Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wanted: AAC CEUs

As this is the final week for students in my district, I am trying to start planning for the next year with an eye towards summer CEU opportunities. One of the best and worst things about this field is the huge range of areas we can treat. Everyone has certain areas that they enjoy more than others. However, it is not easy to be picky when you are a school-based SLP. There's no telling what you will run across during the school year. We have to be jack-of-all trades and it's a daunting task. I have found that it is easier to focus on one area each year and look for additional topics as they pop up on my caseload. Initially, I focused on learning the paperwork and how to serve bilingual students. The past two years have been driven more towards literacy and social skills. These are all pretty big topics in the field as a whole and are things that my district has also tried to address with teachers.

This summer, I have decided to take a break from those things as it gets to be an information overload. It's time to do something different that can eventually be tied back. Something that will get me out of my comfort zone. So....I am going to focus on AAC. It is something that I have wanted to learn more about, but have always put on the back burner to focus on areas that were an immediate need.

Image result for resources

  • Angelman Syndrome Foundation Communication Training Webinar Series- This is an incredibly informative year-long series. The webinars build upon each other. You can pick just a few or take the entire series. I've just recently started this series and am planning to watch the entire program.
  • AAC Institute- Free Webinars- The first four webinars are free and are introductory level. They also offer additional paid webinars.
  • Tobii Dynavox- Free Webinars- This is a great resource, particularly if you use Boardmaker or want to learn more about Dynavox devices.
  • AbleNet University- I cannot wait to start taking their webinars.
  • Lingraphica- Free Online Webinars- These are more geared towards adults.
In Person Workshops:
Other Resources:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fun with Mr. Potato Head

I posted a picture some time back on my facebook page about giving a new Mr. Potato Head a bath. I was asked to write a post about how I use Mr. Potato Head for therapy. Now that my husband is on the mend and the school year is winding down, I thought it was time to actually sit down and write out my thoughts. Mr. Potato Head goes to elementary school.....

The first thing I would like to say is that Mr. Potato Head is a pretty popular guy among my kindergarten to 2nd grade groups. He sometimes even pops up with my older groups although in a slightly less traditional manner.

1. Pronouns- This is one of his most obvious uses.

2. Attributes- You can talk about the size of the Potato Head, clothing options, hair options, etc.

3. Following Directions- This tags along with pronouns. I often ask my students to give the Potato Heads certain accessories or pair them up with some of my animal figurines. If you can find a doll house, why not turn it into Mr. Potato's house for spatial concepts?

4. Sensory bin- I use this to help students calm down when they are over stimulated. It's also a great way to teach about body parts and senses.

5. Requesting/turn taking- I have used Mr. Potato Head to get some of kindergarten students to request rather than to grab items that they want.

6. Articulation- As other bloggers have said in the past, you can use Mr. Potato head to practice at phrase/sentence level using target sound pictures. You can also use phonics figurines if you have the Lakeshore tubs (or can borrow from teachers) or your own set of gathered items.

7. Parts of Speech- As I said earlier, Mr. Potato Head sometimes visits my older groups. I often use pieces from my collection for Colourful Semantics lessons that involve sorting items into who, what, and where.

8.  Create your own Spud Story- I like to think that every variation of Potato Head has his/her own story. We can make up a story for our Potato Head and talk about his/her adventures. It could be Star Wars, a day on the farm, a day at the pet can't go wrong.

While I have seen some bloggers suggest to buy Mr. Potato Head on Amazon, I would suggest looking for him at thrift stores. I have found my entire collection by shopping at Goodwill, Salvation Army, and garage sales. The most expensive set I bought was the Star Wars set, which was $5. Just make sure you give them a good bath before bringing them to work.

Monday, May 8, 2017

5 Step Power Plan

As the end of the year approaches, I thought I should share how I am wrapping up my inclusion lessons for Social Thinking:

The 5 Step Power Plan
Even superheroes like Superflex have to have a plan! Why? It helps us understand when we can do things on our own and when we need help. There are simply too many Unthinkables out there for Superflex to defeat on his own. He gets help from the Thinkables. I compare it to the relationship between Batman and Robin. Batman can do many things on his own, but he's a much better superhero when he has his friend's help.

What are the steps?

The Decider:

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
With this book, we made a list of all of the potential deciders who could help Beatrice and why they might or might not be the best choice. The one that I consider the decider in this book didn't make even one of the lists we made, which is also an important lesson itself. Don't overlook the impact that animals can have on their owners. Also, this is a great opportunity to talk about the importance of asking for help.

Social Detective:
Brain games video clip
This is actually something I saw in one of the Social Thinking webinars. I knew that there had to be a way to use this clip with my students. Social Detective, of course, is just a review from the beginning of the year. We talked about how the lady has to use her smart guess tools to figure out what to do.

The Brakester:
If Winning Isn't Everything Why Do I Hate to Lose
I can't think of a better way to talk about hidden rules. Who teaches you to say "bless you" when someone sneezes? How do you know when to say "happy birthday?" These are things that we have to learn by seeing and doing. While sports have many rules that are stated, they also have many more hidden rules about the way players behave.

Flex DoBody:
My Day is Ruined!
When everything seems to be bad, we have to use our flexible thinking to find the silver lining.
Bubble Gum Brain
This is a clever book that reminds students not to get stuck in one way of thinking.

Cranium Coach:
Giraffes Can't Dance.
I'm Going to Like Me. 
Kid President Heroes 
Last, but definitely not least, is Cranium Coach. This is your brain's way of empowering yourself through life.

Please note that all of the books suggested in this post were personal purchases (thank you Amazon for having the best selection of books anywhere). There are plenty of great resources out there that I don't know about but will share as I discover them. 

Monday, May 1, 2017


I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Frank Herbert

Why am I writing about fear on a blog that is dedicated to speech and my experiences as a Speech-Language Pathologist? Well, because I am honestly terrified of what tomorrow brings. 

I had the pleasure of learning a whole huge list of different genetic disorders in graduate school for one of my child language classes. It was one of those things that I hadn't really thought about before as my family didn't have much history of anything. 

It's much more personal now that I'm married. My wonderful husband has to go into surgery tomorrow because he does suffer from one of these lovely genetic conditions (a mutation in his case). Hand surgery.....I know it's not heart or brain surgery, but to me it's still something that's really scary. It still involves a structure that's very important to his ability to work and drive. It still involves getting around small nerves. It still involves him being put under. 

The most difficult part is not being there. I've been sick so much this year with everything that has come through the building that I can't miss any days. I can't help him through the recovery process because we are still two hours apart and I have to help my grandmother. 

I need life to calm down just a little. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

A little book love

 As March comes to an end, I thought I would share a few thoughts on my growing collection of books that I use to specifically target social skills. I love using books in therapy for both language and articulation groups. Always have and always will.

Here is my little collection so far. The large majority of these books were written by Julia Cook. She is my go-to author for books to use with my Social Thinking groups. I would say that her books are best suited for third through fifth grade. I've read her "I'm a booger, treat me with respect" to younger students without too much of a problem, but "A bad case of the tattle tongue" was a bit too much for 1st-2nd grades. Otherwise, her books are excellent resources for addressing specific behaviors.  

This is one of the books that I've used recently with my inclusion groups. I try to split the books up over two sessions. In the first session, we identify the character's problem and rate the size of the problem. It's pretty similar to what I do when using a video. We brainstorm expected and unexpected solutions for the problem. We review the problem at the start of the second session and see how the character actually resolves his/her problem. Then, I come to my favorite part of the entire lesson: creating an Unthinkable for the character's problem. In the case of this book, R.J. kept saying things that were mean even though he thought he was just saying the truth. My students had to come up with a name for their Unthinkable, a picture, a power, and a way to defeat their new Unthinkable. A few of their creations were "Sassy Susie" who says things that are sassy to adults; "Feedback Phantom" who gives negative feedback; "Feedback Monster" who gives negative feedback; and "The Truth Hurts Man."

Noodle, who we are currently following, happens to be one of my favorite characters from Julia Cook's books. He is someone that my students have really related to and have tried to defend. This, dear readers, is why the brainstorming is so important in my lessons.

Teacher buy-in is also crucial. I am really fortunate that all four teachers have trusted me enough to let me take over their rooms for an hour each week for these lessons. I had to get to another group one day before my students had a chance to share their Unthinkables. The teacher sent me this list of names on Facebook that evening so I could still see their terrific ideas. They've told me about how certain students are using these skills in the cafeteria and on the's just amazing to know how far they've come as classes.

I'm looking forward to seeing what they will do with our next book as many of them struggle with not wanting to make mistakes. I introduced the topic with Noodle and several of them told me then that they had never seen mistakes as a chance to learn.

What books do you use to teach social skills?

P.S. I purchased the majority of these books on Amazon and a few are from thrift stores. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017


As I turned another year older this past week, I have done a lot of reflection on my life and clinical practice thus far. I thought I would share just a few thoughts that remind me of how blessed I am.

~I am blessed to have a wonderful husband who tries to help me in my never ending pursuit to find for X, Y, or Z for my students. Heck, sometimes he finds stuff on his own and notices that it might be something I can use.
~I am blessed to have both of my parents. At the beginning of my sophomore year in college my father nearly died in a car accident. A heavy duty work truck was driving above the speed limit on the other side of the road when his breaks went out and he went into my dad's lane rather than the ditch. This accident is what led me to find my career.
~I am blessed to be in the position to be able to help with my grandmother. As much as we can drive each other crazy sometimes, I am glad for this time with her because it is precious. It's hard to believe that she is my last living grandparent.
~I am blessed to have three wonderful fur babies. I am also grateful for all of my previous pets and the ones that are still with my parents.
~I am blessed to have wonderful friends.
~I am blessed to be a Speech-Language Pathologist. I get to touch the lives of so many people for the better.
~I am blessed to be healthy.
 ~I am blessed to have creativity.
~I am blessed to have my education (especially my time at Salem College).
~I am blessed to be a blogger. I have met so many incredible people and learned about so many exciting things through this blog.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Because it makes my heart happy

Last year, I had the pleasure of learning about Story Grammar Marker and Braidy during the annual NC Speech Conference. I had seen them online previously, but I really wasn't sure about the tool until I actually attended the session. I have used Braidy this year with many of my groups and am really happy with this tool. It's been a slow process, but we are finally learning about kick-offs and plans now. 

 I rarely ever use the hair attachment for Braidy so this is how he always appears to my groups.
I have the symbols up on the wall with some silly song lyrics. The first two songs, the character and setting songs, came from the Braidy manual. I came up with other songs to help them remember the other story elements. We sing the songs for the elements we discuss every session. Some of students really enjoy this and others are not as excited, but I have found that it helps them remember no matter how much they enjoy the singing process.

Here we used Braidy with my Whole Body Listening Group (from the first set of We Thinkers books). I like using Braidy with this set of books for my younger groups because the characters are always the same. The repetition has made them more confident even though the other elements change. I've also found that writing down the elements with a combination of pictures and words helps too. We can refer back to our "notes" at the end of the session to review what we just read.

We also use Braidy with Clifford books (and sometimes half of tv episodes on youtube) for the same reason.

I'm so proud of how far we've gotten since starting in September with my figurines. Hopefully, I will be able to use Braidy next year for some inclusion activities.