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!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Meeting 2017 in a Word

I did it again! I got caught up in the Christmas season! YAY! As a result, my blog went dark for a month. I can say with certainty, that I missed it! This simple little blog has become for me an exercise in expression, a creative outlet and a source of professional outreach. I am happy to say I am still committed to putting "pen to paper" and forging onward in sharing speech-language therapy ideas and musings.

With the New Year many well meaning folks resolve to complete some sort of self improvement. Like many, I have resigned myself to the fact that resolutions just don't work for me. While I am always motivated at first, my zeal for diet, exercise, or organization peters out. Last year I read quite a bit about the "One Little Word Project." Ali Edwards, the originator of "One Little Word," sums it this way:

A single word can be a powerful thing. It can be the ripple in the pond that changes everything. It can be sharp and biting or rich and soft and slow.

In 2006 I began a tradition of choosing one word for myself each January – a word to focus on, meditate on, and reflect upon as I go about my daily life. My words have included play, peace, vitality, nurture, story, light, up, open, thrive, give, and whole. These words have each become a part of my life in one way or another. They've been embedded into who I am and into who I'm becoming. They've been what I've needed most (and didn't know I needed). They've helped me to breathe deeper, to see clearer, to navigate challenges, and to grow.

Last year I chose two words, one for my personal and one for my professional life (release and love; see last year's post here). The word I have chosen for this year is applicable to both; trust. 

My journey has been long and sometimes knotty. It occurred to me as I was contemplating my choice for 2017, that underlying every twist, every high is the notion of trust. Without trust in my family I would have been lost. Without trust in colleagues, I would never have achieved the level of professional joy I have now. Without trust in friends, I would never have felt I belonged. Without trust in myself, I could never have realized my value. Without trust in my God, I would not have realized my own fortitude. 

I am looking forward to unpacking the concept of trust, of rolling the word around and layering it over and over in my life. I suspect that as I allow trust to be the bedrock of my life I will grow deeper and wider. Have you found a word to take you into 2017? Please, let me know your choice. Maybe we can share thoughts.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

My SLP Story

A little over one year ago, I published a post entitled What's the Story, Annie?  I encouraged other SLPs to link up and share their stories as our experiences influence what we think, feel and do. At the time no one linked up. Perhaps my timing was off. No, let me reframe that, perhaps I was ahead of my time. One year later the Frenzied SLPs are sharing their SLP stories and are eager to have others join in the collective story telling. I am republishing my original post (with a little updating) and am grateful for the opportunity to share it again. Thank you as usual to Sparklle SLP, Kelly Woodford-Hungaski (Speech2U,) and Lisette Edgar (Speech Sprouts) for their grit in getting us organized. 

If you lived in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut in the 70s you remember a commercial for an appliance store that used the tag line, "What's the story, Jerry?" I am eleven weeks into my 34th year as an SLP! I've been thinking quite a lot about how I got here. What is my SLP story? What makes me the SLP into which I have evolved? It comes as no surprise that my experiences uniquely prepared me for my future, but how I used those experiences to become the woman, the professional I am is worth considering. Here is my SLP story.

My childhood was complex. My parents were loving, but had significant baggage of their own. After their divorce my poor Mother struggled with finances, teenage sons, and her difficulty caring for her sixth and and seventh children while getting a graduate degree and working. We weren't lacking in love, just having our lives organized. I most definitely learned love and compassion from my Mother. After losing my Mother when I was fifteen, my anxiety was tremendous and I had virtually no confidence in my abilities nor my potential. My 27 year brother and his 26 year old wife moved in with my younger brother and me. We worked hard to forge a stable family relationship. My grades in high school were good, but I never pushed myself. I did what I had to do and no more. I didn't participate in any extracurricular activities, no sports, no theater, no clubs, nothing. I wanted to take risks, but was afraid to do so. As a senior in high school there were no college visits, no aspirations, no desire to go away. I applied to two colleges, was wait listed for one and accepted into the other. When completing the applications I suspected I could learn how to do most anything, so I closed my eyes and pointed to the page listing majors. My finger landed on speech-language pathology. I suspect divine intervention! I chose to attend William Paterson College and majored in Speech Path. In May of my freshman year of college my Father died. I was eighteen. Still reeling from my losses, I commuted for four years dividing my time between classes, working at a drug store, and partying with my friends. I did work harder in college than high school and was consistently on the Dean's List, but as a commuter, I still didn't gravitate toward campus life. I was, nevertheless, the VP of the speech pathology club and the Secretary for Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society in Education, but what I really excelled in was playing quarters.

I graduated in 1983 and my first year as an SLP was spent working part-time in four schools in four towns. In those days a master's degree was not yet mandatory to work as an SLP. It is hard to believe; I was 22 years old and worked in two high schools and two elementary schools. Three of my students at the high school were eighteen year old boys! I often think about that year and wish I could go back and do a better job! I was so young and had so much to learn. I remained positive despite grasping at straws at how to motivate kids who were only slightly younger than I was.

Really, during that period I wasn't sure if I was going to continue in the field, but as luck would have it, a position for a graduate assistant at Montclair State College was advertised in the paper and my brother suggested I apply. I called the number listed and waited for a response. The following day I received a call, not exactly the call I wanted, however. Evidently, I dialed the number inadvertently using MY telephone exchange and not the exchange of the graduate office. I had left a detailed message and the kind soul I contacted was thoughtful enough to return my call and tell me I had the wrong number! I remember her saying, "This sounded like an important call, so I wanted to be sure to tell you, you had the wrong number." I went on the interview and was accepted into the communication sciences and disorders program as a graduate assistant! Interestingly, my graduate assistant supervisor and I are both currently presidents of our state speech, language, hearing associations! Isn't is crazy how life unfolds?

I continued my part-time SLP work and my job as a cashier as well as completing the responsibilities of a graduate assistant for the first year of the program. I then found a full-time school position during my second year of graduate studies. This was the period I found my passion for speech-language therapy. As you know graduate school is tough. I think it is tougher now than when I went, but it still kept me crazy busy and crazy stressed. I passed the "ASHA exam," as we then called it, and completed my CFY. I began to realize I was competent, creative, and smart. I took risks. I found my voice. I found my heart. I found my passion and like a butterfly from a chrysalis, I found my wings and I soared!

How have my experiences prepared me for my profession as an SLP? I am able to view each child as worthy, even the ones with dirty clothes. I am able to see the smile in every child, even the ones with downcast eyes. I am able to see the leader in every unmotivated middle school student, even the ones who don't play sports or get the lead in the play. I am able to advocate for each student, especially the ones who feel silenced. I am able to ease the sadness of every child, even for merely thirty minutes, especially the ones who have little hope. I am able to state with conviction to every child that you are good at something, even if you don't believe that today. I am able to listen with a compassionate ear to the child who believes "nobody likes them" and to reply with certainty, "I do." I am able to gently encourage those students who are fearful to take a risk. I am able to explain to every child that this place is the beginning of their story, not the end.

It's always a good practice to reflect. If you would like to share your story link up. What is your SLP story? How have your life experiences primed you for your career?

Write it! Dream it! Love it! Share it! Live it! Be it!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Supporting One Another: The Power of Encouragement

This post has been on my mind since July. I have hemmed and hawed about writing it, and then thought, "It's time." I've been contemplating what support looks like in our profession. As speech-language pathologists we are 100% behind our students. We go the extra mile, we devote our time, energy and talents to helping our students/clients achieve. We spend our own hard earned cash. We create, remediate and advocate! All this for our students and clients. We would never consider suggesting our students can't or shouldn't try something new or hard. We would never suggest they not try something innovative or daring. Would we? I think not.

This summer while at ASHA Connect I was enjoying some social time with friends, old and new. We were a mixed group, ranging in age from 30s to 50s. Some of us worked in the schools, some in SNFs, some in private practice and some who even are COOs of health care organizations. Our common thread, speech-language pathology.  The conversation moved to our college days, as some of our group were reunited with college professors while at ASHA Connect. One would think the reunions were happy, not so.  I was shocked to hear from these accomplished and successful individuals that while they were in undergraduate or graduate school they were DISCOURAGED from continuing in the field, despite high marks. One was told she wasn't a "good representation of the profession." Another was told her voice was "too harsh." I recall a professor in graduate school posing to our class, "How many of you might pursue a PH.D? None I presume, you are not good graduate students." I felt flattened.  I was a great student with a 3.87 G.P.A., a graduate assistant in the department, and I was looking forward to a long and successful career. Clearly, however, I was NOT Ph.D. material. I have carried that with me my whole career.

Fast forward to today's internet driven world. We have SLP blogs and TeachersPayTeachers. We have Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. We have SLP glitterati and followers. Just the term followers makes me cringe! And yet, we all have the same goals, to help those who need it. For some reason a strata has emerged that breaks my heart. Sellers versus buyers. Posters versus likers. Names versus followers. Groups versus individuals. Who's in versus who's not.

Our field is fueled by advocacy and support and yet, it seems we have forgotten how to support each other. It isn't always outright, sometimes it's more subtle, like ignoring the efforts of groups/individuals viewed as rivals. Rivals for what? Followers? Likes? Sales? While at ASHA this summer I was flat out, face to face ignored by a "friend" who only chooses to speak to me when others aren't around! Of course, I know my value. I was initially hurt by the dismissal, then quickly realized it had nothing to do with me. On the contrary.

I may not be a big TpT seller (by choice, I have decided to focus on my practice and create when I have a need) but I have a lifetime of experience. I did therapy before lesson plans could be downloaded for $5.00. I was creating goals for diverse populations before goal banks. I was writing evaluations by hand before spellcheck. I was using ditto masters and thermofax machines before some SLPs were born. My hope for this community is that at some point we all realize the contributions we can offer to each other. Not just those in our niche.

My hope is that collectively SLPs learn to view each other as assets, not rivals. That we move forward as a group with each person sharing their vision, so that collectively we support those who need our support. Support doesn't necessarily mean advice, either. It may just mean encouragement. It means a professor encouraging the graduate student who needs to take a risk or make a change. It means offering encouragement to the person who thinks they can't to, "Yes, start a blog." It means encouraging a creative SLP to author products. It means encouraging the seller who just posted a picture of her new creation by commenting. It means encouraging the author who is successful and not begrudging them their success. It means so many things that are kind and loving and inclusive.

Imagine then a field where we all use growth mindset thinking and encourage each other to work hard and strive to be the best version of ourselves we can be.  How would that then trickle down into our own lives, our interactions with our families, colleagues and students? It may just be a dream, but it's a good one and it IS POSSIBLE. "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Working as a Team: Supporting Rehabilitative Assistants

The Frenzied SLPs are back this month with posts about working as a team, and we are truly a team, working together to bring you materials, ideas, and inspiration. Teamwork takes many forms with many different people and I am very excited to hear the different perspectives that will be shared! Thank you to Sparklle SLP, Kelly of Speech2U, and Lisette of Speech Sprouts for once again keeping the Frenzied SLP team organized!  

It seems counter intuitive sometimes. Special education is founded on a multidisciplinary teamwork model and yet it how it unfolds in schools is often the complete opposite. The reasons are many: lack of team time, huge caseloads, minimal/no administrative support, paperwork burdens, pride, you name it. Despite this, the fact remains, effective programs have effective teams, who know how to work together and respect each member's unique talents and contributions.

A frequently overlooked member of highly effective special education teams is the paraprofessional also known as a rehabilitative assistant. These bastions of support and patience are integral for SLPs and OTs. Rehab. assistants spend all day with our most highly involved students supporting them in the classroom, supporting hygiene needs, helping with transitions, lunchtime, and offsetting behavioral difficulties. In order for the work rehab. assistants do, to be eligible for medicaid reimbursement in our state, they must be supervised by a "licensed practitioner of the healing arts." It must also be very clear that the work they do with our students NOT be academic in nature. In fact, when I post those sessions I sign that "I certify that activities being billed under rehabilitative assistance for the above student(s) (...) on the dates specified (...), for which I am knowledgeable of the service provision, and provide weekly consultation to the aide, are not classroom instruction or academic tutoring, but are therapeutic in nature and are necessary for the maximum reduction of each student’s physical/mental disabilities." 

For many years the rehab. assistants, case managers, and special education administrators in our district balked at this supervisory piece. SLPs were even told that there aren't any "medicaid police." Well, we know that is not the case and I for one, finally decided I had worked too hard to earn my degree, Cs and license to lose it to egos. I now insist on weekly consultation where the rehab. assistant and I discuss how they can support student goals in the classroom. In order to document consult times I created a log sheet that allows for entering the date of the consult, comments, and initials. Having written proof certainly eases my anxiety around signing off on rehab. assistant support in the classroom. You can get it here for free! 

This takes care of the consult documentation, but the larger issue is how to utilize rehab. assistants in the most effective way possible. During my initial conversations with rehab. assistants, it became abundantly clear that the majority of support being offered to our students was academic. This was a huge concern. As a result, I enlisted the support of one of our paraprofessionals extraordinaire in order to create a planner for rehab. assistants. I am really happy with the result! So now during our consult time rehab. assistants share concerns, ask questions, and describe how students are functioning in the classroom and are able to keep it all organized between meetings. In this way, I am able to provide suggestions, strategies, and supports for students. The Paraprofessional Paperwork Planner has forms for notes, communication, a to-do sheet, strategy form, a calendar, planning sheet, glossary of common SLP and OT terms, and more. The best part? It contains several editable pages! You can find this planner here in my TpT store, Doyle Speech Works 

It appears that the rehab. assistants I supervise are receptive to this more structured consult and are appreciative of the planner. I am hoping this allows us to truly support our students in the most effective way possible using common language and consistent supports.

How do you team? Link up with the Frenzied SLPs and share your successes or struggles. We are after all, a team!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Music and Speech-Language Therapy

When I was a much younger SLP, it seems there was more of an emphasis on developing auditory skills with our students. There was a wealth of materials on auditory discrimination skills and discriminating environmental sounds. We spent time teaching students HOW to listen and follow verbal directions explicitly, encouraging eye contact and subvocalization. My articulation therapy training in the early eighties included spending considerable time teaching students to listen for target sounds in my speech, in isolation, syllables, words, then in their own speech (Mysak's Developmental Feedback). We then would work on auditory comparing student productions with therapist productions. Who remembers the games Dig for Gold and Old Itch? Discovery Toys had a great game What's That Sound whereby students listened to sounds on a cassette tape and covered a lotto board in order to identify the sound. I still have all those games and have actually started using them again. It seems our little ones are really having a difficult time sitting still and attending and listening! Hmmmm, I wonder why? I could hypothesize on the myriad reasons (excessive television and electronic media time, little family discourse, etc.), but the bottom line is we are seeing students who struggle with verbal directions, auditory skills, social listening and more.

At the outset of our school year, our school district offered a series of in-services presented by fellow colleagues. I decided to attend a session on Music and Literacy offered by a dynamic and creative music teacher in our SAU, A.J. Coppola. A.J. uses a method of instruction referred to as the Kodály Method. Kodály was a Hungarian composer who was dismayed with the state of music education in Hungary. He felt there needed to be better teacher training, better music curricula, and an increase in the amount of time devoted to music instruction in schools, thus, the Kodály method was born. The framework of his method is solidly based in child development. Students are introduced to skills according to their developmental levels, first being introduced to more simple tasks and progressing to those that are more difficult as they master skills. It is a very linear and sequential method whereby skills are continually reviewed and reinforced through movement, games, and songs. It really sounds a lot like what we as speech-language pathologists do in therapy!

We know melody and rhythm is valuable in increasing fluency in patients with aphasia (Melodic Intonation Therapy) and can be very effective when working with students with ASD.  From a speech-language perceptive, music has many applications including helping students with Central Auditory Processing difficulties detect pitch and stress differences to developing social skills through song. A.J. introduced us to several books I thought would be wonderful to utilize in therapy (the Feierabend Series publishes a book each year using folk songs and the Musicmap Series uses multicultural songs in an illustrated format.)

Songs are a wonderful way to calm anxious students and establish connections. They provide the basis for rhythm, pattern, and pitch which are basics in speech-language therapy. Listening skills are foundational to communication and classroom functioning. Auditory skills, from sound discrimination to figure-ground discrimination to perception, reception, and synthesis, are skills necessary for learning. I, for one, am going to pull out my shaker eggs and maracas, Old Itch and Listening Games books and return to some SLP roots. So grab an echo mic, learn a folk song or two and SING.