Friday, July 21, 2017

Rest and Relaxation....something we all need

It's been a little over a month since my last post and I've been trying to use that time to take a break from all things related to the field before I dive back into working on a presentation I'll be giving with our lead SLP at a conference in the fall. It's made me realize just how little time I've given myself to do things outside of the field since I started graduate school. We all need to give ourselves a break every once in a while or face the consequences of a major burn out.

So.....I decided to learn how to ride a bike. Yes, something that almost every child learns to do and I don't know how to do it. I blame my neighbor's big dog that was determined to knock me off every time I tried as a kid. Pavement hurts. However, I am trying to push myself to go outside of my comfort zone after talking to my social skills group about my struggle this year. I can't ask my students to go outside of their comfort zones if I'm not willing to try. It's been an interesting ride to say the least. My poor husband had to spend two weekends putting the bike together and we're still working on some kinks with the brakes and tires. I've read blogs and articles from other adult learners on tips to get started. They all pretty much say that it's much harder due to the fear that's been allowed to build up for so long. They're right in some ways. I managed to get both of my feet on the pedals today with assistance from my husband before falling over. I've gotten really good at gliding on it though. Baby steps. It's all about taking it one step at a time and I give myself the same pep talks as I give my students. I've got this. I've got this. My goal is to be able to ride a bike in time for our Christmas vacation to the beach.

I've also had the chance to explore some of my state's history. We stayed in NC for our second wedding anniversary instead of going down to Florida for another Disney trip. It was nice to stay closer to home. We explored the lower coastal region and got to see so many neat things. We can now say that we've seen three lighthouses and the foundation of a fourth that was torn down long ago. We rode our first car ferry, touched stingrays and a nurse shark, and visited a battleship and two forts. It's so easy to forget historic sites when you see the shiny steel of roller coasters in commercials all the time. They all had a beauty about them. I think everyone should make it a point to see at least one nearby historic site in their lifetime. You miss out on so much by skipping over them for the flashy stuff.

The summer has had some bumps too. We were in a three car wreck right at the end of June. Thankfully, the damage was minor to the cars and everyone seemed fine. I've been struggling with being able to feel comfortable on the road though. Everyone keeps telling me that it's natural to feel this way. I hope so because I really can't help but be jittery. I'm trying to drive a little bit every day to force myself to regain my confidence. Little by little....that's my theme for the summer.

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


Free:
  • 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.
Paid:
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 shop....you 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

Fears

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 playground....it'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

Blessings

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.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lately....

As my Facebook followers have seen, I have been battling it out with a nasty ear infection for the past week. It is an interesting experience as an adult, particularly as an SLP. The pain was excruciating. Luckily, I already had an appointment to be checked for strep so I was put on antibotics within 3 hours of it flaring up. (My poor husband has had strep for the past week.) It really makes me wonder about the children we catch during mass hearing screenings that have had an infection for months without anyone knowing. Not being able to hear out of my left ear is about to drive me bonkers! 

In other news, I wanted to share my newest therapy tool that I created after watching the SLP Institute. They had a course about sensory bins and it reminded me of how much my students enjoy using my Mr. Potato Head bin. I found a dinosaur play set over the weekend at Mighty Dollar and couldn't resist. The total cost for the bin was about $3 including tax. I'm going to hunt for some superhero figurines, particularly Batman, and make another one before this school year is over. 


You can target so many goals with these bins and it barely takes any effort at all to make them. I will be using this one for prepositions mostly.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thoughts on Medbridge

Recently, Medbridge ran a sale on their subscription price in honor of their birthday. I decided that I would sign up since it was a little over half-price off (around $200). I wanted to share my thoughts on the site now that I have had the chance to take several different CEU courses. 

1. Ease of navigation- I love the layout of the website. I can bookmark courses that sound interesting and go to this list whenever I'm ready to start a new course. I can also use my dashboard to view classes that I'm currently taking, review course videos from ones I've finished, and download certificates. 

2. Speakers- Medbridge does a very good job of finding clinicians who have tons of experience in their specific topic. They focus on telling you what has worked in their practices, what current research says, and often include video models of strategies with real clients. I love being able to see these video samples because most of the free courses I've taken often don't have enough time to include these or only show samples without much explanation. The fluency assessment course in particular was very helpful to me as I've recently had to do my first true fluency assessment since taking my fluency course back in graduate school. I went into it feeling much more confident because of how much practice with speech samples was embedded into that particular course. 

3. Course design- I have mostly focused on taking multi-hour course series so far since enrolling. The longest was a 7 hour course on dysphagia and the shortest so far was a 3 hour series on social language. I can pause the courses at any point and return to them without consequence. Every course that I've taken has video segments lasting as little as 10 minutes and as long as 40 minutes before a 3-4 question quiz. The quizzes add up at the end to give you an overall course score. I like the way it is broken up into short videos and quizzes rather than one huge lecture and huge quiz. It makes me feel more successful, especially since I typically do better with on site workshops. 

Overall, I can say that I'm glad that I decided to sign up for this program as the courses are all very well designed and executed. I feel like I've learned so much in the brief time that I've been a member and it is definitely improving my clinical skills. The biggest downside to me is that it is heavily focused on the medical side of speech. This is what I wanted the subscription for, but I think SpeechPathology.com does a better job of being well-rounded. They are clearly making an effort to include topics such as fluency and social language skills. I also think that the price is hard to pay when they don't have a sale going on. I would not pay $425 for a subscription. It's just too expensive in comparison to $99. (This is especially true when you already have your 30 CEUs completed.) 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Building those clinical skills

One thing that happens when you begin the process of trying to expand your scope of knowledge after 6 years, is that you spend a bunch of time hunting down high quality CEUs. I wanted to share some free courses that I am currently in the process of enjoying:

1. ASHA's monthly case study- The topics vary each month and the majority have been extremely interesting. 
2. Presence Learning- They are having a winter CEU event geared towards older students. I greatly enjoyed this past summer's courses and have used much of the information that I learned. 
3. DynaVox and Mayer Johnson- If you have an interest in AAC, I have found these to be a great way to start building up those clinical skills. Just be warned that some of the classes do not count for ASHA credit. I've volunteered to be the second SLP on my district's fledgling AAC team.
4. Leaders Project- This site is associated with Columbia University and it is one of my favorite suggestions to other clinicians that I meet. 
4. Passy-Muir- These all relate to tracheotomies. I have found that they are also a good way to review anatomy as well. 
5. Voice and Swallowing Clinic Lecture Series- Again, these are geared more towards the medical side but are a great way of keeping those clinical skills. 
5. SpeechPathology.com- Yes, I know that this is a site that you have to pay a subscription for but they do have some special offers. I was able to sign up and take one course for free. I am joining their fan club and getting a membership after experiencing this course. If you don't like it, hey, at least you got one free credit hour from them. 

I also have a list of suggestions from others to take if you are trying to do PRN:
1. Medbridge. This is another subscription site. It is more costly, but you can access one "chapter" for free. I was specifically told to look at Angela Mansolillo's 7 hour training.
2. Northern Speech Services. NES offers a good selection of courses, but it can easily add up to a big expense on a limited budget. 
3. Shadowing in a facility. I haven't quite figured out how to accomplish this one yet. I know there's the Expand Your Scope group that is all about getting these experiences, but I live in a fairly rural area so my options are limited. 

May I also add that NCSHLA will have Dr. Joseph Duffy coming to our convention this year! One of my favorite professors constantly talked about him in our classes. I am really looking forward to attending one of his sessions. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Mid-Year Blues....

I saw this picture on facebook today and thought that it was poetic justice. I had to share it.


I've never really had a bad case of the mid-year blues before. I've had plenty of hectic Easters/springs so that is something that I know to expect. I'm not quite sure why this year has been so different. Perhaps it is because we've had such an overrun of referrals before that we normally don't get until March or all the technical difficulties I've had recently with my work computer....(I now know that I have the oldest laptop in the district and they don't make parts for it anymore). It could also be because of all the different health problems my grandmother has run into since the summer. I've just started a crash course lesson in high blood pressure and vertigo that I pray will get better with Physical Therapy.

I've been trying to find an outlet for all of the stress that I'm feeling. My wonderful husband actually helped me come up with the only one that seems to work....Sweatin' with the Oldies. I know it's terribly dated and silly, but Richard Simmons was definitely on to something with his over the top videos. It actually makes me want to get up and exercise. His facial expressions alone are worth watching even if you don't do the actual exercises.

The other outlet that I'm using is professional development. I love to learn and find new things to try with my students. I recently watched the SLP Summit videos and found the one on Sensory Bins to be really good. It's something that I've known about and briefly tried with Mr. Potato Head pieces. I think it's time to revisit this tool and give it more of a chance with my kindergarten groups. I am also starting to read research articles related to adult therapy as I don't want to lose those clinical skills. Even though I plan to work in the schools for a long time to come, I am thinking about trying to get a PRN job this summer at a nursing home since I want to get a certificate in Assistive Technology. I've asked about getting some help through work, but I'm pretty sure all of the lovely state budget cuts have killed what help we used to get for this kind of training. We shall see how it goes. I was one of the few in my graduate program to miss out on a skilled nursing facility placement and I don't know much about what to expect.