December 27, 2017

App Review: Little Stories Pro by Little Bee Speech

This app has been an absolute lifesaver for me, as an SLP with a caseload of 60+ students. I see students from preschool-6th grade. I see mixed artic-language-fluency groups. I have kids that I see using the 5-Minute program. I see students of all cognitive abilities. And I've used this app with each and every one of them.

Little Stories boasts that it can be used to improve speech, language and literacy-- and I agree! I've used it for all three areas with success.

Photo From: Little Stories Pro (app) by Little Bee Speech

Working on articulation? Little Stories has you covered.
There are 82 stories included in this app. You can search stories by speech sound, therefore allowing you to pick stories that are loaded with your target sound! You can preview the words within the story before actually reading the story, to ensure that they are appropriate for your student(s). The story even tells the reading level so you can feel confident in your passage choices! When reading the story, you can choose to have the target words bolded, if you choose (I use this feature for children who are just starting to work on their sounds in reading passages, then I fade away as they begin to master the skill). The option for speech recording (where you can mark errors on incorrect productions) is one of my favorite features, however. I love letting the children hear back their productions AND the fact that data collection is made simple. Added bonus-- tongue twisters for each story! Because what student doesn't love a silly little challenge?

Photo From: Little Stories Pro (app) by Little Bee Speech
Working on language? Little Stories has you covered.
These same 82 stories are also easy to use with language students. Working on a certain point of view or verb tense? Guess what? The story preview allows you to see what POV and tenses are used in the story! After you've picked a story (don't forget you can check the reading level of the story before beginning), there are comprehension checks available. Target story retell by recording the child telling his version of the story. Work on 4 step sequencing by dragging and dropping chunks of the story into the correct order. Answer wh- questions by choosing from a field of four. Answer open-ended questions when you're doing, using personal connections. If you like the story and want to read more like it, there's an option for that! Simply take a peek at the "related stories" option.

Photo From: Little Stories Pro (app) by Little Bee Speech
Working on literacy? Little Stories has you covered.
Each story has a list of sight words included! You can even practice sight word flash cards before beginning the story, as a review. When reading the story, you can choose to bold the sight words if needed. If you're working with a younger child (or a child who is still an early reader), you can actually CHANGE the format of how the story is visually presented to make it easier for the child to navigate and read. If you're working on reading fluency, there is a timer option with with automatically calculate words per minute AND allows you to mark errors via a speech recording.

Photo From: Little Stories Pro (app) by Little Bee Speech

Mixed groups? Little Stories has you covered.
Take a look at the information presented above. Each story contains each of the elements (speech, language, and literacy). Even fluency can be targeted easily, thanks to the reading passages, opportunities for speech samples and recording options. No matter your target, you can use this app for your group. Honestly, it's my go to for quick-planned mixed-group therapy. You can even save the information under the students' names to keep up with data over time!

Sorry to be long winded, but I tried to cover everything that I'd want to know about an app before purchasing. It's important that you know just how much this app has to offer-- and boy does it offer a LOT!

Have you used this app? Are you still on the fence? Let me know in the comments!

*I received this app for free in exchange for a review. However, all opinions are my own. I love this app!

Until next time,

June 29, 2017

SLPs and Amazon Prime: A Love Story


Are you an SLP?

Are you a busy human being?

Are you ready to shop conveniently from home?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you NEED Amazon Prime!

"But I already use Amazon. Why do I need Amazon Prime?"

There are so many reasons to sign up for Amazon Prime. Let's explore!
  • Free 2-Day Shipping. This is the biggest perk, in my opinion. If you suddenly decide that you want to do a craft, but you're missing pieces to complete the craft (example: 500 Foam Barn Stickers*, and YES, I have ordered these more than once!), you can order it and it will be at your house in 2 days with FREE SHIPPING. If you are planning to do a book lesson, but the library doesn't have the book you need, you can order it and have it in 2 days! What about products in bulk? If you can't make it to a Sam's or Costco, never fear! You can order 60 Glue Sticks from Amazon* at a fair price. You can't do that at Walmart or the Dollar Tree! Amazon can send almost anything to your house within 2 days. (Psst-- certain areas even have same day delivery options!)
  • Free Unlimited Photo Storage.YES, you heard right! All those pics you have clogging up your computer and phone? What about all those PECS pics you've taken that you aren't using at the moment? Move them over to Amazon Prime! They'll store them for you!
  • Prime Reading and access to Kindle Lending Library. Borrow and reading books for FREE using these services. As a book-a-holic, I cannot complain. I can read books for free, right from my phone or iPad! Search for children's books that you can use in therapy as well. Nothing beats FREE!
  • Amazon Instant Videos. This one doesn't really have to do with being an SLP, but... it's free movies! You can stream videos (sort of like Netflix) for free with Amazon Prime. That's just another great perk that comes free with the membership.
  • BONUS: Coming Soon... Amazon Prime Wardrobe! Amazon Prime has a new service coming out, similar to Stitch Fix! I know many SLPs and teachers LOVE Stitch Fix, so I can't wait to see what Amazon has in store for Prime customers!

So here's what you can do. You can try Amazon Prime for free! Click my affiliate link here (Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial) or on the photo below and you can sign up for a free trial. Be sure to try out as many perks as possible during your trial. As an SLP-Amazon-Prime-Lover (for over 5 years now), I cannot recommend it enough!
*Post contains affiliate links.

June 24, 2017

SLP Now Review: Can It Help the Busy SLP?

Kayla SLP Affiliate Link

Hi, all! I am here today to review SLP Now, a membership site for SLPs that you may have already heard about. But what SLP settings can benefit from this membership? What is the purpose behind this membership? What does it do for the busy SLP? Let's explore.

I have been using SLP Now for over a year now, as a school SLP, and let me tell you something. It is a game changer! SLP Now is useful for both clinic AND school SLPs. It's optimized for students preschool through high school, with the largest focus on skills needed for PreK-5th grade (perfect for me, because those are the grades I work with). You know your students and you know what grade levels they are performing at, so you can pick and choose the skills best suited for the children on your caseload.

Speaking of skills... this membership offers skill packs for grammar, language (comprehension), vocabulary, and articulation. Specific skills are offered within each area, and there are currently 20 skill packs available, including packs for synonyms, idioms, verbs and narrative language.  The best part is that there are more skill packs to come, and as a member, you will have access to each skill pack as it is released!

Do you do themed therapy? I do! I love using themes because I feel it keeps both me AND my students on track and engaged. Well, SLP Now has you covered. Right now there are almost 50 themed packs available on the site. Yes, you heard right. ALMOST 50!!! Each theme includes a parent letter, 2 books to use with the theme (physical books not included, obviously, but that's what Amazon and libraries are for!), vocab cards, comprehension cards, an activity, a craft AND a reading passage. There is literally something for every child on your caseload. Personally, I enjoy using books in therapy. If you don't, the themed therapy may not be the most beneficial part of the membership for your. However, you can still use the reading passages, crafts and vocabulary portions!

But what's the purpose? What can it do for me as an SLP? For me, the biggest benefit is to reduce my time spent planning and prepping so that I can have more time actually doing therapy! The membership is laid out in such a way that you can select a skill (or theme) and print. It's that simple! However, it also helps with establishing baselines for your students (each skill pack includes a page to help you determine the child's current level), keep data (yes, also included!), and keep parents involved with themed therapy newsletters. It also cuts out the guesswork of "what will I be doing next week in therapy?!". Simply pick a theme and go from there!

One of my FAVORITE parts of the membership, however, is the Facebook group! Marisha, the creator of SLP Now, is always available to answer any questions you have, and you can bounce ideas off of each other within the SLP Now community!

There is a monthly and a yearly option for the membership, so you can always try for a month to see if it will work for you. If so, I recommend signing up for the yearly membership because it offers a discount (opposed to paying month by month for a year).

And if you want in on a secret... there are some very exciting things in the works that you'll want to be a part of! Keep an eye on SLP Now to see what's coming next!

Want to see more? Join today using the code KAYLASLP and get $10 off*! I would love for your life to become easier via the use of this site. It has significantly reduced my therapy plan-and-prep time.... so click here to join!

Have you used SLP Now? What are your thoughts? What do you find most useful?

**The code KAYLASLP is an affiliate code. You will get 10% off and I will get a small percentage for referring you to the site.

April 18, 2017

5 Steps to Improve your IEP Goal Writing

No matter how hard I try, it always seems like my IEP goals could be better. Every year, as I look back on my previous year's goals, there are always a few where I think, "This doesn't even make sense!" or "I should have included..." or the dreaded "How in the heck did I expect to measure THAT goal?!"

It's fine. I'm learning! Rules and regulations on what goals must include will keep changing and therefore, I will keep changing the ways I write my goals. However, I've came up with a short list of "make sures" that I now refer to before writing a goal.

#1 Always Include the ABCDEFs of Good Goal Writing

 This one sounds obvious, but it's easy to forget a step. Plus, the higher-ups keep adding new letters to the goal writing alphabet (it used to only be ABDC, then ABCDE, and now I'm being told to add an F!) So, let's review.

  • A- Audience: Who is your goal written about? Who are you targeting with this goal? 
    • Example: My audience would be the student's name.
  • B- Behavior: What behavior are you hoping to change or improve with this goal?
    • Example: Increase in MLU, production of vocalic /r/, decrease in stuttering instances.
  • C- Condition: Under what circumstances and by what date?
    • Example: By the IEP end date, in a small group/individual setting.
  • D- Degree: How much change are you expecting to see? 
    • Example: 80% accuracy, 4/5 trials.
  • E- Evidence: How can you prove there is growth?
    • Example: Checklists, criterion referenced tests, behavior observations, frequency count.
  • F- Frequency of progress monitoring: How often will you check for progress?
    • Example: At least 1x monthly, 1x quarterly, weekly, etc.
This is the basic template I have ingrained in my brain. I modify for each student, but this template ensures that I have each area covered.

(C)By the IEP end date, in a small group or individual setting, (A)STUDENT (B) will independently produce vocalic /r/ at the word level (D) with 80% accuracy during 4 data collections (F) (measured at least 1x monthly (E) by the SLP using a criterion referenced test).

#2 Know How You Are Going to Measure the Goal

When I first started my job, I inherited goals such as the following:

Johnny will complete age-appropriate receptive and expressive language tasks with 80% accuracy during 3/4 trials across 4/5 sessions.

Oh my word. I had no idea what skills I should be targeting in therapy, how exactly I was supposed to measure them, and HOW in the WORLD was I going to keep track of 80% during 3/4 trials over 4/5 sessions? The numbers alone gave me a headache.

I learned to simplify! I write my goals to be SPECIFIC, so there was no question what skills were being targeted. Use 3/4 trials OR 4/5 sessions, but not both! I took out as many numbers as possible and made it crystal clear that Johnny needed to be able to correctly name 80% of the targeted synonyms during each progress monitoring check, and to maintain that 80% for 3 progress monitoring checks for that goal to be considered "mastered".

I also started making progress monitoring tools as I wrote the goals. Primarily, I use SLP Toolkit for progress monitoring. If I write a goal that isn't included on their pre-made templates, I make my own using Word or Powerpoint. This way, I KNOW my goals can be measured and I have just the tools to do it.

 #3 Keep Your Goals Specific

Remember that goal I mentioned early, where "Johnny will complete age-appropriate receptive and expressive language tasks..."? Okay, let me just say, there are HUNDREDS of components that could be included within that goal.

Narrow down the skills you want to target and write goals specifically for those skills. Do not combine multiple skills into one goal, unless you know how you will check for progress. For example: Allie will correctly name regular and irregular verbs and nouns with 80% accuracy".  This goal will be really hard to graph because it's actually targeted 4 different skills-- and the results may look skewed when combined together! My advice is to break it up into the smaller, more specific goals that will be accurately reflected when graphed.

#4 Aim For Progress, But Be Realistic

You only have a year to target these goals. If you have a student who produces "l-blends" with 0% accuracy, it may not be the best idea to write 1 goal saying that "Susan will produce "l-blends" in conversation with 80% accuracy". If you decide to keep that as a goal, add other benchmarks so that even if the overall goal isn't achieved, you can show that progress was made because Susan met the benchmarks of "l-blends" at the word and phrase level.

Always aim high for your students, but again, if you think your student may NOT reach the goal, but you still want to try-- add in benchmarks to show progress along the way!



#5 Have a Peer Read Your Goals

 At my school, if one of our SPED staff has a question about the way a goal sounds, we send it out to other SPED staff members for a "proof". There's no telling how many times one of us has caught a simple mistake on another person's goals. Something as simple as forgetting to tell how the goal will be measured, making sure it's not too complicated to read (aka, too many numbers or skills in one goal), and making sure that it can be progress monitored/graphed. Sometimes you need another set of eyes, because just think-- if that student moves schools, and your goals aren't clear, you may be getting a phone call from the new school asking you "What EXACTLY is this goal getting at?!". Save the embarrassment, and let a peer proof them for you!!

What are your best tips for writing good IEP goals? Let me know in the comments!

April 8, 2017

5 Under $5: Easter Must-Have Items for Your Therapy Room


Searching to add some "cheep" and "egg-citing" items to your Easter-themed therapy? Here are 5 must have items, each under $5, to add to your toolbox for hands-on therapy this Easter!

1. Mini Eggs

These mini-eggs are nice for a quick reinforcement for drill-type activities. Pair them will any "Feed The ___" activity (many of which can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers) for an instant hit with your preschool-1st graders. Or, give each student a mini Easter basket (extra points if you put some Easter grass inside!) and see who gets the most eggs in their basket!

For older students, scatter empty tissue boxes (or the empty tin buckets, like those mentioned here) across the floor and toss the eggs inside. Place point values on the boxes for added competition!

These eggs came from the Dollar Tree, but they're also available on Amazon*.


2. Bubble Wands

 I talked a lot about how to use communicative temptations in speech-language therapy before on my blog. Use these bubble wands as a seasonal variation to target initiation (want!),  requesting (open bubbles), increased sentence length/syntax (I want bubbles). Keep the lid on tight so the student HAS to make some attempt to request help from you to open up the bubbles. Talk about the verbs "blow", "pop", "chase", "catch", "float". I also use bubbles to emphasize final consonants because you can literally talk about "pop"over 1000 times during a bubble blowing session.

If you want them for under $5, you're going to need to visit your local Dollar Tree, Walmart, or Target dollar spot!

3. Plastic Easter Eggs

I'm sure you've already figured out how to use plastic Easter eggs in therapy, but here is how I use them. I buy them in 2 sizes-- the jumbo and regular size. By doing so, I can target words such as "big", "little", "bigger", "smaller", etc. Inside, place mini-objects (can be used for articulation or for later sorting into categories), pictures (verbs, articulation cards, 1-2 step directions, etc) or assorted colors/sizes of pom-poms* (descriptive language- "I found the big yellow egg with the small pink pompom inside!"). Hide them around the room (keep the hiding spaces more obvious for your smaller children and tougher for your older students). You can also target following directions by giving clues as to where they are hidden (ex: "Look under the thing you sit on" or "Look between two bookshelves") or play a game of "Hot or Cold" ("You're getting warmer...!"). Pro tip: make a master list of where you hid the eggs!
These are literally available EVERYWHERE! Mine came from Walmart, but you can also get them on Amazon*, the Dollar Tree, Target, etc.

4. Easter Grass

My primary use for Easter grass is as a filler for a sensory box. I typically buy enough green Easter grass to last my all through spring (paired with beans as a garden themed box), and multiple colors for my Easter themed box. It usually takes 4-5 bags to fill up my large sensory box. Within the box, I may hide plastic eggs, small items for articulation or categorization, etc. Really, I use the grass as a filler and just use my sensory box the way you would typically use a sensory box! The grass is super cheap at Walmart and the Dollar Tree, but also available on Amazon*.

5. Stretchy Bunnies/Slingshot

Two words-- target practice! Tape a target* (or two) on the wall and aim the bunnies at the target! This game is best for older students because it does take some extensive coordination to actually hit the target, but it's a pretty quick reinforcer for your somewhat reluctant speech-language students. I've also heard other SLPs talk about using stretchy items to teach flexible thinking. Lots of possibilities with this one!

Mine came from the Dollar Tree, but there are similar variations on Amazon*. Just watch the prices-- some are outrageous! ALWAYS check your local Dollar stores first!


As always, Teachers Pay Teachers has some awesome affordable options for under $5 as well. Some activities that I use every year are my Easter Egg Basket Categories activity, Mia McDaniel's Easter Egg Articulation, and Speech Therapy Fun's Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt Clues.

*Post contains affiliate links to Amazon.

March 6, 2017

5 Under $5: St. Patrick's Day Must-Have Items for Your Therapy Room


Hoping to add some luck to your St. Patrick's Day therapy, but want to keep it affordable? Here are 5 must have items, each under $5, to add to your toolbox for hands-on therapy this St. Patrick's Day!

1. Foam Shamrocks

Mine came from the Dollar Tree, but they are also available on Amazon*(though they're more expensive on Amazon.. If you want to stay under $5, visit your local dollar store!) The ones pictured are large enough to stick cards onto them. Then play a matching game, attach a magnet to one side and have a fishing game, or create a "field of clovers" on the floor and go on a clover-picking adventure. Play a following directions game if you have clovers of different sizes, shapes, or colors. If you have students with describing goals, have them each decorate a clover and describe it using the EET. These students may take their final creations home!

2. Gold Coins

These gold coins (mine are from the Dollar Tree, but are also available on Amazon*) are the perfect size for any fun 'feeding game'. I used this free printable from My Cute Graphics, laminated and cut out a hole for the mouth. I attached the face to a mini trash can (also available at Dollar Tree, or here on Amazon*). Feed a coin to the leprechaun for each correct production, work on verbs such as eat, or practice positions such as "in" and "out". These are also fun to hide around the room and practice giving positional clues to find them: "Look under the rug; Mine is behind something red; Look above the bookcase".

3. Tin Buckets

I have tin buckets that I use all year long. These are from Target, but are also available on Amazon*. I prefer to get 3-4 in a variety of colors or patterns. This way, they can be used for sorting. Sometimes I will put labels on them (Food, Animals, School Supplies, Clothing) and have students sort cards or mini objects into the buckets. Other times, I give a bucket to each student to use as a way to hold beads or the gold coins, mentioned above, as a way to keep track of their reinforcements throughout the session. Then, at the end, we count how many items we have in our buckets.You can also toss coins into the bucket from across the room for each correct production!

4. Mini Leprechaun Hats

 These mini-leprechaun hats (found at the Dollar Tree (5 for $1) or on Amazon* at a higher cost) have one very important use in my therapy room. I often use items such as these hats for practicing minimal pairs. Place two hats in front of the child. Hide a coin under one of the hats. Place the correct minimal pair card on top of the hat with the coin. Place the incorrect minimal pair card on top of the hat without the coin. Ask the child to guess which hat hides the coin. If the child makes an incorrect production and therefore chooses the hat without the coin, have the child guess again. Keep going until the child makes a correct production, or until you say "OH! You mean KEY! You were saying TEA, that's why I was confused! Let's look under the KEY hat!" Lo and behold-- there hides the coin. 😀 Another simple activity to use with these hats is a game of ring toss. Either throw the rings onto the leprechaun hats (if you are like me and already have rings from another game) OR toss the aforementioned coins into the hat for different amounts of points!

5. Giant Leprechaun Face (Or Normal Size)

This leprechaun is too cool. He is available at the Dollar Tree, and to be honest, I haven't seen one exactly like him anywhere else. If you can't find one like him, you can also download the one I mentioned earlier (this free printable from My Cute Graphics) and print it poster size. Cut out some mouths from construction paper-- happy, sad, angry, surprised, etc. Practice making the leprechaun feel different emotions by sticking different mouths on him-- and talk about what made him feel that way! Or, of course, you could cut him mouth out and make him eat articulation or language cards!


Obviously Teachers Pay Teachers has some awesome affordable options for under $5 as well. Some activities that I use every year are my free Pot of Gold: Categories, which is a hands-on, leveled categorizing activity,  What's In My Pot Of Gold, a St. Patrick's Day Inferencing activity, and Mia McDaniel's activity, St. Patrick's Day Dot Articulation Pages.

*Post contains affiliate links to Amazon.

January 18, 2017

Affordable Alternative Reward System for the Preschool SLP

Curious about ways to break away from treasure boxes, candy, and stickers? Looking for an affordable alternative to the "expected" rewards? Read more, in this follow up post to "Why I Dumped the Treasure Chest".

After writing my previous blog post over dumping the treasure chest, I realized I didn't tell you quite enough about how I reward my precious preschoolers. Before I indulge them, let me recap:

My first year working at a school, I used the treasure box left behind by my predecessor. It was half full of McDonald's toys, dollar store goodies, and overall junk that kids love while simultaneously making parents everywhere cringe.

I was over it. It cost too much to refill and the kids were a little ungrateful. Fast forward to today.

After deciding upon a reward system for my elementary aged students, I realized it wouldn't work for my preschool students. A session without shoes or getting to sit with a stuffed animal didn't quite do it because those both sound like things that might happen on a normal day for them-- plus, preschoolers can't handle waiting 5 sessions for a reward. Preschoolers live in the here and now. They need immediate reinforcement.

You may laugh when I tell you what I use for my preschoolers as a reinforcement, but you and I can take that laugh straight to the bank because what I am about to tell you WORKS and will save you MONEY!

TA-DA. Lip balm.

Yes, lip balm, more specifically, scented lip balm, or as we oh-so-affectionately call it in the preschool world: A "Smelly"; Plural = "Smellies".

How does it work?  Simple. A child does something that is deserving of positive reinforcement, and therefore recieves a smidge of scented lip balm onto the back of their hand. Seriously. That's it. They love it, their friends are jealous, and their teachers are slightly tired of smelling the back of their students' hands when they come back into the room. The adults all have a good laugh and the kids are happy. Win-win.

A preschooler will do anything for a smelly. Truthfully, most kindergartners and first graders will also do anything for a smelly.

Did you finish your activity? You get a smelly! Did you walk like you were supposed to in the hall? You get a smelly! Was this the first session all year where a temper tantrum was not involved? I'll be darned, you are getting a smelly on each hand.

 Before I leave you, however, let me share these quick troubleshooting tips:
  • Some children worry about washing off the smell. Solution? Put the "smelly" on their forearm or wrist. 
  • Most children want to put in on themselves. Solution? No. It ends up going from hand to shoulder, possibly on lips, and rolled out too far then smushed up in the lid. Am I speaking from experience? Possibly.
  • Have 2-3 smells to choose from. Preschoolers like the choice but too many choices will overwhelm them, and they will never pick which smell they want. I change out the smells from season to season.
I mean really, what kid doesn't want to smell like fruit, ice cream, or soda*? Honestly, I kind of want to smell that good, too.

*Post contains affiliate links.

January 16, 2017

5 Under $5: Valentine's Day Must-Have Items for Your Therapy Room

Looking to add some flair to your Valentine's Day therapy, but want to keep it affordable? Here are 5 must have items, each under $5, to add to your toolbox for hands-on therapy this Valentine's Day!

1. Candy Hearts

There are so many things you can do with candy hearts. Obviously they can be used as a delicious reinforcement for articulation (5 correct productions = 1 candy heart) but what else can they be used for? For younger students, practice following directions using colors. For older students, practice following directions at a more engaging and difficult level by making your own paint using candy hearts! You can also line them up and use as a pacing board for fluency or withhold them for requesting (see my blog over using communicative temptations).

2. Mini Mailbox

I bought a mailbox from the Dollar Tree for $1 (also available on Amazon* for slightly over $5) which I use every Valentine's Day. Possibilities are endless with what you can do. You can use it in conjunction with articulation cards, of course. Have children draw a card from the mailbox or have them stick a card in the mailbox after practicing it. The mailbox can also be used with early language learners- open it, close it, lift the flag up and down, put items in and take items out. Use it for inferencing as well. Place items or vocabulary cards inside, and give clues as to what is inside. I offer a product on Teachers Pay Teachers called "What's in My Mailbox", a Valentine's inferencing activity (also under $5!), which can be used with this mailbox as well.

3. Sticky Note Envelopes

Regular envelopes will work too, but these self sticking post-it envelopes are my favorite. These Casemate Envelope Sticky Notes are available at Walmart and on Amazon*. They start out as a letter, and fold into an envelope shape. I typically give my students a list with their target words on it. From there, I have my students write a Valentine's note using at least 5 of their speech words. We practice reading these notes out loud. Sometimes the notes are silly and sometimes they are serious, but this short and sweet activity is fun for students of all ages-- just modify how long the letter needs to be depending on the student's ability level! You can also work on sentence types using these sticky envelopes. Your students can practice writing simple, compound, or complex sentences using these notes. Also, remember that mailbox from #2? These pair perfectly with it! Stick the notes in the mailbox or have the students take their notes home.

4. Heart Shaped Cookie Cutters

These cookie cutters are great for language therapy. They nest inside of each other, which means you have lots of sizes to choose from. Different sizes means you can use them to target comparisons (bigger, biggest, smaller, smallest) when following directions. Use them with play dough-- either purchased or homemade. Another fun way to use these hearts in a version of ring toss as a quick reinforcement between turns.  Scatter the hearts on the floor or on the table. Toss candy hearts, heart beads or even cotton balls into the hearts. Each heart is worth a different number of points depending on the size. Tally the points to determine a winner. A variation of this game would be to toss first, then complete a certain number of tasks, depending on which heart you land in. Mine heart cookie cutters came from Walmart, but you can also get them here* on Amazon.

5. Heart Shaped Beads/Table Scatter

I mostly use these for articulation therapy. Drop one in a bucket for each correct production and see who comes out with the most hearts (the students love hearing them drop in the bucket). When working on minimal pairs, take out 2 small cups. Flip them upside down and hide one heart under one of the buckets. Put the CORRECT minimal pair card on top of the cup hiding the heart and the INCORRECT minimal paid on top of the cup with no heart. Have the student guess which cup is hiding the heart. If the student guesses wrong or make an incorrect production (Ex: It's under the TAR!") have him/her guess again, practicing correct production (Ex: It's under the STAR!"). When guessed correctly, the student keeps the heart (until the end of the session). These came from the Dollar Tree, but similar items can be found on Amazon* for slightly higher.


Obviously Teachers Pay Teachers has some awesome affordable options for under $5 as well. Some activities that I use every year are my Valentine's Day Inferencing Product, "What's In My Mailbox?", Box of Chocolates Categories, Speech Valentine Cards, Peachie Speechie's Candy Heart Comprehension Questions, and Nicole Allison's One Item Therapy {Candy Hearts}.

*Post contains affiliate links to Amazon.

January 7, 2017

SLP Snow Days: Getting Through Without Getting Behind

The forecast is showing snow! There are two types of people: those who are pumped at the possibility of getting a day off, and those who are less than enthused because they know that meetings will be postponed, therapy sessions will be missed, and work will be waiting for them when they get back.

If you get bummed at the thought of a snow day, let's brainstorm. What can be done to ease the burden of a snow day?

Pre-Snow Day

The weatherman is calling for snow and chances are, school won't be in session. Depending on how early you know this information, there are a few things you can do to prepare. 

If you know a week or so ahead of time, start making phone calls to parents. If you THINK you're getting a snow day on a day when you have a meeting,  call the parents and find out if there is another day they will be available, after the snow, in case this one falls through. Go ahead and jot that date/time down so that as soon as school is back in session, you can sent out a new notice. If you are for SURE getting enough snow for a snow day, cancel the meeting, find out a new date/time that works, and send out a new notice to parents.

If you only have 1-2 days of notice for an upcoming snow day possibility, your options are a little more limited. You can call the parents or inform them via Remind  and let them know that due to snow, the meeting may be postponed, eliminating the chance of them being 'unaware' the meeting is not going to happen. Jot down the child's name on a notepad, and be prepared to come up with a rescheduled date as soon as school gets back in session. 

If snow is going to make you miss a deadline, remember that you may be able to pull the meeting forward using a 7-day waiver form. If the parent is unable to attend, a phone conference may be an option. However, always check your district requirements first.

In fact, you may even plan very far ahead and schedule meetings much earlier than necessary in order to miss chances of snow. For example, in my area, we typically get most of our snow in January/February. Therefore, we try to schedule as many meetings as we can in December. This decreases the chances of missing meetings due to snow.

On a final note, if I know a snow day is going to happen, I may try to squeeze in a few extra sessions (or add an extra student or two to my groups) so they won't be missing therapy that week. It doesn't always work out, but I give it an honest effort!

During the Snow Day

For goodness sake, enjoy the snow day!! Do not stress out about things that should have been done or are being missed. Snow days are one of the perks of being employed in a school (and sometimes early intervention or a private clinic, if the snow is bad enough). Catch up on things that are enjoyable--  a binge-worthy tv series, a favorite book, or take a nap by the fireplace. The rest will fall into place.



After the Snow Day

The big question-- to makeup sessions or not to makeup sessions? There is not a GREAT answer to this, because every district is different. However, let's look at what we know. ASHA states that the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs responded in December 2015 with an email to state special education directors reiterating that missed sessions do not necessarily constitute a denial of a free and appropriate public education. This means that missing occasional days of speech therapy due to things such as snow days, does NOT deny a child FAPE and therefore should not be grounds for a required makeup. If you are having trouble with getting this across to yous SPED director, I suggest showing him/her this article, as it truly gets to the heart of the issue. In my district, we are not required to makeup these days. I simply document in my Medicaid notes that the student was not seen that day due to a district snow day.

Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Days

We are implementing NTI days in my district this year. These are days when school is not in session due to weather, but teachers are still working from home. In short, students are sent home with schoolwork to be completed on the day off, and the teachers must be available from home during school hours, in case the students have questions about their work. So what can we do? 

First, remember we can NOT bill Medicaid for these days. We are not providing physical (or virtual, such as teletherapy) face to face therapy with these students. Even if you are required to have activities prepared for your students to complete during this time, sending activities home with these students does not count as a billable service. Just wanted to be clear on this! Instead, mark this day as a snow day in your Medicaid program.

Unfortunately, in my district, it cannot be assumed everyone has internet.
My suggestion is to find an all-in- one activity and send that home with ALL of your students. I'm thinking something along the lines of a speech/language calendar, like those offered on Super Duper's website or on Teachers Pay Teachers. Another option is to send home a letter to the parents saying the NTI day assignment is to read a book, and either listen for the speech sounds (articulation), practice fluency strategies, or discuss the information within the book (language). Again, both Super Duper online and Teachers Pay Teachers have handouts for parent-friendly strategies for speech and language. For more complex students, you may have to get creative, but book reading can target everything. Let the parents know via a note on the assignment or a text via Remind that this will be used for NTI days.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a district where internet is provided to everyone (yes, those exist), you could always send home a link to your speech-language school webpage (if applicable) or links to passages (such as those on ReadWorks) that may be useful to your students. 

My main point here is to remember to be available. If you are a contract SLP, this section may not apply to you. Check with your district for specific guidelines for NTI days.

What about you? Snow days-- do you love them or hate them? How do you handle NTI days if your district implements them? Let me know in the comments!