Friday, July 28, 2017

Thoughts from the Back Porch 2017

 I am an artist. I have amazing, creative visions of drawings and paintings, mixed media works, and projects. Then I try to put these ideas on paper and poof, my hands don't procure what my mind envisioned. Why? I saw it so clearly in my mind, the color, the perspective, the light. I often look at my work and utter with disgust, "This is crap!" Sometimes I am brought nearly to tears. I look with awe and a fair amount of envy at the art of others and wonder, "Why was I behind the rock when the art gene was distributed?"

My family members have it. My grandfather was an accomplished artist who made his living by his hand. My cousin, Jeanette is an an artist. Her brother Christopher is an architect. My brother Jimmy is an amazing musician, playing the viola, piano, and composing. My other siblings are craftsmen and poets and writers. Why was I gypped? Oh the cruelty to have such a yen and not be able to create! But if I have the vision, why doesn't it translate to paper? There must be a way!

One of my strengths is perseverance and a desire for lifelong learning. This summer I began exploring how I can untether my creative juices and really make art happen. I started reading, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and it is fascinating! Not just from an art perspective, but from the educational and speech-language pathology perspectives as well.

This summer, I am going to go on a journey to tap into the right side of my brain, which is very counter intuitive for a left-brained language oriented sort of gal. I am going to share some of the nuggets I learn on this artistic journey in my Thoughts from the Back Porch 2017 series.

In her book, Betty Edwards, purports that drawing is an essential skill, like reading, that has implications for the perception and understanding of both visual and verbal information. She continues that our education system, that is so heavily language based is missing the mark in terms of cultivating creativity, perception, imagination, and intuition. This is fascinating. In her introduction, Edwards includes this quote from Albert Einstein, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." Nowhere is this more prevalent than in our schools! Furthermore, with the emphasis on facts, standards, and standardized testing as the measures of competence, we see less and less competence and more and more behavioral struggles and anxiety in our students, who are, in fact, unable to think their way out of a paper bag.

Edwards includes a 1969 excerpt from Rudolf Arnheim that is striking in its accuracy, "The arts are neglected because they are based on perception, and perception is disdained because it is not assumed to involve thought. In fact, educators and administrators cannot justify giving the arts an important position in the curriculum unless they understand that the arts are the most powerful means of strengthening the perceptual component without which productive thinking is impossible in every field of academic study. What is most needed is not more aesthetics or more esoteric manuals of art education but a convincing case made for visual thinking quite in general. Once we understand in theory, we might try to heal in practice the unwholesome split which cripples the training of reasoning power."

This just intrigued me, that perception fosters productive thinking; reasoning and problem solving. We know this as it relates to social pragmatics, but it truly extends to all aspects of the curriculum and life in general. We talk ad infinitum of metalinguistics and metacognition, but what of the magnitude of those. The simple fact that the brain is the only organ that ruminates on itself! I had never thought of it in those terms. The liver doesn't think on the liver, the stomach on the stomach, the skin on the skin!

Edwards's premise is to waylay the language dominant left brain and allow the perceptual right brain to run the show for a while. I think this practice may change the way I do language therapy in that the verbal overload in school is so very taxing on our language impaired students. It raises the question for me, "Is more language always the way to remediate language?" "Will drawing help remediate perspective and reasoning?" The basic components of drawing are listed as:

  1. The perception of edges (seeing where one thing ends and another starts)
  2. The perception of spaces (seeing what lies beside and beyond)
  3. The perception of relationships (seeing in perspective and in proportion)
  4. The perception of lights and shadows (seeing things in degrees of values)
  5. The perception of the gestalt (seeing the whole and its parts)
The correlation between these components and social pragmatics is staggering to me!

The crux of this journey will likely be a challenge for this language infused individual.  It occurred to me as I was reading, that my self-talk is a boon and an axe. I use it to do my job and express my feelings, to make my unending points and to write. I also use it to sabotage myself, to quit when I'm exercising ("I can't. This is too hard.), to beat myself up ("This is no good.), to remind myself of my failures ("Remember when you couldn't/wouldn't/didn't?"). I am excited to pull away from the language Annie and cultivate the perceptual Annie and to share that journey here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

ASHA Connect 2017 and Why I've Been MIA

I am woefully behind in my blogging duties and for that I will apologize! My last post was the end of May!! Naturally, I always have the best of intentions, but as we know "the road to hell is paved with good intentions!" Henceforth I will commit to my writing.

Where have I been? Well, the end of my school year was busy and exhausting. I just had neither the motivation nor the inspiration to write. That, my friends, is a mindset I need to change. One of the notions I have considered is that my posts don't need to be earth changing, therapy changing, mind blowing tomes of inspiration that take a half a day to write with photos that take another half a day to curate. Sometimes they can be brief snippets reflecting real life, real world thoughts. That is my new focus; create connections and stay present.

Speaking of "connections," ASHA Connect did not disappoint. Writing the blog Doyle Speech Works has been the catalyst for so many connections with those I now consider my dear friends. ASHA Connect 2017 was the catalyst that brought many of us together in real life for the very first time. We call ourselves the "Splitcoast Speechies" and share many conversations daily. Unfortunately one of our gang couldn't attend ASHA Connect, but her state is represented here nonetheless. What a ball we had!!

The days spent learning from thought leaders in the field and evenings spent taking in the splendor that is New Orleans made for a perfect experience. Most of the sessions I attended delivered at least in some way, but there were two standouts for me; Reimagine Your Service Delivery: Strategies for Dosage, Scheduling, and Other Challenges and Recipe for Success: Mixing Low- and High-Tech AAC Tools for Classroom Success.

Reimagine Your Service Delivery: Strategies for Dosage, Scheduling, and Other Challenges, caused me to consider some options to my service delivery model including a modification to the 3:1 model. I've been exploring the idea of a 4:1 model; four days of uninterrupted therapy with one day per week of consult, meetings, and assessment. If I can establish buy-in with my colleagues, we can employ this model without the need to change service delivery in the IEPs. It will also be helpful in creating a dedicated time for consult. I also have been thinking about co-treating with the special education teachers. In this way, one rather than two scheduled times for intervention will be necessary. the benefits to the student speak for themselves.
The session Recipe for Success: Mixing Low- and High-Tech AAC Tools for Classroom Success was the last one I attended on Sunday morning. It was loaded with practical information on a topic that often unnerves me. I was so happy to have attended.
I always purchase the Plus Package which allows me to access recordings of all the other sessions, with the exception of Michelle Garcia Winner's presentations (she doesn't participate in that option). Consequently, I attended her sessions because I knew they would be unavailable via the Plus Package. I won't do that again.

On to the NOLA experience! After another amazing dining experience, I remarked that, "Each thing I put in my mouth is better than the thing I had before!" I have never experienced such gustatory delights as I did in New Orleans. With our resident Cajun gal and tour guide, Mia McDaniel at the helm, we dove into divine doughnuts the size of dishes, frozen frosé on the streets, beignets with powdered sugar perfection, piquant pork rinds that ate like popcorn, fruity fried lemon slices that I tried to replicate at home and failed and so much more. I came home to 21 Day Fix containers that nearly had me weeping. With musical delights and an architectural style completely unique to New Orleans I was on a sensory high. I loved every minute of my experience and to enjoy it with my best friends was truly special.
I've included only a handful of photos that capture the essence of the trip. Enjoy, I did!

Oh that chocolate chip cookie at Willa Jean!

St. Charles Trolley experience

Splitcoast Speechies minus Sparklle SLP and Amy (3D SLP)

How to eat a beignet without get powdered sugared! 
Connecting with my BFF at Connect (yes, I donned the cutout with beads and they remained throughout Connect)

Love this photo (and it won me a $50.00 Amazon Card! Thank you ASHA!)