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3 Things Great Speech-Language Pathologists Never Do

posted on April 21st, 2014 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP
3 Things Great Speech-Language Pathologists Never Do

I'm one of the luckiest speech-language pathologists out there because I have some of the best colleagues. These clinicians, who I very affectionately call my friends, posses marvelous qualities that make them stand out amongst the crowd. They truly shine, but not necessarily because of what they DO do, it's because of what they DON'T do. That sentence might sound a bit confusing, but bare with me, it'll make sense once you keep reading. Here's a collection of 3 things that great SLPs never do. It's my hope that by highlighting the things they NEVER do, you will have the opportunity to evaluate yourself in a helpful manner that will allow you to stay on track towards becoming the best possible SLP that YOU can be.

1. Great SLPs never hide their mistakes.

The most effective of SLPs will always be the first to tell you about the past speech therapy mistakes that they've made. They never try to hide their mistakes by acting as if they've never made errors before. Once a great SLP realizes that a mistake has been made, he/she takes full responsibility for the given action or decision, corrects course, embraces that learning experience, and then confidently moves on.

2. Great SLPs never resist learning new things.

The most effective of SLPs will always be the first to exclaim that they're life-long learners who simply can't get enough of new knowledge. They don't believe in only "doing it the old way," they actively seek out new approaches and ideas that could potentially change the lives of those that they work together with. These types of great clinicians understand that by taking the opportunity to learn new things, they're showing those around them that they wish to keep growing as communication professionals.

3. Great SLPs never avoid seeking help.

The most effective of SLPs will always be the first to ask for help or seek out advice if he/she seems to be stuck. They don't feel as if they're failures when they search for support because they recognize that asking for help is a sign of educational maturity and it shows a clear commitment to the field of speech-language pathology. They want to be the best that they can be, so they never hesitate to reach out to a colleague to set up a brain storming session in hopes of better understanding the given problem.

In closing . . .

Great SLPs were not born great. Like everyone, they've had their fair share of ups and downs, but they keep moving forward, never falling behind. It takes a lot of learning, mistake making, and support to become great. So go on, keep makin' mistakes, keep learnin' new stuff, and always remember to ask for help whenever you feel you need it. Because, that's exactly how you become a great SLP. Cool? Cool!

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Charades Articulation Allows Students to Have Fun While Guessing Target Words

posted on April 13th, 2014 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP
Charades Articulation Allows Students to Have Fun While Guessing Target Words

I'm going to let you in on a little secret of mine, I adore the game of charades. It's a timeless game that has the ability to turn any uneventful get-together into an action-packed party! So, that's exactly why the game of charades has found its way into my speech therapy room on more than one occasion (err, hundreds of occasions, to be a bit more truthful!). It can turn any uneventful speech therapy session into an action-packed speech therapy party!

Do you ever play charades in speech therapy?

Charades is an easy-to-play and fast-paced game that allows all players to have fun while describing, acting out, and guessing random words. However, in the past, charades had nothing to do with speech therapy. But that's all about to change with this brand spankin' new app that I created called Charades Articulation. Now, thanks to this app, charades and speech therapy have been effectively combined (and I'm happy to announce that they both live together in perfect harmony!). This app elaborates on the classic charades party game by including a comprehensive collection of over 1,000 sound-specific articulation words that can be chosen from to appear during a round of play. These word lists were designed for speech-language pathologists to use with individuals who exhibit difficulty producing the following speech sounds: S, Z, R, L, S/R/L Blends, SH, CH, and TH.

Let's chat about how to play!

Players of Charades Articulation have the opportunity to describe or act out a set of sound-specific articulation words to a designated person who is called the guesser. Everyone will be able to see the given sound-specific articulation word except for the guesser. The goal of each round of play is to provide the guesser with as many clues as possible, either verbally or physically (or both!), so a large amount of sound-specific articulation words can be successfully guessed. The more words guessed, the higher the final score!

Fun for the whole family!

I tried extremely hard to create an app that could not only live within the speech therapy room, but could also live within the home-setting. With Charades Articulation, children could easily challenge their friends and family members at home, in a way that doesn't look or feel like completing a typical "speech homework" assignment. This smart disguise helps children to further practice their articulation skills and thereby facilitates the sometimes difficult stage of carrying over newly-acquired skills. I sincerely believe that by playing Charades Articulation with a child at home, all parties involved can reinforce that kiddo's skills while sharing a fun activity that everyone can participate in. Practicing communication skills in environments outside the speech therapy setting increases opportunities for generalization of communication skills.

So, what are you waiting for?

Give Charades Articulation a shot today. Regardless of when, where, or how this app is used, one thing is certain, children (as well as adults) will have a delightful time giving it a try . . . and in the process, your children will continue to practice the correct pronunciation of their sounds at the word level. It just doesn't get any better than that. Click HERE to download the app from the Apple App Store. Enjoy (and please let me know what you think)!

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Chatting About Crazy Beards Can Really Get the Conversation Going

posted on April 2nd, 2014 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP
Chatting About Crazy Beards Can Really Get the Conversation Going

What would you do if you saw a man walking around with Gummie Bears in his beard? Or, what if you came across a fellow who had a bunch of toy dinosaurs in his beard? I would surely do a double take and probably pinch myself because wacky stuff like that only happens in a dream, right?

WRONG! HAHA!

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to be amazed. Will it Beard is a hilarious website that deserves only the loudest possible praise and applause. It features a bearded creative that enjoys nothing more than photographing his beard with strange objects in it. It's that simple. Put something funny in the beard, snap a photo, and share it on the Internet. Genius!

My speech therapy students simply cannot get enough of what he does!

From the moment that I first showed these pictures to my kiddos a few weeks back, they've been hooked. Instantaneously, my speech therapy room was flooded with a tidal wave of laughter. His unique style of art effortlessly generated joy in my speech therapy room, and that joy naturally transitioned to a large amount of conversation that perfectly coincided with my students' speech therapy goals and objectives. So I want to tell as my speech-language pathologists about these pictures, in hopes that they will show them to their speech therapy students, too.

How is this picture silly? Describe it to me.

A common objective that more than a few of my students are working on is the ability to recognize and describe absurdities. We use these pictures as clear visuals that act as food for thought. For example, let's look at this picture of the beard filled with bows. With a bit of age-appropriate prompts and cues, I was able to get one of my 4th graders to verbalize how bows should not be in your beard; rather, they should be in your hair. This response was HUGE for this particular student and I clapped VERY loud when he both made this connection and effectively communicated it to all of us around the speech table.

Tell me about the pros and the cons.

What my students have helped me to realize with these pictures are that there are always some good situations, and there are always some bad situations. For example, one of my 5th graders looked at this picture of the beard filled with balloons and preceded to tell me the following. "Well, if he was skateboarding and accidentally fell flat on his face, he wouldn't hurt his teeth because the balloons would protect him. That's a good situation. However, if he put too many balloons in his beard, he might float away and get eaten by a hungry eagle in the sky. That's a bad situation." All of that makes sense to me!

Let's draw some pictures of other beards that we think would be crazy.

Check out this drawing that a kiddo made (snake beard! eek!). Oh, and this illustration is sure to make you hungry (pizza beard, yum!). All of these ideas came from my students' smart brains, but if it wasn't for seeing the pictures at Will it Beard first in the first place, the ideas would have been much more difficult to get down on paper and describe.

In closing . . .

I hope that these beard pictures inspire you and your young learners to think about facial hair in a brand new way. Please do check out Will it Beard and let me know how you incorporate his fabulous works of art into your fabulous speech therapy setting. Have fun!

P.S. Here is my attempt at recreating the googly eyes one. ;-)

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Wishing Wells in Speech Therapy Help to Build Rapport

posted on March 24th, 2014 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP
Wishing Wells in Speech Therapy Help to Build Rapport

Anytime I walk by a large body of water, I get the sudden urge to make a wish and toss a penny into it. Don't you? I believe that wishes are something extremely special and I think that we all could benefit from making a few more wishes throughout our day.

Hey. You never know. That wish just might come true, right?!

Ever since my students and I did our water and food coloring activity a few weeks back, they keep on asking me when we were going to have another water activity. They like it that much! One student even mentioned to me that he WISHED we could play with water again in speech. Well, that's when it hit me. He wished we could play with water again, so why don't I think up another water activity to make HIS WISH come true?

How about a wishing well?

Yes! That's it! A wishing well! Over the past week, I saved up a bunch of spare change. I knew I needed lots of pennies because my idea was to create a speech therapy wishing well for all my students. So with that in mind, I went over to my local dollar store and purchased a plastic container about the size of a shoe box. I figured that I could easily fill that up with water, and together, we could throw pennies into it while we verbalize our wishes.

The rules of our wishing well were easy.

Once I showed my students the container filled with water and the handful of pennies, they were pumped. They simply couldn't wait to get their hands on the coins to start tossing. I told them that there were some rules that they needed to follow so that we could ensure that we got to practice as many of our articulation words as possible. Each student had their own word list that was specific to the sound they were working on. Each round consisted of 5 throws and 5 wishes. 4 of the 5 wishes had to contain words from their word list, but the last wish did not have to.

Let's the wishing begin!

I put the small container on the floor, almost right up against the wall. I figured that the wall could act as a type of backboard just in case a student over threw the penny. Once we were all lined up, I started to hear some of the best responses ever! A student working on his /R/ sound wished he could have a talking red rabbit who was wearing a really cute raincoat and another working on his /L/ sound wished for a day where he could go on a lion ride with Lebron James (sounds fun!).

All of those articulation wishes were fantastic, but in all honesty, the wishes where the students weren't forced to focus on their specific target sound were always the best because those truly came from the heart. They were always thought-provoking and nothing short of magical. I learned 2 valuable lessons from those wishes that I wanted to share with you.

Lesson 1: Hearing those wishes helped me to continue to build rapport.

Building and maintaining a strong therapeutic relationship between clients and clinicians is crucial. When we make valid attempts to connect with our clients on a personal level, we create and foster an alliance that aids in our ability to provide more effective treatment. I believe that genuinely listening to the wishes of my little ones gave me the opportunity to get to know them even better than I already do, and ultimately, that helps the overall therapy experience.

From this activity, I was able to learn that one of my students was super excited because his grandmother, from California, was coming to visit him in a few days. He said, "I wish it was Friday already because that is when I get to see my grandma." Now that I know about how she is coming to visit, I'm going to make sure to ask him about his grandmother, the next time I see him. Asking kind questions like that helps build rapport. It shows him that I care about him and his family.

Lesson 2: Hearing those wishes helped me to plan cooler upcoming activities.

It's one thing for us, as clinicians, to throw together a generic speech therapy activity, but it's another thing if the activity that we create is super personalized. It only makes sense that the more personalized an activity is, the more likely the client will stay motivated and focused. The more individualized, the better.

For example, through this wishing well activity, I was able to learn that one of my students wished that she knew how to breakdance. Because I now know that she is interested in breakdancing, I can easily go online to find some YouTube videos and/or articles that highlight breakdancing. Heck, maybe we could even attempt to breakdance together in the hallway during speech?! She is working on WH questions, so I can easily put together some questions that relate to her goals and objectives, and they can also easily relate to breakdancing, too! Creating this personalized activity helps with rapport building because it shows her that I'm listening to what she says and I'm also taking a mutual interest in something she likes.

In closing . . .

Though this wishing well activity can get a bit messy from the splish slash of pennies crashing into water, the benefits far outweigh the wetness (just make sure you don't get you iPad or iPhone wet, haah!). You need to give this wishing well activity a try. When a clinician makes a conscious decision to build rapport with a client during a therapeutic interaction, the outcome often results in a mutual respect for one another that is characterized by laughter, trust, and meaningful conversations. Talking about wishes does just that. It triggers oodles and oodles of laughter, solidifies trust and friendship, and causes a tidal wave of meaningful and worthwhile conversation. So go on and give it a shot (and as always, please let me know how it goes.).

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