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I recently had a grant funded by a local foundation, and after sharing about it on Instagram and Facebook, I had several people ask for more details.  So today, I would like to share with you about what I have learned about writing grants and where to find funding sources.


One thing I often hear people say is that they don't have the time to write an application, especially if there isn't money in the budget anyway.  Trust me, I understand the budget issue!  I currently get around $200 per year to spend on materials for my elementary and middle school caseload - and with 15-40 evaluations per year, that's easily spent on standardized test forms alone.  I spend a lot of my own money on therapy materials, as well as a lot of time creating my own.  (In fact, that's how I got started on TpT - I was working in a newly created position in my first three years fresh out of grad school, and there weren't initially many materials for me to use.)  But when it comes to the big ticket items, I just can't afford to spend that kind of money, even though my students would benefit from it.  And really, it didn't take that much time - once I found out about the grant opportunity, it took me about an hour to write the first grant, and only about 20 minutes for each subsequent one.

First, know exactly what you want.

 ... and more importantly, be able to explain *why* this is necessary to do your job.  Are all of your standardized tests years out of date, putting you at risk for a due process issue, as well as hindering your ability to appropriately assess students for special education services?  Do you travel between buildings, with no space to store or carry materials?  Be prepared to explain how a new iPad loaded with articulation, phonology, and language apps would make you better able to serve your students, while still remaining portable.

Be prepared.

...to explain what exactly it is you do, in a way that someone who is not familiar with our field - or even special education - would understand.  Address that first in whatever type of application you fill out.  Why are your services so valuable?  What does learning better communication skills mean for your students in the long run?  How many students do you serve, and what kind of communication difficulties do they have?

Don't forget to include information about yourself.  Who are you?  What is your background?  What are you passionate about?  What ties do you have to the community and/or school district?

The key to a successful grant application is to persuade whoever might fund your grant that your request is important and will help you help your students, and that speech and language skills are vital to educational success.

First, talk to your principal or supervisor.  

Be prepared with the information above, and be clear that you know this request isn't possible with your current budget, but you are looking for any other possible funding sources.  They may know of different local organizations, grants, or funds that you haven't heard about.  For example, when I requested the Expanding Expression Tool a few years ago, I was told it was out of my budget.  After explaining how I could use it to help my language students, and how it would also help improve their reading and writing skills, my principal was able to find me the money in some left over Title I funds.

I would advise starting on the district level.  Does your building have a Parent/Teacher Organization that helps teachers purchase certain supplies?  Does your district have a community foundation that awards grants?  These are often good places to start.  My husband (who is a first grade teacher in my building) recently got a grant for a class set of Kindles through our community foundation.

Next, are there any area foundations or businesses that will donate to school staff?  This is where you will need to ask around - ask other specialists and teachers in your area - or even your area Facebook friends! - if they have heard of anything.

This is how I found out about a foundation that awards grants specifically for special needs students in my Illinois county only.  (Apparently, the foundation was created with the leftover money and investments from a home for children with special needs in our county that closed down many years ago.)  This is where I received funding for two iPads, apps, and the new CASL-2, and also where my husband was able to get funding for a set of Hokki stools for his first graders.

I also know of a local Lions club that donated to help fund a child's cochlear implants that were not going to be covered by insurance.

Finally, consider state or national sources.  

DonorsChoose.org is a popular option, although it takes quite a bit of work on your part to make sure that potential donors know about your project.  Donors Choose encourages you to fund raise among your personal connections, although there are certainly anonymous donors that help fund projects as well.  From my research, you are most likely to be successful on Donors Choose if your project is $300 or less if at all possible, and you definitely need to keep it under $1,000.  It's more likely that several smaller projects will be funded, rather than one large one.

If you are a member of the NEA, they have Student Achievement Grants available for which school SLPs may apply - you can find more information at their website here. 

Also, check out this list on Edutopia for grants available around the country to see if you might fit the criteria for any grants listed.

You can also try googling "special education grants" and your city, county, or state.

Need an example?  Click on this link to be taken to a sample grant application.  


PS:  Don't want to miss a post or therapy idea?  Make sure to sign up for my email newsletter here:  www.bit.ly/NatalieSnydersNewsletter 


Jungle Themed Sensory Bin for SLPs

Have you hopped on the sensory-bin train yet?  In my last post, I talked about how to assemble your own - and today, I would like to show you one of mine that I have made with a "safari" theme.


If you missed my original post, here is how to make a sensory bin yourself.  For this bin, I used green crinkle paper originally, and then switched to large green pom pom balls, as the pom pom balls are easier to clean up if it gets accidentally knocked over.


I also got a set of safari themed animal figurines (similar here), as well as some Lion King figures.  (I wanted to make sure that I had both a "boy" and "girl" character to include, so I could work on pronouns with some of my students.)

This bin is great for exploratory play and spontaneous language.  Usually, the first time I introduce a bin, I simply let the students pull out the contents, one piece at a time.  We work on naming and vocabulary, and talk about the different items/animals.  We will also work on categories (such as "Can you find all of the *big* animals?" or "Find all of the things that are brown!") and comparing/contrasting (ex: "How are the lion and the giraffe the same?  How are they different?")



During other sessions, we'll read books or watch videos that correlate with the them, and then we will re-enact what happens in the story with the figures.  This is great for working on story re-tell, pronouns, verb tenses, complete sentences, expanding utterances, describing, sequencing, answering WH questions, and more!

Here are some of my favorite online videos for this theme:
And some of my favorite books for this theme:


If I have students working on articulation or phonology, we will look for items in the bin that have the target sound in them.  If there aren't that many, I will hide stimulus cards in the box prior to the session for the students to find.

What other books or videos do you love for the safari/jungle theme?

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One question I am asked a lot is, "What are your favorite games and activities to use with middle school students in speech-language therapy?"  Today, I would like to share with you my top 13 favorites!


One thing that I think it is important to note that I'm not an SLP that uses games in every session, even for my elementary students.  For middle school, I prefer to structure my sessions with an introductory activity, then a main activity, followed by a few minutes of games as a reward at the end of the session.

Once or twice a semester, I will have a "game day" that is primarily game-based as an incentive for my students to work hard in our regular sessions if needed as a reward.  You would be surprised how motivated middle school students can be with the promise of playing the right games!



That being said, here are my favorite games for middle school students:

Quick and easy for the last 5 minutes of a session:
  • Jenga
  • Uno
  • Basketball hoop (students love to keep score!) - similar one here
  • Regular playing cards (to play games like war)
Top 13 Games for SLPs in Middle School


Good for targeting articulation, language, fluency, and social skills in structured conversation within the session:
  • Rory's Story Cubes 
  • Tell Tale
  • Would You Rather card game
  • Bubble Talk
  • Headbandz
  • Loaded Questions, Jr.
  • Bubble Talk


Good for longer game times, but could also be worked into a "do a task and take a turn" therapy format:
  • Trouble
  • Battleship
The best speech-language therapy games for middle school SLPs!

What games do you find that your middle school students prefer?

PS:  Looking for therapy activities for middle school students?  Check out these posts HERE and HERE, and check out the middle school section of my TpT store here.



It's funny how much an SLP's caseload can change from one year to the next - even within the same district, or even the same building!  One of the challenges I have this year is that I have more younger students on my caseload than I have had in a long time.  My traditional therapy approach - sitting at the table and working on one or two activities for 20-30 minutes just isn't very motivating for these students, so I knew I had to start changing things up in therapy!

After doing some research, I decided to try making a few sensory bins in different themes to help target a variety of goals.  These have been a huge hit with my students, so today, I want to share with you how to make some of your own!


  • First, choose a theme.  (Tip: think about what therapy materials you already have.  Do you have several picture books about the jungle or winter?)  Here are some examples:
    • Seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall)
    • Holidays (Valentine's day, Thanksgiving, etc.)
    • General themes (farm, jungle, pets, ocean, zoo, garden, outer space, etc.)
  • Then, you need to start with a container.  I found clear shoeboxes from the Container Store that have worked well for me, but you could use any type of container.  If you plan on storing it between sessions, I highly recommend using a container with a lid that fits well.  If you don't need to store it, then you could use any sort of tray or box.  

  • Next, you need a base for your container.  Depending on your theme, you might choose different materials - for example, for a winter themed bin, you probably want to choose something that is white to resemble snow.  (Also, consider the needs of your students here - do you have any students that might try to eat the items?  Do you have any students that may struggle with a heavier weight of container?)  There are a lot of different materials to consider, including:
    • cotton balls
    • pom pom balls
    • beans
    • rice 
    • shredded paper 
    • Easter grass
    • plastic rocks or "crystals"
    • small rocks

  • Then, add items that match your theme.  For example:
    • plastic animal figurines
    • action figures (make sure to have both male and female if you would like to target pronouns)
    • small stuffed animals
    • party decorations (such sparkly snowflakes, googly eyes, or hearts)
    • small erasers
  • You can also add "tools" like a small scoop or shovel to add to the fun!
Once your bin is complete, you can choose to add stimulus cards (such as articulation or language cards) if you would like.  The bins themselves are great opportunities for spontaneous language samples, as well as guided language play.  Some of the goals you can target include:
  • Vocabulary
  • Pronouns  (ex: talk about what the different figures are doing)
  • Following directions  (ex: "Show me the lion, then show me the zebra.")
  • Basic concepts (ex: "Find the biggest snowflake!")
  • Prepositions (ex: "Put the dolphin next to the shell.")
  • Expanding utterances
  • Verb tenses - present, past, and future

TIP:  I like to keep a post it note in the lid of my sensory bins to remind me of which bin is which, as well as what related books or materials I have to use on the topic.

The Dabbling Speechie has some great posts on her blog about sensory bins, too, so make sure to check them out here!

PS:  Want to make sure not to miss a post?  Sign up for my email newsletter at www.bit.ly/NatalieSnydersNewsletter!

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SLP friend, I know you.  You care so much about your students and sometimes feel overwhelmed with the weight of everything that is expected of you.  Sometimes you are tempted to walk out that door at the end of the school day and not come back - and yet, there you are tomorrow morning, because you can't give up on your kids, and you know the power of the communication skills you are helping them learn.  It's overwhelming, exhausting, and the best job in the world, all wrapped up together!

But do me a favor, will you?  Take some time for yourself over the next couple of weeks and refill your own cup.  Ignore those progress reports and work emails for a few more days and take care of yourself!  You can't give any more from a vessel that is empty.  It's necessary to take time to rest and recharge yourself to keep up with everything that is on your plate.  You're worth it, friend.


Can I make a confession?  I very rarely do crafts in my therapy room.  Most of the time, they seem very time-consuming on my part, while not allowing for as many trials as a more traditional drill approach.  Also?  I hate cleaning up afterwards!  :)

But every once in a while - especially around holidays - I like to change therapy up a bit and try some crafty projects.  They definitely have to be easy, low prep, and low mess!

Today, I would like to share with you four super easy craft ideas that you could adapt to almost any speech or language goal.

4 Quick and Easy Holiday Crafts for Speech Language Therapy

 First up is this Christmas tree craft.


I made this by cutting green construction paper into a quick triangle and gluing it on a black background.

For this particular student with language goals, we were working on requesting and following directions.  So the student had to use an appropriate question (ex: "Can I have the red marker?"), and also had to follow directions (ex: "Put the yellow star at the top of the tree.")


Next up is this candy cane craft.  I quickly drew a rough candy cane shape on red construction paper, then had the student cut it out.  As the student was working on that, I cut small strips of the white paper for our stimulus words.

For this particular student working on articulation, we brainstormed words that started with S blends. I wrote them on the white strips, and then we practiced saying each word and glued it to our candy cane.  This would also be easy to adapt to irregular verbs/plurals, articulation at the phrase or sentence level, pronouns, items in categories, describing, and so much more!


 Next is this easy stocking craft.  I had my student cut out the red construction paper "sock," while I cut out the white decoration at the top.  We then glued it to black construction paper.

This student has been working on the EET and describing, so I had her come up with a description for a stocking, which we wrote directly on the page.  Again, this would be easily adaptable to articulation, following directions, grammar, categories, or sequencing goals!  You could also write target sentences (ex: "Santa lives at the North Pole") to practice certain fluency enhancing strategies, as well.



Finally, with our constuction paper scraps, we made a quick and easy paper chain.  I cut the leftover paper into strips, and we glued interlocking circles together.

This student was working on S- blends, but would also be great for working on vocabulary and expanding utterances, or using complete sentences.  Again, you could adapt it for almost any goal!  And bonus - it helps clean up some of the mess from the other crafts.  :)

Tell me, what goals would you target with these crafts?

PS:  If you like these ideas, make sure to sign up for my email newsletter to get more fun therapy ideas sent directly to your inbox!  Go to bit.ly/NatalieSnydersNewsletter to sign up.


I've been home from the 2016 ASHA Convention for almost a week now, and have had some time to reflect.  Several people have asked me, "Is it really worth the time and expense?"


In a word, yes.

The ASHA Convention is one of the most exhausting and rewarding experiences I have all year.  I end up walking more miles per day than I want to know, am on my feet for 6+ hours a day, and don't get enough sleep. Last year, I literally wore holes in my shoes!  I miss my family terribly while I am gone. 


But, it also gives me the chance to renew my passion and enthusiasm for speech language pathologist, while surrounded by some of my best friends that I only get to see once or twice a year.  (Seriously, these ladies are amazing, and I am so proud to call them my colleagues and friends!)

I am surrounded by 14,000+ people from around the country that share my passion for communication.  I get to meet hundreds of them myself at our blogger booth, and make amazing new connections that I wouldn't otherwise. I have wonderful conversations with random strangers at our booth or in line to grab some food.  

I have the opportunity to share my ideas on a live stage with other SLPs who will go home and try them.  (Many thanks to my friends Hallie Sherman and Felice Clark for presenting with me!)  

I get pushed out of my comfort zone again and again in the five days I am away from home.  This is why I love the ASHA convention, and why you'll see me next year in LA!



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