Weekly Photo Challenge: What “reward” means to me…




This WordPress photo challenge came across my twitter feed today and I paused to consider the question.  What does reward mean to me?  What immediately came to mind was a Christmas a few years ago in my speech therapy room at school.  One of the little first graders I was working with handed me a wrapped package,with a shy smile.  I thanked her immensely before she skipped off to class.  Another teacher happened to see her hand me the gift and went off for a good five minutes that she didn’t get a gift, so why had I?   I opened up the box and showed her that it contained a small, plastic bottle filled with colored sand, made by hand and from the heart.  The other teacher seemed satisfied that it wasn’t really anything she deemed valuable, but she was wrong.  The same day I received the card in the picture from another student, addressed to me, “one bloved Britz”.  I will never be wealthy doing what I do, but that was never my focus.  My reward is seeing my students progress in so many ways, and knowing that they feel safe and celebrated and loved.

Sometimes My Brain is a Snow Globe.

snowglobe 4

Our Kindergarten hallway has the cutest bulletin board with pictures of students trapped in a snow globe and a short story to go along with it.   It gave me an idea and I modified it a bit for my students with social language goals.   Michelle Garcia Winner’s “Think Social*  materials talk about keeping your “brain in the group”. This concept addresses thinking about what other people are talking about and the importance of focus in conversation.   Some of the students that I work with are often distracted by both internal and external things such as their favorite Pokemon movie, worrying about having a substitute teacher, the weather, etc…

My snow globe is a visual representation of our brain when we get distracted. It’s important to talk about how this happens to everybody, but there are things we can do to calm the “distraction blizzard”  when our attention gets shaken up! Next, we brain storm  as a group to list some things that might give us a “snow globe brain” and write them on the board.   We narrow down our choices and then the kids can cut pictures from magazines (or draw them) to represent their distractors. I pre-cut the large black construction paper circles and print out the strategies page before the session to make the most of our time ( I know they aren’t perfectly shaped, don’t judge me, I probably could benefit from a little OT myself :-).

snowglobe 2

After that, we draw or paste the pictures into our snow globes.   You can use glitter (and who doesn’t love a little glitter in therapy?!) to illustrate the snow or the less messy version, use white crayons on the black construction paper. These can represent what happens to our attention when our snow globe gets a bit shook up with distractions, a little blurry, shiny and swirly!

I would then include a conversation about what we might miss when we have snow globe brain due to distractions. This can include other what other people (teachers, peers, parents, friends) might be thinking and feeling, if we aren’t thinking about what they are thinking and talking about!  Still with me?  Good!  Last, have the kids come up with strategies to help themselves stay focused and calm when a distraction blizzard strikes again! I would let the kids take the lead and work together to come up with at least three good strategies that they can use every day, and step in as support.  They can usually come up with pretty great ideas themselves (and shhhh, it’s an opportunity for cooperative learning too).

*”Think Social” is a registered trademark and is the creation of Michelle Garcia Winner



Let It Snow? Please, NOOOOOOOO….


winter idioms

I am not complaining about a few “snow days” off this week (neither of which actually involved snow), but I am tired of the cold, dreary weather.  My oldest used to describe these gray days as “gooey” when he was a toddler, and I agree that Winter can get a bit gloomy for this Florida girl.  The upsides of this week included being able to wear jammies for a good part of the day and spending time with my own children.  One other bonus of a little time off is that this time of year got me thinking (I know, a dangerous thing) about winter idioms.   I created a FREE winter idiom worksheet on TPT, click HERE

It’s so interesting to me when talking to families that speak languages other than English, the fascination with idioms and how to use them accurately.  It is a particularly tricky skill that my students with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) also struggle with using in conversation.  When we work on these figurative language concepts, I try to tackle it from multiple directions. For example:

1.  Talk about the literal meanings and the figurative meanings  

2.  Draw pictures of literal and non-literal for a visual dictionary, as this is helpful too for younger students or students with writing difficulties

3.  Give them the definition and see if they can give me the idiom

4.  Use the idiom in a sentence to provide accurate meaning

5.  Try to come up with other concept related idioms (for example: winter)

6.  Listen to me using the idiom and giving me a thumbs up (correct) or thumbs down (incorrect) to indicate comprehension

7.  Embed these idioms into a writing activity

8.  Bonus challenge:  try to use at least one idiom at home with family each night this week (give mom and dad a heads up prior to the week so they know what’ s going on and can reinforce the accurate use and fuss over them appropriately!)

I also came across some great Youtube videos on idioms (not winter ones, but chock FULL of clever references for your kids to tackle).  This one was created by Ringling Art school and is fantastic for older students:

Stay warm friends…..

Magically delicious ideas for March…


I am home from school today due to a sparkly and dangerous glaze of ice across north Atlanta!!  It’s hard to believe that Spring is just around the corner with temperatures in the 20s (and below!). As I sip my hot cocoa in my jammies today,  I thought I would share some packets and freebies from TeachersPayTeachers to get ready to tackle social language concepts as we March into the next month!

I created a social language packet with a St. Patrick’s Day theme   HERE   It’s more than 20 pages of figurative language, inferences, point of view and language activities that dovetail with Think Social concepts from Michelle Garcia Winner.

The Peachie Speechie has created this fun idiom activity for the popular Cariboo game HERE   Speech therapy is always more fun with a game, right?

I am loving this social conversation freebie from Nicole Ravettina  HERE  Great idea for homework!

One more freebie from the talented Jenna Rayburn is a cute leprechaun trap activity that aligns nicely with Michelle Garcia Winner’s Unthinkables and Superflex characters   HERE

Stay warm friends and with any luck, we will have springtime temperatures soon!!

Speaking the same language…

social language

In IEP meetings, I am finding that many parents have the misconception that there is plenty of time during the day for their children to meet new friends and establish social relationships incidentally.  While school is a social learning lab, we have to remember that many of our kids with ASD are NOT incidental learners.  A typical school day for students includes multiple transitions through academic subjects, with barely enough time to run to their locker, change classes and grab some lunch. Class time is packed with instruction, testing, and classwork. The easy, breezy days of chit chatting with friends in the hall are long gone, and have been replaced with back to back classes, remediation time, and the dreaded R word (rigor).  As a SLP, I can support the skills of friendship and the counselors may offer social groups, but it cannot happen only in school. That being said, there is quite a bit of additional social learning going on throughout the school day:

Collaborative learning and group work in the classroom:  Students have to work with peers, take perspective, listen to and accept differing opinions, and take responsibility for their work in a group project.

Social rules in class and throughout schools:  Students have to figure out the stated and hidden rules of the school, demonstrate emotional regulation, take turns,  demonstrate whole body listening, appropriate tone of voice, topic maintenance and timing for participation in classroom discussions.  They also need to be able to code switch in how they speak to their peers vs. adults.

Language arts/literature: Students need to be able to take perspective, understand differing points of view, understand figurative language concepts, make class presentations with appropriate volume, eye contact, and body orientation, and develop persuasive skills in writing and oral expression.

Transitions/lockers:  Students need to navigate hallways (body awareness, eye contact), wait for a turn at their locker and advocate for themselves if someone is blocking it or taking too long, demonstrate organization and awareness of what you need to do with this time efficiently and get to class on time and prepared.

What is more difficult to do during the instructional day:

Hang out with your friends in between classes and talk about your interests

Talk to others socially and build friendship skills at lunch (too loud, not enough time and you have to eat!)

Make friends and have social conversations during class

We need buy in from the home and community environments to build friendships.  This conversation has to start before we write goals!  Here is the free handout  that I created to bring to meetings/conferences.  It will be helpful when discussing how to support social language across settings and help manage expectations with families when you re developing goals as a team. We all live in a social world, so shouldn’t we be speaking the same language?


Social Thinking also posted this video today of an interview with the fabulous Temple Grandin.  Take a listen to her thoughts on social language across settings and how it has to change, very interesting!









“And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva…”


The quote in the title is from one of my very favorite movies, The Princess Bride (** translation: “And love, true love, will follow you forever….”). Being a speech therapist, this scene always tickles me.  The theme of “love” is in the air as Valentine’s Day (also known as S.A.D.-singles awareness day) is approaching fast!  I was in a meeting for a middle school student this week and the topic of “how to get a girlfriend” came up. He was very concerned that he was supposed to have one right this minute…but had absolutely no idea how to do this.  A very caring group of teachers gently pointed out that he has plenty of time to build relationships, there is no need to hurry.  This student has social language issues and really struggles with how to make friends and navigate the social world. He is acting out in class to gain attention, annoying his classmates and getting in trouble often. He had no idea that this is not the way to win friends, especially a girl friend.

These skills of how to build relationships (friendships and more) begin early in life.  For our kids who struggle to read social cues and navigate the world with all of its hidden rules and indirect language, this is tricky.  Social scenario practice is talking about what you would do in a particular circumstance (with different people and places). It’s a safe environment to make mistakes and ask questions that might make them vulnerable in the world outside of the therapy room.  I talked about using  Social skills autopsy   a few weeks ago as a great way to go over what might have gone wrong and how we can change things next time. When they know they can take risks and talk through emotional topics, they relax and can begin to take in this new information.  I encourage my kids to make their best guess, but also let them know that everyone makes mistakes and sometimes social situations don’t work out how we want them to, even when we do everything right.

We want to teach our kids the social communication skills of being able to think about not only their own perceptions in regards to their own thoughts and feelings, but how they make other people think and feel as well (Think Social by Michelle Garcia Winner has several lessons that align with the concept of making friends/building relationships).  This is not a one shot lesson, it changes with age and setting, so we will have to adapt how we talk about relationships as they grow. I created this Cupid Question packet on TeachersPayTeachers with 20 social language questions for elementary or early middle schoolers, including lots of “what would you say or what would you do” questions. It also includes 20 blank cards for your students to come up with their own questions.  You can use these with any board game, conversation time or during a social language lesson!   They might just “love” you for this!