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Monday, November 21, 2016

My SLP Story



Looking back I there’s no doubt I was meant to be a Speech Language Pathologist.

It just took me a little while to realize it.

As a child, when my younger brother had difficulty communicating due to recurring ear infections, I’m told I was the only one who could understand him, often serving as his translator (“He wants a tissue!”)

But when I had the opportunity to observe the speech therapist at my mother’s school I was less than enthralled. Little did I know just how much more to our field there was than articulation drills.

So for a while I entertained I the idea of being a nurse. But when I got to college and saw the amount of calculus involved (yikes!) I promptly switched my major to psychology and upon graduation happily stumbled into the growing field of behavior therapy. 

Working with young children recently diagnosed with autism fascinated me.  I spent the next three years doing in-home Applied Behavior Analysis including serving as a shadow aide in classrooms, facilitating play dates, training families, and collaborating with other professionals, including SLPs.

And man, the SLP’s had hands down the best gig.

Watching a child’s frustration fade as he finally got his message across, witnessing the joy of her family as she spoke a new word – it was thrilling!

I mean seriously what could be cooler than helping a child communicate?

I applied and was fortunate to accepted to a program in my home of San Francisco. Although at the time the 3 and ½  years of grad school seemed daunting, it went by in a flash and I’ve never looked back. To this day I’m still thrilled with each new skill acquired, no matter how small, enjoy collaborating with parents, teachers, and other professionals and love that our field gives us the opportunity to never stop learning. Transitioning from early intervention to working with school-age and middle school students last year was a huge learning curve but as SLP’s we thrive on those challenges, don’t we?


So that’s pretty much why I became an SLP. Well that and the hugs. You can’t beat the hugs;)




Thanks to Kristen Immicke of Talkin with Twang and The Frenzied SLP's for letting me link up! Looking forward to checking out more SLP stories!





Tuesday, November 24, 2015

5 Things You Didn't Know About This SLP




I'm thrilled to be participating in this Linky Party and sharing 5 things you may not know about me. Huge thanks to Jessica Cassidy from The Speech Space for hosting! I'm looking forward to hopping around and discovering a few new things about some of my favorite SLP bloggers too. 

As for me here goes:


1. Before I was a Speech Language Pathologist, I was an ABA therapist. For 3 years I served families of young children newly diagnosed with autism through in-home behavior therapy. I enjoyed finding ways to incorporate play into my sessions and collaborating with parents and other professionals. And of course nothing beat the acquisition of those first words! To this day I'm still passionate about early intervention and still elated watching one of my students master a new concept. Isn't this just the best?    


2. I love learning new sports. From horse back riding to pole vault, I've always embraced the challenge of a new physical endeavor. When I was eleven I even decided to teach myself the very useful skill of unicycle riding. Mountain biking is my latest obsession. My brother took me on my first ride and I'm hooked. 



3. The Star Spangled Banner makes me cry. Growing up in a military family has made me unusually patriotic. The service men and women who risk their lives to protect our freedom will always be my heroes. Hearing the national anthem before a race or Giants game is a reminder to me of all the hard fought liberties I take for granted and it just gets me. 

4. I can think of no better job than helping a child communicate. Even though I'm finding this year extremely stressful, I still couldn't imagine doing anything else. Working with a variety of populations and wide a range of needs keeps me on my toes! I could do without the paperwork but otherwise relish every aspect of our field from assessment to treatment to collaborating with teachers (my other heroes). 


5. I recently became an aunt! I can't wait to spend the week of Thanksgiving getting to know this little one:



Thanks for checking out my blog! Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday:)




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why I love the BIG GREEN MONSTER

I just adore Halloween. Not sure why. Maybe because I'm really just a giant child. The excitement is palpable around school these days and its not hard to engage my students in conversation; They are more than willing chat about what costume they plan on wearing and what candy they hope to receive. So as an SLP I'm naturally taking full advantage of the language opportunities:)

One of my favorite preschool themes this time of year is Monsters! And the book I find myself returning to year after year is:



For those not familiar with this one, Go Away Big Green Monster is a picture book on which each page a piece of a monster's face is creatively added, from his "two big yellow eyes" to his "scraggly purple hair." When the monster is complete, it is determined "You don't scare me!" and page by page each body part disappears with an emphatic "Go Away!" 

I make this book interactive with free visuals from KizClub which I laminate and attach with velcro to a felt board. 


Before diving into the story, I first introduce the vocabulary by taking out each item and setting it on the table (e.g., This is the monster's long blue nose, These are the monster's little squiggly ears. . .) As we read the story, each child then has the opportunity to place each body part on the monster's face (after requesting of course:) At the climax there's a third opportunity to practice the vocabulary as each body part is taken off and thrown down with an energetic "Go Away!" This part's a hit. Every. Single. Time. 

Go Away Big Green Monster is short, simple but still effective in targeting:
  • Body parts
  • S-blends (Scraggly, Squiggly, Scare, Monster)
  • Emotion words (Scared, Brave)
  • Comparative words (We talk about the monster getting "scarier" as each body part is added)
  • Negation (You don't scare me!)

But I think my #1 favorite thing about monsters is the opportunity to build understanding and use of:

    ATTRIBUTES 

Big, Little, Long, Short, Tall, Scary, Mean, Silly, Round, Sharp, Bumpy, Smooth, Fat, Skinny . . . 

These concepts are easy to reinforce. All you need is some play-doh and a few Mr. Potato Head pieces and you're got . . .  MONSTERS!



Instead of giving my students free access to the pieces, I lay them out and require them to request. If they ask for a nose, I show them their options (e.g., I have a big orange nose or a small red nose) and prompt them to use an attribute to describe which one they want (e.g., I want the big orange nose.) I always love how the play-doh monsters turn out - each one so cute and different!

And of course when we're ready to clean up, each piece gets put back with a "Go Away!"

If you're a music fan like me, this app puts the book to music with great visuals and an extremely catchy song (Although be warned - This song will be in your head ALL day.)  But if you've got an iPad and your students respond to this story as much as mine have, I've found it's been well worth it as just one more way to reinforce the language and concepts.



These are a few of the ways we stayed fired up. Have you used Big Green Monster in speech therapy before? Leave me a comment - I'd love to hear how!

Thanks so much for checking out my blog!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Top Tools for the Preschool SLP


#1 Magic Wand!


No speech therapist should be without a magic wand! This immediately captures my preschoolers' attention as we review our daily schedule and rules. I use the wand to point to each visual, then push a button which makes it light up with a fun “whoosh!” sound. As the year progresses my students enjoy taking on the responsibility of being my “magic wand helper,” using it to review our daily activities (e.g. “First we will say hello” – whoosh!, “Then we will do sound cards” –whoosh! . . ). I target a ton of speech language objectives during this time including: increasing sentence length, sequencing, using the future tense, as well as articulation and fluency.   

#2 Hand Stamps


What would I do without my hand stamps?? I picked these up at Lakeshore and always carry some with me at all times. Not only are hand stamps great for reinforcing positive behavior, but they can be also be used to encourage children to request, make a choice, increase sentence length, build vocabulary, improve articulation, and answer yes/no & where questions.

This is how we use them: I ask each child if they would like a stamp, then give them a choice (e.g. Do you want a butterfly or a ladybug?) encouraging them to respond with a sentence ("I want a ladybug"). After they have requested I ask where they'd like it and prompt them to respond with a sentence such as “on my hand.” Even my students with extremely limited language have picked up this simple phrase because we’ve made it part of our routine. Some of my older students have fun requesting the stamps be placed on their fingers, thumb, wrist, elbow, and shoulders, so there’s the added benefit of increasing vocabulary of body parts as well. I couldn't survive without at least one of these in my back pocket;)

#3 Mini-boxes
The mini-boxes quickly became a favorite in my preschool speech sessions last year. These pill boxes can be picked up inexpensively up at any drug store (or check the dollar bin at Target!). I place a small piece of velcro on the top of each box to which I attach various small pictures. I generally choose pictures which correspond to the vocabulary of our current theme, but have some which target actions and specific phonologic processes. The mini-boxes may be used receptively (Find the tiger) or expressively (“I want to open the giraffe”). After selecting the box, my students then push the button to open the box, not only gaining practice using both these verbs, but building fine motor skills as well. The boxes are the perfect size to fit a goldfish cracker, cereal, popcorn, M&M, or small sticker.   




This small file has been perfect for keeping all my icons organized:


I’ve used Boardmaker to create many of my pictures, but if you do not have access to this program at your school, I’ve created a collection of small pictures which are available for free in my store:


Any favorite tools that keep you and your students fired up? Love to hear from you!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Best Thing I Learned this Summer


Hi friends!

This week I'm thrilled to be teaming up with the Frenzied SLP's for my very first linky party - #SLP Strong! 


The best thing I learned this summer was that working with older students was not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be and actually ended up being pretty fun. 

Working exclusively with preschoolers during the school year, I was a little anxious to learn I would be working with middle and (gulp) high school students this summer. 


It's been a long time since I've worked with students that age. Could I help them meet their goals? What materials was I going to use? I mean they're just so  . . . big! This definitely required me to step outside my comfort zone. But I'm always up for a challenge and in the end I'm grateful I embraced it.

I've grown to expect ESY (Extended School Year, aka "summer school") to be chaotic the first few days with learning students' names, getting familiar with their goals, and just finding a time to fit everyone in. Add to that an unfamiliar population of students with an extremely wide range of needs and I was starting to feel in over my head. 

As educators we're often perfectionists by nature and can have a tendency to be too hard on ourselves. I recall one session in particular in which I attempted to play the game "Scattegories." As I watched the sand in the little plastic hourglass drain, my students sitting motionless, pencils poised, expressions perplexed, I realized it was a complete flop. Even I was having difficulty coming up with a U.S. city that started with the letter "K."   

Instead of pushing it I admitted defeat, but as I dejectedly began putting the dice and blank pads of paper back in the box, the topic of the Gold Cup Soccer play-offs came up. Intrigued I inquired further and listened as my students excitedly retold details of the match the night before, expressing opinions of their favorite players, and which team they hoped would win it all. They were developing arguments and backing them up! Comparing and contrasting teams! Listening, responding, and practicing interpersonal communication skills! Most importantly they were having fun. Hey maybe this session wasn't such a disaster after all.  

This was a great lesson for me that with any population, from preschool to high school, it pays to be flexible, interested, and engaged.

                           

And yes maybe I did luck out with an incredibly kind, courageous, not to mention hilarious group of young people this summer, but as ESY drew to a close I was definitely feeling a little more confident working with older students, a feeling I'm hoping to carry with me as I transition from early intervention to a K-8 school this fall. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it's still going to be a huge learning curve, but naturally I'm up for the challenge. Because after all we're #SLP Strong right? ;)

             
 

Secret Word ***FLICKER***




Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rediscovering The Three Billy Goats Gruff


Some stories are just timeless. The Three Billy Goats Gruff, a Norwegian fairy tale, dates all the way back to the 1840's! And we're still enjoying it today. I mean how cool is that?! 

The inspiration to try a Billy Goat theme with my speech students came after hearing this song/story by Heather Forest. My kids have been enthralled by it and love participating by making the fun sound effects along with the music. 



  


I was even more inspired when I stumbled on this adorable clip art from Susana at Whimsy Workshop Teaching. These have been the perfect visuals to support the story and song. 






Now there are so many versions of The Three Billy Goats Gruff that choosing which book to go with was a little overwhelming  After pouring over several copies, I settled on Stephen Carpenter's adaptation for it's simple language and appealing illustrations. It's also the ideal length to hold the attention of preschoolers. 





As a Speech Language Pathologist I always have an eye towards how I can use a book to address the goals of my students. This story's been great for building understanding of size, sequence, and feelings/motivations. To address even more speech and language goals, I created a book companion designed to naturally target:

   -Third person singular  
   -Conjunctions (but, and)
   -Contractions (I'm, he's, don't)
   -Sequence (first, second, third)
   -Comparative (bigger)
   -Adjectives (mean, ugly)
   -Future tense (going to)
   -Vocabulary (bridge, troll, gobble, horns)
   -Narrative skills


       





My students have been picking up quickly on the repetitive language of this simplified story. After listening to it a few times they begin to finish the sentences themselves, building grammar, sentence structure, articulation, and narrative skills. (And it's been so much more fun than drills and flashcards!) 

If you've never read The Three Billy Goats Gruff with your students I encourage you to give it a shot. If you have, I'd love to hear what you liked about it. Any other classics you're looking forward to reinvigorating this year? 

Thanks for checking out my blog:)

Stay fired up!


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Moving Beyond the Hungry Caterpillar


As I look ahead to my 7th year as a preschool speech language pathologist I've been feeling the need to reinvigorate some of my themes. After all if I'm not excited about my materials, how can I expect my students to be? 


I love incorporating literature into my sessions and am always on the lookout for fun new books which I can use to target speech language objectives. 


Possibly one of my favorite discoveries has been Eric Carle's 10 Little Rubber Ducks




This children's book was inspired by the true story of 28,000 bath toys washed overboard during a storm in the Pacific in 1992. In Carle's story, each rubber duck drifts in a different direction, encountering a variety of sea animals along the way, each of which performs a distinct action. The visuals are engaging, and the language simple & repetitive, while still introducing new vocabulary. And the best part is each student gets a chance to press a button at the end to make the duck squeak! 

My students have been loving 10 Little Rubber Ducks this summer and I'm loving that I get to target a TON of speech & language objectives including: 

   Prepositions (especially over & under to describe each animal's position)
   Adjectives (Aren't animals are so great for teaching attributes?)
   Past tense (including irregular past such as fell & sang) 
   Final Consonants (especially the final /k/ in duck, quack, & squeak)
   Consonant Blends (e.g., flamingo, drifted, stared, screeched)
   Ocean vocabulary (e.g., pelican, seal, octopus, seagull)
   Action words (e.g., glided, blinked, chattered)


To ignite even more language development I've created a book companion designed to specifically target narrative skills (e.g., correct grammar use, increased sentence length, articulation), concept understanding (e.g., size, attribute, quantity, negation), and comprehension of Wh-questions (e.g., How did the rubber ducks fall off the boat?)  



There is certainly a time and place for picture books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, but the beauty of stories with a simple plot like 10 Little Rubber Ducks is they lend themselves to discussion of the problem, characters' feelings and motivations, inferencing, sequencing, and making predictions. If you're not familiar with 10 Little Rubber Ducks, or have never considered incorporating it into a speech therapy session, I encourage you to give it a try! 

And for a fun summer (grown-up) read check out Donovan Hohn's Moby Duck:




Thanks for checking out my blog! Any new books or themes you're looking forward to trying this year? Love to hear from you! 

Stay fired up!