IMO (maybe that’s the problem)

IMO blog post picPlease note: this is not a political opinion post, but a discussion on applying a social learning concept in the real world.

One of the Social Thinking concepts that really resonates with me is how people, time and place change what we should say and do.  In considering who we are with, where we are and the timing of an event, we consider how our words and actions impact others and how others will think of us.  For example, you are with new co-workers (people) on the first day of work (timing) and you are in a meeting (place) with your new boss, and you tell your raunchiest joke. Your co-workers and boss are probably not going to have good thoughts about you! If you are with your college besties (people) in your favorite pub (place) watching your weekly Saturday football game (timing), you could tell that same joke and your friends might think you are the most hilarious person ever!  I try to teach my students to “read the room” before they speak, and think through the outcomes of these social choices as part of social language interventions.  Our kids typically live in the moment and don’t always think through the consequences of their words and actions first.  This often gets them into trouble with their parents, teachers and peers!

It is not only my students that struggle with the concepts of the right time, person and place. I have noticed this quite frequently in the news as well. Our political world has spun dangerously into a frenzied state of perpetual outrage and fury.  It isn’t new, but it is has become pervasive with 24/7 coverage on social media.  I have unfollowed (is that a word?) several friends on different media platforms because it was just too much rhetoric and constant posts on being offended/offensive. The words “in my opinion” seem to be used as a free pass to say whatever you are feeling, regardless of how it might make other people think and feel.   As an adult, I am still learning the fine art of considering and appreciating differing points of view without agreeing with them (you can check out my previous blog about the concept of agreeing to disagree here ).

This concept came into focus for me when I was watching coverage of Bethune Cookman’s college graduation ceremony a few weeks ago.  The embattled Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, was invited to be the speaker. In the storm of controversy leading up to the speech, the school’s President shared with the community, “I am of the belief that it does not benefit our students to suppress voices that we disagree with, or to limit students to only those perspectives that are broadly sanctioned by a specific community.” During the ceremony, several students chose to stand with their backs to Ms. DeVos in protest during her speech, and jeering from the crowd was heard. Mr. Edison Jackson, the school’s president, interrupted to tell the students that if this behavior continued, their degrees would be mailed to them.  While I understand the reasoning behind the protest and love the passion of students who are willing to stand up for their beliefs, it wasn’t the right place or the right time.  It took away from the focus of all who had worked hard to earn their diplomas and celebrate with their families that day. The message gets lost when you don’t consider the timing, place and people around you.   To be able to consider both sides of a conversation is a mark of maturity and social competency, especially when you don’t agree!

Protests and healthy discourse are essential pieces to our Democracy, but at what point does it become about more outrageous behavior and stunts to gain attention and less about the actual cause and social change that we care about?  I am much more likely to listen and engage in a thoughtful conversation about differing points of view with someone who is able to share their concerns and passions respectfully, than if someone is just shouting me down and calling me names because I don’t agree with them.  We are not a perfect country and not a perfect people, but if we are going to weather the storms of the times, we must learn to “read the room” and  consider how our words and actions impact others.

As I teach my students (and remind myself), you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.  Do you work on these skills with your students?  Share here….


Recess Rules!!!

recess rules blog

I don’t know about you, but with two weeks of school left, we are all a bit squirrelly!  You can feel the end is near and it’s making everyone a bit crazy and cranky, kids and adults alike.  Recess is a saving grace and the promise of EXTRA recess will motivate even the most active kids to focus and work a little harder.  I sit in a LOT of IEP meetings throughout the year, and recess comes up often for my friends with social language issues.  Unstructured times, like recess, are often the wild west of hidden rules for these kiddos.  You will either see them walking the perimeter of the playground on their own or trying to join in, but in unexpected and unwelcome ways.

I found several videos on Youtube that explain the rules of recess, from the teacher and student point of view.  You can find them on my Youtube channel under social play modeling  or on my social videos Pinterest board.  Many schools have adopted PBIS  (positive behavior intervention and supports) to address the “rules of the schools”.  PBIS often addresses recess and playground behavior specifically, so how great would it be to make your own school video or school posters to talk about the rules of recess?  You could brainstorm with your students about the rules (both spoken and hidden rules) of recess and then have them teach their peers through a video.  Talk with your administration and media specialist about sharing the videos at school; we have morning announcements that show on TVs in all the classrooms.  Bonus:  it’s a great way to work on tone of voice, volume, orienting your body towards to camera, thinking with your eyes and more social concepts that your student may be working on, as you film them!  Don’t forget to get parent permission first!

To further this concept, what about making videos to show how to join into games, ask other kids to play or even how to play certain games, like rock, paper, scissors ? Remember, our kids are not incidental learners, so breaking down the steps to play may seem too basic, but it’s often where we need to start!  We also know there are students that could benefit from this visual support that don’t have IEPs , but still struggle socially at recess.  I bet you could get a LOT of buy in from your counselor, other special education teachers and therapists in your school for a great project!  Think about tapping into Donor’s Choose to apply for funds for a great video camera and editing software too.

How do you support your students at recess?  Share here!

Old Dog, New Tricks!

old dog new tricks

This is my old boy, Archie, looking thrilled to be in the tub (not)!  But as cute and mopey as he is in this picture, he is not the old dog I am referring to.  That old dog would be me.  I was chatting with some other “seasoned” SLPs about technology in our field.   We were laughing at the memory of handwriting IEPs on carbon paper and that amendments required drawing a line through the mistake and initialing it.  Those days are gone!

What is second nature to my own boys and the new grads that I mentor with apps and social media, requires visual tutorials and lots of time for me to master.  Thank goodness for Youtube and collaborative boards on Facebook!  One of the great things about our field is that we all share information and support one another, and this is true in the virtual SLP realm as well.  I have learned a tremendous amount from Natalie Snyders, Jenna Rayburn and Meredith Avren (The Peachie Speechie)!  I got to thinking about the GIANT learning curve I have been on this year.

In the past 8 months of 2015 I have joined Instagram (love), Periscope (jury is still out), and learned to create my own pins on Pinterest.  I think I may need a Pintervention, as I am slightly addicted to it!  I learned how to create TeachersPayTeachers products on Powerpoint, edit pictures with A Beautiful Mess and Instasize apps,  and utilize Camtasia to record presentations for new SLPs.  I have struggled with Twitter (meh) and am getting ready to start using an iPad to create social language training videos for a grant project.  Each time I struggle with a new skill and come out the other side, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction!  Not that I am fantastic at everything, far from it,  but just that I am able to learn and grow is enough.

The only constant in our field is change, and you can either embrace it or let it frustrate you.  I choose to embrace it.  Give it a try and dip your toes into Instagram.  You will be amazed at the great SLPs and ideas you will find just by looking up the hashtag, #slpeeps!  Not sure what that means?  Check out this post by Nicole Allison.  Besides, I have read that constantly challenging yourself to learn new things keeps your brain young and flexible, and that sounds like a win-win for this old dog!

What has been your experience with the social media learning curve?

SLP: Speechies Learning Periscope ?

scoping out social media for slps

I just finished making a TPT product on social media use for middle and high school students this week.  In  a conversation about social media and teenagers with my own sixteen year old, he mentioned a site I had not heard of, Periscope. It’s an app owned by Twitter so it’s linked to your account (although you can also sign up for Periscope with just your phone number).  He showed me a video of our former pastor hunting scorpions at night with a black light and a mallet (ewww), narrating his adventures of living in Arizona.  Soon little hearts and comments began popping up on the screen and my son explained that it is interactive, live streaming video.  Kind of cool, but I didn’t really think too much about it.

Periscope surfaced again (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) this week when I was writing a grant for some technology to use in my school district. I logged onto a SLP Facebook group to get some input from my peers on this latest social media tool and boy did I get it!   After a lot of discussion, several of us decided to jump into the Periscope world virtually holding hands. As luck would have it, the ASHA Schools and the TPT Conference were also happening this week in the West, and it was fun to watch several SLPS post their own streaming videos online!

Social media is fantastic, but it can be double-edged sword. It’s amazing to connect with people outside of your little bubble, but not everyone is kind. Much like the teens I had in mind when I was thinking about guard rails with social media,  we SLPs are in need of some too.  Here are my top 5 Periscope newbie guidelines, learned the hard way:

1.  Read up on using the app before you live stream.  Two great reads that will help you figure this new technology out are HERE and HERE .  Scott Kelby’s post shows you the features of Periscope nicely. I am a visual learner, so it really helped!

2. On your screen, swipe down (or click on the X) to turn off the live feed.  Several of us didn’t know this before our first video stream including me.  Sorry for the view of my feet and the dirt.

3. This early learning curve included several rude comments posted by people who were not SLPs, on a few live speechie feeds.  Haters gonna hate, but you don’t have to let them comment on YOUR videos. You can lock your video ( a little lock icon you can tap is also along the bottom of the broadcast screen) so that only people you follow can comment on your live posts, or even choose from your follower list who you want to see a particular video (click the little person in a box icon on the bottom of the screen a list of people you follow pops up to choose from) .  You also have the option to tap on a name of someone and block them if they making rude comments during a live stream, but why even go there?  Use these features just prior to starting your live stream (and don’t forget to give your video a title)!

4.  Don’t broadcast your location from home (again, guilty). You can turn off the location feature on the broadcast screen prior to each video (click on the little paper airplane shaped arrow along the bottom left of your screen). Careful when you click, because it’s located right next to the start broadcast button.  If you are somewhere public and cool, like Vegas, feel free to make us a little jealous!

5.  It is a LIVE stream, so look around at what’s behind you when you start the broadcast.  If you mess up, oh well, it’s live. The good thing is that the videos only stay up for 24 hours (there is an auto-save feature in settings if you want to save your videos to your picture file on your phone).  You can send little hearts on a re-broadcast, but not comments.  If it’s truly awful, you can click “No rebroadcast” when you finish so that no one can watch you trip or swear or freak out when a bee flies too close to you, over and over again.  That’s what Vine is for 🙂

You can follow me on Periscope @SmartmouthSLP  !  I will (hopefully) be sharing content about my new group of CFs first year in the schools.  Have you tried Periscope yet?  Add your comments or guidelines here!

The Truth Hurts.



I have had several students whose problem is being honest. The problem itself isn’t honesty, it’s the degree, timing and audience of that honesty that gets them into trouble. We have set ourselves up a bit with reinforcing gems such as “honesty is the best policy” and “always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. For our students with ASD who can see rules such as these as black and white, truth can become problematic. To make this concept a little trickier, the world of social media that we live in seems to market the misconception that we have to put it all out there.  I often read blogs that state a brutal “truth” and then try to soften it with , “I’m not saying, I’m just saying…”.  The southern version of this is to make a blunt comment and follow it with “Bless their heart.”

I have worked with several high school students (all boys btw) who regularly got into trouble with their teachers and peers for their unfiltered truths. They would protest after seriously insulting a classmate’s choice of clothing or publicly questioning their teacher’s IQ with ,”I’m just being honest.” Therein lies the problem.  So how do we address this topic? We want to support the idea that honesty is a positive characteristic in people and one that is desirable in a healthy society. But we also need to do is talk about the degree of honesty in relation to other people’s feelings. Being honest does not mean you say everything that you think, and a social filter is critical when you live in community with others. We also need to consider if the timing is right to comment, what our relationship is to the people around us (friends, family, teachers, strangers), and if we were asked to offer our opinion or not.

As an example, I remember working with a very, very bright young man with ASD, who received an F on his paper about his personal views on religion. In our conversation, I asked if he had followed the rubric and had talked with the teacher after receiving the grade to figure out why he had failed. He responded that of course he followed the “rubric so ridiculous that even a simple-minded monkey could do it!” He then went on to say that he spoke to his teacher. “I told her she was obviously too old and stupid to understand what I was saying”,he fumed.   He perceived that was the reason why he received a F. Oh boy.

We worked the next few sessions on talking about his perception of the situation and how his teacher may have perceived his comments using a point of view organizer. It hadn’t dawned on him that he may have hurt her feelings (and that his assumption had been completely wrong). When I brought up this possibility, he responded with, “But I thought it was true. I was just being honest.” It took a few weeks to get him to even consider that there were other options, more effective options, that he could try next time that may actually benefit him. We continued to work through different social scenarios to practice these skills and while it wasn’t automatic with him, he could at least consider the impact of his words and begin to modify some of the negative behaviors.

I have created this TPT visual (which would make a great classroom poster!)  to talk about being truthful here

Labels, Clues and Hipsters


Our family is fortunate to attend a really creative church.  On a recent high school retreat, my son came home with this bingo board (see above).   My social language brain lit up like a Christmas tree! Hipster bingo was played as part of a discussion on what people perceive others to be based on what they see.  In the age of ever-present social media, right or wrong, labels and perceptions often define this generation.   While the social commentary on what a hipster is (or isn’t) is interesting, I thought of how this could be used in a variety of ways to connect the clues we see in others to make smart guesses about who they are.

Students with social communication impairments often miss the big picture.  They may notice individual details, but to pull those details together and make a prediction from that information is a huge leap.   A smart and creative colleague of mine was working with a young lady with ASD and showed her an advertisement of a young woman rollerblading in a park.  When she asked the student what could she guess about the person in the picture, the student commented that she must be a mom about 35. When she was asked about the specific details of the picture, the student could identify them appropriately but kept referencing a mom with kids but not the target idea of exercising or being healthy.  Puzzled by this response, the therapist probed further and soon realized the student was making guesses based on what she knew of her own mom, not on what she saw in the picture  (a healthy, exercising, young woman).  She was missing the forest for the trees.

These connecting ideas are difficult and weakness with this translates academically into students having a hard time summarizing, identifying main ideas, predicting and being able to talk about a ‘big picture’ idea in literature/history/science in the classroom. It also causes kids to misread social situations with their peers and adults.  Here are a couple of ideas to work on this skill:

You can use a concrete visual (this would also be great with cause and effect and turn taking in conversation too), for example links of paper:  paper links

The student could look at a picture like this:

boy hurt

+ identify important clues on each link of the chain: basketball, doctor, sports jersey, bandage on arm, sad face on boy  = smart guess?

                                              CONCLUSION he was hurt playing ball                        

Another concrete option is to look at a picture together and talk about what information you know from what you see. Then cut the picture into 4-6 puzzle pieces and write down an important detail you talked about on each piece. Next, your group could make a guess about what the big idea/theme will be when you put them together.  Assemble the clues and see if they were right!  If not, it’s a great way to review what they misinterpreted and talk through the process together.

Last but not least, the bingo board is a way to work on making a smart guess about a big picture idea.  There are several bingo boards here on Pinterest that allow you to create your own.  I have found Nerd bingo, selfie bingo and Macbeth bingo on this site!  You could create one for your students with pictures of how they would like to be perceived by their peers (happy, smart, athletic, kind…) or with character traits/nonverbals for how you wouldn’t want to be perceived (angry, sneaky, selfish…).  For your older students, you can use it for themes in literature, for example the key theme of hate in Romeo and Juliet and how each character was affected by or contributed to it.

That’s my big idea today social language hipsters, what’s yours??