Sunday, March 12, 2017

Teamwork: The Blessings and Challenges

As professionals, members of families and communities we frequently engage in activities that require group dynamics. Whether you are coming together to raise funds for a new playground or church or to put on a production or event, you are working with individuals with their own experiences and backgrounds. Those experiences invariably shape their thinking, feelings and actions and can have an impact on the group as a whole. Their experiences may spur the group onward reaching for more and encouraging members to strive for results. Their experiences may be grounded in doubt and therefore detract the group from taking risks. Their experiences may be more pragmatic and result in taking very measured steps to the end. Whatever their background, their experiences will add a distinct flavor to the group dynamic, for better or worse.

Because we really have no way of knowing what the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of our group's members are, I have been thinking about how crucial it is for us be be mindful of our intellectual and emotional health when tasked with group activities. I arrived here because, I know the blessings and challenges that come from group work. Moreover, I am struck by how often, I know I don't always consider these same challenges and blessings when I am working to help my students learn to work in a group.

The question then becomes, "how do we remain positive, motivated and encouraged" and "how do we impart these strategies to the students we work with?" First of all, there will be times in most of our lives when we are part of a group that has a common goal. This group may be professionally based, community based, church based or even family based. What has recently occurred to me, is that because you share a common goal, you may believe you have a common vision. That may not be the case. Goals and visions aren't necessarily one and the same. Merriam-Webster defines a goal as "the end toward which effort is directed" and vision as "a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination." Personally, I think this is where I run aground; goal versus vision! This distinction is huge and has the potential to prevent much discord. When working in a group or when helping our older students learn HOW to work in a group, it may be important to clarify the difference between a goal and a vision and encourage the group to refine their collective notion of each. When, as a group, your goals and visions are aligned, it becomes easier to recognize where problems are seated.

Second point; remember when working in a group, you are in fact part of a group. That means that the group is the driving change and decision making body. So while you may have grand ideas and visions, if they aren't shared, they most likely won't be accepted. That can be very discouraging. It is in those moments that often we are faced with making a decision about whether we have a good fit with the group. I am not suggesting giving up. I am suggesting either yielding to the majority or perhaps finding/forming a group that is more in line with your goals and visions. In some groups, the discomfort associated with change is more than the discomfort associated with stagnation. Those groups might not change and if that is what the group wants, then that should be what the group gets. Find your group!

Third point: you may feel like an island, believing you are the only one with a vision of growth and success. That may not be so. As a wise friend said to me once, "As long as there is at least one other person in the trenches with you; that's the mover and shaker you need. Two can turn into four, and four can turn into eight, and so on." The takeaway here is, find an ally. I don't mean someone to collude with. I mean someone who complements your vision and can help you express it effectively.

Working in groups is one of the most wonderfully difficult, challenging blessings we can engage in. It is a life skill that if not learned, can result in family, school or employment struggles. Group dynamics bring about dichotomous relationships; the discouragement of roadblocks with the elation of success; the sadness of isolation with the joy of unity; frustration of negativity with the thrill of positivity. In life, there is value in experiencing and learning to cope with all.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Imagination Speech Therapy

It's March already! Wow! I have been on winter break this past week enjoying balmy temperatures when suddenly the temperature dropped to 5 degree! It's hard to imagine it will ever be warm, but imagine I will.

As I dreamed of flowers and bird song, I started planning therapy for my return to work. I have so many St. Patrick's Day and spring activities, but I wanted something different. It's important for me to stay motivated in speech therapy as well as my students. Our students are keenly aware of when we are bored, too! When my children were little they would engage in the most creative and imaginative play. They would have "set ups" with fairies and dragons and knights. I headed straight to the attic and dusted off the bins of fairies knowing the kids at school would love them. Imaginative play is immensely motivating as well as therapeutic. I decided to create a leprechaun and fairy village that can double later in the spring as a gnome village. Out into the bitter cold I went collecting mossy bark, sawing fungus off stumps and collecting branches. I thought my little fingers would freeze off!

I began the process by applying Mod Podge® to all the pieces to seal them and give them a glossy finish. My husband helped me cut stepping stones and ladder rungs. We devised a seesaw and a swing hung from a fungus canopy. He cut pieces for a table, chairs, and benches. As my friends commented, "It's enchanted." I couldn't help playing, arranging pieces and rearranging them. Oh my word, had I had a village like this as a little girl, I would have played on end.







The possibilities for language are endless. I've added just a few of the language target I will incorporate in speech therapy. I don't want to use any cards, worksheets, or printables while using the leprechaun village, I very much want my students to play in a naturalistic language context. I will, nevertheless incorporate tools like the Expanding Expression Tool and Story Grammar Marker.
  1. sentence formulation and expansion
  2. vocabulary development
  3. categorization
  4. associations
  5. similarities and differences
  6. defining and describing
  7. grammar
  8. making explanations
  9. question formulation
  10. social pragmatics
  11. narrative development
  12. concept development
  13. understanding complex sentences for direction following
Not only will my leprechaun village be seasonal and motivating, it can be recycled as a gnome village later in the spring! The best part of all was using my imagination to plan and design the different features and spending the afternoon with my husband in construction. We had such fun and it was wonderful to watch him get "speechie" as he said, "Let me make these different widths, so you can work on following directions with different thicknesses."

I will certainly post pictures of my little ones playing, imagining and learning.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Letters to Those Who Inspire Us: a Frenzied SLP Linky

I have recently had an opportunity to write a "palanca letter." Palanca means lever in Spanish and is intended to uplift the recipient. They are often written to those who are on retreat or a journey, often spiritual, but frequently just life changing. I wondered why it would take a big event for me to tell someone who is or was instrumental in my life what they mean to me, to offer them encouragement as they have given encouragement to me.
The Frenzied SLPs posted a blog hop on kindness last week, so I think writing palanca letters the week of Valentine's Day is the perfect extension of kindness. We are linking up again to write letters to someone who inspires and encourages us. It may be a college professor, a mentor or supervisor, a relative, colleague or friend who has been the "lever" in both our professional and personal lives. To me it is my friend and colleague Allison. I want her to know what she means to me.

Allison and I have been working together since 2003. She is as ideologically different from me as fire is to water, and yet we are bound by a mutual respect and admiration for each other's passion and commitment. We are alike in the value we place on tolerance, kindness, love, respect, education, growth, perseverance and so much more. Personally, I think we are the poster children for how people of differing opinions should treat each other.

Here is my letter to Allison EET style!
My Dear Friend,

I was thinking about how to write this letter to you, one, because it is public and two, because my blog is often speech oriented. It occurred to me that a public expression of admiration is a practice we should all engage in from time to time and I have the perfect speech tool for describing! You know I love using the Expanding Expression Tool in speech. We use it to describe objects and also to develop writing summaries, writing from background knowledge and writing biographies or autobiographies. It is very handy little item and it provides a wonderful framework for describing you.

Green: You are my faithful friend, a strong woman, a caring and tender mother, an advocate for all and an insightful and gifted special educator. You are an athlete a writer, a visionary and one classy lady!

Blue: You are always there to act as my touchstone whether it is to problem solve on a student or process a more personal issue. You encourage me to exercise (something I'm not naturally drawn to) as well as to stretch myself professionally. When I am hesitant about my abilities you always say just the right thing to encourage me to leap. I'm not sure you even see how instrumental you have been in my life. When I was falling, you LITERALLY picked me up and held me. I watch you do so much for your boys. I saw what a grateful and loving daughter you were. I see how you commit to your relationships and it furthers my own commitment.

Eye: I recall watching the ABC Afterschool Specials. One movie in particular was a favorite and I've mentioned it to you before. Skinny and Fatty was a 1958 film directed by N. Terao and written by Mitsuo Wakasugi and Seiya Yoshida.  It originally aired as part of the 1967 CBS Children's Film Festival that was hosted by Kookla, Fran and Ollie. When I think of us I am reminded of that film. It was very inspirational to me because it was about unlikely friends who encouraged each other, but it's largely our height difference that reminds me of Skinny and Fatty. You are tall and lean and beautiful with curls so dense and lovely. I know you sometimes bemoan your height (as I do mine). I think it suits you.

Wooden bead: This is the part I like; your character! What makes you, you? Well you are faithful, an unfaltering friend. You are always honest. You listen without judgment. You are a yin and yang of traits; humble, yet beautiful, strong, yet kind, brilliant, yet eager to learn, serious, yet funny, adventurous, yet rooted. You're amazing!

Pink: I don't know all of the life events that have had an impact on your life. I do know about your experiences with competitive swimming and how the work taught you perseverance and sportsmanship. I understand how the loss of your father as a teen impacted you, in fact that loss connects us as I had a similar experience. Your life growing up in Miami gave you a broader perspective of life. Then of course a college education at Harvard and meeting the man who would become your husband. Moving across the country to California and then back to NH with two young boys must have been a challenging decision, but again like me it became a place where you could find solace in difficult times. As a daughter, building an addition for your mother was an act of love and devotion. I am sure your mother was full of love for you especially as you nursed her during her illness. Dealing with a parent's terminal illness is something I can't even imagine. What a gift that you were there with your mother. When things got even more difficult and you had to make even bigger changes in your life, you did so with grace and courage. Not one to be stagnant, you continue be a model for your three boys by to taking your life by the reins and growing. I am excited to be a part of the next phase of your life!

White: This is where I could edit. I wouldn't change a thing!

Orange: What else do I know? I have been blessed with an amazing friend. A person who can laugh with me and cry with me. I love our relationship, one where we both give to each other. I relish those long after school conversations where we process a situation or talk about trends in our professions. I love talking movies and curly hair and kids. I love how I can look at you and you know what I'm thinking. After all this I am left with a single question; "Will you marry me?" :)
Is there someone special who has been a lever for you? Let them know, I suspect it will mean the world to them.





Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sharing Kindness: A Frenzied SLP Blog Hop




I recently had a student tell me I should be teaching him about kindness. He felt kindness was more important than strategies. I agree. Kindness is an ultimate goal as it relates to social competency. I explained the strategies we are learning lead to kind behavior. He seemed satisfied with my explanation. 
It seems there is a disconnect between kindness and the way people are behaving these days. The tolerance and acceptance people are professing only exists to the extent that they think others should believe as they do and not vice versa. The prevailing sentiment is "If you don't agree, you're a fool. I am right." Society is stuck on needing to be right, rather than accepting differences of opinion. Americans are expressing their opinions with ad hominem attacks, violence and vulgarity and our witness children are learning this is how to behave.  Furthermore, people seem to believe opinions ARE facts! Don't we help our students learn the difference between fact and opinion? The truth is, we are all entitled to our own opinions, just not our own facts. My anxiety increases daily as I see the diminishing premium placed on kindness in our world. I pray that we as a society begin to understand that it takes a conscious effort to behave with kindness and compassion. That living with kindness means extending kindness to everyone; the colleague who annoys you, the person who voted for the other candidate, the driver who cut you off, the neighbor whose dog barks, and the demanding parent. I've seen the hashtag #kindnessnation. Hashtags are cool and trendy, however I believe actions and effort are what is needed. I'd like to see people posting how they acted on their kindness each day because I believe #kindnessiscontagious.


The Frenzied SLPs are coming together in sharing kindness this month in the way we know best! We have collaborated to create FREE materials all with a kindness theme. You'll be able to target a wonderful variety of speech and language skills with these products! We think you and your students are going to love them. Let's keep the kindness going! We graciously thank you for downloading and using these materials with your students/clients. If you would be so kind, please leave feedback in our TpT stores if you find a few spare moments!
My valentine treat for you is a social story about giving and receiving valentines. This freebie is a story social intended for use with children who need help understanding the process of giving and receiving Valentine's Day cards. The tradition of giving cards may be overwhelming and confusing for our children with social pragmatic challenges.
Included in the download are 6 sheets that can be cut in half for a 12 page story. There are also places where students can insert themselves into the story by drawing a picture or gluing a photo. I hope you find it useful.

You can download it for free here.


Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind. ~ Henry James

Check out The Frenzied SLPs Sharing Kindness Blog Hop for more freebies by starting here:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Unraveling Confusion: Helping Students with Academic Success


At ASHA this November I attended a session in which the presenter reminded us, "you are not tutors." That comment made an impact on me because there are often times when students bring their classwork to speech therapy. I want to help them, yet sometimes can't. For instance, I don't understand how math is being taught. Truth be told, I struggled learning math 50 years ago! Sometimes the work they bring doesn't align with their speech-language goals and while I would love to help, I am not a tutor. That is important to remember. However, as SLPs, we do support curriculum areas like vocabulary, critical thinking and speech-language targets that are critical for academics and there are many instances where we can and should help students with their assignments. That is our job in the school.

No, we are not tutors. It seems though, our particular area of expertise is sometimes the exact thing our students need when they are struggling to understand a concept. This is most prevalent when students enter middle school. By the time these students enter sixth grade, often they have been on our caseloads for as many as seven years. While they have had seven classroom teachers, two or three special educators and a whole passel of para educators, we have been the constant. We understand their language difficulties and know how to tailor material so they can understand it. We get that they need constant cycling back to previously taught material. We understand that they need very explicit language. We understand that they need a highly linear approach. We know they may need this instruction in a one-on-one context. We are often the right ones to unravel the confusion and relieve academic frustration.

So when a student's paraprofessional recently came to me expressing the difficulty she was having explaining sonnet writing to a seventh grade student, I changed my therapy plans from inferencing to sonnets. My daughter had to write a love sonnet in eighth grade. She is a good student with no language difficulties and she struggled. It took her hours and I recall seeing the teacher who gave the assignment the next morning and saying, "Sonnet this!" We laughed, but it was a very challenging assignment, one I have never had to do myself. This year it is being done in seventh grade! For our students with language difficulties this assignment can be a doosie!

I am neither an English teacher nor a poet, so began my crash course in sonnets. This is how I broke the task down for my student:

  1. I provided the order and parts of a sonnet (fourteen lines, three quatrains of four lines each and a concluding couplet).
  2. We talked about sonnet vocabulary and the definitions of: quatrain, couplet, metaphor, stanza, iambic pentameter, rhythm, and syllable.
  3. I explained the requirements of a sonnet: number of lines, rhyming pattern, ten syllables per line
  4. I explained a sonnet must have meaning in terms of a theme, a conflict and a conclusion. 
  5. We practiced the ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhyming structure and the stress pattern of the lines with random words.
I whipped up some visuals and graphic organizers so my student could practice iambic pentameter and the syllable structure of each line before deciding on a theme. You can access these here.

At the end of one of our therapy sessions, this student said, "You explain things to me so I can understand. I like that." That is what we do. Our expertise in language and breaking information down into its component parts and knowledge of our students and their needs often make us the right people to unravel confusion. The next morning I popped into this student's English class. He already had three lines to his sonnet written! I could see his anxiety decreased with his understanding and I was very happy. Next week we'll work on inferences!


Monday, January 16, 2017

SLP Commitments-2017

Who am I? Not my name or my birthday. Not where I live or what I do, but who am I...on the inside?
Reflecting on where I want to commit my energies takes on a different bent when I view it through the lens of who I am, or rather who I want to be. Who I want to be as a woman is exactly who I want to be as a speech-language pathologist. I don't think I can separate my professional self from my personal self.

This post then, will be brief! My commitments:

  1. To serve my students and their families with respect.
  2. To reserve judgment and when I don't, to be accountable.
  3. To produce work of a caliber that represents both me and the profession well.
  4. To keep an open heart and mind and approach my students, their families, and colleagues with tolerance. (I will admit I am sometimes "grumpy." I am committing to repair this!) 
  5. To remember my needs and the needs of my family. 
I suppose this amounts to being the best version of myself as I can. Now, I know that perfection is not my reality. Lord knows I am as flawed as can be. I am no paragon of virtue, I am nevertheless, committed to continuing my journey to fulfillment and contentment. 

I think the lyrics to the song, Take the Word of God With You sum up my thoughts well: "Go in peace to serve the world, in peace to serve the world. Take the love of God, the love of God with you as you go."



Sunday, January 8, 2017

"Snow" Much Fun

It seems this week the snow was falling across the entire nation. Snow in Tennessee, Oregon, and Louisiana. Everywhere, except right here in New Hampshire. It has been bitter cold, though and we have a lovely base of white to play in. I just love the snow! I love how clean everything looks with a fresh coat of white. I especially, love a snow day (who doesn't?). After all the reds and greens of December, the visual and auditory overload, I relish the white, stillness of a snowfall.

I also relish the calm that is reestablished in my speech room. The hustle and bustle of November and December, while exciting, can also be overwhelming. January brings snowflakes and icicles and blues and whites. I look forward to bringing out my trusty winter activities.
Here are some of my favorites:


Last year after effectively emptying a box of Ferrero Rocher candies, I re-purposed the container for a fun and frosty game. I used Sharpie markers to transform a ping pong ball into a snowman and students take turns bouncing the ball into the candy box which has snowflakes with points adhered in each candy divot.


Don't Break the Ice is fun, fun fun! Last year I made mats to complement the game. This year I added eight new mats that including practicing word finding strategies and formulating compound sentences.  You can find it here in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Doyle Speech Works.

What do you get when you mesh crafts with speech and language activities? Why, craftivities of course. I have always found crafts perfect for therapy and love coordinating articulation and language targets to them.  I Heart Crafty Things is an amazing site full of clever and simple crafts that are easily adaptable for therapy.

A few years ago I found Penguin Pile Up at a yard sale. This game puts the "berg" in "iceberg." I haven't done this before, but this year, I am going to use dry erase markers to write targets in the iceberg. 


My students love using pacing sticks and when theme-based they are even more motivating. 

Ink daubers and stampers are must haves for quick and easy reinforcement in speech-language therapy sessions. I bought sets for several seasons and holidays and pull them out on those days when simplicity is a must. I bought mine through Oriental Trading.

I feel as if I could add more and more photos of snow themed activities, but I really better stop here. I am certain I am not alone in having a bevy of materials at my disposal, but it's nice to get some crisp new ideas once in awhile! I hope these suggestions provide you with something new to try in your therapy. Please comment with what you'll be doing in your speech rooms this winter. I'd love some new ideas!!