Friday, May 24, 2019

FunGames Speech Therapy Card Game : A Review

Finding high quality and engaging materials can be a challenge for the pediatric SLP, or any SLP for that matter. These days we have access to so many products and materials, it's hard to flesh out what will be useful across targets and age ranges.  We also want to make sure there is a long term usefulness. I often ask myself, "If I pull this out again next month, will my students be as excited as the first time I introduced it?" I also realistically have to consider if the product/material engages me! I want to be just as excited about what happens at my speech table as my students. Since so many of us spend our own money, the decision on where to invest becomes even more challenging and there is nothing more exasperating to me than having purchased and downloaded materials from TpT that have never been printed or used. I shudder to even think about how many products I have on my computer that have never been used. Consequently, hard goods have an appeal over digital products because they are front and center; manufactured, purchased, and ready to go, no printing, laminating, or cutting.

I was recently contacted by Maya, from FunGames, about a product she and her aunt, an SLP with 28 years experience, had developed. Their motivation was to design therapy materials that created solutions for some of the typical SLP challenges. The Express Game was born out of a desire for materials that offered enjoyable therapy, convenient card size, durable quality, crisp, clean, and real photos, common categories, relevant pictures, card flexibility, and box sturdiness.

Maya offered me a copy of The Express Game to review, no other compensation was provided. The following review contains my humble opinions only.

What I really loved about this product:

  • The Express Game comes in an extremely sturdy "shoebox" style box. It is visually appealing and for a tactile person like me, has a smooth finish.
  • Included in the starter set are 130-2.75 x 4.75 cards in 10 categories (clothing, fruit, vegetables, tableware, school supplies, musical instruments, cookware, furniture, and electronics).
  • The cards are brightly colored and feature clear, crisp photos without text. Again, as someone who notices texture, these cards have a really nice feel.  The cards themselves are waterproof and rip-proof. While I haven't done rigorous assessment of that claim, I can say, they are most definitely of sturdy quality. 

  • The textless nature of the cards allow them to be globally relevant and functional across any language. Some of the cards can be used for single word vocabulary activities while others can be used for developing words of classification as they feature several pictures belonging to the category.
  • Since the cards are real photos they can be used for any age and population.
  • This product is well suited across therapeutic and educational domains. Early educators, special educators, and  ELL teachers as well as an SLPs working with pediatrics and adults can find ample uses for these cards.
  • The cards are a practical size and are held easily by little hands.
  • The cards are easily used for individual therapy and group therapy.
  • The Express Game is very versatile and I have used it already with favorable results. It comes with a manual that includes many suggestions for therapy and games. 

  • An extension game is available here and includes 52 more cards in the categories of sports, camping, beach, and media.
  • The cards themselves are easily carried in a bag for use at multiple sites. SLPs will need to use their own bag for this and a small bag might be a nice addition to the product, so the entire box doesn't need to be carted site to site.
  • The interior of the box is slotted for convenient organization of the individual category decks with extra slots available for your own additions or the commercially available extension sets.
Other considerations:
  • Interestingly, there are no animals included in either product. I would like to have seen those in the starter set.
  • There are no blank cards included.
  • While the cards themselves are a great size for little hands, they are a little slippery.
  • Cards with text options might be useful, however, I do understand that would impact the global appeal.
  • When I originally ordered The Express Game, it was $59.93.  I consider that price somewhat high. I see the price is now $49.93 which I believe is more reasonable.
  • Transporting the entire box for the itinerant SLP, might be cumbersome. Including a cloth bag for carrying the cards between sites would be handy.
  • What makes the cards virtually indestructible is the fact that they are 100% plastic. From an environmental perspective I would like to see them made from a more sustainable material or even from recycled plastic. 
Overall, I am quite pleased with these cards and am excited to devise new ways to use them. I appreciate the opportunity to have given these cards a spin! Maya has generously offered a 20% discount for my readers (Thank you, Maya). You can find The Express Game here. Use the coupon code AnnieDoyle20 to receive 20% off the FunGame Original 130 Flashcards. This code will be available until June 25, 2019.
I would love to know if you purchase this product and I hope my review was helpful.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Little Help with /r/

I have most definitely dropped the ball on my poor blog. I feel a little guilty, but I've been told guilt is only productive for about ten minutes. I should be over it by the time I'm finished writing. :)

I was working with a student today whose profile is fairly complex. We were working on /r/ using the "ka-la" technique. While we had the "ka" piece down the "la" was proving more of a challenge. I think this is because we previously worked on /l/ and curling the tongue way back is counter intuitive, given all our work on tongue placement for /l/. We have tried play-dough, used a mirror, flashlights, flossers, and the jumbo mighty mouth by Super Duper Publications. It was tough.  This student needed some feedback that just wasn't happening.  I pulled out the mini mouth finger puppet also from Super Duper Publications. I asked the student to simultaneously move the mini puppet tongue while producing the "ka-la."  Wonder of wonders it worked. My student could see and feel what the tongue should be doing for this method!

Now, how to maintain the connection for home practice? I whipped out some red felt, a red pipe cleaner, and my trusty glue gun. VoilĂ ! After trimming off the annoying glue threads and trimming around the felt a bit, we made sure it worked well with a few trials (it did!).  My student was super excited and now has a puppet to practice with at home.  Phew! Whatever it takes, right?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Message for Full-Time SLP-Moms

While it may seem like I've abandoned this blog, I haven't! I have a multitude of paper scraps with notes, thoughts and ideas stowed and tucked in a multitude of places. I just took a break. The past twenty years have been spent as a working Mom.  I'm still trying to settle into my empty nest life and I haven't yet found my rhythm nor my place, so today I wanted to share a memory I had as I scrubbed floors.

Many years ago we had friends over for dinner, friends I truly love. It had been a long week and I spent my Saturday cleaning and cooking a turkey dinner. A veritable Thanksgiving feast. As we were tucking into pumpkin pie and coffee, the conversation shifted to parenting. It was then my friend looked at me and said, "Well, you're not a full-time mom."  Six words uttered that have been etched in my memory and heart. My response was simple and to the point, "Make no mistake, I am a full-time Mom."

Often when I worked late on an evaluation, those words echoed. When I had to rush my children out of the house for an early morning meeting, those words echoed. When my husband would bring a pizza to school and we would eat in my speech room, those words echoed.  I have long since forgiven the cavalier attitude that I presume accompanied those words, yet even today those words echoed, forgiven, not forgotten.

Yes, I was and am a full-time SLP, working for both the salary and the benefits that provide dental and health care coverage to my family and now college educations (as well as the love of the job).  I also fondly remember helping with bake sales, waiting for my little ballerina to finish dance class, being the den leader for cub scouts, teaching religious education, kindling a spirit of volunteerism at walks for cancer and life, driving to track meets, cross country meets, lacrosse games, editing college applications, baking bread and washing floors and dirty clothes. I was a full-time Mom, after all, and that was what I did.

I know mom-guilt is real but, I share this to remind all working moms who feel even the slightest tinge of guilt to release it.  I've heard it said that guilt is productive for all of ten minutes, after that it becomes destructive. We work, in large part, to provide for our families, nevertheless we are also models of success, perseverance, love and dedication. Working moms shine in ways that can't be quantified. Be gentle with your professional self and be gentle with your personal self. It was good for me to remember not to take either of my selves too seriously, nor to separate them!

Years have passed since that eventful dinner party. Our kids are both seeking adventures on their own and I have quite a bit more time on my hands. Despite this one thing remains, I am to this day a full-time Mom and I am pleased to say, "In my heart, I always will be."

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Today is the day before Thanksgiving and before I begin my cleaning and cooking frenzy (and shopping for a new food processor as mine broke two days ago!), I want to share an email I received from a colleague and dear friend. She retired in 2016 after having enjoyed a storied and fulfilling career, and has kept active with a variety of volunteer activities that draw on her extensive special education background.

Her endeavors provided her with a new base of comparison: new contexts, new teams, and new protocols often highlight how truly fortunate we were in previous employment settings, despite not always realizing that what we had was awesome. She wrote:

"Over the past months in my work with S---, I have come to realize even more what a phenomenal team you are. I have encountered some children whose educational programs are good, certainly, but some that are lackluster and even neglectful and borderline non-compliant with N---.

These are some of the things you all do that I really appreciate:
You contact outside evaluators and medical professionals to make sure you are addressing the needs of the child appropriately, that you're not missing anything, that you gather as much information about the etiology and strategies of each individual child - this takes open-mindedness and awareness that there is always more to learn. It also acknowledges that you are there to help the child learn and grow.

You try your hardest to write IEPs that are meaningful, and then you follow through. Testing, FBAs, consultations, documentation- you do it in a timely manner, and you do it well.

You engage parents in the process, and are respectful about it. You keep in contact with them, you listen to them, and you help them learn about and understand their children. Even if you don't agree with them, you try hard to make sure they know you are all in this together on behalf of the children.

You treat the children with respect. We have all had students that might be harder to appreciate- but you never let the child know.

You are creative and resourceful, with the goal of making learning fun, accessible, and challenging.

I know that some school districts have significant financial limitations. But S--- doesn't have gobs of money either. That never stops any of you.

Thank you."

In the spirit of gratefulness, I would encourage us all to find a moment to tell a colleague what they mean to you, both professionally and perhaps personally. In an age when we are quick to ruminate on what frustrates, annoys, and divides us, words of support and affirmation are more needed than ever before. 

I appreciate and value YOU, for whatever it is you do and for taking the time to read this blog.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Progress Monitoring Resources for Speech-Language Therapy

About a two months ago (hard to believe) I was considering some new goals for a middle school student. I was feeling at a loss in terms of what I could use to monitor present levels. I have some tools that are quite effective, (my freebies are here and here) but I wanted to progress monitor his word finding skills and what I created just didn't cut the muster. I also have some progress monitoring tools I purchased and truth be told, I'm not thrilled with them.  So what to use?

I remembered some books that I used to use ALL. THE. TIME. When new materials become available my tried and true resources get relegated to the back of the cabinet. How sad! As I considered what I had available, I pulled out these materials that are perfect for progress monitoring all manner of targets. Here are a few I will be using now: HELP: Handbook of Exercises for Language Processing, Language Remediation and Expansion: 100 Skill Building Reference Lists, and BESST: Book of Exercises for Successful Semantics Teaching.Why purchase something new, when I already have great resources? These books contain wonderful lists for many, many language goal areas.

There are other sources like these that I think would be extremely useful when progress monitoring including this from Academic Communication Associates, Word Retrieval Activities for Children and these beauties from Thinking Publications.  I haven't used these in years and actually had to retrieve the Warm-up and Working Out books from my attic (did you notice I inventory all my materials?). I believe I bought the Warm-up books when I was I member of the mail order Speech Pathology Book Club! Who remembers that one?
It occurred to me as I was searching for what I thought I needed, that I need search no further than my therapy cupboards. I don't need anything newfangled, I don't need to buy anything else. I need to actually use what I have, because you know what? It's good stuff!

How about you? What do you already have that you can breathe new life into? 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Data Collection Made Easier

I'm a "tally-er." I've always kept my student data using a given-correct model using tally marks. That's the way I was taught to do it in 1980 and that's the way I've done it up until this school year. New year, new strategy. I've noticed those, ahem, younger than me using a plus-minus data collection system. I can see the advantages, so I thought I would try it. Problem is, I've found myself having to count all the pluses, subtract the minuses, divide the correct by the given to get my percentage, and oh boy, it's no time saver. I also use mailing labels when working with groups. I've also seen people use sheets of paper with boxes for multiple trials and I thought that might be helpful, but again what about my label system?

EUREKA! Enter the Avery Product website. I decided to combine the check box method with my label method. Using the Design and Print feature on the website I was able to add 80 check boxes to the labels. It was fairly challenging to get them to line up (they really don't line up, but I don't care). All the formatting is done via the website and they print out beautifully. I can still use my labels, I can use the plus-minus system, and I can do less math. Sounds good to me. If you try this let me know if there is a way to line the boxes up more evenly.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Going Green in Speech: Using Lamination Scraps

Like many of you, I find myself in a sea of excess laminating film that I just can't, in good conscience, pitch. It is my goal to reduce what I am throwing into landfills for perpetuity, so I have been both limiting what I laminate and squirreling away the excess for later use. I want to share only a couple possibilities.

First, rather than purchase page protectors and plastic sleeves, why not make your own? Here is a video of how to make your own. I use them as overlays for books when students are practicing articulation while reading. Using dry erase markers they highlight or underline any words with their target sounds. I also place worksheets in them and again, students use dry erase markers to complete the page. I can then send the same page as homework.

I've made them in varying sizes so I can put articulation or task cards in them for use with dry erase or as smash mats with play-dough. It keeps unlaminated cards clean and reduces waste. I made these for Texas Speech Mom's speech counters by folding a piece of laminating film and using washi tape to seal the two sides. I left the bottom a little higher than the top so I could easily insert and remove the cards.

Another fun and green idea is to save the cut off ends of laminated materials. They are perfect as makeshift whiteboards. I often cut them into strips and write words for practice or sentence formulation and expansion. I have a sentence frame and then have different morphological endings on each card that students can manipulate. Erase for a new sentence.
I don't have pictures of my scraps, but this is the general idea.
These scraps make targeting interrogative reversal a snap. I call it the "magic flip." Write a declarative sentence on the laminated scraps and then abracadabra, do the magic flip and formulate a question!

Do you have any handy laminating film hacks? I'd love to hear of the ways you use it. Please share!!