Friday, December 9, 2016

ASHA 2016: Executive Function Skills and Task Management

Anthony Bashir, Ph.D. and Bonnie Singer, Ph.D. presented on a simple way SLPs, teachers and other school staff can think about, document and support the five core executive function (EF) processes in the school setting.

Note: This blog post is not to replace the presentation of Drs. Bashir and Singer, but to simply share with you some of the information I found helpful and important for my own clinical practice.  If you would like hear Drs. Bashir and Singer speak on this subject at your school you can contact them here.

What is an executive function?  EF is a brain based process dedicated to: 1) inhibit an automatic response (or action), 2) plan (figuring out "the WHAT" to do), 3) organization ("the HOW" to do it), 4) hold those plans in one's working memory (WM), and 5) maintain self-regulation (of emotions, behavior, cognition, language and learning)

1. Inhibition
2. Planning
3. Organizing
4. Working Memory
5. Self-Regulation

Note: Although these skills all develop over time from birth through to mid-20s (as seen by myelin growth), they do NOT develop in sync (thus supporting that EFs are actually multiple separate functions rather than one large function as previously thought years ago).  Rather they develop differently over time.  Therefore it is imperative to determine which EFs will inhibit a student's success for individualized tasks in order to address them effectively.

Task Management:

In order to manage a task (either daily living or school/academic activity), we need to use BOTH our EFs AND Self-Regulation (SR) skills SIMULTANEOUSLY in order to achieve success.  Yet, what are the EFs and SR skills we need to manage and complete a task?  They are not as simple as one might think.

Task management with Core EFs + Self-Regulation skills= Academic Success!

But what do we do for children with poor self-regulation skills? We need to teach our students to do the following:
  1. establish attainable goals to complete the task
  2. choose and use effective strategies to reach the goal
  3. self-monitor, evaluate, mediate one's performance with self-talk (positive)
  4. maintain motivation (either with internal loci of control or external--outside help from SLP/staff)
  5. seek support from other resources

When teaching our students effective self-talk, first we much know what type of self-talk they use.  Ask them "what's going on in your head right now?" or "what are you thinking?".  This will give you a glimpse of where they fall on the self-talk continuum.  We will likely have to spend much time on teaching our student's how to use positive self-talk in order to problem solve and reason through situations.  In fact, some children need to learn positive self-talk so they can initiate a project/task/activity.  The goal being that positive self-talk can assist them in initiating, maintaining and completing the realistic goal.

                                                         Self-Talk Continuum
Negative                                                                                                                         Positive
Counter Productive                                                                                                      Facilitating

Bashir and Singer shared what I like to call three rules that should govern our thinking when working with children and adults with EF difficulties.

The Rule of Reciprocity:

The Rule of Rapid Deterioration:

The Rule of Demands vs. Capacities:

Stay tuned for the next post where I'll share with you a bit about Bashir and Singer's suggestions regarding treatment for children and adults with EF deficits.

Happy Talking!

Monday, December 5, 2016

ASHA 2016: Word Finding Difficulties: Assessment and Treatment

If you missed the first post explaining the 3 types of error patterns exhibited by adolescents and adults with word finding deficits based on Dr. Diane German's work, click here.  Today we will be addressing Dr. German's suggestions for assessment and treatment for these deficits.

Please keep in mind, this information is only a small portion of the information presented by Dr. German.  I highly recommend you look into her work on word finding deficits and if you have a chance to hear her speak, to do so as it will be worth your while.

Dr. German suggests you can use both formal and informal assessment measures to analyze error patterns.   If you are interested in a formal standardized test, you may want to look into the Test of Adolescent/Adult Word Finding-Second Edition (TAWF-2).

However, if you are also interested in informally assessing word finding skills Dr. German recommends analysis of the following:

1.  Target Word Comprehension:  does the child/adult understand the concept of the target word?  (comprehension can be demonstrated receptively or expressively by pointing or labeling pictures)

2.  Delayed Response Time:  any word retrieval that is >3 secs. is considered an error (regardless of whether the word retrieved was correct).

3.  Responsiveness to Phonological Cues:  determine if the child is responsive and can retrieve the word with a phonological cue (either initial sound or syllable).  If word is retrieved it is still considered in error but this information will provide diagnostic information regarding the type of error pattern that exists.

4.  Ability to Imitate Segmented Word:  if the child/adult could not retrieve the word but could imitate the word segmented into syllables, this suggests it is more likely a word finding deficit rather than a motor planning issue.

5.  Nature and Target of Substitutions:  nature of the substitutions used will lead you to determine the type of error pattern (EP) (e.g. semantic substitutions-EP 1,  withdrawal/refusal (IDK)-EP 2,  phonological substitution-EP 3).

6.  Manifestation of secondary characteristics:  determining if secondary characteristics exists and what types are used will help also determine the type of EP the child/adult exhibits.

Note:  Knowing the word finding EP exhibited will guide our treatment in the strategies we will use as well as the types of curriculum terms/words we will practice with out students.


Goal:  a)  help the child with automatic retrieval of curricular vocabulary, b) decrease word finding behaviors (to typical range ~19% of the time) using strategies.

Error Pattern 1:

Teach:  EF Strategies:  1) self-monitoring, 2) self-correcting, 3) strategic pauses (i.e. pauses before content words, before the noun in a noun phrase, before the object in a prepositional phrase, etc.)

Choose to target:  high frequency words, that are short and have more common phonological patterns or combinations, such as words with large word families (Dr. German labels them as words "in dense neighborhoods").  For example words like "fan, man, pan, Stan, can, tan" is considered a "dense neighborhood".

Error Pattern 2:

Teach:  1) word meaning and metalinguistic reinforcement (number of syllables in word, etc.), 2) phonological mnemonic cues, 3) rehearsal of targeted word in isolation, phrases, sentences and discourse

Phonological Mnemonic Cue:  you are going to allow the child to come up with a familiar phrase with the 1st syllable of the word being the phonological cue in order to recall the word.   Example provided during the presentation was a boy trying to recall the word "density" so he made a phonological mnemonic cue that meant something to him "Denver city".

Choose:  less frequent, less familiar words in "sparse neighborhoods" (less common phonological combinations or fewer number of members in a word family).

Error Pattern 3:

Teach:  1) metalinguistic reinforcement, 2) phonological mnemonic cue, 3) rehearse target word (isolation, phrase, sentence, discourse)

Example of phonological mnemonic cue:  for the word "paradox", the cue is "pair of socks".

Note: same techniques as EP 2 

Choose:  multisyllabic words, that have unfamiliar/atypical/infrequently used phonological patterns/sound combos, from "sparse neighborhoods".  

Remember: for any and all error types, the goal is always to teach the child which type or types (there can be a combination) of error patterns they use AS WELL AS their strategies.  The goal is not to eliminate word finding difficulties but to teach strategies so as to reduce these difficulties to those of typical peers (i.e. word finding deficits are exhibited ~19% of the time). For more information regarding this incidence, please refer to Dr. German's work.

Stay tuned for more posts from specific sessions I attended at ASHA 2016.  Remember, if you are looking for more posts regarding my ASHA16 experience, to look under the label "ASHA 2016" by scrolling down to the labels section on the right side of this page.

Happy Talking!

Monday, November 28, 2016

ASHA 2016: Word Finding Difficulties: 3 Error Patterns

This is the first official post recapping specific sessions I attended during the ASHA 2016 Convention.  You can access more posts labeled "ASHA 2016" under the labels section found in the right tool bar of this page (you'll need to scroll down) once they are published.

Diane German, Ph.D., presented a session on word-finding difficulties.  Just for a little background information for those of you unfamiliar with Dr. German, she’s a professor at National Louis University, Chicago and has done some wonderful work in the area of word-finding and word-retrieval deficits.  Her research has lead to the creation on the Test of Word-Finding-Third Edition (TWF-3) and just this year, the publication of the second edition of the Test of Adolescent/Adult Word-Finding-Second Edition (TAWF-2).  So to hear her speak was a great pleasure for me.  I recommend that you take advantage of hearing her if you ever get the chance.  What I will share will you in this and a follow up post is the basic information I took away from her presentation but it is far from everything she discussed.

Although I could never do justice to Dr. German's presentation, I will share with you the things I learned during her session and why they are important to me as a clinician.

What I learned from Dr. Diane German:

  1.  Is word-finding deficit a language delay?:  Although Wallach (2008) was able to determine that word-finding deficits can co-occur with language deficits, Dr. German reports that they can also occur independently and that it’s extremely important to use in-depth assessment and error analysis to determine the types of word-finding difficulties present in order to treat effectively.  Keep in mind in-depth assessment is much MORE than picture naming.
  2.   3 types of word-finding error patterns (EP) and Interventions: 

    Next post I'll share a bit about assessment and intervention Dr. German recommends for each error pattern type.
    Happy Talking!

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Big Picture: Top Three Things I Learned at ASHA 2016

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the ASHA 2016 convention in Philadelphia, PA this year.  I had a great time meeting up with old friends from graduate school, making some new SLP friends and attending some really great sessions.  The thing I find the most interesting is seeing "the big picture".  I enjoy listening to speakers explain information from their area of expertise and research, of course, but what I find the most fascinating is the fact then when I take a step back, I can see how each session's information fits into the very big puzzle of that thing we all label as "communication".  Standing on the outside looking in, is so advantageous as we can see where links exist between each individual area and how these links support, aid, and assist other areas of communication.  With that concept of "big picture" in mind I'd like to share with you a list of some of my take-aways from this conference.

The top THREE things I learned at ASHA 2016:

1.  It's all about LANGUAGE:
     It doesn't matter WHAT the diagnosis is, the research is supporting our crucial role in language intervention as the KEY to unlocking so many other areas of language.  We all knew this right?  Well now we have the research to support it!  For example:

  • Bashir, Gillam, Montgomery and Singer shared the NEED for more treatment targeting language comprehension for children with SLI who also exhibit WM (working memory) capacity limitations.  They explained how research is showing there is NO VIABLE way we can actually INCREASE one's working memory capacity, therefore our shift in treatment should be to make other skills automatic, which are currently using up a lot of working memory resources.  If we cannot increase a child's WM capacity, we can at least help the child master linguistic skills to the point of automaticity so as to free up WM to learn novel information.
  • Katz and Fallon discussed how to we can effectively assess written language skills, and guess where they began?  Comprehension of both spoken and written language (a.k.a. reading).  To fully assess written language abilities we need to first know how the child understands spoken language and comprehends reading in order to determine how those skills relate to their verbal expression, both in oral expression and in writing.
  • Mirasala, Jagla, and Knapp shared the invisible obstacles (impacts on behavioral, academic, social, executive function skills) adolescents with SLI experience and how they manifest as children get older.
  • Camarata and Lancaster are asking us to reconceptualize SLI as a continuum rather than a specific entity due to the nature of the symptomology and numerous subtypes we currently see exist under this diagnosis.  Moving toward a continuum approach could completely change the way additional services in the school setting can be provided.  If we determine a spectrum of severity, would that not lend us to provide treatment and support according to severity level rather than simply diagnosis? 
  • Diane German shared her research regarding the three types of word finding issues, their characteristics, and assessment and treatment.  Once we take note of which word finding subtype(s) the child demonstrates we can build our treatment around the effect techniques her research currently supports.
  • Kahmi, Vermiglio and Wallach, shared their support for the need to understand the linguistic underpinnings that lie unearthed in many children diagnosed with (C)APD.  Their research suggests if we can adequately identify the underlying language issue, this population could be treated far more effectively and efficiently than current practices.
  • Bashir and Singer (again?! I KNOW but they are great!) explained how improvement in language skills can effectively enhance the 5 core EFs (executive functions) students require for daily living and academic success.
      I'd love to go on and on but just looking at this list ALONE supports my new motto "It's all about the Language, 'bout the Language, no trouble"! (influenced of course by the lovely Meghan Trainor)

2.  Be META:
     I wonder if we, as SLPs, are so focused on trying to reach our goals (data=proof=progress...but does it? Hmmm.) and teach specific skills that we forget probably the most important part of language intervention, teaching our children strategies that will generalize to novel experiences, unfamiliar classroom assignments and new daily life situations.  There is empirical support for teaching our students to use language (internal-self talk, or external-self talk) to THINK about THINKING, to THINK about LANGUAGE for numerous populations (EF deficits, WM difficulties, SLI, ASD, anxiety, depression, etc.).  We call these skills metacognition and metalinguistics.  We not only see the use of metacognition and metaglinguistics skills improving executive function skills BUT there is also some evidence supporting the use of these skills to teach ToM (Theory of Mind), or now the newest "fancy schmancy" term I heard at the conference, ISL (Internal State Whatev's you know what I'm talking about either way) for children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders).  In fact, I did attend an interesting discussion on ToM which reviewed a very small scale study (2 subject single case design comparison) which compared the use of repeated book reading as a method to facilitate ToM in a child with SLI and a child with ASD.  The findings suggested repeated book reading was a very good technique for the child with SLI, as the child improved in answering various types of ToM questions over time with repeated exposure.  The child with ASD, demonstrated more resistance and for some question types, even negative trends rather than improvements, based on this one study.  Of course we cannot throw out the baby with the bathwater here based on one study but it may help us to begin thinking about how important teaching and modeling metalinguistic and metacognitive skills can be for our ASD population with regards to ToM/ISL facilitation.   Interesting stuff, nonetheless.  So, don't forget to be meta and teach these very necessary skills to our students. 

3.  Success takes TIME and HARD WORK: 
     If you are an SLP with a huge caseload or a parent with a child struggling reading this, please understand that NONE of the improvements happen over night.  Many of the presenters expressed that these types of deficits and delays take a lot of time and hard work for the child to achieve success.  Note that I did not say "achieve remediation" or "achieve typical functioning", or "achieve all A's on their report card".  The idea of success for ANY of our students/clients should be synonymous with the terms "functional" and "independent" (to the degree they can be).  There is no magic cure, no pill, no computer program, no app, no one-size-fits-all technique that can ever substitute for hard work and individualized instruction.  So be patient with yourselves and with your students/clients.  See the real functional progress you are making, and be sure to get the most bang for your buck.  Use the strategies what will facilitate this "success" by giving the child the skills to use and generalize to other settings.  You know the old adage "Catch a fish, a man eats for a day.  Teach him to fish he eats for a lifetime."  So, let's teach our kids to fish!

Happy talking and fishing!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Progress Monitoring: Baselines and Beyond

The Frenzied SLPs are discussing data collection now that school is back in full swing!  Today I'll be sharing one way I like to take daily data quickly when I have a client with several goals in a 1:1 therapy setting.  If you'd like to see how I took data in the school setting click here.

Firstly, when working in private practice, I like to create a basic treatment plan, a course of action in which I would like to see progress.  Below is an example of a basic treatment plan.

Then I take the goal sheet and create a daily data sheet:
1.  I align the goal #s from the treatment plan to the goal sheet so I know which goals I am targeting without having to re-write them for each session.
2.  I can simply take data only on the goals I target each session.
3.  I also add a place for additional notes.
4.  I would typically hand write on this form, rather than type.  So if I would need additional lines for notes, I would simply continue to the next like and so on until I finished the note.  Then simply add the date of the next session on the next fully clear line.

And that's it!  I can use one sheet of paper for numerous therapy sessions without having to write re-write goals or other excessive information.

How about you?  Do you have a quick data collection system too?  Feel free to share!

Happy Talking!

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Colleague Question #1: ASD client swallows pool water. What do I do?

Often times, I will receive questions from colleagues via email or FB private messages regarding specific cases they are dealing with.  I tend to shoot back an email but I have been thinking lately that it might help to share these responses with you too.  Maybe they will help or maybe they will spurn a few additional great ideas from you that you can share with your fellow colleagues.  So here is the first post in this "Colleague Question" series.

A fellow colleague writes:

"I have a client with ASD and SPD...he loves swimming but can't stop swallowing the pool water. He also struggles with swallowing instead of spitting during teeth brushing.  His parents have suspended his swimming lessons even though he so enjoys them because he can become ill from all the water he takes in...Any suggestions?"

Some of you reading this question may be asking yourselves "What does this have to do with speech therapy or communication?", yet, the reality is, as SLPs, we may be the only service provider for some children and therefore, the only source of guidance and education for parents.  It's important for us to fully understand sensory needs in our ASD population and how we can assist parents in providing effectively for those needs.

For this particular case, let me first say that it is important to keep safety at the forefront of decision making for our clients so I can understand why the child's parents would suspend swimming lessons at this time. However, for children who have sensory needs it is almost painful for me to hear a child not being able to participate in such an enjoyed activity.  I'm sure swimming provides some wonderful sensory input as well as a wonderful social opportunity for this child and my hope would be to find a way to get this child back to swimming lessons as soon as possible.  As this is a safety issue, we cannot encourage this behavior even if it provides some sensory feedback for the child.  What I would suggest is possibly finding a way to appropriately replace this behavior with something safer that the child can do in the water while still providing some type of sensory input.

An acceptable compromise would be to try and replace drinking the pool water with blowing bubbles with lip trill (sounding like a "motor boat") or humming with child's lips sealed while in the water (nose and eyes above water).   Either of these options will still provide sensory input to the child's face but will encourage water to be blown away from lips, or in the case of "humming", total lip closure.  These activities can be practiced at home during bath time so that the child can master one or both of these replacement behaviors initially, then transferred to practicing them in the pool during non-lesson times first, following by adding them during swimming lessons.

To aid in decreasing swallowing of saliva during teeth brushing, it might help child to have a visual goal to encourage a replacement behavior.  Possibly parents can teach the child to spit often (every few brush strokes) into a small disposable bathroom cup.  They could make a game out of it by brushing their teeth together with the child, modeling how to brush and spit often.  Parents and child can each have their own cup in which they draw a large line on the outside of cup indicating a stopping point.  Whomever fills up the cup to that line first wins the game.  This encourages spitting often while making this activity, hopefully a bit reinforcing, creating excitement and fun!  Of course it doesn't sound very appealing to be spitting into a cup and having to look at it for us as adults, but the visual may provide the child with a concrete goal so that he can learn how to spit rather than swallow during teeth brushing.  Over time this activity can be modified to see who can spit in the sink a certain number of times, and so on, so that the cup gets faded out and typical teeth brushing remains.

I hope these suggestions help.  Have any suggestions of your own you'd like to add?  Feel free to comment below.

Look for more posts in this new series to come over the next few weeks.  If you have a specific question you'd like answered feel free to email me at  You just might see your question pop up in this series.  (Note: all identifiable information will remain confidential.)

Happy talking and swimming this summer!
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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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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Frenzied SLPs Link Up: Quick and Easy Recipes

Today the Frenzied SLPs are linking up to bring you some of our favorite fun easy recipes for your frenzied days.  My recipe is less of a recipe and more of a cheat make shift meal but here goes.

For the days I have no time whatsoever to cook or days like the past weekend, where I spend hours shoveling and had little or no energy for anything else, my crock pot becomes my most favorite kitchen appliance.

Easy Peasy Crock Pot Meatball Subs:

1) bag of frozen meatballs
2) 1-2 jars of tomato sauce (depending on how much you like. We use 2.)
3)  provolone cheese (or cheese of your choice)
4)  Rolls

Directions:  Throw the bag of frozen meatballs into a crock pot (on top of a spoonful or two of tomato sauce), and cover with tomato sauce.  Set on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.  Once done, add cheese and meatballs to rolls and voila', you have an easy peasy meatball sub!

Tip:  We tend to make all the meatballs at once and just freeze smaller portions of what we have left so they too can be a quick meal at another time.

Sides:  We like to add a quick Ceasar salad with this as a side using 1 head of romaine lettuce, some chopped/slices black olives, shredded Parmesan cheese, and some Ceasar dressing.

And that's it!  A piping hot meal waiting for you when you are ready to sit down and eat!   

Do you have a favorite crock pot meal for your frenzied days?  Feel free to share below. I'm always looking for new recipes!!! 

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