How I Plan My Teletherapy Sessions on the Fly

Wednesday, August 5, 2020
I debated even writing this post. It's definitely not one of my most eloquent, detail oriented, type A personality posts. But planning for therapy isn't always a luxury. Some days you wake up late, the Starbucks line is around the building, or your kid can't find her shoes.... and you have a teletherapy session in 15 minutes. I figured I would share how I plan for my teletherapy sessions on the fly! 


The majority of my caseload is preschool to early elementary, so this post is about planning for them. I have said it before, and I will say it again, themes are the best thing to have ever happened to my therapy sessions. Themes give me a plan, direction, and focus for finding materials. So on the days that I didn't get time to plan the details of my upcoming session, this is what I do.....


I'll sit down at my desk with my laptop, a cup of coffee and my clipboard to jot down my plans. The first place I will go is to Vooks or Storyline Online. (If there is a book I know I want to read, but can't find it on one of the mentioned sites, I will also search YouTube. There is a read aloud available for almost every book out there. But word of warning- always watch it before you show your students, just to be sure it's appropriate and actually the book it says it is.) I love using stories and holding literacy based therapy for all students.  Once I find the book I want to use, the rest is easy. My next stop is Starfall. I will choose a target letter to work on that goes along with the book. For example, if we are reading, When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore, I will choose to use the letter Dd activity on Starfall. Pro tip: keep these tabs up and open as you find your activities. That way you don't have to search for them again during the live session. 

Ok great! So now we have a story where we can address vocabulary, wh-questions, inferencing, predicting, story grammar, etc. And a phonemic awareness activity. I will then go to Boom Learning to look for a related (if possible) activity to address other goals. For example, today I read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. Following the story, I used a free boom card deck where we counted hearts. We expanded sentences while we counted ("I see 4 Purple Hearts.") If you search, you will probably find a boom deck that relates to the story or theme you're using. Or you could always create your own boom deck to fit exactly what you need (....but my session starts in 2 minutes so no time for that right now!)

Last but not least, I will go to YouTube to find a song. I will usually open or close (sometimes both!) with a song that also relates to the theme we are working on. If the child is acting shy when we first begin, I will start with a song- usually one that also has a dance or movement to go along with it. Last week we talked about space so I played a preschool song about the planets by PinkFong. Super Simple Songs, Story Bots, and MotherGoose Club also has some really great ones. 

Thanks for reading, I would love to hear how you plan your sessions. Have a fun site or online resource you love to use? Please share!!


When the SLP Needs an SLP

Tuesday, July 7, 2020
I remember when I was first pregnant with Kenzie, someone told me “You’re going to be an even better therapist when you’re a mom.” At first I was insulted. I mean, I have 2 years of experience as an SLP and I know everything  (just kidding!) But then I learned how much truth came from that statement. I did become a better therapist as a mom. I was more compassionate with parents. Cautious of their feelings as they placed their child in “special education.” More understanding of busy schedules and why that homework folder wasn’t always returned. 


When Kameron was almost a year old, we learned that he needed Eustachian tubes and his tongue clipped. That experience has given me the opportunity to talk and emphasize with parents when their doctor brings up having the same procedures done. The anxiousness sitting in a sound proof room for a hearing test. The panic in the waiting room as he was put under anesthesia. But let me tell you, I would do it again if we needed to. The improvement in his language and balance was amazing. 


Fast forward to last week. Wednesday July 1, 2020 was Kameron’s first day of speech. Yep. Just because I am an SLP doesn’t mean my kid talks perfectly. But I want what’s best for him. I want him to be successful and not embarrassed by the way he says certain words. And maybe this story will help another parent out that has been on the fence about getting their child in speech. We all need help sometimes. Be your child’s biggest advocate. If we aren’t, who will be?

Summer Speech Therapy- Don't Forget the Academics

Wednesday, July 1, 2020
I am one of the odd ones when it comes to working in the summer. I actually really, really enjoy it. The kids come in excited and refreshed. They didn't just get done with a full day of school so they're eager to work, or "play" as we often call it. 
This post contains amazon affiliate links for your convenience. This means if you purchase something using my link, I may make a small commission. 

One of my most favorite age groups to work with are the kids that are just about to enter kindergarten. I love working on letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and fine motor skills. I wanted to be a teacher before I learned about speech language pathology, so the way I geek out over activities that work on more that speech and language doesn't surprise me. 

I frequently ask teachers what they would ideally would love for their students to know or be able to do when they walk into their classroom on the first day. I use the skills they mention and try to add them into my therapy activities. I am listing some of my favorite activities here. Most of these activities, or something similar, can be done by parents as well as therapists. 


Read! When reading books with your kids, talk about the cover before you even open it. Point out the title, the author, and the illustrator. These are skills that the kids should have in kindergarten. Discuss what the author and illustrator's jobs entail. Later, let them draw a picture of the best part of the book and explain that they are being an illustrator! If your child is working on articulation skills, point out words that have the target sound in them when reading. Depending on your child's age/ability, say the words wrong on purpose and have them "teach" you the correct production. They usually enjoy this and think it's pretty hilarious. Of course when reading you can also work on answering questions, labeling, and story grammar (characters, setting, problem, solution, etc)
You can also check out Vooks and StorylineOnline for fun, online versions of stories. 

Calendar Skills! When my students come in the room, the first thing we talk about is the calendar. Understanding how a calendar works is a great life skill and something they will use in school. We name the days of the week and the month (there are great youtube songs to help teach this!) This is a great way to also work on number recognition and counting. Talk about what day it is today, what day tomorrow will be, and what day was yesterday. Any special events coming up? Make those down, too! I bought this pocket chart calendar from amazon. 

Fine Motor! Writing and cutting are important skills your students and children should have when entering kindergarten. Have your student practice writing his/her name. If you're working on a specific speech sound, have them practice writing that letter. (I like to use a yellow highlighter and have the child trace over what I wrote for practice in the beginning.)Talk about the letters and what sounds they make. Cutting and ripping paper are also good motor skills. 

Following Directions! Play fun games with your kids to work on following directions, like Simon Says. Being able to follow directions is a big deal in kindergarten. If kids don’t quite understand what their teachers are asking them to do, it can affect their participation, their learning, and their success in the classroom. In a 2018 study, researchers noticed the importance of instructional verbs and wanted to see if the verbs could be learned during interactive shared reading experiences. Five kindergarten teachers selected 12 verbs that they believed children should know by the end of the kindergarten school year: identify, predict, match, sort, create, select, illustrate, locate, describe, discuss, respond, and demonstrate. Try using those verbs during speech activities to help better prepare your kids for school!

           

 Counting! Number identification, naming, and one to one correspondence are all important skills. For example, a child should know what the number 3 looks like, be able to say the number when he/she sees it, and count 3 objects. I use any opportunity I can to count objects.   Last week we made pizzas out of play doh and counted how many toppings were on each one. We also tied in receptive and expressive language, role playing, symbolic play, requesting, and asking questions. Probably the most requested activity that I get to address counting with is with Easter eggs. Who cares if it's July, your students will almost aways be down for an egg hunt. Any small items work, but I love using the colored counting bears to stuff the eggs. You can also target naming colors and sorting with them, too! Here are some options to purchase on amazon. I put a certain number of counting bears in the eggs, hid them, then let my student find the eggs. This was a great opportunity to work on spatial skills (I found the egg UNDER the chair!) When all the eggs are found, we open them up one by one and count them. I use a sheet that has the numbers we are working with and the matching number of dots under the written one for a little extra help.
Pro tip: Assess their number knowledge first. If your student counts like, "One, two, three, fourteen, eleven....." only focus on numbers 0-5 so you don't over whelm them. Set them up for success. If they are being asked to count to multiple numbers they don't know, they will just get frustrated. 

       

When my students get tired of practicing articulation words, I pull out the nerf guns! I use a binder clip on the bottom of flash cards and let them shoot away. They have to tell me the word they are trying to get first, then say the word(s) that they knocked down. If they're more advanced, we make a sentence for the words. This would work great with flashcards for colors, shapes, sight words, math problems, vocabulary... anything. 
 There are tons of fun and free activities you can find on Pinterest that can target these skills in a fun way. I am a huge fan of themes and love reading books and completing activities that go along with a theme. My entire Pinterest board is organized by theme. You can check it out, here. 

These are a few more great websites I like to use:
Starfall.com (I love this for preschool skills- lots of letters, counting songs, and more)
Pinkcatgames.com (tons of academic games that let you filter by age, grade, and subject)



Research study mentioned for following directions: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1525740117745639?journalCode=cdqc 





Our Family Grew by Four Paws!

Monday, June 22, 2020
Friday June 19th will forever be a special day for our family. It is the day that our family grew by four paws! My kids have been asking for a dog, specifically a mini Goldendoodle, since they met our friends doodle in January. Kameron even named this future dream dog 'Chip' during our drive home from their house.
Fast forward 6 months and we finally have our perfect pup. We had been researching breeders, searching Doodle Facebook pages, and reading articles about Goldendoodles for months. From one of those Facebook groups, I made a friend named Allison. Allison  had been helping me find our "Chip." She connected me with a breeder from Texas who was so kind and loving to these pups. Chip was the only male in the litter and only one still available. 
For us, he was meant to be.
Allison also helped us find a flight nanny to get him from Texas to Florida. Who knew that was even a job?!
 After a long day of anxiously waiting, multiple missed flights, and a rollercoaster of emotions trying to keep the secret from my kids.... we had our pup in our arms at 10:30pm.

He is a tiny dog (currently only 4lbs!)  with a huge personality. He's so sweet, smart, and fun. The kids just can't get enough of him.
  Welcome to our family Chip. You are already oh so loved!




Photos by Erika Johnson Photography

Using Written Language to Improve Spoken Language (and Vocabulary!)

Thursday, February 20, 2020
Sometimes speech therapy can get monotonous. Working on the same sounds, using the same games... it can get a little boring. Which is probably why we find ourselves constantly perusing the Dollar Spot at Target and searching Pinterest on a regular basis. We are always looking for new, engaging activities. Sometimes the things we think are boring old activities, are actually something new and fun to another therapist. So today, I want to share with you an activity I've been using for years to teach and engage my articulation students. 
If you have worked in an elementary school setting, you have probably heard the term, "rainbow writing." If you're unfamiliar with it, rainbow writing is having a student write a word multiple times, in different colors. It gives great opportunities for lots of repetition and their papers just look so colorful. Typically this was done with sight words, but I started using this technique with articulation words in my speech sessions. When I was in the schools, I had a rainbow writing center that I used with my groups. (If you're interested in using centers in your speech sessions, here is a blog post I did on the (informal) research project I did on speech centers back in 2013.)

To make this activity as easy and low-prep as possible, I created a "Rainbow Doodles" printable packet. In this packet, each sound is listed in words in the initial, medial, and final positions. Have your students rainbow write these words as they practice them. Multisensory learning (seeing, hearing, saying, etc) can enhance learning and help with processing the information. When the child hears his/her therapist say the word, reads the word, copies the word (multiple times), and says it out loud, they are engaging all their senses. 

A 2019 study posted by the ASHA Wire looked at how written form during instruction aids vocabulary learning. The results of the study showed "strong evidence that the presence of a word's written form leads to improved learning of its spelling and spoken form. There is also some evidence that it may lead to better learning of a words meaning." 

When I read this study, it made me think of using the Rainbow Doodles activity in therapy. Instead of just repeating words produced by the therapist, seeing the words can help the child with spelling. Seeing the letters in the word and associating letter names and sounds is directly related to articulation skills. The article written on the study also mentioned that "a small number of studies have also shown that the presence of a word's written form benefits vocabulary learning in children with developmental language disorder, autism, down syndrome, and reading difficulties." Vocabulary is the foundation of language and comprehension. It's directly associated with listening comprehension, reading, writing.... all the skills we work on as speech therapists! 

You can download a copy of my Rainbow Doodles packet by clicking on the image below. (This is actually a very old activity I have had on TpT for years. I recently gave it a facelift and added some more sounds to it. If you already own it, go re-download it!)
Happy writing!!

Source: https://pubs.asha.org/doi/full/10.1044/2019_LSHSS-VOIA-18-0135

Mommy Mondays: More Dinner Table Conversations

Monday, February 17, 2020
Family dinners are completely different in each house. The "picture perfect" scenario, as often depicted on television, is everyone home by 6:00pm with a freshly prepared, healthy meal ready to be served. Smiling faces around the table. Everyone sharing highlights of their day. But in today's reality, the typical family is so busy. We are rushing to make dinner (or pick something up) so we can quickly get the kids to soccer practice or a PTA meeting. The close togetherness of a family dinner has gotten lost in the shuffle. I am guilty of neglecting the special time at the dinner table. My husband doesn't get home til about 8:00 each night, so I typically feed the kids much earlier. I used to sit with them as they chatted, but instead of engaging with them I took those 20 minutes to answer emails or sneak a peek at the news. The end result was Kenzie asking to use the iPad at the table or requesting a show to watch as she ate dinner.  I didn't realize how much quality time we were missing out on as I was trying to multitask!

As hard as it is with busy lives, try to schedule in some time each day or even a few times a week to have some serious quality time with your kids. It doesn't have to be at the dinner table. It can be the few minutes before bed or in the car on the way to soccer practice. Turn off the radio and just talk. Ask them questions, play games, be silly! Trust me, these are the memories they will always remember.

This is also a fantastic way to spend some extra time working on language skills.  Start talking about books you read, asking & answering questions about their day (and yours!), labeling things we see. These are all great opportunities to enhance everyday language skills!


To help with this, I created some cards with questions, little games, and conversation starters to get you started. Some of these are really silly so I think your kids will enjoy this! I printed them off, cut them up, and added them to a ring for storage. Keep one copy at the dinner table, maybe one in the car, or even in your child's night stand to use a few minutes before bed. Of course, don't read these while driving but they are perfect while waiting in car circle or if you have an older child that can read them aloud while you are heading off to dance class.

There are 4 pages of questions included in the deck. The first page includes 12 "Would You Rather?" questions. Take turns asking your children which scenario they would rather have happen and have them explain why they chose that answer.  You answer, too! Kids love hearing our responses to silly questions. If you're on Instagram, I have a highlight reel called "Car Line Would You Rather?" My son loves posting 'Would You Rather" videos and having you all vote with your answer. We started this last year when he would sit in carline with me each day waiting to pick Kenzie up. So silly and so dang fun. 

Next are 12 conversation starters. I love learning what my little guys are thinking. What do they want to be when they grow up? What would they wish for if they had 3 wishes? Their answers will probably surprise you! And the fun part is that these answers may very well change by next week,  so keep asking!

On the third page is 12 social skills scenarios. Read them aloud and have your kids answer if the person was using good or bad table manners. If it was bad table manners, have your child respond with what he/she would have done differently in that situation.

Last but not least 12 more cards for a little extra fun! These cards include some quick little games, challenges or silly things to do. After all, we all just want to have fun.

Engage and embrace these moments before they are too old and don't want to hang out with us anymore. The Family Dinner Game Cards are free in my TpT store. Click the image below to download your copy!

Dear Students... a letter from your therapist

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Dear students,

I want to let you in on a little secret. You have a huge part of my heart. I don't only think about you during those 30 minutes when we are together twice a week.

I think about you in the middle of the night when I can't sleep because you haven't reached that goal yet.

I think of you when I read hours of evidence based research studies on the perfect way to help you learn new vocabulary words.

I think of you while I am at the store and see a toy you would like.

I think of you when I get up early to print and laminate activities for us to do that day.

And when I am up late searching Pinterest for new ideas.

When we have a great session, I leave feeling on top of the world. When the session doesn't go so well, I leave feeling defeated. Like I let you down.

I think of you on the weekends when I am attending conferences and workshops.

I say a prayer for you when you're out sick. Or when your family is going through some tough stuff.

I feel so lucky to be a part of your journey. To be a counselor to your parents and a place of comfort for you.

You are very special. You are so loved. And you are a huge part of my life.

With lots of love,
Mrs. Kristin


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