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Fresh Themes for Speech Therapy

Hey, guys! It’s back-to-school time for me which means it’s also time to plan for therapy. Like many school-based SLPs, I have typically used themes to plan for my groups. Themes are great because they make it easy to find activities for a variety of goals using one idea. For early elementary school, themes such as autumn, back-to-school, and apples are being used in the classroom as well which helps carryover. Many older students have background knowledge of those same themes which allows me to target skills based on what they already know.

On the other hand…using the same themes year after year (16 years in my case) can get REALLY boring. After using an apple theme one September for what seemed like the millionth time, I was more than ready for a change, and so were some of the students I kept more than a year. However, I still wanted to facilitate carryover, scaffold easily, and make therapy plans simple.  

Lucky for me, I share an office with my favorite SLPs and we are able to bounce ideas off each other frequently. Like me, they were also tired of the same old themes, but wanted to keep the good things about theme planning. After talking about it and searching Pinterest, we developed some new theme ideas which also allow for those three important characteristics of therapy planning: carryover, scaffolding, simple! Of course, we still pull out the some of the other themes occasionally, but having a few new ones helps keep things fresh.

In July, I published a blog post about using a “Dog Days” theme in speech therapy. It's a great theme for August, and you can find it here. If, you are ready for some new therapy themes, I plan to write about several of them in upcoming posts. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to be notified when they are published! Have a great August!

Dog Days of Speech Therapy

Hello, everyone! I hope you are all surviving the heat of this summer! Growing up, I often heard the hottest part of summer referred to as “dog days.” Apparently, the original dog days were used in Greek and Roman astrology to refer to the time period for the rising of the star Sirius (the dog star). Recent research (on Wikipedia) revealed that the time frame for the dog days of summer varies, but if you use the term for July-August in the United States, you are probably using it correctly. You are especially using it correctly if you are referring to the miserable, hot, humid, sweltering weather here in the Southern US (according to me, anyway).

To help you survive these dog days, I want to share with you some ideas for using a dog theme in speech therapy. Most people like dogs, and this is a theme that works well for all ages (preschool-high school and beyond).

First of all, I LOVE using books in therapy, and these are great for a dog theme:

My second recommendation comes from a colleague whose students CONSTANTLY request this game: Doggie Doo! I get a little grossed out, so I haven't played it, but her kids think it is hilarious.

For the littlest littles, I like to use toys such as a vet kit or pet grooming kit with stuffed dogs in play therapy.

For larger groups of elementary-aged kids, “Doggy, Doggy, Where is your Bone” is a good game to use to target speech and language goals while having fun.

For middle school, I frequently use the site Newsela.com. Several great news stories starring or about awesome dogs can be found there. Another idea that would be interesting for older kids, teenagers, or adults would be to research dog breeds for compare and contrast, describing, etc. The American Kennel Club has this information on its website.

As always, dozens (maybe even hundreds) of craftivities can be found on Pinterest. Some of my favorites can be found here.
Lastly, there are tons of resources on Teachers Pay Teachers as well. For an easy packet that targets multiple speech and language goals, take a look at my Dog Days Pack. It works well for PK-2nd grade.

I hope you have found something useful and fun for your kids/students/clients during the last half of summer! If you have any other doggy ideas for speech therapy, comment below. Have a fantastic week!
I have provided affiliate links for your convenience. If you choose to purchase something after using the link, I earn a small percentage of the purchase price from the seller.

Five Fantastic Free Apps for SLPs

Well, guys, it’s that time of year again. I have been back at work since July 31. If you are like me, you are so busy at the beginning of the school year and you need some easy, no-stress tips to get you back in the groove. This month, I’m sharing my five favorite FREE apps for speech therapy. Take a look and let me know what you think!
  1. SoundingBoard  by Ablenet: Great for AAC, making flash cards, customizable, user-friendly
  2. Epic! Unlimited Books for Kids by Epic Creations, Inc: Popular books in digital form
  3. Doodle Buddy by Dinopilot: Use for drawing/writing/playing on any uploaded picture (think TpT resources) or make your own
  4. Color Drops by TabTale LTD: Lets you paint with sparkly colors while listening to soothing music (in a fun way-just try it)
  5. Dropbox by Dropbox: Save any file to Dropbox and open it on any device at any time (a huge lifesaver for a traveling SLP)

Give Your SLP Self a Break

      Hey, everyone! I am almost a week into my summer break, and I am soaking up every single minute! In my humble opinion, one of the best perks of being a school-based SLP is summer; however, I know not everyone is able to take full advantage of that time. As a group, SLPs seem to be Type A overachievers (myself included).

     For the first year of my career, I juggled grad school, full-time work, pregnancy, marriage, and parenthood. When summer rolled around, I gave myself two weeks off before picking up ESY services. The extra income was nice, but I also felt a sort of obligation to take on as much as possible. I continued working ESY for the next ten years or so. I also spent much of my time outside of school using my own children as guinea pigs for therapy ideas or for practicing new assessments. I occasionally attended continuing education sessions during school breaks as well. It was like I was ALL SLP ALL the time.

     Because this profession is so broad and encompasses SO MANY areas, I think we as SLPs feel pressure to always be experts in anything speech-language and even in anything remotely related to speech-language. In the schools, many of us work with ages 3-21 with varying abilities and needs. We are required to not only keep up with an ever-changing profession and scope of practice, but also an ever-changing educational system. It is exhausting trying to juggle everything and be everything to everyone (especially when very few people even know what you are supposed to be). It is difficult to avoid SLP burnout.

     Following my own small burnout, I decided to let some things go. I no longer work ESY. I rarely attend training during my days off. I try to specialize in the skills that my students require, and I get help when I need it. I enjoy more restful breaks and time with my family. I try to remember that I am not only an SLP, but also a wife, a mother, and a person who can do other things too.
     If you are feeling stressed about your SLP life, try stepping back and giving yourself a break. You might have to work an extra job or ESY over the summer, but you should also take time to do things you enjoy. Go on vacation, read a book, shop, whatever you are into. Ignore those SLPs on Facebook who seem to live, eat, breathe, and sleep speech, and talk to your real-life SLP friends (maybe even about nonspeech stuff)! I promise you will still be a fabulous SLP AND you will probably be a lot happier. Happy Summer!

Four Ideas for Facilitating AAC Use Across ALL Environments

Hi, all! Spring is in the air, and I am hoping that our winter weather is over after the most recent cold snap.

Today I want to follow up with that frustrating topic for many SLPs. In my last post, I discussed some ways to learn more about Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC). Now, I’d like to share some ways SLPs can facilitate buy-in among parents and other educators for effective AAC use across all student environments.
     1. Train all communication partners. First of all, everyone who will be interacting with the student on a regular basis needs to learn how to use the device. By using the device with the student, they are modeling communication AND learning how the student will communicate with others. Second, communication partners should be taught how to help the student use the device. Show other educators and parents how to successfully set up the environment for optimal communication opportunities. Teach them how to prompt device use.
     2. Show them what successful AAC looks like. I have found that going into classrooms and modeling with the student makes a world of difference. There are also many videos available on You Tube and elsewhere on the internet.
     3. Back up your claims with research. Both praacticalaac.org and AAC for the SLP on Facebook are good places to find links to research articles on AAC use.
     4. Use what is practical for all involved. An iPad with a fantastic, expensive AAC app is not going to be the best choice for everyone. If it isn’t a good fit, it won’t be used. Spend some time trying several options before deciding which to implement.

I hope these ideas help you on your AAC journey. If you have others, please share. This is one area in which most of us could use more resources!

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