Be the Change...

I originally wrote this post for Felice over at The Dabbling Speechie as part of her Monday Motto series.  I thought that with the start of school this week for myself and a lot of you, it may be a good time to share this post here.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."  -Mahatma Gahndi

Working as a school based speech-language pathologist can be really hard sometimes.  Our caseloads are huge, the students have so many different and diverse needs, and the paperwork (oh, the paperwork)!  But, seeing my kids make gains in any of their goal areas just makes my day all the better.

Getting kids to make gains in their goal areas is change.  We help make changes every day.  Nothing gives me more joy that hearing from a former student or parent that I helped make a change for the better in someone's life.

Another difficult part about working in the schools is at times it gets a little negative.  Teachers and staff are overworked, and at times under appreciated.  This can lead to some negativity.  I have heard people say that they won't go into the teachers lounge because it is too negative.  I haven't heard this at just one school, but rather, at every school I have worked at.  I do go to the teachers lounge.  I find it to be a great time to connect with other staff and teachers which in the end, I believe, helps our students. The one thing I do try to do when I am in the teachers lounge is to not engage in negative talk.  It is so easy to get sucked in- trust me it has happened to me.  But I thought, if I want to see a less negative teachers lounge, maybe I should be the change first.

Now when I go into the teachers lounge, I go in positive.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be Pollyanna throwing rainbows and glitter all around the room, but I don't get sucked into the really negative discussions.  I understand that people need to vent, and that is ok.  I just don't engage when the conversation goes in a negative, absolutely not constructive way.  I try to find a positive, or provide an idea that may help.

One last way that I try to be the change every day is in the hallway.  Every day at my school I stand at the entry hallway with two or three other staff and greet students as they come into school.  I get to see these energetic beings bounce in every day mostly with smiles on their faces.  Sometimes, however, we get some really sad friends come into school.  We don't know what has happened before they came in that day.  To be the change, we try to greet as many students as we can.  I can't even count how many kindergarten hugs and fist bumps we get!  But, it is those students who don't come in with a smile that we can actually make a big difference with.  I can't even tell you how many times we have greeted a student with a frown on their face and then stopped to talk with the student.  Many times something little has happened either on the bus, in the car with a sibling, or just a generally rough morning.  Letting our little friends get it out many times helps turn that frown around, and they bound away to their class ready to start their day.  Other times, we find out about really bad things that have happened.  This is so hard, but we are able to find them help in the way of their teacher, principal, or other staff that can help them for more serious situations.

I know that these 10 minutes in the morning aren't "in my contract" but I wouldn't change them for anything.  The days when I have a meeting or something else going on at the time the bell rings, I miss my little friends.  What I have realized is that I am not the change, they are.  They help me so many days when I have come in with the weight of family things in my head.  They help me smile on tough days.

I have now come to realize that the reason I have been so drawn to this quote is that I feel like we all live it every day.  Every day we have a chance to "be the change."  Whether it is by working on therapy goals, bringing some positivity to a discussion, or simply helping bring a smile to someone's day.  Big or small, we can all be the change.

5 Tips for Progress Monitoring for Speech and Language Skills

Progress monitoring is something that can haunt you all year. In the past, I have felt like I was constantly scrambling at progress report time, trying to scrounge up data that I had taken to present on my reports. When I started out, I didn't think ahead to how I would compare this data over time to show the growth that I knew I was seeing. Now, I have realized that when I use the same tool each time I progress monitor, I can get a much better picture of how my students are learning and changing over time. Here are 5 tips for getting great progress monitoring data:

1. Be Consistent
I think this one is pretty important.  When I am doing progress monitoring, I want it to be a snapshot that I can compare with another snapshot.  Whenever possible, I try to use the exact same items when progress monitoring.

For story retelling or answering questions about stories, I try to stay consistent with the types of stories that I use.  For example, I may use a Fall Matt and Molly story in September, and then use a different Winter Matt and Molly story in November or December.  Because the stories are very similar in their style, I am not worried that the results will be radically skewed.  I know that there will be 10 yes/no questions and 10 wh questions that all target similar details in the stories.  There are four pictures, and simple text, which make these great for early story tellers.

For articulation, I use items from my Articulation Progress Monitoring Kit.  With these pictures, I can use the exact same target words, and watch progress over time with the exact same words.  This has helped me out tremendously.

2. Don't teach to the test 
The last thing I want to do is completely skew my data into showing growth that isn't really there.  I may work on synonyms as a goal.  If I only focus on the same 10 synonyms over the course of 8 weeks, chances are pretty good that my student will make some pretty good progress on those 10 words.  I don't want to only focus on those words if I am going to be tracking data over a whole year.  I may focus on 10 words in those 8 weeks, but my progress monitoring will not be only those words.  I will have a set of possibly 25-30 words that I will progress monitor over the year.  As the year goes on, it will show progress over time.  If I only progress monitor the words that I teach those 8 weeks, my data will probably always show 80% or greater accuracy.  I won't be able to show progress that way.

3.  Make yourself a progress monitoring schedule
I like to put progress monitoring right in my planner.  I simply remind myself that I have to progress monitor my students during that week (typically the week before my reports are due).  When I plan it out this way, I am less likely to miss a student because of possible missed sessions.  I will still have time to grab the student if I miss them.

4.  Use what you have
Progress monitoring doesn't have to be fancy.  A great example is when I work on increasing sentence length, working on pronouns, or working on verbs.  I have a set of Autism and PDD Photo cards for WH questions that I love to use to target a variety of goals.  I made a simple chart for the What Doing section of these cards.  When I want to progress monitor, I simply pull out my cards, and check off the table as I go through the cards.  On the top of the page, I write what my target goal is.  For example, sometimes I may work on the pronouns he, she, or they.  For another student, I might work only on the verb +-ing structure.  I can use the same cards for multiple reasons, as long as on the top of the page, I make sure I know what the goal is.  If you have these cards and would like to use this chart, you can get it HERE.

5.  Keep it simple!
No need to make this difficult on yourself!  Follow the above tips to help you keep it simple.

You can follow this linky to grab a lot more tips for how to progress monitor!

Be Prepared: Starting your year out right {Linky}

A BONUS Sale?!?!
Yes!  If you haven't grabbed everything that you have wanted to before school starts, tomorrow will be a great day to do it!  Teachers Pay Teachers is having a Best Year Ever Bonus Sale on Monday, August 22.  By using the code OneDay at checkout, you can save 28% off of everything in my store, Speech Universe.

With this bonus sale, The Frenzied SLPs have decided to host a linky party to share some great tips for starting the year out right.

My tip has to do with being prepared.  When starting out the year, I like to make sure I know where my students are in terms of their goals.  Many times they slip over the summer, and sometimes they make great gains over the summer!  This is never more true than with my students with articulation goals.  For the last two years, on the first day of therapy, I have used this Articulation Progress Monitoring Kit to see where my students are with their goals.  I have loved having this data for myself right at the beginning of the year.  Then, two months later when it is progress report time, I can pull out the sheet and easily get data for the report by re-administering the probe.  It is so easy peasy!!!!  It only takes about 5 minutes to get all the data I need to report on their progress.

Check out this picture that shows how easy it is to pull out the picture probes, have students say the words, and take great data:

There is enough space to take data four times on each sound.  There is also a place to mark whether you are checking word level or sentence level.  For my real little guys, the pictures help out a lot.  They can easily identify most of the words.  If they are not sure, I do have them just repeat the word for me.  My readers have a really easy time getting through these probes quickly.  When they move to the sentence level, I have my students make up their own sentences.  I tried a prototype where I wrote the sentences, but sometimes the reading got in the way.  It is easier to just have my students make up a quick sentence about the word.  I find that I get a more true "spontaneous" production of the sound this way.

So, if you want to make this your Best Year Ever, you can grab this kit for 28% off in the Best Year Ever Bonus sale on Monday, August 22.  Don't forget to use the code OneDay to maximize your savings.  Simply print out this kit, and you will be on your way to great data collection all year!

I hope you have a great start to your year!  Need more tips to start the year out right?  Check out these other great bloggers who have lots of tips for you!  Thanks so much to SLP Runner for hosting this linky!

What's In My Cart?

Back to School.  A time that I totally dread, but then am secretly excited about!  Who doesn't love a fresh box of crayons, new notebooks, and a totally organized room?  Another part of back to school that I love is snagging some great new resources at the annual TpT Back to School Sale!

This years sale is on Monday, August 1 and Tuesday, August 2.  When you use the promo code: BESTYEAR you can save 28% off of EVERYTHING in my store!  That includes all of my bundles too!

Here are a few things I thought you might like to grab during the sale:

My new Articulation Progress Monitoring Kit will be great for the first few weeks.  You can begin collecting your data on all of your articulation students, and keep up with it for four progress monitoring sessions throughout the year.  Data collection made easy!

Another fun back to school item is my Back to School Interactive Books.  These are easy to make, and so fun to use with students who need help with vocabulary, increasing utterance length, or need visuals to help with their language.

Now for a few things that are in my cart.  I am planning on doing a lot of back to school vocabulary with my students with ASD, so the first two items will be nice additions to what I already have!

This Back to School Interactive Book from Mia McDaniel looks great!

These Back to School Bingo Riddles by Speech Sprouts will work great with my higher level students too!

These new Artic Pix from Gold Country SLP look so bright and cheerful, I just have to pick them up too.  They will be a nice change from some of my old articulation cards.

And finally, I think I might also have to grab this super sweet SLP Planner from Speech Language Pirates!

Thanks so much to Jenna at Speech Room News for hosting this linky!  Head on back there to see what other SLP bloggers have in their carts too!

Wishing everyone a great back to school season!

Articulation Progress Monitoring

Progress monitoring for articulation was something that I struggled with for a long time.  I never felt like I was comparing like data.  I would pull out a pack of articulation cards and take data on the words that came up.  I didn't write down the words, I just had plus and minus marks on my paper.  I would get a percentage for the sound, but not much more information.

Two years ago, I started working on a system for myself to progress monitor articulation skills.  I wanted it to be easy for me to pick up and go with multiple students in a group, all working on different sounds.  I also wanted to be able to compare how students produced the same words over time.  I started with a few sounds, and it grew and grew.  With a little tweaking and putting in some fun new clipart for you, I think it is ready to share with everyone!

Here is my Articulation Progress Monitoring Kit:

This kit is really easy to put together and to use.  I started with a large three ring binder.  I think the one I have set up is a 3" binder.  You don't need one that big, but I like to keep lots of copies of the data sheets so I always have one ready when I need it.

Next, print the entire kit.  I laminated my picture pages, but this is not necessary.  I glued all of the cover pages for each sound onto tabbed dividers.  This makes it super easy for me to find the sound I am looking for in seconds.

I just flip to the section I need, grab the target pictures and a data sheet, and I am ready to take some data!

I like to keep about 10 of these data sheets in each section.

This data is so easy to collect!
If you are worried about the amount of colored ink this may take, rest assured.  You can print this in black and white, and it turns out great.  Here is an example of two identical pages.  One is printed in color and one is printed in black and white using my printer settings.  You could easily print out a set for your student and keep it in their file to pull out when you need to collect data for progress reports. You would only need to print four pages- the three picture sets plus one data sheet.  This packet is set up alphabetically, so each sound is easy to find within the file.

This kit has been so useful to me.  I actually look forward to taking my articulation data at progress report time!

As a bonus for making it this far in my post, I am offering you a FREEBIE!  You can try this packet by printing the entire set for G.  I hope you enjoy it!

You can get the entire packet for all of the sounds HERE.

Let's Have a Conversation!

Many of you have asked where I got my visuals for conversation in my 5 Tips for SLPs Working with Students with ASD.  I have worked on these over the years, and I am ready to share them with you!

Let's Have a Conversation is a packet that has helped me and the school social worker at my school give our students with ASD a way to learn how to have a very simple conversation.  Using visuals and removeable icons, we have expanded utterance length in our students and helped them to learn the skills needed to have a conversation.

We try to do this during our peer support times with our SNAPs students (Students Need A Pal), but also practice with just ourselves and the students with ASD.  When we have SNAPs students, we have them ask the questions.  When they are not there, the social worker or I ask the questions.

The questions are simple such as, "What is your favorite color?"  We give students a variety of options to choose from.  Sometimes, they may start with just answering with one word.  We try to quickly work up to complete sentences just to expand utterance length.  In reality, students don't usually answer a question with "My favorite color is blue."  They may typically just say the word, or something like, "I like blue."  I have included two different visuals in this packet for that reason.  You can choose which carrier phrase you would like to use.

This is the visual used to ask questions.

This visual is used to answer the question using the carrier phrase:
"My favorite ____ is ____."

This visual is also used to answer the questions using the carrier phrase:
"I like ____."

There are also ten topic cards included that can be used with students who are ready for the next step in conversations.  On the left of the card is a topic question.  On the right hand side are some additional comments or questions that the student may use in the conversation.

Additional topic cards.

These visuals have helped so many of our students make gains with asking and answering questions with their peers.  We have had so much fun watching our students grow in their conversational skills! You can get these visuals HERE and hopefully watch your students grow too!

Working with Students with ASD

With the end of the year here, I have been thinking a lot about what I have accomplished this year with my students.  This year I worked with four self-contained Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) classrooms.  This was a huge challenge for me simply because of the high number of students on my caseload with pretty high needs.  In reflecting on my year, I decided that I wanted to share some tips of things that helped me get through relatively unscathed.

I have been working with kids with ASD for about 13 years now. During that time, I have picked up a lot of little tips and tricks to working with this population of students.  I have had some definite therapy fails and learned from those fails.  Luckily I work with some amazing people who have helped me learn along the way.  I have also been lucky enough to work in a district that has provided me some pretty awesome professional development training. Because of the help that I have received, I have developed some great tips that I want to share with you!

Here are 5 tips of things you could use when working with elementary aged students with ASD:

1. Visuals!  I cannot say this word enough!  Visuals, Visuals, Visuals!!!

When working with students with ASD, I really feel like you can never have enough visual supports.  It is easy to fade back a visual support, but I think it is really difficult to fade back verbal supports.  I use visual supports to increase length of utterance, for functional communication, to show a schedule of activities, to support students in playing games, and to support students in answering questions.  I'm sure there are many more reasons that I can't even think of right now!

Playing Pop Up Pirate


Reading a book

Making a recipe

Cariboo Summer Vocabulary
This has been a favorite of mine the last two weeks!
Grab the Cariboo visuals with the link below:
You can get these free visuals for summer vocabulary to use with the Cariboo game HERE!

2. Token systems- There are many different token systems that you can use for a variety of reasons.  In the classroom, I have seen token systems used for behaviors.  Students can earn tokens for appropriate behaviors and work to earn reinforcing items.  I have also seen them used as a negative reinforcer.  Students lose tokens for inappropriate behaviors that are clearly defined.  They lose their reinforcing item if they lose all of their tokens.

I like to use token systems to show how many trials a student has to do with me before earning their reinforcing item.  You don't have to buy anything fancy for this.  I just use paper and pen.  I draw a quick picture on the paper in a box and then draw as many circles as trials that I want the student to complete.  Then, I put a box at the end with the reinforcing item on it.  The number of trials depends on what the student can tolerate.

I have also used pegs to show how many trials the student needs to complete.  You can read all about this on my Trial Tracking post from a few years ago.

3. Peer models- This has honestly been one of the most amazing things to watch.  I work closely with the school social worker at my school.  Together, we run some social language groups.  At the beginning of the year, we set up our Students Need A Pal (SNAPs) students.  These are usually our fourth and fifth grade general education students.  The students at our school have an hour of block recess once a week.  We sign up students who would like to help us during a half hour of their block recess.  This year we had 24 fifth graders and 45 fourth graders sign up to be a "SNAP."  We have a meeting at the beginning of the year where we describe what being a SNAP entails.  We then hand out permission slips so that parents know they are giving up half of their block recess.  After we get the permission slips returned, we schedule the students into time slots.  This year, we were able to schedule four blocks of time to work in small groups.  The groups typically contain 2-4 students with ASD with 2-3 SNAP students.  We make sure that the students and teachers have a copy of the schedule, and we also put the SNAP students names on the morning announcements when it is their day to come down.  Using these reminders, we have had almost 100% attendance this year from our fourth and fifth grade peers.

I love scenes like this one!

A typical session with our SNaPs peers begins with a feeling check in.  You can find an example of this to use with your students HERE.  We always encourage our peers to give reasons for why they feel the way they do.

Next, we work on conversation.  Depending on the student's needs for visual supports, we have varying supports available.  To start, we have our SNaPs peers ask a question, and then the students with ASD answer using a visual sentence strip with icons depicting choices of favorite items or activities.  As the students start to progress, we have them ask their peers the questions too.  A lot of our fourth and fifth grade students are now able to ask additional questions such as, "why do you like _____?" or add a statement such as, "I like that too!"  We slowly fade away the visual models as the students have success.
Students ask their question with this visual.

Students answer their question with this visual.
The way we always end our sessions is with a little free choice.  It is a great time to have our students with ASD work on requesting and play skills.  Many of our students have trouble with engaging with toys, and this is a great opportunity to practice with their peers.  As I detail later, I think our SNAPs kids enjoy the toys just as much!

You can read more about our conversation visuals HERE.

4. Reinforcers- There is something to be said for a good reinforcer!  I have had kids that will work an entire half hour for a single Skittle, but most of my students need a little faster reinforcement schedule.  This is where I use my token systems to show when a reinforcer will be presented.  You can present the reinforcer as often as you feel is needed to keep the student engaged.

The main thing you need to know about reinforcers is that they can change often.  What works for a student one day may not work the next. Making sure that you and your team do frequent reinforcer checks is important.

I use a variety of reinforcers during therapy.  I do use some edible reinforcers such as Skittles, M&Ms, Starburst, and any other little candy.  I have been known to cut a Starburst into four pieces to make it last a lot longer.  Anything small works really well, especially if you are reinforcing frequently.  The bigger candy works better for students who can work a much longer time without a reinforcer.  You don't want the candy in their mouth while you are trying to get them to communicate with you!  I also use toys, games, or other activities that the student enjoys.  They can pick what they want to work for.  I have students who will work for 3 minutes with one of my toys, coloring, a sensory activity such as the swing, or an iPad app.  I just set a timer, and when their set amount of time is up, we move on to the next task.

5. Toys- I think that play is such an important part of teaching students with ASD.  Many of my students have needed teaching on how to play with toys instead concentrating on parts of objects/toys.  This is a great time to bring peers into play.  The fourth and fifth grade kids that have helped us out are really great at teaching how to use toys.  I have found that when kids are around 10 years old, they don't want to admit that they still like toys a little bit.  But, when they are in our room "teaching" how to play, they really get into the toys.  I can't even count the number of times that I have heard "These cars are awesome!" or "I love Play-Doh!"

This train has been a favorite for years!
Barbies were a new addition this year.

Throughout the years, I have "borrowed" many toys from my own kids at home.   When my youngest son seems to have outgrown a toy, I bring it in to school (I might have to actually sneak most of them out).  Some of the favorites at school are the car track and train sets that I have brought in.  Of course, Play-Doh is always a hit.  We also have a lot of stuffed beanies, cars, animals, and games.  A new addition this year was some Barbie dolls that I purchased at Salvation Army.  I have been surprised to see that even a lot of the boys will ask for the dolls and play with them. The toys can open up so many language opportunities.  We have the students request their toys using their communication systems, and then comment or request during play with their peers.

There is so much to consider when starting to work with students with ASD.  Hopefully these five tips have helped you a bit.  Stay on the lookout for more tips to come!  I plan on offering my conversation visuals on TpT, and will detail these a bit more this summer.