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March 30, 2012

My Five Favorite Games

During one of the online continuing education courses I viewed, the presenter showed a photograph of a speech language pathologist standing in front of a WALL of board games.  The caption asked, "Are you THAT therapist?"  I had to respond, "YES I AM!!!!"  I LOVE playing games!  I use them all the time during my treatment sessions.  No shame there!  They keep kids engaged and offer a higher level of difficulty in which to practice their new skills.  Here's my top 5:

1.  Cariboo by Cranium

Kids never tire of playing with this game.  Six colored balls are hidden inside the game.  The child searches for the balls by drawing a card and finding a door that matches the color, number or letter on the card.  The child then opens the door using a key.  If there is a ball under the door, the child places it in the hole that leads to the treasure chest.  After all 6 balls are found, the treasure chest "magically" opens!  Sheer delight, over and over and over again!  I use this game to work on a whole host of goals: plurals, speech sounds, sentence formulation, requests, turn taking, etc.  I've even changed the pictures on the doors by placing my own picture cards over the top of the others.

2.  Richard Scarry's Busytown: Eye Found It!

This one's a large board game that needs to be played on the floor.  Kids take a trip through Busytown on their way to have a picnic on Picnic Island.  Along the way, they stop and search for items hidden all over Busytown.  Some hungry pigs threaten to ruin the picnic by eating some of the picnic food during the journey...can we make it there before they eat it all?!  It's a different journey each time we play.  Great fun, and language opportunities abound!

3.  Froggie Boogie

Blue Orange Games make wonderful, colorful all-wooden games that I can't seem to get enough of!
This is one of my favorites.  Those sneaky baby frogs are trying to make their way around the pond while the mommy frogs are napping.  Kids roll the color dice, find a mother frog that matches the colors, and look under one googly eye.  If there's a frog on the eye, the mother "caught" them and they have to stay on their lily pad.  If the eye is blank, they can hop forward to the next lily pad and take another turn.  I use this one for articulation, color matching, turn taking, and language skills.

4.  Cat and the Hat I Can Do That

This is an excellent game for incorporating movement into speech and language activities.  The yellow "trick-a-ma-stick" is set up on the floor, and a variety of Cat in the Hat inspired objects are displayed on the table.  The child turns over three cards which give him a direction to complete.  The first set of cards state an action to be performed, the second tells which object to use, and the third tells which body part to use.  For example, a direction might be, "Step over the trick-a-ma-stick with the cake on your head."  I adapt this to work on various levels of direction following, from simple to complex.
 5.  Snail's Pace Race

This is another one that can be adapted in a multitude of ways.  Snails race against each other across the board to reach the finish line.  The child rolls the color dice to see which two snails get to inch forward one space each turn.  The unique thing is that the SNAILS are the competitors, not the people playing the game.  There are no winners or losers!  I mostly use this game with my preschoolers, but even the 10 year olds love the suspense of the race!

So there you are.  Fun, fun, fun!

What are some of your favorites?  I'd love to hear, so leave me a comment.  And then I might have to take a trip to Target...

Nice chatting with you!


March 28, 2012

Joke of the Day Activity Download

 April Fool's Day is coming soon, so why not get your Inner Comedian on and start telling some jokes?  Many of my kiddos struggle with those tricky multiple meaning words though, and my jokes are lost on them!  Here's something I'm going to try to help them "get the joke".  We'll choose a joke and glue it in the "Joke of the Day" square.  Next we'll figure out which word or words in the joke have more than one meaning.  We'll write those words on the sheet, write out the two different meanings and maybe even sketch little objects to go with it.  Then we'll talk about why the play on words is funny.  I'm thinkin' we'll be yucking it up in no time!

Why did the whale eat the dolphin?  It wasn't on porpoise!  

You can download my jokes (Courtesy of Uncle John's Book of Fun) and the worksheet here.

Nice chatting with you!


March 25, 2012

Zoo Part 2


Here's a couple more ideas that fit the zoo theme:

Monkeying Around Game

I've had this game for years, and it never fails to please kids of any age.  Kids take turns hanging monkeys by their tails onto the magnetically attached treetop that looms above an alligator-filled pond.  If the treetop becomes unbalanced, all the monkeys fall into the perilous pond with a grand crash!  I have used this game for all sorts of goals:  articulation practice, plurals, making predictions, and turn-taking, to name a few.

I think I bought mine at Super Duper, but I've seen it since at many toy stores.  It's just another great multi-purpose game that you can grab and adapt.

What's for Lunch Book

Here's a little book I made using Boardmaker for my preschoolers.  It's an interactive rhyming story about a zookeeper who has a wheelbarrow full of food to feed the animals.  The food pieces are attached to a separate story board (see the picture above), and placed into the bowl of the animal who requests it throughout the story.

 Here's a sample page:

And another:

You get the idea.  Just download it, print, add some velcro dots and you're good to go!  Here's a little time-saving tip:  Print the book pages on photo paper instead of card stock and you can eliminate the laminating step.  Easy.

I posted this book before knowing how to compile the Boardmaker files into one document, so unfortunately you'll have to download it page by page, until I can redo it.  Download the pages here:

Nice chatting with you!


March 21, 2012

Excellent Online Continuing Education: Advanced Healthcare Education

I thought I'd share a great source of online continuing education with you today.  It is called Advanced Healthcare Education, LLC, and their website is www.videoce.tv.  They provide online video presentations for a wide variety of healthcare professionals, including speech language pathologists and SLPA's, occupational therapists and COTA's, physical therapists and PTA's, and nurses and school healthcare providers.

I have completed two courses through this company and both were excellent in content and value.  After downloading each session, I was able to play them on my own time schedule from the comfort of my home.  In addition to the video presentations, each session incudes written material that is easily downloaded and follows along with the speaker's presentation.  At the end of each session, you are required to pass a brief examination before earning your CEU's.  You are then given a certificate of completion, with the number of CEU's printed on the certificate.

According to their mission statement, "AHE, LLC has a mission to provide high quality, highly relevant and in-depth live and online continuing education courses to healthcare professionals using high level technology for online viewing."  My experiences with them so far tell me they are right on track.  Their list of available live and online conferences is extensive, with many different topics from which to choose, and I experienced "no technical difficulties" in either of my courses.  Sound interesting?  Check them out!

Nice chatting with you!


March 20, 2012

Due Process Witness: What I Learned While Taking the Stand

"We're going to call you as a witness in our due process hearing in March", says the attorney on the phone.

Those words were enough to make me tremble in my oh-so-fashionable boots!  Those words have appeared before in my worst nightmares, but never in real life.

Those words came true for me last week.

I am no stranger to the words "due process".  I spent more than half my career in the educational setting and have spent countless hours writing, reviewing, and revising IFSP's.  I have participated in numerous inservices, training me in special education law and all its associated procedures.  I have been involved in meetings with attorneys gathering information at the beginning of mediation between my district and parents, but I've never actually had to go to court and be a witness.  Until last week.

It was a nerve-wracking experience for me, being the people-pleaser that I am, but I came out on the other side having learned some valuable lessons.  Here's what I learned:

1.  Those painstakingly-long progress reports that I hate to write really do matter.  If you're anything like me, I'd much rather plan fun activities than spend my time at the computer writing those time-consuming reports.  Reporting data from standardized testing, assessing and summarizing progress from piles of treatment records and creating new measurable goals takes me hours!  I write, I edit, I write some more, edit some more, and hope that I've done an adequate job of describing my clients' skills and needs in a way that could be understood by an untrained reader.  I have to admit that more than once I've asked myself, "Who's going to read this anyway?"  In most cases, my reports go directly to the parents, who then share it with whomever they feel is necessary.  Sometimes my reports are requested by insurance companies during their benefits review process.  And then, in rare instances, they are requested by an outside source, such as an attorney who plans to use them as evidence of progress in a due process hearing.  I submitted copies of five reports for this due process hearing, and each and every page was gone over with a fine-toothed comb.  I testified for almost two hours, and most of that time was spent discussing the information I provided in my reports.  I am relieved to tell you that for the most part, my reports were thorough and the information in them was useful.  But there were also parts where I had to wonder what I was thinking when I wrote them!  So embarrassing! So here's what I will take away from this, as I write my next report:

              1.  Do my words paint an accurate picture of who the child is for that moment in time?
              2.  Could an untrained reader understand them?
              3.  Did I do an adequate job of analyzing and reporting data?
              4.  What does this data summary mean for the child?
              5.  Are my goals measurable and obtainable?

2.  Understand what those numbers from your standardized assessments really mean, and be ready to explain that information in terms that an untrained person can understand.  I found myself educating the attorneys and the judge about the bell curve, standard scores, percentile ranks and standard deviations.  I even drew them a graph that wound up being submitted as a formal exhibit!  Being able to describe what all those numbers mean and how they related to the child certainly supported my credibility as a professional.

3.  Be prepared to explain why you use specific treatment methods and why they are valid.  The child in question is one of my Social Thinking kiddos, with whom I use many of the methods described by Michelle Garcia Winner in her books Thinking About You, Thinking About Me and Think Social: A Social Thinking Curriculum.  Again, I found myself educating the others around the table about Theory of Mind and why these skills are important to teach a child on the Autism Spectrum.  And why they are so completely impossible to track with hard data.   And why they often  have to be taught "in the moment" to be effective.  I could tell the judge was having difficulty wrapping his mind around some of the concepts I was describing, so I used an interaction I had with one of the attorneys as an example. I described the interaction and used what was said between us to illustrate the skills we used to make a social connection, even though we didn't know each other.  This little object lesson really helped to validate one little part of what I was trying to describe to people who just an hour earlier had no understanding of the complexity of social skills.

4.  Continuing education is vital.  I have to admit that most of my continuing education that I received during my years in the educational setting came from inservices and trainings that were offered by my district.  I did not actively seek conferences to attend outside of my work day.  Maybe because they often conflicted with my work hours, or maybe it was the expense.  I'm not sure, but I know I was complacent and content to take what my district had to offer.  I did not really start attending conferences and trainings outside of the school settings until I started my private practice.  Now I am responsible for finding continuing education opportunities on my own.  There are so many out there!  I've found great online conferences through ASHA and other sources that have been very beneficial.  Attending the Oregon Speech and Hearing Association yearly conference has also kept me in the loop on the latest trends, research, treatment methods and best practice standards.

5.  It's okay to say, "I don't know".  We're never expected to "know it all".  In this case, while I was previewing the questions the parents' attorney planned to ask me, I found one I wasn't comfortable answering.  I was honest and told the attorney exactly that.  Her response was to tell me it was fine, and she omitted that question from her plan.  Plain fact:  if I would have pretended to act like I knew something that I really didn't, the attorney would have seen right through me and most likely discredit me.  It's just best to be honest.

6.  Attorneys can seem rather intimidating, but both sides are trying to make a case for their client.  Don't take it personally.  Enough said.  They still scare me though!

7.  I really am an expert, even though I feel that I still have so much to learn.  Don't sell yourself short.  Whether you're a new SLP or a well-seasoned one, you have a huge knowledge bank from which to draw.  No matter how inadequate I felt sitting in the witness chair at the beginning of my testimony, I soon found myself calmly discussing the things I know, love and do everyday to make a difference in a child's life.

Were there things I would do or say differently?  Most definitely.  But at the end of the day, I feel like things went pretty well.  It reminded me that accountability is huge in the private practice realm, even though I'm not called to show it publicly every day. What great encouragement for me to stay on top of my game!

Nice chatting with you,


March 18, 2012

Play Dough Mats and Other Fun Stuff from Pinterest

Are you as addicted to Pinterest as I am???  I just can't get enough!

I thought I'd share a couple of ideas I found there that I used this past week.

The first one came from a pin by Karen at prekinders.com She posted this darling book of play dough mats that I just had to download.  Here is the one I used this week:

I used it with my articulation kids, and my little ones who are building their vocabularies.  After they said a target word correctly, I gave them one play dough "berry", which they promptly squished on the pie.  They loved it!  One little boy was NOT into pie, so I made him a dump truck.

Aren't these fun?  If you want, you can down load them here and here.  Just print and laminate and you're good to go.

Pinterest is also where I found all these wonderful blogs that have inspired me to become more creative.  Jenna Rayburn over at Speech Room News is a prolific Pinterest pinner with endless creative ideas.  She posted a way for us to make all those wonderful photo collections posted by Heidi Kay at PediaStaff on Pinterest easily accessible with your iPad by using an app called Tapikeo HD.  You can check this app out at the App Store.  Basically it enables you to turn photos into audiobooks, flashcards and communication boards.  Jenna does a fabulous job giving us a step-by-step tutorial on how to use it; check it out here.  I bought the app and quickly realized the possibilities are endless!  Another pin caught my eye:  From Head to Toe Game (by Eric Carle) posted by starfishtherapies.wordpress.com.  A reader of this blog described how she made this activity into a "movie", and I decided to borrow her idea, but use the Tapikeo HD app instead.  Here's what I did:

I took screen shots of the animals in the book From Head to Toes by Eric Carle.  I imported them into a Tapikeo grid, and added my own text and recorded myself reading the text.  I left every other cell blank so I could import photos of a child later.  During our treatment session, I took photos of the child performing the actions as we read the book and imported them right into grid.

We edited the pictures by adding his voice.  The text in the book says "I can do it!" after each action, but he was working on the /r/ sound, so he said, "That's really easy!" instead.  After eight actions were photographed and recorded, we were ready to play back our story.  Here's what it looked like:

Voila! An interactive story completed in about 20 minutes.  He was so proud!  Another fun thing about this app is that you can export your stories to other devices if they have Tapikeo too, so you could share it for home use.  As I said before, the possibilities are endless!

Happy Pinning!


March 16, 2012

Spring Break Download for R Carryover

Here's a quick little activity to practice those tricky R words while talking with your students about what they plan to do for Spring Break.

You can download it here.  Have fun!

March 15, 2012

Good Night, Gorilla and Other Zany Zoo Ideas

Who doesn't love Good Night, Gorilla?! It's got to be one of my all-time FAVORITE books!  Each page is full of language-rich, engaging artwork that appeals to kids of every age and tells a delightful story using very few words.  It's the perfect book to use for building language skills at any level, making it the first book I'll go to now that we've started our zoo theme at Small Talk.

The colorful keys and cages in the book inspired me to make a little book to use with my preschoolers:

Each page of this 6-page book has an animal hiding behind a cage door that opens and closes, and a key that turns to "unlock" it.  How fun is that?

After opening all six doors and talking about the animals hiding inside their cages, we say "good night" to each one and lock them up again!  The preschoolers love to turn those keys, and the repetitive text makes it easy for them to "read" the story again and again.  You can download a copy to use with your kids here.  You'll need to print two copies of the cage doors, and one copy of the animal pages.  Cut the cage doors with room to spare for gluing on the left edge.  The keys are on a separate document; download them here.  I used a hole punch to make holes in the keys and on each page, roughly a half an inch from the right edge of the paper, and fastened the keys to the pages using brass fasteners.  Some of the kids helped with the assembly of their own books, which was an even better way to expand language.

Another activity I'd like to share is my Zoo Animal Box.  I bought a plain brown box from Michael's and decorated it with zoo animal stickers.  I filled the box with small plastic animals and made some question cards to go along with them.  The cards are pictured below, and ask questions about features.  The kids match the animals to a card that best describes them.  With some of my kids, we were able to group two or more animals with a similar feature, such as "pointy ears" or "sharp teeth", and talk about

which animal had "the most" spots, or "the longest" tail.  In some cases after the child was familiar with the animals and the question pattern, we reversed roles and the child asked me questions.  This was a great way to work on formulating questions and using descriptors.

I made a second set of card to use for comparatives and superlatives and a few blank cards for you to be creative with.  You can download both sets of cards here.  All in all, this was an easy activity to pull together and one that is easy to adapt to address a variety of skills.

I hope you enjoy these activities.  I'm sure I'll have more to add as The Small Talk Zoo just opened for business and I usually keep it around for awhile!  If you download any of my materials, please leave a comment to let me know how you plan to use them.

Nice chatting with you!


March 7, 2012

iPad Fun with the Glow Draw App

Have you discovered the Glow Draw! app for your iPad or iPhone?  I've been using it this week with my articulation kids as a fun way to wrap up our treatment sessions.

My lame depiction of Happy New Year!
We play our version of Pictionary by choosing a word off a word list, drawing it with our finger, and letting the other person guess what we draw.  Here's an example of a word list I use:

It's a little hard to see, but this list comes from a book called Artic Tickle Stories by Super Duper Publications, which has words lists for just about every sound and blend in all positions.  My non-reading children play a variation of this game by using picture cards as their inspiration.

Get Creative!


March 6, 2012

The Magical Mystery Box

Don't you just love pulling something out from deep in the closet and finding you suddenly can use it a million different ways?  That's what happened with me this week with the Mystery Box from Lakeshore.   Here's some of the ways I used it:

1.  To elicit contractable auxiliaries:  I placed 5-10 different objects in the box and held the matching picture cards in my hand.  I showed the child the first card and asked him to reach inside and find it by only using his fingers.  After he retrieved the object and set it on the picture, he needed to ask, "What's next?".  I showed him another card, and we repeated the sequence.  This particular child enjoyed this activity so much that we went through all 30 objects, giving me at least 30 opportunities to elicit the target.

2.  To practice using pronouns he and she:  This time I placed a boy doll and a girl doll on either side of the box.  I explained that they each wanted some of the items hidden in the box.  I laid out 5 cards by each doll and modeled, "He wants a basketball.  He wants a key", emphasizing the pronouns.  The child then removed one item at a time from the box, matched it to a picture and said, "He/She wants a ___"

3.  To practice using adjectives:  I placed one item in the box at a time.  The child reached in the box and described what he or she could feel:  long, round, fuzzy, bumpy, squishy, hard, soft, pointy, smooth, rough, etc.  The child then made a guess about what the item was and matched it to a picture.  To make it even more difficult, I had several of my kids make a guess without the pictures displayed.  You could also do this by first having the child guess what the item is and then have them tell you why they think that (ex. "I think it's a snake because it's long and wavy and has a head").

4.  /r/ Sentences/ Carryover:  Instead of using the picture cards, I wrote words that begin with /r/ on little post-it note-sized cards and had the student match the item to a word on a card.  I chose adjectives, nouns and verbs that might describe an object from the set.  Some of the words I used were rough, rotten, wriggly, rusty, red, round, road, rim, and replace.  After matching an object to a word, the student then made up a sentence that included both words.  We made it more difficult by combining two or more sets into a longer sentence (ex.  "The rusty key and the rotten egg were in the road."  A copy of my word cards can be downloaded here.

There are so many more ways to use this set of materials!  I would love to hear YOUR ideas!

Nice chatting with you,