A letter to...ME as a new SLP

Dear Jen,
I am writing this letter from 17 years in the future!  I want to let you know about the great experiences you will have, and how you will learn and grow along the way.

Just starting out, you will be so eager!  Fresh out of grad school, you will be both excited and scared about what is to come.  Having just moved from the super relaxed town of Flagstaff, Arizona, you will be a little shell shocked with moving back to a faster paced town.  Life won't be that laid back for a while for you.
So young and eager to learn.
Look at that hair!!!!
Looking for a job will be tough, but with your skills, you will quickly be hired by a skilled nursing facility.  This may not be exactly what you thought you wanted to do, but it will be a great place to practice and hone your skills.  You will get great opportunities to work with people with dysphagia, as well as aphasia and cognitive disorders.    You will learn how to build relationships with patients, families, and staff.  These are skills that you will be able to take with you wherever you are.  After working in the skilled nursing home for almost two years, you will realize that this is not truly the population you wish to work with anymore.  You will have given so much of yourself, and seen too many of your patients pass on.  This will be a little too much for you to bear.  You will decide that working in the schools may be more for you.  Luckily right around that time, some laws in your state will change, making it possible for you to work in the schools without a teaching certificate.  Because of the professional relationships you have built, an opportunity will fly open for you in the public school system.

Starting out in the schools will be a little scary!  You will be at an elementary school, taking over for an SLP who was there for over 30 years!  That's a little intimidating, no?  Don't worry, your skills you have learned by working with patients, families, and staff will definitely carry over to this new setting.  You will have to be open to learn and grow working with this new population.  Good thing you held onto all of those language acquisition books!  You will use them!  You will work in a really small district and school.  This will be a great opportunity for you to learn how to schedule, work with teachers and other staff, as well as learn more about the variety of disorders that you will come across in the schools.

After two years in your first district, you will move over to a much larger district and start working with the students who will make the biggest impact on your career.  These are students with Austism Spectrum Disorders.  For the next 13 years, you will be working in schools that have self-contained ASD rooms.  The learning curve will be huge, but you will go to some great in-services, and have a lot of support from your colleagues.  You will gain a passion for creating activities, and then will start sharing all of your resources with other SLPs around the country (and world)!

I guess my biggest advice for you is to keep building relationships.  This is one of the biggest keys in making progress with your students. Build strong relationships with your students first.  They need to trust you and know that you have their best interest at heart.  Next, you need to build strong relationships with families.  These parents are trusting you to help.  Make sure you are updating them and letting them know how their child is doing.  The more communication you have with family members, the more they are willing to carryover activities at home.  This helps so much in your students making progress.  Last, you need to build relationships with staff.  The people you work with closely can become great friends.  They will support you when things are tough.  Your work friends totally get you.  They will know what is going on and completely understand and support you.

Now, you might be wondering what you look like now.  Well, here it is:

Gotta love school pictures!

It's been 17 years (yikes), but you will still be as eager to learn and help people as ever.  Enjoy the ride!

If you would like to hear more of the Frenzied SLPs stories, check out the links below!

Surviving a "Pinterest Fail" Speech Therapy Activity

I love to look at Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest and get ideas of fun activities to try in therapy sessions.  Most of the time, I find something that I can make work well by adapting it.  One day I saw a video of little boys looking through a glass in a pan of water to see different stickers.  I thought that would be a huge mess, so I changed the activity by using beans instead to work on I See. It worked great.  I thought, "Wow! Pinterest Win!"  Well, for every win, there must be a loss.

This week I saw a really cute video on a post by Playtivities.com.  They played a game they called the "Yank Me" game.

The video shows a really cute little girl pulling out these papers with such ease! (I now realize they had a LOT of practice.) I thought, "I can do that in therapy!"  Instead of the pieces of paper, I used articulation cards.  I found some old coffee cups in the teacher lounge, and thought, "this will be great!"  I set everything up on my desk before my students came in to try it out.  I was able to pull the cards out and make the cups fall onto each other.  So I figured I was good to go for using this in a session with some second grade articulation students.  I would have the student pull the card and then make a sentence using the word.  Great, right?

I set it all up on my therapy table and was ready to go.

My first student tried to pull out a card.  Instant fail.  The cups fell everywhere.
We re-stacked the cups and tried again.  Instant fail.  My students and I persisted though, and kept re-stacking the cups again and again.  All fails.  

The only non-fail of the activity was that my students thought it was pretty hilarious that we couldn't get it to work.  And, they didn't believe me that I actually did it at my desk!  During our tries, my students were still making their sentences, so there was still a lot of practice going on.  After several multiple dozens of attempts at this new game, they finally asked, "Can we just do that new bunny game?"

See below for link to this cute game!
Yes, yes you can!

What I learned today, is that every idea that looks great on paper doesn't always work out in practice, and that is ok!  There are going to be a lot of fails when we try new things, but that shouldn't stop us from trying.  I know that my students persisted and had fun with it, but the activity just wasn't "in the cards" for us today.

** A lot of you have asked where I got this game.  Here is an amazon affiliate link for this Jumping Jack game:

First Blubs: An {App Review} and GIVEAWAY!

I was offered an opportunity to review a cute app by Blub Blub apps, and want to share it with you and give you an opportunity to WIN ONE of TWO COPIES!  Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this app to review.  The opinions expressed are purely my own.  The apps in the giveaway will be provided by Blub Blub.

First Blubs is a cute app targeted towards toddlers and late talkers.  The suggested age is under 5, however, I used it with a student who is seven years old and non-verbal, and he fully enjoyed it!
This app is available for both iPad and iPhone.

The concept of this app is simple.  Students are encouraged to imitate videos of other children making animal sounds.  There are a variety of animals to choose from.

You choose the animal that you would like your student to imitate (there are 22 different animals), and it shows you a video of a students making the animal sound.  In the upper right corner, there is a small circle that shows the student on video so that they can see themselves make the sound with the other child.

You can click the small circle and flip the video so that your student is the large video.  This option gives you different props within the video to make it fun.  I used myself in this example to protect the identity of my student.  The student I used this with loved it!  He started imitating right away which shocked me!  He typically does not imitate any sounds or movements.  This particular video does not have any voicing which I think made this easier for him.  Other animal sounds do have voicing that your students can imitate.

When the student watches the video for a certain amount of time, they earn an icon at the bottom left of the screen.  When clicked, this will take students to a video of either a fact about the animal, or a fun video using the children featured in the app.

What I liked about this app: It was very engaging for my student.  I don't have a lot of young students on my caseload, however I feel that this would be very engaging for very young talkers.  It would be great for a quick warm-up activity.

What I would change about this app: Nothing!  It is a cute app that does exactly what it says it will.  It engages students to imitate animal sounds.

First Blubs is a free app that gives you three animals to try out.  You can purchase the remaining 19 animals for $6.99.  Or, you can enter to win one of two free copies of this app here!  This giveaway will run until March 7 at 11:59 pm EST.  Winners will be announced on March 8.

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How to work on commenting with "I see..."

How many times have you had this problem?  You have worked hard on requesting with a student who is using an AAC device or picture communication book, and they are requesting up a storm!  Not a problem really, right?  Well, what if they could do even more with their communication?  How about the next step which would be commenting!  How great is it to give a child a way to comment on their world, and not just request in it?

A friend of mine posted this video in an AAC group, and I thought it was great. This You Tube channel called TheDadLab has so many great ideas for exploring with young children!

My initial thought was, "I see blue water all over the floor!"  These little cuties are having a great time exploring a small area, and I can really see how this would be great, but I also saw a huge mess of blue water on my carpet thanks to some of my more enthusiastic friends.

I decided to try something similar, but using beans.  I know that this could still cause a mess, but vacuuming up a few beans is much easier than cleaning up a big blue stain on the carpet in my office!  I took a clear glass baking dish and poured enough beans inside to cover the entire bottom.  I then took a piece of paper with pictures printed on it and placed it under the glass dish.  I then took a clear plastic cup that I cut down in size and cleared a space in the beans for the cup.  My students were able to move the cup around and see what was hiding underneath the beans!

Using books is a great way to work on "I see..."  Board books work well when focusing on commenting. They are durable and will withstand use from my most enthusiastic friends.  I like to pull out an activity page with icons that represent pictures in the book.

I found this picture viewer when I moved into my speech room years ago.  It is great for going through a bunch of pictures, and engages my students more than just flipping through the pictures with our hands.  They love pulling down the tray to change the pictures!

One more way I like to work on "I see" is with an iPad app called Peekaboo Barn.  This app is really cute and engaging!  I made visual icons to represent everything that pops up in the app.  The students tap on the barn door to reveal who is behind the doors (look for a later post on how to use this for "I hear").

I should also say that even though the "I see" icon looks like it is always present on my sentence strip, I actually move it back to the same spot in their books every time they make an exchange.  I keep it on the same page as their "I want" icons, so they do have to learn some discrimination for these tasks.

I hope you can use some of these tips and work on commenting with your students!

Sharing Kindness Freebie: A Frenzied SLPs Blog Hop

This week, the Frenzied SLPs are bringing you a blog hop full of freebies with a kindness theme.

I have a lot of students working on following directions, so I made a little following directions activity to share with you.  You can grab this freebie HERE.

There are three pages of directions: One-Step, Simple Two-Step, and Complex Two-Step.

My students loved following directions with this cute picture!

I hope you enjoy this freebie, and that it helps spread a tiny bit of kindness to you and your students! Please follow along this blog hop to grab more of the Frenzied SLPs kindness freebies.

How to make a bright and inspirational SLP canvas set!

I went to Michaels this weekend, and got really inspired to create.  I went a little overboard with the canvas purchases!  I'm making a set of pretty flower pictures for my front entrance area, and I also went to work on a fun, inspirational set of SLP canvases!

These are the flower pictures I finished!
I am going to give you a tutorial on how to make this set, and will also provide you with the inspirational posters for FREE!

First, you can grab the posters HERE.  For this canvas project, I suggest printing with a laser printer.  I sent mine to the Fed Ex Print Shop (formerly Kinkos) and paid $2.00 to have the PDF printed.  If you use an inkjet printer, the ink will smear with the Mod Podge that you will be using.

If you don't want to create canvas prints of your own, you can print them on any kind of printer and put them in 8x10 frames.  Then, you are done!  You don't need the rest of this tutorial- enjoy your prints!

If you want to create the canvas prints, follow these directions:

What you will need:

  • Inspirational SLP posters
  • Mod Podge (I like the matte finish)
  • Black acryic paint
  • Sponge brush
  • (3) 8x10 canvas
  • A roller or other device to smooth out the picture onto the canvas.
  • A book or box that will fit into the back of your canvas to make rolling and smoothing out your picture a little easier.

How to make these:

1.  Print pictures on a laser printer.

2.  Cut off the white portions of the picture so that you have a perfect 8x10 print.  (It is ok if you cut out a tiny bit smaller- you will be painting the canvas, and it will blend in.

3.  Paint the edges and a small border on your canvas using the black paint.  Then let dry.

4.  Cover the entire canvas with Mod Podge.  I like to use a sponge brush to do this.  Then, paint the back of your picture with Mod Podge.  Cover the entire back of the picture.

5.  Place the picture onto the canvas (Mod Podge to Mod Podge sides together).

6.  Smooth out the picture.  This is where the book behind the canvas comes into play.  You will want something you can press against.  You want to try to push all of the air bubbles out of the image.  I also use a roller to smooth it out even more.  You can press on the front and the back of the picture.

7.  Cover the entire area with Mod Podge. You will be painting over the image.  Don't worry- it will dry clear!

8.  Let it dry, and then you will have a great canvas to hang up and enjoy!