Social Graces


This week is holiday break for Thanksgiving and boy, am I thankful!!  The year has been a roller coaster of meetings, trainings and learning to be a problem solving ninja.  I was having lunch with my fellow speechies this week during a brief lull in my schedule.  As we were sharing dessert, Dove dark chocolate peppermint squares (I know it’s not Christmas yet; don’t judge, they are delicious), a topic came up that got me thinking.

We were sharing our week, and I mentioned a meeting that I attended with the most lovely parents.  Kind, engaged and asking great questions, they were a family that was an absolute joy.  It was a breath of fresh air!!  It woke me up to the fact that these interactions have become far and few between. Social graces are apparently becoming a rare commodity, not just for our kids, but in the adults as well!  An aggressive mentality was evident in several meetings I have attended this year, with an adult screaming at the teachers and therapists.  It is always shocking to me, so when it started happening multiple times, I thought long and hard about why it was occurring.  And yes, I realize I was doing a mental FBA (functional behavioral analysis), it’s a job hazard.

When did shouting, swearing and threatening people become an accepted way to  advocate for a child?  I have been on the parental side of the IEP table too and it is stressful.  It is our job as a mom/dad/grandparent to try and do what is best for our children.  However, I tried to communicate positively how much I appreciated the effort by the people helping my child and asked questions to clarify the IEP when it wasn’t clear.  I gave my input as well, especially when I didn’t agree with something.   I was in turn. treated with respect and kindness throughout the process over the years, and it benefitted my son.

It is not just a parental issue either.  I have seen poor social skills in teachers, therapists and school staff as evidenced by them checking their phones and texting, having loud side conversations unrelated to the meeting or demonstrating “unwelcoming” body language in meetings.  I am thinking of subtly hanging a Whole Body Listening Larry poster on the wall.  Seriously, how can we expect to teach our kids successful social skills when the adults in their lives aren’t modeling or using them as well?

Human beings are involved in this process, so we aren’t going to be perfect.  We will make mistakes and misunderstand things.  We should take ownership when we mess up, apologize sincerely and try to do better moving forward. We should demonstrate common sense and graciousness (thank you for your wisdom and handbags, Kate Spade!). When there is a problem, we work together to solve it.  We, as a team, are all working for the greater good of the child, no matter which seat you occupy at the IEP table.

Do you see this trend as well?  How do you diffuse or handle these moments?





I love the author Anne Lamott.  She is brilliant, honest to a fault and a fiercely funny writer. I secretly wish that we could be friends, meeting in cool coffee shops and trading pithy quotes, like the one above.  It is one of my favorites from her and I originally embraced it as a mommy motto, but it has a much broader application. Last week, I blogged about the power of yes, so this week we are going to compare and contrast with the word no. Get your Venn diagrams ready and let’s go!

As SLPs, we have the opportunity to develop many great skills.  Our field is pretty broad and fluid, and we can work in and across schools, hospitals, homes, and worksites with people from neonates to the elderly.  We are helpers by nature and all of this a blessing!  What I learned over the years in this field, is to set boundaries for myself at work (and home).  Constantly volunteering for committees, researching presentations, creating activities and juggling schedules that are like a giant Rubics Cube to fit in one more kiddo is exhausting!

Saying no is hard, I get it.  I don’t like to do it either, but it is the best thing I can do for my mental well-being.  I am happy to volunteer (or even to be voluntold, on occasion) and contribute to the greater good of where I am working!  However, the tipping point becomes when I start resenting what I am doing, that’s never good.  Healthy boundaries equal a healthy (and happier) SLP/human being.  I try to share that often with my CFs, especially when they get that deer in the headlights/completely overwhelmed look in their eyes.

No doesn’t require a detailed explanation, that’s for our benefit, really (to assure ourselves we are still good people and we’d LOVE to help but….).  No isn’t mean at all, because it gives us room to say yes when we really can and want to!  No in therapy helps our kids understand important social concepts like not always getting your way and not arguing with adults or peers. See?  There really is a lot of power in the word all by itself!

How do you set healthy boundaries as a SLP and do you struggle with saying no?



I am so excited to be guest blogging right here at The Pedi Speechie today for her series on SLP “OOPs” moments!!  Mine was a doozy, so head over to her fabulous blog for my adventure.  If your week has been as crazy as mine, you have check out the other OOPS posts for a good laugh!

Hint:  never let your students attempts to sound out words in front of a panel of administrators….

The Yes (Wo)man.

SLP Bloggers weakness

I am linking up with Jennifer at SLPRunner for her insightful blog theme: Weaknesses made Strengths.  Be sure to take a peek at all the posts that are linked, these SLPs write beautifully and bare their souls through words so eloquently!

I am a people pleaser, I have been my whole life.  Maybe it’s part of why I chose to be a SLP, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, a lot of what I teach with social language is centered around thinking about other people and modifying behaviors and words to interact positively in the world.  The most powerful words I can use to do this are two of the most basic-yes and no.  Let’s start with the positive, I love to say yes when I can!

  “Yes, I think we can make progress on these goals.”

“Yes, I have some great therapy ideas to try today!”

“Yes, I’d love another piece of dark chocolate!”

I want to say ‘yes’ to the parents, teachers and students that I work with. I want to fix things, help people and stand a little taller with my SuperSLP cape fluttering in the wind. But sometimes my yes is an acknowledgement that I am not the one for the job.   Oh, that’s a bitter pill to swallow!  The width and depth of our field is immense and no one knows it all.   Sometimes my yes needs to be that I can refer you to someone who can help you, someone who knows more than I do and who can help move you closer to your goals.  That was a hard lesson for me to learn, but so powerful.

The humility to realize that I cannot ‘fix’ all my students or meet everyone’s expectations is a gift, but I didn’t see it that way when I started out.  My tendency towards perfectionism mixed with a tiny need for control resulted in a small inner voice that whispered, “If you can’t do this on your own, then you have failed.”    

That is simply a lie. 

The best SLPs that I know are the ones that have a heart for collaboration.  We are at our most effective when we share what we know and work together for the common good of our students!  I am so grateful for all the amazing teachers, OTs, PTs, counselors and fellow SLPs I have met along the way.  The families that I have worked with have benefited from them as well, even if they never met them directly.  Build your network of knowledge, share what you know as part of a community and be brave enough to say yes, whatever that looks like, more often!  I’m so glad I did.

Gobble, Gobble, Gross!

8x8 cover gobble gobble gross revised

The holidays are just around the corner, although if you have been in the stores lately, you would assume it’s Christmas right now!  I have always loved this time of year, but all the change and excitement can be a little rough on our friends with social language impairments.  Travel, being out of routine and the constant flow of conversation with different people can overstimulate even the most calm of kids.  As a mom, I know I was guilty at times of setting a pretty high bar of behavior over the holidays for my boys, and then being surprised when someone melted down!

The holiday dinner table, either at Grandma’s house or a fancy restaurant for a family gathering, can be fraught with social peril!  Maybe I overstated that just a bit, but it is a setting that has a lot of moving pieces when it comes to predictable and unpredictable behaviors. I created a game “Gobble, Gobble, Gross!” to work on these behaviors at the holiday table including choosing appropriate topics for discussion and making appropriate choices such as using a napkin (not your sleeve) and chewing with your mouth closed.   The game also addresses identifying and avoiding unexpected behaviors such as nose picking, burping, or taking food off of other people’s plates.  There’s a blank template included for your students to brainstorm their own set of predictable and unpredictable behaviors at the holiday table too and a set of blank cards to add your own specific scenarios to the game!GGG picture

The goal of the game is to collect as many turkeys as you can for identifying expected holiday behaviors, but look out for the GROSS cards!  If someone can identify the unexpected behavior and change it to an expected behavior, they can take your turkeys!  It’s all in good fun (and a lesson in winning, losing and playing games with peers is automatically embedded).

How do you work on these holiday skills with your students?  Share here!

Spooky Speech Treats

sid and sis trick or treat


The Holiday roller coaster is just about to start with Halloween later this week.  Luckily, it falls on a Saturday, so we get to avoid the sugar craziness and crashes this year.  I have a fun social story product about a pair of siblings, SID (socially inappropriate dude) and SIS (socially inappropriate sister), to talk about expected and unexpected behaviors on Halloween.  You can find it in my TPT store, SmartmouthSLP.   As a treat, I also found a few fun FREEBIES for speech this week on TeachersPayTeachers and wanted to share them with you!

Halloween vocab cardsThese cute vocabulary cards from Teaching Talking can be used in games and therapy this week to address prepositions, following directions, expressive language, and more!

halloween house

I LOVE this adorable paper bag puppet idea to work on spooky speech from Table Top Tales

witchs hat

Want a cute way to work on Yes/No questions with visual support? Check out this freebie from Speech Time Fun !

candy corn challenge

Looking for a yummy way to get 100 target responses in artic?  Try this tasty challenge from Peachie Speechie !

halloween exit slips

Last, but not least, I really like these Halloween themed “ticket out the door” to reinforce what we work on in therapy from Creative Speech Lab.

Happy Halloween friends!   If you have other spooktacular freebies for speech, please share your links here!

Well, You Don’t See THAT Every Day….

singing cat

I was observing one of my middle school dynamic speech duos this week and they were working on the functional concept of grocery stores for their in class group.  That can be pretty dry content, but boy, did they make it fun with a variety of interactive materials, AT devices and videos interspersed to illustrate the concepts! The kids were thoroughly engaged and enjoying themselves, commenting on their devices and answering questions during the entire hour!  These awesome SLPs even film the kids on an ipad during the in class, and upload it to Edmodo  for the parents to watch how their kids are participating in group.

My CF, Rachael, embedded vocabulary, sentence structure, AAC, articulation, voice and even social language into her lesson (yup, she’s pretty amazing).  As she was talking about expected behaviors in the grocery store, she showed a clip that illustrated her point beautifully HERE .  Several people burst into a ridiculous song about fruit in the middle of a Queens, NY grocery store, and the resulting video is social language gold!  It’s a perfect way to talk about expected/unexpected behaviors and what people might be feeling or thinking based on their expressions as they watch.

There is a series of these videos by a group called Improv Everywhere.  They include random musicals in a crowded food court, at a mall with Santa (note: in this one they use the words “putting my butt on Santa’s lap”, so proceed with caution and PREVIEW!), and one during a business presentation.  You may want to skip episode six as it’s an homage to beer (maybe watch that one when you get home after a long day of IEPs).

I also found videos from this group that re-enact famous movies in “real life” moments.  For example, a Harry Potter-esque little boy in a train station (with an owl!) is looking for platform nine and three-quarters, and asks many people for help.  It could foster a great discussion about fantasy/reality and the unexpected.  These videos typically run about three minutes, so you can edit or pause and discuss throughout the sessions.

While I won’t be bursting into song anytime soon, have you found any great videos to work on expected/unexpected that involve music?   Please share here!