The First Year: Perspective from a CF Supervisor


School starts for me next week.  I’m a bit nervous as my home school underwent a major renovation and we haven’t gotten the all clear yet to move back into our rooms. Did I mention it starts next week?  The first week back is all meetings, moving and organizing, plus hugging friends you haven’t seen in a few months!  The learning curve is a bit smaller each year, and that makes the transition a little easier.

The other event that happens this time of year is that I get to meet my new crop of CFs! I had 9 last year and may have 11 this year (note:  I  do not have a caseload in addition to these CFs, it wouldn’t be possible!)  I’m thinking we need to come up with a collective name for a group of CFs.  How about a “quiver” ?  They are sharp, ready to launch and a little nervous.  That may be a periscope topic soon!

My school system intentionally and purposefully mentors our new CFs.  I am one of four SLP leads/CF supervisors for our large county and it really does make a difference for our new grads in that first year (and in retaining good SLPs beyond that first year).  After a few rounds of supervising, I streamlined my paperwork process and listened closely to what my CFs were asking about.  My best advice to them, especially in the beginning months, is to remember to breathe, leave work at work and ask questions!

Communication is key (duh!) and feedback not only for the CFs, but also for the mentoring SLPs, is crucial.  So, I came up with a freebie for other CF supervisors HERE that encompasses both of these pieces.  In addition, I have included a list of great links by some amazing slp bloggers about that CF year.  I hope you will find this packet helpful and cheers to a new year!

The Kissing Conundrum

kissing conundrumI have a kissing conundrum.  I see several adorable kiddos that love to give kisses, both in therapy and in my special needs church classroom on Sundays.  How they love everyone around them (most days) is one of their gifts, but the cautious side of me worries a bit. My phrase of the day has been “Kisses are for mommy and daddy”.  I tell my kids that I love them too, then try to redirect with a high-five or a fist bump.

Out in the world, randomly kissing people they know, and those they don’t, can make them vulnerable. It can make boundaries a little fuzzy.  It makes them stand out as they get older. I saw this last week with one of my favorite former students, who is now in middle school.  He walked up to introduce himself to a new volunteer in our church class last week unprompted (yay!).  As he was greeting the new guy, he then leaned over and kissed his hand.  The poor volunteer didn’t really know what to do, and he was a bit perplexed.  He looked at me and smiled nervously.

I took my buddy to the side and we chatted a bit about how you introduce yourself to someone you have never met before.  I then asked him what he thought the man was thinking when a stranger kissed his hand.  My friend sat there a minute thinking about it and said to me, “Okay, watch this”.  He then walked over to someone else he hadn’t met, introduced himself, shook their hand and looked at me smiling.  No kisses.  Perfect, a teachable moment that worked!

Thinking about this situation, I started wondering when do we need to start this discussion with families?  How old is too old?  How young is too young?  How do we foster and support our kids as they grow into young adults with healthy boundaries, without losing that loving spirit?  Now you understand my kissing conundrum.   I have made social stories for my little ones and used the Circle of Friends visual targets with my older students.  Any suggestions, especially for middle-schoolers through young adults, would be greatly appreciated.  Share here!!

SLP: Speechies Learning Periscope ?

scoping out social media for slps

I just finished making a TPT product on social media use for middle and high school students this week.  In  a conversation about social media and teenagers with my own sixteen year old, he mentioned a site I had not heard of, Periscope. It’s an app owned by Twitter so it’s linked to your account (although you can also sign up for Periscope with just your phone number).  He showed me a video of our former pastor hunting scorpions at night with a black light and a mallet (ewww), narrating his adventures of living in Arizona.  Soon little hearts and comments began popping up on the screen and my son explained that it is interactive, live streaming video.  Kind of cool, but I didn’t really think too much about it.

Periscope surfaced again (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) this week when I was writing a grant for some technology to use in my school district. I logged onto a SLP Facebook group to get some input from my peers on this latest social media tool and boy did I get it!   After a lot of discussion, several of us decided to jump into the Periscope world virtually holding hands. As luck would have it, the ASHA Schools and the TPT Conference were also happening this week in the West, and it was fun to watch several SLPS post their own streaming videos online!

Social media is fantastic, but it can be double-edged sword. It’s amazing to connect with people outside of your little bubble, but not everyone is kind. Much like the teens I had in mind when I was thinking about guard rails with social media,  we SLPs are in need of some too.  Here are my top 5 Periscope newbie guidelines, learned the hard way:

1.  Read up on using the app before you live stream.  Two great reads that will help you figure this new technology out are HERE and HERE .  Scott Kelby’s post shows you the features of Periscope nicely. I am a visual learner, so it really helped!

2. On your screen, swipe down (or click on the X) to turn off the live feed.  Several of us didn’t know this before our first video stream including me.  Sorry for the view of my feet and the dirt.

3. This early learning curve included several rude comments posted by people who were not SLPs, on a few live speechie feeds.  Haters gonna hate, but you don’t have to let them comment on YOUR videos. You can lock your video ( a little lock icon you can tap is also along the bottom of the broadcast screen) so that only people you follow can comment on your live posts, or even choose from your follower list who you want to see a particular video (click the little person in a box icon on the bottom of the screen a list of people you follow pops up to choose from) .  You also have the option to tap on a name of someone and block them if they making rude comments during a live stream, but why even go there?  Use these features just prior to starting your live stream (and don’t forget to give your video a title)!

4.  Don’t broadcast your location from home (again, guilty). You can turn off the location feature on the broadcast screen prior to each video (click on the little paper airplane shaped arrow along the bottom left of your screen). Careful when you click, because it’s located right next to the start broadcast button.  If you are somewhere public and cool, like Vegas, feel free to make us a little jealous!

5.  It is a LIVE stream, so look around at what’s behind you when you start the broadcast.  If you mess up, oh well, it’s live. The good thing is that the videos only stay up for 24 hours (there is an auto-save feature in settings if you want to save your videos to your picture file on your phone).  You can send little hearts on a re-broadcast, but not comments.  If it’s truly awful, you can click “No rebroadcast” when you finish so that no one can watch you trip or swear or freak out when a bee flies too close to you, over and over again.  That’s what Vine is for :-)

You can follow me on Periscope @SmartmouthSLP  !  I will (hopefully) be sharing content about my new group of CFs first year in the schools.  Have you tried Periscope yet?  Add your comments or guidelines here!

Outside In

outside in

The new Pixar movie, Inside Out, does a fantastic job exploring the inner emotional world of an eleven year old girl.  I knew from the first rumblings of this movie, it would be a social language gold mine!  But what about understanding emotions from the outside in?  For several of my boys that I see, sometimes their outward expressions don’t match their internal emotions, or they don’t give enough clues for the people around them to accurately figure out how they are feeling .

The kids I work with are not all on the spectrum, but all do have language disorders and/or sensory issues.  My social emotional goals for three boys (ages 4-15), have been focused on the language of emotion, far beyond happy and sad.  Per parent report and from my own observations in therapy, sometimes they become overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated, tired and yes, even sad, and shut down.  Head down, arms covering their face, no language.  Sometimes I know the antecedent of the behavior, but a lot of times I don’t.  If I can help them access the language of their feelings, and practice using them outside of these moments, then they have a strategy to pull themselves back together.

funny faces

This week, I picked up the Game “Funny Faces” at a thrift shop (score!) but I don’t follow the instructions to just imitate the facial expressions on the cards.  Instead, we have been labeling emotions and figuring out clues in people’s faces (eyebrows are a biggie!) that tell us how they might be feeling. Speaking of eyebrows, dry erase markers work well on Mr. Potato Head to add angry eyebrows…

Don't make me use my angry eyes!

Angry eyes!

and scared eyebrows…

Summer is half over, I'm scared!!

Summer is half over, I’m scared!!

We also practice matching our expressions to feelings, and use both a mirror and an iPhone camera for feedback.  As you can see, I can scaffold a LOT of social language using this game!

For my little guy who loves books, Karma Wilson’s ‘Bear’ books and Eric Litwin’s ‘Pete the Cat’ series are wonderful resources to work on what a character might be feeling in the story.  I use thought bubble, speech bubble, and heart shaped post -its to encourage my boys to think about what other people might be thinking, saying and feeling. These books also reinforce the idea of perspective and how our words and feelings affect others. I really like Cynthia Rylant’s ‘Henry and Mudge’ series as a resource for early elementary age students to work on social emotional language too.

What other ways do you work on identifying emotions from the outside In?  Share here!

That’s the Ticket!

thats the ticket cover

I came across a packet of tickets at the Dollar Store last week in the teacher section.  They are blank ticket templates for student rewards, but another idea came to mind for me.  Why not use these for reinforcement of social skills that my students are working on, outside of the therapy room?  A dollar for 36 tickets isn’t a bad deal, but over time, it adds up, so I created my own free version and I am happy to share them with you HERE

How can you use these tickets?  I’m glad you asked!  First target a skill, one at a time is PLENTY!  Then meet with the teachers to talk about what the skill looks like (handouts are also a great idea) and give the student’s teachers blank tickets. Once you have teachers on board, prep your students about the tickets and what they mean.

When the teachers/staff see the student using the skill during the day, they can hand them a ticket. This is a fantastic way to collaborate with your gen ed/special ed teachers.  Talk to your special area teachers (P.E., art, music) and include your folks in the cafeteria, library and front office too.  It helps not only the student, but also highlights how other staff are an important part of social language support building wide!  You might see social language support and reinforcement “suddenly” occurring with more than just your student when the people notice how well it works :-)

The student can then bring the tickets to you and you can decide how to reward them. Whichever reinforcer you decide on needs to have a lot of buy in from the student to work.  For example, I am willing to be “taught” the intricacies of how to play Mine Craft for 10 minutes, if that is what motivates my student!! It doesn’t have to cost anything and it definitely doesn’t have to be candy (althougham highly motivated by chocolate).  A few ideas:

  • If you have more than one student using these, put all the completed tickets in a big jar for a week and draw one name for a special treat such as line leader for the day.
  • Talk to mom and dad to see if the reward can be reinforced at home as well with something like 5 minutes of extra technology time ( again, whatever is of value to the student).  This is a great way to reinforce carryover of the target skill at home too.
  • If the student can earn 4 tickets in a month or generalize the skills successfully across 4 settings, then you might consider a bigger reinforce such as a popcorn party, lunch with a favorite teacher (hint: maybe it’s you!), having their ticket posted in a place of honor in the classroom or being the “special guest reader” with a younger class.
  • Consider using this ticket system as part of your data collection portfolio for the student.  Feedback outside of the therapy room is invaluable!
  • Don’t take away tickets.  Positive reinforcement is crucial!

Don’t be surprised if other teachers start asking you about what you are doing with your student and if you think it might work for their classrooms too.  You can just smile and tell them “That’s the ticket”!

Social Skills To Go!

social skills to go

I was chatting with a mom of one of my summer kiddos last week.  She was upset as he was having a rough go in summer camp.  He was getting frustrated, then hitting and pushing the other kids.  My heart went out to her and we talked about how we are working on labeling emotions in therapy, deciding the size of a problem, using words to talk about our feelings, etc..  All that is great, but when real time and emotions collide, sometimes those social skills that are coming together in a therapy session go right out the window.

I was thinking about something that my buddy could take with him to camp to help him remember in those difficult moments what he could do.  It had to be portable, durable, and use clear language for readers.  I came up with a template of cards that could be laminated and hole punched to keep on a ring.  The ring can be connected to a lanyard, a belt loop or even a binder ring in school.

It’s a dual purpose product because it will help adults around the student use consistent language to help kids regulate their social skills in different environments like camp, with a babysitter or on vacation.  The adults may even generalize these skills with other children too. Finally, it gives my kiddos the opportunity to use the tools they have been practicing and build on success with a little visual support.

Here’s what the idea turned into:

photo 2

Cut, laminate, hole punch and put them on the ring!

photo 1

The packet has a black and white option and a color option. There’s also a blank template to customize and make your own cards.

My “Social Skills To Go: What to do when I am frustrated ” is the result and you can get it for FREE HERE  on TPT!   I am working on more Social Skills To Go packets and will post them soon.  Have a social skill you want to see made into a Social Skills To Go?  Leave a comment here!

On the Road Again….

on the road again

I like taking road trips in the summer, especially if it’s somewhere I haven’t been before. Small towns and rolling hills are the essence of Americana to me.  I have an appreciation for road signs and billboards with a sense of humor too.  It’s pretty impressive to make a point in less than 5 seconds among a sea of information along the highways.  One of my favorites I saw this week was a billboard looking for an advertiser that said simply, ” Tall, outdoorsy type seeks a relationship”.  Clever!!

Many of these signs use cultural references, double meanings or inferences to communicate a catchy message.  It got me thinking that for my students with language weakness, specifically my kids with ASD who are very literal, this might be quite tricky. What is intrinsic for typical language learners, needs to be broken down into steps and repeated to build understanding.

My speechie brain is always in gear, so I sat down to create my own billboard activity.  What would the kids need to know?  So I decided to create some billboards as a speech activity in my TPT store HERE .   

clip art from:

clip art from:

This activity includes a model billboard page, 10 billboards to decode and a blank option to create your own. The student has to identify the main idea, what clues led them to that conclusion, the emotions it evokes and who the target audience is.  It’s a great carryover activity for kids to practice while they are on vacation this summer too.  They’ll be on the road to understanding figurative language and inferences on the highway in no time.

What other language ideas do you have for summer time travel for your students?  Share here!