Start With the finish in Mind.

olympic blog cover

There are BIG international sports competitions that are starting this month and while I am not watching all the events, I do love the moving highlights of the athletes’ personal stories.  The details differ a bit here and there, but what strikes me is the theme that their journey to reaching their goal usually started with the end, not the beginning.  Visualizing themselves winning an event, standing on the podium and receiving a medal were all part of the training process for these elite athletes way before they qualified for the first event.  This wasn’t daydreaming, it was purposefully envisioning what they wanted to see in their futures.

This idea isn’t just for athletes, it applies to our students too.  SLP Sarah Ward , of Cognitive Connections,  presented at our GOSSLP conference I attended earlier this year. Her focus was  on beginning with the end in mind when developing executive function skills, an “a-ha” moment for me as a SLP!  She shared a fun therapy technique of putting on our “future glasses” (any funky sunglasses you could find in a dollar store or even making and decorating your own paper versions) to visualize ourselves walking through a plan successfully. If you start with the finish in mind, it’s easier to visualize the steps you need to take to get there.  If you don’t know where you are headed, it’s easy to get lost.

It’s the beginning of a brand new school year for me and this visualizing technique is something I want to try for myself and my students!  Why not think about where you want your therapy sessions to lead ?  How do you see yourself developing new skills this year? What about teaching your students to “see” themselves in the future with clear articulation, strong social skills or participating in a class discussion successfully?  For my students with social language impairments, it is hard to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, including their own in the future! This visualization may help motivate us through the difficult times when we don’t see progress, have a set back, or we are just plain tired. This would be a great way to start your first few sessions this year when you are setting your goals with your students!

Would you use visualizing with your students or yourself in speech therapy this year?  Why or why not?  Share here!

Gotta catch em all!

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If you have seen people walking around staring at their phones more than usual, it might be because of Pokemon Go.  This new app makes you a virtual Pokemon trainer able to “catch” all kinds of Pokemon in your own neighborhood using your phone’s GPS ( with the bonus of getting kids off of the couch and walking around outdoors)!  When they were little, my boys collected all the cards and forced invited me to watch Ash Ketchum and friends wrangle Pokemon.  But this app isn’t just popular with  kids, even adults are using it!

My brain started thinking about how to use this fun app with a social twist. If you are using this in a social language group, you can map out a whole month’s worth of therapy lessons using Pokemon Go! There are rules to playing the virtual game, both spoken and hidden, so that’s a great place to start.  Safety is a big one with this app- you wouldn’t believe how many people walk into the street or get injured from falling or walking into things in their pursuit of a prized Pokemon!   This is a great opportunity to talk about expected and unexpected behaviors too. I have heard news reports about people trying to play the game in places like the Holocaust memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.  Boundaries anyone?

Once your group discusses the rules, then you can divide and conquer into teams.  There are three teams (you can read about their descriptions HERE) that are part of the game, Team Mystic, Team Instinct and Team Valor, but you could let the kids pick their own names.  This is an opportunity to work on the goal of negotiating with others when working in groups.  Once you pick the team, no changes are allowed, so be prepared to be flexible!

Self regulation is a big skill set in this game, as it’s easy to get overly excited or super frustrated when that elusive Charizard (or any of the 151 Pokemon characters in the game) escapes your grasp.  Working in a group or with a partner on your team requires a LOT of self-control, executive function and future thinking (planning what you are going to do ahead of time).  One of the social language lessons could include deciding what strategies you can use in the moment for keeping your cool ( Zones of Regulation GO!).  You might even want to align each color of the Zones with a specific Pokemon to help you remember your strategies (for example:  Blaziken would be a great icon for the Red Zone).  To extend this idea further, have your kids make up their own Pokemon characters  or trainer names that would describe themselves, including their strengths and skills sets.  This can lead to a discussion about how we want others to see us and both positive and negative character traits.

The game also tailors which Pokemon you can find by the time of day and where you are looking for them.  For example, if you are out in the evening, you will find more ghost or fairy Pokemon. If you are near the beach, you will find more water Pokemon.  This is a fun way to work on inferencing, categorizing and compare/contrast skills with your kids!

Have you played Pokemon Go yet (be honest)?  How could you use it in social language therapy? Share here!

 

 

 

 

 

Shark Bites.

shark week blog

With two boys of my own, Shark Week has always been a big hit around my house.  It’s coming around again this month for 2016 and we will be sure to watch!  I have seen some really cute craftivities on sharks that I will be using with my summer kiddos including these great ideas from Sunflower Storytime  and their free shark mouth template PDF !

 

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I was thinking about how to apply Shark Week fun to social language concepts using the shark mouth pdf, and I came up with this:

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I printed the shark outline on cardstock and laminated it to make it more durable.  Next, I put stick on velcro dots along the edge of the mouth (you could use tape, glue or even lay it flat and just put the teeth along the edges.  I used Word and copied as many triangles onto the page as I could since the pdf only had one tooth that I used for sizing.  Then I printed the teeth out on card stock and cut them out before the activity.  This activity is appropriate for late elementary ages on up but could be simplified for younger kids too.

Before making our shark mouths, we talked about how “sharp” words can be (just like shark teeth).  They can cut and wound people when we are being mean or not using our social filters (think it vs. say it).  I asked the kids to share some words that would be hurtful to them or the people that they care about, and we called them shark bites. We brainstormed on a white board first to talk it through. I like to have a visual model (Sarah Ward’s executive function workshop opened my eyes to beginning with the end visually for our kids), but I don’t want them to copy exactly what I have written.  BTW, I always have that one kid who tells me, “I don’t care what people say about me”, so we talk about it from a cartoon character’s perspective instead (Sponge Bob and Squidward are great examples).  This is a little easier for some of my students with ASD, to talk about difficult subjects or feelings from someone else’s experience, not their own.

We also practice sorting out teeth that I have written on prior to the lesson, onto thought bubbles and talking bubbles.   This is a great companion activity to work on the concept of not saying everything that we are thinking, because it can be hurtful.  I extend this concept to include the idea that just because something is “true” doesn’t mean that it is okay to say it, if it hurts someone.

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That’s how we are diving in deep during social skills shark week!  How are you incorporating sharks into your themed therapy (social skills or otherwise)? Share here!

 

 

 

Puppies, Prediction and Cars…

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I am a dog lover, so when puppy commercials come on TV, I get drawn in immediately. Subaru has a series of car commercials airing now that just suck me in. every. single. time.  They feature a family of Golden Retrievers (The Barkleys!) and their adventures in driving. There are no words in the commercials (duh, they are dogs) BUT they convey a message in each one very clearly. For my students with social language impairments, too much language muddies the processing waters, so these are perfect!  I have downloaded the series onto my social language Youtube channel playlists HERE .

Beyond the complete cuteness overload, they are fabulous tools to work on the social language concepts of predicting and inferencing for my students!  The eight commercials convey social scenarios (for example: the mom getting her hair done) and are great to use to identify emotions, prediction, point of view and humor, all in about thirty seconds. Don’t forget about expected and unexpected concepts too (a puppy in a car seat-whaaaat?). These would be great to use with Playposit (you can read my blog post on how to create your own therapy activity by embedding questions into video clips HERE ).

Do you use commercials to teach inferences or other social language concepts?  I love using Dorito’s Super Bowl ads  and kid’s movie previews!  Please share your favorites here!

Use Your B.R.A.I.N.S!

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I spent the past week at a fun crossroad; posting on the SLP Materials Club facebook page as a guest AND enjoying a hot, fun week at the beach with my family!  It was the perfect respite after a long school year and I even got to read a WHOLE BOOK with my toes in the ocean (“A Man Called Ove”, a fabulous funny/sad summer read that I highly recommend). As we were walking along the Sebastian Inlet, I saw this little piece of coquina rock that frequents the coast where I grew up:

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The words “rock brain” popped into my thought bubble immediately! Do you see why I needed a vacation?!  Anyway, as part of my SLP Materials Club week, I posted a new freebie from my TPT store.  I created it to use with my students to work on how we engage other people and show that we are thinking about them.   It includes a flip book for an interview of another person to practice the skills, teaching cards to talk about how we use our brains to think about other and a teaching poster to review the acronym B.R.A.I.N.S. (we SLPs do so love our acronyms). The poster would be perfect to enlarge and hang up in your therapy room, classroom or as part of a fun bulletin board!  What does this acronym stand for?  I’m so glad you asked!

B- Be present in the moment

R-Remain on topic

A-Actively listen

I-Interpret Accurately

N-Non-verbals are important

S-Seek information

You can download this social language freebie HERE .  I know you want to give your brain a rest too and not think about school for a bit, but go ahead and file this away for the Fall now!  Happy Summer!

An End of the Year Treat!

 

 

TPT sale blog pic May

It’s almost the end of the school year and TPT is having a BIG sale as a treat May 3rd-4th!  I wanted to share a few goodies from my store as well as my wish list items that will be added to my own cart!!  Don’t forget to use the code CELEBRATE at checkout for additional savings! Happy shopping. I am linking up with SLPRunner and The Frenzied SLPs for a sale linky, so make sure you click through for more great product suggestions!

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You might want to snap up a few things from my store like my Lucky Duck! Social Skills game on winning and losing and a few for the start of the year, like my That’s Sick social skills unit on germs and hygiene (game, story, puzzles and a flip book are included).  My Social Skills Squish Bundle is seven different play doh mats, scenarios and extension ideas to practice social language concepts (and a great value)!!

Now what I am super excited to pick up from my fellow SLPeeps this week?  Take a peek …

Game Boards Clipart {Peachie Speechie Clipart}

I love to make up new games to play with my students (or have them come up with their own rules and ideas!) and this game board clipart from Peachie Speechie is perfect!  I can use these games with some of her fun activity sets  like these Social Skills Deck cards. Print and Go FUN for these crazy weeks!!

Social Skills: Social Monsters

Full disclosure:  I already own and LOVE this product!  However, it’s on my wishlist for one of my CFs (shhhhh).  Speech Paths has done it again with this engaging social language activity pack that is a fun way to work on hard social concepts with my elementary students.

No Prep Social Skills for Older Students

Speech Time Fun saves the day with a print and go social skills gold mine for my older students!  I am looking forward to trying it out this summer and then recommending it to my middle school CFs in the Fall!

Intergalactic Social Language!

Space themed AND social skills fun?  Done, done and done!  I am excited to grab this fun social language game from Jenn Alcorn.  My boys will LOVE it!

Social Language: Interruption Combustion!  Lessons & Activ

Anyone have blurters out there?   ME TOO!   I can’t wait to try this activity from Badger State Speechy to help my friends work on not interrupting using stories, activities and visual supports, SCORE!

What’s in YOUR cart???

Get to the point!

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I was chatting with a colleague the other day about one of our favorite students.  She is a fifth grader with high functioning ASD and she has come a long way in so many of her social communication skills!  One area she continues to struggle in is giving too much information in conversation.  She understood the steps to check in visually with the listener (non-verbals) and what she should do , but she continued to give way too much information day to day.   I have a freebie on TPT to help with these beginning steps of determining how much information is too much or too little that she used very successfully (you can download it HERE).  She could often recognize too much detail when other people did it, but like many of our students, she needed more support with her own self-monitoring.

Her SLP and I brainstormed a couple of ideas to try,  including giving her a time constraint to share relevant information/responses.  15 seconds doesn’t sound very long, but it sure feels long if someone is rambling on and on without reaching a point.  A visual timer was introduced, but the student got flustered trying to organize her thoughts to fit the time limit (hello executive function!).  So her very smart SLP, Jaime, had her use a graphic organizer to put down her thoughts prior to the timed activity.

This was a great way to help her visually see the important pieces of information that she needed to include or the unimportant details that might bog her down (and she was more successful)!  This graphic organizer idea goes along nicely with how schools often teach writing to our kids, a main idea, 3 supporting details and a concluding sentence, and is a framework to help our students learn to summarize and condense their thoughts. You could even give your students five tickets representing each part of the re-tell as visual support. Obviously, this is not something that will happen in natural conversation, however, we often have to break down the skill and practice from model towards independence.  This is tricky for lots of our students on the spectrum, with ADD or with executive function weaknesses, so lots of practice in the therapy room AND in real time is essential (get mom and dad on board at home and the classroom teachers/peers using these strategies too for generalization).

Another idea I had was to give her a visual representation of information.  Use a bag (like one from a party store) and put in objects to represent information on a topic. For example, a movie ticket, popcorn, an empty drink cup, a picture of the movie, all in the bag.  Ask the student to decide if there is enough information/detail in the bag to understand what the topic is.  Then explain that the bag is really our brain.  You can put in one object (not enough) or lots of extraneous objects (representing off topic or unimportant details) to visually represent conversational responses.

You could also have your other students (artic monitoring anyone?) record short videos giving examples of conversational responses and have your student identify if it’s too much, not enough or just the right amount of information. If the example has too much information, see if the student can identify which comments were extraneous or redundant to make it a little harder.   To further extend this idea, your students working on this skill might enjoy making their own cartoons and they can record the responses using Toontastic, a free app on itunes.   This is great for feedback when discussing if they gave the right amount of information to a new listener.

How do you help your students give responses with just the right amount of information? Share here!