Have you heard about the 12 days of SLP Christmas?  Search the TPT hashtag #SLPChristmasSale for 50% off of great SLP materials this month!  My “How to Play Reindeer Games” is featured today for only $1.50!  This fun product is perfect for working on the social language concepts of playing with other, including making a plan, emotional regulation and predictable/unpredictable choices.

Check out more great deals from my fellow speech peeps this month!

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Strike a Pose.


The newest viral rage is the #mannequinchallenge.  It is basically a live version of a freeze frame picture.  All kinds of videos have been uploaded by sports teams, schools, SLPs at ASHA (check out this video on PandaSpeech’s instagram page HERE) and even this dog (he is amazing)!  When my son showed them to me, I thought it was silly fun but then I started to think about how I could use these videos with my  kids working on social skills.  It combines a topic with social relevance (for the moment) that they can talk to their peers about AND the perfect tool to work on some social language concepts (most of my kids LOVE videos).

Each of the challenge videos are thematic, for example, sports, music, or school. Remember to preview first, just to make sure nothing “unexpected” pops up!  Often they have funny poses or actions included and it is incredible that almost no one moves.  Each video lasts only a minute or two, and is the perfect length of time to use in a social skills lesson. You can use these videos to work on identifying the gestalt or “big picture” idea the video represents (what’s the setting or theme of the video?) and identify the clues that helped them make a smart guess. Then you can talk about what the people in the video might be thinking or feeling and identify the related non-verbal clues that they see (there isn’t anyone speaking in the videos). The lesson can extend to include predictions about what might happen next when the frozen actions come to life.  Most of the videos end with all the people moving, laughing, or clapping to celebrate their successful completion of the challenge so pause it before that point, to make your predictions!  If your kids are up to the challenge, you can make your own video and sneak in some working in groups skills too (shhhhhh)!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Lego mannequin challenge

Disney Holiday mannequin challenge

Cleveland Cavaliers at the White House mannequin challenge

Pentatonix concert mannequin challenge

The Ohio State University Football team mannequin challenge

What are your favorite mannequin challenges that you have seen?

Puppies, Prediction and Cars…

puppy blog pic

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!

I’m so NOT a groupie.

so not a groupie blog

In working with students on the autism spectrum, one issue that seems to continue to pop up is working in groups successfully.  Collaborative learning is woven throughout the core from my itty bitties to high school.   I really like the tower of building blocks poster, from Michelle Garcia Winner’s Incredible Flexible You ,  that illustrates all the steps required to be part of a group.

building blocks of social language

There are 14 skills that are necessary to do this effectively. Fourteen including joint attention, joint intention, imitation, attachment and emotional engagement, individual self regulation, language and cognition, central coherence, theory of mind, executive function, perspective taking (sharing space with others), self regulation in a group, cooperation and negotiation, collaborative play/sharing an imagination, and then, learning in a group.  It would be a great visual to share with parents and teachers to show the complexity of what we are asking them to do.  While it is innate in a neurotypical child, these skills often need more discreet teaching, breaking down the steps and lots of practice to help them figure out how to do all the things necessary to be part of a group successfully.

By the time the students are in middle school and beyond, it becomes more evident when there are social weaknesses that impair participation and cooperation in group work. Also, our kids who don’t have these group prerequisites can often appear to be non-cooperative and difficult behaviorally (refusal, interrupting, not being able to accept a differing opinion, no social filter) rather than their class recognizing that these “behaviors” are often part of their social language impairment.  This does not endear them to their peers or teachers. They are often left to fend for themselves as a result, and this may inadvertently reinforce these behaviors to escape the group work for our kids.  It’s a miserable cycle.

I have seen some great strategies that teachers, OTs and SLPs have used to encourage moving towards successful group work.  They include letting the student choose a part of the group work to complete (on their own or with a preferred peer), recording a piece of their research or presentation on an iphone to reduce anxiety with presentation to a class, having the group present to the teacher outside of the class setting (less people, less distraction), or working in a group via technology such as group me (a group text message app that allows a back and forth group discussion), edmodo or using a google doc.  Build up the time they participate slowly and reinforce the heck out of them!!  For my older students, introducing the concept of the “social fake/boring moments” as illustrated in this fantastic poster by Social Thinking (RT) is important. This poster for working in a group is a great resource too.  We need to acknowledge sometimes we need to work, think and talk about things we really don’t care about because it’s the expected behavior in a class discussion or project (and in life).  Here is a video link to a good example of a conversational social fake (and a bad example too)  as well as a great lesson plan from Cindy Meester on talking about the social fake HERE using the curriculum from Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking (RT) program. I also really like this TPT game, Phoney Baloney, from Just Speechie SLP to work on this skill too.

Working on the prerequisite pieces, such as self regulation, having a plan of what to do/say when you disagree, sticking to the topic, and the art of negotiation are all life long skills that will build success in group work, far beyond the school years. These are critical skills for success in the workplace and in relationships as well.  Remember, the skills aren’t going to be acquired in a few speech sessions, if that were true they would have picked them incidentally a long time ago from their peers! It’s not just the SLP that needs to work on these skills either, the best outcome results from a team approach (student, family, teachers, peers, OT, counselor, etc..) and a lot of structured opportunity.  I like to think about social language development as more of a crock pot than a microwave.

What strategies have you found work well in group work in the classroom for your students?







Powtoon for the win!

Powtoon cover

My eyes have been opened to several new websites that I can use as a SLP for social language therapy!  It’s always exciting to come across fresh ideas, but as a more “seasoned” SLP,  I worry a bit that it might be too complicated for my non-techie mind.  When a speech friend sent me a link to a video created using Powtoon, I thought it was worth a look around the website.  Boy am I glad I did!  Powtoon is a site to create cartoon based video presentations for businesses.   However, I used it to create a video from the materials in one of my TeachersPayTeachers products, #sorrynotsorry ,  as an instructional video on the steps to apologizing.  I exported it to Youtube and you can check it out HERE  or on my Social Videos Pinterest board.  Warning, it was my first try and I am still tweaking timing and placement of the text, but I put this together in less than 20 minutes after watching the tutorial.  If I can do it, you can too!!

The site has great step by step tutorials and walks you through visually how to create your Powtoon using pictures and text, with music or voice overs in the background!   There is a free membership with plenty of basic creating options, all the way through a professional membership which runs several hundred dollars a month.  It would also be interesting to use it as a marketing tool for a private practice.  Another project for another day…in the summer.

You could create the videos, but what a fun and engaging way for your students to create them too!  Whatever concepts that you are working on in a social language context, for example, the Zones of Regulation or Expected vs. Unexpected behaviors, could be the focus of the student created video.  What a better way to see if they understand the concepts than by asking them to teach it to others!  Collaborative learning is a big focus in the schools, and your students can work on delegating tasks, creating a script, accepting another person’s point of view/opinion and advocating for their ideas in a group all while creating their own Powtoon.  And on those days that our friends seem to have completely forgotten what we have been working on?  These videos are a great visual reminder to review concepts and strategies, and you don’t even have to say a word!

As our world moves faster and is more savvy electronically, how do you see using these types of  cartoon videos in therapy or for marketing?

The Language of Emotion



language of emotion

Last week, I talked about teaching point of view/perspective taking skills in therapy with younger students with ASD, ADD, and/or mild cognitive impairments.   This week, I am focusing on another social language concept, the language of emotions.  I use the emotion pictures from Super Duper Inc. (the scared lady in the picture above is my favorite!), characters in books and short animated clips with exaggerated expressions and role playing activities.  I like to work on broadening the skill far beyond labeling emotions to teach my littles how to be flexible thinkers!  You might want to also check out these previous blog posts for some other therapy ideas for emotions HERE and HERE .

We start by looking at pictures of facial expressions and labeling how we think someone might be feeling.  I point out the clues that help us figure out the emotion, such as the person’s eyes/eyebrows, mouth, body language, etc…  Teach the language first and practice simply matching to start with.  Yes, it’s very basic, but you want the kids to have the language of emotion in static pictures before they can move to more difficult interpretations of short video clips or real life interactions!  Don’t assume this is too easy for your littles!  Sometimes they have happy/sad, but not much more beyond that.

emotion hands


Next, I put the emotion pictures on headbands (the one in the top picture is from my Hedbanz (RT) game, but you can make your own).  I demonstrate that I want them to imitate the expression on my headband but not say the emotion label out loud (just copy the emotion with an expression). I then have to guess what the emotion is on my headband based on what they show me.  It’s a little tricky at first, but they catch on quickly.  We take turns and then look at our cards to see if our expressions and guesses match.  By the way, all of my kids try to see the card on their own heads the first few rounds.  It’s not going to happen buddy, you are going to sprain your eyeballs!

The ability to label emotions leads into more complex skills such as self-regulation.  Are you going to put your head down, cry and refuse to talk when something is hard or can you say, “I am frustrated.  I need help.” ? The language of emotion is critical for higher order thinking such as perspective taking and is ultimately a life skill, not just a language goal.

When my littles understand emotions and are able to use the labels consistently, then we are ready to move onto varied activities to practice this skill, such as my Oceans of Emotions packet in my TPT store.

Connecting how we feel to what we think and what we say, as well as learning to predict what others might be thinking and feeling, lays the foundation for social language success. The language of emotion is simply a stepping stone to be able to function in in a social environment more successfully!

What are some ways you work on the language of feelings?

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.