Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Favorite Blog Posts-December

It's Christmas Eve. I'm in my jammies sipping coffee and trying not to eat cookies for breakfast. Our gifts are wrapped, and our teenagers are tracking Santa on NORAD. I'm planning my day which includes a blog post, laundry, fried calamari, shrimp, pasta and a mandatory run!

Before I shift into full Christmas gear I want to pause and wish everyone a remarkable Christmas. The six months I have spent blogging have opened up a new world for me that has included "meeting" some of the MOST creative and gifted SLPs and teachers. I am in awe of their talents and intelligence. This incredible group of men and women have helped me grow as a professional, a Christian, and a woman. Sooo, I've decided to link up with Mary at Old School Speech and highlight my favorite posts from December. I am also breaking the rules a little (yeah, I don't always follow instructions) and I am listing a favorite post from Your SLP Momma Says written in March 2013 that refers to "professional JOY." Okay, I took a little latitude there!
Poster available from Debbiedoo's Blogging and Blabbing
Becoming connected virtually has also, at times left me wondering if I am at all good at what I do. I have been an employed SLP since 1983 and that means I haven't had the benefit of the training universities now offer SLPs to be. I have had to learn quite a bit along the way with considerable continuing education, reading, and hands on experience. I love this post as it reminded me to consider what I bring to the profession and not to fall into the comparison trap.
I Heart Crafty Things
Rachel, of I heart Crafty Things is a crafty genius. She creates simple, quick crafts that always lend themselves to speech-language therapy. She incorporates materials I generally have on hand or can easily acquire. This lady can create anything from a paper plate or cupcake liner! Remarkable!
I am always on the lookout for activities that are relevant and interest middle school students. Felice, the Dabbling Speechie, hit the mark on this one! I will reluctantly admit, I haven't seen Elf. I'm more of an It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas gal, but I know that won't do with the middle school set. Felice's post is a must-save. She lists all the ways to use clips from the movie to target speech-language skills. Well done!

My dear friend, Sparklle, of Sparklle SLP really helped me calm down around "push-in." I have been having a difficult time with push-in this year despite my best efforts to incorporate academic conversations into the classroom, proper. The biggest obstacle has been finding a time where I can meet with the classroom teachers in order to see how I can support their lessons and meet my students' goals. My frustration is mounting! Sparklle's suggestion to offer "periodic push-in" was brilliant. Thanks Sparklle, you're WONDERFUL!

Speech is Sweet! It is even better with Scarlett offering her weekly book recommendations and activity suggestions. I love Scarlett's ideas and her Wild About Books Wednesday linky parties are always a resource.

My mantra this Christmas season has been "Remember to stop and taste the cookies." I mean this both figuratively and literally, although I have absolutely been tasting too many cookies. I am taking time to bear in mind the reason for the season and I am drawn to the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, "A God who became so small, could only be mercy and love." Wishing you and yours a holy and happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Writing Heals

Photo credit: on flickr
Gone are the days of flowery prose and heartfelt missives. Gone are the days where we shared our successes, our sadness, and day to day occurrences in letters.  I guess the closest thing we have today are Christmas newsletters, Christmas cards, and an occasional Hallmark.
Writing letters is a lost art. This loss was felt by a dear friend's father-in-law and he took action. He writes beautiful letters to his grandsons and gives them a crisp two dollar bill when they write back. Grandpa Joe is a generous man and included my son in the arrangement as Mack has no living grandparents of his own. I was surprised by Mack's letters; they were thoughtful, descriptive, and funny.

I understand the value of writing. It has tremendous healing power. Whether I'm writing in my journal, writing a letter, writing a blog post, or spending some time verse mapping, writing has has proven to be soothing and restorative.
  • Writing allows me to sort out and make sense of troubling experiences. It gives me a place to express myself freely, without fear of reprisal or contention.
  • When I'm uncertain about a difficult decision I've found writing an excellent way of outlining my pros and cons.  When I see in black and white how one outweighs the other, my options become clearer and my decision easier to make.
  • Thoughts are directly linked to feelings and ultimately behavior. Expressing my thoughts on paper allows me to see how those thoughts yield emotional responses. Why I feel a certain way based on a certain thought becomes very clear and then manageable. 
  • Writing helps organize me.  That's why I am so dependent on lists.  Yes, I'm the person who adds an item to a list after it has been completed just so I can cross it off!
  • I have kept a journal of sorts since I was ten years old. Looking back at my writing I can see how I have changed and grown. I have watched my handwriting change, my style, my intent. What a wonderful way to see my metamorphosis!
  • At times I have had to have difficult conversations. In those instances I write down my talking points and refer to them while speaking thus keeping my mind focused in an emotionally charged situation. It sounds crazy, but it works.
  • I read somewhere (and I wish I remember where) that writing can be viewed as a source of meditation; when I write my breathing slows and my mind clears.
  • I have turned to writing in moments of anger and frustration. Writing my rage was a way of 
    photo credit: Sebastien Wiertz on Flickr
    venting without being hurtful or confrontational. I was also able to make sense of my feelings and determine whether such strong emotion was warranted! In those instances I was able to throw my writing away and move away from the event.
  • Writing gives me a purpose, a forum for sharing my experience and dreams. 
  • Writing using "I" statements has become one of the most powerful exercises I have done. By phrasing statements using "I" instead of "we," "you," or "our" personalizes my writing. I then own the experience, thought, feeling, and behavior. If I own it, I can change it. 
I'm happy to see SLPs embracing writing as part of their intervention with students. For years I recall some controversy about whether writing was within our purview. I am convinced that helping our students express themselves in writing as well as verbally will provide them with a powerful tool, not just for school, but for their emotional well-being.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Middle School Progress Monitoring Tool

I have been basking in post turkey euphoria!  I enjoyed a wonderful holiday spent with family and friends and returned to work ready to tackle progress reports!  Ugh, so many progress reports so little time!  Well, I completed my final progress report today and feel ready for a blog post!

A term we hear often these days is progress monitoring.  "Progress monitoring is used to assess students' academic performance, to quantify a student rate of improvement or responsiveness to instruction, and to evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Progress monitoring can be implemented with individual students or an entire class."
Progress Monitoring | Center on Response to Intervention

It is something that I know I began in earnest last school year and while I find it sometimes "inconvenient" I will admit I actually like the process. Progress monitoring provides me with data points indicating evidence of success (or lack thereof) and thereby supports what I am doing or what I need to do as an SLP. It provides me with crucial information about baselines, whether my student is benefiting from the intervention design, and where I need to add or modify goals for the next IEP year.

Last school year I created a very basic tool helpful in assessing progress and establishing baselines. I designed an elementary and middle school level available for free here and here. Using my forms, along with purchased tools created by other SLPs, has helped me stay organized, focused on student goals, and confident about my intervention designs.  How have you used progress monitoring tools in your therapy programs?  I would love to hear your ideas!