Motivation, humor, and ideas that every school-based
speech-language pathologist will love!
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.
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.
By any chance, do you play a musical instrument? And don't worry, I'm not asking you if you're a pro at your particular instrument. All I'm wondering is if you play a little bit. If you do, that's VERY cool because I have another question for you. Do you actually own the given instrument that you play a little bit? If your answer is yes, then you simply MUST give the following speech therapy idea a shot because it has the potential to cause a ROCKIN' good time within your speech therapy room.
Bring your instrument to speech therapy!
I'm not the greatest guitarist in the world, but I can play a few songs. So not too long ago, as I was strumming my guitar in my apartment, I came up with a gem of an idea. I started to think about what it might be like if I actually took my guitar to work one day. How would my students react to this? Was there a way that I could incorporate playing my guitar into a speech therapy session? Would my students and I be able to create fantastic tunes together? Or would our music sound something like nails on a chalkboard? Haha!
I gave it a shot and I was pleasantly surprised!
Right off the bat, when I brought my guitar into my speech therapy room, each and every single student on my caseload was surprisingly interested in it. It's not all that common to see a musical instrument in speech therapy, and that's what it's all about . . . doing things in speech therapy that are a bit off-the-wall, in hopes that it can trigger a tidal wave of excitement that would cause students to continue to want to work on their speech therapy goals and objectives. From 1st graders to 7th graders, each kiddos' eyes lit up the second I showed them the guitar.
Would you like to start a band?
I had a pair of students who where working on perfecting their /L/ sounds, so I told them that it might be fun if we could start a speech therapy band. These 2nd graders loved the idea and they both immediately started to come up with band names, but I interrupted them and told them that since we were working on our /L/ sound, our band names had to contain their target sound. They were totally okay with that and had no problem coming up with /L/ names like:
- The Loopy Log Cabins
- Little Loaves of Bread
- Luke and the Lawn Mowers
- The Leaping Frogs
What about the lyrics?
After we solidified our band name(s), we started to write simple lyrics that contained loads of /L/ words. After we wrote out some sentences, I encouraged them to sing the sentences while I played the guitar. Some of my students were a bit embarrassed to sing, but that didn't stop our band from ROCKIN' out because we came up with the idea to sort of just yell the lyrics. (Don't worry, we weren't yelling at the top of our lungs, just shouting a teensy bit). And guess what? By shouting the lyrics, it opened up a great conversation that revolved around when shouting was appropriate and when it was not. They clearly communicated to me that a library was a location where shouting was forbidden, but a playground was a location where shouting was acceptable. Hooray for sneaking in some language-based stuff into an articulation session!
In closing . . .
Boy oh boy, the songs my students came up with were fabulous and towards the end of the session, I even let each student try to play my guitar. I was quite impressed with how each youngster respected the instrument and treated it with care and kindness. All in all, it was super fun and I encourage you to give something like this a try if you play an instrument. Do you play a tambourine? How about an accordion? Maybe your students would get a real kick out of seeing and interacting with an instrument while they were in speech therapy. So give it a shot because I know you could come up with some neat ways to target articulation, language, and so much more with your given instrument. YOU ROCK!
Some school-based speech-language pathologists work in school districts that have a large amount of money allocated to speech therapy materials. These are the districts that give each clinician a yearly spending budget in order to purchase new materials. I'd imagine that this budget, no matter how big or small, often invokes a feeling comparable to winning the lottery. "OMG, I just won $100 speech therapy dollars from this speech therapy slot machine! Sweet! I can't wait to buy some new materials that I know all my kiddos will adore!"
And then there are those school districts that don't have spending budgets.
These are the districts that don't have extra funds to distribute to their clinicians. SLPs who work in these types of environments are forced to spend a large amount of their own personal finances in order to have a speech therapy room that's filled with materials that are both fun and functional.
Which type of school district are you a part of?
Sadly, my colleagues and I have noticed that more and more school districts are shrinking their budgets (or even eliminating them). It isn't too uncommon to hear administrators say, "There just isn't enough money right now." So, it wouldn't be to crazy to think that a majority of clinicians are currently in the situation where they believe that some of their speech therapy materials are lacking or outdated. They wish they had the hot, new tech thing everyone is talking about. They wish they had an iPad filled with all of those cool apps everyone keeps talking about. So on and so forth.
If you're in that boat, don't worry.
If you find yourself frustrated because you don't have that sizable and impressive budget like the other SLPs have a few towns over from you, don't let it get you down. I wanted to write this post specifically to you to remind you that you don't need that fancy budget or those fancy materials because you're an awesome SLP. You really are.
And awesome SLPs are magical, with or without that stuff.
LeBron James is arguably one of the best basketball players and even if he wore basketball sneakers covered with holes, he would still rock because basketball is in his DNA. Miles Davis was arguably one of the best jazz musicians and even if he played a beat up trumpet with cracks all over it, we would still rock because jazz was in his DNA. And you, you're arguably one of the best SLPs out there and even if you don't have the newest materials or an iPad or whatever, you still rock because those things DON'T make you awesome, your brain does.
Being an SLP is in your DNA!
Speech therapy is your jam. You get speech therapy. Sure, all those bright and flashy materials are nice to have, but they are never a necessity. What is a necessity is you. You and your knowledge. You and your thought processes. You and your ability to solve complex problems that relate to communication. You and your ability to build rapport with your students, their parents, and their classroom teachers. You and your natural way of motivating each youngster on your caseload that they are destined for big things. You. You and your brain. You and your DNA.
In closing . . .
I love flashy speech therapy materials and iPads just as much as the next person, but let me go on record as saying that none of that stuff can hold a candle to you. It's never about the vehicle. It's always about the driver. You're a magical SLP and your school district just wouldn't be the same without you. Thank you for all that you do. The next time I see you, coffee is on me. ;-)