Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Facilitation Generalization: #5 Be Realistic!


One aspect of a speech language pathologist's job that is imperative to successful communication is facilitating generalization as many of our students/clients struggle with showing their classroom teachers or parents all the skills they have mastered for us in the therapy room.  This series of posts will focus on tips, that have worked for me, which can help you facilitate generalization of learned skills to new environments.

Step #5:  Be Realistic:

My final tip to facilitating generalization is to be realistic when you are asking staff or parents to use various techniques or cues to target speech and language goals.  Keep it simple.  Write down exactly what you want behavior you want them to encourage and be sure to have them focus on one task at a time.  It can be overwhelming for parents and nearly impossible for teachers to try to facilitate generalization for numerous skills but tackling one skill at a time is much easier and you have a great chance of parents or teachers having some time during their day to do so.

Provide visuals as needed.  For busy teachers or forgetful parents, try writing down the strategy or use a picture to visually remind them of the strategy they are using or the skill they are trying to facilitate.

Remember, if you are willing to help teachers with their goals, they will be willing to help you with yours.  So be a team player an ask them how you can help too!

Also remember to thank parents and staff members for their work in helping facilitate these skills to new environments.  A little acknowledgement can go a long way.

And that's it!  My five simple Steps to facilitating generalization.  If you've missed them you can begin here with Step #1.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Facilitating Generalization: #4 Be Specific!


One aspect of a speech language pathologist's job that is imperative to successful communication is facilitating generalization as many of our students/clients struggle with showing their classroom teachers or parents all the skills they have mastered for us in the therapy room.  This series of posts will focus on tips, that have worked for me, which can help you facilitate generalization of learned skills to new environments.

Step #4: Be Specific:

Praise and accolades can be as good as empty promises if we do not express the exact behaviors or skills we are positively reinforcing.  Sometimes we may need to rely on teacher or parent report to support various behaviors.  We are part of a team to support this child as a whole.  It doesn't matter if we are reinforcing a speech or language skill or another important life skill, our students must learn.  It's just important that we make our students feel supported, proud of their own actions and able to attempt to continue exhibiting them.

Remember to be very specific when giving feedback during therapy or when providing positive reinforcement.  The following are all statements I have actually used for students in the past (to honor confidentiality, names used are fictitious).  Sometimes you will have some great speech and language skills to support and sometimes, you just need to take what you can get.  See the silver lining and make your students' see it too!

For the student who is working on social skills:
"Johnny, I really like how you looked toward me and answered my question before you introduced a new topic!"

For the classic articulation case:
"Susan, I love to hear that /k/ sound at the ends of your words!  I can really understand what you are saying.  Thank you for helping me understand you."

For the student who needs some help controlling his own behavior:
"Mark, I know how hard it is for you to stay in math class.  But today, you made it through the whole class with only one break to the water fountain.  Boy your brain must have been working overtime!  I love your desire to learn!"

Remember always be supportive and be specific!  What confidence and pride we can give our students with a few simple words!

Click here is you missed Step #1, Step #2, Step #3.  Next week, I'll share my 5th and final tip!
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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Facilitating Generalization: #3 Using Positive Reinforcement!


One aspect of a speech language pathologist's job that is imperative to successful communication is facilitating generalization as many of our students/clients struggle with showing their classroom teachers or parents all the skills they have mastered for us in the therapy room.  This series of posts will focus on tips, that have worked for me, which can help you facilitate generalization of learned skills to new environments.

Step #3:  Use Positive Reinforcement: 

You know the saying "You catch more flies with honey".  So be sure to distribute your honey!

Once staff members were aware of their student's goals and progress, I would enlist them to help me out in providing some positive reinforcement.  Have you seen those "caught being good" tickets or other positive reinforcement measures?  The reason I like something external, such as this, is because it provides something concrete for the student to receive, see, feel, and have.  Also they can then share this with their parents, teachers, and friends their accomplishment and for some younger elementary students this is sometimes a reinforcement of it's own.

A word of caution:  Some students must first be motivated by positive reinforcement before you ever see change as they tend to doubt their own abilities to improve.  So be sure to give ALL of your students positive reinforcement (not at the same time) at various times regardless of their sole improvement on a specific speech or language goal or skill.  There are a number of things everyday each of our students do to make us proud, smile or laugh.  Be sure to capitalize on those moments, especially for the emotionally damaged child!  Children who know they are valued, will be more confident and will work harder.

So don't underestimate the power of positive reinforcement!

If you missed Step #1 or Step #2 click on these links.  Stay tuned for Step #4 next week.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

6 Home Hacks for the Busy SLP: A Link Up


Today I am linking up with Doyle Speech Works, to share with you some of my life hacks.  Well some of these are more survival tips when you have an 18 month old on the prowl for anything and everything he can get into.  And some of these are just organizational things I do to make my life easier. So, let's begin!

1.  Water Cooler Spout with Child-Lock:


If you are anything like my family, we drink TONS of water so we use a cold water cooler dispenser.  It became a problem with my then, 12 month old, was sticking his finger in the faucet and letting water spill all over the floor.  Goodbye water cooler?  Oh no!  My wonderful hubby found this awesome water cooler spout with a child-lock for a few bucks online!  Simply press the back button then push down and voila', water flows.  Luckily for me, my little guy has not figured out how to get this one to work...yet! ;)

2.  Upcycle a Vase:


I DETEST having to try and find my cooking utensils hidden away in drawers while I am cooking.  And I MUST have them to the left of my stove as I am left handed.  So this year, I decided to reuse this beautiful vase, I was given as a present, from my wonderful hubby to hold all the necessary utensils I use on a daily basis when cooking dinner.  No mess, no fuss, and it looks pretty too!

3.  Weekly Cleaning Schedule:


I have shared this before, but this is something that really helps streamline the housework for me.  I like to follow my weekly cleaning schedule so I only have to focus on one thing each day which is quick and easy.  Of course, a daily cleaning up of toys each night is a must or my house would look like a tornado hit it! Ha!

4.  Magnetic clip for Take-Out Menus:


I can't stand finding take-out menus everwhere and I do not want them taking up my precious kitchen drawers, so I use a magnetic clip to put them all together and hang them on the side of my refrigerator.  This way they don't clutter the front of my fridge and can free that space up for some amazing kid art! Proud mamas have to display the fridge art! Am I right?

5.  Monthly Meal Plan:


Ok I know what you are thinking.  What?  You plan out what you are eating for a month at a time?  The answer is YES!  I started this a few years ago, b/c I hate asking myself the daily question we all dread "What's for dinner?".  I would forget to pull out meat to defrost and would end up eating something unhealthy or nothing at all.  This way, I plan and use what I have in my house, saving time and money (and who doesn't want to save money?).  Therefore, I purchased this dry erase board and began planning.  I like to begin mid-month to mid-month, this way I can actually plan for 5 full weeks at once!  I keep a running list of dinners my family enjoys and intersperse new recipes to try a few times a month.  I also use pictures to remind me of what's going on certain days.  As you can see, a baseball is on Monday's b/c my son has baseball practice at right at dinner time each week.  I reserve Monday's for easy meals (sandwiches) and crock pot meals. Saturdays are baseball game days and Thursdays are MY FAVORITE DAY of the week, b/c it's LEFTOVERS night and this mama does not have to cook!  

You want to try and meal plan but think you can't do it for a month? No worries.  I have several friends who plan for two weeks and repeat those weeks to make a full month's worth of meals.  Might be worth a try! 

6.  Metal Ring for Hair Ties:


So somewhere along the way, this small metal ring was found in my house at some point.  I don't recall where it came from.  Maybe a child's toy, maybe it has some other function, but for me, I now use it as a way to hold all my hair ties.  I slide them one to metal ring and hang the ring on my hand towel rack next to my sink in the bathroom.  This way when the towel is on it, my hair ties are hidden behind it.  I'm never without a hair tie anymore b/c I keep them all in one place. Finally!


And that's it.  Those are 6 of my life hacks that I use on a daily basis to survive this very busy life of ours!


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Facilitating Generalization: #2 Share Goals AND Progress with Others!


One aspect of a speech language pathologist's job that is imperative to successful communication is facilitating generalization as many of our students/clients struggle with showing their classroom teachers or parents all the skills they have mastered for us in the therapy room.  This series of posts will focus on tips, that have worked for me, which can help you facilitate generalization of learned skills to new environments.

Step #2: Share goals and progress with others!

I know this tip also sounds obvious, yet I've been shocked over and over with the number of times I've participated in a transition meeting for an incoming preschooler whose SLPs, classroom teachers or special educators could not explain what the student was working on in speech.  I also am aware of the fact that many school districts require a snapshot IEP to be presented to classroom teachers at the beginning of the school year, but it has been my experience that the beginning of the school year is overwhelming for everyone and those snapshots go by the wayside often without a glance.  So a simple email or written reminder of the basic goals your student is working on with you will go a long way in helping the classroom teacher.

Remember your student's success is not placed solely on his/her shoulders but should be the shared responsibility of all staff and guardians involved.  So remember to share the students goals AND progress with classroom teachers, special educators, academic coaches, school social workers or psychologists and of course parents.  A simple email or paper reminder will do the trick.  When I worked in the schools, I would update teachers weekly on students progress mostly through quick classroom visits (a "drive by" so to speak) or emails.  However, there are times I needed to have something in writing for parents or other staff and a very basic update.  Some of the things I was sure to share were not just overall IEP goals but, if I needed to back track and create a short term goal to reach those IEP goals, I would be sure to share those and the techniques and methods that work best for this student. Very rarely did I have to ask a teacher or parent to follow through with using the techniques as just sharing them seemed to be enough of an invitation to support them using them.

Tip:  I also would ask teachers how I could help them reach their goals for students.  This is the best way I have found to collaborate (especially for older elementary and middle school students).  Once teachers knew I wanted to support them, they were also willing to support me!

That's Step #2 in a nutshell.  If you missed Step #1 click here.  Stay tuned for Step #3 next week.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Facilitating Generalization: #1 Know Your Goals!


One aspect of a speech language pathologist's job that is imperative to successful communication is facilitating generalization as many of our students/clients struggle with showing their classroom teachers or parents all the skills they have mastered for us in the therapy room.  This series of posts will focus on tips, that have worked for me, which can help you facilitate generalization of learned skills to new environments.

Step #1:  Know Your Goals:
I know this sounds like an obvious one but you'd be surprised how times I've asked my students at the end of a session responded to me with a blank stare when I've asked them "So what did you work on in speech therapy today?".  I knew it was time to implement a change, and goal review was just the thing I needed.

With that in mind, my first tip is to make sure both you AND your students know the speech/language goals they are working on.  When I worked in the schools I would use a lesson plan and I wrote the students goals for each student so I could demonstrate how the activity/lesson would relate to goals.  It was a daily reminder to keep me on target and to be sure to keep data on those goals every session.

It is extremely important that your student know what he/she is working on in speech. Be clear.  Be short.  Use mnemonics, gestures, pictures or whatever it takes to make your students remember what they are supposed to be working on. Simply reviewing goals quickly at the beginning of sessions will also facilitate deficit awareness, deficit identification and even deficit correction (with less and less cuing over time) which most of our students lack initially and continue to struggle with during the therapy process. In addition, as has been my personal experience, a child who knows what he worked on in speech will go home and tell his parents what he did in speech therapy.  What better way to provide reminders of speech goals for parents than to have the child do the reminding!

Here is a great sheet Speech Language Pirates created for the purpose of sharing daily progress with staff and family members.  It's short, concise and you don't have to reinvent the wheel.  You could even have your older students fill out their own.

The surprising thing I noticed about myself, when I implemented goal review at the beginning of a therapy session is that it streamlined my data collection.  What I began to do was pick only one or two goals to work on during a session.  This way I could hit those goals hard during that session and work on other goals in subsequent sessions.

Note: Sometimes I will take qualitative data on the goals I am not currently targeting to determine if there is generalization from one session to the next for my own personal information.

So that's it for Step #1.

Come back next week and I'll share Step #2.
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Saturday, February 6, 2016

SLP Love Hurts: A Frenzied SLPs Link Up


It's February and LOVE is in the air!  The Frenzied SLPs know that sometimes love hurts and many times when we love our jobs and clients/students as much as we do, it can sometimes result in a bit of pain on our end.  So this Frenzied Link Up we are turning the "lovey dovey" feelings of St. Valentine's day upside down and sharing our "Love Hurts" stories from the lens of the SLP.

My story begins many many years ago.  I had been practicing speech pathology for about 5 years at this time, when I started a new job.  The first day on the job, I was raring and ready to go.  I was eager to prove myself and show this school they made the best hire choice.  So when I walked into the classroom to bring a little friend back to the speech therapy room, I was not at all worried when the classroom teacher cautioned me regarding his behaviors.  I was no longer the green SLP I was out of graduate school.  No. I was the savvy SLP, who had spent the last 5 years reading and researching various disorders and disabilities.  I was the energetic SLP who was not afraid to tackle any new challenge.  This was not my first rodeo.  I knew I "had this".

My new friend and I walked down the hallway to my therapy room and began play therapy without incident.  My confidence was building by the second.  I was going to conquer the world, or at least this caseload.  I was going to have all my non-verbal students talking within days of meeting me through my sheer determination and fun loving attitude.  Looking back I can see I had very high hopes that were quite unrealistic, but in the time, well, like I said, I thought "I had this".

Then something amazing happened.  Something wonderful.  Humiliating, but wonderful.  As I was confidently playing on the floor with my new friend, I leaned forward to pick up a car. Without skipping a beat, my new pal drove a race car in his right hand while he punched me in the eye with his left.  He didn't look up.  He didn't say a word.  In fact, I almost wasn't sure it actually happened, until my eye started to water.  Oh, it happened all right.  My right eye was beginning to swell.

In that moment I learned a lesson that has stayed with me for the rest of my life.  I broke a cardinal rule when I leaned forward and got too close to my new buddy.  I entered his personal space bubble and I did it without knowing if he was comfortable or ready for such an intrusion.  In time we became the best of friends and I loved his spunk and spark!  But that day, my first day on the job, I had to suck up my wounded pride and take him back to his classroom with a red, puffy, swollen eye.  Some of the best moments in my life have been moments such as this, moments when I have been a bit humbled.

So even though loving our job too much will sometimes result in a bit of pain, pain physically or pain to one's ego (Ha!),  the lesson I want to pass on to you today is the very one this little guy taught me that day several years:  never enter a child's personal space bubble without building a proper rapport first.  I've never forgotten this lesson and in fact, it's helped me many many times over the last decade.  I hope it helps you too!

I love my job.  Sometimes love hurts and sometimes, as John Cougar Mellencamp says, it "hurts so good".  This story, this lesson for me, was a good hurt and I'll always be grateful to my buddy for teaching me this lesson.

Have a tip or lesson you learned because #SLPLoveHurts?  Feel free to comment below.  (Please remember to keep all identifiable client information confidential)
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