Calm, there’s an app for that!

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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!

Start With the finish in Mind.

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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!

Growth Mindset and Social Language

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Growth Mindset has been a big buzzword in the school community lately, so I started to read a little more about it to educate myself.  It is an idea originating from Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. She proposes that in a fixed mindset, people believe their best qualities, such as intelligence, are fixed, and that talent is enough to bring success in life, regardless of effort. However, with a shift towards a growth mindset, it’s the evolving qualities of a love of learning and resilience that brings true success in life.  This sounds an awful lot like advice my mom gave me when I was growing up- work hard, love what you do and never stop learning.

As I continued to research, the google rabbit trail also landed me on related Youtube videos for Class Dojo.  Our school has been using this system for a few years and the kids LOVE earning dojo points for expected behaviors and bonus, it aligns with our PBIS goals.  A light went on in my head, like in the last few moments of the movie “The Sixth Sense” when all the puzzle pieces click together, and it became clear!  I may be simplifying it, but these concepts are all related to social language concepts.  Flexibility, resilience, emotional IQ, understanding hidden and spoken rules, working in groups, whole body listening,  it’s all there (even if it’s called something else).

A complementary piece of this Growth Mindset curriculum would be Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen’s approach to working on executive function skills.  Their guided map of starting with a solution and working the steps backwards rather than handing students a checklist, allows the students to problem solve and learn the tools to become resilient learners in the classroom (and beyond)!   Zones of Regulation would also be a nice fit into this process as well, allowing our students to integrate self regulation and emotional resilience into their toolbox of life skills.  Can you imagine a classroom that embedded all of these strategies into the day?  Wow, I sure would want to learn in an environment like that!

What is your school using to support your student’s learning and positive behavior?