Calm, there’s an app for that!

3x3 blog pic calm

We had our Best Practices GOSSLP conference for school based SLPs in Georgia last week. It is a conference I look forward to for many reasons, including meeting new friends like the great OTs who created Lucy the Lap Dog , catching up with old speechie friends that I don’t get to see very often and the great speakers the conference brings.   I went to hear Terri Rossman speak on Zones of Regulation, Sarah Ward talk about executive function skills and Julie Weatherly discuss special education law (that will keep you up late at night!!). These courses offered great table discussions during lunch among my fellow SLPs!

One of my takeaways was the seemingly increasing need of our students, particularly the students that I see with social language impairments, for self-regulation and calming strategies.  One of my colleagues in our county is establishing mindfulness classes for both the students and the staff at her middle school!  She has done a lot of training on her own and like me, sees an increase in the stress and anxiety levels in our students and our peers. I think it’s the teach to the mandated test culture, social media pressure and the message to “do more/be more” that we are inundated with in our world today. I feel it as an adult, do you?

So with this in mind, I stumbled across an app called Calm (it’s available on iPhone and Android).  While the app is free, there are paid options within the app that you can choose as well.  Some of the free features include a visual breathing circle, seven days of calm meditation program, soothing visuals and sounds of nature,  and sleep stories for bedtime (for adults and children) that are read in a calm voice.  The app is easy to navigate and has good explanations of each feature. It is packed full of great options that are useful in a variety of settings, to help provide an external cue for self calming.

I had the opportunity to try the app with one of my little after-school friends. He was in the “yellow zone” during our session and was a giggly, wiggly mess last week!  We have been working on whole body listening but those cues and visuals were not enough. So, I popped up the app on my phone, showed him the breathing circle and we did this together for a few minutes.  He did calm down enough to attend to our activities and regulate back to the green zone for a little while before we needed to get up and MOVE to get the wiggles out. There isn’t a one size fits all therapy tool that works all the time with all of my kids, but this app is a nice addition to my skill set.  I may just use it myself the next time I am stuck in two hours of Atlanta gridlock!

What other apps do you use to target calming, reducing anxiety or self-regulation skills? Share here!

Gooder, Better, Bestest?

gbb eggs

Spring is in the air and last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Best Practices workshop at GOSSLP (Georgia Organization of School Based Speech Language Pathologists).  Jennifer Jacobs was presenting on therapy ideas for social language and one of the concepts she mentioned was working on the concept of ‘good, better and best’ with students who have social language impairments.  I thought about how I have worked on good choice vs. bad choices in speech therapy, but this can be pretty easy for many of my higher functioning students with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). What also tends happens is that my therapy friends get fixated on the bad choices…a lot. The rest of the therapy session turns into a search and rescue mission to get the kids (and conversation) back on track!

I thought about how to work on ‘good, better, best’  and came up with this FREE activity in my TeachersPayTeachers store using Easter eggs, social scenarios and a visual map to sort out responses.  I have included blank templates for students to write their own choices or for you to develop your own social scenarios. You could also show the students pictures of social scenarios for support.  Consider using the examples included to teach the concept of first listening to a problem and then figuring out the appropriate solutions before having the students generate their own.

None of the choices are negative, but they have to think a bit harder to decide which would be the best.  If you want to make it a little challenging, have them explain why one choice is better than the others.  To make it even more fun (and spring themed), cut up the strips (one for each of the three choices) and tuck each completed choice strip into individual Easter eggs (a bargain at The Dollar Store). The younger kids love picking an egg out of a big basket and cracking it open.  Have them read the choices aloud and then facilitate a discussion to figure out who has a good idea, a better idea and the best idea for each social scenario.

good better best

This activity really pushes students to think beyond clear “black and white” answers and consider the subtleties that determine what makes one choice better than another.  It can also open up discussions about considering the thoughts and feelings of others, and being able to compare and contrast different points of view.  This activity can be used throughout the school year (sans eggs) or modified for older students with more complex social scenarios.

How do you work on ‘good, better, best’ ?