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

Speech-Language Pathologists Need to Relax

posted on September 15th, 2014 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologists Need to Relax

Right now, I have something like 17 unread emails in my work account. I'm trying to muster the strength to open them but I can't. I'm dreading opening the messages because I already have so much to do and I just know that they all contain new things to plop on top of my already overflowing plate. And so is the life of a school-based speech-language pathologist. *Sigh*

Breathe. Just breathe.

Please raise your hand if you've been in this type of situation before. As clinicians, our days are always jam-packed with therapy, case management, creating homework packets, testing, report writing, emails, phone calls, so on and so forth. All of this could become suffocating, but we must breathe and try to stay calm. Don't let your stress get the best of you and your magical speech therapy ways!

Here. I wrote this just for you.

This blog post is to be read at night after you had a long day in speech land. Listen, believe me, I know it's NOT unusual for us SLPs to go above and beyond the call of duty with everything we do. I get it. I truly do. However, I feel it's vital for us to not forget about ourselves and our well-being. We must not burn out! So, in an effort to save you from crashing and burning because of the anxiety of our never-ending to-do list, I'm going to give you the permission that I know, deep down inside, you're craving.

  • Tonight I give you permission to not open up your laptop to work on progress notes. That can wait until tomorrow. Instead I give you permission to watch your favorite show on Netflix!
  • Tonight I give you permission to not open up your laptop to finish scoring that assessment you gave today. That can wait until tomorrow. Instead I give you permission to go to the gym!
  • Tonight I give you permission to not open your laptop to check to see if your coworker responded to your email about scheduling the new student that just moved into the district. It can wait until tomorrow. Instead I give you permission to meet up with your friend at your favorite coffee shop!
  • Tonight I give you permission to not open your laptop to go on Facebook, Twitter, Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, Etsy, or any other website that SLPs love to frequent. Instead I give you permission to go to bed early because you earned it!
  • And most importantly, tonight I give you permission to look at your bathroom mirror, smile, and remind yourself that you're doing a terrific job. This world just wouldn't be the same without you. Thank you for all that you do with your students in speech therapy.

In closing . . .

Do you know an SLP who might need this post right now? Is that colleague currently overwhelmed? Do me a favor and share this post with him/her. We all need to stick together and sharing some comforting words with one another is always key. Blogs posts have the ability to inject a great deal of warmth into the soul of a person who needs it. That's all I want from this post, to positively impact people that need a little pick me up. ;-)

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Are You Giving Rushed Greetings to Your Speech Therapy Students?

posted on September 8th, 2014 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP
Are You Giving Rushed Greetings to Your Speech Therapy Students?

I've been thinking a lot lately about restaurants and how the first encounter with whoever seats you really sets the stage for what the meal's experience will ultimately be. Now I know you might be wondering how this thought even relates to speech therapy. Does it? Yes, it does, trust me (haha!). Just keep on reading and I pinky promise that I will get us there. But before I transition this body of text into something that makes sense to us speech-language pathologists, I feel like I need to describe a couple of typical restaurant greetings that I'm sure every single one of you have encountered before.

Those rushed greetings that feel as if the person doesn't care.

Sometimes I will walk into a restaurant and the first thing that the employee says is . . .

"How many?"

Um, what?! How many?! That's the FIRST thing you say?! Not even a hello?! Or a hi?! Yikes. From an SLP's point of view, this rushed attempt at communicating to me is pure torture to hear. It almost sounds like nails on a chalkboard. And no matter how great the food is, that type of first (rushed) impression seems to always leave such a bad taste in my mouth.

Now let's take a moment to transition that scenario to a speech therapy one (see, I told you I'd get us there, haha!).

Sometimes when I'm in a bit of a hurry, I find myself picking up my students for services and I will say obviously rushed greetings to them (just like those rushed restaurant people). I would say lines like "time for speech" or "come on, let's go to the speech room." Not even a hello or a hi first, just one of those empty and embarrassing attempts at communicating.

Ugh! What's wrong with me?! How embarrassing.

Now, just imagine how my rushed greeting negatively sets the stage in speech therapy. Those rushed types of greetings are communicating, loud and clear, that I'm not in the moment and that my mind is somewhere else (when it shouldn't be somewhere else, it should be on my students and in that moment). That's a terrible thing to be communicating. Just. Terrible.

Let's be intentional with our greetings and let's not rush.

I know I can't be the only SLP out there that has ever given a rushed greeting to a student. It happens to the best of us sometimes, right? Sure. But from here on out, I'm making a very real and conscience decision to be more mindful with the greetings that I choose to use. I want to be more intentional with my words and I want to remember that my greetings can either positively or negatively set the stage in speech therapy. From here on out I'm choosing to adopt a new collection of non-rushed and ultra positive greetings that I promise to say to each and every single one of my students (regardless of how rushed I may or may not be).

Here are some of my favorites that I will use (and feel free to use them, too):

  • I'm so happy you're here today! Let's head on over to speech.
  • Yes! There he/she is! Let's head on over to speech.
  • The one and only (insert name here)! Let's head on over to speech.
  • Woo hoo! We're going to have a blast today! Let's head on over to speech.
  • Hey smart cookie! Let's head on over to speech.
  • You make me smile wider than a school bus! Let's head on over to speech.
  • I have such a great activity planned just for you! Let's head on over to speech.
  • I'm so pumped I get to hangout with you today! Let's head on over to speech.

In closing . . .

Imagine how spectacular we would feel if we walked into a restaurant and they said something along the lines of "oh fantastic, you're here! We've been waiting for you. Let me take you over to your table." We would feel ecstatic and that type of greeting would absolutely set the stage for one memorable dining experience. Well, we can do the EXACT same thing as SLPs in the school-setting with our initial greetings as we transition our students from whatever room they are currently in to our speech therapy rooms. We can (and should) make them feel like VIPs because they are. So, let's all re-think the way we greet the children on our caseloads. Cool? Cool!

P.S. Just so you know, this post is the 100th post on my blog. I feel a great sense of joy to know that I have been able to connect with so many amazing educators through this particular medium. Thank you to each and every single one of you for reading all of my thoughts and ideas as they relate to speech therapy. It really means the world to me!

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Walking and Talking with Your Students Before and After Speech Therapy

posted on August 27th, 2014 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP

Let me paint you a picture that illustrates how I used to typically start off my speech therapy sessions as a school-based clinician. It looked something like this: I checked the schedule to see which group was next. Once I knew which lucky little kiddos I needed to get, I would leave my speech therapy room to go pick them up. Once I had everyone, we would walk down the hallway together, en route back to my speech therapy room. We would enter the room and THEN we would begin our session.

Notice how I emphasized the word THEN?

In the past, I pretty much wouldn't start speech therapy until we all were in the speech therapy room. No speech therapy UNTIL we entered the magical speech therapy room. It's as if I thought that it wasn't possible for us to work on our goals and objectives UNTIL we were sitting at the speech therapy table.

What missed opportunities!

My transition to and from the speech therapy room is usually something along the lines of 2-3 minutes. So in theory, because of the walking that my students and I do, we lose about 5 minutes of speech therapy time. In my opinion, that's a bunch of missed opportunities where we could've practiced aspects of effective communication that related to our goals and objectives. So now I make it a point to start speech speech therapy the moment I see my students. ASAP!

There's no time like the preset!

I've changed my routine around so that we begin working on our goals and objectives WHILE we are actually walking down the hallway WAY WAY BEFORE we even enter my speech therapy room. For example, let's say you have a student and he's working on perfecting the /CH/ sound. You could easily take that opportunity to say, "Hey, let's look around the walls while we walk to see if we can find any pictures that have the /CH/ sound in it." You might discover a poster next to the lunchroom of a boy CHEWING on food. Or a piece of student artwork of a mouse CHOMPING on some CHEESE. Ya see? There's just so many /CH/ words that begin to show themselves to us, outside the speech therapy room, once we actively start to keep our eyes peeled for them. What a BEAUTIFUL thing!

Why should we do this OUTSIDE of the speech therapy room?

In short, it's because we need our young learners to be able to successfully use their newly learned skills in many different locations, not just in the speech therapy room. Encouraging your students to practice their sounds while walking to and from the speech therapy room reinforces the given sounds in a new location and further helps to move the students along towards mastery.

And it's not just for articulation!

Walking and talking is also ideal for WH questions. It's never been easier to target aspects of WH questions by being intentional with your questions. For example, let's say you have a student and he's working on better understanding WH questions. You could easily take that opportunity to say, "Hey, do you see that trophy case over there? What do you think those trophies are for? Why do you think teams are given trophies? When do teams usually get trophies?" So on and so forth. The possibilities are endless once you make a conscious decision to incorporate WH questions within the students' surroundings outside of the speech therapy room.

In closing . . .

Purposeful walking and talking with your students is where it's at. For real. It's educationally relevant and it also gets the students ready for the main lesson that is usually waiting for them once they enter the the speech therapy room. Nah mean? So, do you think you could benefit from this type of routine? Do you have some other ideas that relate to this one? As always, please let me know. I just LOVE hearing from each and every single one of you.

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Having Some Recycling Fun in Speech Therapy with Hangers

posted on August 12th, 2014 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP

I'm all about recycling. It's one of the best ways that we can show our beautiful planet that we truly care about it. So that's why I'm always on the prowl for new speech therapy materials that are both fun and are actually just repurposed items from around the home. Yup, instead of throwing out all of that junk in your closet, you very well might be able to use some of it (or all of it) within your speech therapy setting. You'd really be surprised at just how many different kinds of potential speech therapy items we all have just sitting around in our closets that don't see the light of day. This is a post that will help you to look at those things with new eyes. Ones that can clearly see the speech therapy potential that almost any random object in your closet can have.

So what kinds of random objects are we talkin' about?!

Well, I don't know about you, but I've somehow collected a gigantic amount of hangers over the years. I don't even know how the number got to be so high. It's almost as if they've been multiplying each time I close the closet door. Maybe they're quietly growing an army of hangers in an effort to capture me and take over my house! Uh no! So that's why I needed to grab a handful of hangers (about 20 or so) and bring them into my speech therapy room. (I figured if I separated them, I would slow down their evil plans to get me! HAHA!).

Hangers in speech therapy?! Huh?!

Not too long ago, I had a group of students who were working on perfecting their /R/ sound in the final position of words. I came up with a game called Hanger Ear. The game is simple, the students have to hang as many hangers as they can from their ear WHILE they practice saying words that have the /R/ sound in the final position of words (just like the words hanger and ear). With each correct pronunciation, the student is rewarded with a hanger and that hanger needs to somehow be added to the hanger chain. Who ever has the most hangers is the winner! (See my video for a look at me demonstrating the game.)

Trying to break records is always a hoot!

Hanger Ear is easily able to be turned into a competitive game where students try their hardest to break the record. How many hangers could you have hanging from your ear? 5? 6? 7? More? It's just another way to get students to think about their sounds WHILE they are participating in a wacky activity. It's all in good fun.

In closing . . .

Chances are, you've got a bunch of hangers in your closet that aren't doing too much. So why not recycle those hangers and convert them over to a new batch of silly and crazy speech therapy materials? And while you're at it, be on the lookout for other things in your closet that could be converted to speech therapy materials such as old shoe boxes, old magazines, and so much more!

So, give Hanger Ear a shot and, as always, let me know how it goes. I'd love to hear from you.

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