School’s out, now what?

super summer sleuth

Summer is a fun time and a much-needed break around here, but for some of my students, the downtime is the great unknown.  I have had several conversations with parents about them dreading the break because the routine changes, and for my kids on the spectrum, this rocks their world.  Preparation is the key to success for my friends and my parents are experts on planning!  Here are some things that have worked well to help students with social language challenges (ASD, ADD, anxiety) make a smooth transition into summer:

Prep the kids prior to school ending and plan together so they have an idea of “what comes next”.  You can get a good sense if this talking through the schedule helps or stresses them out, and adjust accordingly!

If you are heading out on vacation to see family, go over pictures and try to connect prior positive experiences for the child. If you are traveling somewhere new, go online together to find out more about where you are headed.  There are many virtual tours and 360 online videos of places from airports to The Louvre!

Summer camps (day or overnight) can also be prepped in advance and toured prior to going to reduce anxiety.  If they are going with friends or returning to familiar counselors, that is helpful too.

Social stories are available on Pinterest for almost every adventure!   Print them out and make a summer notebook with them.

For younger students, continue using a visual schedule over the summer.  For older kids a calendar (paper or iPhone version) will help reduce anxiety and allow you to introduce new activities into a familiar schedule prior to the event.

Downtime is important, so don’t over-schedule your family either. We all need to slow down!

Playdates don’t have to be all day, 30 minutes in the park or at the pool may be plenty to engage with other kids and have a positive, fun experience!  Once you get buy in, then you can extend the time little by little!

Activities with a sensory component are great (swinging, climbing, swimming, cooking) and may help organize and engage the kids more than playing a video game side by side silently.  We want to encourage social interaction with others!

For students who read and write, consider setting up a pen pal with a cousin or family members.  They can email and video chat to talk about their day. It’s a sneaky way to work on conversational turn taking and topic maintenance 🙂  You can help kids develop what Michelle Garcia Winner calls “people files”.  Here is my free Super Summer Sleuth activity to work on these skills HERE .

Speaking of MGW, here is a fantastic article to share with anyone, such as camp counselors, babysitters or visiting grandparents, who will be with kids who have social challenges.   It will help them understand why some kids “act like they do” and give them the language from the Think Social program to use for consistency.

Play games together at home.  Winning and losing with grace are hard skills for some kids (and adults)!   Don’t always let your kids win to keep them from melting down, their peers sure won’t do that!  I like this freebie visual on TPT to talk about losing a game.

Take pictures or videos of your summer and share them with your SLP and teachers when you head back to school.  It will help you remember and talk about all the fun you had this summer!

The Power of Margin.

calendar blog

When I worked in an outpatient pediatric setting, I remember many parents being anxious about missing therapy for their kids in order to take a vacation.  I tried to reassure them that missing a week or two wasn’t going to cause harm and family time was just as valuable for their child.  Vacations offer lots of language opportunities, but more importantly it provides margin to step off the crazy wheel for a while.  The conversations usually ended with the parent smiling and relaxing as they realized the success or failure of their child wasn’t at stake in this decision.  Everyone needs a break!

I am looking forward to school finishing in the next week so I can step off my own crazy wheel for a bit!  In conversations with my newly minted SLPS (formerly known as CFs), I encourage them to enjoy the break and not worry about getting their CCCs, license and a summer job right this second.  It’s really the only time in your career as a SLP that you can hit pause and celebrate all that you have accomplished.  Your degree is finished, your fellowship year done, and you made it through your first job as a Speech Language Pathologist. If you worked in a school, you survived IEPS, testing, somebody crying (maybe you), and endless meetings.  You got better at writing reports, more creative in lesson plans/therapy and definitely more confident with teachers and parents! Give yourself a pat on the back and breathe!

The first day of school will be here before you know it, so sleep late, read a lot of great books, travel to places you’ve never been to and soak up the sun. You will be ready to charge (or at least stroll) back into the building with a smile on your face . In fact, you will be a healthier and better SLP because of it!!  So happy almost summer!  Get rid of the guilt and give yourself permission to enjoy it!!!

1,2,3, All Eyes on Me!!

photo 2

I was attending a “Think Social” conference (surprise, surprise!) several years ago and Michelle Garcia Winner shared a video of her working with a little girl.  She was attempting to see if the child could follow her line of sight to demonstrate joint attention and being able to literally see from someone else’s perspective.  Now this doesn’t sound that hard, but wow what an eye opener this video was for me!  The child, who was about 9 at the time, could not do it.  She even tried to put her face in front of MGW’s face to see what she was looking at, all to no avail.

I tried this little test with several of my students with ASD when I got back to school amd about half of them couldn’t do this either!  How had I missed this???  If they cannot follow very simple line of direction gaze, what are they missing in social interactions?  Pretty much everything.  I love the description of “thinking with your eyes” that also comes from Social Thinking and Whole Body Listening concepts.  It’s not just polite to look at people when they talk with you, it is a critical skill to gain information (verbal and non-verbal) and to let your conversational partner know that you are paying attention to what they are doing and/or saying!  We had a LOT of work to do.

One of the obstacles I ran into when working on joint attention with eye gaze was that I was looking at the object I wanted the child to look at, but couldn’t really look at their eyes beyond using my peripheral vision! Then I saw these nifty little “finger spies”  at the Dollar Store!  photo (2)

They fit best on skinny. kid sized fingers, but I could wiggle the little guy onto my pointer or pinky and have the kids follow the finger spies AND watch their eye gaze at the same time!!

photo 2
How do you teach this critical concept?  Share here….


You don’t want to miss the big sale!!

Jenna Rayburn TPT sale linky

I don’t know about  you, but my wish list has been growing on TPT in recent weeks.  Tomorrow (May 5th) starts a two day sale on TPT that will grant some of my wishes at a significant savings (up to 28% when you use the code: THANK YOU).  It’s a teacher appreciation sale, but heck, let’s appreciate everyone, including SLPS!!

In honor of this event, I am linking up here with Jenna Rayburn for her TPT linky party!  Check out her recommendations and products for the sale.  You are sure to find at least one or two things (if not all) to add to your cart!

My store is on sale (don’t forget the discount code:  THANK YOU) and some of the products I would love for you to get include:

ice cream socialIce Cream Social:  Getting the Scoop on Social Language packet that has 31 flavors of social language activities perfect for elementary through early middle school learners!

photo (1)Wow, Worry or Wonder a transition packet for social language learners moving up to middle school.  This would be great for the end of the school year or to send home with your anxious kiddos over the summer!

how does your garden grow

How Does Your Garden Grow?  A social skills packet for little sprouts  This packet includes lots of fun activities to engage theory of mind, emotion recognition, and more with a fun garden theme for your little guys, prek-K!

What’s going to be added to my cart?  Well, you know I love all things social, so here are some of my picks!

interactive social stories play skills

This fantastic product is geared towards PreK-1st graders and has tons of fun play based social skills activities by Daria O’Brien at SpeechPaths!

inferential problem solving and activity pack nicole allisonI also love this product by Nicole Allison for problem solving, cause/effect, predictive reasoning and so much more for elementary aged students.

don't be a zombieLast but not least, I LOVE this great social language packet with a zombie theme by Speech2U.  At this time of year, I feel like I am missing my brain, so this packet will be perfect 🙂

Happy shopping!