Friday, January 18, 2019

I love you, Daddy

Admittedly, I made an audible gasp when I signed into my blog to write this post and noticed that I haven't been here since Halloween!  So much has happened since then that caused me to direct my attention elsewhere. Just prior to the national speech and language conference in Boston last November, the man who means the world to me, the one who sacrifices everything for his family, was formally diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.  

For the last few years, my daddy has been losing weight and slowing down.  We all assumed it was old age settling in, but over the last few months, the hand tremors became a little more noticeable and then came the shuffling walk and breathy voice quality.  Living in Illinois has made it difficult for me to help care for Pops as he still lives in the home that I grew up in with my mom in Rhode Island.  I felt lost, sad, and guilty for not being closer to home.

Then, along came the annual ASHA conference and it was exactly what I needed and in a location where I could spend some time with family.  Another added bonus was that I could network with professionals closer to my daddy to educate myself on his care and hopefully find the "best of the best" for him.

For those of you not familiar with my blog and work as a speech pathologist, I have been practicing since 1995, primarily with pediatrics.  Shortly after my practicum at the Rhode Island Veterans Hospital, I worked per diem when the greatest mentor in the world was on vacation.  Needless to say, it had been a while since I serviced adults.  What better way to learn about the most current treatment programs for Parkinson's than at the national ASHA conference?  So, in between sessions on tele-therapy, stuttering, and augmentative communication, I took courses in cognitive and voice therapy for people with Parkinson's.  I also spent some time researching Big and Loud therapy in poster sessions and at booths, and made a fabulous connection with Steven Darroh, who is in the process of releasing his "Loud and Clear" app.  More on that affordable resource for patients with Parkinson's when Steven visits this blog in a few months for a guest post!

The most informative course was the very last one that  I attended at ASHA on cognitive therapy.  While this course was geared towards cognitive group therapy in a nursing home setting, I started thinking about ways to modify the plans for my daddy.  To summarize the ASHA session, the presenters discussed functional lesson plans that incorporated conversations about recent and past historical events.  The purpose was to help with memory and retrieval skills and facilitate making connections with personal accounts. 

 It dawned on me that my daddy and I could use our Amazon Alexa to inquire about historical events by asking: "Alexa, what happened on this day in history?"  You can even further probe with a follow-up question: "Alexa, what else happened on this day in history?"  The plan has been for each of us to ask our respective Alexa's this information and then I call Pops first thing in the morning to review the material.  Later in the day, when my treatment sessions are completed in Illinois, I call Pops in Rhode Island and ask him to recall 1-2 historical events we discussed that morning.  When possible, I try to include personal perspectives to assist in recall.  For example, I may point out that the year was notable for a family member's birth or I may ask what his favorite movie/singer/entertainer is depending on the historical notation that day.  

Besides assisting with memory retrieval, this daily interaction supports voicing goals such as: projecting your voice to ask Alexa the command clearly and concisely and increasing vocal volume on the phone to improve listener understanding.  What the therapist in me didn't realize when I initiated this treatment plan was the greatest benefit of all: taking the time to talk with someone you love a couple times a day can improve affect and mood.  My daddy, being the kind soul that he is, has thanked me numerous times for calling and spending a few minutes talking with him.  Since we started this interaction months ago, his tone has a little more rhythm in it and I hear glimpses of the man that I have always known and loved.  That fun-loving, jitter-bugging, life of the party guy who had slipped away makes a brief appearance on those daily phone calls.  

Some days are better than others and the therapist in me (because I can never fully turn that off) assesses the conversation.  When his day is busier and he hasn't had time for regular meals, then his voice quality is breathier at the end of the day and he struggles with recalling information.  On those days, language cues aren't effective, so I just review the information again.  I also noticed that he retrieves more detail when he listens to his Alexa's recount versus when we just discuss what I heard on mine.  Regardless, we just pick up a new fact the next day and move forward.  We talk about how it's OK to listen to the historical recount a few times throughout the day or take notes as I have had to do on occasion.  The last thing that I want to do is make him feel sad for not remembering, so I remind him periodically that at the end of the day, it isn't about what we can recall, but it is about something he taught me growing up.  Be kind to people you love whenever you have a chance and avoid living with regret that you didn't take the time to show you care. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

So Many Halloween Books..., So Little Time!

Happy October, Friends!!

Thought I would pop in with some literacy ideas for the remainder of this month.  It seems like every year, I start my Halloween theme a week earlier and I still cannot seem to get in all the books by the end of October!!  There are a few tried and true ones that I prioritize both in my home office sessions and in Teletherapy.  Hopefully, the ideas below offer some new material/activities to your collections!  Enjoy!!

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott


Comprehension Questions: 
  • What is dad's job?
  • What is at the window?
  • What did the boy climb down?
  • What is the boy wearing?
  • What is the boy doing now?
  • Are there a few or many monsters waiting?
  • What is the boy standing on top of?
  • How does the boy feel now?
  • Are they all laughing?
  • Where is the boy going?

Arts and Crafts:

Last year, I came up with an idea to give our own monsters haircuts in speech.  I printed an image of Frankenstein onto green paper and then glued long, vertical strips of green streamers the length of the face.  You can use this as a listening task by having clients trim a piece each time they hear a target sound or word.  Recently, I used this with my Teletherapy clients working on the concept: IN FRONT OF.  We talked about how the monster's hair was IN FRONT OF his chin, mouth, nose, eyes, and eyebrows, so we trimmed a little at a time to reveal these facial parts.  You could also work on future tense verbs by having clients express what they WILL cut next.



Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

Articulation:

It seems that I always have someone working on the /ch/ sound and this book is perfect for a listening activity of /ch/ final.  Clients first listen to the story and then we create a foam witch craft for take home.  I scored a packet of six foam sets for a dollar at the Dollar Tree this year and paired it with this book.  Sometimes, I grab things as I see them at the store and later figure out how to blend materials into themes.  

Verb tenses:

I love this story for regular (searched) and irregular (flew, found, blew) past tense verbs.  Here is a fun link that I found for my online clients.  Whether you want to add this to your teletherapy, school, or private practice sessions, simply pause the video and ask clients what happened.  

A couple years ago, I purchased some props to act out this story with my moderate to severe population.  While I would not do this for every book that I own, I am happy to have these materials for one of my Halloween treasures!



There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat by Lucille Colandro

Language:

The pictures in this story are perfectly positioned to work on the concept: NEXT TO.  I also use the story to talk about the regular past tense action: swallowed.  You can always focus on story re-tell and sequencing using pictures like the one that I purchased from Speech Room News.  Remember those witch foam crafts from the previous story?  Well, I found a packet of six bat ones too at the Dollar Tree and paired this craft with the old lady story.



Articulation:

Even my youngest clients enjoy these simple, old lady stories!  This past week, I targeted CVC words with an almost three year old to practice: bat, cat, ghost, bone, and hat.  









Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Autumn Word Search and Answer Key Courtesy of Education.com

Happy Fall Friends!!  

I hope that you are enjoying some mild temperatures in your neck of the woods.  Here in Illinois, we are starting to see some cooler days and brighter colors.  I thought this would be the perfect time to share a fall-themed freebie with you!

The generous folks that provided a FREE patriotic word search this summer, have returned with a complimentary one for autumn.  Find the fun in spelling this fall! Be sure to check out Education.com for more spelling resources.

Autumn Word Search 

Answer Key

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

SEVEN Ways to Use Amazon Alexa to Increase Speech and Language Skills

Welcome to the 2018/19 school year, friends!  Whether you're a teacher, SLP, OT, PT or parent, I think you will enjoy this post about seven ways you can use your Amazon Alexa to increase communication skills.  In this day and age, it is challenging to find that healthy balance with electronics, so I thought I would research some "games" and educational activities that Alexa has to offer because if you can't beat 'em, then join 'em.  I am including commands to launch the activity, general description of each task from the Amazon Alexa site, and my own feedback. If you decide to play these games, then you will need to 'enable' each one either in your Alexa app or online at the Amazon site. 

Tricky Genie
Get things started with one of these commands:
"Alexa, start tricky genie" 
"Alexa, launch tricky genie"
"Alexa, ask tricky genie for a story"

General Description from Amazon:  
Think you can outsmart the tricky genie? Try this game that’s suitable for all ages. Alexa will tell you a quick story about one or more characters that get themselves into a difficult predicament. The tricky genie will appear holding three sacks. One sack contains the very best solution to the problem. The genie will only give you two chances to pick the sack with the best solution. But the genie may try to trick you into being satisfied with a solution that isn't the best one. After each game, you can choose to have Alexa ask you two questions about the story to train your listening comprehension skills.  This game is brought to you by the team at Tellables. Visit us at Tellables.com to learn about our other skills and to get updates on Tricky Genie.

Feedback:  
I really liked this activity that addresses both problem solving and answering yes/no comprehension questions about a short story.  It would be a good idea to have your child write down some key points while listening to the short story to increase detail recall, especially when answering the two comprehension questions.  Alexa will also ask you if you want to hear the story again, which may be a good time to work on that outline.  In my opinion, this activity is appropriate for upper elementary through middle-school aged clients.  

Heads up
Get things started with one of these commands:
"Alexa open Heads Up! and play Superstars"
"Alexa play Heads Up!"
"Alexa start Heads Up!"

General Description from Amazon: 
“Heads Up!” has arrived on Amazon Alexa! For the first time ever, you can play “Heads Up!” on your own with Alexa, or gather your friends and see who can guess correctly from Alexa's clues!  Pick a category and Alexa will provide up to three fun facts and clues for each card — See how many you can get right in 90 seconds!  Decks include: Superstars, Blockbuster Movies, Animals Gone Wild, and Favorite Fictional Characters.  Please note that this activity is rated as "Guidance Suggested".  

Feedback:
If you enjoy playing this game on your phone, then you will like this version as well.  Chimes indicate if you got the answer correct/incorrect and a total score is reported when time is up.  I like that there are just a few categories to choose as this reduces time spent trying to select a group.  Having said that, you can purchase more groups for a small fee.  This game would be a fun way to work on increasing vocabulary, naming items in a category, and recall.  

Would you Rather Family
Get things started with one of these commands:
"Alexa, Play Would You Rather"
"Start Would You Rather"
"Open Would You Rather"

General Description from Amazon:
Would You Rather for Family is a simple but addicting game where you make a choice between two lighthearted and silly situations. Will the rest of the world agree with your decision? You have to try the skill to find out!  Enjoy hundreds of fun, family-friendly questions to keep all ages entertained for hours.  Would You Rather is now available in multi-player mode. You can enjoy it with your entire family or play by yourself.  Play Would You Rather at a sleepover, at a party, on family game night or simply to pass time. Questions are continually added so check back often for updates. Enjoy the game, and I look forward to hearing your suggestions about how it could be improved!

Feedback:
As with Heads Up, there are just a few, theme choices: Standard, Disney, or Harry Potter.  Again, the fewer the choices, the faster you can make a decision on which one to play.  I tried the Standard and Harry Potter editions and especially enjoyed the Harry Potter one, because the feedback stays on topic with Potter language.  After each answer, Alexa will tell you what percentage answered in the same manner.  The only downfall is that you do not get time to explain why you made your selection.  I figured that you could play a couple rounds, write down responses, and then discuss these later. 

Animal Game 
Get things started with one of these commands:
"Alexa, start Animal Game"
"Alexa, play Animal Game"

General Description from Amazon:
Test Alexa’s animal knowledge by having her guess an animal of your choice. Alexa will ask you questions to figure out your chosen animal, so make sure you’re familiar with the basics! What color is it? Can it fly? Does it live in hot climates? Your answers to these questions will help Alexa narrow down the animal possibilities and make the best guess. Will you be able to stump Alexa, or will she be victorious in the end? Alexa knows over three hundred animals and can also tell you some interesting facts about them. Did you know that rats laugh when they are tickled? And that no polar bear has ever met a penguin?

Feedback:
I will readily admit that I was wildly entertained when Alexa guessed the animals that I selected!  This activity is a great way to work on descriptive skills and all you need to do is answer Alexa's yes/no questions.  Feel free to have her repeat a question or ask someone for help if you're not sure how to respond.  After you play a round, you could turn this into a table task by drawing a graphic organizer and recalling the details about your animal.  


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Fluency Therapy Activities (Stuttering Therapy) by Peachie Speechie {{{Product Review}}}

Happy summer speech2me friends!!  I hope that you are enjoying a wonderful, relaxing summer!  For those of you, like myself, still fighting in the trenches, I'm excited to share a wonderful product that I have been fortunate enough to review by my virtual colleague: Peachie Speechie.  When I say that this fluency program will make your lives easier, it is no exaggeration!  This packet will walk you through treatment from start to finish, making prep time for your sessions easy.  Before we take a closer look at this product, I want to disclose that other than a complimentary product, no other compensation was received in exchange for this honest review.  All opinions expressed here are solely and unbiasedly mine.  

For reference purposes, here is the link to the product on Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT):
Fluency Therapy Activities (Stuttering Therapy)

Just after the table of contents, you will find a nice, welcome greeting, a page for writing speech goals, fluency questionnaire for kids, and an awesome reminder that it is OK to stutter.  These pages are in alignment with information that Nina Reeves, M.S., CCC-SLP, BCS-F shared in her dynamic Speech Summit presentation in early August.  Our approach to therapy no longer hides talking about stuttering.  Instead, we embrace talking about feelings, frustrations, and acknowledge that no one is 100% fluent, ever.

Next, you will find child-friendly definitions and examples of three types of disfluencies, visuals for teaching bumpy vs. smooth speech, a self-rating slider, and a couple pages that work on identifying bumpy vs. smooth productions.  I love how she used round, bingo dabber-shaped circles for responses. So fun!!

The next important section details speech anatomy via a teaching diagram and a matching worksheet.  You will find diagrams with and without labels for quizzing.  Then, she breaks down the seven strategies that help increase fluency (light contact, easy onset, slow speech, pausing, cancellations, pull outs, and stretchy speech).  Not only are the definitions clear and concise, but she also included visual images to support recall.  Finally, there is a fluency strategy slider for you to cut, color and laminate and then use with a paperclip to select which fluency strategy should be utilized in practice drills.

The remainder of this collection scaffolds practicing strategies at the word, association, phrase, sentence, reading, and conversation levels.  My favorite section works on smooth speech while explaining a variety of tasks such as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and building a sandcastle.  On these worksheets, there is a section for documenting strategies used and another for rating feelings pertaining to the child's productions.  When you are ready to work on the conversation level, there are cards with various topics that could be used in a turn taking game. 

If I had to rate this collection on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best, I would have to give this an 11!!  I started out searching for a nice visual to discuss speech anatomy with a school-aged client and found a jackpot.  It's a perfect program to send home in support of both educating families about stuttering and generalizing practice.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Patriotic Adverbs Worksheet- courtesy of Education.com



Summer is in full swing here in Illinois!  With July 4th just around the corner, I have a freebie to share from the creative folks at Education.com.  Follow the links to grab your patriotic adverbs word search and answer key.  

Let freedom ring with this fun language practice. Be sure to check out Education.com for more learning fun.

Adverbs Word Search

Answer Sheet

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Fun and Functional Carryover Work for Speech and Language Goals



It has been quite a "frenzied" school year between my home office visits and telepractice hours in California and Indiana that I have not linked up with my peeps since last school year!  Ironically, when I volunteered to be part of this blog hop, I didn't know that the organizers would pick a topic that I was already in the process of editing.  Although I do not have a school caseload, I am often asked by my online caregivers to suggest some speech and language summer homework.  While I like calendar versions, these can take some time to personalize for each client, so I decided to give my original, summer homework pages a face lift.

I live and breath by fun and functional speech and language activities, so I created these FREE handouts to mirror that motto.  Below are articulation and language versions for each month.  Every carryover page includes 12 speech/language tasks for practicing carryover of target sounds/language skills acquired during the school year.  The only edit that you will need to make is filling in the target sound on the articulation papers.  Some of the tasks are duplicates, but all are simple and easy enough to complete within minutes during the week.  I searched the Internet for free, clip art and used one for each lesson plan as a reward.  Who doesn't love a sticker, right?

I hope that these summer carryover plans make your speech life a little bit easier!  Be sure to visit the other blogs below for more summer ideas.  Enjoy!!

June Articulation 

June Language

July Articulation

July Language

August Articulation 

August Language