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!

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)

Seamless IEPs – Student Goals vs. OT Goals

As we prepare to head back to school, Liz reminds us of the importance of IEP goals being the child’s goals, not a discipline specific goal! 

Seamless IEPs – Student Goals vs. OT Goals

Seamless IEPs

by Elizabeth Bentz OTD, OTR/L, SIPT

When I first began my career as a school OT eighteen years ago, I believed I could do it all. With the COTAs, our enthusiasm and magic wands, we could treat every student, climb over every wall, break down those barriers to participation.  That was the fun part.  The not so fun adventure was the avalanche of paperwork that continued to bury us along the way.  Documentation, weekly notes, ACCESS billing, parent communications, IEP development, classroom programs, progress monitoring goals, goals, goals.  All necessary.  All part of the job.  During those marathon OT sessions, every step needed to be paved with a paper trail, evidence that we were there with the student working hard to reach those OT goals.

While my team and I were eager to share the stories about our student’s journey, the harried teachers who were stressed and weighed down with their own mountain of forms, just wanted our IEP input for those OT goals.  Despite positive outcomes during occupational therapy, the student would be unable to replicate those stellar marks in the classroom.  This disconnect between participation in OT and in the class setting became another obstacle to overcome.  I had to find a way to bridge this gap because it didn’t matter how wonderfully the student worked for us.  If he or she could not succeed in the classroom, OT would continue indefinitely.  The marathon would turn into a race on a hamster wheel.  I had to get us off this wheel.


Ultimately, the goals are about the student.  They are not about OT, PT, Speech, the teachers, or the vision and reading specialists.  But this becomes the norm when parents and advocates want goals written into the IEP specifically identified by each discipline.  We are now left with a Rubik’s cube IEP with parts and boundaries, a “this is mine and this is yours” approach, rather than a seamless individualized education plan supporting the student’s ability to engage and learn.  In the school setting, occupational therapy is supportive. Education is the primary service.  Aiming towards this direction, we collaborated with the team to create student goals, not OT goals.  Initially, we were met with resistance. The COTAs and I had to break through the mentality of “this is how we’ve always done it”.  It was a tough uphill climb, but eventually we made it over the hump to show the IEP team successful and relevant student outcomes where we support the teacher, the student, and the IEP goals instead of creating separate OT objectives.  The federal regulations are clear that “IDEA does NOT require goals to be written for each specific discipline or to have outcomes and measurements on a specific assessment tool”.  This can be found on page 46662 in the U.S. Department Education’s publication Assistance to States for Education of Children with Disabilities and Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities (2006b).

While the law indicates that separate discipline goals are not required, it also does not prohibit it.  If the school team decides that the OT will be solely responsible for a particular objective, that is what will be written into an IEP.  We have learned to avoid these tripping stones by defining our role as a related service provider. When the teacher asks us, “where are your OT goals”, we identify the student goals on the IEP that we will help them achieve. Our goals are their goals. We are going to cross that finish line together with the student…as a team.






Elizabeth Bentz OTD, OTR/L, SIPT

The Gift of Giving

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” -Norman Vincent Peale

I have to agree with Mr. Peale. Everything IS softer and more beautiful this time of year.  Even though it’s one of the most stressful months for teachers, parents, and therapists, it’s a wonderful season filled with reflection, giving, and spreading warmth to those around us.  It’s even more special when we see our students and children getting into the spirit of giving because it gives us hope for peace and our future.  When children give, it comes from a pure place; when they shine their light, it’s so bright.  When I think about this, I realize that so often the students we work with are on the receiving end of someone else’s help, usually an adult.  They need help with their school work, they have goals and therapy services, they need additional supports to participate successfully in their classrooms and school environment.  But here’s the thing, everyone can give something.  And students with special needs should know that while they are receivers of help, they can also be givers. This nurtures a very important piece of their self-worth, shows that they are important contributing members of society, builds character, and just plain old feels good.

I’m thrilled to say that many of our therapists have embraced the joy of giving in their therapy sessions these past few weeks and we couldn’t be more excited about it. PTS is so very proud of the hard working, creative, and dedicated professionals we are blessed to call teammates year in and year out.

One of our awesome therapists posted on Facebook about her recent therapy session:

“Working on life skills today, while making homemade dog biscuits for Diamond in the Ruff rescue! How could you not love your job when it gives you the opportunity to combine your love of dogs, kids, and baking?!”


Another therapist emailed:

“Here are some pics of making invitations and delivering them……getting ready for the Holiday Breakfast Café!”

A most fabulous Speech Therapist posted in our private PTS team page:

“Social skills activity in an Autistic Support K-2 class. We are learning about kindness and doing acts of kindness for others. So we made a Grinch face & in the smile we drew what we could do to make others smile. Then hanging on the wall was a Grinch. For each act of kindness, the students could put a heart on him. At the end of 3 weeks, we celebrated our kindness with a Grinch Party. We made ornaments & a popcorn snack!”


So as we wrap up 2017 with a beautiful, big and sparkly gold bow, we want to thank our team and their students for making the world softer and more beautiful.  Our gratitude is far deeper than anything I could write in this post.

From all of our families to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May 2017 be a healthy and prosperous year for you!

Many Blessings,


Ccandice-bio-picandice Donnelly-Knox, OTR/L
Director of Clinical Services & Team Capable Classroom

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Research Update: Co-morbidity, Yoga, and Environmental Design

Nearly One-Third of Children with Autism Also Have ADHD

A new study from Kennedy Krieger Institute researchers found that a significant number of children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. They found that 31% of children with an ASD also had significant symptoms for ADHD. This is especially relevant because the new Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM-5) has revised the diagnostic criteria for these conditions, and a dual-diagnosis is now permitted. The researchers also found that the children with this dual-diagnosis tended to have more negative outcomes in regards to cognition, social participation, and activities of daily living, as well as more severe symptoms of ASD.

Continue reading Research Update: Co-morbidity, Yoga, and Environmental Design