Down, Set, Think!

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My Atlanta Falcons are in the Super Bowl this year (WOOHOO!!), and to celebrate I made this fun social freebie! It includes six templates including a helmet, football, cheerleader, field goal, penalty marker and a water bottle.  All the templates are related to a social language concept that I work on with my students.  For example, the water bottle represents ways that we can cool down when we get upset and the helmet is to brainstorm ways we can keep our “head in the game” or stay on topic.

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You can print for each of your students to complete in a social skills lesson, counseling group or SEL (social emotional learning) in class lesson!  It would also be fun to create a banner to hang up in a room or on a bulletin board in your classroom as a reminder of the skills you are targeting with your kids!

You can also check out my other football themed freebie to use after the Big Game !  It’s a template to identify the social concepts in the amazing commercials that air during the game.  I even have one more freebie HERE for football themed conversation skills.  Can you tell that both of my boys played football and it’s my favorite sport? You have a whole week of therapy materials right here,  ready to download and go!

The concepts in Down, Set, Think! include:  maintaining topics, conversation, encouraging words, what makes a good friend or warning signs of someone who wouldn’t make a good friend, and ways to cool down when we get upset.  You can leave them black and white or color them in your favorite team’s colors for year round use!  As for me, my pictures will be black and red for my Falcons next weekend!   If you aren’t cheering for my team, that’s okay, we are all on #teamsocial !!

I love Lucy (the other one)!

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I have had the opportunity to work in my church’s special needs class for the past few years.  The kids can have significant sensory, cognitive or medical issues that make it more challenging for them to be in a larger group (as we are part of a BIG church).  Our class offers sensory activities (swings, trampolines) and a modified curriculum for the weekly bible lesson (thanks Boardmaker and Kathy E.!).  My friend and room coordinator, the amazing Karen, recently bought some new materials for our class, and Lucy the Calming Companion (see above) was one of them!

She immediately became the favorite class pet and the kids loved how soft her fur is and how the weighted body was perfect for a snuggle!  I cracked open the accompanying story and we read all about how Lucy uses her strategies to feel calm and offers ideas that the kids can use too. What a fun companion to add into your Zones of Regulation tool box or counseling sessions!  You can adjust the amount of weight via the zipper on Lucy’s belly, as needed for each of your student’s sensory needs (wouldn’t that be great if WE could do that too??).  There is even a tutorial of how to wash Lucy when she gets a little too much love, grime or drool.

Lucy was  created by  Christy Bennett, an OT, and Stephanie Tishgarten.  A kickstarter fund gave this little pup a way to be shared and you can check out the website and video (including the real Lucy) about how Lucy, the Calming Companion, came to be.  You can order your own Lucy at this site as well!  For my friends with sensory needs, the wiggles or just those in need of some hypoallergenic hugs, Lucy is the perfect addition to our room!  I know you will love her too.

 

 

Stuck Thinking

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I had the misfortune of walking into a spider’s web the other morning.  I was caught up in my own thoughts and didn’t see the web draped across the hedges until it was too late.  There’s nothing quite like a spider web freak out, and I am glad no one was nearby to witness it (or they would still be on the ground, laughing).  It took me a good twenty minutes to untangle myself from the sticky webbing, and at least another twenty minutes to calm down.

This experience made me think of my students who get caught in their own thoughts but can’t get “unstuck”. Mental health is a big issue in our society, especially with our older kids. Many of our students with social language impairments, anxiety, and ADD struggle with managing their focus internally and externally.   It’s easy for someone who doesn’t struggle with these thoughts to say, “Just stop thinking about it!”, but it is harder than it seems.   Negative or perseverative thought patterns often upset our students, keep them disengaged in learning and conversation, and make it difficult for them to establish friendships if they become stuck in a chronically negative mindset.

This is one of those gray areas that overlap speech therapy and counseling’s scope of practice.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other, as our students can benefit from the support of both specialists.  From a social language perspective, helping our kids connect the concepts of keeping their “brains in the group“, taking the perspective of others, connecting how their choices might make other people think or feel, and emotional self-regulation  are all valuable tools in their coping toolbox. Using a five point scale to talk about the size of a problem and matching the size of a reaction to that problem, are also helpful strategies with our kids. We need to make sure that we are working on these skills  outside of the moment, as our students are often not available when they perseverate.  They need to hear the message that they don’t have to do this on their own,  and there are supports all around them!  If the anxiety or compulsive thoughts are overwhelming for the student, then we need to dialogue with the family and encourage them to involve their pediatrician or psychiatrist in the conversation.

A friend once told me that she can’t be in her head too much because it’s a bad neighborhood to linger in.  What she meant was that she can get stuck in dark and negative thoughts when she thinks too much on her own.  She needed to talk through her worries with others who could put her concerns into perspective when she couldn’t. This is a similar  premise of cognitive behavioral therapy .  CBT is a “short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel.”  This sounds like an approach that aligns with social thinking concepts and emotional regulation strategies, doesn’t it?

I created a TPT product for my older students to work on strategies and problem solving to get unstuck in their social thinking.  It walks them through the steps to learn to “change the channel” in their mindset from negative to positive! Want to check it out?   Social Skills: Change the Channel from Negative to Positive .

 For your younger students, I really love the book by Kari Dunn Buron,  When My Worries Get Too Big , or Julia Cook’s fantastic book,  Wilma Jean the Worry Machine .

How do you work with students who are chronically stuck in an internal or negative mindset? Share here!

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.