Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thoughts from the Back Porch: Summer Wrap-up

I've dedicated a couple of posts to our impending "empty nest." Here we are one week from the day we drop Mack off at school and I'm astounded by how quickly the summer has passed. When I was a teen, adults frequently remarked that time would seem to fly, so hold on to my youthful days. Hindsight is twenty twenty and I finally understand what they meant! I am returning to work next Tuesday.

My summer hasn't been all angst, however. In fact, there were days of hikes, gardening, kayaking, exercise, ASHA Connect, and reading on the porch. I also worked! For the first time in many years I provided speech-language therapy for students receiving extended school year services. It was really fun because I used all my ocean theme materials. I typically don't have enough time in June to use those particular materials. I thought it would be a nice idea to actually share some SLP related content (it's about time).
My perfect Pinnacle pepper.
As usual, I'm grateful for my pack rat mentality. I have repurposed so many of our children's toys for speech-language therapy that it has become easy to find items related to most any theme. The first item I dove for was Nora's felt board. We have a wonderful collection of "felt kids." I don't know if that particular brand is still available, but there are many other suitable brands. The therapy applications are plentiful, including following directions, basic concepts, vocabulary, narrative development, and sentence formulation and expansion.

I also have a wonderful magnetic fishing game that belonged to Mack. This wooden toy has numbers on one side and corresponding dots on the other. Remarkably, I'm only missing the number six fish. I taped cards to the fish as simple reinforcement. We used the dots on the fish for pacing multisyllabic words, too. I photo copied the dot sides of the fish, laminated, and cut them out and used paper clips to attach cards for the magnetic fishing pole.

I made some targets for use with my shark popper. I used the targets alone and with "speech targets" specific for each student.

Of course...books. What skill can't be addressed with books? Old School Speech has a wonderful book companion for Nugget and Fang that the children really enjoyed.

I have some super fun suction cup balls similar to these. We use them to pitch balls at targets on the whiteboard and laminated surfaces. I was able to enlarge this graphic using a free website called Block Posters. It is incredibly easy, if you don't mind cutting and pasting. I used dry erase markers to write points as well as words for articulation practice, vocabulary, etc.

I forgot to take a picture of Mack's awesome shark. When the fin on this baby is pushed, the jaw closes and can pick up small items. I used this with my mini objects for categorization, multisyllabic word practice, attribute identification, vocabulary, following directions and more. For simple and fun reinforcement I whipped up ocean-themed dot pages, used Putting Words in Your Mouth's Quick Drill Hungry, Hungry Sharky and Shark Biggy Mouth clip art from P4 Trioriginals. I love this clip art and use it all year long. It's nice to use simple reinforcement activities some days.

Whelp, soon I'll be in BTS mode and thinking of apples, leaves, and pirates. Stay tuned for more fun theme-based therapy ideas. I hope your back to school adjustment is seamless.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Thoughts from the Back Porch; Feathering the Empty Nest #2

Last week I began sharing how my life is quickly changing as our children move to increased independence and adulthood. Yes, it is an emotional rollercoaster, but it also has been fun. I have learned some very practical lessons. For instance, Nora is an amazing example of stewardship of the Earth. She has encouraged me to really take a more responsible look at what I toss in the trash. Now, I recycle, but because of her vigilance and commitment to reducing waste I have taken a hard look at what I don't recycle and how I can reduce what I use to store my food and pitch. Rather than throwing away empty jars and plastic containers I have begun washing them and using them as food storage.
I discovered this cocoa container is top rack dishwasher safe!
The iced coffee straws that I never thought about are now vexing me. I found these stainless steel straws and plan on keeping one with me for those Dunkin' Donuts days. I am buying whole heads of lettuce rather than plastic containers of pre-washed and chopped lettuce and wrapping them in dish towels. Okay, I now have to wash and tear my lettuce. The upside is my old salad spinner that I received as a shower gift is getting a new "leaf on life!" I am avoiding my tried and true Glad Wrap and moving to foil and beeswax food wrap. She has helped me to look at the sheer quantity of food bags that get indiscriminately tossed and directed me to Terracycle. From this website I have been able to explore how to recycle items our town recycling center doesn't accept. Our town's recycling facilities are paltry at best. They only accept 1 and 2 plastic! With a little research I have learned how I can recycle chip bags, toothbrushes, floss containers, toothpaste tubes, laundry soap bottles, pens and more. With a little effort I am doing my part and I encourage you to do the same.

Mack on the other hand brings a certain joie de vivre to my life lessons. He makes me laugh and see situations with a sense of humor. I recall one day recently when I had asked him to pour me a cup of coffee. Now Mack's working memory can be less than efficient, so needless to say, the coffee was nowhere to be found. I commented, "Wow, I'm amazed at how quickly things leave your head!" He turned on a dime with eyes wide open and a huge grin replying, "I KNOW, RIGHT? IT'S AMAZING!" In that clarifying moment I finally understood, he doesn't forget because he chooses to forget.

He also taught me about the no internet game. With this remarkable heat we have been experiencing our internet service has been inconsistent. I actually don't know that the heat is the cause, it's just a correlation I've made! I always wondered what that little dinosaur was for when the connection was lost. Now I know it's a game I can play while I wait for the service to come back. Who knew? I'm pleased to announce, I scored a PR of 699 points :).

I watch them walking away from us, but I know they are walking toward something. That thought helps me. That thought brings some peace.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Thoughts from the Back Porch: Feathering the Empty Nest

It has been an interesting summer. In many respects it has been wonderful, and yet I am left with a subtle, yet fully palpable sense of dread. In chatting with friends over current events in my life my dear SparklleSLP suggested I write about my experiences. I think that is a great idea, so my next few posts will focus on the impending transition to the empty nest.

This is not a transition I am eager to experience. I have treasured having my children home safe and sound. Our eldest has already left for NYC and our second will be departing in 3 weeks for the same place. While I am so excited for them to begin the journey toward adulthood and what that means in terms of our relationships, I also want them here with us. I am filled with joy and sorrow, joy for their adventures and sorrow for the door that is closing. I am truly writing this with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face; forever the proverbial push-me-pull-you of Dr. Dolittle fame.

Rather than dwell on my sadness in this seminal post, I am choosing to look at what I have learned from our children and there is much learned this summer. First and foremost I have learned to trust God's plan for our children. WOW, has that one been a challenge! My friend, Laura shared the prayer she says, "Lord help me trust YOUR will for my child." That has proven difficult, although not impossible. What I am learning is I need to relinquish my desire to control the outcomes of their lives, knowing it is all part of a perfect plan for THEM. So when Nora was sick and I went down the road to catastrophizing, I pulled back and prayed and prayed and prayed. Turns out the poor kid is allergic to wheat, dairy, AND eggs (that we know of)! She will be fine with some adjustments, thank God. When Mack made some choices we didn't agree with and I went down the road to catastrophizing, I pulled back and prayed and prayed and prayed. Turns out he needs to make his own choices and we need to trust that his choices are now his responsibility and his experiences are part of God's plan for him. We have to trust that the values we have imparted will remain.
Thank you to all the prayer warriors who prayed with me! These were hard weeks filled with anxiety I haven't felt in quite some time. I have learned that I can cope. I can be the parent of adult children. They still want me to be their Mom, but it is more about them knowing I can allow them wings to fly and a nest to return to when they need me. Thank you, dear children for making me better. I love you.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Thoughts from the Back Porch 2018

June and the hustle and bustle of year-end activities are in the past. I made it through my 35th year as an SLP and can truthfully say, I am excited about 36! The beginning of June saw the high school graduation and 18th birthday of our second child, Mack, and all the planning and excitement of family celebrations. The end of June saw a trip to NYC for college orientation with the added bonus of being able to visit with family and our eldest child, Nora. Enter July and a wonderful ten days with Nora visiting.  We were able to do some binge watching of Star Trek Discovery, indulging in Big Catch onion rings, baking, kayaking, and hiking (the hike itself is a story for another day. Suffice it to say I was able to ascend my sixth 4,000 foot mountain in NH). I hate to see her leave and I don't really want to think about August when we drop Mack off at college.
Kayaking on Newfound Lake
Hike up Mount Moosilauke
Yesterday, I attended services atop Loon Mountain. It was a beautiful day with a stirring view. We rode the gondola to the summit. It was lovely. While the sermon had many meaningful elements, two items stood out. First the notion that "gifts are through us, not to us, but to others." I'm going to have to ponder that one. The second nugget was more of a challenge; to completely disconnect from distractions (screens, calendar, books, etc.) for all of the following for a straight shot: 1 hour per week, 24 hours per month, 7 days per year! I am sure I could do the first two, the last one would be tough. I would need a vacation on a secluded island for that! Another thing to ponder.
Loon Mt. ministry
My summer vacation has been relaxing and peaceful thus far. I am working at school one day a week for a four weeks. I haven't worked extended school year in quite some time and it has been fun. It's such a relaxed vibe. I'll share some of my summer fun speech activities soon.  

One last funny story. I love gardening and my flowers, veggies, and herbs are a source of respite in the summer. My favorite summer beverages include fresh mint. I muddle the mint and place it in a pitcher of water in the fridge. It's a refreshing way to get all my water in. I went out to dinner with friends in late June to celebrate a retirement and ordered an adult beverage with muddled mint. The server brought my drink and it had a funny aftertaste. The "mint" was all chopped up and hard to see, but a few leaves were whole. I removed the leaves from the glass and they were uncharacteristically teeny and fuzzy for mint. I quickly realized it was muddled oregano. I politely asked for another drink. This one was loaded with mint oregano. After tasting the herbs I showed the server and she responded adamantly that, "This is the only mint the bartender can find in the garden!" I said, "This is the only oregano the bartender can find in the garden." Sheesh! Wonder what he puts in a mojito?!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Checking In!

I am writing this post with an apology. I have been more than delinquent with my writing. I can't figure out why either. It's something I love to do. I truly enjoy sharing ideas and connecting with other SLPs. I am always honored when someone comments and shares. It is a joyful reminder of why I write.
I have wondered: 

Am getting old? Am I just too tired? Do I feel I have nothing important to share? Does anyone really have an interest in reading my posts? Is what I'm sharing relevant? 
Are blogs passé?

These are compelling questions for which I have no answers.  I do know that I have taken a hiatus from many things I enjoy: reading, journaling, creating art, IG, materials creation and more. I am careening toward an empty nest and I also wonder if that has gotten the best of me. It's so hard for me to picture myself as anything other than a Mom of young children. I well up with emotion even thinking about it!

I have been honored to be counted among many talented and creative bloggers and I want to have staying power, so I want to use this platform to express myself. I think I simply need a little motivation as well as to reestablish my blogging habit. I would be very interested in hearing from you, my readers; what would you like me to share, moreover, would you like me to continue to share? What kind of are posts are most appealing (strategies, inspiration, therapy ideas, surviving the empty nest)? 

If you would be willing to take a moment and comment it would make my day! I appreciate all of you and eagerly await hearing your voices! 

I will be back with Thoughts from the Back Porch, my summer series. 

Thank you,

Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Little "Extra" Storage Hack

I'm back! I took the forty days of Lent as a time of reflection and fasted from social media. Initially, it was a challenge and that surprised me. I didn't realize it was going to be difficult to not look into the lives of my friends, and I experienced just the slightest case of FOMO. When Easter arrived I had over 400 Facebook notifications and I don't know how many on Instagram, that I completely ignored! I am happy to report, the cycle is broken and I now barely look at Facebook and have limited interaction on Instagram.

My fast included blogging and while I missed it and wondered about whether anyone missed me, I stuck to my guns and didn't post. What I did do, was take pictures during the forty days and jot down blog ideas, so I have some material for a bit! As I look to the future, I will maintain my blog and post my ideas and activities on Instagram, but my Facebook activity will be infrequent, particularly in light of Facebook's current controversies.

On to my storage hack; one day I was chatting with a friend at work and she offered me a piece of gum, and as she did I heard a choir of angels singing, "AHHHHHHHHHHH!" A light bulb went on! The gum was in the best container ever! It is the absolute perfect size for articulation cards. I set out to find the cheapest price on Extra 35 stick packs of gum. So far the cheapest price has been at Walmart, $1.89, but I think that was a mistake because when I went to buy more, they were $1.98. The upside is my artic. cards smell like spearmint and wintergreen.

Doesn't everyone buy stuff to use the containers?

One stick left...OH BOY!!!
These containers are the perfect size for cards!

I do like to chew gum, however now I am eagerly trying to finish these packs, so I can put the containers to work. Now everyone who walks into my room is offered a piece. After seeing my joy, my friend Stacy, who turned me on to these packs, has been saving her empties for me, too. I am imagining how beautifully organized my printed artic. cards will look when they all have their own sweet smelling little containers. It's the simple things in an SLP's life!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Helping Students Who Are Orally Defensive in Speech Therapy

I was working with a group of students last week and I wanted to help them grasp proper tongue placement for /s/. I pulled out the mirrors, tongue depressors, and toothettes when all of a sudden one second grader flipped out. With his hand covering his mouth he pushed himself away from the table and expressed with terror in his voice, "I don't like things in my mouth!" Okay," I responded, "no worries we don't have to use these." He remained fearful even with reassurance that I wouldn't come anywhere near him with the toothette. His peers on the other hand, were eager to use the cherry flavored tongue depressors. That session was lost for him and yet I still needed to help him understand tongue placement. I have a Super Duper Jumbo mighty Mouth Hand Puppet, but I wanted him to have a more personalized experience.

In the car on my way home (where all my ideas/thoughts happen) I decided that in order to have him develop comfort with his own mouth, he had to make one and not just a paper mouth, but a mouth where he could move the tongue. I've seen mouth craftivities with mini marshmallow teeth, but I wanted this one to be used more than once. I also didn't want to spend too much money as lately I've been a little too spendy. I ordered 1/4 inch white pom poms to be used as teeth and found pink baby socks at Walmart. I bought the 0-6 month size. I made a mouth template from card stock that the students traced on pink paper with a small rectangle where the sock tongue would be glued. Unfortunately, the pom poms didn't arrive in time, so we used crumpled tissue paper for teeth. I wish I had thought of that before I bought the pom poms!  I struggled stapling the tongue in when it occurred to me to use hot glue. I also trimmed about two inches of the sock cuff off, so there wasn't excess sock.

My little ones placed their fingers in the sock and moved it all around their mouths. They used tongue depressors and toothettes to touch all around the teeth and tongue. My colleague from our PK had a great idea to add some texture to the alveolar ridge I had drawn on. I think I'll outline it with white glue and sprinkle sand, glitter or salt on top. I'd like them to understand that the alveolar ridge is bumpy.

Years ago, I worked with twins one of whom was very orally defensive. His parents were at their wits end, because he was having considerable dental problems, yet they couldn't get him to the dentist. We are fortunate to have a dental program in our school whereby a dental hygienist comes and cleans students' teeth.  They asked for help so I ordered some dental tools. Never fear, they were never placed in the student's mouth, they were simply to desensitize him to the tools. He used them on the Jumbo Mighty Mouth and used the mirror tool to look in my mouth. It worked like a charm.
I'm fairly certain it's going to take repeated exposure "playing" with these mouths before this particular student becomes more at ease. It may never happen, in fact, but at least he will have  a greater awareness of his tongue in his mouth and will be less anxious when I pull out tongue depressors for use with his peers.

One last picture. I was able to find some white pom poms in my big ole bucket of pom poms, so one student glued them on his mouth as teeth. I actually think I like the look of the crumpled tissue paper better, plus there was no drying time because we used glue sticks.

Any other suggestions? How do you help your students with oral defensiveness? I am open to any and all suggestions!