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.

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".  

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!

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?

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 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

AAC Shared Book Readings

One of my favorite things to do is plan speech and language lessons with literacy. You can build in a craft for requesting, naming, and counting and/or use visuals to work on sequencing, grammar, and answering WH questions.  My main reason for including a craft is to promote carryover conversation about it at home.  It's been my experience that kids of all ages and ability levels have the best attention when a book is interactive. 

Teachers pay Teachers (TpT) has been a game changer with a plethora of sellers using their creative juices to produce book companions that are just a few clicks away.  I also cherish my Custom Boards app by Smarty Ears apps as I can quickly create visuals using Smarty symbols or my own images to use with my favorite storybooks.  Honestly, I don't know how I survived before I got my hands on this app!!  You can even vary the sizes of images now, so I enlarged a giant pancake and meatballs for my Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs bin and the kids really enjoyed it.

With my older students, I use thought bubble shaped sticky notes with reading comprehension questions right on the page so I can be sure to target multiple goals.

Recently, I have stepped up my modeling on Speech Generating Devices (SGD) during story readings and guess what?!  The kids are catching on to it!!  I have several SGD users navigating effortlessly to COMMENT, maintain topics, and answer simple questions.  It's been so much fun!  Sometimes, I open You Tube and play a book on my iPad, while other times, I use a book from my collection.  Either way, I recommend using one or the other to simplify modeling with the SGD.  Some of my favorites for this simple interaction have been the series from Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin and Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems. During my back to school lesson plans, clients found items seen in school on their devices while listening to: If You Take a Mouse to School by Felicia Bond.  Now it really feels like clients are attending to these stories as opposed to trying to hurriedly flip pages because they are jointly attending.

Pete the Cat Video

Let's Go for a Drive Video

So you may be asking, how is this commenting?  Aren't they answering questions and memorizing paths?  GREAT question!!  I believe that I'm shaping commenting by solidifying client's expressions.  For example, when one little guy finds the color of Pete's shoes on his device, I respond with, "Yes!  His shoes are brown now!"  I also love using social responses like, "Uh Oh", "Oh no!" and "Great!" to make a comment during book readings.  For the most part, I have been able to fade my modeling with many of my clients after just a couple sessions.  Recently, a caregiver reported that her daughter started commenting when she sought out mom to say fish after watching something on You Tube about fish.  We all celebrate these moments when a child with autism seeks out another person to share and thereby demonstrate joint attention about a topic.  It's easy to see that clients feel proud of these accomplishments, so I end some of my work tasks by modeling this proud emotion on devices too.  

Friday, February 9, 2018

Five Ways to use Alexa in Private Practice

Hello strangers!!  It's been a while, but I'm making use of a snow day in Illinois to catch up with you.  My speech and language private practice continues growing in leaps and bounds between home office sessions and telepractice therapy in Indiana and California via Presence Learning.  Over Christmas, I treated myself to the new Alexa Dot to help keep me organized at work.  Here are five ways that I'm putting Alexa to work:

1) I synced my calendar so I can set up for morning sessions while hearing my schedule for the day.  It only took a few minutes and it was worth each and every second!

2) Just before a client arrives, I set an alarm for five minutes before the session ends.  This helps me stay on time, reduces constantly looking at my watch/clock, and gives me a chance to take the last five minutes to finish writing my online note through Therabill.

3) During sessions, I have my verbal clients tell Alexa to "stop", "turn off", or "tell a joke."  This has been especially helpful for articulation practice and reducing speaking rates.

4) Alexa is synced with my free Pandora so during the Christmas season, I asked her to play some holiday tunes while clients worked on my annual crayon giving project.  Nowadays, I have Alexa play music for my toddler clients to enjoy during play tasks.  I've always loved using music to imitate gestures/sounds/words with toddlers, but never remembered to set up my boom box (Do people still call it that??!) and I try to keep my iPad out of the therapy room when possible.  Syncing my Pandora allowed me to have some good tunes jamming within seconds.

5) I set a quick timer for "jump" breaks on my "new to me" trampoline.  Setting these timers does not impact the alarm warning for the end of sessions.  Clients are practicing following directions by waiting for Alexa to say: "One minute timer starting now" before they start jumping and then clients stop moving when the timer goes off.  No fighting or crying and pleading for more time: that timer is simply magical!!

There are so many other tasks that you can accomplish with Alexa!  Have you utilized this device in your speech and language sessions?  If so, then leave me a comment about it.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Social Skills Builder Perspective Taking App Review

As a private practice practitioner working with individuals in 1:1 sessions, I can never have enough social skills tools in my collection to simulate practice in group settings.  When the developers at Social Skills Builder offered me an opportunity to preview and review their newest app: Perspective Taking, I gladly took them up on their generosity.  Opinions expressed in this review are solely and unbiasedly mine.  

Incidentally, Social Skill Builder offers FREE worksheets for a variety of social pragmatic topics.  For more information, you can go to their site at this link.

When you open the app, you will see a Welcome bubble and link to 'Go' and create a profile.  

Within seconds, you can create a new user by following the instructions on the screen.  Once you create a profile, that name will appear in a thought bubble.  If you want to delete users, you need to follow the 'Info' link in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.  

After selecting users, you will be navigated to a screen with four topics for play.  Each topic links to specific settings in each category.

Let's take a look at the 'My Community' tab with questions about perspective taking in a restaurant.  The object is to find and drag the appropriate thought bubble from the bottom of the screen to each star.  Users must inference body language and expressions to consider the person's perspective.  Once you select a perspective for each star, then you can check your answers by selecting 'Check Answer' located in the center of the screen.  If you got all of them correct, then you get a quick visual reward and happy sound.  However, if you miss one, then all the answer choices go back to the bottom of the screen and you can try again.

Here are more sample screen shots from the elementary school and the structured and unstructured middle to high school categories.  

If you want to check your score, then you can find that tab in the lower right-hand corner on a sub-topic page. 

1) Good variety of settings and sub topics.
2) Nice challenge for middle and high school students.
3) Engaging way to attend to body language and facial expressions when working on using perspective.

1) App does not identify which questions you answered incorrectly.  I thought it might be a bit frustrating for clients to start over if they miss a question.