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 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!


Five FREE Must-Know Resources for AAC

Hey, everyone! It’s almost February-which means my school year is more than halfway over. The countdown to spring break and SUMMER has begun! In the meantime, we are still working away with our students, sometimes at a loss with what to do to help them.

Today I want to talk about a frustrating topic for many SLPs. Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) is both an important and challenging topic in the field of speech-language pathology. We know it is a vital answer for many with severely impaired communication, but a large portion of SLPs face multiple barriers to successful AAC implementation. In fact, I posted an informal poll on a Facebook group for SLP bloggers last October, and I was initially discouraged by everyone’s input:
  •         Very few SLPs have students who use AAC across a variety of contexts-the percentage of student use typically fell around 50%, but ranged from 0-75%.
  •         Because an AAC course is not required in grad school, some SLPs lack experience and training.
  •               Systems are often abandoned due to lack of buy-in from teachers and families.

My own history in this area has been very similar. I work in a small, rural school district and serve our only high school and middle school in addition to the largest elementary school. I’ll admit, I was very inexperienced when I started. We had one class (not course) dedicated to AAC in grad school. There were about five essentially nonverbal students (with only one using a low-tech communication folder consistently) on my caseload, so I had to learn as I went. I have always enjoyed learning new things, so motivation wasn’t a problem. However, sixteen years ago in rural Georgia, there were not many options for AAC training. Fortunately for me then, lots of resources were beginning to be put online. Fortunately for us now, there is currently a wealth of information online! Maybe you will find these links useful in your AAC journey.

The five most helpful, FREE, online resources for me personally have been:
  •         PrAACtical AAC is a blog created by Carole Zangari and Robin Parker. It has so much valuable information, including videos and other resources to help you on the path to successful AAC implementation.
  •         Kidz Learn Language, a blog created by Susan Berkowitz, is also a fantastic place to find ideas.
  •         Special Education Technology British Columbia PictureSET provides a library of picture symbols for AAC use.
  •         Speaking of Speech Materials Exchange You can find ready-made materials available for download here. In addition, there are also materials for other communication weaknesses!
  •        AAC for the SLP Facebook Group This group can give you access to nearly 6000 professionals who can answer questions and provide support and guidance for anyone who is unsure of how to proceed with AAC.

The most valuable paid resource I found was the Georgia Project for Assistive Technology Conference. I have not seen it offered for several years, but if you find something similar that provides small, hands-on sessions taught by those who really use AAC, go!

The most helpful tip I learned from anywhere was: MODEL! It may sound pretty dumb that I didn’t know the importance of modeling good AAC use, but I didn’t. Now I know-model, model, model!

I mentioned in the beginning that I was initially discouraged by input from other SLPs on this topic. Primarily, it seems as though we are constantly hitting a brick wall when it comes to carryover and buy-in from other teachers and families. Then one of the SLPs shared a success story that included this important detail: she was able to achieve that success by creating a practical system that worked for the students AND the teachers. Every success story convinces me to keep trying, and I hope you will too.

If you have found helpful resources, please share. I am always looking for new information in the area of AAC, and I know others are as well!

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