In the Community - iCan Bike
“Do it badly; do it slowly; do it fearfully; do it any way you have to, but do it.”
― Steve Chandler
In the Community - iCan Bike
This week we'd like to recognize iCan Shine and Crimson Center for Speech-Language Pathology for organizing an amazing opportunity for children with special needs to spend a fun-filled week learning how to ride bikes independently. The summer camp style program iCan Bike (formally Lose the Training Wheels), focuses on helping local children become life-long independent bike riders. Special recognition, of course, goes to the amazing volunteers who spend their week running back and forth alongside the campers while they practice, and the donors who help make it possible. Its amazing what can be done when a group of people come together for a common cause. We look forward to watching it be a success again next year! Click here for information on how you can support or participate in this program.
“Do it badly; do it slowly; do it fearfully; do it any way you have to, but do it.”
― Steve Chandler
Belardo Lights Fundraiser
Belardo Lights (named for its location, 5306 Belardo Drive in Tierrasanta) is an annual fundraiser run by a San Diego family. Every winter, Randy Schimka fills his yard form top to bottom in a truly brilliant computerized display of color and music. Inspired by his two sons, who have Autism, Randy builds this scene each year and accepts donations - 100% of which goes to support Autism resources. In its 9th year, this literally and figuratively beautiful fundraiser will be supporting local nonpublic schools The Stein Education Center and Springall Academy.
Come out and support this incredible show of community, cheer, and charity! The lights will be on until December 26th. Check out their website and/or Facebook page for more information.
Autism Speaks, Simon Property Group, Inc, and the Noerr Programs Corporation have come together to provide a wonderful program for children who have special needs that make it difficult to see Santa in the standard setting (long lines, lots of noise, huge crowds, etc).
On Sunday December 7th, the Caring Santa program will provide a sensory-friendly Santa experience for children at 120 different Simon Malls, for two hours before they open. Find more information here. It looks like many of the locations are already sold out, but call to see if there is a waiting list, or if not, call anyways to let them to know that there is interest in having additional days and opportunities!
In the Community - A Night to Remember Prom
This shout out is for a community event that is more than deserving of some attention. A Night To Remember, organized by local residents Rob & Cheryl Shields, provides a night of extravagance and joy to students with special needs who might otherwise miss out on the prom experience. As described on their website, "A Night to Remember is a FREE Prom honoring students with special needs ages 15-22 yrs. old. It’s more than a Prom…it’s an experience! Our Honored Guests get hair/make-up done, limo rides, and walk down the Red Carpet complete with paparazzi before entering the dance/dinner. It’s also a night of integration – as each student with special needs is partnered up with a San Diego high school student who serves as their host." The inaugural prom was held in 2011, and it is growing stronger every year!
We could not be more behind this event! A huge call of encouragement and gratitude to the Shields', the donors and volunteers who make it possible, and of course, to the honored guests who inspire us everyday...Check out their website or facebook page for more information, to volunteer, or to make an important donation (any ladies wondering what to do with your old prom dresses, here's a great opportunity!).
“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” -Wayne W. Dyer
AAC Genie is an application that is intended to help SLP's with the diagnostic aspect of AAC assessments. For me, AAC assessments used to be incredibly intimidating. I had no idea what I needed to probe or how to go about creating an assessment protocol. Once I gathered all this information, how do you create a recommendation from all this data? AAC Genie was invaluable to me when I began doing these assessments. It streamlines most of the important information into a one stop shop for evaluating a variety of skills. As far as apps go (for me) this one ranks on the pricer side at $11.99 but it has more than justified the cost based on how much I use the app.
AAC GENIE: THINGS I LOVE
AAC GENIE: HOW I USE IT
So what exactly is AAC Genie? According to the manufacturer's website, AAC Genie "is an informal diagnostic tool that is intended to assist speech-language pathologists and others with identifying skill areas that relate specifically to the language representation methods commonly found on augmentative communication systems." It is important to remember that this app does not recommend specific AAC devices or apps, and nor should one assessment tool. AAC device or app selection should be the product of multiple assessment tools and decisions made through a feature matching process (you can find resources on what features to look for here, here, & here and some resources to compare apps here & here.)
When you finish with your assessment AAC Genie creates this handy printout that you can screenshot and/or save in your photos (watch those last names if you choose this option!) or send in an email. It is great for keeping data and monitoring progress.
The first 2 categories visual identification and visual discrimination are ways to assess the best button size and from what field the examinee can best select from. Visual identification prompts the user to find the _____ from an increasing field of choices and buttons of decreasing size where there is only one picture on the screen. Visual discrimination is laid out in the same way, only the user must locate the icon from a field of foils.
Next up are the language probes. All administered from a field of 3 and with simple probes.
The word association subtests ask the examinee to "find the one the ____ goes with" and even probe negation, "find the one that's not ______."
The final subtests are related to the Unity vocabulary specifically and may only need to be administered if that is a concern for you.
Overall- AAC Genie has been such a great tool for me and I use it so many different ways! I really can't recommend this app enough!
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."
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.