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

Stars Wars and Speech Therapy Just Might Be the Perfect Match

posted on July 29th, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Stars Wars and Speech Therapy Just Might Be the Perfect Match

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . . came a wonderful app that is out of this world (pun intended, lol!). The app that I'm writing about is none other than Disney's official Star Wars app. Though it's currently summer vacation for many of you wonderful clinicians located in the United States, this break from providing speech therapy services gives all of us school-based speech-language pathologists the perfect opportunity to "test drive" some new apps in anticipation for the upcoming academic school year. And right now, I'm testin' this one.

So let's take some time to chat about Star Wars!

I have to be completely honest with you . . . I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan. And please don't take that the wrong way because I totally respect Star Wars for it's brilliance and excitement. The original movie was absolutely ahead of it's time and it brings me joy to know that the Star Wars saga continues to live on and evolve for new generations to enjoy. But for some reason, it never really did it for me.

So why "test drive" the Star Wars app if you don't love Star Wars?

Simple. Because my students love Star Wars and I love my students. Period. So that alone drives me to give this Star Wars app a go. Here's what I think: providing speech therapy services and educating students to help them as communicators, it should never about the clinician, never ever. It's about the client. It's always about the client. So with that being said, as long as I'm a part of this wonderful field, I will do whatever it takes to discover new ways of motivating my clients so they can grow as communicators. And if that means learning more about Star Wars and incorporating various Star Wars-themed lessons here and there, you can bet that I'm in. I'm all in.

Remember SpongeBob SquarePants?

All of this talk about Star Wars reminds me of SpongeBob SquarePants. Back in, say, 2006-ish, every student I worked with was a massive SpongeBob fan. I didn't see the appeal in that yellow sponge dude. I didn't chuckle much when I randomly caught an episode on television. I didn't think it was funny. But who cares what I thought, my students loved him so I watched the show a bunch to get the jist. I learned about characters (Sandy Cheeks is my favorite, just in case you were wondering). I learned about the setting. I learned about the plot. Long story short, I got the jist and that new information totally helped me to be a better educator to youngsters. I went all in on Bob because my students loved Bob.

From the deep ocean to deep space.

SpongeBob is still big, duh I know that, but at this very moment I would say that Star Wars is bigger. Much bigger. So because I see the trend of my kiddos loving Star Wars, it's my duty as an educator of children to learn the Star Wars language. Han Solo. Chewbacca. The Millennium Falcon. Lightsabers. So on and so forth. Just like how I went all in to know about SpongeBob SquarePants in 2006, I'm happily doing the same thing almost a decade later with Star Wars. And my first foray into Star Wars territory is this perfectly polished Star Wars app.

Gosh, this app is beautifully designed.

From front to back, the Star Wars app is superb. In addition to keeping the user in-the-loop with the release of this winter's Episode VII movie, it's packed with lots of interactive features that I believe can be easily intertwined in almost any speech therapy session. And my most favorite aspect of this app is how you can take selfies with Star Wars characters.

Selfies with Yoda? Yes please!

As my buddy Jeremy and I were messing around with this app, the first thing that came to my mind was how perfect the selfies feature could be for my middle school-aged students. With a large amount of my 7th and 8th graders, I work on getting them excited about writing so we can target goals and objectives that focus on improving their written expression. But here's the thing, most of what I've begged them to write about in the past, they didn't particularly care about. And that's a big mistake on my part because if my students aren't excited to write about a certain topic, why would I ever expect them to try their hardest?

The Star Wars app can help.

Here's where I think this Star Wars app could be quite powerful: with the tap of a finger, it can seamlessly create exciting visuals that just might excite even the most unexcitable 7th or 8th grader. I mean, check out this picture of Jeremy getting ready to do battle with Darth Vader. Or how about this picture of myself chillin' with Yoda? Showing these pictures to students on your caseload and asking them to write about what comes to their minds when they see these personalized photos, it's gonna be big! I predict these selfies to be the trampolines that can bounce them to higher levels of excitement and an overal greater love for practiing writing.

In closing . . .

Writing assignments can frustrate and bore students, but I have this funny feeling that this Star Wars app will inspire and thrill all the kiddos that I work with. I'm looking forward to trying this app out with my students and I invite you to try it, too. So, give it a go once your academic school year starts back up again. May the (speech therapy) force be with you. ;-)

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3 Podcasts That All Speech-Language Pathologists Should Check Out ASAP

posted on June 10th, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
3 Podcasts That All Speech-Language Pathologists Should Check Out ASAP

Thanks to the Internet, there's an endless amount of ways that we, as speech-language pathologists, can digitally share and connect with one another. For instance, take this personal blog that you're reading right now (by the way, thank you for reading!). Each week or so, I pop the lid off of my brain to pour out some gooey speech therapy thoughts and ideas all over this digital canvas. Why do I do this? I do this because there's really nothing I adore more than sharing and connecting with other clinicians. Long story short, I love to blog.

And I'm not the only SLP that loves to blog.

Far from it. I mean, have you seen the newest website by Meredith Avren called Speech Blogs? This directory bills itself as "your source for the world's best speech-language pathology blogs." This website would never have been created if there wasn't a fantastic amount of fantastic SLPs willing to share their fantastic ideas online. Also, it would never have been created if there wasn't a very real desire for us to connect with other professionals in our field to discover some delicious speech therapy content. So I guess it's safe to say that SLP blogs are here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future).

But I want to introduce you to another way to share and connect. Podcasts!

Podcasts?! Yes, sweet podcasts. For those of you who aren't familiar with podcasts, let me take a moment to educate you on the subject. A podcast is usually an audio file (though sometimes a video file) that a person creates and upon creation, that person makes the file available for download on the Internet. So if I really had to boil it down, it's sort of like talk radio? Only not really. I think the best way to really describe it is that yes, it's talking, but it's purposeful talking about a specific subject that's usually both entertaining AND educational.

Why do I love podcasts so much?

Aside from the obvious facts that podcasts both entertain me AND educate me, there's more to it. Because of podcasts, commuting isn't nearly as bad because I can listen in my car while I drive down the road. Because of podcasts, working out isn't nearly as dreadful because I can listen at the gym while I run on the treadmill. I've also found myself taking my dog out on more walks lately because of podcasts (because I listen while I walk). So I'm sure if my pooch could speak human, she'd also sing a joyous tune about how she loves podcasts, too.

In your opinion, what are the best SLP podcasts?

That's a good question. Right now, there aren't too many SLP-related podcasts to choose from. That's a total bummer, but I'm willing to bet that's going to change as we creep into 2016 and beyond. Quote me on this, there will be many SLP podcasts in the future. But for now, let me introduce you to my three favorites. You MUST listen to these podcasts ASAP.

1. Conversations in Speech Pathology (PODCAST LINK)

Jeff Stepen has seriously set the bar VERY high for any SLPs thinking about getting into the podcasting game. Yes, he is just THAT good and I've been a fan of his podcast for months! This SLP takes time out of his busy schedule to interview some of the coolest SLPs out there. So far, the podcast has 20 episodes and the topics range from AAC to autism to everything in-between. Oh, and just so you know, I was JUST a guest on his podcast (episode #20, woo hoo!). If you're interested in hearing me chit chat about SLP technology, apps, YouTube, and more, LISTEN RIGHT HERE!

2. StutterTalk (PODCAST LINK)

Peter Reitzes and his team have been doing this stuttering-focused podcast since 2007. With over 500 episodes (yes, over 500!), this podcast is the first and longest running podcast on stuttering. StutterTalk is dedicated to supporting people who stutter, their families, professionals, students, and the general public by talking openly about stuttering and by providing information about stuttering. If you're an SLP, you need to listen to this podcast. I highly recommend it.

3. Stuttering is Cool (PODCAST LINK)

Not only is Daniele Rossi the author and illustrator of one of my most favorite books ever, he's also the producer and host of one heck of a podcast. The Stuttering is Cool podcast currently has 180 episodes and let me tell you, I've learned so much from his wonderful audio files (Thanks Daniele!). He's a gem and let me tell you, he's JUST getting started. Do yourself a favor and listen to this podcast. Do it, do it!

In closing . . .

The three podcasts that I mentioned in this blog post, they're a triple threat of phenomenal SLP knowledge. Give 'em a taste, I know you're gonna like 'em. Every audio file from the aforementioned podcasts will absolutely help you to grow and get better at the art, discipline, and profession known as speech-language pathology. Three cheers for growth. Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!

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9 Creative Speech-Language Pathologists You Should Follow on Instagram Right Now

posted on June 3rd, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
9 Creative Speech-Language Pathologists You Should Follow on Instagram Right Now

I totally love Instagram. It's a free online photo sharing and social networking platform that happily lives on my mobile device. I just can't get enough of Instagram. It's all the rage right now and lately, I've been getting a ton of speech therapy ideas from it.

Wait what?! Speech therapy ideas from Instagram?!

Yup! Instagram isn't just a digital space for users to post funny dog pics or snapshots of pizza. Nope. It's evolving into something more. Something very cool. Something that perfectly relates to the world of speech-language pathology! It's quickly turning into a place where amazing SLPs (just like you!) are starting to upload, edit, and share photos of their speech therapy ideas for anyone and everyone to see.

Upload, edit, and share the speech therapy fun!

With millions and millions of monthly active users (about 300 million, just in case you were wondering), the humungous Instagram community also consists of a growing number of SLPs who are committed to sharing little speech therapy tips and tricks with clinicians that are itchin' for some new speech therapy tips and tricks! And some of those SLPs have even created a Photo-A-Day Challenge on Instagram to promote speech-language pathology awareness. So with that being said, let me take this moment to introduce you to some of my most favorite SLPs that are currently playin' the Instagram game quite well. If you're an SLP with Instagram on your Apple of Android device, you simply must follow these Instagram accounts.

Trust me, these SLPs are beyond spectacular:

In closing . . .

Are you riding the Instagram wave yet? If not, you should give it a try. Jump on in! There are so many good ideas waiting to be discovered within this social network platform. So many. And the list of SLPs that I just promoted to you is just the beginning. There are hundreds and hundreds of clinicians out there using Instagram as a tool to showcase some of what they do within their speech therapy environment. So what are you waiting for, join Instagram today!

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2 Important Questions New Speech Therapy Students Should Be Asked

posted on May 20th, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
2 Important Questions New Speech Therapy Students Should Be Asked

As a school-based speech-language pathologist, I'm constantly attempting to evaluate and re-evaluate how I'm doing as a clinician. Are my current therapy strategies helping my students meet their goals in a timely manner? Am I collaborating enough with teachers that also work together with my students? How am I doing with touching base to discuss student progress with parents and caregivers? These are just a few things that I make sure to consistently ponder to gauge if I'm being the best possible clinician that I can be. And ya know what? For the most part, I'm doing pretty alright.

But there's one thing I want to get better at.

God knows I ain't perfect, so I'm all about sharing with you something professionally I want to get better at. I want to get better at "setting the speech-language therapy stage" for all the new students that join my caseload. What I mean by that is, when I start to work with a new child, I want to make sure that the student and I are on the same page with WHY the student is coming to me and WHAT that student hopes to gain by coming to me.

Here's how I've started to "set the speech-language therapy stage."

I've gotten into the habit of asking any and all new students these two questions:

1. Can you tell me why you're coming to speech-language therapy?

With articulation students, a response to that question is pretty simple. They usually know they are starting to see me because they need to work on a certain sound. But your typical elementary or middle school-aged students who have language difficulties, they usually don't know why they are now seeing the "speech teacher." They might say, "I don't know why I'm here." Or they might say, "Um, like, I guess I need help with stuff." So the most important thing that we, as clinicians, can do is spell it out, word for word, WHY they are now on our caseload. Don't be afraid to share with the new student any evaluation results you might have. Did he/she score very low on an auditory comprehension or reasoning subtest? Share that. Did he/she score very low on an expressive or receptive language diagnostic? Share that. Sharing information like this helps everyone because it establishes a clear WHY. If the assessments reveal very low auditory comprehension or reasoning abilities, that's WHY you're here and that's what we will work to improve. If the assessments reveal very low expressive or receptive language abilities, that's WHY you're here and that's what we will work to improve. It's really that simple. That's the WHY.

2. What do you hope to gain from speech-language therapy?

This is the WHAT you're trying to uncover. Now sure, this question might be tricky for younger students to answer, especially if the students have obvious communication difficulties. But I bet you'd be surprised at the responses you'd get, every now and again, if you gave this WHAT question a shot. I've had a 2nd grader tell me, "I want to sound like everyone else" and I've had a 7th grader tell me, "I want to get better at organizing my thoughts." Statements like these are wonderful, personal confessions that can help you and your new students see eye-to-eye. Once you know WHAT your students want, you can do everything in your power to help them. You can share with them your current goals and objectives and easily show them that what you have planned will, absolutely, get him/her closer to what he/she wants. (Oh, and this WHAT question also helps with building the client/clinician rapport because it communicates to your student that you honestly value them and their wants/needs.)

In closing . . .

What do you think? Can all of the students on your caseload tell you WHY they come to speech and WHAT they hope to gain from therapy? Wouldn't everything be so much easier if you and your students were on the same page with the WHY and the WHAT? Give my two questions a test drive to see if they're able to better help you with "setting the speech-language therapy stage" for all the new students on your caseload. And as always, let me know how it goes!

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