Thursday, January 4, 2018

5 Reasons to Laminate your SLP Materials

Some SLPs love flair pens, magnetic tape, teiks, or Erin Condren planners.  Me? I love my laminator.  I've used a Scotch laminator since grad school, and it's still going strong.  I pretty much laminate any materials that I print out, unless I plan on sending something home with a student.  Often people will ask me why I'm laminating so much, so, I thought I would share my top five reasons.

5 Reasons I Laminate

1. To save paper-  Instead of printing something, using it, losing it, re-printing it, using it, losing it, and repeat, I only have to print it once.  I can't crumble it up and shove it somewhere, because now it is laminated and stiff.  I also don't have to waste money on paper or ink needed to re-print things.  Additionally, I'm just naturally more careful with materials that are laminated because they look all shiny and sturdy.

2. Cleanliness - Laminated materials are so much easier to clean.  You can't wipe spit, boogers, or french fry grease off of regular paper.  With laminated papers though, you can take a clorox wipe and clean them right off!  Goodbye germs, hello the peace of mind of knowing that your activity is clean for the next child (and for you!)

3.  Durability - I work with students with severe disabilities, some of which include poor fine motor skills.  Through no fault of their own, things just don't hold up in my speech room.  Things get broken, dropped, ripped, licked, you get the idea.  It's really difficult to ruin something that is laminated, and if it does get ruined, chances are I'd be more impressed than upset.

4. Options - Laminating papers gives me the option of adding either velcro, magnetic tape, or regular tape to the back of it.  Kids can get bored easily,  especially if they are coming to your room multiple times a week, so switching up the method you are using to teach a topic is always helpful.  It might not seem like it, but magnetically sticking a laminated picture of a hamburger to a metal baking pan is a lot more fun than just laying a flat paper picture of a hamburger on the desk.

5. Confidence - Nothing shoots down a child's self esteem more than telling them they have to scrub a piece of paper with a subpar pencil eraser, then ripping the paper accidentally, before writing down a new answer.  You know what doesn't make a student feel bad about themselves? Quickly wiping their answer away with a dry eraser, tissue, or even their finger!  Erasing is fun on things that are laminated because your students can use dry erase markers.

Why do YOU laminate?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Making a Snowman - Collaborative Speech/SPED Lesson!

These past few Fridays, we (the teacher that I collaborate with and myself) changed up our routine! Usually we having a life skills cooking class with her 6:1:1 class, but we decided to do more of a craft activity instead.  Consistency in routine is good, but so is teaching flexibility - so changing it up once in awhile can be beneficial for our students with autism.

To add a literacy component to the activity, I've been using my Building a Snowman Interactive Book to expose my students to the vocabulary they will be hearing/seeing during the craft.  My kids take turns matching picture to picture for words such as: hat, scarf, mittens, snowball, etc.  Once we finished the book, it was time to make our big paper snowman.

Okay, so this craft had a lot of steps! I used board maker to create these visual sentence strips and broke the directions down to:

1.  Put medium snowball on top of big snowball
2. Put small snowball on top of medium snowball
3. Put hat on top of snowman
4. Put two eyes on snowman
5. Put carrot nose on snowman
6. Put scarf on snowman
7. Put coal mouth on snowman
8. Put two stick arms on snowman
9. Put mittens on stick arms
10. Put coal buttons on snowman

We made our snowman jumbo size, and added magnet tape onto the back of each piece thinking it would stick to the teacher's magnet board.  Maybe because her board is covered with paper, or possibly the magnet tape wasn't strong enough, but the magnets just weren't holding.  The pieces kept falling, which became frustrating for the students.  We quickly rolled up tape and stuck that on top of the magnet tape and that was more successful.  Once our students were done, we finished up the lesson by playing the Frosty the Snowman song/video on the smart board!  By using a book, hands-on craft activity, and a song, all on the same topic, we increase the chances of our students retaining the vocabulary they are being exposed to.  

Fun fact - the following week instead of having the kids make one large snowman, they each made a small one to bring home and show their parents!  Same vocabulary, different activity.

Happy winter!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Speech Therapy Lesson for Making Frankenstein Milkshakes!

Fall is finally here and along with it comes super fun Halloween activities!  I wanted to blog today about making these super fun Frankenstein milkshakes because they were a huge hit with my kids this week and made targeting language, social skills, and following directions super easy.

Although I normally begin my cooking sessions with some kind of literacy activity like an interactive book, the teacher I collaborate with and myself decided to change it up this time.  We went on youtube and pulled up a kids' version of the Monster Mash song/dance!  We modeled the dance and sang it for our students first, then replayed it and helped our students dance to the song as well.  It was an engaging and motivating way to start the session.  There's nothing like a mini dance party at the beginning of a session to get the energy in the room up!

If you're working in a 6:1:1 class like I was, you will need to either remove some of these steps or have some kids double up on jobs.  The other alternative, which I did, was to take a few steps and let everybody due them, such as putting a straw in a cup or handing one cup to a classmate.  Think about your own students and trust your gut!

1. Put ice-cream in blender
2. Pour milk in blender
3. Put green food dye in blender
4. Turn on blender (in my group everyone took a turn pressing the button)
5. Pour milkshake into cup
6. Put cool whip on top of cup
7. Put cookie crumbs on top of cool whip
8. Take cup (in my group everyone took one cup)

 My coworker used Boardmaker Plus to create these visual sentence strips for students, and graciously shared them with me!

If you're doing this lesson with a 12:1:1 class, I recommend the following steps:

1. Take out all of the ingredients and place on table (ice cream, scooper, green food dye, etc)
2. Scoop ice cream into blender
3. Pour milk into blender
4. Put green food dye into blender
5. Turn on blender
6. Pour milkshake into cups
7. Scoop cool whip into cup
8. Sprinkle cookie crumbs on top of cool whip
9. Put straw in cup
10. Pass out napkins
11. Pass out cups
12. Throw garbage out

I made sure to ask the teacher to take pictures of all of her students throughout this activity, completing their jobs, interacting with one another, and then trying the milkshake at the end!   This way, I was able to put together a one page handout to send home.  The handout displayed one picture of each student in the class mid-lesson, allowing parents to know what was done in speech!  I got some great feedback from parents letting me know that it led to good interactions and communicative exchanges with their children later in the day 😀🎃

Have fun and Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

10 Things a School SLP should do by October

September is a crazy time of the year for us school SLPs and sometimes it's easy to make our to-do lists a mile long.  It's also easy to be super hard on ourselves and feel like we are falling behind in our priorities, so I decided to make a list of the top ten things I want to have accomplished by October 1st.  If you haven't done all of these things yet don't panic! Just make your goal date be the end of October!

1. Introduce yourself to all of the teachers whose students are on your caseload

2. Meet all of the students on your caseload - be it by observing them in the classroom or taking them to your therapy room

3. Communicate in some way with all of the parents on your caseload so that they know their student isn't being underserved.  This could be a phone call, individualized note in a communication book, or a generic "Hey, your kid has a speech therapist this year and it's me!" kind of letter in their backpack.

4. Make your speech schedule and run it by the classroom teachers, gym teachers, OTs, PTs, school counselor, and hearing teacher (and anyone else who may provide a service for your student).  Once you're done be sure to share it with your supervisor or school administrators, being sure to note that it may change depending on other related services.

5. Organize your desk/work station.  Don't start the year off being disorganized!

6. Review all of your students' IEPs and create your lesson plan form for all students, with their IEP goals written at the top for quick references

7. Create your rubrics/forms that you will use for progress monitoring throughout the school year

8. Take note and make an easily accessible list of which of your students' have photo release forms signed and which do not

9. Take note and make an easily accessible list of the dates of all of your students' IEPs or triennials are for the year.  This way nothing will sneak up on you!

10. Check with the school nurse about any food allergies or medical conditions that you should know about for students on your caseload!  It's important to know if they have a nut allergy, or if they are on a medication that makes them drowsy in the afternoon!

What was/is on your to-do list for the rest of the month and October?  Share it in the comments section!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Strategies from a SLP/BCBA about how to Help Nonverbal Students Find their Voice

Today we have a special guest blogger, Rosemarie Griffin, a Speech-Language Pathologist and BCBA, sharing with us steps to help nonverbal students find their voices! 

Have you encountered students who are non verbal or limited verbally and are in the initial stages of acquiring a way to communicate with the world? Working with students at this stage of communication can be overwhelming and exhilarating all at the same time. By following the strategies that I will outline below, you will be able to help your clients increase their overall spontaneous language.

The first thing that you want to do when you work with an early learner, is to pair the environment and yourself with the delivery of reinforcing items and activities. You want to have many fun items and activities ready to present the student. At this point, we do not demand anything from the client, we are merely having fun, building rapport and learning about what they like.  The process of pairing yourself and the environment may take just one session or it may take more sessions, depending on the learner.

After we have an idea of what the learner enjoys, we want to start work on teaching the student to request specific items and activities. This can be referred to as requesting or manding. The term manding was described in the book Verbal Behavior written by B.F. Skinner (1957).

Manding is how we all start communicating: for babies, crying functions as a way to gain access to desired items, like a diaper change or food or cuddles. As a child grows and develops, crying is replaced with other ways to communicate (i.e. sign, gestures, word approximations).  Mands are first in the language repertoire learned by all children, and are very important for the early development of language and for day-to-day verbal interactions of children and adults (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). It is important to focus on manding first; in its absence, it is unlikely that you will be able to teach other verbal behavior repertoires. 

Following these strategies outlined below will help your student increase their ability to spontaneously communicate:

Strategy 1: Prompt mands initially to teach the child that it’s easy to get things with verbal behavior, so as to not turn the child off to communicating.

For most students starting work on manding, this may be the first time they are learning how to use a functional response form, whether it is sign, pictures, augmentative communication, verbalizations or a combination of these. We will use a variety of prompts based on their level of need and the way in which they are communicating. We need to make certain that they realize that communication is powerful and fun!

Strategy 2: Always start work with the student requesting their most powerful reinforcers.

Strategy 3: Always teach specific mands.

We should always start with manding for specific and powerful reinforcers, targeting 3-5 initial mands if possible. If you have a student with a limited amount of reinforcers, remember to use a preference assessment.

Strategy 4: Be a giver not a taker.

This is such a key strategy! Please do not take things from students who are nonverbal. Sometimes the only way they know how to communicate is with their behavior, which may be falling on the floor or having a tantrum. If a student wants a pretzel, give them a couple and not the whole bag. Once they eat the pretzels you gave them, they will be motivated to ask for more pretzels on their own. If a student requests a movie, show a short clip on your computer and control the buttons yourself. If you let the student watch a ten minute movie clip or give them their iPad to watch the movie, it may be very difficult to transfer to working on manding for other items or activities.

Strategy 5: Use a rotating array of reinforcement.

This strategy goes with Strategy 4. Instead of taking away an item, present another item or activity that is also motivating. If the student wants to engage with the item or activity they will request it. It is important to have this array of reinforcement in your possession, so that students need to request to gain access to the item or activity. This will help to increase the amount of practice they get with manding.

Following the above guidelines will help you build rapport and a cooperative therapeutic relationship with your student. It will also allow them to communicate more effectively with the world!

Rosemarie Griffin, MA, CCC-SLP, BCBA, serves students in public and private school settings. She created the website and gives presentations on professional collaboration and on using evidence-based practices. She is also the creator of the action builder cards and can be reached on facebook at @abaspeech.
Skinner, B.F. ( 1957). Verbal Behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Sundberg, M.L. (2014) The verbal behavior milestones assessment and placement program: The VB-MAPP guide ( 2nd ed.) Concord, CA:AVB Press.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How to Turn Making S'mores Into a Speech and Language Lesson!

It's officially summer, SLP friends!  If you are like me and working summer school, you might be looking for some super fun activities for your students.  I wanted to blog today about making s'mores, since I have found that this can be adapted and differentiated for your special education students as young as kindergarten or as old as high school.

First, I like to include an interactive vocabulary book in my lesson prior to actually making the s'mores.  This allows your students to be exposed to the necessary vocabulary, includes a literacy piece to the lesson, and prepares them for the later part of the lesson where they will actually be making the s'mores!  I love this freebie from Speech Bonanza: Free Making S'mores Interactive Book.  Here's a picture of my book, laminated and bound together to increase the chances of it not being destroyed from week to week.  (There's no guarantee, people!)

Are you working with a 6:1:1 class and are going to be doing a group lesson? Here are the jobs/ directions I suggest using.  Of course, remember that you know your students best, so differentiate however is necessary for your kids to be successful.  If some of the directions seem too challenging for your students, remember there is nothing wrong with starting with hand over hand prompting and then slowly fading your prompt level. 

1. Place six graham crackers on tray/plate
2. Place one or two pieces of chocolate on each graham cracker
3. Place a marshmallow on top of each piece of chocolate
4. Cook the tray/plate in the microwave for 30 seconds
5. Place a graham cracker on top of the marshmallow and push down
6. Pass S'mores out to your friends

 My coworker used Boardmaker Plus to create these visual sentence strips for students, and graciously shared them with me!

This year I don't have any, but if you're working with a 12:1:1 class, I would suggest using these jobs/directions:

1. Take out all of the ingredients and place on table (graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate)
2. Place three graham crackers on tray/plate
3. Place three graham crackers on tray/plate
4. Place one piece of chocolate on six graham crackers
5. Place one piece of chocolate on six graham crackers
6. Place a marshmallow on top of the chocolate on six of the crackers
7. Place a marshmallow on top of the chocolate on six of the crackers
8. Cook the tray/plate in the microwave for 30 seconds
9. Place a graham cracker on top of the marshmallow and push down
10. Get out six napkins and lay them out on the table
11. Place one s'more on each napkin
12. Pass s'mores out to your friends

We always want to make sure that we aren't just working on requesting with our students.  They should be able to comment also!  This visual sentence strip allows students to comment on what ingredients they see.  I leave all of the options on a laminated piece of computer paper that has a long strip of velcro on it.  My student can then select the correct one and place it on the commenting sentence strip (I see + noun).  This is also a great way to target/assess your students' matching skills.

Again, props to my colleague for creating the sentence strip with Boardmaker Plus!

-Do this activity repetitively with your students.  I see my 6:1:1 classes for a collaborative lesson one time a week, for an hour, and I typically will do the same activity for at least four weeks in a row.  This allows students to learn the routine and learn what is expected of them, before you change it up on them with a new activity.

-Don't assign jobs all willy-nilly!  Think ahead and plan which of your students would be best for each step.  We always want to challenge our students, but we do not want to frustrate them.  If you have a student who does not have great fine motor skills, don't assign them the job of placing a tiny piece of chocolate on each graham cracker.  If you have a student who has sensory challenges, they probably won't want to be the one to place the marshmallow on the chocolate, BUT they may be great at pushing down on the marshmallow using the graham cracker.  Do you have a student who has an IEP goal of learning their peers' names? They may be perfect for handing out the finished s'mores to their friends!

-I also recommend writing down which "job" each of your students has on week one, and assigning them the exact same job for the next four weeks.  They will be able to start completing their job with independence, allowing for them also to feel pride in being able to complete their step.

-Don't be discouraged at how much preparation this lesson takes.  It is worthwhile because your students will be motivated by the chance to make a s'more and then eat it, and this lesson can target SO many of your IEP goals.  Plus, you can save this and use it every single summer that you are working, regardless of the population you work with.  Every lesson plan you make should ideally be flexible enough for you to differentiate it for any potential caseload population.

-Don't rush this activity.  Create your schedule so that you have back-to-back speech sessions in the same classroom.  I usually spend a full hour in the classroom for this lesson.  The first half hour is for the interactive vocabulary book and the second half hour is for the making/eating of the s'mores.

-CHECK FOR FOOD ALLERGIES!  Triple check the IEP, check with the teacher, and check with the nurse, before bringing any kind of food item into the classrooms.  Also, be sure to check with the teacher in advance to see if they have any new kids in their room that day so you can find out about their potential allergies as well!

Hope you all find this lesson plan helpful!! I'd love to hear your feedback on how it goes with your students!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

App Review - Social Detective Intermediate

I'm so excited to be writing my first review for an app!  The app that I had the opportunity to try out is called Social Detective Intermediate by Social Skill Builder, INC.  Before we jump into my opinion of it, here are a couple of quick facts about the app.

-Meant for students ages 7-12
-Is the next addition to their popular Social Detective Beginner app
-Costs $24.99
-Requires IOS 9.0 and is comparable with your iPad
-First premise is that students act as detectives to identify the thoughts or emotions that a character is feeling, based on a social scenario by making a smart guess.
-Second premise is that students identify the clues that allow these smart guesses (raises awareness of what is seen and heard aka what social cues should they be recognizing in real life).

Okay let's get into it!

What did I love?

I loved the super catchy song that plays after selecting the app - it talks about how using social skills takes your eyes, ears, AND heart. You could have a whole week's speech lesson right there, discussing how those three things are necessary for social etiquette.

There are audio directions for our students to listen to, which allows them to be a little more independent while using the app and perfect for our students who struggle with literacy and reading/following written directions.

This app has enormous diversity in the types of social scenarios that you experience and clear and vivid pictures related to the social scenario. It had way more social situations than I would have ever been able to think of myself, and saved me the time of looking for a visual cue to go with them all.  It's just a time saver in general.

A lot of my speech groups are groups of three, so this app worked well for them.  Each scenario comes with three questions related to the scene, so each student was able to answer one question.  It was great because they all felt compelled to listen carefully, since they knew that everyone would have a turn answering a question about what they heard.

Data collection is an area that you hear SLPs talking about all the time and questioning how they can make it easier.  One plus of this app is that it is built right into the games.  Data is taken and shown via a bar graph that you can access any time.  A perk is that you can email the bar graph data to yourself, or to another person, to print out and send home, or keep in their speech folder to document progress over time.  Students can see their own progress as well, since bar graphs are easy to understand.

I loved that this app provides for a way to work on social skills even when you see students who are mandated for individual sessions.  It can be really difficult to work on picking up on social cues and identifying other peoples' perspectives and feelings when you don't have other people in the room to act out scenes with.  Using this app, you can target these same goals without needing additional people!

What improvements do I think would be beneficial?

-Although there was the option to turn on or turn off positive and negative reinforcer sounds, I felt that the negative sound was a little harsh.  The students that I am using this app with are already self-conscious about their social pragmatic deficits, and the strong negative buzzing sound when they answered incorrectly was not encouraging.  I feel that this noise could be replaced with something a little less dramatic, such as a funny voice saying, "Oops!"

-The app does have some diversity in the area of avatar selection, however it was still somewhat narrow with there being one choice for an asian girl, one choice for an african american girl, one choice for an african american boy, two choices for caucasian girls, and two choices for caucasian boys.  My caseload is mostly made up of students from the middle east, and they were unable to select avatars that reflected their own appearance.

-As I mentioned above, I was happy that directions were both audio & written on some of the pages however, the audio wasn't offered during the actual videos.  You really need to listen to the voice because the picture alone will not give your student enough information to infer what is happening. This meant that my deaf/hard of hearing students needed me to repeat what was said for them, since listening to a recorded voice was too hard for them to understand.

-Every scenario had three questions associated with it.  For some reason, the third question frequently was difficult to answer in terms of dragging the correct social thought into the thought cloud on the picture (which is how you answer the questions).  The answer was difficult to drag and release, allowing to have your answer accepted.  I found that I had to try multiple times before my answer "stuck" which could be frustrating to students.

Curious and want to try a demo?  Click Here!

Like what you saw and want to purchase the app?  Click Here! If you do purchase it and also write a review on your own blog, be sure to email the link to and they will send you a free promo code for their Social Skill Builder Lite app!

Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this app in exchange for a review, however the review is entirely my own opinions and I received no additional compensation for this review.