Thursday, January 30, 2014

Because I wish I had stock in Dollar Tree....

In preparation for my presentation last week, I had to visit the Dollar Tree for 4 packets of tape. The universe must have a law of Dollar Tree that states you will come out with more than what you intended on buying. It NEVER fails. I always find 4-5 extra things that I just have to get for work.

This time it was sticker scenes. I couldn't resist the cheerful colors and goofy characters. I'll blame it on not being able to print anything in color at any rate.

The picture scenes really remind me of Super Duper's Magnetalk. You can use them for following directions or making up a little story scene with sequencing for a fraction of the cost. The only thing that you really need to do is get them laminated. I stuck my stickers on a sheet of white construction paper just to give them a little bit more stability than the sheet they came on.

This just might be the start of a new materials collection.....

One of my favorite movies & songs from my childhood.

P.S. Serena is HOME! I'm so happy to have her home. We have to really watch her for the next three months for any symptoms of a new shunt forming (hoping that will not happen).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lately I been, I been losing sleep dreaming about the things that we could be....

2014--- I have to be honest and say that this year has me off to a bit of a rocky start. The big presentation, new students, exiting students, re-evaluations, last minute initial evaluations (thanks SST!),  etc....the list of stressful stuff could go on forever. I've had to make some of the toughest decisions of my fledgling career this month. It really makes me wonder how other SLPs find relief.....for me it's the little things.

1) Consulting with our fabulous EC facilitator (I'm so lucky to have worked with two incredible facilitators in my time with the district. They are so knowledgeable and encouraging.) as well as our wonderful Lead SLP. It helps so much to have them to talk to when I get overtaken by my overly conscientious personality. When I grow up, I really want to be mixture of all three. They truly are my professional role models. 

2) Quality time with my pets. They can soothe the worried soul. 

3) Freshly sharpened colored pencils. 

4) Teddy Talker- I swear this product is a lifesaver. I feel more cheerful when I pull him out of his bag and look at his happy little face. The mouth pieces and tongue puppet are my best friends. I can just pull those out of the bag with my mirror and see so much more success with my articulation groups. Lately, I've even been using the tongue puppet in combination with "weights" (paper towel rolls) to tackle the ever challenging /r/. I have my students show me what their tongue should be doing with the puppet before we practice. I use the tongue puppet as a reminder for placement while they "lift" their "weights." All I really need now is a picture of the letter R as a muscle man. 

I just received the Alphabet chart last week (during our teacher workdays). I am in love with this chart and will be taking it with me everywhere. It is so much better than the linking chart that is currently used in my school. The size perfect for traveling when carrying the whole kit is not as convenient. (Granted, I mostly have that issue when I have to tote around a bunch of manipulatives.)   

5) Buying Halloween books. I don't know why but I love goofy Halloween books. I picked up the Halloween Motel at Goodwill yesterday. My mom got to listen to all of my wonderful Halloween voices as I read through the story at home. There's nothing like a good werewolf howl to release the frustrations.

6) Empty paper towel rolls. Oh, the possibilities......

7) Thinking about my hope chest. It's completely unrelated to speech, but I get excited when I think about someday decorating a house with my Goodwill treasures & handmade quilts.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Social Skills Love It and Link It

It's time again for the Love it and List It! Linky. I know that many people have written posts about products that you can purchase so my post is a bit different. I wanted to give you some free things that I enjoy using with my students.

1) Youtube videos. They are an awesome way of presenting material in a way that doesn't seem like another lecture (and, yes, I do think that social skills lessons can come off as lectures just because we are adults and students feel like we can't possible understand). Check out the videos on my Social Skills (playlist). I will be adding more to it as I find things. I also use clips from Pixar movies to talk about emotions.

2) My two social skills diaries. My Feelings Journal and Conversation Junction. I like to use these files with my younger students as it gets them to practice their writing as well as brainstorming in discussions.
3) Jill Kuzma's SLP Social & Emotional Skill Sharing Site. I've talked about it before and will continue to praise this website as one of my favorites. Give yourself a couple of hours to explore all of the wonderful teaching ideas that she has posted. I promise that you won't be disappointed.

4) Books from your local library. I love using the Berenstain Bears books for social skill lessons. This series is a timeless classic. The possibilities are really endless with books. Jill Kuzma has a pinterest board dedicated just to books for social skills. I wish I could find all of them!

Hope some of these resources will help you!

Friday, January 24, 2014

SLP Facebook Frenzy

It's here! It's here! The SLP Frenzy is back!

I am so happy that the Frenzy ended up being this weekend. Our puppy goes in for surgery on Monday and this has been my main distraction from worrying. (Please, keep sending positive thoughts our way!)

How does the Frenzy work? It's pretty simple. You have to like each facebook fan page to get the exclusive freebie. There is a link to the following page or you can use the map above. We made sure that you will get a pretty wide variety of freebies to use with your students rather than sticking with one theme (like Valentine's Day). My freebie is for all of the basketball fans out there.

P.S. I won't admit who I normally pull for as they are pretty bad this year.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reasons why I love being a school-based SLP

On the livejournal community, students and curious career seekers often ask what are the pros and cons to being a Speech-Language Pathologist. They've either heard the "horror stories" about the school setting or are blissfully unaware of these stories. 

Warning: The perfect job (career and setting) for me is not going to be perfect for someone else. We all have our own preferences and goals for the future. Plus, there really is no perfect job as we don't live in an ideal world. You just have to do the best with the options you are given. To me, working as a school-based SLP was the best option after a 6 year non-stop marathon of schooling. 

The Pros of Being a School-Based SLP:
  1. Working with children. I know that children can be VERY honest ("You've gained a few pounds, no offense..." to quote one of my students) and VERY energetic at times. They may have some pretty bad behavioral issues. However, 9 times out of 10 they will do something that makes your heart melt. I also think that we have a ton of responsibility in the schools to set a good example for these students who may not always come from the best of backgrounds. They need a positive figure in their lives, someone who will inspire them to achieve their dreams and let them know that they are important. They are our future. 
  2. Seeing a variety of delays. There is a HUGE misperception of our field and what we can do. Teachers know to come to us for speech sound errors, but many are shocked to hear that we can help with literacy skills. I get to see students who suffer from hearing impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Downs Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, receptive & expressive language delays, and articulation disorders. I also get to face the challenges of being a mono-lingual SLP in an English-Language Learning world. I cannot be an expert on everything that I encounter, but I learn something new with every day that passes. (I love life-long learning.)
  3.  Inclusion therapy and collaboration. It's not everyone's cup of tea. I have encountered a few therapists that are really against inclusion. I love it though, because I get to learn new tricks from our Exceptional Children's teachers for my tool-box. It also makes feel like my therapy is really relevant to what they are learning in class. (Sometimes, you do feel disconnected when you rely on pull-out methods for everything.)  
  4. Being part of a team. The IEP team. I really like being able to interact with parents, teachers, and other professionals. 
  5. In-house professional development. I will admit that there are many meetings/training programs that are not easy to apply to speech. The technology ones aren't my favorite since I don't have access to many of the programs that teachers need. However, I like that we do have workshops that are on-site. My school district has held some really awesome workshops, such as Orton-Gillingham for example. They love helping us learn how to better help our students. We even have our own mini-conference for staff to present to each other. It's truly a blessing that we have the opportunity to be leaders in our own community. 
  6. Getting crafty. Not everyone enjoys making crafts as part of their therapy sessions. I really love that I can be creative and make things with my students. I'm really only limited by my imagination. 
  7. Off-site professional development. While budget cuts are impacting our ability to go to as many workshops as we'd often like to, I think that my district does an excellent job of letting us go to good programs. I've been to the Beckman-Oral Motor workshop, ASHA 2012 Convention, NC Summer Institutes, and will be going to NC's spring convention this year. The best part is that I get to go with my peers. 
  8. Summers "off". You can't leave this one off of the list. It doesn't mean that I don't do any work whatsoever. I still think about work and make things for the next year. It's just on a much more laid-back schedule with my favorite television shows playing in the background. (And, I can stop for days and just read for pleasure.)
  9. Free weekends and holidays. I may bring work home occasionally on the weekends, but it is usually time for me. I need that time to recharge. 
  10. The schedule. I am not the biggest fan of early mornings, but I appreciate getting off of work with the sun still shining outside during the winter. I also like that I generally have a routine in place. I'm one of those people who likes having an idea of what the day holds. 
(I would also like to add that I work in a very small school district so it has a very personal touch to it. Larger school districts may be very different.)

The Cons:
  1.   The paperwork, specifically billing Medicaid. You have paperwork no matter what setting you end up in as an SLP. It's just a fact of life. I really enjoy writing, but there does come a point where you wonder why you have to repeat yourself so much. My biggest wish is that someone smart will come along and fix the forms to reduce the amount of information duplication. It takes away time that could really go towards the benefit of our students. 
  2. The misconception that school-based SLPs are somehow less qualified than private/medically based therapists. We all get the same basic education in graduate school and have to meet the same standards to get our CCC's. 
  3. The general lack of awareness of what our role is in the school setting. (This is why it's important to present to staff.)  
The most important thing to me is that I am where I need to be at this point in my life. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Super Speech

I hope everyone is enjoying the extra long weekend. As I am gearing up for my presentation on Wednesday, I don't have time to write a huge post. I thought I would share a simple craft idea instead. This is my Articulation Super Cape. My students will get the opportunity to make their own capes next week. 

Can't wait to get this little guy laminated for future years of being used as a cape template.
I used the /k/ sound for my example cape. However, you can make a cape for just about anything. My older students will be making them for parts of speech. My social skills groups will be making capes for either a) emotions or b) whole body listening/speaking.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Take Grammar to Heart

I have to admit that I'm a little bit addicted to Dollar Tree. You can always find the best seasonal stuff at Dollar Tree. I spotted several Valentine-related items that were just too good to pass up. I bought two bags of plastic hearts for reinforcers (packs of 50 in either pink or red) and these heart message boxes. The minute I saw these little guys, I knew exactly what I wanted to do for my older students....GRAMMAR REVIEW! Bwahahahaha.......Actually, they seem to really enjoy working on the parts of speech and how it relates to conversation breakdowns. 

I created a simple file of cards to insert into the boxes. I tried my best to keep the words related to Valentine's Day. It is organized by the part of speech you use, but you can mix them altogether depending on the focus. I plan to have my students create sentences using the words that they get in order to take the review a step further.
You can grab a copy of Conversation Hearts here

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Late Night Musings

I think life offers you little messages just when you need them. My message came in the form of this youtube clip when I was hunting clips for child leaders. Amazing. Simply amazing. I totally needed to hear this little guy as I struggle to prepare for my presentation at the mini-conference. Frankly, I am not sure why I volunteer to present at conferences when I know that public speaking scares the daylights out of me. (I presented my senior history thesis in college.) 

The rest of my thoughts are centered around a few topics at the moment.

1) Completing two DIY projects. They are taking way too long to make, but several of my students have approved of what's been seen so far.
2) Sorting out two new students.
3) Re-evaluations and Annual IEPs on several students.
4) Avoiding the sensation of feeling buried alive under paperwork.
5) Teaching inflections as a conversational skill.
6) /l/ and /r/ woes (it never goes away)
7) Getting students to use more details....(the current bane of my existence)

I made a quick little project to help with some of the sequencing/adding details issues that I've run into recently. The majority of the pages are graphic organizers, but I wrote up a few pages to introduce the topic. I realize that I could have used forms that were already online for free, but I really like to have my forms in one nice bundle with a corresponding introduction. So here's proof that I like to do things the hard way. I sincerely hope that it will be useful. You can grab a copy of This is My Story here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dear Future CF (2nd Year Grad. Student),

Dear graduate students,
        It is that time. The time when you see the light at the end of the graduate school tunnel. You have finally reached your externship (or in the case of out-of-field students, the semester before)! The world of speech as an actual full-time job is becoming clear and you are preparing to start the job hunting process.  Please, allow me to give you just a little advice based on my experiences and what I've been told by other people.

1. If you still have access to clinic materials, make a list of things that you have found to be extremely useful. This will help you figure out materials to purchase or request once you get into the "real world." You may also want to copy certain pages that you use considerably from materials that are no longer in print. I found that out the hard way after struggling for three years to find copies of items I liked.

2. When looking at job ads, do a little research on the facility before submitting your application. Does it have a good reputation with the public? It is a good idea to know how patients/parents perceive potential work places.

3. If you want a job with a school district, start looking in February or March (some places start going to job fairs as early as January). School districts may not be able to offer you a position immediately due to budgeting. Be patient because states take a long time to announce their budget allotment for schools. I interviewed over my spring break, but was not officially offered my position until the middle of June.

4. Make a list of questions to ask on interviews. It is very important to have questions for potential employers as it shows that you have a vested interest in them as well as your own future. You need to know what they can offer you.

5. As a CF, it is crucial that you ask about supervision at your interviews. (That's why it earns its own spot.) You need to know if they have someone who has provided supervision before or if they will have to outsource your supervisor. In some places, you may even have the opportunity to request someone specifically. Why are supervisors so important and different from your clinical educators? They are the ones who help you navigate through the realities of your setting and help you with difficult cases. You are not going to come out of graduate school knowing everything. The majority of CFs feel overwhelmed and stressed out no matter how well they did in their clinical placements. You need to have someone there who is on your side. I've read waaaayyyyyy too many horror stories about horrible supervisors and how miserable people are in their jobs. (I went with the very school district that I attended as a child.)

P.S. Most experienced SLPs that I've interacted with have said that it took them several years to be truly comfortable in their jobs. I can definitely agree with that statement. It took me two years to feel comfortable with the paperwork expectations and general work. I still have moments where I feel inadequate. It takes tons of patience, practice, and research.

6. Don't discount a setting because it isn't your first choice. I've heard 1,000 times over how graduate students do not want to work in the schools. Every setting has it's good and bad points. Yes, schools are cursed with mounds of paperwork but you can see a variety of delays/disorders. It is also a great place to perfect time management and organization skills. Plus, children really do say the craziest things. (And, you can look for PRN work at a SNF or a hospital to maintain those clinical skills.)

7. No job is perfect. You will find faults in any place that you decide to work at. That's just life. You have to make the best of what you are given or find a way to encourage change. I took on the task of developing a handbook for our RtI process because I didn't like the way things were. I didn't get extra pay for all the work that went into it, but it is helping my district have a consistent system in place for speech referrals across the system. I'm also helping out with a presentation to raise awareness about our role in the schools even though public speaking makes me nervous. Change takes time and nurturing.

However, there are some places and people that cannot be changed. You may find yourself in a terrible placement and be torn between sticking it out or walking away. This situation appears quite frequently on the livejournal community. I hate it. I wish everyone could have the same type of wonderful experience I had as a CF (and still have now). There is no easy answer when you find yourself in this scenario. Ultimately, you have to do what is best for you and your health/happiness.

8. You will be mad when you see how much money gets taken out of your first pay check for taxes.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The magical moments are the best

The weather has been wacky and so has my brain. It's been a week jammed full of creativity after several weeks of nothing. I love having such a creative streak, but it can sometimes get overwhelming when you try to do everything at once. It doesn't help matters when you have to lead three IEP meetings as well as attending a fourth as a related service. It is nice to get so many taken care of in two weeks time. I just feel like I've somehow misplaced my brain in the process of trying to get our newest required paperwork (Pink folders containing all therapy notes and plans of care) with the rest of the IEP folder on time for audit. 

I found another pinterest idea to do with my students that was originally intended for sight words. I modified it as another way to teach colors to some of my younger students. What you do is write a word in white crayon. You give the students washable markers and have them color over the crayon. The word will appear like magic. I was very entertained with this activity today and know that my students are going to LOVE it. (I usually try to test stuff out before I do it with my students.) I printed out two sheets of plain squares to write in and outlined each block in the color. This way I can target following directions as well as vocabulary by telling them to color in a specific box.

This activity is extremely versatile. You can use it for vocabulary, articulation, phonemic awareness.....and the list could really go on forever. Students may even want to write the words themselves once they see how the words appear.

I made up a set of six squares as well as conversation bubbles that you can grab here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

PediaStaff/Pinterest Inspired Post

I ran across a post on PediaStaff for "Sound Flakes" right before Christmas break that inspired me. I made paper snowflakes for a craft activity with my students during my CFY year. However, I had never thought about using them as a therapy material. 

I made a set for articulation that I plan to place on my blackboard once they're laminated. I used the school's Weber book to pick out my words for each snowflake. They are all double-sided. (It may take 2 weeks to get them all laminated lol.) My students can look at them and practice independently while they wait for their turn.

The real fun began when I thought of other uses for the snowflakes as I had several of them left over. There was no way I was going to let two hours of cutting these little guys out go to waste. So I made a set for syntax. Each snowflake features one part of speech. They will have to pick words to create a sentence. I also plan on letting my Colorful Semantics group make their own snowflakes and color them according to the system.

These snowflakes can do double-duty for students working on Wh questions. We can review which question word goes with each snowflake and practice asking questions.

You can easily turn them into Vocab-Flakes too using the EET. I would suggest just writing one word around the middle of the snowflake and using the sides to cover each of the components. The possibilities are endless. :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

14 Resolutions and a puppy update

Puppy Update: Serena is still working on getting to the right levels for her surgery. She's too low in one area so the specialist has increased her dosage of 1/4 medications. We started the new dosage today and will have to get her blood-work checked again in a week. Hopefully, all of her levels will get to the right point soon so we can get her surgery scheduled. In the meantime, we are just enjoying our time with her.
She loves her Christmas present
It has taken me a few days to come up with some resolutions for 2014. I'm not the best at sticking to them...

1. Continue to work on increasing my daily steps with the help of my trusty pedometer. I've finally gotten a bit more consistent on 4,000 steps. It's still a long way from the 10,000 that I want to reach. Slow and steady wins the race, right?
2. Lose weight. It's pretty much the standard resolution.
3. Worry less.
4. Continue to build upon my crafting skills. I love making therapy materials and being able to bring a smile to my students faces. It's always nice to hear them say, "You made this???!!!"
5. Read more journal articles. I will admit that this is an area that I have really stunk at since graduating. I've mostly focused on learning the "ropes" of being a school-based therapist (paperwork, billing, meetings, group therapy, etc) and figuring out the Cycles approach. The articles that I have read have mostly dealt with Cycles or lateral lisps. I really want to branch out.
6. Continue going to CEU opportunities. I would love to get more training on hearing impairments and bi-lingual issues.
7. Brush up on my Spanish (this is the one that I'm betting will be the hardest)
8. Find a better organization system for paper materials. I'm very intrigued by the notebook systems several bloggers have mentioned. However, I'm also very intimidated by the amount of work they take.
9. Continue saving up for a house. I want an older house (1800-1900s) and am well aware that those require a good deal of maintenance.
10. Read at least 5 books for fun.
11. Avoid letting speech consume my life. As a blogger, I find that I'm always dancing on a thin line of focusing a little bit too much on the job.
12. Have a fun-filled year.
13. Go to Reunion Weekend at my undergrad.
14. Survive March & April. So many IEPs and so little time!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Starting the New Year out in Bejeweled style

There are few things more enticing to children (and most women) than sparkly objects. I learned this lesson during my first year when I set up a scavenger hunt for pirate treasure. It didn't really matter that no one liked the tons of fake rings I put in my prize box when my students saw them presented as "buried" treasure. They wanted them and it was a great lesson to CFY me. It really isn't so much about what you use in therapy, but the way you decide to present it to your clients. It is a lesson that my new students remind me of with every year that passes. You have to shake things up because nothing will ever work the same way twice.
Main Product Image
 So for 2014, I am bringing a little bit of glitz and glamour into my room through two new games. I broke down and bought Ring Bling during Super Duper's 40% off game sale. Mostly, I bought it for the hands. I have plenty of Dollar Tree rings still laying around and the reviews on the stimulus cards dissuaded me from buying it before. It really looks like something you can make for yourself with the exception of the hands. My pitiful attempts with old pizza boxes was a lesson learned. I plan on using the hands & rings as a reinforcer to activities rather than sticking to the original purpose.
 The second game is a treasure from the Salvation Army for 1.99. The game was virtually brand new. It looked like someone opened it up just for the digital game code before donating it. If you aren't familiar with facebook, Bejeweled is one of many puzzle games that you can play for free on the social networking site. You try to match 3 or more gemstones to get points. However, that is not the case in my speech room. I bought the game to work on following direction goals and am sure it will have uses for other things in time. 
The easiest way for me to adapt this game into a therapy specific material was to create a game companion. The cards serve as a key to setting up each task as well as already providing me with the directions. This eliminates any potential problems of forgetting what to say when my students try to distract me (and some of them try their best). On days when I don't have time to pull out the game, I can just have my students point to the pictures on the cards. You can grab a copy of the Crowning Jewels of Following Directions here.