Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Happy Space- A Peek Through the Keyhole Edition of my new, Private Speech Practice

When I first started working as a Speech-Language Assistant, I was 23 years old and Pinterest, TpT, and blogging was far from existence, so I made my materials using construction paper and the school laminator.  Over the years, I added to my resource collection by hunting down clearance sales at toy stores and utilizing board maker programs at my school placements to make interactives.  Fast forward to today where I print, laminate, cut, and copy materials weekly, some of which are my own creations while the majority are from masterminds like Crazy Speech World, Speech Room News, Speech Snacks, and The Peachie Speechie to name a few.  I still seek clearance sales at Target, Walmart, and Meijer and even occasionally allow myself to enter local Goodwill and Dollar Tree stores, given I can muster some self control.

As you can imagine, I have quite the collection.  I've hauled my lot to client's homes during my Early Intervention days and schools in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Illinois.  I've lived out of my trunk, school closet spaces, and the teacher's lunchroom.  My materials have been stored at home in basements under a staircase, kitchen pantries and cabinets, my son's toy closets, under beds, in laundry rooms, and jammed into a decent sized bedroom closet. 

Last summer, I launched private therapy sessions in my home office with five weekly sessions, four of which I continued during the school year while working part time at an amazing Catholic school placement.  This summer, I tackled 15 private sessions weekly in our new home with an office space that I could create to fit my needs, materials, resources, and clients.  With so many private clients to service, I had to let go of my time in the school systems and find a permanent home for all my worldly, speech treasures.

The first order of business in our new home was arranging for a handy man to remove the glass French double doors that lead into our family room and then replacing the doors with a wall.  I already had another single door entry into the space, which we switched out from another glass French door to a standard door.  With boxes filled with materials stacked near the wall to allow plaster to dry and keep little hands away, we moved into phase two of the project with scheduling two more sanding visits.  Then, I closed the office for two weeks while our family traveled to Europe for the first time.  While we were gone, I had the stained, dirty cream carpet replaced with a deep blue/ gray rug and the mustard yellow walls were painted a light, bright lemon sorbet.  That completed the room projects, next up was creating a closet space.

The only downfall to my new office was that there wasn't a closet as with the last home office space.  But this negative quickly became a positive because for once in my life, I didn't have to squeeze my materials into a space, but rather build a space around my collection.  I spent some time laying out everything, and I mean every game, bin, bucket, file box, bag, and basket to take inventory.  

After a very, very, long day at Ikea, and an insane ride home with my Equinox filled to the brim with wardrobes, shelves, bins, and doors, I had everything I needed to make a storage space and move towards phase three:  operation storage.  All I needed was a big, strong man to build it.  Luckily, my amazing husband stepped up to the challenge and after a couple days, three, giant structures were built, doors were hinged, shelves and rods were installed, all units were anchored to walls, and some fancy, smancy handles were drilled into place.

I took things one step further and decided to get rid of all but one of my office totes so I could open wardrobe doors and see everything better and stop digging for stacked items crammed into totes and bins.  During that long visit to Ikea, I found deep, white containers for $4 each (lids sold separately) that were large enough to hold a decent category of toys and games.  I picked up 12 of these babies and enjoyed sorting materials into them just a little too much. 

Then, I dumped out my bin of bagged literacy units with manipulatives, clipped each clear Ziploc bag onto a pant hanger and hung them in my corner wardrobe. 

Last, I got sticker happy and typed and wrote out labels on everything. 

While I was at it, I spruced up my materials collection on one of my original bookcases thanks to Allison's Speech Peeps and her colorful, editable binder labels.

At last, my work was complete!  Take a look at my home office space now with my new storage cabinets and previously purchased bookcases and work table from a local Land of Nod outlet store.....

Puzzles individually bagged and stored in a milk crate

Now, just about all of my speech materials, including office supplies, client binders, and resources are in one room.  I kept my large play sets on a shelf in the laundry room next door since I rarely use these right now.  I was so excited about the organization that I went ahead and planned out my themes for the next year!  If you would like your own, editable Theme Therapy Sheet, then head on over to see the fabulous Jenn at Crazy Speech World.  

While I will miss working in the schools and collaborating with teachers and support staff, I am thrilled beyond measure to have a space to call my own and a growing, private speech practice!  Now all I have left to do is Keep Calm and Speech On!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to School Raffles: Successful R Therapy by Pam Marshalla

In my last post, I blogged about Pam Marshalla's book: Successful R Therapy that was the inspiration for my speech tackle box game plan.  Since that post, I have been busy putting Pam's advice to work with two of my private clients and the immediate progress has been beyond remarkable!  I mapped out my game plans using Pam's strategies and started two clients on the path to success.  I also put together a couple clinical tackle boxes and just love having everything at my fingertips!    After sharing all my excitement on social media, I was contacted by Pam Marshalla, who graciously offered to donate not one, but THREE of her books to raffle for THREE of my lucky followers!!!  I can't think of a better way to start off the school year, than with your own copy of Successful R Therapy!  You can enter for your chance to win in the Rafflecopter below and I will pick THREE winners at the end of next week!

Disclaimer:  The three copies of Successful R Therapy were donated for raffle purposes.  No other compensation was provided for my reviews and feedback about this manual.  Any thoughts expressed in my blog posts were solely and unbiasedly mine.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Speech Tackle Box- A Peek Through the Keyhole edition

This summer, while on the vacation of my lifetime in Greece and Italy, I brought along a book for some leisure reading: Successful R Therapy by Pam Marshalla.  At the risk of sounding like a full blown SLP geek, (which I may already have achieved by disclosing that I brought this book on my vacation), I could not put Pam's book down!  Time and time again I had an "ah-ha" moment.  I highly recommend you order this gem for yourself, especially if you have a client with a distorted /r/ sound.

Very briefly, Pam walks you through everything you need to know to help your clients with this difficult target. She describes visual, tactile, and proprioceptive ways to teach both the Tip R and Back R, and then, she provides you with word lists and means to transition clients towards conversational levels.  It's a gold mine.  Run, do not walk to your computer and order your copy.

While reading, I started to devise a plan to create a speech tackle box for my private articulation clients so that I could have easy access to materials and props for my clinical sessions.  Much of this list contains information that I gathered from reading Pam's book and excerpts from another one of my favorite series: The Entire World of R by Christine Ristuccia M.S., CCC-SLP. I think that my tackle box is similar to Pam's speech binder, but mine allows for storage of crafting materials and oral motor props too.  Below is my list in no particular order of the items that I want to package:
  • Clear plastic tote with handle for easy transport
  • Markers/ crayons and paper for drawing
  • Bingo markers/ dabbers
  • Summer challenge sheets (beach ball, golf ball, goldfish) from The Peachie Speechie's TpT store
  • Inflatable beach ball with sharpie to write target words (Dollar Tree)
  • Dixie cups that are earned for target productions and then used for building
  • Plain craft sticks with black fine point pen, cup, (Dollar Tree) and instructions for KABOOM
  • Stickers and grid sheet for homework tracking
  • Three ring folder for homework sheets and speech work (drawings for mouth positions, bold words, pictures of objects)
  • Target word lists from Entire World of R
  • Activity pages from The Entire World of R Activity book
  • Chapter 10 word list pages from Successful R Therapy
  • Mad Libs
  • Mirror (Dollar Tree)
  • Tongue depressors
  • Coffee stirrers
  • Dental floss with holder
  • Nuk brush
  • Lip extractor
  • R Speech Buddy to facilitate Tip R
  • Plastic Ziploc bags and a sharpie to store each client's oral motor tools
  • Auditory discrimination and training tasks with silly puddy/ play dough for fidget toys during this instruction

There's nothing I love more than to be organized and ready for whatever life throws my way during a speech session.  I'm hoping that my speech box will help me tackle one of the hardest speech sounds out there.  Feel free to comment with something that I missed in my kit.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Stop and Smile

One thing I especially love about blogging is the ability to network, learn from, and be creatively energized from my peers across the United States.  Their passion is assuredly contagious and their lesson plans have given me the ability to become a better therapist.  I like to believe that my approach to speech-language therapy is both fun and functional for my clients, meaning that the children are having a good time while learning strategies that will support their communication and daily living skills.  The handcrafted materials that I have acquired over the last couple years from my peers have allowed me to not only be the therapist that I want to be, but also have given me the time to wear a few other hats.  I'd like to share a little more about my personal life with you in this post and give you a glimpse of what my busy life is like beyond my speech-language pathology world.

Besides having this rewarding career for the last 14 years, I live a blessed life as a wife and mom in Naperville, Illinois.  Fortunately, my husband's career allows me the opportunity to work part time under a school contract while establishing a private therapy practice right in our home:  Naperville Therapediatrics.  Today, will be the last day that I clock in at the school that I have come to love, but I am so excited with the growth of my private practice and I'm more than ready to dedicate time to my business!  I can honestly say that in all my years of practice, which I incidentally began as a speech-language assistant, I have never once questioned my career choice.  I consider myself so lucky to be part of such a rewarding field.  This new chapter of owning my clinic has been a goal of mine for some time, and now I am seeing my dreams come true.

Working privately gives me the luxury to be an important part of my eight year old son's life from getting him to swim practice a couple times a week to teaching his weekly religious education class and volunteering at least once a month to work in his classroom.  Our days are busy and I'm sure I'm not alone in this type of lifestyle. I was under this misguided impression that as I got older, things would slow down a bit, but instead, my forties have become my busiest decade to date!  I could tell you how important it is to "seize the day", but I'm sure you already know that given the times we are living in now.  Instead, I will share my realistic approach to this motto and it doesn't include making and doing all that I pin on Pinterest!  Rather, it's a simple, stop and smile.  At least four years ago, I was rushing down the stairs holding my then, four year old boy's hand, when I thought how easy it would be to stop for a few seconds, every couple steps, look at him and smile.  We honestly continue to carry on like this every now and then and I love it!  I recently told him that whenever I smile at him, I'm thinking, "Thank you God for this child."  Now, he tells me a similar message back as he looks at me and smiles with his loving expression and it melts my heart every time.  He doesn't care if I make the best holiday cookies or create the fanciest of lunch bag meals, he cares that I take a moment to stop and smile even as our days get busier by the minute.

Simple, right?  I encourage you to find someone in your life to stop and smile with every so often.  Think about it, it may only take a couple minutes a year to brighten someone's days.  As always, thanks for following speech2me and for getting to know a little more about me beyond my speech-language world.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Expected & Unexpected Behaviors Role Playing Activity

We have been using the very popular social skills book:  You are a Social Detective by Michelle Garcia Winner in our group at school.  For those not familiar with this book, it begins with a discussion of the things we are good at, termed "smarts", and then proceeds to review behaviors that we expect to see in a school setting.  The next part of the book gives examples of unexpected behaviors and discusses how these impact others' perceptions of us.

Every Thursday, our "Lunch Bunch" eats their lunch in the social worker's office as we talk about various social skills topics.  Due to time constraints, we barely have 15 minutes for a formalized lesson plan, so we have been reading the book while they eat and then we have the kids act out role plays before going back to class.  To make things move along even quicker, I made up some slips of paper with either an expected or unexpected behavior on each for the role plays.  You can grab your copy of these options here:

Expected & Unexpected Behaviors

I'm using a refurbished plastic container covered in mustache duck tape to store the role play scenarios.  We have been calling it, "I mustache you to role play."  Kids simply reach in the container and draw a paper.   All in all, this game has been a huge hit with my fourth graders working on social skills.  I hope you find it useful too.

Sticker play- A Peek Through the Keyhole Edition

While cleaning out my materials closet in preparation for an upcoming move, I stumbled upon several sticker collections that I scored on a buy one, get one free deal a while ago.  So, I dusted them off and started using them with my preschoolers.  Take a look at how I am targeting comprehension skills with stickers in my private practice:  Naperville Therapediatrics.

First, I have two, reusable sticker pads that include five background scenes in each book with the appropriate stickers to go along with the scenes.  The "Play House" unit has backgrounds of a dining room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and backyard, while the "Habitats" collections includes adorable backgrounds of a farm, prehistoric land, river, rainforest, and ocean.  Recently, I broke out the backyard scene with stickers to work on following one-step directions with concepts such as above/below, next to, and on/in.  I really like that I can work on these concepts with the same pictures for a few sessions, especially since some of my little ones need this repeated exposure.

Next, I have two collections with a combined 1200 stickers!  One set is geared more towards girls since it contains princesses, tea party images, dress-up, fairies, and horses.  The other set is my favorite one right now: hands down!  It's called: Sweet Treats and it comes with 15, awesome paper backgrounds.  There are bare cupcakes, cakes, ice cream cones, donuts, gingerbread men, and cookies, all just waiting to be decorated with colorful toppings.  I have been using this collection for picture and color identification by placing three stickers on my fingers and asking clients to retrieve a target to place onto one of the paper backgrounds.  Clients take the completed artwork home and I encourage caregivers to cover the paper with clear contact paper so little ones will be less apt to remove stickers.  The longer the paper lasts at home, the more opportunities for carryover practice.

Here are some other ways you can use sticker play to promote communication skills:
  • Prompt initial sounds or sound-syllables in words
  • Imitate animal sounds and environmental noises
  • Model requests for continuance (more) or termination (all done)
  • Encourage asking for help when the client has difficulty removing a sticker
  • Make comments about the picture scenes
  • Label pictures of objects and colors/shapes/sizes
  • Pretend to take bites out of food
  • Take turns decorating background scenes
  • Identify emotions using stickers of people/animals (She looks happy/ The dog is hungry)
How do you use stickers to enhance speech and language skills?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts below.  Thanks!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Easter Fun: A Peek Through the Keyhole Edition

With over two, snow-free weeks, buds on the trees, and some green popping out from the ground, I think it's safe to say that spring is making itself known in the Midwest!  I nearly did some sad looking cartwheels on my front lawn when I saw our green flower stems bursting through the cold ground!  After this winter in Chicago, I can honestly say that I've never been more excited to see temperatures in the forties.  Feels like a heat wave after months of crazy, below zero days.  In celebration, I decided to post what spring looks like in my speech room at Naperville Therapediatrics.

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about three activities incorporating plastic eggs that I use at my elementary school site.  Today, I will show you some of the preschool Easter activities I recently created for my private clients.  Since the majority of my private caseload is in preschool through first grade, these activities seemed most appropriate for little ones working on communication.

First, I put together a matching game with plastic eggs shaped like cars.  I used my son's, former basket to hold matched items and I cut the plastic eggs apart so they could be scattered in my grass-filled sensory table.  My goal was to have my client successfully match the same colors and then request help from an adult to put the two pieces together.  In previous sessions, I had him sorting colored bears into cups, but this task with eggs seemed a bit more functional and appropriate for this time of year.

Next, I took some Easter stickers and cut each one in half.  Then, I placed each half of the sticker along the seam of one egg.  This task is for a few of my older, preschool clients that are working at a higher level for matching.  Once the pairs are assembled, I set three eggs at a time on my therapy table and work on color and picture comprehension by asking clients to "get", "give", or "show" a target.

I am also working on comprehension skills while having some clients identify a target sticker in a field of three while making a cute, Easter craft with foam die cuts. Sometimes, I use this same activity for one client who is practicing making requests and responding to directions with her voice output device.  She is very good at identifying and expressing colors, so this craft task is perfect for her!

Before you know it, we will be fully launching into spring with activities about bugs and flowers!  Be sure to check in next month again to peek through the keyhole at my private speech and language practice!  Happy Spring! We earned it this year!