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

The Power of Words within the Speech Therapy Setting

posted on April 22nd, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP
The Power of Words within the Speech Therapy Setting

As a speech-language pathologist, I would say that I was trained to be very much in tune with words and how words have a lot of strength to them. The average person usually just talks and uses words without really thinking too much about them, but not us SLPs. We analyze every word that we write and we always take a few extra moments to choose our words wisely during oral communication. Why? Because we truly know that words matter. We get it.

Words can build us up and words can break us down.

Not too long ago as I was strolling down the hallway, I saw one of my students walking to class. As he was walking, he passed one of his teachers and that teacher said to him, "Hey there trouble maker. Are you staying out of trouble?" The boy smiled and nodded, the teacher gave a thumbs up, and the two of them continued on their merry way. The communication exchange was simple, to the point, and it took all of about 10 seconds.

But I have been obsessing over those 10 seconds.

I can't help but replay that scene over and over again in my head. I try to look at the scene through the lens of an educator, then I look at it through the lens of an SLP, and finally, I look at it through the lens of a human being (a human being who genuinly cares about other human beings). I cringe. The scene and the whole exchange upsets me. The words that the teacher chose . . . bleh. Those words, they left such a yucky taste in my mouth.

Words can build us up and words can break us down.

Because here's the thing, at times, that boy that the teacher was talking to, he's a bit of a free spirit. On more than one occasion, the student's behaviors in school have gotten him into some hot water. But ya know what? He's working on it. He's a good kiddo with a good heart. With each new day, he's learning how to make better choices. Does he still have a ways to go? Sure. He's a work in progress, like all of us. But he has come a long way and I know he will continue to improve. So that's why I get all bend out of shape when I hear negative words thrown his way.

And I know the scenario was not meant to be a negative one.

Believe me, I know that calling him "trouble maker" and asking if he was staying out of trouble was not meant to be a jab at him. I know prosody well and how its features can alter the meaning in words that we say. That teacher communicated in a manner where the attached rhythm and tempo of the exchange was friendly and humorous. There's no way that the teacher was trying to be rude or mean. That was quite obvious. But for me, it all comes back to words and how words have the power to build us up or break us down.

Words are just that powerful.

Amanda Fuller spoke beautifully about the power of words in THIS POST from a couple of weeks ago. "[Words] can stir every kind of emotion inside us. They can take us on fantastical adventures or transport us to another place. They can build us up, or tear us down. They can mend a broken heart or they can be source of the damage in the first place. We all know the pleasure of a witty joke, or the rush of a sincere compliment offered by others. Likewise, we also know the sting and crushing blow of thoughtless or deliberately cruel words flung our way."

Words can build us up and words can break us down.

I've been thinking about words lately and I believe that we, as a society, need to be more aware and mindful of the words that we choose to use, especially when those words are being directed toward children. One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from a person I follow and admire named Josh Shipp. He often says, "Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story." How spot on, right? I think the same could be said if we tweaked it just a bit by saying that every child is one caring word away from feeling successful. Because feeling successful is a prerequisite to being successful. Truly successful. When the self-esteem and well-being of a child is high, he or she is much better able to perform both in and out of the classroom-setting. And with high performance comes high success rates. Love it!

We are what we eat.

Just like how the right kind of food can help us to grow strong and healthy, the right words can do the same. Consider THIS interesting experiment by Danielle Laporte. Long story short, her and her child had two apples. For about a month, they would say mean things to one apple and nice things to the other. After a month of doing this each day, they cut both apples open. The one that was "fed" mean words was rotten. The one that was "fed" nice words was well preserved. Whoa! Crazy, right?

In closing . . .

How about instead of saying, "Hey trouble maker," we could say, "Hey hard worker!" Or instead of asking, "Are you staying out of trouble," we could go with "Keep up the good work!" Because remember, words can build us up and words can break us down. So let's build children up. Let's "feed" them nice words. Ok? Ok! ;-)

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10 Perfect Ways to Ask Your Speech Therapy Students About Their Weekends

posted on April 2nd, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP
10 Perfect Ways to Ask Your Speech Therapy Students About Their Weekends

Picture this, it's Monday morning and you're face-to-face with your first speech therapy group of the day. Like clockwork, I bet you automatically ask the following question: "So, how was your weekend?" And like clockwork, you probably hear them moan the word "good" as if they were lifeless zombies, right?

I'm pretty sure I'm right.

Let me dig a bit deeper into your Monday morning conversation routine to see if I can successfully guess something else. How about this? After your students throw you the cliche response of "good," I can most certainly assume that you follow that up with, "Well, what did you do over the weekend?" And then each and every kiddo in your speech therapy room probably responds with the word "nothing."

Nothing?! Really?! Like, you did absolutely nothing all weekend?!

I don't blame students for responding to these types of questions with such vanilla replies. You know why? Because in all honesty, the actual questions themselves are BEYOND vanilla. If you really want your students to participate in your presented back-and-forth inquiry about their weekend, you need to set up the questions in a way that doesn't sound robotic.

No more robotic questions!

I'm guilty of asking robotic questions to my students. So over the last few months, I've been experimenting with the idea that maybe, just maybe, if I asked questions that were less predictable, less stereotypical, I might receive responses that were not one word answers like "good" or "nothing." Below you will find the questions that I've been using and I have to admit, they seem to be working. As you will see, these questions are much more engaging than what I feel we all typically ask. And with these engaging questions, I pretty much always get some legitimate responses.

  • What was the best thing that happened to you this past weekend?
  • What was the worst thing that happened to you this past weekend?
  • Tell me something that made you laugh this past weekend.
  • Tell me something that surprised you this past weekend.
  • How did you help someone this past weekend?
  • How did someone help you this past weekend?
  • Tell me one thing that you learned this past weekend.
  • Tell me one thing that you taught someone this past weekend.
  • Tell me about one meal that you enjoyed eating this past weekend.
  • Tell me about one meal that you disliked eating this past weekend.

Less broad, more specific.

Questions like "How was your weekend?" or "What did you do this weekend?" are just too broad. I've found that when we sprinkle of bit of specifics into the mix, that does wonderers for the overall expressive output. That's why my examples are a bit more on the specific side, ya know? So let's make it a point to stay away from the broad and instead, embrace more specific questions.

In closing . . .

By no means am I trying to act like the questions I just shared with you are perfect. They aren't perfect. Far from it. They are merely meant to be used as a starting point. Use them as a template and feel free to remix and tweak each one to better fit your personality and/or the personalities of your students. It's my hope that by being a bit more conscious about the questions we ask during the beginning of the week, we're able to gain new insights into how our kiddos reflect about their weekends and how they choose to express those weekend experiences with us.

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3 April Fool’s Day Pranks You Can Play on Your Students in Speech Therapy

posted on March 25th, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP
3 April Fool’s Day Pranks You Can Play on Your Students in Speech Therapy

Pop quiz: What's the name of the silly and mischievous holiday that's celebrated each year on April 1st? If you guessed April Fool's Day, give yourself a round of applause because you nailed it. Great job!

I can still remember how fun April Fool's Day was back when I was a child.

That day was the best. My elementary school teachers would always pull hilarious pranks on us students. These pranks were not malicious at all, far from it. They were tasteful and had the ability to make each and every youngster in the class laugh out loud. Ah, thinking about those wonderful April Fool's Day memories seriously causes me to smile ear to ear.

Fast forward a few years . . .

Now I have the ability to keep that wonderful April Fool's Day tradition going as a school-based speech-language pathologist. That's exactly why I've collected 3 of my most favorite favorite April Fool's Day pranks that any SLP can play on his or her speech therapy students in order to generate a barrel of laughs and a boat load of conversation.

1. "Did you bring in your signed permission slip?"

Once your students sit down in their seats, ask them if they have their signed permission slips. After they look at you with confused eyes, go on to say, "I can't believe that you all forgot about today's field trip to the zoo! Well, since no one remembered to bring back their signed permission slips, the trip is now canceled." Keep this going for a few moments, and don't forget to add in some WH questions such as:

  • How could we get to the zoo?
  • What animal could we see at the zoo?
  • What else, besides animals, could we see at the zoo?

Then, announce nice and loud, "April Fools!" Chances are, it won't be their first exposure to an April Fool's prank, so take the opportunity to discuss some other fun places that could've been said instead of the zoo. Tell the students that you will use their suggestions for when you prank the next group of students that you see later in the day for speech (children love helping out like that!).

2. "Trick or treat?"

Once your students sit down in their seats, ask them to close their eyes. While their eyes are closed, put on a quick Halloween costume (I usually just throw on a pirate eye patch). Then, tell them to open their eyes. Once they do, shout, "trick or treat!" Go on to ask them where their costumes are and why they didn't wear a costume to school today. All of those questions should force them to communicate that Halloween is October 31 and since it's April 1, there's no need for a costume, etc. But make sure you go on and on about, "Oh, you didn't hear about the new law? Yea, Halloween got moved to April 1st from now on." After a few minutes of conversation about the "new law" - give them a loud and proud, "April Fools!"

3. "Hi! I am your substitute today!"

Once your students sit down in their seats, proceed to tell them that you're not who they think you are. Tell them that you’re actually the twin brother (or twin sister) of their regular SLP. Make up a brand new name, maybe change around your voice, or maybe even put on a fake mustache. Ask them WH questions about their "absent SLP" such as:

  • What is your favorite thing about about your regular SLP?
  • Why do you think your SLP is absent today?
  • When do you think your SLP will be back in school?

After all the questions have been answered, give a hearty, "April Fools!"

In closing . . .

So what do ya think? Will these pranks could cause your students to smile on April 1st? Do you think they will crown you the ultimate prankster? Give these April Fool’s Day tricks a try in your speech therapy room on April 1st and let me know how it goes.

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Game Show Articulation is the Speech Therapy Trivia App You Have Been Waiting For

posted on March 3rd, 2015 by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP
Game Show Articulation is the Speech Therapy Trivia App You Have Been Waiting For

How would you like to win a brand new car? Or maybe win a pet elephant? What about winning a bag of popcorn that is bigger than a house? If you said yes, you're in luck because you can absolutely win all of these things and more by playing Game Show Articulation! (Well, you can SORT OF win these things. Keep on reading and I'll explain.)

Game Show Articulation?! What's that?!

Game Show Articulation is my latest speech therapy app and I ain't lying, you're gonna love it. It's a unique speech therapy game that turns your students into game show contestants and challenges them to answer super fun trivia questions for a chance to win cool prizes. The prizes are imaginary though, but that's probably for the better because having a pet elephant sounds like it would be quite dangerous. Am I right?

Tell me more about Game Show Articulation!

Don't mind if I do! Game Show Articulation features a comprehensive collection of over 600 sound-specific articulation words and questions designed for us speech-language pathologists to use with our students who exhibit difficulty producing the following speech sounds: S, Z, R, L, S/R/L Blends, SH, CH, and TH. This thrilling trivia game is intended to aid in the remediation of articulation impairments, as well as language and auditory memory difficulties because clients often need practice in more than one area of communication.

Can you share an example trivia question with me?

Sure I can. If your student was working on his initial /S/ sound, he might get a random question that reads "A green vegetable that is grown for its long light stems and leafstalks." Your student has to choose between these words - SEPTEMBER, SUBMARINE, and CELERY. After being presented with minimal prompts and cues, he would probably be able to verbalize how September is a month and how a submarine is a type of underwater vehicle. So that would leave him with celery. If he goes with celery as his answer, ding ding ding, he got it right! Then, he would be presented with a wrapped box with a bow on top. Go ahead and tap on that wrapped box because it will happily announce to you, in a wonderful game show host voice, what has been won!

Kid tested, kid approved!

I have a pair of private clients right now and they both request this app over and over and over again. Because of Game Show Articulation, we are able to turn the kitchen table into a game show stage and they love to pretend like there are television cameras pointed at them as they answer these trivia questions. I always tell 'em, "ya gotta make sure you have some solid articulation skills if you're gonna to be on a television game show!" They get a real kick out of that.

In closing . . .

Game Show Articulation is quickly becoming my most favorite app and my articulation kiddos are all about it, too. It's simple and intuitive. All in all, I believe it to be a wonderful experience from start to finish, so it would mean the world to me if you gave it a try. Would ya? Pretty please? All ya gotta do is go HERE to download it from the Apple App Store. Thanks!

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