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!






I don't know about you, but I'm eagerly anticipating the 2016 ASHA Convention this week!  Last year's convention was my first, and while it was a hectic trip, it was a great time.  I want to share with you some of my best tips for surviving - and thriving - at the ASHA Convention!

ATTIRE:

My number 1 tip?  Wear comfortable shoes.  Seriously, you will be walking MILES between your hotel, sessions, exhibit hall, and restaurants.  I literally walked a hole in my tennis shoes last year in Denver!  Make sure to have a back up pair, just in case.

As far as clothing, for the average convention attendee, business casual is fine.  Dressy jeans or nice pants and a top are perfectly appropriate.  If you plan on interviewing or are presenting, definitely dress up, but otherwise, whatever you are comfortable in and would normally wear to work is perfectly appropriate.

I would definitely recommend a light jacket or sweater, because many of the rooms can be quite chilly.

HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT SESSIONS TO GO TO?

I like to browse the Program Planner (sent to many attendees via mail in advance) to look at each time slot I have available and what topics I am interested in.  I usually have 2-3 that sound appealing to me based on my current caseload, and I will highlight those.  I also look for some of my favorite speakers in the field.  I try to narrow it down from there, keeping in mind that some popular sessions might fill up and I'll need a second choice option.

SHAMELESS PLUG:


I hope if you will be at ASHA on Saturday that you consider the presentation I am giving with my friends Hallie Sherman from Speech Time Fun and Felice Clark from The Dabbling Speechie.  It's called Use What You Have: Practical Uses for Common Objects to Target All Areas of Communication.  We're so excited to share some practical therapy ideas you will be able to use on Monday morning when you get back from ASHA!

PS:  We have goodie bags for the first 100 people that show up to our session, so you won't want to be late!

WHAT TO BRING TO SESSIONS:

Be aware that you likely will not have reliable wi-fi service during the sessions.  I like to download session handouts in the morning to my iPad, using the Notability app.  I also carry an old fashioned notebook in my tote bag, as well as a water bottle and snacks.

In most sessions, the chairs will be close together, and there won't be much room for a laptop.  If you prefer to take notes electronically, I would suggest an iPad and keyboard instead.

EXHIBIT HALL:

Make sure to allow for plenty of time at the Exhibit Hall!  In fact, I usually like to stop in for a bit each day, because it's just so huge and overwhelming.  Make sure to stop by the SLP Blogger Booth #514, where you can find me and 13 of my blogging buddies!  Here is when you can see me:


Make sure to find me in the exhibit hall during my scheduled time slots, because I've got 500 of these fun luggage tags to give away!



AFTER HOURS FUN:

My blogger besties and I are hosting a fabulous evening on Thursday at the Marriott Hotel - we have tons of great giveaways, so make sure to get there early!  Find out more details and RSVP in the Facebook event page.



DON'T FORGET:

Don't forget to pack a portable battery charger!  You will run through your phone battery very quickly.

Also, if you're like me and completely directionally challenged, download the Citymapper app.  They have a version for Philadelphia that seems very helpful.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Be prepared for long waits for food.  Scope out area restaurants in advance, and carry snacks with you.

There was a coat/bag check last year in Denver, which was handy, but they only took cash.  Make sure to have enough on hand if you plan on using the service!

Be friendly!  There are many SLPs you will see at ASHA that are by themselves or may not know anyone in line or at your session.  Take advantage of this to make new connections and friends!


Tell me, is there anything I forgot to include?  Make sure to say hi if you see me (and feel free help me with directions if I'm totally lost!)!




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FREE goal progress monitoring graphs for any speech and language goal!

Looking for a visual way to show your students' progress with their various speech and language goals?  I recently created these FREE graphs that I have been using with my own students.

FREE goal progress monitoring graphs for any speech and language goal!

For most of my students, we used the data from my progress monitoring sessions at the beginning of the year, and then again for first quarter progress reports.  I helped my younger students fill theirs out, while my older students were able to do it themselves with just a little guidance.  It really helps them take ownership of their goals and progress.

I love how easy it is for not only my students to see their own progress, but also for me to bring them to IEP meetings for their parents to see progress as well!

There are several different options available in this freebie to adapt to your students and their individual goals.  There are two pre-designed for articulation goals, where you can circle the position and level, while the others could be used to measure any speech or language goal.

FREE goal progress monitoring graphs for any speech and language goal!




As a school SLP, one of my most valuable resources is each student's classroom teacher.  Since I only see my students directly for a limited number of minutes per week, I rely heavily on my teachers to let me know what is going on with each student and to help carry over the skills we are working on in therapy.  Positive staff relationships are a must to help acheive these goals!


However, it's easy to get caught up in my own (seemingly endless!) to do list, and forget that the teachers in my building that are just as busy and overwhelmed.  It's easy to forget that classroom teachers have their own to do lists - definitely different tasks than mine, but just as time consuming and exhausting!  As my husband started a new job in my building teaching first grade this year, it's made me appreciate even more what our classroom teachers handle every day.

So today, I'd like to share three easy ways to help make your teachers' days a little brighter, as well as help you build positive staff relationships in your building.  One of my favorite quotes is, "Be the change you wish to see."  Everyone wants to feel appreciated and noticed, and why not start the trend yourself?

1)  This year, my school started a bulletin board in our lounge to help promote positivity, and I helped design it.

What happens is each person chooses a name from the box with all of our staff members in it, and he/she writes a short note to that person, telling them something that he/she appreciates about them or offering words of encouragement.  After the note is written, it is pinned to the board with the person's name.  You can do this once a week or once a month, choosing a new staff member's name each time.



You don't have to have a bulletin board and have the whole staff do it, either!  You can keep a small stash of notecards, and take a minute or two to write a note of thanks or encouragement for anyone when you have a chance.  You could even go digital and just send a quick email if you are short on time.



2)  In a similar vein, you can have your students write letters to their teachers.

Writing is always something good to work on in language therapy, and writing letters can cover so many different goal areas!  You can target word order, adjectives, expanding sentence length/complexity, pronouns, verb tenses, staying on topic, specific speech sounds, following directions, answering WH questions, and more.



I try to have my students write specifics about what they like about their teacher or what they have done in class.  Sometimes, I have my students do this if I can tell a particular teacher is having a rough week, and other times, it's just a random surprise.  It can be really insightful to find out what students notice about their teachers and classroom, and the teachers are always very appreciative.



3)  Be available and helpful whenever possible.

This may sound silly, but I always offer to my teachers to supervise their class for a minute so they can run to the restroom if I am picking up a student from their classroom.  It's a great opportunity to observe communication skills and interact with my students in their classroom setting, and something simple on my part that can help a teacher out a lot!

Also, I always try to send a reminder email to each teacher the day before any IEP meeting.  I know they can be hard to remember, especially when I am scheduling a month or two in advance, and is especially important when you are split between buildings.


What are some ways you help build positive staff relationships in your building?



I don't know about you, but I'm always trying to make my life - and job! - easier whenever I can.  Today, I want to share another quick tip for articulation therapy.  (See previous posts here and here.)


Take a moment to think about your typical articulation therapy sessions.  How many times with each student do you have to remind them of proper placement for your target sound?  Sometimes, it feels like it is every 30 seconds!

I frequently have students refer back to our articulation reminder posters, but sometimes that's just not enough, especially for the /r/ sound.

One day,  I watched one of my hardest working students struggle with an /r/ sound, but finally was able to self-correct after several tries.  I asked him to tell me exactly what he had done differently to make the more correct /r/ sound, so I could remind him of that in the future.  My student described what he was doing with his mouth and tongue, and it was so powerful to hear in his own words what he was doing!  His description was different than mine, but it clearly made more sense to him than my own description.


I quickly realized that this was a teachable moment, so I grabbed my iPad, asked him to repeat his description, and started recording.  Now, we're able to watch that brief clip when we start each session, and every time he starts to struggle, we can watch it again.

What do you do to help students remember the correct placement for their target speech sounds?



Top 8 Must Have Materials for Stuttering Therapy for SLPs

Fluency (or stuttering) therapy is an area that many SLPs feel under-prepared to serve.  While you may have had an excellent professor on the subject in grad school, it tends to be a lower incidence population in the school setting.  In my career, I have had some years without any stuttering cases at all, and the most I have had is two or three at a time.  It's hard to know where to go with therapy and what materials to use when you don't have much experience with it.

Generally, I have two main things that I really focus on when working with fluency disorders.
1) I want my students to understand what stuttering is and what it is not.  Ultimately, I want them to be able to advocate for themselves, and knowledge is power!
2)  I want my students to learn different techniques to help them make their speech more smooth.  There is no cure for stuttering, but we can make speaking easier and less stressful.

Top 8 Must Have Materials for Stuttering Therapy for SLPs


Today, I would like to share my top 8 materials that I use in stuttering therapy with my older elementary and middle school students (about 2nd grade and up).
  1. My Stuttering Mini Unit.  I created this because I was in desperate need of a systematic way to approach therapy with my older fluency students.  There are several options out there for younger students, but I had a hard time finding anything with graphics and topics appropriate for students in third grade and older.  This unit is where I start with any new fluency students.  I really like using the pre-test to see what exactly each student knows - or doesn't know - about stuttering.  From there, it teaches some of the facts and myths about stuttering, and then introduces different fluency enhancing techniques, with activities to practice.  
  2. I always start my therapy year by using my Articulation, Phonology, and Fluency Student Self Rating Scales.  With options for both younger and older students, I feel like this gives me a much better picture of how my students view their own fluency skills - which often can be rather far off from my own outside perspective.   This also helps me figure out which situations/settings may the most stressful for my students, so I can incorporate that into therapy.
  3. Books about stuttering.  For my elementary students, I like to read the picture book called A Boy and His Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz.  While I am careful to talk about how the author grew up in a different time period with different views than we have now, it's a book with a good message about overcoming the fear of speaking.  The Stuttering Foundation also has a good book for younger students called, "Sometimes I Just Stutter," which is available as a free e-book.  For high school students, the book, "Out With It" by Katherine Preston is a good read.
  4.  An iPad or other video recording device.  This is helpful to record students' conversational speech to review together in therapy.  You can use it to identify dysfluencies or secondary characteristics, or rate how the effectiveness of different fluency enhancing techniques.  
  5. Games with set phrases to say.  For example, Uno is a great quick card game that has short phrases (ex: "I have a red four") that you can use with different fluency enhancing techniques.  
  6. Books with short stories or poems.  These are great for practicing fluency enhancing strategies, as well as talking about appropriate phrasing and pausing (especially in poetry).
  7. Games with more open-ended speech tasks, such as Tell Tale or Rory's Story Cubes.  These are good for more conversational practice using fluency enhancing techniques.
  8. My Stuttering Homework Calendars.  These are great for quick and easy practice at home.  They come with specific directions for parents to help them understand exactly what you are working on in therapy, and how to support their child's speech at home. 

Want to make sure not to miss any more therapy ideas?  Sign up for my email newsletter here:  www.bit.ly/NatalieSnydersNewsletter 

PS: Want more therapy ideas for stuttering?  Check out this post!


Are you starting out in your school career, or just want to try something different during the first week of speech-language therapy?  Here's what my first week of therapy in the elementary school looks like.


My personal goals are pretty simple for the first week.  My primary purpose is to get to know my students and help them to be comfortable around me, since I will be asking them to try difficult things during the year.  I also think it is important for my students to know why they come to speech-language therapy.  Finally, I like to get some sort of baseline data to see how each student is doing with each of their IEP goals.



First, I welcome the students to my room, and introduce myself.  I show each one around the room, pointing out their reward chart, the treasure box, etc.  I try to make a point of explaining my bulletin board with "I can" statements, and show each student several that relate to their goals in therapy.


Next, we fill out these pages from my Free Student Goal Display.  While they are coloring a picture of themselves, I spend a little time getting to know the students, or if they are continuing students, what they have been up to since I saw them last May.  We also talk about what each student's individual goals are, and why they are important.  (It's so interesting to see why students think they come to therapy!)  I will take these and mount them on colored card stock to make a display for one of the walls in my therapy room.


Then, I will start quickly assessing my students' skill levels with each of their IEP goals.  My favorite way to do this is to use my progress monitoring tools for articulation, phonology, language, and grammar.  If I have a group of students, I will let the others draw me a picture, play with play-doh, or work on a quiet educational app on one of my iPads while I progress monitor with each student.  (This may take a full session or two, depending upon how many goals each student has.)


For my articulation, phonology, and fluency students, I also have them fill out my student self-rating scales.  I just created these last year, and I have found them to be very revealing to see how each student views his or her disorder.  These are also something I like to do again at the end of the year to see how much their perception has changed.


For my older students, we also spend a few minutes discussing how they will come to speech-language therapy.  Some prefer to come on their own, while others prefer me to come get them.  I think it is important to respect each student's wishes, and do what I can to work with each one.

What do you do in your first week of therapy?



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I don't know about you, but one of my favorite parts of birthday celebrations is getting to share the day with some of my favorite people.  As I approach a milestone birthday (the big 3-0!) I wanted to take a minute to celebrate with a few of my favorite people - and you are one of them!

Sadly, birthday cake just isn't made for sharing over the internet.  But, I do have a few great giveaways of a few of my favorite things for a few lucky followers!

Check out the three prize packages you could win:


The top package will be given away here on my blog to one of my readers.  The bottom right will be given away to one of my email newsletter subscribers.  (Not signed up yet?  Go here!  www.bit.ly/NatalieSnydersNewsletter)  The bottom left will be given away to one of my Facebook followers.


So, what is included in the blog giveaway?

  • "SLP" lunch tote from Erin Condren
  • $100 gift card to ErinCondren.com
  • $50 Target gift card
  • a set of PaperMate Flair pens
  • EOS lip balm
  • "Highly Koalafied SLP" pin from PeachieSpeechie.com 

How to enter?  Choose one or more of the entry options below by 7:00 pm CST on Sunday, August 14, 2016.  (US residents only)







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