I'm pretty excited to be starting this program at almost all the Kindergartens I work in this week! I have my thought bubble printed out and am looking forward to seeing how the kids respond to this program in the four different classrooms. So far in the preparing phase, I'm really loving it. The goal seems to be to teach students about the building blocks of social thinking - which impacts interactions, decision making, friendships, classroom success, and many other things about learning!
The simple plan is all laid out for the instructors, and is very interactive, so hopefully it all goes smoothly! I like the vocabulary and phrases, such as 'come and put your body in the group', having a brain for a thought, a heart for a feeling and a mouth for speaking our thoughts, and thinking about a 'group plan' as the expected behaviour for that scenario.
I'm sure I'll learn just as much as the students! Wish me luck!
Well...silence isn't always golden, especially as an SLP. But it sure has been quiet here on my website! I'm not sure why! I think because I have just kind of been sitting back and watching what is happening with my business, and I wasn't sure what to say about it. :) Things have been good, very good. Not easy all the time, and often different than I pictured things would be, but good.
One of the things that I have enjoyed through the years in my career is when my caseload has really interesting clients, and I must say that is certainly true this year. My mind is always racing at work, thinking through possibilities to explain certain behaviours, thinking of better ways to do things, and finding new and creative ways to reach out to kids and adults alike. I really enjoy that, and the creativity is good for my spirit. In my main contract, I have some really supportive teachers that I work closely with and that has meant so much and helps with some of the more frustrating moments. :) And my individual client contracts are the sweetest little ones ever, I just adore them!
Over Christmas I did realize that I missed having daily coworkers! I didn't even go to the Christmas parties very often once I had little kids, but this year I did miss the regular contact with colleagues to bounce ideas around with, and celebrate with. I am so glad to have some great ladies to share the work with even though we get busy and don't always connect as regularly as my social nature desires, ha! So it's alright, just an adjustment for me, and I border on annoying-puppy status with them most of the time I'm sure, haha. I should write on this blog more often and then I can pretend I have people to talk to about SLP issues ha!
With the new year, I am full of new ideas and excited about my first week back at work. With my main school contract, I am continuing to work to try find ways to be purposeful about language and speech therapy within the context of play, as we have been directed to do. My newest strategies include improving communication with EAs in the classroom, including documenting more about what we've discussed. For example, I made a poster to show a language concept we were going to target for the classroom for the week, and modelled to the adults how to do that, and I hope to rotate that out at least weekly so that I have a record of what we have addressed. For my individual clients, which I see in homes, I am continuing to make very good use of Pinterest and "Teachers Pay Teachers", and am seeing some nice progress with them in the skill areas we are addressing. Observable progress is always good. :)
Anyway, that's a little update. I have had some fun conversations lately about some volunteer opportunities, some Skype opportunities, and have been really working at expanding my knowledge base in AAC, an area I have loved for many years in my career, particularly in the advances in literacy with students who use AAC. Exciting!
So...as much as I had ideas about what my business would look like, it is looking much more like sitting back and watching things happen, and walking through doors as they open. It is a trust walk. And it is also one that I'm super grateful for, I know some people that are really wanting work these days. Thanks for listening and for your support to me and my family!
In addition to my work at the schools, I have been slowly adding a couple of private clients - clients who I see in their home who either pay for the service with their work benefits or maybe through an agency if they have funding. Today I had a first visit with a little guy, and his mom sent me the best text after our appointment.
Isn't that the sweetest? For one thing I just hate that a little guy could already know anything about smart or 'not smart'. But if I can have anything to do with changing his mind to be in the 'smart' category, then I am ALL IN! So fun. We had a great time, and working in their home worked really well, better than I thought it might. :)
My bookkeeper (who is quite handsome and lives in my home haha) has me all set up with a very cool system for our invoicing and receipts and processing payments, using www.waveapps.com. So I got to try it out 'onsite' today. It worked really well, all paperless, and all automatic. Love it!
So it's a good day to be part of ConnectSLP, at least in this house! Thanks for your support. :)
There are so many great things about my job right now, but one of them is that I get to be right in there...right on the ground...right knee-to-knee doing the speech thing with some kids with really interesting communication needs. Many times that involves some alternative methods to support communication - in other words, not just talking! This often involves some form of pictures, and even though this is pretty speechy stuff, I would like to share some thoughts on this topic.
When I went to school back in the mid 90s, we learned about what to do when people couldn't speak. You could try signing with them. And then if that didn't work, try boardmaker pictures with them, or if that was too hard, you used printed photographs, or if they couldn't do that, you could use actual objects. It was called a symbol assessment.
There was a day that Mayer Johnson's Boardmaker program was what Everyone used for symbols. Pretty much exclusively. They were revolutionary really. They found a way to depict many things in line drawings and had pre-made grids to fit devices so you could just pop your pictures in, print out the sheet, and slide it into your device. The program cost over $500 and you had to have the CD in the computer (as well as install a part of it) to search or print out any photos. But it was dearly loved, by parents, teachers, SLPs and kids. And it still is. Mostly. :)
Let me tell you a story about what happened to me this fall. The teacher in my classroom sent an email to their tech people at head office asking if they would install Boardmaker to her computer. They messaged back that she needed to have her disk in the computer for them to do that from their site. So we put the disk in, and messaged them back that we were ready. Then they said it was all installed. But we got an error message. After several emails back and forth, we were very proud and excited that we finally got it installed to her classroom computer and we opened up the program. I added a few symbols to a display and we got ready to print. But the school only has a black and white printer onsite, and for this student we needed colour. The printing site with colour printing doesn't have the actual Boardmaker disk to put in their computer to print out our document (which can't be saved as a pdf), so they were unable to print in colour. I then tried to take it home and install it so I could use my own colour printer, but my version of Windows was too new, and I would have to upgrade my/her copy of Boardmaker. This process took well over a month.
Annoyed. That's how I felt. Maybe a smidge beyond that even, ha! To top it off, later this year, a student in the class is going to be trialling a device that doesn't even use Boardmaker symbols, and the apps on the iPads in the school don't have one Boardmaker symbol on them! So on a cool October day about a month ago, I decided I was done with it! I'm done with Boardmaker...unless someone insisted and could make it much easier for me and my clients than it currently is (I know, I know, they have a new Boardmaker online system...it might bring me back some day, the verdict is still out!). Technology advances have had a significant impact on the field of 'AAC' (augmentative and alternative communication), in more ways than I can even imagine!
It has been interesting to watch in the last few years, as a newer group of symbols has emerged with a nice clean website, a format that makes sense for the way clinicians work these days, and a yearly subscription fee of $49 with new symbols added at least weekly. I could pay for over 10 years and still not reach the cost of buying Boardmaker! They also have willingly partnered with many of the new apps and device programmers to include their gender-neutral clean symbols in current context. So, now most devices and apps use SymbolStix. And so do I.
I'm still feeling it out a bit. It has taken me awhile to figure out how it 'thinks'. I'm used to my old ways, and my old pictures! But it is growing on me, and the more I figure it out, the better I like it. I have set up folders for some of my main symbol students, and added in lots of symbols that I think they may like to say. I then downloaded the whole folder at once to my computer at home and added them into a table in a Word document. I also made a template on the website and downloaded a PDF right from their premade grids which I was able to send to the School district offsite printing place to get colour printing. Their symbols really are a different way of thinking, and that has taken me a bit of getting used to. I really like the gender neutral quality, and I like some of the expressions. Some of the simplest words are the hardest to depict on a symbol, and I appreciate the struggle I can see in the development of some of the symbols.
A word about photographs...A couple years ago, I had my thinking shaken up a bit by a speaker who came to town named Linda Burkhart. She's a practical approachable lady who has a great connection with kids and gets to the heart of the matter quite quickly. I find people either really appreciate her approach, or they find reasons to cast her aside. I really resonated with her thoughts on the use of photos and objects instead of symbols. If I may paraphrase, if a child is at the level where we need to teach them photos or objects paired to real activities, we will have to re-teach them if we ever move to symbols, so why not just start with symbols and see if that can work. There are many reasons that symbols have an edge over photographs for students - more transferable to new settings, easier to detect the salient features of the symbol, and I find in general, easier for the team to adapt, modify and use across settings. I have seen that to be true in my practice before I heard her say that, and also since then. So now I rarely use photographs as well. This article link explains it much more fully (and technically!) than I have here, and is an excellent article.
So, there are my thoughts tonight on symbols in speech therapy! Thanks for listening, any thoughts? Would love to hear them! I'll keep you posted as my relationship with SymbolStix continues. :)
Apparently October is AAC Awareness Month. Isn't this a great little picture/message?! Yes, just say Hello. It's a good start!
So, Hello! I've had some people ask how I'm doing now that things are settling in a bit with the fall. I hesitate to really say, for a number of reasons.
I remember when I was at my last job, and was chatting with someone who used to work there. She was enthusiastically sharing that she didn't regret leaving for a minute and was really glad she made the leap to something new. I recall feeling a bit personally insulted or defensive or something, even though I had plans to resign and start this new business venture! So I don't want to be too enthusiastic and offend my dearly loved previous coworkers!
Also, the parts of my career that have never been fun for me (aka paperwork, mounds and mounds of paperwork) didn't disappear with a new job! And October is heavy on the paperwork in this profession, ugh! This blog entry should actually be called 'procrastinating from writing more IPP goals on a holiday weekend'.
But I will say that this life change - resigning from public health after 16 years, and starting a private practice has been the perfect move for me at this time in my story. I just love it. So much. Every day. I've made some mistakes and there are things I'm already behind on, but I just love that it is more of a reflection of who I am, or at least I can see the potential for that. I love thinking of ideas of what I might try next year when my schedule is a bit more open (with both my kids in school full-time). I feel so very fortunate to have a half-time contract for this year with the age of kids I love to work with, and getting to do lots of hand-on things with some of my favourite little ones in the city. The coworkers that come with that contract are the absolute best. Truly. It is fun to slowly explore a little one-to-one therapy outside of the schools as well. Things are moving at a good pace for me - enough to keep it exciting but so far not enough to be overwhelming or having to turn a bunch of people away.
So, I'm thankful and settling in and really enjoying life, if you were one of those who was wondering! Thanks for caring.
I will leave you with this thought that is an encouragement for me this evening...
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
OH boy, September is intense for us school-ish folks! Lots of meetings and organizing (and re-organizing!) caseloads, and figuring out which cute little mini-student matches up to a name on the list.
For me, it has been such a welcome breath of fresh air! It reminds me what I love about my career and that makes me oh.so.happy! (clap along...if you feel like a room without a roof...because I'm happy.... - sorry if you didn't want that great song in your head for the rest of the day!)
My primary contract this fall is with preschool and kindergarten kids in a school division that believes really strongly in the value of play for kids. I found the evidence in this video we watched on Monday to be quite compelling.
I think lots of us like to say that we value play...at least in theory. Or maybe when it occupies our kids so we can make supper or check facebook, if I'm being really honest! But many of us adults have kind of forgotten how to play - it's a good thing that it often comes naturally for kids, so we can follow their lead and let them decide how it's going to be, and that is good for both the adult and the child! It can be kind of overwhelming at first to let go of our own agenda and just play with kids. (thoughts coming through our minds might be something like...shouldn't we TEACH them? how will we know what they have learned? Where are the rules? ha!). It has been really rewarding for me as a mom to watch my children's imaginations blossom and to watch them love playing together.
As an SLP, it is a shift in thinking to challenge myself so that I can address the speech and language goals of my students through following their lead in play in a classroom setting. It takes an open mind, and I am making an effort to really try it and find my way through it. I had a great time today...I played a lot! I drove cars and worked on several concept words and built rapport with two little girls, I played at a ship and worked on 'sh' with a slightly older boy with good language skills, and I did some puzzles with some boys who get frustrated easily. I also did a lot of collaborative 'cleaning up'. I don't know how it's going to look on a contact note yet, or how I will remember what to work on with each student, or whether I'll feel like I'm really doing my job. But I'm looking forward to trying this out, and it touches on concepts that resonate really deeply with me.
I'll keep you posted! But in the meantime, I will be playing with a purpose!
I have had a few questions come my way lately about when to be concerned about little ones who aren't yet talking, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts on this topic.
In recent years, I think the push for 'get help early' has gained momentum in our profession, and is moving further away from some of the 'wait and see' approach.
My absolute go-to source for early language is the Hanen Centre. Here is a quote from their article (referenced below) about some guidelines to determine whether your child should see a Speech-Language Pathologist:
The Hanen experts also share some thoughts about the stories you hear of kids that suddenly start talking when they turn 3 in complete sentences (usually it's someone's uncle, ha!). It's a good idea to see an SLP when you START to have concerns, partly because we can give some 'everyday' tips to help a young child's language develop, but also because we can help look for other red flags that may indicate reasons some kids don't speak until later. Many will develop age appropriate language on their own, but some won't, and getting help early can make a big difference.
In the meantime, what can you do?
First things first, you can't make someone communicate! You can try to force a child to copy what you say, but that doesn't mean they are communicating, and that isn't really what we're looking for in language development.
Second, quizzing a child with questions and asking 'what's that called?' is also unproductive in the longer term. I know it's tempting, as I think it gives us as parents a good feeling to feel like we are teaching our little ones something. They may answer your question, but that doesn't get at difficulties with spontaneous communication and telling you what they actually want to say. And more than likely, the questions are tough for the child and the child will fail in the interaction. No one learns well when they feel like a failure, even a child.
I always encourage parents to try to play with their child without asking any questions and see if they can do it. It's tough! :) But reducing the number of questions we ask really helps. Try commenting on the play by describing something or even saying 'this is fun' at first, just to build interaction between you and your child while playing. Use simple sentences, or even just single words...or maybe even just sound effects for starters (farm scenes help with this, or cars and trucks).
Don't be afraid to leave some quiet space in the play! Watch what your child is doing, and follow along. Children do learn language by imitating us spontaneously, so I try to leave a long pause after commenting on something, with a big smile and see if the child copies me. Repetition helps a lot. So for example, if we're playing with bubbles, I might say 'pop' or 'more' over 100 times, even though it feels a bit ridiculous at first! I have had great success with teaching simple signs at this early level too - such as 'more, help, puppy' or 'drink'.
There are many other ideas that can help, but maybe that's a few to get you started! This is one of my favourite areas of my profession, so it is fun to discuss! Feel free to send any questions along, or other topics of interest!
What an exciting week! A lot of 'unknowns' are now becoming more clear for me, so it has been really fun to have more of an idea of what my work is going to be like this fall! I haven't been this excited about general work routines for several years, so it is a breath of fresh air! So far, the dreams I had for starting this business seem to be worth the risk - I have been able to be with my kids at key moments this week in the first week of school, and my schedule is looking like it is just right for me. Now talk to me in a few weeks in the craziness of first assessments and sorting out caseload and I might be singing a different tune, ha! I'm super thankful for my kind friends that are giving me invaluable help through this transition.
But as I head off to the schools tomorrow, advocating for kids with disabilities, this thought comes to mind this evening.
To me, this seems like sort of a no-brainer at first. But I have seen evidence to the contrary a number of times in my career, even, I will admit, by myself in earlier days. I have been guilty of making assumptions about what kids were understanding, just because they didn't have a way to indicate their understanding to me. But I have been proven wrong in a glorious fashion a number of times, and I'm thankful that I was.
This quote says it fairly clearly - it is safest to assume (at least at first) that a child is capable of learning. I believe it is a human right to learn and to be challenged and to be given the same opportunities as other kids whenever possible, with adaptations to compensate for the complex communication challenges. In essence, it's about respect. And students deserve respect just as much anyone else. In my humble opinion!
Nathan tried hard to swallow, but it was almost like his throat was just slowly closing. He knew he had to do it, he had to! But it was hard. Mom always said 'we can do hard things', so he was going to try to borrow her words and tell himself that over and over again, with every block that passed as they made the drive from home to school in Mom's van on Sept.2, the first day of school at Misty Hills School.
Who would his teacher be? Would he have any friends there? Would he at least be able to find any friends at recess? Would the teacher be nice? Would anyone talk to him? Would they laugh at his reply? Would they like his new shirt? That reminded him, his new shirt was itchy at the back of his neck, oh man, why did he have to wear a new one? Especially today. The fears and questions just bombarded him without ceasing.
He clutched his security, his freedom, in his arms. His binders and the Kleenex box from the school supply list could all go in his backpack. But not this. This was the only hope he had of making it through this day. The only way he could possibly connect with anyone he met, beyond facial expressions and smiles and sounds. This communication device was the key to his words, the only way he had to talk, the only way he could breathe really - if freedom is breathing. And it was the only way he had to make it through another long day with heart-questions that he couldn't voice and fears he couldn't describe. All he had to do was remember where to find the words and menus he wanted, and hope that the teacher or friend would wait long enough for him to get his message out...it would speak his words, his smiles, his heart.
He took a deep breath and even smiled a little. He could do hard things.
Thinking of all the kids as they head back to school in our area next week, but especially the ones I have to come to love so much with complex communication needs and extra challenges! They are the bravest. Ever.
My friend kindly described this week as 'the autumn rains are coming', which is better than complaining about it pouring rain for a few days and the temperature drastically dropping, don't you think? :) But I think we are feeling it here in our area of the world...my boys found some trees where the tips are turning yellow, the calendar is telling us the summer is coming to an end, and I think we're all kind of just sensing this shift as it happens.
What kind of fall person are you? Glad to send your kids back, or mourning the loss of the time together? Relieved to embrace routines again, or getting in all the lazy days you can while you still have a week? Ever since my kids started school, I have struggled a bit with sending them back to school and saying goodbye to summer easy living, but I have always been a big fan of fall with cooler weather and routines, so it is kind of a mixture for me these days!
This year is extra fun, with learning about my new rhythms at ConnectSLP. I am really looking forward to working with some little kids again, and curious about what my work will entail! Opportunities to advertise and connect and build relationships are opening up all the time, and I'm really thankful so far for the ways this allows me to reach out to others!
As you send your kids back to school, can I just encourage you for a moment to set aside that overwhelmed feeling (I know it well!) and take some time to really connect with your kids? Give them a few moments on their agenda (even if it means coming up with questions about Minecraft), and let them know you are proud of them and who they are as humans. Think of some specific character traits that you love about them and tell them they are great. They're heading off into a world that can be overwhelming at times, and their little hearts need to know that you are in their corner! That connection with you can set the tone for learning for them and give them the confidence they need to be the best they can be.
Good luck to us all as we transition to fall!
P.S. Notice anything different about my website? :) Bee happy!