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Speech Therapy & Science Experiments

Kelly McLendon, M.S., CCC-SLP, a lead SLP in one of our districts reminds us that not all sessions need to be about data, some can be fun while still targeting goals.

Speech Therapy & Science Experiments

A less common type of activity to do in speech is science experiments. You and your students will love the language elicited!

There are tons of science experiments that use materials that are at school or home, or are cheap and easy to grab. Pinterest is an excellent resource for simple experiments. A few examples are: oobleck, slime, dancing raisins, and elephant toothpaste.

For a recent session, progress monitoring was put aside & fun was had in speech therapy. To celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday, we made oobleck. For those who haven’t heard of it, oobleck is a mixture that sometimes is a liquid & others is a solid. First, we measured out 1 cup of corn starch into a bowl. The kids got to touch it and described how it felt to start. Words used included, “creamy”, “soft”, and “weird”. Then we voted on a color and added a few drops to 1/2 cup water. We predicted what was going to happen when we added the water to the corn starch. Each child had an opportunity to stir, and I finished mixing it together. Then the fun began. We all dove into the bowl, started playing, and talked about how it felt.


Here are some goals that can be can addressed during science experiments:

  • Predicting/inferencing
  • Describing
  • Social skills
  • Articulation
  • Fluency
  • Sequencing
  • Following directions

Remember, not all sessions need to be about data, some can be fun while still targeting goals!

Kelly McLendon, M.S., CCC-SLP

On the Rise – How we can support today’s Behavioral Health needs in our schools

Boy with special needs

During my years of consultation in the classroom, the number one question I would hear from teachers was, “How do I deal with persistent and challenging classroom behavior while trying to meet all of my students’ educational needs?”  These teachers all had the skills and the insight to successfully implement behavior strategies, but they were getting bogged down with feeling overwhelmed.

Applied behavior analysis is best known as an empirically validated treatment for Autism, however, it is so much more than that.

By definition, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is, “a science devoted to the understanding and improvement of human behavior.” (Cooper, 2006).  In short, this science is all about applying principles of behaviorism to make meaningful changes in the lives of individuals.

I know others are apprehensive with ABA because it sounds “technical.” In reality, ABA is simply another way to teach.  I am not a teacher by trade, but much of what I do each day involves helping individuals learn.  When a student is tantruming during a writing activity, it is my job figure out why, and then to teach that student an acceptable alternative behavior to replace the crying. In this scenario, the teacher is aware that writing is challenging for this student, and the student cries every time a pencil and paper are presented, yet the task is presented in the same exact way each and every time.  ABA essentially helps us “decode” these common situations so that we can introduce strategies to combat learning barriers- similarly to the way a classroom teacher would break down a math problem for a student who is struggling grasping order of operations.

School children creating art in a classroom with one child smiling into camera.

I have compiled my top 5 helpful tips when using the principles of ABA to manage classroom behavior. I hope you find them useful!

  • Learn to identify the function of the interfering behavior – All behavior has a purpose and it’s our job to figure out the “why” and to look at all the situations in which this behavior occurs. When we talk about the “ABC’s” of behavior, we are referring to the Antecedent (i.e., what happened IMMEDIATELY BEFORE the before occurred), Behavior (i.e., the interfering behavior itself), and the Consequence (i.e., what happened IMMEDIATELY AFTER the behavior occurred).  These “ABC’s” will offer great insight into the context of behavior which will be the first step in learning to reduce and replace it.
  • Familiarize yourself with what motivates your students! – Each individual has an “M.O.” or what us behavioral gurus like to call a, “motivating operation.”  This simply means different people are motivated by different things, and most importantly, at different times!  Recognition of changing motivation is a critical component to any effective behavior intervention.  Learning how to capitalize on an “M.O.” takes some thought, but will make a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of your rewards!
  • Modify the environment This is an antecedent strategy (i.e., proactive strategy that occurs BEFORE an interfering behavior happens) that changes the way we interact with our environment. For example, students are frequently getting out of their seats during teacher lessons to walk across the room to retrieve forgotten materials.  As a result, they are getting distracted on their way and disrupting peers.  Providing “chair bags” containing additional supplies on the backs of student chairs may be a simple solution that would help reduce off-task behavior.  REMEMBER: make sure classrooms are organized, and students understand expectations.  Sometimes off-task behavior may be perceived as misbehavior, but if directions aren’t clear it’s going to be difficult for students to comply.
  • Consistency is key! – Behavior change takes hard work and dedication. Often times behaviors will get worse before they get better.  One thing that must stay steady and consistent through the process is your response! NOT one single demand should be placed on a student that a teacher or adult isn’t prepared to enforce and follow through on. Its human nature to go the path of least resistance so if students can get what they want with less effort, they will always find a “loop-hole” in reinforcement.  If they can delay a non-preferred math lesson by taking a trip to the bathroom, they will.  If they lost the privilege of sitting next to their best friend in your class, but the art teacher lets them do it, what have they learned?  If there is a behavior you are looking to change, every key player must be intervening in the exact same way.  I have seen many theoretically effective behavior intervention plans fail due to the overall lack of consistency in implementation. All team members should be communicating effectively and continuously sharing experiences in efforts provide a unified approach.

BE PATIENT-  There is no magic wand (although many behavior analysts wish they had one) and the only way to take back control of the classroom is to invest over and over and over again. Behavior change takes a lot of time, so keep at it and stay consistent!



Loren Gentile, M.Ed, BCBA, LBS recently joined the PTS team as a behavior consultant to help clients navigate the behavior needs of their districts and the students they serve.  She is a valuable team member, offering insight into how applied behavior analysis can be easily and readily incorporated into any classroom, resulting in long-lasting positive behavior changes. Contact PTS today if you’d like more information on our Behavioral Health Services!

Everyone Can Give Back

PTS OT, Jodi, talks about her idea to implement interventions that benefit others, including our furry friends!

Everyone Can Give Back

I’ve found that many students genuinely seem engaged and motivated to do their best when working on an activity to benefit others. This was true when students composed letters and created cards for local Veterans. One student, a fifth-grade boy, was so proud of his card he asked if he could take it home to show his mom. Four months later at his IEP meeting his mom still had that card and beamed with pride over his neat handwriting and creative work.

My idea to implement interventions to benefit others has since expanded to our furry friends as well. One very successful activity has been baking dog bones (recipe below) for our rescued four-legged friends at Diamonds in the Ruff and Good Karma animal shelters. This activity was carried out as part of a SPOT (Speech/OT) group session in both upper elementary and middle school Autistic Support and Life Skills classrooms.

These groups contained all of the good-for-you therapy skills – discussion of the project, planning, working in a group, following a recipe, kitchen and food safety, fine motor skills for measuring, stirring, pouring, etc. Students working on typing skills typed a short message and ingredient list which was then attached to tags on each bag. The first group even had the opportunity to hand out the treats to the dogs and volunteers of Diamonds in the Ruff when they visited our school for Community Day!

The opportunity to pair student goals with “giving back” activities is my favorite. I love seeing my students excited as they wonder who might be the recipient of their hard work. I encourage you to try similar projects in your schools!

Dog biscuits.jpg


Homemade Dog Biscuits

Recipe from Kitchen Confidante


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed
  • 1/2 to 1 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats and flaxseed. Mix in 1/2 cup beef broth and peanut butter. Mix well, adding additional beef broth if necessary to bring the mixture together to a thick dough. Form into a ball and turn out on a lightly floured surface. Roll to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut out to desired shape. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown, flipping halfway. Cool completely, then keep in an airtight container for about one week.

These freeze well and can be thawed in small quantities for treats during the week!

Jodi Gaunt, M.S., OTR/L

GJPQY – Go Below Song

Mary Adolf, M.S, OTR/L talks about the song she co-created to help teach students about descender letters, the letters that “go below” the main body of the letter. 

GJPQY – Go Below Song

So………….  I had an idea. There are 5 letters that go below. And I aptly call them, the “go-belows.”  They are g, j, p, q, and y.  I do push-in whole group instruction for first graders on handwriting.  How can I teach my first grade students to remember the ones that go below?  I show them in repeated visual demonstrations during whole group instruction, and I tell them funny things like “the go belows do not like heights, and like to sit their bellies on the line.”  But I needed more.

I love writing poems.  So I decided to write a little poem about the go belows.

Hey Hey Ho. What do you know?

There are 5 letters that go below:

g, j, p, q, y,

These are the letters that don’t go high!

They like it on the bottom line low,

So make sure you make them go below!

But it needed music!  Being collaborative at Exton Elementary, I decided to send my poem to our music teacher, Jamie Klingler!  He is so good with the students, and has a knack to just “make music” on demand.  So one of the first graders brought my poem to Mr. Klingler, and wouldn’t you know it, within an hour or two I had the music!  He created the tune to go to my poem, and taught the lines to the students in his first grade music class, and voila!  So awesome!  Collaboration at its finest.

The song was used to teach the first graders the go-below letters for the next two weeks!  So much fun!

Tap below to hear the tune!


And thanks again to Exton’s music teacher, Mr. Klingler!

-Mary Adolf, M.S, OTR/L (OT at Exton Elementary School)

Special Education Legal Q and A

Please join us at PTS Headquarters for a discussion with Andy Faust, a premier Special Education attorney. He will be presenting vital information regarding the latest updates to school based laws, and will be answering your questions. The cost is only $25.00, and is well worth it!

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Click this link to RSVP: https://223webstudio.formstack.com/forms/pts_online_copy


Surviving Indoor Recess!

Winter is HERE!  Sometimes weather can take a toll on our minds, bodies, and our energy.  We are not the only ones who feel the negative effects of the winter, kids feel it too!  Not only do they have to get bundled up in countless layers, which means extra buttons and zippers, but they are also forced to have recess trapped inside in the same room they’ve been all day! Indoor recess is not something anyone looks forward to!

Here are some ideas to make the most of indoor recess, promoting physical activity and fun, in order to energize everyone for the day’s demands.  The best part? There’s little to no prep time for teachers!


  1. Balloon volleyball
  2. Dance videos for kids on YouTube! Even better, subscribe to GoNoodle for daily brain breaks AND indoor recess fun!
  3. Silent ball: Have everyone spread out in the room. You have one leader who holds a medium-sized ball and counts down, “3,2,1” and passes the ball to another person in the play area. A player must sit down if s/he drops the ball, makes a bad pass, talk, or make noise. Play continues until only one person remains, last player standing gets to be the leader next round.  For young players have them sit or stand in a circle close enough to catch/throw.  For more of a challenge ask players to put one hand behind their back or spread out even further.
  4. Hot/cold game: One student leaves the room and the class hides a specific object. When they re-enter you help them find it buy saying “hot” for when they move closer or “cold” for when they move farther away!
  5. Pictionary: Have the students draw a picture of a spelling word or something from the morning story! What student doesn’t love extra time to draw on a white board?
  6. Human knot: Each student reaches across the circle with his or her right hand to grab another student’s right hand. Students then reach in with their left hands to grab a different student’s left hand. The object is to untangle the group without letting go of hands until a complete circle is formed.

Image result for human knot

The websites below have even more ideas!







As much as you want the students to get up and move to get some energy out, some students probably want to be quiet and just play a game, and as teachers, your room is probably packed with games already! Here are some board games that really work those fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and visual perceptual skills that are often addressed during occupational therapy sessions!

  1. Operation
  2. Connect 4
  3. Geoboards
  4. Pop Up Pirate
  5. Legos
  6. Twister
  7. Rush Hour
  8. Mancala
  9. Hi Ho Cherry-O
  10. Trouble
  11. Sorry!
  12. Hidden Picture puzzles
  13. Battleship
  14. Mastermind
  15. Jenga
  16. And so many more!

Image result for kids playing connect 4 Image result for kids playing jenga

So while indoor recess can be tough on everyone,  with just a little bit of (or no!) work on your part, the time can be spent having the kids play and have fun while working…without them even knowing it!


Colleen Marshall, MS OTR/L