April 4, 2016

April Showers - Using Water in Speech/Language Therapy

Hello! I'm teaming up with the Frenzied SLP's to tell you how I've been using water in my speech/language sessions this past month.

It's springtime in Oregon, which means rain, rain, rain! We've had an abundance this year; I think I read somewhere that we're 14" above what is normal for this time of year. Crazy, right? So one thing we have no shortage of right now is water.

Since this is the climate that all my kiddos have grown up in, we spend a lot of time talking about the rain, and concepts and vocabulary related to rain gear and weather. And since we don't get much of an opportunity to go outside and play during the winter and early spring months, we all get a little too much build up of pent-up energy, so I try to incorporate movement into our sessions as much as possible. Here's what I did this past week to address both of those goals:

I made an indoor rain puddle!

Here's how I did it.

I bought a blue tablecloth from a dollar store and some bubble wrap (the kind with the larger bubbles).

Actually, my husband bought the bubble wrap for me...

...and he bought enough for me to make 300 puddles, but that's another story! I digress.

Back to puddle construction.

I cut three pieces of bubble wrap, approximately 3 feet long each.

I used packing tape, and taped the bubble wrap pieces together to make a big square.

Next, I cut the bubble wrap into a random "splash" pattern.

Then I stuck the "splash" onto a square I cut from the tablecloth using loops of packing tape.

And there you have it, a puddle! A puddle that kids can jump into and not get wet, but still have the thrill of making a bubble-popping splash.

So, what did I do with this puddle?

We played a version of Go Fish that we instead called Go Splash with a movement twist.

This game is played just like Go Fish, where players make matches by asking each other for specific cards. My Go Splash version features colorful rain boots and umbrellas, which were great for working on colors, vocabulary, plurals and bilabial sounds.  Mixed in with all the matching pair cards are movement cards that direct you to perform an action, like this:

The kids absolutely loved jumping in the puddle through out the game. And the loved it even more when I had to do it, too! So much fun!

This game is available in my TpT Store and it's called Go Fish, Go Splash, Go Hop! if you'd like to check it out. This product contains 6 different versions of Go Fish, each with its own unique movement twist.

I didn't just use my puddle to play Go Splash, by the way. I used it other ways, too.

I put it along side my swing and had the kids reach for the bubbles to pop them. This was great for kids who needed extra sensory input. It was also a fun way to work on the /p/ and /b/ sounds, saying "pop" and "bubbles".

I also spread out picture cards around the puddle and had kids retrieve them while laying on the swing. They said their target words and phrases as they picked them up. This was a huge hit, and was very motivating, even for those kids who usually don't enjoy practicing their target words.

My bubble puddle lasted all week and was worth the time it took to put it together. I did a little "puddle maintenance" by taping new squares of bubble wrap right on top of the "splash" throughout the week so all the kids had a chance to pop some when the puddle started to get flat. Easy peasy.

So how are YOU using water in speech/language treatment? We'd love it if you'd link up and share!

January 14, 2016

Playing in Mud Puddles: Word Games

The winters in Oregon are long, filled with damp, grey days and plenty of rain. All that rain and lack of sun can make me feel sluggish and lazy. It certainly dampens my creativity! But one thing that never fails to cheer me up and gives me some inspiration is a trip to my favorite toy store, MudPuddles Toys and Books located in Sherwood, OR.

MudPuddles is a wonderful, independent toy store filled to the brim with the latest and greatest toys and books. Kate, the owner of this fabulous place, has a knack for finding toys that are appealing, fun, durable and educational. She pours her love of learning through play into her shop and is more than happy to introduce shoppers to her latest finds. It's a fabulous place and I love to explore it!

My most recent trip to MudPuddles was inspirational. As I browsed through the store, it occurred to me that I should write a post (or posts) about my new toy/game finds and how I might use them in speech and language treatment. And so, this toy/game review series, Playing in Mud Puddles was born!

I could spend all day and night telling you about all my favorite finds, but I decided that since this will be a series of posts, I will feature a specific category of toys/games in each post. I am devoting this first post to word games, because I am, admittedly, a Word Nerd, and I love them!

First, I want to tell you about two awesome games I found from an educational game company called Think Fun.  I love this company! They make quality, entertaining games that are so appealing and addicting! Their slogan is "empowering minds through play," which is totally in line with my philosophy.

The first is called Word Around and is great for kids ages 8 and up.

Each card has three words on it, one spelled out sequentially in each ring. Players race to identify the word on the ring that matches the color on the back of the previously played card. The trick is trying to figure out where the word starts, identifying it and saying it before the other players do. Can you identify the words in the picture above?

Blue ring = bottle
Red ring = regular
Black ring = asleep

I actually purchased this game and brought it along when I went to visit my mom. She is aging and starting to experience some memory issues. She loves puzzle games like Sudoku, but I feel strongly that she should challenge herself with word games as well. I wasn't sure how she would do with this one, with the time pressure of competing with another player, but she really did well! She caught on quickly (which isn't always the case for her when learning something new) and really enjoyed it. She liked it so much that I left it there with her in Ohio to play with family and friends.

IF I had Word Around here with me in Oregon (I plan to purchase another copy on my next trip), I would use this game with my upper elementary, middle school and high school students.  I would use it to target:

  • vocabulary - specifically parts of speech. I would have the student name the part of speech after identifying the word. For example, "bottle is a noun."
  • sentence formulation - have the students use the words they identify in sentences
  • synonyms, antonyms, multiple meanings - have the student choose 5 words and have them name a synonym, antonym or tell multiple meanings
  • working memory - many of my students process information at a slower rate than what is typical. I love to use competitive games like this to target processing speed.
  • word skills - I have several students who struggle with games like anagrams (i.e. changing the letters of a word around to make other words)
  • articulation carryover - I might use this for rapid rate production of carrier phrases for /r/ or /s/. At the end of the round, I would have the student say "I can read bottle" or "I see asleep" for each of the cards in his/her pile.
  • social skills - winning/losing, good sportsmanship, turn taking

The second game I found is called Pathwords Jr.

It's a word search puzzle game where kids find the words of each puzzle and cover them with brightly colored shapes to create a pattern.

There are four different levels of play, from beginner to expert.  Some of the puzzles show a list of the words to find,

and some give picture clues or hints, making the puzzles more challenging to complete. Each puzzle has a theme and is often in the shape of an item related to the theme. For example, the puzzle pictured above has music-themed clues, and is shaped like a musical note.

I purchased this game and have been happily using it with my mid-to-upper elementary and middle school students.  I've used it target

  • categories
  • inferencing
  • vocabulary
  • verbal reasoning
  • problem solving
  • spelling
The kids love this one and so do I! 

The third word game I want to tell you about is called Xoom Cubes by a company called Baxbo, who describes this game as "a thousand word games in one." Players complete challenges by creating words from their letter dice. There are two levels of challenge cards, regular and junior.

I purchased the junior deck, and here are some of the challenges:

There are letter races, category races, timed games and potluck, which is a challenge to create as many words as you can find with your dice.

I did not purchase the complete game that included the letter dice, for two reasons: first, I am on a tight budget and already knew I was buying the other two games, and secondly, I have letter tiles from Bananagrams that I figured I could use instead. I am all about repurposing what I already have! So, I combined the Xoom Cube Jr. cards with the Bananagrams tiles and it worked just fine.

Here's how I've been using them:

I spread about half of the letter tiles on a non-slip mat in the center of the table. I positioned a bell within reach of each player. I read a challenge card to the players, who then raced to complete the challenge, ringing the bell when they finished. The first player to collect 5 challenge cards was the winner!

I used this game to target the same skills that I listed above for the Think Fun games. What I like about this one though is that students have a greater opportunity to generate the words used in the game. We've had many discussions about the words they have chosen to spell ("No, LOL is not a real word, it's an acronym, so choose a different word to spell.") and what those words mean. It gives me insight into what topics are important to them as well (Star Wars, Mine Craft, music).

Moving on...

One of my favorite sections at MudPuddles is the collection of little toys in bins at the front of the store.  Something always catches my eye, and I always come away with a small treasure.  I want to feature one of these treasures each month, too.  I'm calling them Little Droplets that Make a Big Splash! These items will be inexpensive (less than $5.00) but very useful and fun.

January's Little Droplet is one that my friend, Jenny (who just happens to work at MudPuddles) cringed at when I picked it up. It was an expandable plastic tube for $1.99. She said, "Pam, you do NOT want that! It's so LOUD and ANNOYING!" But then, I showed her that this accordion-style tube is just perfect for providing auditory feedback. You just stretch the tube, bend it into a crescent, hold it up to your mouth and ear, and then say a word.  She was amazed! She promptly showed her co-workers this new way to use this toy.  I bought several to use with my articulation kids, and they are a hit!  Not only do the kids love shaping the tube into the right size for them, they are learning to use auditory feedback to help shape their production of sounds.

So there you have it.  Didn't I come away with some great finds??? I can't wait to go play in MudPuddles again soon.

Oh, by the way, I should say that the items chosen to be reviewed for this post were completely my idea, inspired by how they might work for me in my clinical setting.  No toys or games were given to me free of charge, nor was I given a promotional fee. The opinions regarding these products are expressly my own.

A BIG thanks to Kate and Jenny at MudPuddles for so graciously allowing me to hang around in their store and showing me such cool things! If you'd like information on any of the things I featured today, shoot them an email or give them a call. I know they would be happy to help! Just click here.

January 4, 2016

Frenzied SLPs: What I'll Try This Year

The Frenzied SLPs are ringing in the new year by sharing some thoughts about things we want to try or do in our personal and professional lives in 2016.  So I'm linking up with LauraJessica and Abby, who got this party started to tell you about my hopes for the next twelve months and beyond.

I've been mulling over thoughts about what I'd like to do differently in my daily life, and what I aspire to accomplish for days. While there are many changes I'd like to make, I couldn't really put my finger on the one that seems most necessary or appealing. But I did recognize a common theme that seems critical in order for me to make ANY changes. That theme is to live my life more intentionally.

What the heck does THAT mean??? For me, it means to make purposeful choices to be positive, productive, compassionate and relational each and every day.

Intentionally Positive:

I see myself as a glass-half-full kind of gal most of the time. It makes my soul feel good to be happy! I try to see the good in people, and even in difficult times, I try to see the bright side of things. Sometimes, though, I fall into a trap. A terrible, insidious trap that just saps anything positive right out of me and fills me with discouragement. And what is that trap??? Comparison! It's so easy to compare myself and perceive myself as lacking in all areas of my life.  It's not unusual for thoughts like this to be swirling around my head:

She looks great! I'll never be as stylish as she is.

Her house looks like it could be in a magazine, it's so perfect! I'd better go home and paint my kitchen. And have it tiled. And buy new dishes and knickknacks. And a new rug. Oh, forget it! I just don't have what it takes to put together a beautiful kitchen.

Wow, her TpT products are amazing! Mine look so amateur compared to hers. Maybe I should just give it up.

She is so smart and professional! I want to be like her when I grow up!

And the list goes on.

But here is the truth:

Comparison IS the thief of joy! Absolutely! Theodore hit that nail right on the head. Whenever I compare myself to others, I feel all my joy disappear. I get so discouraged! I need to stop. It's destructive and adds stress to my life that is all self-imposed. So I am making the intentional choice to appreciate who I am and what I have. I am choosing gratitude over discouragement.

Intentionally Productive:

I confess: I am NOT a list maker. I have a planner, and for a few weeks, I used it, liked it, and then abandoned it. It's just not in me to be exceptionally organized! (In my mind, making lists and using an organizer IS exceptionally organized. I know, I know.) But I do see the value in those organizational tools, and I agree, they help me to be more productive. I also can see how it's satisfying to cross those items off the list. It's definitely positive reinforcement! So, I am choosing to intentionally plan my days (in the loosest sense of the word) by re-instating my planner for work, and keeping paper handy to make lists.

See??? It's the first week of January, and I've started already.

Intentionally Compassionate:

Sometimes I don't have the best attitude toward people who are struggling. It's hard to know how I can help, and I have a difficult time knowing what I can say that would be helpful or encouraging. And sometimes I'm just plain judgmental.

I am making the choice to pray for a compassionate heart. I don't want to be oblivious to those around me who are hurting. And being judgmental is not helpful to anyone!

I also want to be more intentional to share my blessings (money, possessions, talents) with those who need them. As Christians, it's what we're called to do, and I want sharing to become second nature to me.

Intentionally Relational:

I am an intensely relational person. I love being around people and knowing about what's going on in people's lives. That being said, I am not always great at doing the little things that people really appreciate.  Here are a few things I'm wanting to be intentional about:

  • sending handwritten notes to people to let them know I'm thinking of them/appreciate them. There's something really special about handwritten sentiments, and I was reminded of how important they are to people of my mother's generation when I went to visit her for a week last month. It's a lost art that needs to be resurrected.
  • getting to know my neighbors better. We've had a handful of new neighbors move in this past year, and I want them to feel welcome and accepted.
  • answering emails and texts in a timely manner. I get frustrated when people don't follow through on answering my emails and texts, so I need to make sure I'm being just as diligent to respond to theirs.

Whew! I've got a lot on my list! I'd better get moving, don't you think?

What are YOU going to try this year? I'd love it if you'd share!

December 30, 2015

Winter Find It on the Go

Today I am sharing one of my favorite products with you. It's called Winter Find it on the Go for Language Skills. It's been very popular with other SLPs and is currently featured as one of Super Power Speech's picks in her January Lesson Plans, so I thought I'd give you a preview of this fun and very FLEXIBLE product.

Winter Find It on the Go is a collection of 18 winter-themed search and find picture scenes in a flip book format. It is divided into 4 categories: Colors and Counting, Actions, Categories and Associations.  It also includes an Extra Target section, which lists additional targets that can be addressed for each picture scene.

It includes scenes for holidays (Hanukkah, Christmas and Valentine's Day),

polar animals, winter activities and familiar routines such as bedtime.

Each page lists targets to find and features a specific goal, such as past tense verbs. Students use a dry erase marker to circle the targets as they find them, and then wipe the page clean when they are finished.

If you're not working on the specific target listed on the page, flip to the back section for suggestions of other goals you can target! So flexible!!! In this 18-page book, you can target more than 40 different skills!

I find myself reaching for this product again and again. I've used it with every child on my caseload! It's even great to use with my articulation kiddos!

You can add this go-to product to your winter materials collection by clicking the link to my TpT Store.

November 27, 2015

3 Ways to Practice Social Skills Before the Holidays

The holiday season is now upon us, and it's the most wonderful time of the year! Homemade cookies, hot chocolate, beautiful lights, fabulous celebrations, catchy music, spending time with friends and family and excitement everywhere! It can also be overwhelming...especially for our kids with social communication needs.

I want to take a minute and tell you how I am going to help prepare my kids with social communication needs for some of the situations they might encounter during the holiday season. These kids hold a special place in my heart, and I really, really, REALLY want them to have successful interactions in social situations this holiday season. So we're going to do some practicing, and I've got a few tools to help.

1. This time of year tends to be all about gifts, and for kids (any kid, not just ones with social communication disorders), it's often about the gifts THEY want and hope to receive. My kids with social communication needs really have a hard time understanding that the gifts they most desire are not always good choices for their friends and family. So last year I created this little activity to help them take the perspective of others and select gifts for them that match their age and likes/dislikes. It's called Choose the Right Gift and you can grab it for free in my  TpT Store.

Students use store ads to choose presents for fictional person based on their likes and dislikes, and then share their selections and rationale with the group. This freebie contains 8 half-page worksheets that depict a fictional character, and 2 customizable worksheets.  Here's how I use them:

Give one half-sheet to each student and tell them they will be choosing 2 gifts for the person listed on the page.
Have the students share the name and the age of the person he/she will be “shopping” for with the group. 
Next, have the students share the likes and dislikes of their person.
Show the students a variety of store ads, explaining that each store features different categories of items to purchase. Ask each student to select a store ad/catalog, based on their person’s likes.
Students choose 2 gifts from the ads that match their person’s interests, cut them out and paste them on the gifts at the bottom of the page.
As a group, students share what gifts they selected and why they chose them.

This was a very popular activity with my social skills group last year. I really loved how it helped them to think outside themselves.

2. The second tool I'm going to use is the holiday version of my popular Think Before You Say It activity to help my kids use their social filters in social settings this holiday season.

Kids are given a social scenario card that depicts a situation they may encounter this holiday season along with a negative thought. They will then evaluate and determine if a statement is unkind or disrespectful.

Then, they change that negative thought into a positive, respectful statement and write it on the speech bubble card. We get all kinds of amazing discussion happening when I've used the original version, so I'm expecting this one will be great, too.

3. The last tool I'm going to use is a social scavenger hunt. I've been using social scavenger hunts all school year to work on conversation skills, and they have really been great! The kids have loved them, and their parents have asked for copies for the students to use at home with family and friends. They are part of a mini-unit I am creating to target conversation skills, specifically making small talk, that will be available for purchase after the first of the year.

But I wanted to share this part with you NOW, because it would be so great to use as a party game or a warm-up activity in any group. And it makes kids HAVE to ask each other questions and interact! You don't need to have the mini-unit yet or be working on conversation skills specifically to make this work for you.  It's just a great social activity that I know your kids will love.

Did I mention this sample activity is a FREEBIE in my TpT Store? Go download it, and let me know how it works for you.

Here's to happy, successful social interactions! 

November 8, 2015

Frenzied SLPs: Thankful and Grateful Blog Hop

Woo Hoo! I am so excited to be part of The Frenzied SLPs Thankful and Grateful Scavenger Hunt hosted by Sparklle SLP, SLPrunner and Speech Universe! We all have so much to be thankful for, and we're happy to let our gratitude spill over by treating three lucky winners to some awesome prizes!

In case you've just joined the blog hop here with me, here's how it works:

1. Read each Thankful and Grateful post from The Frenzied SLPs!
2. Collect the character at the bottom of each post. Don't forget to write down the characters in order to reveal the secret phrase.
3. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of any post by entering the phrase
4. Visit The Frenzied SLPs Facebook Page for an extra entry.
5. Three winners will be chosen after the rafflecopter closes on 11/13/2015.

So, what am I thankful and grateful for? I have been blessed beyond measure by God with the gifts of my family and friends, my practice and my colleagues both near and far. I could write PAGES of reasons that I'm thankful to be part of this awesome online community of speech-language pathologists who make me a better clinician, collaborator, product creator and person each and every day but I'll keep it short and sweet and just say that I value you all immensely and I'm thankful for each and every one of you!

I want to share a moment of gratitude I experienced this past week that lead to other moments of thankful reflection.  Have you ever had one of those seasons of life where you are so busy with your work responsibilities and your personal life that it feels like it is all you can do to make it through each day? That's what my life has been like for the past month. I looked at my calendar last Sunday to prepare for the week and felt exhausted before the week even began. By Tuesday, I realized I was looking at my week as if  it were a long to-do list to be completed by Friday night, checking off each appointment and event like tasks I had finished. It was like I was waiting for each day to be over so I could be one step closer to Saturday. Have you ever done that? Have you spent energy wishing time away instead of appreciating the moment? I realized I was so busy waiting for Friday to be over that I wasn't really being fully present for my clients, family or friends. I was just going through the motions.  I'm not sure what triggered that realization (Oh wait. Yes I do. It was God, whispering with that still, small voice of conviction.), but as soon as I realized it, I knew I needed an attitude shift.

So Wednesday morning, I made the decision to stop wishing the week away and just be fully present for each therapy session and event, appreciating the time spent with each person. I can't even tell you what a difference that decision made in my attitude I had toward facing each busy day! I took the time to really be with each child I'd been blessed to work with, and to give them the kind of service they deserve. I really enjoyed the people I spent my evenings with and was thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know them better. I let go of the anxiety and preoccupation of preparing for the next day's schedule by understanding that people are more important than my desire for everything to be perfectly executed. I got through my week feeling a little tired, but I wasn't as exhausted as I thought I would be.  It ended up being a pretty good week, and I am pretty sure my attitude shift had a lot to do with it. And I am grateful for that.

So, are you ready to move onto the next blog to see what my colleague Rose is thankful for? Before you go, here's your letter:

Next, click on the image below to take you to Cooking Up Good Speech:

Don't forget to enter the contest to win some awesome prizes! You can enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to go back to the first blog in this blog hop? Click on the the image below:

November 4, 2015

Paper Bag Owl Craft

These paper bag owls made from paper lunch sacks have been a big hit in my speech room this week! Let me show you how to make them. Here's what you'll need to prepare:

  • buy large-sized paper lunch sacks
  • cut out hearts from patterned scrapbook paper or construction paper. My hearts were approximately 4"x5"
  • cut out circles of three different sizes. I made mine 3", 2.5" and 1". Make the largest circles any color you want, make the medium-sized circles white or cream, and the small circles black.
  • cut out triangles for the beak and feet. Mine were 2" triangles.

First, cut 2 inches off the top of a lunch sack. I used a large-sized lunch sack, which was approximately 6" x 4" x 12.25".

Next, measure 2.5" down from the top of the flat side of the bag (i.e. the side that doesn't have the bottom folded up) and mark it.

Fold the top of the bag over at the 2.5" mark and make a crease across the top.

Open the folded flap and cut the corners off diagonally by starting at the center point and cutting across to the edge at the fold.

Cut off both corners to make a triangle.

Fold the triangle down along the crease. It should look like the picture above. If you want the triangle to rest closer to your owl's eyes, fold an inch below the original crease.

Glue the heart on so the point is almost at the bottom of the bag.

Glue the large circles on first,

...followed by the white and black.

The beak goes on next.

Turn the owl over and glue two triangles on the back, with half of each triangle sticking off the bag.

Gently open the bag and set the opened bag on the table with the owl facing you.

Gather the top edges of the bag in at the side folds and fold the triangle back over the front. That's it! Aren't they so cute??? We filled our owl bags with homework pictures and worksheets to take home. Perfect!

You can work on all sorts of language goals with this little craft. Here are a few suggestions:

  • shapes
  • sizes
  • colors
  • following directions
  • plurals
  • possessives
  • pronouns
  • sequencing
I love these, and I hope you do, too!