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!!


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!