Saturday, May 21, 2016

The End is Near! Send them off with a bang!

It's that time of year  ~  another school year down and summer on the horizon! My district wraps up the school year this coming week- May 25 to be exact.  Since I am now a 10 month employee, this is the first time in 20 years that I won't be headed off to summer with my teacher friends after the glorified last day of school.

Please excuse me while I have a mini pity party :(((

Ok I'm better now.  

I've been going back to my old stomping grounds to a say goodbye to my students (and get hugs). The most fun (and heart tugging) part was going back to tell my 5th grade students good-bye and help usher them off to middle school! I'd had some of these "babies" since preschool! It was an honor and a pleasure to get to watch them grow up and have a part in their education.  

If you've read my other posts, you'll know we like to send the kids off with tons of speech fun during the last week or two! 
This is how we dooooooo it.......(are you singing that ole song, too?) 

1) MAKE A FUN SNACK (with a nod to summer!) 

We've done countless ones over the years but I think the "Teddys at the Beach" were the most fun and smile producing! Snack activities bring about so much language that there's literally NO goal you can't target by making a multi-step snack! 

This year the SLPs at "my" school went with these octopus cupcakes (blue food colored icing, white bead sprinkles and a gummy octopii plopped on top!)


I love love love doing a little game show style competition; kids love it and they get so wrapped up in it that I get to see how their articulation skills are really carrying over.  First, split your students into 2 teams. Please forgive me if you've heard me blog about it before - I just can't get enough!  Next, break out the fun questions- I have some in my TpT store for Back to School, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Winter and Summer.  

Then each team picks a team name and 1 person on each team team has "the bell" for their team (omg I couldn't live without service bells in therapy). 

 We explain the rules: listen to the whole question, answer in a complete sentence (for older kids), and keep your hand on the table until the question is read. Finally, I read the question and whoever knows the answer has to try to be the first to ring the bell in order to get a chance to answer correctly and earn a point for his/her team!  Only the students "at the bell" are able to answer, and cheaters are exiled :)))  

That time pressure really puts their speech to the test!  Of course the team with the most points wins!! 

JUST      GO     BUY      SERVICE       BELLS 
and thank me later :) 

Battery operated buzzers work well, too 
(see below) 


Whether it's a bubble machine party, messy popsicles, water games, or something as simple as keeping a balloon or beach ball up in the air, going outside and letting loose is something students just don't get to do much of these days. Even activities at recess seems to be limited these days. Just let them go a little nuts for a change :)) 

A big favorite of my students is a relay - something else I've mentioned before - and the wacky relays are the most fun!  Last week, we did an oldie but goodie- a relay with everything you would need for the beach or pool!

Chances are you can find everything you need to do this in your house.  Well, at least here in the south you can!  Students have to run to the beach bag and put everything that's inside of it on them and run back. Then the next person puts it on and so on. 

Add a pool noodle for even more entertainment! 


If you're a regular at my blog or store, you know I love rewarding kids! Who doesn't love to be recognized for their unique gifts, and who doesn't like to hear nice things abou themselves? Some students don't really get that at home, ya know.  It was with a heavy AND happy heart that I gave my students certificates to take with them off into the sunset.  

There was lots of love and joy in the room that day. 

The kids all agreed that each student got exactly the perfect award for them. 

What is that saying about kids may forget what you taught them but they won't forget how you made them feel?

This award was extra special because this child has selective mutism.  She talked on this day--- in front of everyone.  She really does have a lovely voice when she uses it, and everyone was happy to see her get this certificate.

This Harry Potter lover was crazy about hers!!

If you want to conjure up some warm and fuzzy feelings around your speech room you can find my 75 page download of Speech and Language Certficates, Diplomas and Awards HERE.  I just added 17 new ones to the pack! 

I think even my most finicky fifth graders liked them.

I only pray I've had as much of an impact on them as they've had on me.

Happy Summer Break, everyone! 

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Home Stretch!

Can you feel it, school SLPs? 
We're in the home stretch! The downward slope! The downhill slide!! 
The school year is almost over, but the end is crazy hectic!
There are still evals and IEPs to wrap up, ESY to complete and the dreaded progress reports! 

I really thought this would be the first school year in 20 years that I would be spared from doing those things (at last!) but....NOPE.  With an SLP out on maternity leave and no sub to take her place, I'm doing her gig (and her paperwork) at the moment. 

That's OK. I'm actually relieved to be doing that the other 41 SLPs in my district are doing...because I never want to forget what school SLPs deal with - or how much they juggle. 

I'm at the point of pure panic right now.  
(Yes, we get out early but we go back really early, too) 

I'm teaming up with my blogger friends, The Frenzied SLPs, to share my tips for making it to that glorious last day of school :) 

Yesterday one of my CF SLPs (the new graduate who took my place) texted me to ask what I send home for summer practice.  I literally texted back, "Nothing - because by May I'm a loser."
She didn't believe me, but seriously, by late May it's just survival mode. 
There was never any fluff or fanciness. On many days it took all I had to haul myself into work. 
(I'm just being honest here.) 

Well, you know how we love to teach our students strategies?  
Well, I use some, too, to help me hang on until the end. 
Here's what helps me :

Even though I love what I do, by May I'm exhausted. 
I really have to "pep talk" myself on the way to work. Plain 'ole self-talk doesn't always do it so I have some friends help me out- you know Andy Grammer, Joshua Radin, Rachel Platten, Shakira. They get me ready for the work day! Try it :)

Musical Reminders....

and my latest favorite from Zootopia....

We all know our students love rewards.  Know what? I do, too! 
To get through those tough weeks at the end of the school year, I reward myself! 
First I make 1 massive  To-DO list. 
I LOVE crossing things off of my to-do list! It feels so good! 

I make little deals with myself. Everytime I cross out an IEP  that was due, I reward myself with a little something. Since I try to limit myself to 1 soft drink per day (I'm addicted to Coke Zero, okay). Sometimes it's a piece of candy (just like my students) or a few minutes of IG time! Reward yourself!

If the weather is beautiful, take therapy outside! Not only have my students always loved it, it always perked up my mood. Getting out from under the fluorescent lights and amidst the fresh air and sunshine can change your outlook and give you the lift you need to be productive and positive. Just sitting outside for a language lesson is a refreshing change. I've always loved playing articulation hot potato outside. Give each student a target word or phrase to say during the game; they must say it before passing the potato (I actually use seasonal objects rather than an actual potato ;) Not only does it tell me a lot about their carryover of artic, it's hilarious and fun, too! You can do the same thing with a beach ball - trying to keep it in the air while saying a target sound each time you touch it. Outside is the perfect place for water games, too.  I made this simple competitive toss game for therapy with some large bowls from the Dollar Tree, sponges, and water! Oh, and I quickly printed the "point" signs. 

Outside is also a great place for.. bubbles! 
Bubbles always bring about lots of language and giggles, and giggles are good for the soul. 

What do YOU do to stay the course? 
Hang in there! 
Summer is on the horizon :) 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My New SLP Life

I don't know why, but it's taken me a long time to blog about this.
I'm not sure if it's because I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this major change in my life, 
or if it's because it makes me emotional. 

If you happen to follow me on my personal Facebook page, you may have seen the announcement I made this past November...

It was with a full heart I accepted a new position as Coordinator of Speech, Language, Hearing Services and Deaf Education in my school district. I would be moving out of my teeny weeny, tomb-like therapy room and into my district's special education department building. 

I even got to help interview applicants for my school SLP position.  That was a huge deal to me because leaving my students and co-workers was super important to me--and gave me but time anxiety- even though I was so excited to have been chosen for this new job.

I'm happy to report I found a wonderful SLP to take my place, and I'm doing her CF year! Going back to observe her (with my students) is like going home every time, and I am so relieved my kids are in capable and caring hands. 
Thanks, Maddie! 

Every time I told a parent or student I was leaving, it stung. Not just figuratively- it physically hurt.  Maybe that's why I couldn't write about it until now.  Too fresh. 

I'd been at my school a loooooooooong time - so long that I had students whose parents were students of mine! That makes me feel really old but really grateful, too.

The good-byes were hard, but I'm not far away; I know the friends I made there are for life.  
We are still swapping stories at our afternoon faculty meetings 
(aka happy hour).

Allison and I became friends co-teaching in her third grade inclusion class. If you're a school SLP hesitant to try inclusion/push-in, I can tell you some of my most cherished friendships grew from sharing a classroom: 

So bittersweet to be moving on, but I had prayed long and hard about this.  
On a lighter note...
I can't even EXPLAIN how overwhelming packing up 20 years of things I'd accumulated was!! Since my own children are all grown up, I had dragged oodles of their books, toys, vehicles, stuffed animals and other random stuff to my therapy room- not to mention all the irresistible kiddie stuff I buy.  Even after many many trips in my husbands truck, I still left the new therapist with more materials and supplies than she'll ever be able to use.  (I had miniature room but a huge storage closet, y'all!) 

I couldn't leave it all because, thankfully, I'm still doing therapy!  Now my precious speech supplies take up a couple of closets in my home, and THIS is my new therapy table... 
(ummm it's just my kitchen table doing double duty) 

Yes, Lola and Juni are my therapy assistants.  My clients love that they hang out with us while we work. My little clients come to me or I go to their homes;  I'm excited to be picking up more for the summer! Since my new job comes with NO caseload (but still lots of work), I have to keep my therapy chops sharp!  I never ever want to stop doing therapy.  Also, since one my the district's SLPs is on maternity leave, I'm helping with her workload. 

Of course, I'm still making products for my clients, too!  For everyone who asked...OF COURSE I'll still be blogging and creating activities for my TpT store :) I'm so glad you want me to! 

After Christmas, I moved into my new office on the third floor of a very old, historical building and y'all... I HAVE WINDOWS!!! 

FOUR BIG ONES!!  92 inches tall (I measured!) 
AND A VIEW!!! I'd only had 1 window (for 2 measly years) over the past 20 years!! 
I can see sky!!  I can see what the weather is like!!  It's crazy good! 
LOOK!! There's sunlight!!
[Only my fellow closet SLPs can understand the significance of this!]

Of course, my personal crew of guys helped lug my things up to the third floor...

My mom, my best friend from Texas and my long-time, much loved inclusion co-teacher came to clean and organize, too!  How blessed am I !? 

The support was overwhelming!! {in a very good way}
I wish I had a picture of my friend, Noelle. She's the friend who throws all the crap away that you don't need but feel attached to. She gave away - and hauled away- many, many garbage bags. After a while she wouldn't let me watch.  I managed to save a few of the "vintage" hardback speech therapy books circa 1970s.  She doesn't know.  Shhhhhhh

She and our school librarian (a beloved co-worker) sent me these gorgeous flowers on my first day at the new job.  Again, blessed beyond measure. 

Sooooo many things in that office hadn't been touched or moved in decades. In fact, when we attempted to move a 7 foot tall wooden bookcase, it fell to pieces. 

Hence the rocking new bookcase from World Market- just one find from the "operation office" shopping trip. 

It's starting to feel like "me." It was scary and awkward at first, but I believe that God puts us where we belong.  I'm starting to understand my purpose here.  
I'm incredibly thankful for where God has plopped me. 

Overseeing 41 SLPs (and another one about to be hired), 3 deaf education teachers, transliterators and working with our district audiologist is a bigger job than I anticipated, but I love it
It feels fulfilling to be advocating for and supporting the SLPs that were my cohorts for a very long time.  I feel privileged to be able to spend my days working for them.  I know how hard the job of a school SLP is, and I vow to never forget what it's like to be in the trenches day in and day out.  I've given instructions to several therapists to hold a serious intervention if I ever start to behave like I've forgotten. 

Ok, now let's focus on how cute this old office has become even though so far I'm not here too much- I'm mostly out visiting schools.   Our suburban/rural district has 27 schools, and {only} the SLPs also serve 6 private schools and dozens of area day cares. That's a lot of ground to cover! 
I probably spend more time in my little VW beetle bug.  

Still, you know I love things to be cute and organized! 

I brought all my favorite people with me...

Oh my gosh- these walls- I want to paint them this summer.  

It's all work in progress (as am I) but I'm trying to get everything in place.
I'm obsessed with these wall mounted paper trays from Ikea. 

I tend to stay late; there's so much I want to do in my new role!!
When I'm the last car in the parking lot, sometimes my director comes to my office and gently commands me to go home.  Once I didn't comply and set off the alarm as I left for the evening,
UGH let's not talk about that.
Let's just say everyone enjoyed the video footage.

Now I'm not just worrying about my evals and re-evals getting completed,  I'm worrying about every single one in the whole district!  I admit it freaks me out sometimes.  
Still, I'm putting on my big girl panties.  I got this.  Pretty, labeled binders help. 
I laugh in the face of a challenge! Muahahahaha (That's not really true but it makes me sound tough.) 

^^^ these are from the See Jane Work Collection @ Office Depot. ^^^

Wanna come sit and talk speech with me? I'll make ya some coffee like any good southern friend would.  My sweet husband bought be this Keurig to match everything else in my office.  
 Oh, and he gave me the quirky cup, too. It's from my favorite store :)

I'm trying. 

I may have overdone it with the turquoise.
But it calms me :) 

My better half can do extraordinary things with a can of turquoise spray paint. 

I love that lots of SLPs come by to vent, chat, ask questions, get advice - and that others leave notes when I'm not around.  All the while, it's me learning from them- learning what they need from me, learning what things I need to focus on improving, learning that some are more dedicated and passionate than I ever knew.  I don't think they know {yet} that they're inspiring me.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen that my husband and I were redoing an old mid-century tanker desk that I scored off of Craigslist. My determination to get this sucker home caused my body to magically gain super human strength. No kidding, I lugged this monster down a flight of concrete apartment stairs to get it in a friend's truck. This baby been restored to her former glory and sits proudly in my new office :) 

It's that spray paint again, y'all. 

This beautiful prayer by Mother Teresa is right next to my desk. 
My daily reminder. 

Being a word girl, I like to keep my mottos in close view :)

It's starting to feel like home, and I've made so many lovely friends here.

I confess, though, I really miss my students.
 I miss squeaky giggles and little hands and hugs.
Two of the best parts of my new job are transitioning preschoolers into the school system and observing the "tough" kids that the SLPs ask my input about.
I'm the worst observer ever.  I have to get a piece of the action. 

Ohhhh and here's my favorite part of my new space...

My sons and husband ordered these amazing watercolor prints for me from Etsy. 
Best.    Christmas.   Gift.    Ever. 
I mean, COME ON!! 
That's cool!! 

I cried.  

It's just such a thoughtful gift. 

Can you name all three? 

Know what else I miss? Sharing my daily therapy with you on IG
I hope you'll stick with me on my new SLP adventure! 

 Any advice for me?  
What do you wish for in a leader? 
I really want to know! 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Things SLPs should always say {NO, NOPE, STOP} The Importance of Punishment in Speech Therapy

Well, this is the flipside - except I couldn't narrow it down :) 

There are so many things we should always say, and this might surprise you, but we need to say more negative things!  We need to say, "NO," "NOPE," "Eh," "nuh-uh," "Stop that," "No way; try again," "That's wrong," "nah," and "no way." 

Before you think I've lost my mind and click away, let me explain myself.  By punishment, I certainly do not mean we should punish children, be rude or mean to children, or make them feel bad about themselves.  If you know me, I'm all about the peace and love with my students. 

  Simply stated, punishment (in the behavior world) is a consequence following a behavior that decreases the probability that a particular behavior will occur in the future. 

As SLPs we are fan-flipping-tastic about giving positive reinforcement! 
Good job!  Great talking! Nice sounds! Good work!! 
I love your effort! Good try! I love your good speech! Keep up the good work!
That sounded awesome! Wow, you're so smart! Super talking! 

Positive reinforcement is so important!! Providing positive reinforcement following a desired behavior increases the probability that the behavior will increase in the future.

Did you know that negative words are powerful, too?  
They're especially powerful when trying to change a behavior, and after all, isn't that what we try to do in therapy?  We try to shape dysfluent speech into fluency speech. We aim to shape new articulation and phonological patterns. We strive to change communication habits. That's our business! 

When trying to decrease a behavior (a lisp, an articulation error, a phonological process, vocal abuse, incorrect pronoun use, poor eye contact, spitting or biting, inappropriate social behaviors, etc.) punishment is important.  Using punishment decreases the likelihood of the behavior persisting.  Isn't that what we want? 

In fact, there's plenty of research out there supporting that using positive reinforcement along with punishment is more effective in changing speech patterns than using positive reinforcement alone. 

Costello and Ferrar (in 1976) compared progress between students who received punishment combined with positive reinforcement and students who received positive reinforcement alone for the reduction of incorrect articulation.  

They used 3 different "punishers" (a buzzer, response cost, and simple verbal "No!" Their results indicated that:
1) punishment in combination with positive reinforcement was more effective than positive reinforcement alone. 
2) introducing punishment did not cause disruptions for children nor did it cause children to become upset or off-task. In fact, disruptive and off task behavior increased when the punishment was taken away. 

Each time I get a graduate clinician from a local university or model therapy for new SLPs, I always get the same response...

Grad Student:  "YOU TELL THEM NO!?!" 
CF-SLP:          "You tell them it's wrong!?"
Me:                  "Well, yes, of course." 

It seems that somewhere along the line, it has become unpopular to tell students they are wrong. I see it in classrooms, too. When I was in grad school I had several wise professors who were adamant that we use a very firm, "NO" for all incorrect responses. It's just science; the child is less likely to make that same mistake again. I've refined my verbal punishment since then, and I provide more specific feedback that equates to "NO." Some are those are shown at the top in the speech bubbles :)  
Sometimes it's just the ole stink eye or grimace or a simple but firm "Uh-uh" or "Eh!" 

I mean, shouldn't we be honest with our students?  How will they know they are doing something incorrectly if we don't tell them?  If they were already capable of self- monitoring their speech, they wouldn't be therapy. If we don't tell them what they are doing wrong, how will they know what to change? 

Don't get me wrong, I would never plunge into therapy with a new student using punishment.  It's important to establish a relationship with a child and show him that therapy is a positive and safe place before using punishment.  It varies with each child, but that trusting foundation can be laid rather quickly.  Once the child understands that you're on his side, and you're there to help him/her, it's time to start being honest (but kind) with our feedback.  

Even though I use punishment (in the form of words or body language), I feel confident that my students still know I care about them. Additionally, they know to try something different than what they just tried.  

(I should note:  if you observe that punishment causes anger, sadness, aggression or self-esteem issues with any of your students, you should stop and consult with the rest of the child's IEP team or behavior experts at your disposal.  Also, never use strategies that may conflict with a child's behavior plan or established plan of reinforcement without consulting with the child's team.)


1) Always use BOTH!!  How depressing would it be if a child only received punishment!? Therapy would be a beat down for both of you!  On the other hand, if you only use positive reinforcement, progress may be slower because your student may not have a clear understanding of what changes he/she needs to make with his/her communication. 

2) Always be sure to only positively reinforce behaviors (communication habits) that you want to strenghten! Likewise, always be sure to only punish behavior you want the child to decrease! Don't let any of those correct responses get by without at least a nod of approval, and don't let the belly flop responses get by without correction.  I see my fair share of SLPs doing drill silently-  tallying away but not giving feedback to the student.  All the while I think, "I wonder if they think they're doing well or not?"  How will they know what to KEEP doing if the therapist doesn't make it completely clear!?  How will they know what to STOP doing if they're not told!? 

3) Vary the type of positive reinforcement AND punishment! Saying "good job" 100 times will surely lose its impact on a student.  Likewise, "that's not right, try this" will also lose its mojo! Change it up to keep your reinforcement and punishment powerful! 

4) Consider each student! If verbal positive reinforcement isn't enough, pair it with high fives, stickers, tangibles, etc.  Positive reinforcement isn't reinforcement at all if it isn't something a child wants. Find out what motivates each child, and remember that reinforcers don't always maintain their power.  Some children lose interest in what you may be providing so you need to keep re-evaluating what's really reinforcing for a child.  In the same way, they may get "immune" to your stink eye or thumbs down punishers.  Change it up! Little Bee Speech got it right with its Articulation Station Pro app which allows SLPs to give a lovely "ding" sound when a child says a speech target correctly and an aversive buzzer-like "bomp" sound when he/she gets it wrong.  That's such a simple but effective form of punishment and positive reinforcement in one place.  (By the way, I don't get anything from that company for saying that! It's just my honest opinion) 

5) BE CONSISTENT and keep your expectations high.  Children thrive with consistent expectations. They will be less confused when you give them clear positive reinforcement for desired behaviors and clear punishment for undesired behaviors.  It's important for all of us not to lose sight of what the real desired behavior is. For example, if a child has a lateral lisp, and suddenly it is less distorted, it's very tempting for us to start packing on the positive reinforcement because...  

It's better!! Hooray!! 
Uh, Oh....

be very careful, because that behavior is likely to increase, and better doesn't mean correct. I recently observed a therapist who was marking all distorted /s/ productions as correct. Soon after, she told me how much better his lateral lisp now was.  Hmmmm, yes it's better, but now he thinks it's spot on! YIKES!  Let's keep our ears and brains finely tuned and expectations high- and let's communicate honestly with our students and clients. They deserve that. 

I admit, I am no expert on this subject; it's just something I have used in my practice for the past 20 years. If you want to read more from the real experts, check out this interesting 2010 article by Anne K. Bothe and Janic Costello Ingham about Using Responses Contingencies in Evidence-Based Treatements for Children's Stuttering. 

Do YOU say NO & NOPE in speech therapy, too?  I want to know that I'm not alone :) 

Be sure to click on the links below to read all about what my cohorts, The Frenzied SLPs, think SLPs should always say! 

Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget