Motivation, humor, and ideas that every school-based
speech-language pathologist will love!

Talking About Really Long Town Names in Speech Therapy is Really Fun

posted on September 22nd, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Talking About Really Long Town Names in Speech Therapy is Really Fun

In the past, I've written about a speech therapy idea that consisted of chattin' about unusual town names with your speech therapy students. Every single time I've done this during a therapy session with kiddos, it always generated a large amount of awesome conversation. So because that speech therapy idea was such a hit, I decided to expand upon it. And when I say the word "expand," I mean that word literally. Expand. As in, to make longer. Much longer!

Let's focus on VERY long town names.

Did you know that the longest town name in the world is one that's found on the North Island of New Zealand? This town name is a whopping 85 letters long and it sure is a mouthful. Check out the town's name over at its Wikipedia page and give this YouTube video a watch to hear the pronunciation of it.

Or how about this town in the United Kingdom?

If you've ever heard someone speaking about the town called Llanfair, just know that Llanfair is not its real name. Llanfair is the shortened version. The real version is a staggering 58 letters long. Check out the town's full name over at its Wikipedia page and listen in awe as a skilled weatherman beautifully articulates the town’s full name on live television in this YouTube video.

Have you ever heard of this lake in Massachusetts?

Some people call it Lake Webster because it’s in Webster, Massachusetts, but did you know that it’s real name isn't Lake Webster? It's actually a word that is 45 letters long and such a blast to say. Don't believe me? Listen to this newscaster talking about it in this YouTube video and while you're at it, read up on the lake over at its Wikipedia page.

Why focus on VERY long names?

It's all about the articulation. When we present our students with location names that are super long, the chances of these names containing at least one instance of the students' target sound is extremely high. And in all honestly, it's not too uncommon to hear a specific sound appear three, four, or even five times within one of these long names. So your students will have lots of opportunities to practice properly articulating while attempting to read one of these long location names out loud.

Why else focus on VERY long names?

Because it's fun! Like, REALLY fun. Because here's the thing, I know you'll absolutely agree with me when I say that articulation practice can get SO boring sometimes. I mean for example, let's take the /R/ sound. If we have a kiddo working on the /R/, we usually have him or her say words like rabbit, rocket, rainbow, etc. Been there. Done that. But now you can go to this long list of long names and throw a word like Rhosllannerchrugog into the mix (that's a village in the United Kingdom). I dare you to try to say Rhosllannerchrugog without cracking a smile. See! I told you it was fun! Am I right?! Hooray for fun articulation practice!

In closing . . .

There are hundreds of different ways to introduce long town names into a speech therapy session. Let your imagination run wild and give this idea, or some variation of it, a try. Oh, and if long town names aren’t quite your thing, don't worry because I got your back. How about this list of the shortest place names? HAHA! So much fun. I love my job.

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3 Ways to De-Stressify Your Speech-Language Pathologist Brain

posted on September 9th, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
3 Ways to De-Stressify Your Speech-Language Pathologist Brain

Between eligibility meetings, in-classroom observations, formal speech and language evaluations, consulting with classroom teachers, and so much more, it's no wonder why us school-based speech-language pathologists are so stressed these days. We have a massive amount on our plates, and with each new academic school-year year, there seems to be even more plopped onto our already overflowing plates. It's so wacky, right?

Yeah, I'm TOTALLY right.

Don't worry, friend. I feel your pain. So in an effort to help you de-stressify your brain (is de-stressify a word?), I've come up with three surprisingly effective (and surprisingly simple) ways that help you to knock the stress right out. And here's the great thing, all of what I'm about to tell you can be done while sitting right in your speech therapy chair. I promise you, each one of these stress-busting examples will take no more than a few minutes of your time. Guaranteed.

1. Look at some cute pictures.

I dare you to look at this cat picture and not smile. I dare you. See, it's totally impossible. Even if you are stressing out thinking about an upcoming (and potentially messy) IEP meeting, the pictures on, and other websites like it, will absolutely de-stressify your brain (again, is de-stressify a word?).

2. Listen to your favorite song.

I read somewhere that the average length of popular radio music is something around 4 minutes. So with that being said, don't fret over that last phone conference you just had with that unhappy parent. How about you take a 4 minute breather to pop in some earbuds to rock out to your favorite tune. Don't have a song in mind? Let me make a recommendation: Budapest by George Ezra. This track is 3 mintes and 36 seconds of pure goodness that can absolutely de-stressify your brain (yeah, I'm pretty sure de-stressify is not a word, I'll have to ask someone about that).

3. Try a hand massage.

Wouldn't it be amazing if every school building in your district employed their very own massage therapist? If I were president, I'd add that to my agenda for sure! But until I get elected to office, we'll have to make due with the next best thing: a hand massage. Seriously, just close your eyes and clear your mind. Then, with your one hand, start rubbing the base of the muscle on your other hand, right near your thumb. It'll feel like Heaven AND it'll even start to ease the tension you didn't even know you had - like the tension in your neck and shoulders. Now if that doesn't de-stressify your brain, nothing will (I just asked my wife if de-stressify is a word – she said, "Maybe." I don't know, I'm still pretty skeptical.).

In closing . . .

Let's make a conscious effort this academic school-year to not get as stressed out as we used to. Life's too short to stress out, ya know? Instead, let's look at some cute pictures, listen to uplifting music, and massage our hands. And imagine if we did all three of those things at the same time? Whoa! We would probably scare the pants right off of stress! Hooray for scaring away stress!

P.S. I just went on the Merriam-Webster dictionary website and looked up the word de-stressify. It's official: it's not a word. Dang. Good word though. If I were president, I'd also add that to my agenda for sure! Getting the word de-stressify into the Merriam-Webster dictionary. LOL!

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A Speech-Language Pathologist's Thoughts on Digital Zombies and Semantics

posted on August 27th, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
A Speech-Language Pathologist's Thoughts on Digital Zombies and Semantics

My buddy and I were out to dinner a few evenings ago. As we were sitting at our table enjoying some delicious cheeseburgers (I love Five Guys Burgers, just in case you were wondering), we couldn't help but notice this one table across the restaurant - the one with the father and his presumably 8 or 9 year old son. What drew our attention to that table was the fact that they were both zombies. And no, they weren’t eating brains. Not THAT kind of zombie. They were, what I like to say, digital zombies.

Digital zombies?

My definition of a digital zombie is a person who is just so obsessed with his or her digital device that he or she doesn't even seem alive! The individual just mindlessly looks at the digital device. As glassy eyes stare deep into the screen, that person isn't talking to anyone. He or she would rather look at the device than engage in communication with whoever else is also in the room. It's crazy! It's bananas! It's such a shame.


So here we have two people out to dinner and no communication is being exchanged. Dad is tap tapping away on his iPhone and his son is swipe swiping away on his iPad (I think the son was playing one of those Fruit Ninja games?). They both fit the digital zombie criteria to a T: mindlessly looking at the device, glassy eyes, neither one of them talking.

"Jeez dad, put your phone away and talk to your son."

My buddy mentioned to me how he believed that the father should put away the phone and talk to his son. I wholeheartedly agreed. But there was something about my buddy's statement that I kept thinking about. "Talk to your son." I couldn't put my finger on it, but something about the "talk to your son" statement sounded off to me.

It wasn't until a few days later that it hit me.

Warning: this is going to sound like a bit of a semantics game, but bare with me. You know how we both said that the father should, "talk TO his son?" Well, what about if instead we said that the father should talk WITH his son?

Talk to children VS. Talk with children

Don't you just love discussions about the meaning and interpretation of words? I sure do! So this is the reason I wanted to dig deep into the words TO and WITH. Here's why I think saying, "we need to talk WITH our children" is better than saying, "we need to talk TO our children." Take this example: let's mix it up a bit and look at the following pair of sentences that doesn't mention talking, but mentions playing:

I'm going to play TO my child.

I'm going to play WITH my child.

To me, the first example with the TO sounds like a musical performance. Like, if I had a guitar (and I do have a guitar) and I was actively playing a song while my child was passively listening to my song. That would be me playing TO my child. To me, that scenario seems one-sided. I would be doing all of the playing and my child would be doing all the listening. Or in other words, I would be doing all the "talking" and my child would be doing all the listening. There's little opportunity for a true back-and-forth to occur between the two of us with that play TO example.

Now, let's think about the second sentence.

If we wanted to keep the same music and guitar scenario going, that WITH sentence seems to imply that my child and I both have guitars and the two of us are jamming out together. To me, that scenario seems like there's give-and-take. I might do some louder strums for a bit while my child does some softer strums. Then, my louder strums might temporarily decrease in volume to make room for my child's louder strums. Can you see (or hear) the back-and-forth in that WITH sentence? In my opinion, since I am playing WITH my child, it seems like we are BOTH "talking" to each other, not just myself "talking." This illustrates how the WITH sentence seems far from one-sided. It's two-way, all the way.

So, what's the purpose of this blog post?

First off, this blog post was a lot of me thinking out loud. I suppose I wanted to type out the reasoning why I plan on choosing to be a bit more careful with the words that I use when encouraging people to engage in active communication. I think WITH works better than TO. Plain and simple. We need to talk WITH our children, not TO our children. We need to communicate WITH each other, not TO each other. Ya feel me? So in the future, that's what I'm going to do, use WITH instead of TO.

Secondly, I suppose I'm using this blog post as a way for me to check myself, with regards to digital etiquette. Because here's the thing: you know how I mentioned the whole "digital zombie" thing at the beginning? And you know how I was all like, "they weren't talkin' at all because they were just too interested in their digital devices and it was crazy and yada yada?" Well, I'm no saint. I've also been a digital zombie before. Many, many times before. So I need to make sure that I practice what I preach. Therefore, in the future I'm going to remind myself to not be a digital zombie. I'm going to remind myself that whatever it is that is on my phone, it can wait. When I'm with someone else, especially at a restaurant, I'm going to talk WITH him or her and not mindlessly look at my device, all glassy eyed. We will be in the moment WITH each other. We will talk WITH each other.

In closing . . .

Let's not be digital zombies. Instead, let's be in-the-moment humans who embrace in-the-moment communication. So remember, when we work with the students on our caseload, let's talk WITH them more often, and talk TO them much less. To me, that makes more sense. And I know that at the end of the day, it's all semantics, but I guess that's one of the reasons why I became a school-based speech-language pathologist - my love for having discussions about the meaning and interpretations of words that we used every single day. Fun!

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Giving Awards to Fellow Speech Pathologists is Extremely Fun

posted on August 4th, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Giving Awards to Fellow Speech Pathologists is Extremely Fun

It was a Wednesday morning in April. It was raining (April showers bring May flowers). I was almost running late to work because my little dog was being a bit finicky with going to the bathroom during our morning walk (she doesn't like it when it rains). After politely asking Stella to, "Go pee pee please," she finally listened. Phew! "Now I won't be late for work." I confidently said to myself as I smiled.

I took her inside, gave her a treat, and bid her a fond farewell.

Then, out the door I went. Umbrella in hand, I dodged raindrops like a pro. I leaped over the puddles with such precision. All in all, I made it to my car not nearly as wet as I thought I was going to get. I celebrated my dryness victory with a sigh of relief as I lowered my booty onto the driver's seat.

Or maybe I celebrated too soon?

As soon as I sat down behind my steering wheel, my butt got soaked. Why? Ya see, as I was driving home from grocery shopping the evening before, it was uncommonly warm. Something like 50 degrees. So I rolled the one window down on my side of the car to take in the fresh air as I glided down the street. Had I known that I would have forgotten to roll the window up all the way once I was done with the food store, I just might have NOT rolled down the window at all (who needs fresh air anyways? LOL!). Rain water was all over the driver's seat because of my mistake.

It was only a crack, but that's all it needed.

I almost rolled the driver’s window up all the way the evening before. Almost. But there was still a tiny sliver to go and that tiny sliver was enough to drench the driver's seat. I sat right in it and immediately felt the wetness. So I did what any other smarty pants would do to save his pants, I took off my jacket and placed it on the seat as a type of protective layer between my behind and the moist car seat. What a crumby day this was turning out to be.

I finally made it to work, but yeah, I was late.

I was only a couple of minutes late, but late is late. I signed in at the front office of my middle school and there was a teeny tiny red L next to my name on the sign-in sheet. *Sigh.* Maybe the L was for lovely? But probably not. I think it meant late. Ok. Off to the speech therapy room I went.

Can this day get any worse?

I’ve written about terrible, horrible, no good, very bad speech therapy days before on this blog and I was sure that this Wednesday was right on track to taking me straight to Yuckville, USA, population: me.

But it all turned around because someone sent me an email!

As I opened up my laptop to check my email before the morning’s first group session started, I saw a message from a past co-worker. The email was simple, just a couple sentences: “Just thinking about you. Hope all is well. I made you an award. Hehe!” And there was this file attached to the email.

Wow. Just. WOW!

I forgot about all the not-so-wonderful morning stuff that happened to me. All of it. This simple act of kindness, via email, warmed my heart. So I instantly printed out the attachment and proudly tacked it on the corkboard behind my therapy table. A speech award!? YES! I was now an award-winning speech-language pathologist. SCORE!

Let’s spread the love.

I’m not writing this post to brag about the fact that I was recently the recipient of this spectacular SLP award from a buddy of mine. Nope. Not one bit. I’m writing this to encourage YOU to do the same for a colleague or co-worker in YOUR building. You can make the award over at Thousands Under 90. Just visit that website on your computer, type in the awardee's name and job title, then tap ‘Award Me.” From there, you'll see the customized award, in all its glory. At the bottom of the award, you'll see directions on how to save the award by taking a screenshot of it. After you did the screenshot thing, you can totally email the screenshot to the person you made the award for!

In closing . . .

Somtimes life can get rough and tough but with positive thoughts and kindness, we have the ability to woosh away even the biggest amount of rain clouds. So do me a favor, think of your favorite colleague or co-worker and GIVE 'EM AN AWARD. Spread the love and let 'em know how much you appreciate his awesome ways or her spectacular style. The person deserves to know. Am I right? Yes, I'm right. Happy award giving!

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