Ways to Cope with Distance Learning


This is a whole new ballgame for most of us: Distance Learning. How do we cope with it? As School-Based SLPs, how in the world do we best serve our students from our homes? I'm going to outline my plan in this blog post.

1. I've set up a Google Voice Number. I wasn't able to set it up through my school Gmail account, so I'm using another Gmail account. It would be very easy to set up an account through an email created just for this time period. I don't like to give out my home number, although the very few parents who have it have not abused it. Google Voice makes it very easy to give a number to parents, along with specific office hours, where they can text, call, or leave a voicemail. I changed the settings so it doesn't ring my attached number, it only rings through my laptop when I have Voice opened.

2. I already had somewhat of a home office, so that was already done. If you have little ones at home, you have to do the best you can. I'm an empty-nester so we have a couple of empty bedrooms that were easily converted. My husband (who is working from home right now) has his office on one side of the house; mine is on the other side. If you can't set up a home office, find some corner of a room that you can designate as your office. Don't stress about your little one demanding your time during your work hours. Everyone is doing the best they can in this situation. Take care of your family first!

3. When it's quitting time, QUIT. Seriously. My school system has given us "office hours", so when it's 3:15, my work computer is shut down and I don't turn it back on until 8:15 the next morning. The temptation is there to just open up the laptop and check your messages or schedule that meeting, but...don't. It will be there tomorrow morning.

4. If you have a school laptop, use that for your school work. At this point, we are still able to access our schools if we need anything, only on certain days.

5. Lunch break. Take it. Again, the temptation is to grab a sandwich and sit back down in front of your computer. Take your lunch outside for a getaway, or just sit at the table...away from your computer. Enjoy it; once we get back to school you may not get a lunch break!

In the past week, I've had to learn how to use Class Dojo for more than sending parents messages and for classroom behavior. I've also had to learn Classtag for my other school. I was a little discouraged after being excited to finally having the chance to use Google Classroom, only to realize that I can't because of confidentiality. If I were to set up a class with all of my speech students at one school, the other students/parents would be able to see the names of everyone in the class. Luckily, Dojo and ClassTag are ways to send videos and pages digitally to parents/students.

This is unprecedented for all of us. We're all just trying to cope and serve our students the best we can. We had hoped to see our students via teletherapy, but my state has regulations that forbid anyone without a private license to serve students that way. So, we wait to see what's going to happen. Meanwhile, some SLPs are scrambling to get packets for students; others are using the homework folders and having the parents review them (with a tracking form being used to record when they are working on their speech). Never have I been more glad that I have given my students homework on a regular basis!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and get outdoors and get some exercise and Vitamin D!
How are you coping (or planning on coping) with Distance Learning? Leave a comment!


A Language Game You Don't Want To Miss! (And a GIVEAWAY!)

Are you looking for a new language board game for your students? I was contacted by Zoom on Speech, who is the creator of Zoom on Speech Kibbit Bingo Style Game Targeting Descriptive Language, Sentence Structure, and Ability to follow Multi-Component Directions asking if I was willing to try out the game for an honest review.
I have to say that this game was fantastic! My kids absolutely loved playing. I used it for almost every student on my caseload. Playing the game hit a target for almost every one of my students.
The rules are pretty simple: Roll the dice and see if you have a ball (or any of the items on the other 3 cards) that matches. The game description says there are 2 levels, but I would disagree with that. Doing what we do with modifying activities for our kids, there are multiple levels. I was able to modify it by adding dice for my more advanced students and changing the response required.
After rolling the dice, I had the student tell me what we were looking for. For example, "We're looking for a little/small ball with white stars." Another die can be added for a specific shape color to make things a little more difficult. And, you can mix up the response required to hit more artic targets. Or, hide the dice from the other players for more listening tasks. The possibilities are endless!
Included in the game:
  • 7 dice
  • 8 double-sided boards for a total of 4 themes
  • 40 chips


This will definitely be a "go-to" game. With 4 different boards (there are 4 boards for each picture), I can use them several times a year. And, at a price of around $30, I'd say it's pretty reasonable. This is a keeper! 
To order yours, click here.
Zoom on Speech has graciously offered a game as a giveaway. If you want a chance to get this game, all you have to do is let me know in the comments by leaving your email address or Instagram username! A winner will be randomly chosen on Sunday, 22 December 2019, at 10:00 pm EST
The winner will be notified by email. The game will be shipped through Amazon Fulfillment.
*Please note: I will not use your email for any purpose other than to notify you if you are the winner. 
**This giveaway is not endorsed by Facebook, Instagram, or Amazon.

Updated 12/22/19 at 10:10 pm EST


What is Appropriate For Speech Homework?

Photo courtesy of Pexels
As certified Speech-Language Pathologists, I think we need to be careful about what we are sending home for homework/home practice. I am a huge proponent of giving students homework (aka "home practice") so they will carry over the skills they learn in therapy to the home environment.

Sound advice from a long time ago

During one of my internships, I was given some very good advice. While working in a local speech clinic a man came in with some voice difficulties. After an evaluation,  he wanted me to just give him exercises to do at home. When I approached my supervisor, she said for me to tell him that I could give him exercises however they were not to be done without being supervised by an SLP. I think the same is true for students that we see in the schools for speech and language therapy.

It's not common sense!

Even though working on different sounds may seem like common sense to us, it isn't. We have had years of education and practice with each of the different sounds so we are the ones who should be teaching the students how to say those sounds, not the parents who have had no education in this area. Think about the placement of the articulators for each sound. I suppose if the average person thought about it they could figure it out. But what if they tell them the wrong way? It's kind of like playing an instrument: if you're taught the wrong way you won't get the good tone that the instrument should have. If you don't learn the correct fingerings that instrument is going to be a lot harder to play.

Practical Suggestions

We go through all that training for a reason: because it's not common sense. Here are some suggested guidelines for homework/home practice:

1. Make it simple. Remember, we may have some parents who may or may not have graduated from high school.

2. Make it short. I rarely give more than 10 words/sentences to my students because parents just don't have time.

3. Have the students return a sheet with a parent signature. This creates ownership for the students and it also keeps them accountable for working on their sounds.

4. Review the homework before you send it home. Even if it's just a quick review make sure that the students know what the pictures are. If they're having trouble saying a certain word or sentence you can review it with them before they practice it at home. I may send home notes on the page for tips that I use during therapy to get them to say they're sound right (for example for a /k,g/ I might write a note that says "make sure to tell them to open their mouths wide when they say the /k,g/ sound".

The Importance of Homework

Homework/home practice is just that: practice. We wouldn't expect an attorney to tell us how to draw up a will on our own or a dentist to send x-rays home with us so we can determine how to fix our teeth, so why should we expect parents to teach their children how to say their sounds correctly? That is exactly why, on my homework sheets that I make, I have an option that reads "After your helper says each word, tell where your sound is (beginning, middle, end)". If a student is working on the sound level, I don't want the sound to be practiced incorrectly, so I have discrimination worked on instead. At Eligibility Meetings, when parents ask what they can work on, I tell them to read to their child and let them hear how to say the sound correctly. I explain about the homework at that level and tell them they will be able to tell by the homework how their child is progressing.

Homework/home practice helps create ownership, responsibility, and helps with carryover to environments other than the speech room. Yes, it takes a little bit of planning each week, but aren't your students worth it?

picture of a woman puckering her lips, sitting with a little boy. Caption below: How to know what's appropriate for Speech Homework.

The Need to Tailor Lesson Plans to Your Own Caseload

The views and opinions in the post are my own. 
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
If you have to write lesson plans, then I'm truly sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I'm sorry that your administrators don't understand that the goals on the IEP are your lesson plans.

Over the past few years, lesson plans and activity calendars for Speech/Language Therapy have popped up on TpT. Your time and money can be so much better spent than taking (or buying) someone else's lesson plans. Take that time you are using to tailor them, and write your own. Novel idea? No. Every one of us is intelligent...if we weren't we wouldn't have those credentials behind our names. There is no way that someone can use another SLP's lesson plans; there are just too many factors. Besides the students' needs, there is also each SLP's personal therapy style as well as the principal's preferred format.  Sure, we all plan. Most of us at least write down (or have in our head as we become more experienced) what activities we're going to do for each of our groups.

You Know Best

No one knows your caseload like you do. No one knows exactly what skills your students should be working on like you do. No one knows your style of therapy like you do. So why buy plans and therapy activity calendars that someone else put together based on their caseload? Yes, it takes time, but it's not that difficult and it will benefit your students so much more. In addition, you will grow by leaps and bounds as an SLP.

Making Ideas Your Own

I'm definitely not saying that we shouldn't be looking at what other SLPs are doing and getting ideas from them. Some of my favorite things I'm doing with my data collection and therapy aren't my own ideas. But I have taken those ideas and tailored them to my style of therapy. What works for one person isn't going to work for everyone. Please don't try to fit your students into someone else's mold. It just won't benefit the student and it will probably end up frustrating both you and the student.

Individualize!

Write each student's goals to their individual needs. Don't try to write goals according to what cute materials are on TpT. To be perfectly honest, the students don't really care how cute it is; they just care that it's fun and engaging. My students love when they throw chips in a cup to see how many they can get in. Not cute, and to be perfectly honest, not very creative but they love it.

If at first you don't succeed...

My advice to young SLPs is this:  Save your money. Use your talent to create your own style of therapy. Tailor your activity calendar to your caseload. Have faith and confidence in yourself that you can do it. You don't have to do it perfectly those first few years of being an SLP; you learn best by trial and error. You can do it! I have complete faith in you!

Need help getting started? These posts may help.
How to Build a Play-Based Lesson Plan
Lesson Plan Template
coffee cup on table with plant and open writing book with text under the picture


4 Tips for Getting Back in the Groove

Photo by Miesha Moriniere from Pexels
While friends around the country are just settling into their summer routines, the Southeast USA is gearing up for a new school year. I tell my husband constantly that only having a couple of weeks vacation at a time makes it much easier to go back to work than having a couple of months off. I spent my summer avoiding most things speech-related. I definitely needed that break. I read books, watched some Masterpiece Theater, and did some things around the house that had been neglected.  But now, with the beginning date for staff in just a few days, I'm desperately trying to get into the back to school groove.

Here's how I mentally prepare for getting back in the groove:
  1. Get my new planner in order. I actually did this in June, as soon as it was delivered. I have all of my personal and school calendar information in with stickers on the appropriate days in the monthly view. 
  2.  Check my school email. I haven't checked my school email regularly all summer, so it's time to see what is happening. I have to admit to fighting off a slight panic attack when I saw a video from the SpEd Office Staff. 
  3. Complete online Professional Development Courses. My school system requires some online training, so the perfect time to complete them is right before I report for the school year. The SLP Summit is an easy, quick way to load up on some CEUs.
  4. Clean out my bag. I had a wonderful bag that I used the past few years but it was beginning to show wear. I purchased a new one; it's not as big as the other one but I think it will work. 
Just doing those 4 things has helped me tremendously. Being organized is definitely an advantage. Stepping away from Speech things for a couple of months has also helped. We all need to step away and realize who we are, not as SLPs, but as actual people!
All of the "beginning of the year" things (seeing whose class my students are in, getting ready for Kindergarten screening & 1st and 2nd-grade re-screenings, getting meeting dates in my planner) can wait until I get in the building. For now, just concentrating on the four things listed above is enough. 
What do you do to get your mind ready for the beginning of the school year? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

More Back to School Posts:
It's Time to Brush Up On Your Therapy Skills...Especially for /r/!
The Beginning of the School Year: YOU'VE GOT THIS!
Can I Get a Summer Do-Over?
planner next to red flowers with pen and paperclip beside planner. Text on the planner: Enjoy the little things. Text under picture: Getting back in the groove. 4 tips to help you get ready for the new year.

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