February 25, 2012

Simple Speech ~ "It Looked Like Spilt Milk"

Spring is beginning to "spring" in my school, and what does that mean? A WAVE of new referrals for speech/language testing!  So, as a result, the little time I had for planning therapy sessions has dwindled from minutes to seconds on many days. . .I know, I know, planning is very important in speech therapy, in classrooms, yada, yada, yada. . . but the reality is, when you are a school-based clinician with MANY kids and often multiple schools (or in my case, keeping a growing caseload and supervising two new SLPs who are in their CF year. . .), you do what you can to keep your head above water some days and manage to get the job done.  Fortunately for me, I have been at this a while, so I have many "go to" activities that I can make work for just about any student (particularly the young ones, PK-1st/2nd grade).  So, I thought I'd share my SIMPLE SPEECH activity of this week (meaning it required only a few materials and little to no prep time before the speech session). . .I'll keep adding to the list of "Simple Speech" activities. . .in my spare time. 

For this week, I pulled in an activity that I have done for several years now.  I was introduced to this book and craft (origin uknown) during my days working on a district speech therapy program that focused on intervention for 3-5 year old students specifically with articulation and expressive language impairments. That program has since fallen victim to "budget cuts", but the ideas and activities live on and I try to find ways to add to them or expand them for my slightly older students each year! The book used for this activity is "It Looked Like Spilt Milk" by Charles G. Shaw.  Here it is:

It's a pretty popular book if you haven't already seen it. Check in your school library or with your fellow teachers or SLPs and I'm sure you'll get your hands on it quick!  In this story each page has a white "figure" of various objects such as an ice cream cone, a birthday cake, a rabbit, etc.  Also, it is filled with repetitive text by including the same phrases on each page.  At the end of the story, you learn that each of these figures is actually a "cloud" in the sky.

Some perfect articulation targets for this book are: word-initial L and word-final K because you'll see the phrase "Sometimes It Looked Like. . ." on each page. Some Language targets that I used with this book this week were: temporal phrases ("sometimes"), regular past tense ("looked"), describing (have the students describe details as to "how" they could tell each figure was a particular object).

With almost all of my students I can read the first page or two and they can "read" the rest because it is repetitive, and this offers many opportunities to practice these articulation and language targets.  For kids who might not do that, hearing it first is a great way to bombard the auditory system with these sound targets.

I really like to choose activities and stories that I can continue for at least 2 sessions. So, with this activity, on the first day, we read the story, described each figure and discussed the children's experiences with seeing "pictures" in the clouds. Then we made our own "cloud" paintings.  Here is how a few of them came out, what do you think you see?

The way we did it was, I took a half sheet of blue construction paper (light or dark would work), and I folded it to give it a crease and a "target" for the child. I gave each of them a paintbrush and white paint and gave them instructions (and modeled) on how to paint their picture by "dabbing" paint in any way they wanted near the center of the paper.  <By the way, this helped me add in other language targets regarding "position" and "following directions". I even had my students who need to work on comprehending instructions repeat the instructions back to the entire group>.  Then they were instructed to paint for a few seconds (about 10) until I said to stop. Finally, I had them fold the paper over and "spread" the paint. When they opened it up, it really changed their picture and they were very creative in describing what they saw in their "clouds".  It's a pretty quick project, so each student was able to make three clouds.  That took our entire session and this gave our paintings time to dry until the next session.

In our next session (or maybe even 2 more sessions depending on time allowed), we had more fun with this story and activity. Of course, we started with recall/retell (another language target), and then I took the students outside on a "cloud walk" and we walked around the school observing and describing clouds.  It was a GREAT way to work on generalizing these targets in conversation and outside of the therapy room, and it was nice to get some fresh air! After that (either the same day or the next), we came back to our cloud paintings and assembled our own "book".  I gave each student a "cover" using a blank piece of the same colored construction paper.  For the younger students, we came up with a title together and I typed it and printed it out so they could glue it to their cover. They were also given the opportunity to illustrate their cover with crayons.  Then we added our own words to the book.  For my younger students, I wrote the words in their books or typed it up so they could glue it in.  For my older students, they wrote their own or dictated to me so they could copy their sentences from my board.  They all had a great time during this activity and they each have their own "published book" that they can take home and read to their parents.

This week I took pictures of their books.  Here they are!

I also assigned them homework to take their families on a "Cloud Walk."

I hope you enjoy this SIMPLE SPEECH activity with your students!


February 20, 2012

The Stress Monster

How do you deal with stress at school???

Recently, I've found myself feeling a little stuck in the February doldrums. I love my work, but lately it feels like the anxiety levels of my students, their parents and my fellow teachers are reaching an all time high. I'm chalking it up to the stresses that teachers and students feel over the upcoming high stakes standardized tests and upcoming IEP meetings for my students transitioning to middle school. Regardless of the reason, the stress monster is making life much harder for all of us!

As the stress level rises, my students with Autism Spectrum Disorder start escalating behaviors which, in turn, increases the stress in parents and teachers. We find ourselves in a self-perpetuating cycle. 

So, I've been focusing on checking my own emotional level and how that is communicated to the people around me. I've found that by making a deliberate effort to project calm, positive energy, it not only helps me, but I can see a difference in the students as well.

Last year, I read a fascinating book by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor entitled My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey.

She talked about how she was able to pick up on the energy levels of those around her after having a stroke. Her message was so powerful that I decided to put it into practice. I created a visual reminder for myself that hangs on the wall next to my classroom door.

I'm working hard to reflect on this commitment daily and make sure that I am projecting energy that is calm and positive. When I start to stress out, my darling friend Orlanda always taps the sign and reminds me!

So, what do you do to deal with workplace stress?

February 13, 2012

Our Collaborative Data Documentation Sheet

Orlanda and I were comparing notes one day earlier this year about the seemingly bazillions of data documentation sheets that we had tried over the years and how none of them ever quite fit the bill. I showed her the one that I was currently using at the time and a few days later she tweaked the format using another data sheet she had tweaked from a colleague, and together we came up with a GREAT sheet. It has been really handy that we are both using the same format so when we are co-teaching, whichever one of us isn't direct teaching can pick up each other's data sheets and document data easily.

Most of my (Kelley's) sheets are 2 sided to allow for frequency data to be collected on one side (behavioral or academic)...

...and anecdotal data on the other side.

 Obviously, I just make a note of the goal to remind me what I'm tracking. When I calculate the data I correlate it to the criterion.

If kids have a lot of goals, they have a whole sheet to themselves. Students who are only working on a few goals or if I only see them in a group instead of working one on one or in the inclusion setting,  are put on a "group" sheet. That way I can pull one sheet out for a group and track data on many students at the same time.

I color code the sheets as well, so I can quickly retrieve the one I want and make notes.
Using the same data documentation sheets allows us to easily share data across sessions for those students that we share as teacher and speech/language pathologist. This has helped our data reports be even more thorough. It has also helped us to evaluate behaviors and skills across settings.

The Group data sheets that we are using can be found here:

We have toyed with a variety of ways to calculate and measure our data, and currently we have stuck with "Percentage of trials correct".  We have considered changing to a "rubric" system, but in the meantime, we have found this method to be the most useful and we just make sure we take GREAT notes when any "unknown" factors affect our therapy outcomes!  You will see in the data Key that we use a (+) for a correct response, a (-) for an incorrect response, and (O) means we circle the type of response when it was cued.  So essentially, we have four types of responses that we document:  correct, incorrect, cued correct, and cued incorrect.  The "notes" are an important place to document the "type" of cue needed, particularly if it was an extremely explicit cue (such as "hand over hand").

In speech therapy, I (Orlanda) use the above data sheet for group language sessions and even in fluency therapy.  I have also tweaked the same type of data sheet specifically for articulation therapy with the only change being to the data key and an added "level".  Find this data sheet here:

On this form, the "level" refers to one of the following:  isolation, syllable, word, phrase, sentence, connected speech, etc.  Also, I have switched from the (+) method to using tally marks (/) because they are much faster for me to count and calculate AND I can fit more into a box (considering my goal is always 50+ trials per session).  Then I use the "independence" slot to document the estimated amount/type of cues needed for each student.  I have another data sheet that is similar but is meant for an individual therapy session.  Grab it here:

We would love to take a look at your data systems. What system do you use? Email us and we'd love to share your ideas with others.         ~Kelley and Orlanda

February 12, 2012

"Please don't eat your boogers!"

Winter in Austin, Texas means one thing... Cedar Fever. For those of you not familiar with this oh, so wonderful annual event it is allergy misery for almost everyone in the area when the pollen literally blows off the cedar trees in Central Texas. Thankfully, the joys of living in Austin the rest of the year outweigh the not-so-fun booger fest that starts around here in December.

I'm sure that I'm not the only teacher or speech/language pathologist that has to battle the mining-for-gold party that seems to happen on a daily basis with some of our kids. We've used Social Stories, Power Cards, role plays and attempts at shoving Kleenex at kids with little success.

Two of our biggest offenders this year were 5th graders. Finally, as part of perspective taking work as well as rolling in a little personal hygeine instruction, I stumbled across this youtube video of a teenage girl talking about how grossed out she is by nose picking. Hmm.... maybe 5th grade boys might be more motivated to listen to a teenager? It was worth a shot...

Here's the video in case you would like to use it with your students. I would suggest using it for 5th grade on up. There is nothing wrong with using it for 3rd-4th, but I'm not sure that they would be as motivated by the girl factor as pre-pubescent boys!

The girl in the video rambles a bit, so my suggestion is to start at second :21 and stop it at 1:52.

If I could, I would send you a bouquet of Purell, Clorox Wipes, and a big box of Puffs!  ~Kelley

February 6, 2012

My Favorite Data Documentation Tool

I want to share with you a *free* system that helps me track data with some of my higher needs kiddos. Please forgive the lengthy post, but I really want this to be able to help you as well!

About a year ago, I discovered a fantastic tool to use to document daily progress on goals. The tool is called the Electronic Daily Behavior Report Card (e-DBRC). It allows me to communicate easily with parents and helps encourage student accountability. It is a free, web-based tool that was created in a joint partnership between the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Texas A&M University.

Currently, I've only used the system for behavior monitoring, but I suspect it could be used for many other purposes (speech goals, social goals, academic goals, etc.). If your student is a visual learner and is mature enough to be involved in tracking his or her own progress, then this may be a great tool to help them take ownership of their goals. Even if your students are too young or unable to be quite so involved in the process, this is an easy way to keep parents informed about progress more often than progress notes every 9 weeks.
 This tool allows teachers to monitor an unlimited amount of behaviors through a rubric format. After setting up the behaviors and defining the criteria for 5 levels (grades A-F), you can assign specific behaviors to specific students. You are able to set up the tracking schedule in whatever way works best for you and your students. You can do a once a day track, am/pm, or by class period. Here's an example of the schedule I am using for one particular student this year.

Finally, you are able to add parent email addresses so the daily report can either be printed and sent home or emailed home for an electronic signature.

I love that I can analyze the data by the day or across a time period of my choosing. For example, I have a 5th grade student with Asperger's who currently enters his own data for two different goals. Of course, these are not his only IEP goals, but they are the two that he is actively working on improving from day to day and has the ability to self-report.

The two goals that he is currently tracking are: time on task and what "track" he is on during each class period (referring to the Friendship Track - check it out here). He previously tracked his transition times from class to class as well. We keep a post-it note on his desk in each classroom that he attends that either my paraprofessional or the classroom teachers mark tallies for each prompt they have to give to attend to the lesson or follow directions. We gather the post-it notes from the desks and keep them in my classroom until the end of the day. Toward the end of the day, the student comes in and meets with either my paraprofessional or myself to enter the data on the computer. This allows him to self-evaluate, discuss any bumps in the road that day, celebrate his successes, set mini-goals, and visually track his progress. The program graphs his behavior across the day and gives him a final grade. He then emails his graph home to his parents.

The program also has a place to list "Critical Incidents" in Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence format. This is a helpful way to communicate those incidents to parents as well as to keep me from having to document them again in another format for data collection purposes.

On Fridays, we print out a graph that shows the entire week for documentation purposes as well.

Recently, the program came in handy when I wanted to encourage this particular student to challenge himself to improve his time on task. When I first broached the subject, he stated that he didn't think that he could do any better. I was able to quickly run the data for the entire first semester at school and show him that over the last 8 weeks or so he was consistently scoring A's based on our current rubric. When he saw the graph, he decided he did want to challenge himself by decreasing the number of prompts he could receive and still earn an "A". I loved being able to cater to his strength in math by proving his progress in graph form!

Last year, I had the experience of one student's parents frequently excusing inappropriate behaviors because he was tired or his allergies were acting up or he was having digestive problems. Obviously, all of these factors can significantly influence our kids, but I decided to track various factors twice a day for a couple of months to see if I could see any correlation between reported physical complaints and behavior. I created a Likert scale for fatigue, allergies (including "shiners" under the eyes), irritability, distractability, and slow verbal response times (latency). I quickly rated each factor once in the morning and then again in the afternoon based on the student or parent reports and my own observation. Finally, I entered all the data into eDBRC and ran the graphs. The results were surprising. I was expecting to see a correlation between behavior and fatigue and it did not exist. The parent viewpoint of allergy days being correlated to distractability and irritability were not supported either. Now, that made for an interesting parent teacher conference! Without graphing the factors, we would have continued to assume that external factors were causing difficult behaviors.

Currently, I've only used the system for behavior monitoring, but I suspect it could be used for many other purposes (speech goals, social goals, math fluency, reading fluency, etc.). If your student is a visual learner and is mature enough to be involved in tracking his own progress, then this may be a great tool to help them take ownership of their goals. Even if your students are too young or unable to be quite so involved in the process, this is an easy way to keep parents informed about progress more often than progress notes every 9 weeks.

I hope you're able to make use of the Electronic Daily Behavior Report Card in your practice!
~ Kelley

February 2, 2012

Are you ready for the R marathon?!?!

As an SLP, I have learned a few things are true when it comes to the R sound...

1. It is one of the most commonly mis-articulated English phonemes
2. It is one of the trickiest phonemes to teach in speech therapy

So, I have recently turned my speech therapy room into a "Speech Gym" for many of my students working on tricky sounds like R.  Just recently, I was in a group with two students who want to quickly "fix" their R.  After hearing them continue to misarticulate their attempts (despite my cues to slow the process), I talked to them about training for the "R Marathon".  So, I'm not afraid to admit, I am NO runner. . .so, this was my analogy.  I told them that if I started trying to run tomorrow without any training for it, I would keel over within the first 10 minutes!  So, this is where training and exercise come in, and now we are training for the R Marathon.  For my students who have minimal stimulability for this sound, I ALWAYS start with oral exercises to build stability of the jaw and mobility of the tongue.  I have a few books from Pamela Marshalla that have guided me on this quest, and I would HIGHLY recommend them.  I recently got her book "Successful R Therapy".  Check it out here:


From this book, I found a new exercise that I started using with a few students and I am already seeing some success!  The rule is Do Not Make A Sound, Try Not to Say the R sound.  This is recommended by Marshalla in order to keep them from reverting to their old habits.  So, if you are like me and always looking for new ways to make treating R a little easier, try this on for size!  Here is the visual I created to send with my students so they can practice this exercise in therapy and at home.

Keep up the training, and good luck in your marathon!