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!!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Thoughts from the Back Porch: Back to School

I've begun my 36th new school year and have had an opportunity to reflect on the transformation from my first year as an SLP in 1983 to today.  The arc of my life has been huge and I suppose that is a wonderful thing. I mean, who wants a life that remains stagnant? My final summer post is a simple share of some of the lessons I've learned, lessons that have improved my happiness and relationships.  In sharing, I hope you are able to find among these words one or two chestnuts that you can apply to your own life. It may just be the thing you need.
As you may have read, my husband and I have joined the ranks of the empty nester set.  I haven't embraced this happily, in fact it has been very hard for me and I find the hole left in our home to be akin to the Grand Canyon. I've been thinking about all the things I thought were a big deal while the kids were little and I was juggling motherhood, volunteerism, and a career and I sure do wish I had let more things go. I wish I had not flipped over laundry not in hampers or counters not wiped to my exacting standards. I wish I had said, "No," to early morning meetings scheduled on my time that required us to rush and leave our home in a flurry of frustration. I could have, I should have placed a premium on our time over my job. It's too late now. Now I'm left with memories of me being stressed. Folks, take it from me, if we allow employers to dictate our personal time, they will. So, I would encourage you then to have the courage to say, "This doesn't work for me. Would you consider finding another time?" You won't regret it.
Now for the transformation bit. I have always been a seeker and as a result I am in a perpetual state of searching. The upside is, I often find answers, solutions, resolution, and clarity. I have searched in some pretty wacky places, too.   I’ve explored Forum whereby you can “live an extraordinary life and redefine the very nature of what’s possible.” Ummmm, in just three days, mind you. Fortunately, I never followed through with that one. I was blessed with a UTI and had to cancel. Dodged that bullet!

The best was the energy workshop. At that one I was asked if I wanted to know how many alien implants I had in me. That was followed by whether I wanted to know how many implants were supposed to be in me, their host. By all means, please, tell me how many aliens are living within me, maybe that will explain my weight. I am eating for twelve! With a finger flick and a wave a fellow participant removed the alien implants that needed to reconnoiter with the mothership. I almost lost it when the presenter informed me that, yes, in fact, the x-files are real! Sweet mother of science, all I wanted at that moment was a close encounter with an earthling. Clearly, I am a seeker, I seek transformation, but change happens organically. It doesn’t start, then stop, it’s more fluid; sometimes trickling other times surging. Where I am today I can definitively say, “You’re right, God, I am destined to do more than I thought possible.”

One weekend in 2014 I was planning to attend a weekend workshop that had been recommended by an individual I trusted implicitly. The website got me: “Are you willing to be an empowered human being?” YES! 
Do you want to “eradicate your mind of generated fears while empowering your creative self expression, authenticity, connection, and aliveness?” YES, whatever aliveness is. 
“Are you still looking for the success you feel you deserve?" YES! 
"Do you see negative patterns affecting your relationships with loved ones?"  YESSSSS!! 
"Has the realization of your supposed goals in life, career and marriage left you unsatisfied?” YES, YES, YES!!! 
I’m in! I paid my $400.00, I packed my bag, I filled my cooler, and I was off! Woohoo, healing here I come! After six hours I was running for the door! The next morning roughly 20 insights came to mind and those insights were the impetus for the transformation that I live today. They are the source of my relationships with family, friends and colleagues. Here you go. Take what you want, mull over the rest, or stop reading now, although I do hope you read on.
  1. I don’t have to have a breakdown to have a breakthrough. 
  2. Often those who profess to hold all the answers demonstrate, practice, and exhibit the same “flaws” they point out in others. I am really okay. I am loved. I am valued. I am appreciated, by God, by my friends, and by my family.
  3. I love who I am! 
  4. Often those who profess to want to help are hiding behind their altruism. Beware of collusion.
  5. I am powerful. 
  6. I love who God created me to be. 
  7. I love my husband. 
  8. I love my children. 
  9. I feel a peace and purpose in my life. 
  10. I feel a patience I haven’t known. 
  11. I feel forgiveness for those in my past who had a hand in my trauma. It all really doesn’t matter. 
  12. I am powerfully in love with God who has blessed me with these insights. 
  13. I don’t have to do it all. I only have to do what matters. 
  14. Many will spin a situation to substantiate their design. 
  15. Many will make judgments without the facts and present them as truths. That’s their interpretation of the truth. Remain grounded in what's healthy for the mind, body, and soul. 
  16. The people you think you can trust will not be there if they are challenged, afraid, or want to preserve their agenda. Trust God. Lean on him, not man. 
  17. I am loved by the King of the Universe. What do I fear? Nothing! 
  18. I can be wrong; whatever! 
  19. My husband means more to me than anyone. 
  20. I don't need to search any further than my faith. Anything else is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Stay grounded.
  21. Group think is dangerous and disconcerting.
  22. I let go. I am free!
I am telling you, that at that point while I was a believer I was not willing to give all of myself to his work. I was not willing to give up who I wanted to be and that is where my anxiety came from. My anxiety stemmed from my resistance to being all that I could be. I could transform to a point, but I still wanted to be accepted by others and conformed by their standards. I now understand that I had to yield to what I have been designed to be. I had to transform into what I have been designed to be. I want to share all of me without fearing my inadequacies, my self-doubt, my concerns with what others will think.

I am entering this new school year empowered like no year before. I don't fear what I might be asked to do. I am transformed with courage and strength. My encouragement comes in knowing I am not alone and would never be asked to do more than what I am capable of doing. It will be a good year. I am sure there will be difficult days, with difficult situations and difficult people. Difficult days don't mean I have to dive in headlong into the drama, it doesn't mean I have to collude. I can practice my "art of the pause," breathe and behave in a reasonable fashion acting as someone who has done this for 35 years. Yes, there will be difficult days, but they don't stop the clock, tomorrow will arrive. Then we have a chance to start again knowing who we are and living as those who accept who we are designed to be. Have a wonderful school year!

My last shots of summer...