A Thoughtful Minion
"Logic will get you from A-Z; imagination will get you everywhere." - Albert Einstein
A Thoughtful Minion
Happy Halloween! Hopefully your day is filled with adorable costumes and fun activities. This video has been making me laugh all week, and is a favorite for sure. I especially love that the little 'minion' thought to let the adults know that he wasn't hurt. Enjoy, and if you've already seen it the please enjoy it again!
"Logic will get you from A-Z; imagination will get you everywhere." - Albert Einstein
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams
This book is definitely a Fall favorite of ours. It is thematic without referencing any holidays, it has a recurring series of phrases that are easily paired with motions, and the fun follow-up activities can be catered to support a variety of goals. This Fall, I have been using the book in the clinic with children 1:1, but I've also had success with it in preschool groups in the school setting. If you haven't read the book yet, here's the basic plot: a little old lady - who isn't afraid of anything - goes into the woods to gather items and ends up walking home rather late. She is startled to see two shoes in her path, going CLOMP, CLOMP (I pair this with tapping my hands on the table, or stomping my feet if reading to a circle). The little old lady directs the shoes to get out of her way because she is not afraid of them, and keeps walking only to hear the shoes clomping behind her. As she walks home, she encounters a sequence of items in a similar way...
When I'm reading the story for the first time, I don't ask the kids to participate but try to create anticipation to see if they join in on their own - and they usually do. After the little old lady arrives home, there are a few more opportunities to go through the sequence in its entirety. *Spoiler alert* when they aren't able to scare her, the little old lady helps the items find a collective purpose by suggesting that they arrange themselves into a scarecrow for her garden.
I like to program language for my recurring activities into my own tablet. I have the iPad with TouchChat, but that is just one of many great options (for more info on finding the right set up for you, check out this post). For this story, I used a 4x4 grid and programmed in the language that children seem to be the most drawn to: the 6 items and their 6 actions, "get out of my way", and "I am not afraid of you." Here's what I ended up with:
*Check back next Tuesday for AAC programming tips inspired by this page!!
Art - I like to have the children color the pictures in, and we discuss things in a number of different ways depending on their specific goals. In the example below, we were working on negation. We used a piece of paper creased into 6 sections (fold in half lengthwise, then into thirds). The first section had the target written as a carrier phrase, and we practiced it with each of the items. I use similar set ups to practice sequencing the story by the order in which the little old lady encountered each item, and for semantic pairings (the noun went action, action). For other kids (executive function, following directions, etc.), we arranged and glued the images onto an un-creased piece of paper to make a scarecrow.
Pumpkin heads - This year at the clinic, we ordered miniature pumpkins and stick-on foam faces to make jack-o-lanterns for the kids to take home. This is quick, fun, and the kids love it! If you aren't in a position to send home pumpkins with everyone, you can always break out the gourds from earlier in the month and make amazing play dough pumpkin faces (the artist of this face placed the mouth on top of the pumpkin :)).
Shake your sillies out - This can be done before or after the reading. I typically do it before, as it can help some kids to sit down and focus for the whole book. There's also an argument that it primes them for the book by engaging them in music, play, and incorporating a number of the action words about to be highlighted in the story. The live concert of Raffi, who I believe is the Dr. Seuss of children's music, is the video I use.
We'd love to hear how you use the book in your practice in the comment section!
"You're never too old, too wackey, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child" - Theodor Seuss Geisel
Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) is not only a modality for individuals to communicate their basic needs, but also for connecting with other people. This video clip captures what we at INSPIRED*IN*SPEECH see as the ultimate hope for all AAC users; laughing and connecting with the most important people in their lives. The video starts out a little bit slow, but it is short and quickly becomes an all-too typical conversation that leaves siblings laughing and parents trying to hide their smiles. Be sure to watch it to the end!
"Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero." - Marc Brown
More SPOOKLEY Fun!!
While Molly and her kiddos were having fun feeling and describing gourds this week, we were making Spookley The Square Pumpkin crafts. I don't have any pictures of the final project because our students all wrote their name on the crafts. It was a super fun way to co-treat with OT and we were able to address so many goals and, of course, the students had a great time doing it.
First, I downloaded the Spookley The Square Pumpkin app for my iPad. I loved using the app to keep the students really engaged. For most of our groups I set the app to "auto play." On this setting the book turns the pages automatically and reads the story aloud. If the student's didn't quite have the attention span to make it through the whole book I would set it to "read it myself" and describe the pages, while tapping the pumpkins and story characters so the students could hear the voices. Also, sometimes I chose the "read it to me" function where the app would read the story, in the cool spooky voice, but I turned the pages. This allowed me to ask questions after each page which was great for some of my students working on concrete "wh" questions but who maybe couldn't remember details from the whole book. Its a super versatile project!
After the story, depending on the student's goals, we had a variety of questions we asked.
1. Auditory Comprehension: for students with a basic auditory comprehension goal we asked concrete "wh" questions about the story. What shape was Spookely? Where did he live? Who saved the day? What was the weather like when the pumpkins fell in the water? Who was happy Spookley was stuck in the fence?
2. Inference/ Why's and How's: for your students who may have more inferential goals Spookely can still be a great fit. One of our groups discussed the similarities between the character Spookely and Rudolph. We discussed the messages of both stories. Other groups talked about how Spookely must have felt, and why did he feel that way. We spent some time talking about if the student's every felt sad or left out, what about their friends? This opened the conversation to what we could do to help our friends.
3. Narrative Language: student's with story telling or main idea goals spent their time sequencing the story or developing the main idea.
Once we finished discussing the story it was time to get down to business and make a Spookely-esque pumpkin of our own!
We started with outlines for a circle, triangle, and (of course) square pumpkins. At this point we really started to hit those expressive language goals. The students were able to describe the pumpkin they wanted. They talked about the color, the shape, and so many other attributes. You could use this same idea for big and small, dotted or striped, the possibilities are really endless!
Next it was time to practice some fine motor skills. In the interest of time we traced the templates onto a variety of colors and had the students tell us what they wanted; a pink triangle or a blue square. You could always have your students trace, just keep in mind the story can take about 10 minutes to finish when you are planning your session.
Then for the fun part! Let your students decorate their masterpiece however they want!
We used our pumpkins to decorate for back-to-school night and it was a great conversation started for many of the families!
It really was a fun and super simple project to kick off Halloween month!
How do I know which tablet and app to get?
With so many devices and apps to choose from how can you know what's best for you and your family?
These are my guidelines for choosing an app and choosing your tablet!
1. What is this device? Ok this may seem too obvious to mention but it really is crucial to consider what you really want this tablet/smartphone for. You see, on top of choosing your hardware options (battery life, portability, storage, ect.) you will want to consider the platform your device runs. Will you be purchasing you apps from the Apple App Store or the Andriod Market? Your son loves this spelling game your niece has, but do they sell it on Google Play? Do you have tons of apps for you phone that won’t transfer if you choose a different tablet?
Before you invest, take some time to research what is available on your tablet of choice, are the apps mostly free, $0.99, or more. What seems like an initial savings can quickly be reversed when it comes times to upgrade those apps to the full version (just ask my tax accountant –aka the husband- who was pleasantly surprised by last year’s investment).
2. What is the purpose of my device? Again seemingly obvious, but infinitely important. Everyone loves the mini versions- they are easy to carry, nicely fit in all your bags, and so lightweight. However, they are not always the best choice. Is this primarily for communication? Will you or your child be carrying it around everywhere? Do you need a strap to carry it hands-free? What about visual acuity, how well does your child see the buttons? Are you planning to use the device primarily for educational purposes or executive function (calendars, alarms ect)? All of these factors change the desired size, portability, battery needs, and the need for storage. It is important to know what the primary focus of this device will be to ensure you are meeting all your needs. This choice should be a team decision, based on what your child needs and what will benefit them the most.
3. FINALLY- The apps! A process called feature matching allows you to compare the features of any given app to your needs and see how it stacks up! A quick internet search will provide many rubrics you can choose from. Also get ready to use your resources: ask friends, teachers, and your therapists. They will know if an app appropriately targets your child’s goals, if it can grow with him or her. I love to try lite versions and get a feel for the app before I buy the full version. And lastly, remember, apps are a great way to sneak some skill development into a break time but it can’t take the place of teaching and generalization- so practice lots of different ways!
Because Sometimes You Just Need To Find Your Voice
We stumbled on this video and had to add it the Friday faves. As a society, we tend to judge people harshly by their communication skills. In reality, there are many different situations in which a person just needs a modality for turning their intelligent, beautiful, funny, sweet, or even their angry thoughts into words that the rest of us can understand. From signs and gestures to computerized devices with dynamic displays, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) can enable people to communicate meaningfully with the people around them - an ability that we all need in our lives.
Through our practice over the years, we've learned a few judgments to live by when interacting with anyone, but particularly when it comes to people with disabilities: always presume competence; everyone has a right not to be talked about as if they weren't there; only babies benefit from baby-talk; everyone has something to say.
"Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood."
Fall is a wonderful season to be a speech-language pathologist, because there are built-in themes that help break up monotonous routines; you can only play Cariboo so many weeks in a row. One of our favorite themes for October is "pumpkins" because there are endless opportunities to work on all of your goals in fun and hands-on ways. We especially like this theme in San Diego, because while palm leaves don't change color, pumpkin patches seem to occupy all parking lots and grocery stores. Here are a few of our favorite pumpkin themed activities for younger children:
*AAC inclusion: Make sure you have appropriate language programmed into your devices. We even like to have a print out for each activity to help give visual choices and examples for all of the kids. To guide your planning, think about the general ways in which kids would be asked to participate (commenting, answering questions, descriptive words, story retell, requests, etc.).
Story time - The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin
This SLP favorite, written by Joe Troiano, is a story about a cube ("square")-shaped pumpkin that can't roll around and play like all of the other pumpkins. One night, a storm causes a turn of events which leads to Spookley saving the day. After the farmer finds out, he uses Spookley's seeds to grow a whole field of pumpkins of all sorts of shapes and colors. I love the message even more than all of the great break-out activities that go with the book. The original book comes with a CD that has a recorded reading of the book - unfortunately, those tend to get lost over time - but fear not! There is now an app that does exactly that. The app not only reads the story, but also has sound responses when different objects in the pictures are touched. This can offer a way for verbal and non-verbal children to participate and/or comment during the reading. Right now it is on sale for $.99, check it out here.
BREAK OUT ACTIVITIES:
Using a ball/sphere and a cube, try rolling them to explore what the book describes. Have the children make predictions, describe the results, play out the story, roll them different ways, etc. I like to start with the two shapes, and then add others (pyramids, cones, all of them)!
DIY Pumpkin Patch
Have the children each build their own unique pumpkin with cut outs of paper. Let them choose their own shape, color, size, and either draw or paste on faces. I like to attach them to a "Pumpkin patch" along the wall in the therapy room (letting the kids choose the perfect spot for their pumpkin), but you could also have them create their own on one sheet of paper to take home. You can work on facial features (eyes nose mouth), requesting, pragmatics (everyone's choices are different), descriptive words, language expansions, executive function (give them all materials and let them plan out the steps), and so much more!
I love getting gourds to play within October - not only are they super cool, but they are perfect exemplars of real life pumpkin diversity. I got these gems at Trader Joe's, where they were being sold for $.69 or $.99 each, depending on the variety. Gourds are perfect for working on descriptions and comparisons, basic concepts, categorization, following instructions (following rules for passing around the pumpkins, finding the described pumpkin, placing the pumpkins according to instructions, etc.). You can have fun rolling pumpkins ( which rolls better?), playing pumpkin bowling, and making play-dough faces on the pumpkins.
We would love you hear about your favorite fall activities in the comments!
“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.”
― Jim Bishop
Getting Started: APPS we love!
For our first 'APPY Monday post we thought it was only fitting to share some essential apps for a new iPad or tablet. Starting out can be daunting! Searching "special needs" on the Apple APP Store alone brings up a plethora of choices ranging from games promising entertainment to skill builders promising to teach functional skills in what seems like play. Add in all the therapists, teachers, and friends who have their favorite apps and you can spend this month's rent before breakfast. Molly and I have put our heads together and come up with our 10 favorite apps for therapists starting out- for you parent's out there, check out whatever apps you think will best meet your child's needs. Our -hopefully- well rounded list will allow you to work on everything from speech production to narrative language with a few games thrown in for good measure!
Both Molly and I have iPads and iPhones, so our only experience is with the Apple APP Store and thats where our recommendations come from!
1. Cause Effect Sensory Light Box ($2.99)- is a sensory based app that little ones really love. There are different sound & light combinations you can choose from and every time you touch the screen you hear music paired with lights. HINT: this is a huge hit with kiddos who have fine motor issues and have trouble isolating a point since you can touch any part of the screen to activate the game.
2. Pictello ($9.99) and Story Kit (free) are fun and interactive ways to teach personal narratives and create individualized social stories.
3. If behavior management and visual schedules are more your thing check out ChoiceWorks ($6.99)- it's my personal favorite. It allows you to create and save a variety of visual schedules, upload photos or use symbols, and has a timer feature if that works for you kiddos.
4, 5, & 6. I don't do much articulation therapy, but I know it's a huge part of therapy for many clinicians. If articulation is a big part of your practice articulation station (free) has come highly recommended. For your kiddos who struggle with sound sequencing the VAST Autism Core-1 app ($4.99) is a great place to start. It allows the kiddos to watch a video, zoomed in on the mouth, saying simple words and then turn the camera on themselves while repeating the words. I have also used articulation flip-books ($9.99) quite a bit with my kiddos who are higher level and working on sounds in sentences and/or generalization.
7 & 8. Technology is a great way to get your students interested in learning all about narratives. There are so many apps to help with organization, content, and engagement. My absolute favorite is Toontastic ($9.99). It allows you to create stories using a bank of preloaded settings and characters -or draw your own- and talks your student through the parts of a story and what it means. Toontastic also has a feature where you students pick the emotion that matches their story and add music (matching that emotion) to the background. In the end the story is played like a movie for you both to watch. Story Grammar Marker ($24.99) is a bit more of an investment but also allows you to use visuals to create narratives based on the elements of story grammar. This app lets you choose from a variety of pre-set story grids or create your own!
9. Having some AAC app on your iPad is a great way to test the waters and see what app may be the best fit. There are a variety of options for you if you are purchasing them yourself (as some can be up to $300). Some apps like Touch Chat and Go Talk offer a lite version and I have used both often- however these may not be the best option for you if you don't have access to the full version as it doesn't offer the full experience of use an AAC app. You can always check the app developer's websites too, some companies such as Dynavox offer free versions to professionals so you can show your clients how it works.
10. We've reached the end of the road! Last but not least the Toca Boca apps (free-2.99) are amazing games. There are so many different ways to play and they are a universal hit with my pre-schoolers and my middle schoolers.
We hope our little list gives you some ideas of were you can start and makes the thought of using your iPad in therapy less overwhelming. Let us know what you favorite apps and and what you guys love for other platforms (Google, Amazon, or Andriod)
In the Community - United Cerebral Palsy Assistive Technology Lending Library
United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of San Diego offers a unique and valuable resource; the San Diego Assistive Technology Center (SDATC). The SDATC, an ally of the Technology Access Resource Center, enables local people (individuals with disabilities, their families, professionals - anyone) in need of AT to try out and borrow a massive variety of items. Did I mention that it is completely free?! You can browse the catalogue and reserve items online, and pick them up as soon as they are available. I recently checked out a switch activated cause and effect doll, communication buttons, and a 7-layer static display voice output AAC device. I'm also on the waiting list for an iPad mini and an iTouch which both have a variety or AAC applications. If you are interested, check them out here. The staff is incredibly helpful and would be happy to answer any of your questions (contact info listed at the bottom of the link/web page). Thanks to UCP for providing such a wonderful service to us here in San Diego - we are inspired!
"I have learned to use the word impossible with the greatest caution." - Werner Braun
Welcome to our very first blog post. We are excited to be able to correlate this occasion with Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Month. The International Society for AAC (ISAAC) has spearheaded this campaign to raise awareness for children and adults who use AAC to communicate. This year, the theme is Discovering Communication, and ISAAC has charged us all to share our experiences using AAC to connect with the people around us. Many countries are observing this in unique ways; the United States will be hosting a 24 hour AAC chat on Skype, Facebook, and Twitter. This 6th annual event will take place starting on October 22nd, 2014, at 8:00 a.m., Eastern Time. To learn more about the chat, click here.
Here at INSPIRED*IN*SPEECH, we are going to dedicate our posts for the month to spreading our knowledge about using AAC and Assisstive Technology (AT) to provide a comprehensive and engaging communication platform that is accessible and fun. Check back for: our favorite speech and language apps, connections in the community, and whatever brilliant (random) gems make the cut. We hope you enjoy our blog!
Molly: "My favorite moment with AAC happened while I was working at the TERI Learning Academy in Oceanside CA. The team had just received a long awaited device for one of our students (his first ever). When we gave it to him, he knew what it was immediately. After after shedding a few tears and taking a moment to hug each of us, he proceeded to greet everyone who crossed his path with his new voice and a huge smile." ~ Molly
Larissa: "I had been working on commenting with a student for months. We knew he had more to tell us, but he had no real way of communicating how he felt about his world. I walked into his classroom one morning and he independently greeted me- by saying "gross." When I said "hmm, I don't think I understood you," he proceeded to tell me "goodbye" followed by "backpack, bus." At that moment I knew we had reached our goal of sharing his world with us."
We would love to hear about your favorite moment with AAC , leave us a comment!
"Not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say."
Molly and Larissa are speech-language pathologists in San Diego, CA, who are looking to share inventive, inclusive, fun ideas for developing communication. This is also their platform for highlighting the many amazing people and resources in the community.