to do several lessons on social media use. I heard snippets of the lessons, and reviewed them with my students. I hadn't thought about it much before, but as difficult it is to help our typically developing teenagers navigate these waters safely, it is even more important for those with impulse control issues and language disorders.

I have a pretty typical 14-year-old son who is entering high school in the fall. I (foolishly?) allowed him to get a smart phone for Christmas, and almost immediately regretted it. He spends much too much time on it, playing silly games, and constantly texting friends. I try to check it, I check his social media sites periodically, and let him know that I have access to it at anytime. I struggle with giving him some space, but keeping track! In retrospect, I should have set up some more stringent rules from the get go. I have noticed that more impulsive kids, and those who are very concrete with language are more likely to impulsively post things they shouldn't online. I don't think this is a coincidence, it's hard to self monitor, and for kids who have trouble with language and impulse control, posting an inappropriate comment or picture could have huge ramifications.

What can we do as SLPs?

  • Review the curriculum the school is using for safe Internet use.
  • Boil down the terminology staff are using so that our language delayed students understand.
  • Provide concrete examples of inappropriate Internet use, and ramifications (yes, if you send a picture that you think is funny but is inappropriate in the eyes of others, the police can confiscate your phone. And what IS inappropriate??)
  • Incorporate Internet safety into Social Thinking lessons. What is "expected" versus "unexpected" behavior on social media?
  • Reiterate over and over again how unsafe it is to communicate with people they do not know over the internet.

What can we do as parents (or what does Alex WISH she had done and what will she change?)

Wait until kids are old enough to be very careful with their Internet use. So far, my son hasn't been inappropriate (that I know of) but he is on the phone too much. I am going to wait until my younger daughter is in high school before allowing a smart phone.

A friend of mine had her daughter create an appropriate use contract. I think this is a fabulous idea, and I am going to do this in the fall.

Limit phone use; have your teen check his/her phone in to you at a certain time. Check it back out when he/she has completed homework and chores.

What is GOOD about the era of social media:

If used judiciously, texting and social media can help kids connect with each other, without the pressure of face to face.

If your child is going to be late/needs to be picked up, it's fabulous to be able to have /her text you.

If your child has an IPhone, you can check where they are using the "where's my IPhone app."

I do think it is important to give teenagers privacy and space (with monitoring.)

Do you have rules you can recommend for social media/smart phone use? Have you noticed kids with ADHD and language disorders who struggle with what is appropriate?

Please comment below or on our ADVANCE Facebook page.

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Fortunate to be an SLP?
June 4, 2014 8:00 AM by Valerie Lill
It's no secret that there is a shortage of SLPs. Based on the number of phone calls, postcards, and emails I have gotten from headhunters since I started in this field, it hasn't improved any. It's also a known fact that the competition to get into graduate school to study speech-language pathology is intense. I know back when I got my Master's, I had heard that at the time I applied they had over 200 applicants for just 18 slots (less than 10% acceptance rate!) and that if the applicant's GPA was less than 3.5, the application was thrown in the trash. That is utter insanity in a field where professionals are so desperately needed! Now I know the reasons as to why the competition to get into grad school is so tough and why they don't let more students enroll, but that's not the purpose of this blog.

Just this past Friday I heard two different stories of people who desperately wanted to be SLPs but, due to the competition out there, have resigned themselves not to be.

1) A long-term substitute teacher in my building came to me on Friday afternoon to talk about her sister. She has a B.S. in speech pathology but was unable to get into her university's graduate program, nor did she get in the other graduate schools at which she applied. She shared that her sister is now working as an SLPA and absolutely loves everything about speech-language pathology, but that she is simply devastated that she's been unable to get into graduate school. She had a different undergraduate major originally and had a few tough courses which lowered her GPA. She retook some courses to boost her GPA and is working hard as an SLPA, all with the hopes of someday being accepted into a graduate program for speech-language pathology (I had heard a similar story from a friend's sister who ended up going back to school and getting her nursing degree instead since she couldn't get into grad school for SLP).

2) On Friday evening I was at a gathering at a friend's place. When her younger cousin walked in I heard her say, "Oh Val is a speech pathologist." She then brought her best friend over to me to start talking. This girl is currently an undergraduate student who is very interested in speech pathology. She told me that when she was applying to colleges, she was accepted as an elementary education major at two different universities but was not accepted into the undergraduate speech pathology program at the one school that offered it (coincidentally, where I got my Master's degree). She said she was very interested in being an SLP, but since she didn't get into the program initially she felt being an elementary education teacher must be what she was meant to do. She then asked about speech pathology graduate programs and if they accepted students with undergrad majors that aren't SLP (to which I explained about taking "pre-requisites" as I know some girls in my grad program had to do that).

It had never occurred to me before that I should feel fortunate that I was able to attend graduate school and fulfill my dream of becoming a speech-language pathologist. It really made me reflect and think about two things: 1) I shouldn't take my degrees and career for granted as there are others out there who wish they could study to do what I get to do every day, and 2) Do the best grades really make the best SLPs? I feel like yes, it is a tough program, but excluding someone by grades alone (i.e., is a 3.2 really so awful?) is turning away a lot of potential SLPs when we're so desperately needed. So as you are ending your school year and are completely stressed out trying to figure out how you'll possibly get all of this paperwork finished by Friday (or is that just me???) remember that you are fortunate - you completed your schooling and are able to work as a school-based SLP.

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The Annual Great Summer Packet Edition!
May 29, 2014 11:46 AM by Alexandra Streeter

I've been considering doing a summer packet again! In the past I haven't had the best results with students completing and turning in Summer Packets, but since I'm at a new school, I plan to start fresh and try again! Here are some of the online resources that I've found:

This looks well worth the $9.50 at TPT:

Summer Homework Bundle

Can't beat free:

Summer Verbs

Articulation Calendar

Summer Speech Language Practice

Speech Language Calendars

Common Core Summer Packet

And  here is a resource for some interactive speech activities.

Many teachers are recommending that children read a minimum of  5 books this summer to maintain their skills;  as we know this is very important for language development too. For some children, the idea of 5 books is more concrete and less intimidating than asking them read as many as they can, so as SLPs we should support reading, and thus language goals by talking with our students and families about their summer reading plans. It is important to remind parents that we can continue to read out loud to our children as they get older, which helps with language and vocabulary development.



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Feedback on Feedback
May 21, 2014 8:03 AM by Valerie Lill

I admit it. I'm one of those crazy Candy Crush Saga addicts. It all started over a year ago when I had minor knee surgery and spent the better part of two days resting on the sofa with my leg propped up. So I'm sure you're all wondering, "What in the word could Candy Crush Saga possibly have to do with school-based speech therapy?" I would've wondered the same until this weekend when it inspired this blog topic.

This past weekend I was (and still am) on a particularly challenging level (425 for you fellow Candy Crush-ers). I was getting frustrated by the skills required to pass the level and even more frustrated by the constant, meaningless positive feedback provided by the game. I knew I wasn't doing well - bombs were exploding, my stripes were activating by accident, among other things; yet the game kept loading me up with comments such as, "Sweet! Divine! Delicious!"  As you accrue more and more points with moves, the more positive feedback it gives. That's all well and good that I'm "divine," but does that feedback really help me play the game better? (That would be no considering I was stuck at a previous level for over a month).

While feeling my annoyance over the empty positive feedback, it really made me think about my work as a school-based SLP. I spend all day giving feedback to students. Was my positive feedback as meaningless as me telling them, "Delicious!" after producing a correct /l/ sound? Is saying, "Good job!" to a student with a frontal lisp after she remembers to close her teeth helpful in the least?

Often in my articulation students' IEPs I include a statement in the Specially-Designed Instruction that says something along the lines of, "Immediate feedback, both positive and corrective."  I'm wondering if I should add to/expand this a bit. I think "Immediate specific feedback, both positive and corrective" will be better address the strategy. I feel like school-based SLPs are good at providing specific corrective articulation feedback, as many students are able to correct sound productions with proper feedback. However, to encourage carryover,  positive feedback is also necessary. This needs to be more than just, "Excellent!" or "Good job!" I am professing to all of you that indeed, I'm guilty of providing such "generic" feedback to students during articulation drill and practice.

After experiencing my frustration with generic feedback this weekend, I decided to consciously and consistently offer more specific positive feedback to my articulation students (who all happened to be working on /r/) in sessions today. Some examples of the types of feedback I offered include:

  • Nice job lifting your tongue.
  • I could hear your tongue was lifted when you said "car."

This type of feedback, although not dramatically different than what I often would typically provide made so much more sense to me. With specific feedbacks, now instead of just knowing what they are doing wrong, they also know what they are doing right to say their sounds correctly!  Although I've been a school-based SLP for more than 14 years, there are always areas in which I find myself needing to improve/hone my skills. For the remainder of the school year (less than three weeks for students!) I will try to improve my services with my articulation students by providing more specific, positive articulation feedback. This is a simple change that I can put into practice immediately!  Isn't that "sweet?" 

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Considering Change...and 5 WINNERS!
May 15, 2014 9:31 AM by Alexandra Streeter
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The school year is drawing to a close, and I hope that is has been a good one for all of our Speech in the Schools readers! It's amazing to think that just a year ago I was struggling with whether or not to change school districts and try something just a bit different. It was very hard, I loved the students and staff at my last school, and I was afraid of the unknown! Well, it turns out that for me, it was a great decision! I've been fortunate to be assigned to another wonderful school, full of fabulous co-workers, and (of course!) adorable students. I'm noticing on some of the SLP boards people are thinking of making changes between settings, district, age levels (peds to adults or vice versa.) Before comiting to a change, here are some things you might want to consider:

1. CONTRACT! For school-based employees, this is a very important factor. Make sure you ask about caseload limits, overload, time for writing IEPs and evaluation reports outside of the school day, and if there is additional time/money available for staff development.

2. CASELOAD: as mentioned above, find out what the limit is, but also find out if there is a population available that you love! Sometimes the newbies are assigned the caseloads that are considered less than desirable. Is it worth leaving something ok for something you might not like? Is it worth trying a caseload (high school versus preschool for example!) you might not have thought you'd like but might end up loving, or putting in the time there so that in a year or so you are no longer the newest member of the team and can have YOUR pick?)

3. SIZE of district or how many other SLPs are there? Do you want to be in a district where you have autonomy and are the only SLP? Do you want to be part of a larger team of SLPs? Everyone will have a different preference, but consider what you would like!

4. STABILITY: is there a lot of turnover in the SLP department? You might wonder why. Maybe it's just a year in which a lot of SLPs have moved on due to life circumstances, or maybe there is another reason. Maybe it's a reason that is not important to you.

5. ANOTHER SETTING: perhaps you're finding that your current setting doesn't work for you and you just want to try something different. Try calling and job shadowing with an SLP and see how you feel about it. If you think it's something you might want to try, consider continuing ed, read up on journal articles, and join http://www.speechpathology.com/ for their continuing education webinars for skills you need to brush up on.

6. CONTRACTING: perhaps you want the flexibility to travel and you sign up with a contract or traveling agency. This sounds like an amazing way to see the country if your personal life allows. The downside might be that there are often non compete clauses in these contracts, so if you fall in love with a district or location, you may not be able to stay there.

Have you made a change over the past few years? Did you regret it? Aren't we SLPs lucky to be in a field in which we have lots and lots of options to keep learning, growing, and keep things fresh?

On another note, the creator of the Sentence Building app gave me 5 free codes for the giveaway. The names of the winners are:

Emily Cooper

Becky Kopera

Jennifer (SLP from Vancouver WA)

Katherine Schmiel

Karen Acworth

PLEASE email me at SLPAlexS@gmail.com, and I will send you your code!

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Speech on TV
May 7, 2014 8:40 AM by Valerie Lill

The other day, one of my co-workers, a Life Skills classroom paraprofessional, stopped by my room. She posed this question, "Why in the world are there characters on children's show with horrible speech?"  She then proceeded to talk about one of the video clips the students in her class had watched earlier in the day. I told her I thought it was a legitimate question and is one I've thought about many times. Incorrect speech/poor speech models on TV shows has been a pet peeve of mine for years. I can't possibly be the only school-based SLP who feels this way. Should we expect children's TV show characters to be good role models for our children? Not necessarily; however, with the sheer number of hours that children watch TV, the creators of children's television programming should at least make an effort.

At an articulation training I attended about a year and a half ago, the speaker (whose name I cannot remember at the moment) expressed that if young children hear enough "good Rs" they'd be more likely to outgrow developmental /r/ errors. If this is true, then I have to wonder, why do popular kids' shows model these errors?  Maybe it is just the SLP in me, but I certainly don't think it is cute. 

Reflecting back on shows I've seen over the years with my son, here are my top list of shows that model incorrect speech:

1) "Wonder Pets" - This is a show for preschoolers, so it is geared toward a population of children with many developmental sound errors. Two of the main characters have speech issues - Ming Ming, a duck, substitutes /w/ for /r/ and distorts the /r/ sound. Tuck, a turtle, has a very hoarse voice quality.

2) "Sesame Street"  - Beloved by children for decades but currently modeling incorrect speech on a daily basis.   never liked Elmo, but two year olds seem to idolize him. I would dislike him less if he didn't talk in the third person. I realize that the character named Baby Bear has the word "baby" in his name; however, that doesn't make his inconsistent /w/ for /l, r/ substitutions any less annoying. Since his errors are inconsistent, I'm hoping he'll outgrow them.

3) "Looney Tunes" - This show has been modeling speech issues since before I was born. As an undergrad I remember having to identify the speech issue of each character on the show. It's been awhile, but off the top of my head ... Sylvester and Daffy - lisp; Bugs Bunny  - hypernasal voice quality; Tweety Bird - stopping, fronting; Porky Pig - stuttering.

These are just three of what I'm sure are numerous examples of poor speech models on children's TV shows. I'd like to give an honorable mention to "Caillou" for modeling the whiniest four-year-old on Earth. What are your thoughts on the speech-language models on children's TV shows?  Are there any speech-language patterns on children's shows that irk you?

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Using Story Books for Language Therapy: Jan Brett
April 30, 2014 12:56 PM by Alexandra Streeter
I have been enjoying using text for language therapy in the last few months, and I have discovered that I NEVER go wrong with Jan Brett books. The pictures are amazing; the stories have a good structure, and I particularly like the books that have a pictured hint for the next page. In the last few months, my students and I read some of the winter books including "The Hat" and "The Mitten," and more recently "The Umbrella," "Honey Honey....Lion!"  and some of the books about Hedgie, "Hedgie's  Surprise" and "Hedgie goes to Space." I read the books to my students, we talk about vocabulary, and identify the character, setting, problem, solution and/or which event kicks off the story, and how it is resolved. I got some great visuals for narrative markers on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Jan Brett's website has tons of activities to go along with the story. My favorite is the activity for "The Mitten" in which you can print out a mitten, and place the pictured animals into it! Lots of other crafty people have made amazing companion activities to many of Jan Brett's works. I purchased this one from TPT for "The Umbrella" and had several sessions of therapy covered!


Another reason to read Jan Brett books is that SHE supports US! She has a contest each year for children to write to her from their schools, and she visits several schools a year. Don't forget to sign up for her weekly emails at http://hedgies-treasure-trove.com/emm/subscribe.html.


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'Tis the Season!

Yard sales hold great treasures.

‘Tis the Season!
April 23, 2014 9:10 AM by Valerie Lill

No, not the holiday season (it's only April!). I'm talking about yard sale season! In my part of suburban Pennsylvania, signs advertising upcoming yard sales are sprouting up outside of neighborhoods left and right. All school-based SLPs should get excited when yard sale season starts. Why? Yard sale season is prime time to acquire some gently-used, inexpensive therapy materials!

I'm well aware of (and am a user of) the countless of digital therapy materials available - anything from SmartBoard activities to free iPad apps to Teachers Pay Teachers. However, call me old-fashioned if you will, technology can't replace (but certainly can supplement!) hands-on therapy materials and activities.

In this time of school budget cuts,  the money for therapy materials is likely limited, or in some cases, non-existent. Yard sales are an inexpensive way to add or replace materials on your shelves. In addition to the cheap prices (which are always negotiable!) yard sales offer an eclectic mix. Whatever you may be looking for, if you go to enough yard sales, you probably can find something to meet your needs. I highly suggest going to neighborhood yard sales in which certain blocks or even entire developments  (as is the case where I live) are having yard sales simultaneously. This way you can just walk from house to house instead of driving all over to different sales. Look for houses that are selling children's items. If you are desiring any of these types of therapy materials, you just might want to check out some local yard sales:

  • Puzzles - especially sturdy, wooden/knob puzzles. Pick up a few for your OT too. I'm sure she'd appreciate them!
  • Books - various ages, various topics. All for less than $1 a piece!
  • Games - I've already blogged about my love for games and how I feel they are a great asset in therapy.Every time I go to a yard sale, I'm always on the lookout for more.
  • Toys - especially if you work with younger children or developmentally-younger children. Remember, if it is plastic, it can always be washed!

Over the years just by going to the yard sale in my neighborhood and the one in the next to ours, I've scored some great deals on useful therapy materials. Here is just a sampling of the many treasures I've purchased from yard sales:

  • Cranium - $1 - the playdoh was dried out, but otherwise all the pieces were there and in great shape
  • Pictureka! - $1 - Great game to adapt for receptively identifying vocabulary and finding objects based on description
  • Trivial Pursuit, Jr - $1 - missing the die and some of the questions were a bit outdated, but my middle schoolers enjoyed it!
  • Crocodile Dentist (travel version)- 50 cents - I already had one at school, but I knew this game was discontinued and hard to come by, so I stocked up with an extra one.When my original Crocodile Dentist broke, I was thrilled to have a back-up!
  • Two sets of phonics cards (monster consonants, sea animals digraphs) - 50 cents each - I've used these for articulation practice many times, including matching games and go fish.
  • NEWsticker packs - 10 cents each - a neighbor's father gets these from somewhere. I don't know the story, but all I know is I was thrilled to hear she'd have more out for the sale this year
  • I've saved my all-time best yard sale purchase for last - a NEW, sealed Webber Vocab Bingo game. I don't know exactly the story of how this got to be out at a non-SLP's yard sale, but what I do know is that I paid $4 for it, and at the time I bought it, the cost on the website was about $40.

You make think "yuck" when you think of yard sales and assume everything is dirty and worthless. (That used to be me!) However, with an hour plus of free time on your hand, and a $10 bill in your pocket, you just might find some great new-to-you therapy materials!

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About this Blog

    Speech in the Schools
    Occupation: School-based speech-language pathologists
    Setting: Traditional and specialized K-12 classrooms
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