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.

oobleck

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

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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!

Capture

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?!”

dog-biscuits

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,

Candice

Ccandice-bio-picandice Donnelly-Knox, OTR/L
Director of Clinical Services & Team Capable Classroom
candice@pts-inc.net

Interested in PTS? Visit our Facebook page                                                                   Or find us here: www.capableclassroom.com  ♥  www.pts-inc.net

 

Creating Visuals For School-Based Therapies

All kids love visuals, and the more attractive and personally meaningful, the better. From picture-based communication systems, to visual cues for articulation sounds, pictures can support a wide range of children, including those with autism and learning disabilities. Pictures can make therapy goals more engaging, entertaining, and achievable!

In a previous post, we talked about how pictures can be used in a therapy session. And now we are going to share some ways to create terrific looking visuals!

Our first stop is the “Visuals Engine” from Connectability.ca. This is a free resource that includes templates for basic picture communication, with included photos and pictures, and an option to upload your own photograph. The website has tips and guides for creating tools using the picture templates, and is a great alternative to more expensive picture communication tools.

Another option for creating picture communication tools, as well as games, exercise programs, self care sequencing, and many more tools, is the iPad application “Custom Boards” by Smarty Ears. Custom Boards gives the user an incredibly easy way to take photos and import directly into the application, all using the same device, in addition to access to the built in pictures, and access to Google picture search for even more options. You can save, print, and email the boards, and change font, font size, and background color of the pictures.

*As of publication, Custom Boards is currently $19.99, available on the iTunes Store.

Check out these great visual tools created using Custom Boards!

Custom Boards Sample 1

Custom Boards Sample 3Custom Boards Sample 2

Another great tool for creating awesome pictures is PicMonkey. This is a web-based program that allows the user to a upload and edit photographs in a variety of ways, including adding text and creating collages. PicMonkey allows the user to use Instagram-like photo effects, as well as touch ups. There are many options included with a free option, and premium options are available for a fee. The website interface is user-friendly, for even those less experienced with technology.

 

We’ve shared three great resources for creating attractive visuals for our students. Are there any more that you have used and recommend? Let us know here, or on our Facebook page!

Toys and Games For Attention and Focus

jigsaw puzzle

Happy Holidays! For some parents, choosing gifts for their children can be an overwhelming challenge! As occupational therapists, we know that play is the primary work of children and an important way to develop skills. And just as any tool, toys can serve a purpose in promoting healthy child development. We have put together some suggestions for toys and games that support the growth of sustained attention and focus.

  • Puzzles – Jigsaw puzzles are great toys, that can be graded, or adjusted in difficulty, easily. A clear goal, and the ability to transfer previously learned strategies to more challenging puzzles make this a toy that a child can learn to complete independently. For beginners, non-interlocking and 2 piece interlocking puzzles can be an introduction to the toy. Increasing the number of pieces adds both to the difficulty as well as the length of the task. Setting up a large puzzle in a central location lets the whole family get in on the fun!
  • Building Blocks – Legos™, wooden blocks, log building toys, magnetic blocks, oh my! All of these are great tools that children can use to develop fine and visual motor skills, imagination, and sustained attention! Following visual, step-by-step directions can be a lot of fun when you end up with a neat helicopter or log cabin!
  • Crafts -Rubber band looms are a very popular toy right now, and along with many other crafts, can help children engage with a task over an extended period of time. There are many craft kits available for children of all ages. Loom or hand knitting, crochet, or model kits all provide opportunities for children to gradually begin working independently, and can be a “just-right challenge,” with readily-available support from an adult.
  • Strategy Games – Like puzzles, board games have a clearly defined endpoint, which can help children practice sticking with a more difficult task. For games that support attention and focus, look for board games that require a slightly longer time investment, and incorporate a logical thinking or strategy component. Examples of board games that may benefit focus include checkers, chess, Monopoly. A quick search online for “strategy games for children” reveals so many more!
  • Memory Games – These games engage children and encourage focus on a single, sustained activity. Memory and Simon can be great games that progress and challenge children. Technology, including iPad and Android apps, also offer options for memory games. For a game that addresses multiple skills at once, check out Listen Close Articulation! Developed by a speech-language pathologist, this game can allow children to practice both memory and targeted speech sounds.
  • Preparatory Toys – Play that incorporates sensory input can also help more active children get ready to focus and learn. Yoga is one fun way to add movement into a child’s day! For more gift ideas, MamaOT has created a list of the “Ultimate List of Gifts for Sensory Seekers.” This list is full of great suggestions for children who are looking for extra sensory input, which can be utilized before more cognitively demanding activities!

Do you have any suggestions for other toys that develop sustained attention?

Evaluating Ourselves as Therapists

As the end of the marking period approaches, we are looking back and examining our student’s progress and performance. But just as we periodically evaluate our own students, so should we evaluate ourselves! Self-evaluation provides an opportunity for us to step back from the daily routine and examine strengths and needs, what we have learned, and what we want to learn. When we make self-evaluation a priority, yearly or biyearly, we can determine progress towards our own long term goals. And when problems and stressors arise in the workplace, examining our behavior can be important in finding solutions that benefit everyone.

Of course, looking at your own skills as a therapist can be challenging. But there are tools and strategies to help you start the process.

1) Professional Portfolio/Continuing Education Unit (CEU) Logs

Maintaining an ongoing record of courses and classes completed not only eases renewal of certifications and licenses, it can help you chart your learning, develop specialized knowledge, and set goals. It can also monitor your progress toward the goals you set through self evaluation.

2) Journaling and Professional Reflections

Not only can writing down professional experiences help you with self reflection, it can decrease stress. Write about both the positive and negative, and make sure to leave space to reread and reflect later on. Just make sure your writing is HIPPA compliant and secure. 

3) Professional Organizations

Many professional organizations offer tools that can help with assessment. For example, Springfield Public Schools has a Framework of Professional Practice for Speech and Language Pathologists that outlines competency areas and expectations. ASHA also has a comprehensive document, titled “Performance Assessment of Contributions and Effectiveness of Speech‐Language Pathologists” that includes the Performance Assessment of Contributions and Effectiveness of SLPs Matrix, another tool that can summarize the areas expected in the field.

AOTA also offers the Professional Development Tool for members, which has many resources that occupational therapists can use to assess skills and create action plans. The National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists also offers practice-specific self-assessment tools online.

The APTA also offers self-assessment tools for physical therapist members.

And of interest to all related services practitioners, the Occupational Therapy Ethics Self-Assessment Index is available for free online, and a short series of questions related to ethical behaviors can be found within this document. 

4) Character Assessment

Finally, taking a objective look at one’s own character can provide valuable insights when engaging in self-reflection. One tool that is available for free online is the Via Survey. Registration is required.

 

Do you have any terrific tools for self-assessment?