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

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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Funny Cat Pictures are Excellent for Speech Therapy

posted on May 6th, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Funny Cat Pictures are Excellent for Speech Therapy

I don't know about you, but I have a thing for cats. And it's not just me. The whole Internet seems to have a thing for cats, as evidenced by the never-ending collection of hilarious cat pictures that live online. I just can't get enough of those. In fact, whenever I'm feline (er, feeling) blue, silly cat pictures have a magical way of turning my frown upside-down.

If you adore cats and speech therapy, ya gotta check out this website!

I'm excited to tell you about a purr-fect (er, perfect) website that I recently started showing my students. It's called stuffonmycat.com and it's jam-packed with hundreds and hundreds of hilarious cat pictures. In short, this online destination is a digital community of cat owners who do one thing: put stuff on their cat. They then snap a photo of what they've done to their kitty and submit the snapshot to stuffonmycat.com. It's all very genius and entertaining.

Did you know that funny cat pictures can be awesome speech therapy materials?

If you have any students on your speech therapy caseload that are working towards increasing their ability to answer WH questions (specifically WHY questions), stuffonmycat.com is ideal. For example, look at this terrific picture of a sleeping cute cat with a bunch of socks all over it. That kitty sure looks comfortable, huh? Well, I showed that picture to a bunch of my 4th and 5th grade students and I encouraged them to describe WHY they thought the cat was comfortable. Most of my students couldn't verbally communicate WHY. Most said a single word. That word was because. Nothing after it. Because.

Details, please. More details about the picture!

In an effort to get my students more in the habit of noticing details in a picture and then using those details to trigger other insights, I pointed out to them the dryer that the cat was laying on top of and the socks that were on top of the cat. Then, with some prompts and cues, I asked them to make a connection between the socks and the dryer to help with the WHY. Like clockwork, my students started hypothesizing how the socks on the cat were probably super warm because they just came out of that dryer. Maybe that's the reason WHY the cat was so comfy?

Nice! Good start! Let's keep on hypothesizing to see what else we come up with!

Then, with some more prompts and cues, they mentioned how it was probably not the warm socks that have that cat so relaxed, it was probably the dryer itself. They started to describe how the dryer might be on and while it's on, it might be shaking or vibrating, thus, giving the cat a type of massage as it napped on top of it.

Great! I like the rationale! Let's keep going deeper!

A couple of other students commented on the pipes in the background of the picture and said that they believed the dryer was in the basement of a house, because exposed pipes like that are usually found in basements. They then went on to explain that basements are usually dim and quiet, thus, the dim and quiet environment was actually the thing that caused the cat to feel so relaxed. (I was in awe of all the conversation that was brewing; all because of a random picture of a random cat with some random socks on top of it. So marvelous!)

WHY questions are pretty tough.

Thinking about WHY questions requires children to think about details that relate to a given scenario. Students must offer conclusions and relate their answers to their own knowledge of the world. That might come naturally to you and I, but to those who have various communication difficulties, it takes practice. That's why I love the funny cat pictures that are all over stuffonmycat.com. Each picture is detailed and students get the chance to provide explanations for the shown situations. WHY does this cat have toys all over him? WHY does this cat have origami all over her? WHY does this cat have building blocks all over him? Let's look at the pictures to see if there are any details that could steer us in the right direction. Let's also think about any past knowledge we might be able to pull from that might relate to the picture in question. All of that, mixed with a bit of imagination and some prompts and cues, can get us where we want to be!

In closing . . .

WHY questions require higher order thinking skills. Students need to be exposed to stimuli that's both exciting and rich with details so that they can pick out certain clues that can help them towards drawing conclusions. That's the reason I love stuffonmycat.com. It's filled with exciting and detailed pictures that children seem to naturally gravitate towards. I'm telling you, the paw-ssibilities are endless with this paw-sitively cool website. Please do check out all of the website's funny cat pictures and let me know how you're using them within your speech therapy sessions!

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