Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gobble up Holiday Goodies

Gobble Gobble!  The Frenzied SLPs are back with a round up of Turkey Day activities.  Be sure to check in and "like" our Facebook page so you won't miss out on our linky parties, twice monthly!!

I'm sure many of you are working somewhere right up until Thanksgiving Day.  My private practice is open through the day before Turkey Day and I have some fun, festive, and functional activities planned for the short week.

First up is my Play dough tray.  Remember that post way back in October when I talked about making orange Play dough?  Well, we are still going strong using the same dough this month to make turkeys.  I've seen so many fabulous pins on Pinterest of Play dough trays, so I grabbed a tray at the Dollar Tree and put my own spin on the contents.  I used what I had in my arts and craft bin and spent a little money on some fancy leaves and alphabet letters.  We have been working on requesting, commenting, and following directions while making unique turkeys.  Some have used the Popsicle sticks to make legs, while others took pipe cleaners and those fancy leaves to make feathers.  The Popsicle sticks have also come in handy for cutting the dough.  Hands down, this activity has been highly preferred among many (including caregivers.)

Next, is my brand new, sorting pie from Learning Resources What better way to prepare for Thanksgiving than to sort some fruit into a pie?  I love that the game came with two sets of tongs for choice making and several choice boards for matching colors, objects, or numbers.  My clients aged 2 though 7 enjoyed requesting more, naming colors, commenting, and matching objects to pictures using this super, cute pie.

Another new hit this holiday season has been my paper tablecloth.  I scored this find while looking for Halloween clearance items at Target.  My younger clients have been coloring while listening to auditory bombardment lists containing target speech sounds while my older clients have been playing tic tac toe or earning a chance to color as a reward for completing work.

What's a speech and language session without some pretend play time?  I paired my farm house with Fisher Price Thanksgiving pieces to talk about sitting at the table, eating, and bringing food from the farm to the dinner table by wagon.

Last year, I purchased a collection of interactive Thanksgiving books from Jenna at Speech Room News and once again, I have found so many great opportunities to incorporate literacy into my sessions.  This collection contains books that target action words, commenting about likes and dislikes, and other thematic vocabulary.  I have used these colorful books to engage busy toddlers, assist in sentence completion tasks, and promote answering questions about action words using speech generating devices.

Finally, I purchased a 
turkey comprehension and vocabulary bundle from my frenzied colleague Mia at Putting Words in Your Mouth.  This item is brand new in her store and my middle school clients have loved them!  The readings are short and sweet and each packet contains comprehension questions, defining vocabulary words in context, and comparing and contrasting.  

These are a few of our favorite activities at Naperville Therapediatrics!  Don't forget to follow these links for more fresh, creative ideas.  Wishing all of you a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thankful and Grateful

Thanksgiving for our family marks the beginning of the holiday season, so I want to begin by wishing all of you a happy, blessed gathering with friends and loved ones.  May your heart be full and your soul be light! 

Now, onto the tricky part: what am I thankful for?  It's not that I cannot come up with anything; I just cannot narrow it down to fit in one post!  As all the thoughts circle in my head, I keep coming back to one in particular. Without this one blessing, I would not be able to enjoy my time with family and friends, be an active part of my son's life, or feel the gratitude of being a speech pathologist.  I have seen so many friends, loved ones, and a few family members suffer and battle health challenges, but at the ripe old age of 43, I count my blessings for my good health.  Sure, I could stand to lose a few pounds, 10 pounds, 15 pounds, and I don't move as quickly as I used to in the morning as I head down the stairs to let the dog out, but I'm healthy. I stay on top of my annual check-ups and encourage friends to get their mammograms, and then I say a little prayer of gratitude when I get the all clear phone call.

I'm thankful for my health and I do what I can to help those who are fighting the good fight against breast cancer by taking active roles in the Avon Walks in Chicago over the last four years.  I have walked and worked alongside survivors, people who have lost loved ones to cancer, and women and men like me who just want to help because we can make a difference.  The holidays are a good reminder for me not to take my good fortune for granted and to show my gratitude by giving to those in need.  So, as we prepare for the holiday season, I will do what I love, spend quality time with family and friends, and give thanks for each day, each step, and each hour.   

My first year as a walker, I dedicated miles to specific people
and saved this dedication for the finish line.

A very rainy end to my second year participating
 in the Avon Walk Chicago.

Thanks for visiting my blog!  I am extremely grateful to be part of The Frenzied SLPs and appreciate your support too!  I am the 11th blog in the hop.  Please write this letter down and venture over to the next posts to continue collecting more letters for your chance to win in the drawings!

First Blog

Next Blog

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 26, 2015

Spooky and Fun Halloween Language Activities

The Frenzied SLPs are back with Halloween-themed language activities.  I'm excited to share some of the treats that my private clients have enjoyed in my home office space at Naperville Therapediatrics this month!

For starters, my language lessons begin when clients step up to the front door.  The big pumpkin is usually a crowd pleaser with the younger ones while upper elementary-aged children (and most parents) love my handmade Harry Potter sign.  I often hear clients labeling and commenting about the decorations when I answer the door.

This year, I went all out in my speech room by covering my table with a Halloween plastic cloth, hanging a banner on my windows, using cardboard haunted houses to store Legos and bean bags, and filling a beverage bucket with books.  The colors and objects make the space so cheerful and most clients naturally comment and label what they see around them.  The best part is: I'm a bargain shopper so all of my reusable decorations come from the Dollar Tree or after Halloween clearance sales.

Speaking of clearance shopping, I snagged a couple door coverings at Target last year and put them to good use this past week.  The stickers remove easily if placed on the scene itself so several clients were able to enjoy this task.  We worked on following directions like, "Put five pumpkins on the fence", "Give each pumpkin and ghost a hat", "Put the bat on the moon/window" and "Put the pumpkin on the ghost."  I liked that I could work on familiar and novel commands and vary this activity to meet the needs of many clients.

As you can see from the picture below, I have a large collection of Halloween books, most of which were my son's at one time.  I incorporate language tasks using books by having clients sequence manipulatives that I have purchased from fabulous sellers like Speech Room News, Crazy Speech World, and Speechy Musings.  Having these hands-on activities while reading books dramatically improves attention, which in turn increases word ordering sentences and responding to questions about the story.

Another huge hit this year was my Styrofoam pumpkins with plastic facial parts all courtesy of the Dollar Tree.  We used this in language sessions to make requests using complete sentences like "I need a mouth" or "I want eyes."  This task was especially perfect for my young language learners using speech generating devices.  Everyone enjoyed taking these home and recreating it.  Some caregivers commented that they liked this activity so much that they purchased more pumpkins and facial parts on their own and made them with siblings at home.  I love it when something that we talk about in the speech room can be generalized to other settings!!  What a great way to practice functional and seasonal vocabulary and language skills!

Finally, we have been making a scarecrow treat to practice sequencing, commenting, and requesting.  I found this creative snack in a Pillsbury Halloween cookbook that I bought years ago when my son was a mere toddler.  You can see the steps in the images below if you want to make your own, yummy snack this week.

First, spread white icing on a vanilla cookie.
Second, shred some triscuit crackers to make straw.
Place shredded crackers on the sides of the cookie.
Add a candy corn nose.
Use chocolate chips for eyes and black icing for a mouth.
Add a gumdrop hat and then enjoy your treat!
I hope that you enjoy a not so scary, safe Halloween!  Please take a moment to check out all of the fabulous ideas in this linky by clicking on the images below.  Many thanks to our hosts Doyle Speech Works, Twin Speech Language and Literacy LLC, and All Y'all Need for organizing this venture.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall Articulation link up with The Frenzied SLPs

Greetings and Happy Fall!  I hope that you are enjoying this beautiful time of year in your neck of the woods! Temperatures have been cool and comfortable with a lovely display of colors here just outside of Chicago.   Personally, I love all things pumpkin right now from coffee to candles and muffins.  

This Fall, I joined this amazing group of frenzied, SLP professionals and this week, we are sharing some of our favorite, Fall articulation ideas with you!  The linky is hosted by Doyle Speech Works and Twin Speech, Language, and Literacy, LLC.  You can head over to Facebook to learn more about what we are all about at The Frenzied SLPs.  Be sure to “like” the page so you can keep informed about various topics twice monthly to help make your SLP life a bit easier!

I have been full time at my private practice: Naperville Therapediatrics for a little over a year now and I can honestly say that I'm loving every minute of it!!  At the moment, I am a solo practitioner working out of my home office and each week, I service approximately 15 clients.  My therapy plans correspond with seasonal topics and themes; however, I can now cater my lessons to target specific sounds/words/phrases for each client because I only offer individual treatment sessions.  For example, I just spent 10 minutes in a session with an adorable, almost four year old working on /s/ blend productions by adding various spiders, skeletons and wind up toys in a cauldron to cast a spooky spell. 

Many of my activities for little ones between the ages of 2-7 include hands on play and sensory time.  A fan favorite is play dough.  I have been making my own batch for individual clients using this recipe that is quick, inexpensive, and easy.  When I want to move on to another color, I send the play dough home with the client and whip up another batch.  Recently, I accidentally stumbled upon an activity to work on sound sequencing using play dough and mini erasers/ objects.  You do not need to practice the names of the characters on the erasers, unless you want to.  My clients are primarily working on sequencing simple CV, VC, and CVCV combinations, so we are using individual targets while pushing the object into the dough.  I'm telling you, we could spend half of the hour long session just playing with dough!

Speaking of sensory play, I also love switching out a basket or bin for seasonal activities.  We have practiced sounds and words while digging through a bin filled with leaves in September and then hunted for targets in a Halloween filled bin in October.  In preparation for Thanksgiving, I mix Velcro foods with fake gourds to target CVC words like "cut".  I find much of my fill for these sensory bins at the Dollar Tree and typically throw away what I cannot sanitize and just buy new fill the next season.  




I do have a couple upper elementary students working on articulation of (you guessed it) /s/ and /r/!!  Last week, a fifth grader loved earning a Lego brick each time he practiced a target.  Once he earned every green, purple, and black Lego brick in a sandwich bag,  he was given some time to create a Halloween character. Kids are so much more creative than I am when it comes to crafts, so I'm relying on them to make a masterpiece without a predetermined plan. Here is what my fifth grader conjured up: can you tell he loves Minecraft?  

Right now, I have three bags total of Legos that I gathered from my son's massive collection.  In addition to this Frankenstein collection of colors, I have a bag of white bricks and another with orange, green, and black.  I have a feeling that this will be a repeat activity for more upcoming holidays!

If you want to see all the amazing, Fall articulation ideas from The Frenzied SLPs, then you should check out all of our posts at the links below.  I have read through all of them and gathered so many new tricks from this talented group!!  Much thanks to Annie and Twin Speech for organizing this adventure.  


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Life in the Private Practice World- What I Have Learned in the Last Year

It has officially been one year since I left my amazing contract company: Staffing Options and Solutions (SOS) and placement in a private school that treated me like family to pursue a full time commitment in my private practice at my home.  Why would I leave such a seemingly great situation you ask?  Truth be told:  my private practice forced me into making that decision.  Running a one man show keeps me busy and I found myself unable to follow-up on insurance calls and offer daytime treatment slots while commuting an hour round trip and working three days a week at a school.  There simply were not enough hours in the day to run an efficient private practice, especially since most insurance companies close when I would be in the middle of afternoon treatment sessions.  So, after working in the schools and early intervention settings for a couple decades, I took a leap of faith and quit working for someone else.  I'll never go back either; as much as I miss the last school placement that I will ever work in, I just don't see myself going back to work for someone other than myself.  I realize that I am fortunate to have the ability to venture into the private practice world and I'm grateful that I can finally provide speech services that not only fit my brand, but also allow me to have a home/life/work balance that I feel like I've been looking for my whole life!  After thinking about this past year and reflecting on all that I have accomplished, I outlined eight things that I feel significantly contributed to the success of my practice in my home.  In no particular order, here are the top eight things that brought me good fortune.

1.) Way before I left my school job, I started using an EMR billing software: Therabill.  I first heard about this company at an ASHA Business Fair that I attended in Nashville.  I liked the price tag on the service and I especially liked the idea of submitting claims in three, simple clicks!!  I cannot tell you how much time I have saved and how many errors I have avoided by using Therabill.  Their customer service is extremely helpful and they even created a Facebook group to further answer questions.  I also use this software to schedule clients, print invoices, write evaluations, and send appointment reminders.  I highly recommend researching companies like Therabill and trying the one that works for you and your business.

2.) Before I started taking private clients, I spent months, and I mean MONTHS, applying for insurance network participation.  I found that being in network with most insurance companies has brought me far more clients than I would have otherwise serviced.  In fact, most of my new referrals come from network participation.  In my neck of the woods, I'm surrounded by several therapy clinics, all of which are in network with most major insurance companies, so in order to stay competitive, I found it necessary to join networks myself.  That being said, I had to terminate one contract that wasn't worth my time and all the hassle, but I do not regret at least participating in that network for a couple years.  One of my very first clients had that coverage and could only work with me because I could submit in-network provider claims.  That client has brought me two other clients and those referrals have led me to more clients. At some point though, I knew my limits and I had to terminate my participation.  A word of advice for anyone who accepts in-network insurance coverage, call them and tell them that you are considering leaving the network or ask for an increase in your reimbursement rate, especially if you have been in contract with them for some time.  It was my experience that if you don't ask, you won't receive!  You may be pleasantly surprised by their response!

3.) The greatest thing about moving my private practice when we downsized homes last summer was finding a space that I could build my practice around instead of trying to fit my office and materials into an established setting.  I gained a blank slate and changed the carpet, wall colors, and added a wall where there were French doors leading into our family room.  I also love that clients enter my home and head straight down the hallway to my home office space.  No more darting after little ones jumping on my couch in the family room or chasing kids around my kitchen table.  We get right down to business faster than you can say:  I love speech therapy.

4.) If you are an SLP, then storage is key!!  Having that blank space without closets gave me an opportunity to purchase custom cabinets to store all my supplies within reach during my sessions.  I spread all my inventory out and decided how many shelves, containers, and hangers I needed for my master plan.  Instead of storing toys in three or four giant tote bins and stacking them in a closet, I gained the luxury of taking all of my toys and materials out of over sized bins and displaying them on shelves or sorting them into easy to reach opaque, categorized containers.

5.) Working in private practice means setting your own rules.  I'm happy with my hours of operation, which I edit in the summer to allow me time for bringing my son to daily swim lessons and Fridays off for fun time!  I also have a strict rule about no weekend hours.  Saturday and Sunday are and always will be reserved for family time.  I only take a couple hours on Sundays to prep materials and print lesson plans for each client.

6.) Ever since I initiated and successfully orchestrated a speech and language pool group for Hasbro Children's Hospital's early intervention program in Rhode Island more than a decade ago, I have dreamed of putting together another group at the pool. This summer, that dream became a reality when I partnered with Rush Copley Hospital's Healthplex in Aurora, Illinois.  Not only did my clients enjoy the six week session, but caregivers and even an older sibling had a blast as well.  I even gained a couple new clients by marketing the group!  Winning!!  ASHA recognized my success too because they interviewed me about my pool group for an, "In the Limelight" article to be released in December.

7.) Having a home office means finding a balance with work, calling insurance companies, making meals, and doing housekeeping.  I'm not one for hiring a cleaning service and it would be challenging having this service in my home while protecting client confidentiality.  So, I toured Pinterest and found a routine that works for me.  I wanted one big job a day that I could accomplish before walking my son to school and I found one that has worked wonders over the last few weeks.  Now, I can stay on top of laundry, vacuuming, dusting, mopping floors, and cleaning the kitchen without letting all the work pile up or consume too much of my time.  This is the schedule that I found, but there are tons out there to explore if this isn't the right match for you.  I'm still working on the dinner planning thing though and may give Hello Fresh a try since my blogging buddy and working mom from Simply Speech, Kristin Cummings, raves about it.

8.) When it comes to networking, some things worked and some didn't. Ironically the ones that were successful were also free of cost!!  Renting space at fairs like special education or back to school events did not yield a single, new client.  I even volunteered as recording secretary on a district wide special needs PTA and didn't generate any new opportunities.  I don't regret these decisions because I still helped people learn more about my services and got my name out locally.  However, networking with other neighborhood SLPs, connecting with an OT practice within a couple miles from my office, and good, old fashioned word of mouth referrals brought me much of my caseload.

If you are thinking about taking the private practice plunge, then I hope that this post provided some insight and encouragement!  More informative resources can be found by purchasing materials from The Independent Clinician at the link on my blog wall.  I'm also happy to answer any questions that you may have in the comments section below or via email at

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Back to School Lunchbox Guessing Game

Over the last few years, I have made a bunch of collections for my speech and language sessions that involve reaching into a bag and without looking, locate objects.  Both my "Mother's Purse" and "Beach/ Pool bag" have been huge hits at Naperville Therapediatrics.  Then, I found a lunchbox that my husband brought home from work and I got an idea.  Since it would be hard to ask kids to reach into such a small space and feel around for things, I thought I would make up some "What am I" guessing cards.  The contents of my lunchbox include: water bottle, spoon and fork, sandwich container, ziploc bag, straw, note, and a napkin.  I used my photo publisher to make up cards with food borders and uploaded a copy here to share.  Once kids guess the object, I will have them search the lunchbox for the match.  I also took pictures of all objects in case I want to use this as a matching picture to object task for my preschool kids.  This is a perfect, fun game for your "Back to School" lesson planning and a great way to recycle your child's former lunchbox!  Enjoy!!

Grab your level 1 card deck here.  If you are looking for something a bit more challenging, then snag your level 2 rhyming card deck at this link.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer in the Speech Room- A peek through the Keyhole Edition

I love summer.  I love everything about summer: the beach, ocean, warm weather, school vacation, and getaways.  It's all good.  I grew upon the east coast in Rhode Island, but now I live in Illinois with my husband and son.  While I enjoy the Midwest, I do miss the beach.  So, this summer, I  dedicated several weeks to a beach/ ocean theme in my speech and language sessions at my private practice:  Naperville Therapediatrics.  We have been working on speech, language, and social skills all under this theme.  Some clients are using speech generating devices to request and respond to questions while others are working on improving their articulation of target speech sounds. Let's take a look at some of my featured activities. This post contains affiliate links to help you quickly find some items for your materials closet.

What's in the Beach/Pool Bag?
What if I told you that all you need for a fun, summer, speech and/or language session was a bag filled with items that you would take to the pool or beach?  This game is perfect for kids of all ages and you can easily adapt it to address your client's needs.  Just fill a bag with objects and attach a picture of each object on to the bag handle.  My younger clients have been working on naming objects and using simple sentences while my older ones use Expanding Expressions Toolkit (EET) beads.  Once we have talked about a picture, clients must close their eyes and search for that object.  Need to address concepts?  Have kids sort objects into piles like "soft" vs. "hard" or "big" vs. "small" and then discuss which pile had the "most", "fewest" or "some".

Ocean in a Bag
This summer, I found an adorable craft from Gift of Curiosity to assemble the ocean in a bag.  So, I ventured out to my local Dollar Tree and picked up some supplies so my speech buddies could make one to take home.  I used my favorite app by Smarty Symbols called Custom Boards to make a visual sequence and had my son construct an ocean bag for display.  We used some leftover molding sand, ocean animal window clings, blue paint, hair gel, scented beads, and duct tape.  After my first craft, I ditched the fragrant beads because they encouraged squishing and some leakage.  If you hang it on a window, the sun really brightens it up!


Homemade Play Dough Sensory Bin
Next, I decided to create a sensory bin using homemade play dough, beaded necklaces to represent the deep part of the ocean, and leftover molding sand.  I threw in some plastic whales, mini sea creatures, and shells.  During one session, I encouraged imitation of actions by having all the animals "stand up" in the play dough. We also used the beads to make circular patterns in the dough, which in turn gave the dough the appearance of having "rocks" or "waves."  This bin is great for working on following directions to "put in", "take out", or "get."

Curious George Discovery Beach Game
Several years ago, I picked up a Curious George Discovery Beach game in the clearance aisle at Walmart.  You know which aisle I'm talking about, right?  Piles of unwanted clearance items shower the shelves.  Amidst the total chaos, I found a hidden treasure!  This game is a big hit with just a few sequential steps for young players.  The game board itself is actually a box with a colorful scene on top of George and the Man with the Yellow Hat at the beach.  There are five, large puzzle pieces with blue, traveling sand underneath and a plethora of mini objects.  When you shake the box, both the sand and objects move and relocate.  A player first turns over a picture card from the deck, and then spins to see what options he or she has to look under.  The object of the game is to be the first player to create a complete circle of pictures by matching the pictures of objects to those under the puzzle pieces.  The best part is: if you don't find a match on your turn, then you leave the card that you flipped face up.  You are allowed to gather as many cards as you can match during any future turn.  We have been working on beach vocabulary, making choices, matching pictures of objects to objects, taking turns, following directions, and the concept "under".

Fishing Game
Another fan favorite is my simple, sensory box filled with ocean animal magnet pieces. My speech buddies have enjoyed pretending to be fishing on a dock while seated at the edge of my office bench while they "fish".  I filled a plastic bin with blue decorative paper found at the Dollar Tree and I added some blue beads and shimmery, white bag stuffing for some eye catching flair.  I scored this particular Melissa and Doug puzzle on a daily Amazon deal months ago.

Summer Books
Next up, are my two favorite books.  First, I love "Somewhere in the Ocean" by Jennifer Ward and T.J. Marsh because it has beautiful illustrations and a rhyme that you can sing to the tune of, "Over in the Meadow".  This is a counting book with ocean animal mamas teaching their little ones appropriate behaviors.  For example, the mama jellyfish tells her littles to "Zap!"  I found someone playing the piano to this tune on U-Tube which has helped me to somewhat carry a note!  My second all time favorite summer book is, "There was an Old Lady a Who Swallowed a Shell" by Lucille Colandro.  I pair this story with a wonderful book attachment from Speechie Musings so clients can have an interactive part in sequencing the story, answering "what" questions, and expressing simple sentences using visual supports.

Arts and Crafts
It wouldn't be a speech and language session without some crafts.  My speech clients enjoy earning things like colorful, mini pieces of foam to glue on an octopus.  I also found adorable ocean scenes on clearance at Oriental Trading Company with small ink pads so children can make fish out of their fingerprints.  Just last week, I bought a few felt ocean animal puppets that do not require any sewing for assembly!  My young clients are working on saying: "Pull it through" or "My turn" while making these during our sessions and then they have a fantastic item to take home for pretend play.  The last item pictured to the right is a sheet of speech bubbles that I thought I could use with my clients working on social skills so they could give a voice to various ocean animals.

Molding Sand
The last activity that has brought a smile or two this summer is my summer box of molding sand.  I picked up a flat storage bin at Target to store the sand tray and various toys.  I found some dinosaur sand toys at the Dollar Tree which have been perfect for requesting, "big, small, bumpy, and smooth" during play.  Most recently, I scored a block and truck set at Meijer on summer clearance that I think some of my young clients are going to LOVE.  I have been using sand play as the first activity for clients that need something both calming and  inviting to bring them to the table.  I encourage clients to request sand toys using signs, speech generating devices, gestures, sounds, words, or simple sentences.  We have also been creating several impressions of one object and then counting them as we smash them away.

In an effort to hang onto summer, I thought this post might inspire some of you to include an ocean theme in your speech and language lessons.  Together, we can make the summer go a little longer at least during speech and language sessions!