Monday, May 25, 2015

Tip Monday: Finishing the Year Strong!

So today I'm linking up with The Frenzied SLPs page to discuss what get's us through the tough times of work!  I have a few tricks I use when times get tough to get me through the bad days and here they are (not in any particular order):

1. CHOCOLATE!: Yes, yes, I know you are saying "Duh!" but seriously, always have some types of sweets on hand for the stressful moments!  Take five and have a bite.  Let those endorphines release inside your brain to help take away some of that stress!

2. 5 mins of darkness: I have done this several times when I feel a stress migraine coming on.  I just close my laptop, turn off my light and shut my office door.  When it was really bad I used to lay on the floor b/c it's cooler on the floor and helps with the dizziness that accompanies my migraines.  If the door was shut, most people knew not to disturb!

3.  Christmas Music:  WHAT?  I know this sounds crazy, but Christmas carols just put me in a good mood. I've always LOVED the season and when all else failed, I'd pop in a trusty Christmas CD (that I keep on hand all year long for such occassions!), and play it loud enough just for me to enjoy!  It's reminds me of the time of year when people are generous, happy, understanding and compassionate to others.  I love it!  Christmas music not your thing? I understand.  Pick whatever CD or type of music you'd like.  Just remember to keep it on hand for these moments because sometimes a GREAT day turns badly very quickly when you have a terrible IEP or staff meeting!

4.  Pep talk: The last think I recommend doing is giving yourself a pep talk.  Keep nice parent notes or teacher emails handy and when you feel the world is pushing you down, read these things. Remember your toughest cases and how well they succeeded.  Remember why you are in this profession in the first place.  And always tell yourself, "you'll never have this day again".  How great does that feel to remember that you'll never have to go through the pain and stress of this day again? Or remember that this day isn't over and you can still do something to make it great!  Either way it's a win-win.

Good luck. I know the end of the school year is crunch time!  Just take a breath, grab some chocolate, hum a little bit of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (or your musical choice) and I'll see ya' on the other side!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

An SLp's Role in RtI: My Story!

I'm happy to be linking up to Speech Language Literacy Lab's monthly link up about RtI for Better Speech and Hearing Month!

Many, many years ago, when RtI was in it's infancy, I participated in one of the most effective RtI teams of which I have ever had the opportunity to be a part.  So what made it work?  First and foremost the number one thing that made this team work was that we had a strong administrator. Our principal had a vision and she brought it to fruition by making all involved in RtI accountable.  Allow me to explain how it worked.

The RtI team was ran by the reading specialist.  The principal believed that the reading specialist should not just be there to educate staff on how to teach reading but to actually teach reading to the younger, at-risk students.  What a novel idea, use the most qualified person to teach these students! So here was the process:

1.  Teachers who had concerns with a student's classroom performance (either in reading or math) would have to contact the reading specialist (via email usually) to request their student be discussed at one of the RtI meetings.

2.  The reading specialist scheduled the students on a first come first serve basis and the RtI team met every Tuesday afternoon 3:00-3:30 (the time at the very end of the day when other teachers and aids could help take students out to their buses/parents waiting).

3.  The RtI team was comprised of:  The reading specialist (leader and note taker), an administrator (usually the principal but sometimes the vice principal), a special education teacher, the SLP (yours truly), the school psychologist (if she was there which she usually was b/c Tuesday was also our IEP day), a specials teacher (music, PE, art teachers rotated), and 2 regular education teachers (one for lower grades and one for upper grades).  (The regular educators volunteered at the beginning of the year as one of their mandatory committees).

4.  As each student was discussed, the student's classroom teacher would also be present and it was MANDATORY that the teacher bring data regarding the student's strengths and weaknesses EACH time we met on that student.  IF the teacher did not provide data, the administrator had no other choice but to determine that the teacher did not take data, and therefore we could not effectively determine if various strategies trialed worked or if the student was in fact not responding to intervention.

5. Upon every meeting, we followed these steps: a) teacher discussed child's strengths, b) teacher addressed concerns and shared data on current weaknesses (if this was not the 1st time we've met on this student this would be the time that the teacher also provided the data she/he took when using the suggested strategies from the previous RtI meeting to determine if the student was making progress and what strategies were working or not working), c) brainstorming possible strategies/accommodations to trial in the classroom, additional interventions as needed (these were discussed and agreed upon by the team), d) strategies were written down on the RtI paperwork and teacher signed and recieved her/his own copy with a follow-up meeting date (6-9 weeks later depending on the schedule).

So that was the basic process of RtI.  But what was my role as the SLP?  Well I worked hand in hand with the reading specialist to determine if an at risk student demonstrated phonological awareness issues that were affecting progress in reading.  So the reading specialist tackled sight words, decoding strategies and fluency and I tackled phonological awareness.  Sometimes we both noted deficits in both areas, and sometimes a student had great phonological awareness but did not use decoding strategies correctly or lacked memory skills for sight words, etc.  So the reading specialist would take over in that area.

I also enjoyed being part of the critical thinking portion of the RtI process, throwing out accommodations and strategies I've used on my language delayed or speech delayed students. You'd be surprised how helpful our suggestions can be for kiddos struggling with reading and math, especially math word problems.  To me, participating in RtI, always felt like 1) it was interesting to determine the best way each student learned, and 2) I got to know these students better ahead of time so that if I did end up having to test them for various communication deficits, I felt I already had some good background knowledge on some of their strengths and weaknesses.

Another thing I was grateful for, was that my administrator really deferred all speech and language questions and decisions to me!  This means there was never a student inappropriately referred for testing or overlooked.  Often times, I would question comprehension (auditory or reading) long before the classroom teacher.  I think I was one of the few SLPs they ever had who offered to perform classroom observations and quick screenings to determine if further testing was required.  This also helped me with furuer teacher cooperation as I think, teachers felt as though their concerns were being heard through this RtI process.  I did not overtest and I never left a student of concern untested.

The result of this cooperation from the team is that the number of at-risk students decreased significantly as the year went on!  The students identified early in the year (K, 1st-2nd grade) were often times no longer requiring any intervention from myself and very little if any intervention from the reading specialist by mid-spring.  The students who continued to struggle were the ones who went on to receive additional testing and often times were labled with some type of disability and recommended to receive special education services.  Fourth and fifth graders were not brought to RtI that often.  By that age, most students were either identified or appeared to be developing at a comprable rate to that of their peers.  If a student was in 4th or 5th grade and brought to RtI, it was usually a transfer student  who as new to us that year.

So that was my best experience with RtI and I really saw, via this team and based on the data, it worked for at-risk students.  It worked because our administrator held all of us accountable to take our data and present it.  It worked because it was organized.  It worked because the administrator was smart enough to use the most qualified people to address the needs of each child!
I hope you too, have had a great RtI experience and have seen it change lives!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Giveaway: Learning to Read is a Ball

You have read my review of this amazing book on Tuesday.  Now it's time for a giveaway!  Kimberly Scanlon will generously be giving away one copy of her latest book, Learning to Read is a Ball, for FREE to one lucky winner!  All you have to do is comment below and tell me why you want to win this book.  

You have until midnight tonight to comment.  I will use a random numbers generator (corresponding each comment by the number in which it is received; e.g. first comment is number 1, second comment number 2, and so on.) to choose which person will win a free copy.

The winner will be announced ON THIS BLOG POST TOMORROW, Saturday May 16th, 2015.  So come on back tomorrow to find out if you are the lucky winner!  Good luck!

May 16, 2015 Update:

Before I announce the winner let me just say for those of you who have not won, you can still grab this awesome book at a GREAT deal but ONLY during BSHM!  It's on sale for UNDER $10 on and the kindle version, under $4!!!!  GRAB IT before it goes back to regular price.  Ok now to announce the winner!

Ok I added in all the comments that I received until this morning.  I noted that one comment was added twice below so that was counted at 1 single comment.  The total number of comments were 8 for this giveaway.  I used the number generator at and, our winner is....

Comment #6!!!  Congratulations to Stephanie!  I need you to either reply below or email me (at with  your email address so I can pass it along to Kimberly Scanlon to get in touch with you regarding your prize!!!

Thank you to all who entered the giveaway!  

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review: Learning to Read is a Ball

Kimberly Scanlon, M. A., CCC-SLP, author of My Toddler Talks and owner of Scanlon Speech Therapy does it AGAIN!!!  She authored another great family resource for communication development, Learning to Read is a Ball.

Ok SLPs, am I very excited about sharing this book review with you today!  As you all know I am an SLP who loves to work closely with parents, to educate and effectively train parents on communication facilitation techniques and this book is RIGHT UP MY ALLEY!

Learning to Read is a Ball is a one of a kind book! It's not only a fun, engaging, colorful and highly entertaining children's book, but it's also a wonderful resource for parents as it explains EXACTLY what a parent can do to faciliate oral language, phonological awareness and print awareness.

What I love about this book:

1. It's parent friendly!
2. It explains in simple terms what oral language, phonological awareness and print awareness is and several ways (techniques, games, etc.) a parent can facilitate these skills.
3.  It's the perfect "cheat sheet" for parents, educators, developmental interventionists, pediatricians, speech-pathologists, etc. (anyone who serves young children) to refer to when attempting to facilitate these skills with this book as well as other books.
4.  All techniques suggested are backed by research. How much do we love evidence-based practices?!
5.  ALL this great information is in ONE BOOK!
6.  And the BEST part? It's AFFORDABLE (discounted prices for rest of this month...under $11 for the book, under $5 on Kindle, so act fast)!!!

For some time, I have been trying to find a concise way to educate parents within my therapy sessions regarding how to get the most out of book reading with their children.  Now I have this wonderful resource to do this very thing for/with me!

This book could be an amazing resource in your speech arsenal as well.  It could also be a great gift to new parents.  I know what I'm buying for the next book-themed baby shower I plan on attending!

So check out Learning to Read is a Ball (grab it on Amazon here) as well as Kimberly Scanlon's other great gem, My Toddler Talks (this is another great book I use for parent education). I promise you, you won't regret it!

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Review of KLBA

Do you need something to streamline your RTI process for your incoming Kindergarten kiddos?  Do you need something that is quick and easy to administer, or something that provides a means to demonstrate progress throughout the school year?  Well you've come to the right place today because I will be reviewing the Kindergarten Language Benchmark Assessment (KLBA).

Picture courtesy of:
The KLBA is a product of Speech Language Literacy Lab, LLC and was created by two speech-language pathologists.
Ages: 5-6 years

Administration time: Within 5 minutes (depending on your familiarity of the test protocol and how quickly you can transcribe responses)

Population: KLBA was created to be used on both monolingual and bilingual speakers with the expressed purpose to reduce over-identification of ELL (English language learners) by "reducing expressive grammar requirements" according to the manual.

Picture courtesy of

What areas does this assessment target?
  • Auditory Comprehension: answering simple questions after hearing a short story accompanied with a picture.
  • Following Directions:  following simple and multi-step directions.
  • Categories Receptive: identifying which two items (from a field of three) belong to the same category.
  • Categories Expressive: naming the category to which the items belong.
  • Narrative Language: telling a simple narrative given various prompts.
How does this assessment work?

After giving each prompt to the students you determine the raw score (RS) by adding up the number of correct responses for each subtest and place the RS in the designated spot on the score table.  Then total the RS for all subtests.

Once all students in the class have been assessed, order all scores from highest to lowest.  Separate the scores by quarters and provide Tier 2 RtI services to those students that fall in the bottom 15-25% of the class.

Assess in the Fall, Winter and Spring (3x/year) and move children in and out of the respected Tier 2 intervention services based on their improvement or lack their of upon reassessment.

What I like about this assessment:
  • It is quick and easy to administer.
  • It is language based and a quick, concise way to determine which students should be followed and which students require RtI services at which designated tier.
  • The assessment can be given three times a year to monitor and demonstrate progress.
  • You can move students in and out of RtI services based on a student's progress or lack there of.
  • This assessment is looking for content not correct grammatical forms, which are often incorrectly produced not only by children with language disorders/delays but also by children who are truly ELL.
  • Students' scores are compared to each other within each classroom therefore allowing for differences in performance among various classrooms. It could become obvious that one particular classroom is in more need of services based on the number of students who fall below 25% performance and could result in some more classroom based or push-in RtI services.
  • This could also aid in streamlining an SLP's RtI caseload and responsibilities depending on how the SLP is used within the RtI process.
What I'd like to see:
  • I would like to see how this particular measure identifies the at-risk population over time.
  • I would also like to see how SLPs and regular educators are working together to use this measure to streamline their RtI identification process for this young student population.
What other purposes could this be used for?

I can see this particular measure being used in a number of ways including:
  • When SLPs are transitioning their PK students to K, they can provide the incoming teacher and new SLP with the student's current KLBA performance prior to the beginning of the school year, regardless of whether they will remain on the speech therapy caseload for the K year.
  • For schools who do have some type of K screening process prior to beginning the school year, using the KLBA at that time would be a perfect time to determine who would begin with RtI services as soon as the school year commences.
  • SLPs could use the KLBA as part of their initial screenings as well or for whole classroom screenings as some school districts require their SLPs to do.  This could be an invaluable time saver!
  • I can even see the KLBA being used by a private practitioner as part of a quick and dirty community screening.  Any young children struggling on the KLBA can be referred for further testing as needed.  In addition, this product could be particularly helpful in an area where there are a high number of bilingual speakers.

So there are a number of reasons I like this assessment and a number of ways I can envision the KLBA to be used.  If you are interested in purchasing it please go to the KLBA webpage to find out more.

I am grateful to Speech Language Literacy Lab, LLC for giving me the opportunity to review the KLBA and am looking forward to hearing from any of you out there as to your impressions of this test.  Do you think this could help you in your RtI process?   Have you used it in the past?  Comment below.
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