Graciously Receiving a Gift...er, TpT Freebie

December 6, 2017

I remember when my son was around four years old I sat him down and explained to him how to graciously receive a gift.  He was at that age where kids just say whatever is on their mind, so it was necessary to spell it out for him.

I explained that someone was thinking about him and wanted to make him happy so they brought him a gift.  And when they were giving it to him they were excited for him to have it and couldn't wait to see how happy it would make him.  I went into great detail about the feelings surrounding gift giving and how important it was for him to be kind in his reactions.  I explicitly told him to say thank you and say something nice, even if he hated it or was disappointed that it wasn't a toy.  I'm proud to say he understood and was always a gracious recipient.


I'm sharing this because I am appalled at the callous feedback left on resources that are provided free to us by teacher authors on Teachers Pay Teachers.   I am not talking about a paid product in which you spend your hard earned money to buy, but rather those freebies that every seller offers. 

I am so surprised to read such negative feedback on a gift
I am so disappointed in adults behaving in such an uncouth manner.

Would you behave that way if your neighbor brought you a fruitcake for Christmas?  No, even though you probably don't like fruitcake, you would simply smile and say thank you for your thoughtfulness.  In that statement, you are acknowledging the gift and the person's efforts.

I would like for you to consider this. That freebie (gift) you just downloaded was made by a someone who took the time to make it just for you.  They want you to have it and are excited to see that you appreciate it. That gift took time and money to make.  The teacher author is doing this for nothing more than to share with you. They want you to see a sample of what they can create for you to use in your classroom.  Why would you be rude in return?  Why would you say this wasn't worth downloading or make other callous remarks? Do you not realize you are hurting someone feelings?

As this holiday season brings about goodwill, I hope you will extend that to your comments to freebies you receive from Teachers Pay Teachers.  I hope you will make that one of your resolutions for the coming year.

Happy Holidays and Many Blessings in the New Year!








My Summer Vacation

August 21, 2017

Summer fun is over. Teachers, students, and SLPs are heading back to school and this year I'm ready for it. I made the most of my summer this year because last year I missed it by working too much.  I lost my balance between work life and social life.  I vowed I'd not do that this year.  I took time for friends and family and for work.



I entertained my friends and family as house guests over the summer and got to experience so many fun things.  And surprisingly was still productive at work!  Let me share my summer with you through pictures!










And that wasn't all, I did some day trips, too!  It has been so fun!

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I got several new resources made, too!

 

 
 

 














I am so happy that I didn't lose my summer like I did last year and that I found a good balance between work and play!

Share your summer with me!

The Importance of Leisure Skills

August 14, 2017

Today I have Rosemarie Griffin presenting you with a guest post on the importance of leisure skills. Rosemarie Griffin is a speech language pathologist, board certified behavior analyst and product developer. She is the creator of the Action Builder Cards. 

Disclaimer: having Rosemarie Griffin guest blog here does not imply that I endorse her, ABA or her products. 


The Importance of Leisure Skills 





Often times students with autism and other complex communication needs have deficits in the area of leisure skills and the social language skills that go along with these activities. When our students do not engage in play/ leisure activities they are missing out on a natural way to work on language instruction. Therefore, our students benefit from direct instruction in how to engage in these skills and the use of language embedded within these activities. 

Leisure skills can be addressed in a variety of ways in clinic or school based settings. If you have a student who receives direct individual therapy, you could work on a specific leisure skill during therapy and generalize it to a larger group, when the student is able to engage in the skill with minimal prompts from an adult. Another way to target leisure skill instruction would be to teach a specific leisure skill (i.e. modified musical chairs) to a small group of students. It is important whether you are teaching the skill in an individual or small group session that the students know exactly how to engage in the skill. There are many evidenced based strategies, but we will focus on the skill of video modeling. 

Video modeling is a mode of teaching that uses video recording. The video recording acts as a visual model of the targeted skill or behavior. It can take many forms. The video can be of the student engaging in the skill or it can be of another individual engaging in the skill. The learner watches the video and then they perform the skill in the moment or at a later time. For example, if you are teaching students to play the game modified musical chairs; you could make a video of students playing this game. You would show the video to the students learning the game and then have them play the game. There is a lot of research that supports using this strategy to teach skills to individuals with autism and other disabilities. Below I will describe 2 modified leisure activities that I use with my elementary aged students. 

A favorite of my students is modified hangman. The modification is that I write out the entire alphabet on the board. When I write out the entire alphabet, it acts as a visual prompt for students who may have difficulty recalling the letters without being able to see them. This also allows you to play this game with a small group of learners with varying abilities. Some students may need to reference the alphabet letters written out and some may not need to. This is a fun game that is age appropriate for a large range of students. It can also be easily generalized to the home environment. What a great game for parents to play with children while they are waiting out to eat or while traveling! 

Another game that my students enjoy is modified Simon Says. In this version of the game, it is always Simon Says. So students are working more on following directions and engaging in a cooperative group activity. Some example directions include “Simon says touch your toes”, “Simon says run in place”, “Simon says jump”, “Simon says wave to a friend”, “Simon says shout Hooray.” 

The last area to think about when directly working on teaching modified leisure skills is to make sure that all educational team members are aware of this instruction. If the teacher, paraprofessionals, and parents know about what you are teaching, they can help to generalize these skills to other settings. Being able to participate in age appropriate leisure skills gives students the opportunity to practice social language skills and helps them to feel more included with peers and their family members. Working on leisure skills can be enjoyable for all; I hope that these strategies will help you incorporate this instruction into your therapeutic practice. 

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To learn more about modified leisure skills or to gather information about using applied behavior analysis to help students increase their communication skills, check out her website www.abaspeech.org or like her Facebook page here: ABA SPEECH ON FACEBOOK. 

My Top 10 Must-Know Tips for AAC (Augmentative-Alternative Communication)

July 31, 2017

I am so very excited to have Susan Berkowitz guest blogging today.  When it comes to AAC, she is my go to gal.  Being one of the old school SLPs, I had little to no training in school for helping people with this need.  Through the years I managed to attend some training seminars and workshops, but never had it put all together for me, so I have asked Susan to do that for you.




In the SLP world, AAC has finally moved beyond its infancy, but there are still many clinicians who don’t know a whole lot about it.  Many graduate programs do not offer a course in AAC, and it’s not a required course for licensure or certification.

But, these days there is probably not any population you might work with - infants to the elderly, from Autism to Aphasia to ALS to Cerebral Palsy to a whole list of chromosomal abnormalities.  Any time someone can’t speak to meet all of their genuine communication needs, AAC should be a part of their toolbox.





So, what are the top 10 things to know about working with individuals and AAC?  Here goes:

1. AAC has many myths surrounding it that prevent individuals’ access to it.  AAC is not just for people who can’t speak at all; it won’t inhibit the development of speech in children or become a crutch; there is not a succession of AAC tools from no tech to low tech devices to - finally - dynamic display with voice output; there is also no hierarchy individuals must move through from objects to photographs to symbols; there are NO prerequisite skills one must have before being provided with AAC.

2. Aided Language Stimulation (ALgS) is a crucial ingredient to teaching someone to use AAC.  Typical children learn to talk by listening to our models of talking.  Deaf children learn sign language by seeing it used all the time around them.  But picture-based communication users don’t usually see any consistent - or any at all - use of picture-based communication by anyone in the environment.

Having these models is very important.  Communication partners should be using Aided Language Stimulation (also called Aided Input, Partner Aided Communication) by using the picture system when they communicate to the child.

3. Core words should be the initial focus of providing vocabulary to individuals learning to use AAC. Core words are the high frequency words that we use for most of what we say.  For adults, 100 core words make up about 50% of our messages.  Using the verbs and adjectives and pronouns that carry the most meaning in our language gives individuals more communication power with the least amount of language learning initially.

4. Planning is crucial when partners are using ALgS.  Many partners are uncomfortable with the thought of having to use the child’s system to model language for them.  Not knowing where vocabulary is located in the system, uncertainty about how to navigate to the correct page often makes partners reluctant to try.
I tell partners to start with just one activity that is familiar and comfortable.  Plan out the vocabulary that you will need.  What words are important to model for that activity? Planning ahead helps partners feel more comfortable about what they’re doing. 

5. AAC is not just 1 “thing.”  It’s not simply a communication book or board or a voice output device. A functional AAC system is a compilation of strategies that allow the individual to communicate effectively a variety of intents in a variety of contexts, with a variety of partners.
We need to recognize that different modes of communication are useful and necessary in different contexts while also remembering that we need to provide users with sufficient vocabulary - in whatever mode- to allow them to communicate genuine messages.

6. PECS is not enough.  While the Picture Exchange Communication System is in popular use and is an accepted Evidence Based Practice for students with Autism, there are a few problems with using it as a mode of communication.  
One of the things we’ve learned about implementing AAC is the need to model.  I’ve never actually see Aided Input happening with any student I’ve known who was using a PECS board. 
We also know that stability of location is important to becoming a competent communicator.  But with PeCS, symbols with velcro are not usually returned to the same spot each time they are used.
A third point of research shows us that students need to have a robust vocabulary in order to use genuine communication across contexts and partners.  Providing a user with a good sized base of core words is crucial, as well as having fringe vocabulary that is important to the specific user.
PECS is limiting in terms of the vocabulary and opportunities for syntax that the system provides.  We need more than nouns, and more than a couple of sentence frames to build real language.

7. Robust vocabulary.  There is that term again.  What is a robust vocabulary?  We want individuals to have access to a rich and flexible vocabulary that will meet all of their needs for communication for all types of functions.  Limiting the number of words to which a student has access will only lead to frustration in the long run.

8. There are many ways of accessing an AAC system; not everyone can directly select a symbol or word.  Some individuals will need to use scanning and a switch; some will need to use eye gaze; others will need a partner to scan for them.  There are options! Your user does not need to be “able bodied.”

9. Language therapy is language therapy.  AAC users may need a different mode of expression, but you do not need to use different materials in therapy.  Just insure that you AAC user has a system with sufficiently robust vocabulary - and morphology - for all communication needs.

10. Don’t just focus on answering questions in class or asking for what the user wants or needs.  Communication is social.  It is about bringing us closer to others.  Make sure your AAC user can, in fact, use the system, to bring him closer to others.

If you are looking for some robust AAC activities that focus on core vocabulary, provide background information that is evidence based, and create both fun contextual and decontextualized practice, try the AAC section of my store. 
You’ll find a robust, core-based communication book, lots of fun activities and games to reinforce core words, and simulation activities your kids will love!



Susan Berkowitz Bio:
I have been a speech-language pathologist for >35 years, before which I taught kids with autism. I have been in the classroom, therapy room, and worked as an administrator. I have worked in public and nonpublic schools. I currently specialize in alternative-augmentative communication for nonverbal students and in training staff to implement aac in their classrooms. I teach workshops locally and nationally on augmentative communication and on teaching literacy skills to students with complex communication needs, and have written CEU on-line courses for SLPs about AAC. I have published research articles in peer reviewed journals, and spent considerable time working on translating research into practice.

I have a B.A. in Psychology, M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology, M. Ed. in School Administration, and extensive graduate level classes in Special Education (enough for a whole other Master's degree - but why?). I believe this varied background has given me a deeper understanding of what these kids - and their teachers - need.


How In the World Did I End Up Here?

July 21, 2017

I had the privilege of guest posting for Jan Ward over at Successful Practice SLP this week and thought I'd share the link here so you can read it..... if you are interested in my life's journey.

It has been an amazing journey and I can't believe all that I have accomplished considering I'm just a coal miner's daughter.  I'm living proof that where you come from doesn't matter.  What matters is where you are going!

Enjoy reading!

 





Speech on the Beach 2017

June 30, 2017

Speech on the Beach 2017


It is summer and who doesn't think beach or at least think about being poolside?  If you are like me, when I'm at the pool or beach, I want something to read!  A few of us bloggers submitted one of our most popular posts to Kim Lewis (Activity Tailor) and she complied this neat little poolside read for us!  

I have already been reading it and can honestly say there are many quick and great reads in here! You'll definitely want to read these and probably want to follow a few of us, too.

To get your copy click the picture and it will take you to Kim's TpT store where you can download this for FREE!  

So go ahead apply some sunscreen, don your hat and sunglasses and head out in the sun while you enrich yourself with all these delights posts you missed through the school year!

Lazy Summer Days

May 30, 2017


Lazy summer days are ahead for many of us. 
WooHoo!  
I am excited about it.


I promised myself that this summer I would take the time to enjoy it.  

Last year I sewed all summer. I didn't go anywhere except to care for a friend who was ill. I know many SLPs have loved and appreciated my handiwork in creating all those felt book companions.  And I know my friend appreciated having me there to help her recuperate from surgery.  



But....I need a break.

Some down time

A little sunshine
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Time with friends

A different scenery



It won't be all play because I'll be creating several new resources for you to use in your therapy sessions. I'm also going to be revamping some of those older resources, too.  So when you go back to school in August or September, you'll have some fresh ideas and ways to work with your students!


I hope that you will....

make the time, 

take the time, 

create the time, 

choose to enjoy your summer!
  
It doesn't last long and your body and brain need it!



Here's to a restful and rejuvenating SUMMER!