The Power of Margin.

calendar blog

When I worked in an outpatient pediatric setting, I remember many parents being anxious about missing therapy for their kids in order to take a vacation.  I tried to reassure them that missing a week or two wasn’t going to cause harm and family time was just as valuable for their child.  Vacations offer lots of language opportunities, but more importantly it provides margin to step off the crazy wheel for a while.  The conversations usually ended with the parent smiling and relaxing as they realized the success or failure of their child wasn’t at stake in this decision.  Everyone needs a break!

I am looking forward to school finishing in the next week so I can step off my own crazy wheel for a bit!  In conversations with my newly minted SLPS (formerly known as CFs), I encourage them to enjoy the break and not worry about getting their CCCs, license and a summer job right this second.  It’s really the only time in your career as a SLP that you can hit pause and celebrate all that you have accomplished.  Your degree is finished, your fellowship year done, and you made it through your first job as a Speech Language Pathologist. If you worked in a school, you survived IEPS, testing, somebody crying (maybe you), and endless meetings.  You got better at writing reports, more creative in lesson plans/therapy and definitely more confident with teachers and parents! Give yourself a pat on the back and breathe!

The first day of school will be here before you know it, so sleep late, read a lot of great books, travel to places you’ve never been to and soak up the sun. You will be ready to charge (or at least stroll) back into the building with a smile on your face . In fact, you will be a healthier and better SLP because of it!!  So happy almost summer!  Get rid of the guilt and give yourself permission to enjoy it!!!

1,2,3, All Eyes on Me!!

photo 2

I was attending a “Think Social” conference (surprise, surprise!) several years ago and Michelle Garcia Winner shared a video of her working with a little girl.  She was attempting to see if the child could follow her line of sight to demonstrate joint attention and being able to literally see from someone else’s perspective.  Now this doesn’t sound that hard, but wow what an eye opener this video was for me!  The child, who was about 9 at the time, could not do it.  She even tried to put her face in front of MGW’s face to see what she was looking at, all to no avail.

I tried this little test with several of my students with ASD when I got back to school amd about half of them couldn’t do this either!  How had I missed this???  If they cannot follow very simple line of direction gaze, what are they missing in social interactions?  Pretty much everything.  I love the description of “thinking with your eyes” that also comes from Social Thinking and Whole Body Listening concepts.  It’s not just polite to look at people when they talk with you, it is a critical skill to gain information (verbal and non-verbal) and to let your conversational partner know that you are paying attention to what they are doing and/or saying!  We had a LOT of work to do.

One of the obstacles I ran into when working on joint attention with eye gaze was that I was looking at the object I wanted the child to look at, but couldn’t really look at their eyes beyond using my peripheral vision! Then I saw these nifty little “finger spies”  at the Dollar Store!  photo (2)

They fit best on skinny. kid sized fingers, but I could wiggle the little guy onto my pointer or pinky and have the kids follow the finger spies AND watch their eye gaze at the same time!!

photo 2This lesson goes along really well with my new “Social Skills Squish:  Eyes on the Prize” activity in my TPT store HERE .   photo 3
This is a play-based packet that uses the concept of keeping our “eyes on the prize” and why it’s important to use your eyes to think about other people.  It includes a mini-poster for your room, social scenarios to practice, extension suggestions, and 4 mats (laminate them first) to practice the skills.  Choose your favorite color of play-doh (TM) for a fun reinforcer to roll into balls and squish on the mats (hence the ” social skills squish”)! Perfect for wiggly, squirmy preK through elementary friends working on these skills :-)

Want more great ideas on using play-doh (TM) in therapy?  Check out Peachie Speechie’s blog this week HERE.

You don’t want to miss the big sale!!

Jenna Rayburn TPT sale linky

I don’t know about  you, but my wish list has been growing on TPT in recent weeks.  Tomorrow (May 5th) starts a two day sale on TPT that will grant some of my wishes at a significant savings (up to 28% when you use the code: THANK YOU).  It’s a teacher appreciation sale, but heck, let’s appreciate everyone, including SLPS!!

In honor of this event, I am linking up here with Jenna Rayburn for her TPT linky party!  Check out her recommendations and products for the sale.  You are sure to find at least one or two things (if not all) to add to your cart!

My store is on sale (don’t forget the discount code:  THANK YOU) and some of the products I would love for you to get include:

ice cream socialIce Cream Social:  Getting the Scoop on Social Language packet that has 31 flavors of social language activities perfect for elementary through early middle school learners!

photo (1)Wow, Worry or Wonder a transition packet for social language learners moving up to middle school.  This would be great for the end of the school year or to send home with your anxious kiddos over the summer!

how does your garden grow

How Does Your Garden Grow?  A social skills packet for little sprouts  This packet includes lots of fun activities to engage theory of mind, emotion recognition, and more with a fun garden theme for your little guys, prek-K!

What’s going to be added to my cart?  Well, you know I love all things social, so here are some of my picks!

interactive social stories play skills

This fantastic product is geared towards PreK-1st graders and has tons of fun play based social skills activities by Daria O’Brien at SpeechPaths!

inferential problem solving and activity pack nicole allisonI also love this product by Nicole Allison for problem solving, cause/effect, predictive reasoning and so much more for elementary aged students.

don't be a zombieLast but not least, I LOVE this great social language packet with a zombie theme by Speech2U.  At this time of year, I feel like I am missing my brain, so this packet will be perfect :-)

Happy shopping!

Every SLP needs a magic wand!

wishing wand

Although I am a boy mom, I still enjoy girly things, so I was drawn to this cute little butterfly wand when I was wandering through the Dollar Store not too long ago.  I bought it not knowing what exactly I would use it for, but I was fairly certain that I not only wanted it, I needed it.  Fast forward a few weeks and bibbidy-bobiddy-boo, an idea!  Lots of my students work on turn taking, topic maintenance, comment/questions, and all the social intricacies of conversations.  It can feel a bit mechanical at times when you are working on these skills, but once the foundations are there, it can be a lot of fun!

Visuals are important, so I like using color squares with the student’s initial on them for each part of the conversation (green for responses to questions, blue for connecting comments, yellow for questions, red for topic changes).  It’s an easy way to see if one person is hogging the conversation, someone is not participating or the group hasn’t figured out how to use connecting comments.  I got this idea from Michelle Garcia Winner’s conversation tree lesson and modified it just a bit. Bonus, you can count the cards for each student at the end of each session as an easy way to collect data :-)

The wand comes in once they are more consistent in these conversational skills.  I have included some topic cards HERE for you to print and use.  As we have a conversation, I hold the wand up at random times and the conversation has to change to whatever topic is on the next card we turn over.  It’s tricky to shift to a new topic, but we work on ways to segue the conversation appropriately.  Sometimes I will do this right when someone asks a question.  It’s a great opportunity to talk about abrupt topic shifts and the timing of when and when not to do this.  After a few rounds of me holding the wand, I can pass it off to the kids.

If your kids are adverse to the idea of a butterfly wand, that’s okay, just make your own!  Dollar Store pirate swords (careful there mates), covering the butterfly up by gluing on  wiggly, squiggly plastic bugs, or making a Minecraft themed cover are other options. For younger students, it is a good idea to go over the rules of the wand (expected/unexpected behaviors and hidden rules anyone?).  For example, hitting, poking or whacking of anyone, including yourself. is NOT permitted when holding the wand (I am amazed at some of the things that actually come out of my mouth in this job).

You can also use the wand as a story stick, where each person adds to a story about the topic card ( you can use the blank cards included in the printable link) as you go around the table.  Topic maintenance is critical, as is listening to what other people have said before you and predicting what might happen next!

The wand unfortunately will not make the pile of IEPs on your desk disappear, but here’s wishing you a magical therapy session!

A Nice Surprise and a Lovely Blog Award!

blog-award1Thank you to my bloggy friend Liz over at her fantastic speech blog Say What? for nominating me for this One Lovely Blog Award!!  Check out her blog jam packed with great ideas for language (I especially loved her post on reading with older kids! )

The Rules for accepting this award:

The rules for accepting the award are:

1. Thank and link back to the person who nominated you. (see above for links to Liz’s fantastic blog!)
2. Share 7 things about yourself. (See below for some fun facts about me!)
3. Nominate 15 other bloggers and comment on their blogs (usually on their about page or contact directly if necessary) to let them know. (Fun, I love to pay it forward!)

7 facts about me:

1.  I am mom to 3 boys; one 16, one almost 20….  scan0001

and one Old English Sheepdog.archie

2.  I have been a pediatric SLP from coast (Florida) to coast (California) to coast(Georgia).

3.  I had the first speaking part in a Disney commercial when I was little.  I was dressed as      the Easter bunny.

4.  I love the part of my job that allows me to mentor new SLPs in my county and                    supervise CFs (I have 9 this year!).  They are lovely, creative and very smart.

5.  My best speechie friend Jaime calls me Google…because I am full of                                  random and (mostly) useless knowledge!  I let my Jeopardy freak flag fly often.

6.  I love to watch The Walking Dead (not for the gore, but for the incredible writing!)

7.  The beach is my happy place.   I watched the first and last space shuttle launches              standing on the beach where I grew up.     indian harbour beach

Other Bloggers I love!!

1. Keeping Speech Simple:  Renee’s speech blog is full of creative therapy ideas!

2. Speech Paths:  Daria includes tons of great speech resources, especially for social language, which is near and dear to my heart!!

3. Natalie Snyders:  This self named blog is an incredible resource for SLPS and she generously shares her knowledge of therapy ideas, social media and technology each week!

4.  Learn to Love Food : I love this food therapy blog for not only the great feeding ideas Kim writes about, but also the gorgeous pictures she includes!!

5.  Jill Kuzma:  Jill’s blog has a wealth of therapy ideas for executive function, attention,          and social language activities.

6.  Chapel Hill Snippets:  Ruth’s speech blog has lots of facets- technology, book companions, and fantastic speech printables.

7.  SLPChelsea :  This cute speech blog posts weekly therapy ideas and lots of fun pictures (I am a visual learner) to illustrate her plans!

8.  TeachSpeech365:  This blog is well organized into therapy ideas, freebies, clinical skills, etc.. something for every speechie!

9.  Speech Room Style:   This fun blog has such great ideas on decorating and organizing your speech space.  We all need a little pretty in our lives, right?  You can also sign up for  the SLPS on TPT newsletter on this blog.  If you aren’t getting this via email on Sundays, you are missing out on tons of great blogs, freebies and TPT materials for speechies!

10. Speech Therapy Fun :  I like how Jennifer includes ideas for “parent fun” as well as therapy ideas and materials!

11.  Consonantly Speaking :   Jessica is a blog hop Diva and I have found many great blogs to follow via these hops!  She also cultivates a fantastic Pinterest page of speech and language blogs/materials links!

12.  Simply Speech :  I love looking through all the pictures, posts and great speech ideas on Kristin’s blog.  I especially love that she is also a grad of UCF , Go Knights!!

13.  Peachie Speechie :  Meredith has super creative therapy ideas (Check out her current post on fun ideas for BSHM) and be sure to peek at her store for clever t-shirts, bags and more related to Speechies (and OTs, PTs, teachers, etc…).

14.  Putting Words In Your Mouth :  Mia is a word nerd too (yay), has a love for Harry Potter like me, and comes up with some darn creative therapy ideas like her Velcro bug game (genius!).

15.  Say What?    I really enjoy reading Liz’s blog and especially admire her for sharing her heart for adolescents.  They can be tough in therapy, but often the ones that are hardest to love, need it the most!

Okay your turn to nominate a fantastic blogger!  Now go make someone’s day like Liz did for me :-)

It’s an Ice Cream Social!

ice cream social

In my neighborhood, we used to have an ice cream social for all the kids when they got off the bus the last day of school (we also drenched them with Super soakers, but that’s a topic for another day)!   These fun memories led me to create my new TPT social skills packet, “Ice Cream Social”.    I made this packet with elementary students in mind, however, there are several templates that would allow you to modify and add questions/scenarios for older students too.  I like to laminate the answer templates so I can write on them with erasable markers and use them in flexible ways with different ages/abilities. With Earth Day approaching, this is also a good way to save paper and trees!

What does this packet include?  Over 25 pages of print and go materials to address:

-matching tone of voice to words/emotions
-identifying expected/unexpected behaviors
-ice cream themed books to extend expected/unexpected
-comparing good/better/best solutions
-Brain Freeze, a game for questions, comments and topic maintenance (is your brain in    the group?*)
-identifying the size of a problem
-fact vs. opinion

As the end of the school year starts to approach, this is a tasty theme to explore social language skills and concepts with your students!  It has some figurative language sprinkled in (hint:  look at the titles of each activity), and can be used as a fun way to look for generalization of the skills your student is working on outside of your therapy room.

How could you generalize this? You could  extend the activities in this packet and collaborate with your general education teachers and families. Print and laminate pieces of an ice cream cone or sundae and have the teachers (or parents) give your student a piece when they “catch” them using the targeted skills in class or at home. It’s a good way to open up a dialogue about what social skills you are working on with the kids and how they can help carryover these skills.  When your students collect all the pieces, you can have a ‘Popsicle party’ or ‘sundae fun day’ to celebrate!!  Your classroom teachers may even decide to generalize the social language skills with ALL of their students!  Now THAT would really be the cherry on top :-)

* “Keeping your brain in the group” is a concept from Think Social materials by Michelle Garcia Winner.

Where did my brain go?

is my brain in the group.pptxI was working with one of our fantastic SLP-As last week in a small social group.  One little guy just could not do what Michelle Garcia Winner refers to as  “keep his brain in the group”. When asked what the group was talking about, he would make a tangential comment related to himself but not maintain the topic that his friends were talking about. Close but no cigar! From working with many friends like this little guy, I have found that visuals (instead of more words) really help.

I decided to make a visual to go along with the topic of conversation and the concept of “keeping my brain in the group”.  It requires printing off THIS VISUAL (or making your own) and a big plastic bag or clear binder pocket. Yup, that’s it!! photo 3

Cut out the center of the page and attach the plastic bag to the back of this window (or slide the whole page into a clear binder pocket). You can laminate the visuals to make them last longer, and I would recommend printing the visual on heavy cardstock too, but regular letter size printer paper will work. Lastly, I put a piece of tape on the back so I can post this on whiteboards, file cabinets, doors, or whatever surface it will stick to where we are working!photo 5

For some friends, using pictures to represent the category of conversation (for example:  a picture of blocks represents that we are talking about our favorite toys) is too literal. These kiddos are not flexible thinkers yet and may not generalize that we aren’t just talking about blocks, but the broader category of toys.  I find that if they are readers and I write the word TOYS, this works better for them and they don’t get stuck on the item in the picture.

You can check in with the students who are working on the goal of maintaining a topic throughout the therapy session or class discussion.  If they can’t remember or are off topic, point to the brain visual to give them a clue.  I don’t need to say it or elaborate with language, that just muddies the water. Quick, clear, and we are back on track.

If the kids are able to tell you the topic, demonstrating that their brain is in the group, you can reward this accomplishment with cool brain erasers (from Oriental Trading Co.,about 5 bucks for 24), let them hold onto this cute little fidget brain for a minute, reward them with a Smartie candy or even a super budget friendly high-five.

What works well for you to help your students keep their brains in the group?