Being a Speech Therapist is More Than Delivering Therapy

Word flower collageIt occurred to me this week that there are many extra tasks associated with being a speech language pathologist besides delivering speech therapy. As I look at my week and tuck in extra calls, blogs, reports and parent conferences, I realize the extra time I need to set aside for activities that enrich my practice. Many therapists are blogging and providing us with terrific, practical therapy ideas in articulation, word-finding, language, autism and technology. It has been fun to watch different therapists in our profession begin to specialize in an area and be the go-to blog for fresh ideas. I encourage any of you to try it, just start talking about what you did today with kids, obviously protecting their privacy, but share ideas, activities or articles that are helpful to you.

In the last few days, I went to the library to search the “new” picture books to use with several of my kids with language difficulties, word-finding and autism. Some days it’s a goldmine and some it isn’t. I scoured the New York Times’ “Notable Children’s Books of 2014.” I find this far more valuable than the NYT Best Seller List for picture books as the same authors dominate on that list, and they aren’t always the best language rich books for our students.

Today I had a conference call with a Neuropsychologist who tested one of my students who I just began working with, finished writing up an evaluation, wrote two blogs, bought Christmas presents for my students, sent a scheduling letter out to my parents and saw several kids. Phew, maybe I’ll get off the computer now:)

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Use the Christmas Tree for Speech Therapy Carryover

Christmas treeIt is such fun to be an itinerant speech therapist during the holidays because I get a peek into all the beautifully decorated homes. Last week I was working with a second grader on his /th/ sound while his mom and little sister decorated an enormous Christmas tree. At the end of our session, we moved to the tree and played a little guessing game using our sound. We alternated  choosing an ornament for the other to guess and gave clues using the /th/ sound. “This has a snowman, this has the biggest scarf,” etc.  My friend and his sister had such fun with the activity that as I left they were in a heated discussion of which ornament was being described!


Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Articulation, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Preschool Speech Activities With Markers

Robot pictureAs I said yesterday, drawing, coloring and art projects can be very effective reinforcing activities for preschool speech sessions. Give me a pack of markers and some white paper and many kids get excited.

What I like is that the drawing can relate to the sound they are working on or not. In this case, my friend was working on overall precision and his /th/sound, never mind that he was inventing his own “robobots!” I love how creative he was although I did need an explanation for some of the features. He was happy and so was I as he worked hard and stayed engaged in his speech lesson.


Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Articulation | 1 Comment

Frozen Activities for Preschool Speech Therapy

Frozen coloringHaving one foot in the toy industry and the other in speech therapy, I know that anything around the theme of the immensely popular Disney movie, Frozen, will capture a child’s attention and surely make the speech therapy session exciting!

My 4 year-old friend spent the whole hour coloring Anna with her markers as we decorated her paper with target words and phrases starting with /t/. Poor Olaf was only blue but her seemed happy nonetheless. What a simple concept but I find that drawing and coloring with kids who love it, is a perfect activity to provide as a reward for saying their sounds. Here is a wonderful variety of print outs of Disney movie pictures for kids to color.

I also picked up a small coloring book in the grocery story checkout line, “Disney Frozen Sisters Forever Invisible Inc and Magic Pen Painting,” which is such a favorite that she made me promise that I wouldn’t let anyone else use it! The little book tells the story of Frozen with rip out pages as you reveal the pictures with your magic pen. They make perfect take-homes as I add a few practice words on them so parents can carry over your goals between sessions. Nice value for about $5.00.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Articulation | Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving!

turkeyHappy Thanksgiving to you all!

I am certainly thankful for all of you, my readers, that keep me blogging and inspire me to keep sharing.

This will be a special thanksgiving for our family as a new grandson was born 2 days ago and we are invited for our first sleep-over with him. Hope someone gets some sleep!

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Slip on a Puppet for a Great Christmas Gift for Kids

mn1_000369Kids are fascinated with puppets as they come alive when slipped on your fingers. Folkmanis makes some of my favorites as they often allow for movement in several places–the mouth, wings, shark’s tail or beaks. The ostrich puppet that we featured on NBC CT TV announcing our Top 10 PAL winners is such a favorite around our house, that my husband asked if we could just keep it on the couch in the family room! The puppet has a large  moveable mouth for talking and five digits at the end of his wings to slip your fingers in for some realistic action.

Over the years I have used puppets to get shy kids talking as they take on the persona of the puppet. Pretend play with puppets builds language skills as kids practice dialogue, story telling and gain confidence in front of an audience of any size (sometimes just the dog!).

I like the Facts of Interest that are attached to each puppet, which tell some unusual tidbits about the character that can serve as a story starter or influence the content created for the puppet show! The NBC CT interviewer had a good laugh when she learned that the ostrich has about 4 pounds of rocks in his gut to help digest food–who knew? Folkmanis also has a list available of story books and poetry about the different animals in their collection. If you  select the sea turtle puppet, why not check out “How Turtles’ Back Was Cracked” or “Turtle Spring.” Bringing in literature to enhance a toy, provides lots of learning opportunities as children can discuss what is the same and different between the lead animal characters or get ideas for their own story.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Do Our Kids Know What They Are Working On?

Sam writing at deskEvery now and then I have to remind myself of some basics in delivering speech therapy to kids. In articulation therapy, I hear the voice and sage advice of Pam Marshalla that carryover starts in the early sessions of therapy which includes making sure the child you’re working with knows their goals. Seems simple, doesn’t it? Try asking all the kids on your caseload today if they know what they are working on! It is surprising.

Yesterday I was working with a second grader on articulation. We had worked last year on /s/ so are doing some carryover but have been focusing on /l/ and /th/the past few weeks. He even gets speech therapy in the schools so you would think he was well aware of what sounds he is working on. I asked him and he struggled to get beyond the /s/. That will be my first question as we start our therapy sessions from now on.

How can a child be aware and practice his error sounds outside of the speech session if he isn’t thinking about what to correct?

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Articulation, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Having Some Fun with Ripples, Pre-teaching Classroom Vocabulary in Word-finding Therapy

Ripples in sandIt is so important to have a good relationship with a client’s classroom teacher, especially if they have word-finding difficulties. The classroom curriculum vocabulary words are his world during the school day and we need to make sure the child is familiar with them and can easily call them up when needed.

I have worked with a range of classroom teachers, most of whom have been incredibly helpful. Recently a first grade teacher gave imagesme a wonderful hand written list of words in their language arts curriculum for me to pre-teach. I so appreciate this and know that it takes extra time on her part. As we were going through the words, defining them, talking about them in context, and making up sentences with them we came to “ripple.” This is where our lesson plan took off in a new direction! As I was trying to define “ripple” for him, I searched the word on my iPhone and hit “images.” We started looking at varied but beautiful images of ripples in water as different numbers of rocks were thrown in the water, with different lighting, stages of the process and different settings. After we defined the word, we described the photographs and then compared how the current picture was different from the last. All of these activities were strengthening his vocabulary, descriptive and comparative skills and confidence in using language. It was such fun to watch his mind work as he got excited about seeing the next image, “He had a leaf and dipped it in the water,” or “That one’s my favorite because it looks like another dimension in the water!” Phew, that was quite a sentence from a guy who used to have some difficulty describing things. “That looks like a sculpture, just painted blue.” You get the idea, he was enjoying being a little abstract all because we happened upon some beautiful photographs of “ripples!”

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Tips For Preschool Speech Evaluation for Hypernasality

Duke's noseI recently had a preschool child referred to me for articulation and possible hypernasality issues. Mom was actually spot on in our initial phone conversation, telling me what sounds were misarticulated and of those, which ones were compromised by nasal emission. I was preparing for the evaluation and came upon a very helpful outline for my testing, “Resonance Disorders and Nasal Emissions, Evaluation and Treatment Using ‘Low Tech’ and ‘No Tech’ Treatments,” in ASHA LEADER magazine. I printed out the content on evaluation and used it to record the child’s responses.

I quickly learned that his hypernasality was not due to velopharyngeal incompetence (VPI) or insufficiency (since he produced high pressure consonants and vowels with no nasality) but was rather “velopharyngeal mislearning when there is hypernasality or nasal emission due to faulty articulation. This can occur due to pharyngeal or nasal articulation of certain sounds. Abnormal articulation can cause phoneme-specific nasal emission, usually on sibilant sounds.” He matched that as he made his /s, f, th/ with nasal emission. I had brought straws and a mirror to detect any nasal emission but they weren’t needed as he repeated an /s/ in isolation, closed his lips tight and blew air out his nose.

The article for ASHA LEADER is also good for taking quotes to give to parents to explain their child’s resonance pattern and the why behind it.

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In My Heart, A Book of Feelings for Language Lessons

Thijpegs lovely book celebrates all shapes and sizes of feelings–full of giggles and wiggles like a magical hat, bright and shiny like a big yellow star or lazy and slow like a floating balloon. Each page opens to a smaller cut-out heart inside the clever illustration demonstrating silly, happy or calm. What a wonderful reference for kids and parents to use to explain feelings associated with the day’s experiences. “On harder days, mean words hurt my feelings,and my heart feels hurt too. It’s fragile and delicate…” When kids are upset, they have trouble expressing themselves at the language level they are capable of. A book like this will help bridge that gap and get an important conversation started. For kids with language delay, this book can help give them the visual tools to describe and talk about situations and their corresponding feelings of the heart. Yesterday I was with a terrific first grade teacher who uses great picture books like this to read to her class and then she pulls out a topic from the story–bullying, should you be a friend with someone that isn’t liked by another friend? and pairs off the kids to “debate” the subject. I love that concept. You can do the same with a lively discussion with your child at home.


Available at Amazon: Click here

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