Guess what?  It's time for the annual Back to School Sale on!  I always love this sale, because it gives me a chance to stock up on some great materials at excellent prices for the new school year.  Today, I'm linking up with Jenna over at Speech Room News to show you what should be in your cart, and what is in mine!

 Back to School Sale SLP Linky Party

Here are a few items that I definitely recommend you take a look at in my own store:

1)  Stuttering Mini-Unit.  This is my latest product, and is designed to be a complete unit for your upper elementary, middle school, and high school fluency students.  I have never been able to find really good fluency materials with age-appropriate graphics for my older students, so I decided to create this unit!  My intention was to focus on teaching students fluency enhancing strategies, as well as give those students plenty of information about stuttering itself.

 Stuttering Mini Unit

2)  Year Round Homework Bundle.  I use these packets all year!  You can purchase each month separately, in a seasonal bundle (a 15% discount), or the year-round option (20% discount).  I love that I can just make copies once a month, and have homework ready for the majority of my caseload for the month in about 15 minutes!

Year Round Speech and Language Homework Bundle

3)  See You Later, Alligator Posters (Early Developing Sounds).  I have several items in the room decor category of my store, but these are some of my favorites!  I love how I can sneak in some quick  practice with my students' speech sounds as we are walking out the door - it's perfect to start targeting that real world carryover of skills that is our ultimate goal!  Available for common artic sounds as well as for early developing sounds.

Now, here are a few items from other SLP sellers I definitely think you should check out!

1)  Speech Therapy Organization and Data Planner by Maureen at The Speech Bubble SLP

This adorable product will help keep you organized in style for the next school year!  I'll be honest, I thought about updating my old SLP Binder Organizer, since it only went through June of 2015, but just didn't have time this summer.  I was so glad to find Maureen's!

2)  Interactive Articulation Flip Books by Felice at The Dabbling Speechie

I love this new series from Felice!  These are great for making articulation therapy more fun, and are perfect for RtI.  You can purchase only the sounds you need, or the entire bundle at once.

These are so adorable!  Perfect for subtle reminders to your students to use their correct speech sounds or to think about their behavior.

Tell me, what is in your cart?

I don't know about you, but in my state, we are expected to use the Common Core State Standards when writing goals.  The classroom teachers in my school are expected to display the standards they are using, as it is part of the teacher evaluation criteria.  When I was looking two years ago, I couldn't find anything to help me display the standards as an SLP - so, of course I decided to make my own!

speech language pathology common core state standards

I sat down with the CCSS for several hours, deciding which standards correlated with the profession of speech-language pathology the most.  I translated those into student-friendly "I can" statements that would work for a wide range of ages.

I ended up making several different sets to go with practically any decor.  For kindergarten through fifth grade, there are the cool tones set (aqua, blue, purple, lime green), warm tones set (yellow, orange, pink, red), rainbow set (three different color schemes), and patterns set (four different color schemes).  There is also one set for middle school and high school that contains six different color options.  I love how they make a functional, yet beautiful, bulletin board display!

I've also included a handy 5 page chart that lists each "I Can" statement and corresponding standard for each grade level.  I keep this next to my work computer for easy reference when writing IEPs.

I don't know about you, but I love when all of the stores get their back to school sections out!  Well, ok, so I don't love the reminder that my summer is close to ending, but I do love school supplies...  :)

Today, I've gathered a list for you of some of my favorite things to stock up on at the beginning of the school year.  It's definitely worth it to buy in the next month or so!  (Have you ever tried to buy crayons in April because you ran out?  I have, and paid 3x per box what I do in July or August - ugh!)

Without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things, in no particular order:

Post-it flags:  These are great for helping to organize my binders, books, and paperwork!  I always make sure to get a set of the "sign here" flags, which are very handy to make sure I don't forget a signature on one of the fifty million ten or so signatures needed on every IEP.

Crayons:  I use these all the time with my kids (less messy than markers!) and always pick up several packs.  If I can get them cheap enough, I will stock up for Christmas and/or end of the year gifts for my students.

Highlighters:  For some reason, my older students love highlighters!  They are great for highlighting vocabulary/definitions, main ideas, supporting details, etc. - and if it can help my students remember important info, I'm all for it.

Mechanical pencils:  Much more cool to my students than regular pencils.  I will usually stock up on these for my treasure box, as well as get enough to use in therapy for the year.

Index cards:  I use these to write myself notes or make custom flashcards for students year round.

Two pocket folders:  I send home homework with the vast majority of my students every week.  These folders make it much easier!  (Psst:  Find out why I always buy green folders!)

Notebook paper:  I keep a supply of this on hand at all times.  My iPad is great, but sometimes it is just easier to demonstrate concepts on paper!  It's also good for when I'm using the EET to work on writing with my older students.

Binders:  If you have seen pictures of my classroom, you will have noticed that I love binders!  They are perfect for organizing my progress monitoring tools, homework packets, and more.  Bonus: at back to school time, there are often binders available in fun colors like these!

File folders:  My paperwork piles look much better when sorted into pretty file folders like these!

Magnetic mirror and pencil cup:  I find that large mirrors tend to be a distraction for my kids, so I have a couple locker mirrors stored on some of my magnetic file cabinets in my therapy room, which are great for articulation therapy!  I also use magnetic pencil cups on my dry erase board to store my colored dry erase markers.

Clipboard case:  I've carried a clipboard for every therapy session I have done since grad school!  I always seem to drop mine and chip it at least once a year, so it's always good to have a backup.

Hand sanitizer:  I'm a bit of a germaphobe and make my students use this before we start every session.  (My students are so used to my routine that they will remind me - "Time for a squirt!" - if I forget!)

Plastic drawer units:  Perfect if you don't have much storage in your therapy space!  Prices are the best during the BtS season, and you can often find them in fun colors this time of year.

Plastic storage crates:  Great for organizing therapy material odds and ends!

Area rugs:  You can find the best selection and prices during the back to school season!  You don't have to spend a lot to make your space immediately seem more inviting and cozy.  You can either go for a fun color and/or pattern, or a basic neutral.

Lanyards:  Great to keep your school id and/or keys on so you don't lose them!

Desk lamp:  I love the selection available at this time of year!  The addition of some lamps to your space can really make it feel more comfortable and inviting.  Plus, if your room doesn't have any windows (like mine!), extra light is always a good thing!

Honorable mentions:  Sticky tack, 3M hooks/picture hanging strips, and/or push pins to hang all of your posters and decor on the walls or bulletin boards.  Also, mini calculators to help with standardized test scoring, and colored post-it notes to keep track of everything!

Note:  All of the pictured items were found in my local Walmart.

So tell me, what do you think - did I miss anything important?  What are some of your favorite school supplies to stock up on?
Today, I'd like to give a warm welcome to my good friend Felice, who is presenting the latest installment of, "Stepping Outside Your SLP Comfort Zone!"   - Natalie

Nonverbal Students with Autism

Hey there everyone! This is Felice Clark, the author of the blog The Dabbling Speechie and I am here to share how I stepped outside my comfort zone while working with nonverbal autistic students. To be honest, I step out of my comfort zone every year because something always comes up! My career as an SLP has been primarily in the school setting in areas with rich diversity in culture, languages and economic status. Within the first 3 years of my career, I had worked with PreK-12th grade!  It wasn't until my 4th year in my district that I got the opportunity to have TWO elementary sites (not the newbie anymore).  During that year, I did a lot of bilingual assessments, targeted articulation and language disorders as well as worked with students with social pragmatic disorders.  My expertise was with the higher leveled students on the autism spectrum and I hadn't had many students with AAC needs since grad school (I love pragmatic therapy).  The start of my 5th year, I learned that one of my sites was going to have two moderate-severe autism classrooms, k/1st and 2nd/3rd grade. That year, most of the students placed in those classrooms were verbal. Most of my therapy focused on improving language comprehension and social skills. That year I attended a PECS training and used that with one of the students for about 4 months until he moved.

The following year, things got a bit overwhelming for me. Both classrooms had more non-verbal or limited verbal students.  They ALL had different strengths and weaknesses and wait for it......unique and diverse high interests.  Also, there were 2-3 students who could potentially benefit from a higher tech AAC device.  Did I mention, I had on average 75-80 students on my caseload that year (that is a whole different sort stepping outside my comfort zone discussion)!?

To say I was rusty with this population was an understatement. Here was what I did from August to October...cried and complained weekly, asked Starbuck's if they would hiring me again and put on my "fake it till ya make smile" every day at work.

Most of my therapy during that time worked on "requesting"...I want _____.  It is not a BAD place to start, but it was the only place I was going with therapy and progress was not what I had hoped. I was also having a really hard time connecting with my students.  I networked with their teachers to find out high interest activities, but some of my kids had an attention span of 30-60 seconds.  Add in limited joint attention abilities with limited modes of communication and that makes for a very LONG day of therapy. I was used to kids telling me what was wrong, sharing their opinion and enjoying my therapy activities.......this was not always the case with my mod-severe autism students. Most days, I felt incompetent and not a reliable resource for my teachers. Plus, I was starting to resent these little guys and gals because I was running out of ways to connect with them!!

In October, one my SLP colleagues mentioned that they wanted to go to a yearlong training on AAC assessment at one of our department meetings.  I instantly raised my hand and said "I wanna go!"
Between November-May, I attended 2 day courses every month through the County of Special Ed. It was amazing!  I finally had a starting point on how to assess my nonverbal students current modes of communication, implement visual supports for every session and target functional communication beyond "requesting".

Immediately, I went back to my school and made my first CORE board.  I brought that to every lesson whether I pushed in or pulled out students.  There were 2 students that really needed to start with PECS, so I used what the teacher had made AND the CORE board.  Then, I made visual necklaces with CORE communication words that I used often with my students such as "help", "stop", "all done", etc. that I could use to communicate even if I didn't have my communication boards handy (i.e. walking in the hallway).

As the year went on, I continued to make fringe vocabulary and visuals that I needed for these students.  Above is a picture of the AAC starter kit that I made to have more low-tech tools to aid in improving functional communication. What happened during the rest of the year was pretty exciting............
Here is what I learned:
  • CORE boards changed my life! I had visuals for every session that I prepped one time.  Even if I wasn't able to make fringe vocabulary, I always had my CORE board visual ready to use.
  • Try new activities.  You NEVER know what a student may like/not like.  It was humbling when an activity was a giant disaster and a small reminder that I don't know everything.  I did a post 10 days that helped facilitated communication if you need some ideas.  If I didn't try new things, I wouldn't have discovered that my kids liked doing a nature walk, they do love craftivities and making snacks were a big hit!
  • Modeling how to communicate with the CORE boards and communication tools will help your students learn what to do. For my kids with a higher desire to communicate, caught on really easy when I communicated while touching the icons.
  • Even my kids who were verbal, but needed visual supports benefited from aided communication boards. My verbal kids who sounded really robotic began to have MORE novel utterances with less visual and verbal prompts.  They increased in comments, requests, and greetings.
  • Some of my kids started calling me by name when I walked through the door! I was able to build better relationships with them when I had more visual communication tools.  When my students were better able to communicate with me, I was able to listen to them, which helped with reducing behaviors. I even got some hugs and day ever!!
  • Getting staff and teachers to use CORE boards is difficult.  Teachers and staff are not always used to incorporating new ways to communicate with students.  My biggest success was modeling my skills in the classroom setting when I pushed in.  Getting into debates about which approach is better will only create friction.  If they won't try your ideas, then you need to find the teacher who will!! Speech Room News has a great new series for getting staff more involved in using visuals!
  • Figure out skills your students need for communication throughout the day and then target those areas.  For example, greetings are great to work on because the student has to greet teachers/staff on and off the bus, the lunch ladies to get their food, the SLP, OT, coming in from recess and circle time. I made some visual supports in my starter kit that help with visuals.
  • Some of my students didn't progress the way I had hoped.  Many of my students increased there functions of communication (greetings, requests, opinions, comments, affection), but a few were still working on initiating and engaging.  Keep trying, but remember if they don't have a desire to communicate, you have to work with high interest items to increase initiation and joint attention first.
  • Don't stop believing in your students.  I had my days when I stopped believing in my students abilities to communicate better.  It's horrifying to write, but it was a struggle I had to overcome.  You may wake up one day a couple months later and see a completing different student.  It's amazing when this happens!!
  • Ask for help! I went to my AAC guru's in our district, asked the staff/teachers for insights and went to trainings to learn more.
Above all, I learned how to LOVE my students better through that experience.  Currently, I changed school districts, so I don't have those students anymore.  Hope this helps you have a starting point if you are going to be working with nonverbal and limited verbal students on the autism spectrum.

Can I share a quick tip with you?  I’ve found an easy way to increase my speech-language homework return rates, as well as help ensure that notes to parents and teachers go to the right place.

My secret?  The power of color!

Now, it may be obvious to some of you, but my favorite color is green.  I make a big deal of this when I meet kids for the first time and get to know them.  (Side note:  A great quick language screening tool I frequently use when kids come into my classroom for the very first time is to say, “Ok, I want you to take a good look all the way around my room.  Can you guess what my favorite color is?”  Generally, students with more serious language concerns choose the wrong color.)  I point out all the items in my room that are green, like my clock, clipboard, plants, and posters.  I always make a big deal about choosing the green dry erase marker to use, or the green game piece when we play games.

Now, sure, I like the color green, but my main goal in doing this is to make sure my students associate me, Mrs. Snyders, with the color green.  I send home green speech-language homework folders, and I make sure notes to parents are on green copy paper whenever possible.  I have found that since I started doing this - rather than using whatever color folders I had left or regular white copy paper - my student/parent return rates have increased significantly!  My students will see the green items in their backpack or desk, and quickly associate that item with me.  Some even will remind their teachers that anything green needs to go back to me!

Do you think this might work for you?  Do you have other tips or tricks to share?
I don't know about you, but I never seem to have enough storage in my classroom for all the therapy odds and ends I seem to make and/or collect!  I have a hard time keeping all my cards and TpT items together, and decided to find a better way to organize them.

I started with four sets of these white plastic drawers.

Sure, these drawers are perfectly serviceable as is, but I wanted to have them match the rest of my classroom, while also hiding the contents from my students' view.  Time to break out the spray paint!  Pro tip:  Use plastic primer spray paint before painting with a color.  This makes the finished result much nicer and less cheap plastic-y looking.

While the main color in my classroom is green, I decided to go with an accent color of aqua.  This color just makes me happy!  (And I bought too much, so I have a whole can left over...  Oh, the possibilities!)

Here's what it looks like after paint:

Next, I needed to choose a scrapbook paper for the drawer fronts.  While my favorite choice is the green and blue on the far right, I knew that I wanted to label each drawer, and that pattern is too busy to see the label clearly.

I measured one of the drawer fronts, and used a paper cutter to get each piece to the correct size.  (Cat assistance optional.)

Originally, I was going to use double sided tape to attach the paper to the drawer fronts.  However, apparently we were all out, and I didn't feel like driving for an hour round trip in the middle of my project to go get some more.  Thankfully, I found some clear sticky glue dots in our craft supplies, and decided to give those a try.

The glue dots ended up working well!

Next, I made some labels on my computer for each drawer.  I could have written them on with a permanent marker, but I can never line up my handwriting quite right, and it never looks very good.  Plus, the labels will come off (with a bit of persuasion) if I need to change them.

I placed one on each drawer front.  Here's the finished product!  What do you think?

The whole transformation:

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