June 5, 2018

The Anxious SLP

Hi, my name is Kayla and I have anxiety.

Actually, I've had anxiety since elementary school. Tension headaches and migraines were my first symptoms. Elementary school, y'all. I was young.

I didn't realize it was anxiety causing these issues until I was in college. Early on, doctors said my headaches could be from posture. I went to the chiropractor with limited relief. Headaches worsened and alleviated depending on the year (such as who my teachers were and what classes I was taking), and sometimes even the time of year (big exams, social events, etc). I started to put two and two together. It started to make sense.

Then grad school happened. I went on anxiety medication. It was the greatest thing to happen to me. A tiny dose of Zoloft was enough to regulate my emotions and keep me in check. My headaches decreased dramatically. As a matter of fact, I don't know if I've had a migraine since 2012. Tension headaches still come and go, but much less often. I've actually been able to come off of my anxiety medication since I've been married.

I've become very in tune with my anxiety and when it worsens. Certain times of year when work becomes insanely busy. When I am alone for an extended period of time (ex: if my husband goes away on business trip). During the summer when I am "off" work and have too much time on my hands.

I've never been ashamed of my anxiety. I am very aware of my anxiety. I think being aware of your anxiety is the best thing you can do. The next best thing you can do is find a way to cope with it.

Coping with Anxiety

  • Apps, such as Stop, Breathe, Think. This app will give you a daily reminder to take time out for mindfulness. 
  • Exercise. Join a gym or go for daily walks.
  • YouTube has channels for yoga, such as Yoga with Adriene. Best of all, these videos are free. 
  • However, sometimes getting out and about (aka socializing!) is helpful as well. See if your community has a yoga class! Or any classes you'd be interested in joining, where you can be around other people. 
  • Watch what you're eating and drinking. Sometimes, caffeine can make anxiety worse. Junk food can make it worse, too! Try eating balanced meals and limiting caffeine (and alcohol).
  • Watch for the signs that anxiety is creeping up on you, and take time to reflect and relax. Catching anxiety early can ease the symptoms, IF you can tell when it's worsening.
  •  If these suggestions do not work for you, talk to your doctor. Sometimes, anxiety cannot be managed by diet, exercise, and mindfulness. Do NOT be ashamed to ask for help from your doctor. It doesn't mean a life sentence of anxiety medication. And even if it does... so what?
Anyone who struggles with anxiety, I want you to know you aren't alone. Whether you are in undergrad, grad school, your CF year, or working with your CCCs... you aren't alone. 

Also, I encourage you to watch for anxiety symptoms in your students. Sometimes, no one else will realize that a student is experiencing anxiety. Having gone through it myself, I feel a little more in tune with the signs and symptoms. Let your students also know... they aren't alone.

Friends, our jobs are stressful. Life is stressful. But you're never alone. ❤

If you experience anxiety, please leave a comment telling how you best cope with it. We can all learn from each other!

January 17, 2018

Using a Dollhouse In Play Based Speech Therapy

This is my dollhouse. It is one of my favorite toys to use in play-based speech therapy with preschoolers and kindergartners. Half of my caseload is made up of preschool and kindergarten children. That being said, I use a LOT of play-based therapy. I've found that by using a dollhouse, I can target almost any goal with these students! It is ESPECIALLY easy to use this activity with mixed groups because it's so natural and fluid to go back and forth between skills!

Practice categories by sorting furniture into the correct room, sort by function (things you sit on, things that use water, etc.), sort by color, or sort by size!

Use dollhouse family members and sort furniture to each person! "This is HIS chair, this is HER bathtub, this is THEIR table."

Tell what each dollhouse family member is doing! "He is showering, the baby is napping, she is swinging, they are cooking, etc." You can even practice future and paste tense using this same approach.

This sounds obvious, but you can practice naming common household objects. Hello, FUNCTIONAL!! You can use a dollhouse with the earliest of communicators.

Expanding MLU

Practice expanding upon a child's labels! When a child says "bed" you say "a BIG bed" or "jump on the bed"!  Anything the child says (and trust me, more than likely your student WILL talk while playing with the dollhouse) just expand upon it by 1-2 words!

Hide object or dollhouse people within the house. Talk about where they are (under the bed, behind the bookshelf, between the fridge and the table).

Withhold furniture and dollhouse people in a clear plastic tote. Model requesting items from the box, then have your student request! Go back and forth between modeling and expecting your student to request an item.

It's easy to model "my turn" and "your turn" when you're using dollhouse people! Practice sentences like "my turn to swing" and "your turn to swing" (or "my turn to sleep" and "your turn to sleep"). Possibilities are endless!

Following Directions
Give 1-2 step directions using the furniture and dollhouse people! Example: "Put the boy in front on the stove" or "Before she goes to bed, give her a bath!"

Model articulation in natural conversation using the items you're playing with, while talking about what the dollhouse family is doing, etc. I've even put artic cards on the floors of each room and used that as an opportunity for additional practice. Ex: if your artic card says "snow", put it on the bedroom floor. Every time a dollhouse person enters the room, you can say "Oh no-- don't step on the SNOW!"

Use the dollhouse people to model expected vs unexpected behaviors. Talk about WHY one dollhouse person shouldn't shove another person, eat their food, or throw a tantrum when things don't go their way.

Possibilities are endless! Do you use a dollhouse in play-based therapy? Do you use any of the examples I gave? Do you do something different? Let me know in the comments!