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

Slow Motion Videos Have Invaded My Speech Therapy Room and I Totally Love It

posted on August 4th, 2016 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Slow Motion Videos Have Invaded My Speech Therapy Room and I Totally Love It

Earlier this year, I was doing a speech-language evaluation with an 11-year-old child. One of my favorite aspects of a typical evaluation is the student interview portion that I typically do. Before I even begin any type of standardized assessment with a child, I usually start off with a few "gettin' to know ya" warm up questions. Why? Two reasons: (1.) so I can begin to informally asses the child's ability to use and understand language and (2.) so that I can begin to know the child's likes/dislikes because that ultimately helps with rapport building.

Conversations about T.V.

Whenever I do student interviews with children, without fail, I always find myself asking, "What's your favorite show on T.V.?" And in my past experiences, that question usually kicks off nice conversations about, say, a show on the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or something along those lines.

But this child wasn't a fan of T.V.

When I asked that particular student to share with me his favorite thing to watch on T.V., he looked at me in an eye-rolling pre-teen kind of way and stated, "Um, yeah, I don't watch stuff on T.V. because T.V. is boring."

"Come on, really? You mean to tell me you don't watch ANYTHING on T.V.?" I jokingly shot back at him.

"Nope. I only watch stuff on YouTube." Said the proud lil' guy.

That was an opportunity for me to learn something new!

If there's one thing I like, it's when I discover new things from my students that I could potentially introduce into an upcoming speech-language therapy session. This YouTube aficionado, I knew I could learn about a bunch of new YouTube channels that I probably didn't know about. He happily shared with me all of the different YouTube channels that he was a fan of. One of the channels he was gushing about was called The Slow Mo Guys. He exclaimed, "Mr. Raj, you have to check them out." So I told him that I totally would when I got home.

Open your mouth.

As I continued on with the evaluation, I got to the oral mechanism examination portion. Because I wanted to make sure that everything oral-motor was structurally sound and adequate to support speech, I asked him to open his mouth so that I could take a peek. He opened up and as I was checking everything out with my mini flashlight, he said to me, "Ya know, Slow Mo Guys have an episode all about the uvula thing."

Uvula?! Whoa! Cool!

I truly loved how that 11-year-old was able to connect the whole "uvula thing" to the quick oral mechanism examination that I was doing. But even more, I LOVED how when he spoke about those Slow Mo Guys, you could just see in his eyes how PUMPED he was. After asking him if that uvula episode was appropriate for school, I decided to check it out right then and there on my iPad, with him at my side. "My friend, these Slow Mo Guys, they sound beyond awesome so I don't think I can wait until I get home to check 'em out!" I beamed.

I was impressed!

The whole gist of the talented Slow Mo Guys is that they have an amazing high-speed video camera. They use it to film something that moves quite fast - then they slow the footage down (hence the name of "The Slow Mo Guys!"). So in the case of their uvula episode, they used their video camera to film a person's uvula as he was gargling water! Then, they slowed down the footage and it showed the uvula thrashing around in slo mo while the silly Slo Mo Guys provided some hilarious commentary about how weird it looked! From a speech-language pathologist's point of view, it was SO RAD to see that uvula moving around like that! And the student in front of me, I could tell that he was SUPER excited because he saw how SUPER excited I was. It was a wonderful experience and it really helped to pave the way for a successful evaluation.

Don't be afraid to learn about new things from your students.

As I write this blog post, I can't help but think about all the other times that I've incorporated a Slow Mo Guys video into a therapy session over the past few months - tons of times! And it's all thanks to that one kiddo who told me about them during an evaluation. Each time I've showed a Slo Mo Guys video, my students loved it and they seemed to enjoy answering my various questions about the video (all of the questions OF COURSE always connect directly to the students' goals and objectives).

Big thanks to that student.

Here's why I'm so jazzed: I didn't read about the Slow Mo Guys on an SLP blog. I didn't hear about the Slow Mo Guys from a speaker at a continuing education event. I learned about the Slow Mo Guys from a student. An 11-year-old student. I believe it's important to emphasize that I found out about that YouTube channel from him because it goes to show that not only can we, as educators, teach youngsters, but those same youngsters can teach us, too. Through their sharing, we learn about new and exciting things. It's crucial that we recognize the reciprocity that exists within the client-clinician relationship. It's not symbiotic; it's mutually beneficial. We all can learn new things from our students. Every single day. We just have to let it be known that we, as adults, want to know about new things from the children we have the privilege to be surrounded by.

In closing . . .

Do me a favor. Sometime in the next couple of weeks I would like for you to genuinely ask a few of your students this simple question: "Tell me about something that excites you that you think I might not know about." Who knows what you might be introduced to - maybe you'll learn about a new book, band, or maybe even a YouTube video! Then, check it out together with the student, right then and there on your iPad or computer (of course, make sure it's appropriate for school). Be in the moment and express to the youngster how happy you are that he/she has shared that with you. Because when someone chooses to share something they like with you, it shows that the person cares for you. And on the opposite side of that coin, when you actually check out what the person likes, it shows that you value that person's opinion. As educators, we should always be doing as much as we can to clearly communicate to our students that we value their opinions because their opinions really do matter. Am I right? ;-)

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Using Hilarious Dinosaur Video Clips to Motivate Speech Therapy Students

posted on July 7th, 2016 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Using Hilarious Dinosaur Video Clips to Motivate Speech Therapy Students

Have you ever seen a dinosaur splish splash' around in a swimming pool before? Or how about a dinosaur playing some rockin' beats on his very own rock and roll drum set? If you answered no to those questions, well, you've never seen Ralph the Rex! That particular Twitter account is one that I've been keepin' my eye on for quite some time now because it features something a lot of my students love - dinosaurs!

But it's not just any dinosaur. Ralph's got talent!

Ralph the Rex is a Tyrannosaurus rex that's well-versed in so many different activities! From skateboarding to working out, I often wonder if there's anything that this talented prehistoric animal CAN'T do? And here's the best thing of all, he seems to always have a video camera pointed at him as he does (or attempts to do) odd things you'd never picture a dinosaur doing. So with that being said, there's a massive amount of video footage of the talented Ralph the Rex that can be consumed for hours and hours.

Loads of videos means loads of speech therapy possibilities!

We all know that introducing our students to wide-ranging types of therapy materials is always the way to go. So, how about in addition to the random dinosaur toys and worksheets you're already using in therapy, you also introduce some Ralph the Rex video clips? They are FREE to watch and let me tell you, the students on your speech therapy caseload, they'll absolutely get a kick out of watching and talking about all the wild Ralph the Rex antics.

WH questions galore!

Recently, I was able to easily weave a handful of these Ralph the Rex video clips into a session where my student was working on asking and answering WH questions. These videos were a real breath of fresh air because there's only so many times you can show your students WH question flash cards and/or WH questions apps. Ya know what I mean? Seriously, these videos broke the tedious repetition and routine. Ralph the Rex helped my student to ACTUALLY WANT to continue working on perfecting his understanding of WH questions.

Here's my favorite video clip!

Give this car washing video clip a watch and ask some of these WH questions to a kiddo:

  • "Who is washing the car?" - (Ralph the Rex is washing the car.)
  • "Why is he washing the car?" - (Because it has dirt on it.)
  • "Where is he washing the car?" - (Outside on his driveway.)
  • "How does he wash the car?" - (He scrubs the car with soap and water.)
  • "What are some washing tools he uses?" - (A soapy sponge, a hose, a bucket of water.)
  • "When do people usually wash their cars?" - (When it's warm outside and when the car is dirty.)

Short and sweet!

Just like Ralph's arms, all of his video clips are short and sweet. Each video clip is between 20-30 seconds in length. And that's great news for us clinicians because our time is VERY limited. So rest assured, you're going to be able to show 3-5 video clips of Ralph the Rex within your given speech therapy session without having 'em eat up too much time. Hooray for quick video clips, am I right?

In closing . . .

If you want your speech therapy to go from "dino-snore" to "dino-mite," Ralph the Rex has your back. His video clips are totally where it's at and I know that you will be able to incorporate them into your speech-language therapy world. Have fun exploring the video clips and let me know how it goes!

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5 Amazing Brain Teasers for Your Amazing Speech Therapy Students

posted on May 10th, 2016 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
5 Amazing Brain Teasers for Your Amazing Speech Therapy Students

I don't know about you, but I love me a good brain teaser every now and again. Giving my noggin the opportunity to think about a tricky problem or puzzle, and then maybe, juuuuuust maybe, being able to solve that tricky problem or puzzle --- there just ain't a better brain workout than that. Brain teasers are often the perfect mixture of intellect and humor, and over the last few years, I've been noticing just how much my speech-language therapy students enjoy the mental workout that often comes along with attempting to figure out a finely-constructed brain teaser.

Sharing is caring.

I wanted to take this moment to share with you some amazing brain teasers. Why? Because we're best friends and best friends share with one another. HEHE! Anyways, check out this list right HERE. I came across that particular list of brain teasers back in 2012, and since then, I've happily introduced most of 'em to the school-age clients of mine. From that list, here are my top 5 ultimate favorites:

Brain teaser #1

A man stands on one side of a river, his dog on the other. The man calls his dog, who immediately crosses the river without getting wet and without using a bridge or a boat. How did the dog do it?

  • Answer: The river was frozen.

Why I like #1: This one allows me to target a bunch of aspects that relate to cause and effect. For example, if it gets REALLY cold outside, what happens to the water? It freezes. The cause of the water freezing is thanks to the cold temperature. Right? So, is my student able to comprehend that idea AND verbalize it to me in a way that I understand? Through what we do within our session, that's exactly what I'm trying for. Good times!

Brain teaser #2

What is unusual about the following words: revive, banana, grammar, voodoo, assess, potato, dresser, uneven?

  • Answer: Take the first letter of each word and place it at the end. It will spell the same word backwards.

Why I like #2: When working with the K-8 population, we almost always have conversations that touch on syntax and the overall arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences. So this brain teaser that focuses on words, it allows me to further extend conversations that have to do with taking a word, changing it, and seeing how it may or may not be able to fit into the sentence we are tying to create. Very fun! (For this brain teaser, it's best to use Scrabble letters or individually cut out letters on pieces of paper. That way, you are able to physically move around the letters to eventually show your students the answer.)

Brain teaser #3

What makes this number unique - 8,549,176,320?

  • Answer: It contains each number, zero through nine, in alphabetical order.

Why I like #3: For the kiddos on your caseload who adore numbers and all things related to math, this one is guaranteed to get them thinking. When I present this one to students, I always encourage them to "talk it out while you try to figure it out." I've seen students verbally explore so many different mathematical ideas, all in an effort to solve this numbers brain teaser. From adding to subtracting, to everything in between, it's always neat to hear their thought processes, and more often than not, it gives ME great qualitative data that helps me in my efforts to continually gauge how their verbal communication skills are coming along. Woo hoo!

Brain teaser #4

Two boxers are in a match scheduled for 12 rounds. (Pure boxing only – no kicking, UFC takedowns, or anything else). One of the boxers gets knocked out after only six rounds, yet no man throws a punch. How is this possible?

  • Answer: Both boxers are female.

Why I like #4: This one is the ultimate forehead slapper. You're sure to hear a bunch of students shout, "D'oh" after getting stumped on it. This brain teaser is grand because it perfectly emphasizes the fact that we need to use our listening ears to hear and understand EACH WORD that is being said. We can't let language tricks get the best of us! So when I say the "yet no MAN throws a punch" part, I make sure to say MAN in a way that hopefully triggers them to realize the word's opposite, WOMAN! Hehe!

Brain teaser #5

What do these words have in common: polish, job, herb?

  • Answer: All three words are pronounced differently when the first letter is capitalized.

Why I like #5: Grammar, grammar, GRAMMAR! This riddle let's me continue to harp (in a fun way) on the importance of grammar, and more specifically, capitalization. Capitalize those proper nouns, kiddos. Don't forget! ;-)

In closing . . .

The chances are probably quite high that you have some random brain teasers book somewhere either in your office or at your house. Well, I'm here to tell you that you should bust out those books and see what hidden gems are hiding within those magical, riddle-filled pages. And if you're in the market for an app that has a bunch of brain teasers in it, might I suggest THIS ONE? It's called Mini-U Riddles and it's only $2.99 on the Apple App Store. It's ideal for the K-8 demographic and I've been using it for YEARS. I dig it. A lot. You will, too. Enjoy!

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Start a Dance Party in Speech Therapy with Dance Party Articulation

posted on April 26th, 2016 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Start a Dance Party in Speech Therapy with Dance Party Articulation

I love parties. Birthday parties and holiday parties are probably two of the most common types of parties out there. But do you know what my all-time favorite type of party is? A good, old-fashioned dance party! Crank up the tunes and get your boogy oogy oogy on because their ain't no party better party than a dance party!

Am I right?!

As a form of non-verbal communication, dancing allows people of all ages the opportunity to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a manner that explores and encourages rhythmic body movements. In my experience, when most children are exposed to music and are given the chance to dance, they do so with a massive smile. That's why I feel it's essential that we, as speech-language pathologists, make a conscious decision to infuse music and dancing into our teaching activities whenever possible. It just makes learning that much more fun for school-aged students.

I made a new app for all you dancing fans out there!

After months and months of hard work, my latest speech therapy app called Dance Party Articulation is finally available for download on the Apple App Store (please download it to your iPad and/or iPhone today!). This musical app is a comprehensive collection of over 500 wacky and hilarious dance instructions 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. It's intended to aid in the remediation of articulation impairments, as well as auditory and language difficulties because clients often need practice in more than one area of communication.

For example:

Let's say your kiddo is working on improving his /S/ sound. With Dance Party Articulation, all you have to do is tap on the /S/ section within the app and you'll gain access to dozens and dozens of silly /S/ dance moves like, "Dance like you’re a superhero. Show your super power." After you and your student work on saying that particular /S/ sentence and talking about the sentence, you both can tap on the Play button to start a random dance song that will allow for everyone in the room to dance like a superhero! Maybe you might flex your muscles to the beat? Maybe you might pretend that you're wearing a cape and flying all around the room while the music is jamming? There's no such thing as a wrong dance move, so let your imagination go wild!

In closing . . .

I invite you to check out Dance Party Articulation so you can use these dance instructions to spice up your speech therapy sessions. All of the dance instructions are intended to initiate excitement and humor. And in all honesty, each dance instruction has the potential for leading almost anywhere. Even a dance instruction that appears simple can trigger a unique thought process that happily surprises all parties involved. So what are you waiting for? Download Dance Party Articulation today and shake your groove thang while you practice proper pronunciation!

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