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.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


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 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. 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.