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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Social Skills Activities

Our students brainstormed expected versus unexpected behaviors, and
how others think of us when we engage in unexpected behaviors.

This past school year, I've been using the Superflex Comic Book curriculum by Michelle Garcia Winner to focus on social skills topics with my students with autism and pragmatic language deficits.  The students have increased in confidence in their ability to monitor and modulate their emotions and energy level, to begin and maintain conversations, to participate in classroom discussions and collaborative projects, and to use appropriate body language and facial expressions in conversations with peers and adults.  I've had such fun with this curriculum, and I'm grateful to the Public School Foundation (who provided us with a grant to purchase these materials) for their generous support in helping the idea come to fruition.

The Unthinkables are "bad guys" who send our brain the ideas to behave in "unexpected" ways.  

Our students read about how the hero, "Superflex," uses strategies such as positive self-talk, calming deep breaths, thinking about what others are thinking about, and matching our reaction to the size of the problem, to defeat the Unthinkables.

Our students learned about each bad guy "Unthinkable," along with ways to defeat them.  They used calming strategies to reduce their emotion levels on the emotions thermometer from angry/exploding down to calm/cool. 

Our students figured out which calming strategies worked best for them when they were frustrated. 

Our students played egg-hunt games in which they used strategies to defeat the Unthinkables in each egg given a variety of situations.

Who has helped you meet your goals?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Life in Pictures: A Gaggle of Cousins

I love that in the South, you can say that anyone slightly related to you is your "cousin."  Here are some pics of Flannery hunting eggs and being silly with all of her wonderful "cousins."  We are so lucky to have such fun groups of family to spend time with.

cousin Molly with our sweet Annie dog

Flannery showing us how heavy her basket was

See?  Everyone in my family loves matching outfits.  It's genetic.

AAAAAND, they're off!

Do you call all of your 2nd and 3rd cousins "cousins," or just your first cousins?  I love a big extended family and even like for Flanna to call my BFFs "Aunt Kelley and Aunt Rachel," just to really confuse things.  :)

How Time Flies!

He loved the touchable cat whiskers in this book.
We visited with some good friends in Athens last weekend and got to catch up with them and see their beautiful growing baby boy!  Flannery was so sweet with him, and looked out for him the way older children often do with little ones.   It was so good to get to see what wonderful, gentle, and loving parents our friends have turned out to be. 

I can't believe how quickly he is leaving the baby stage, though!  Time rushes by these days, and I just want to slow it down sometimes!

Flannery looking out for the little one

At what time in your life has time passed most quickly for you?  For me, time was so slow when I was a child, and these past 4 years that I've been a mom have sped by!

Midnight Service

We were brave enough (or crazy enough?) to attend the midnight Pascha (Easter) service at our old church in Athens last weekend, and we were so glad we did.  It was such a great experience, and Flannery, although soooo sleepy,  really seemed to understand what was going on this year.  We sang this song many many times, one of my favorites of all our Orthodox traditions:

Christ is risen from the dead.
By death, He has trampled death.
And to those in the tombs,
He has granted life.

I love the line, "He has trampled death."  That is the crux of religion for me.  One day, we will not be separated as we are now, from those who have died before us.  For death has been trampled and conquered by One who experienced it and broke its hold on us. 

Flanna and her doll, with matching Easter dresses, of course.

By the way, Matt Maher, a contemporary Christian artist, heard Ukrainian Orthodox chanting this song and decided to write a song of his own using the lyrics, to bring the words to the west.  Matt Maher's song is called "Christ is Risen," and here's a little video of him talking about it. 
What song is most meaningful to you at Easter?

Dyeing Eggs

At first, I accidentally entitled this post "dying eggs."   Maybe I am just uber tired, but it really made me laugh.

The girlies dyed some eggs on Saturday, and were so amazed by how deep the colors could get if we left the eggs in the dye for a while. 

I also dyed eggs with my students last Friday, and then each student wrote about the experience.  One student wrote:  "I died two eggs, one blue and one green."   Poor little eggs.  :)

What silly thing made you laugh today?

Reframing a Grey Day

My friend Dana (who's an amazing artist, by the way) once told me that it's only on a grey day that we notice the full vibrance of the greenery around us.  I think of that idea a lot when I'm driving around on rainy or cloudy days, and it's amazing how I suddenly start seeing the lush leaves, grass, and bushes all around me--color and beauty that would've likely gone unnoticed if it hadn't been for a sweet friend pointing it out to me.  I thought of that idea on this day, when Flannery and I were walking to our little neighborhood park between rain showers.  Isn't our street so lovely on such a grey day?

It's amazing how a little reframing made a rainy & even gloomy day into a fresh and gorgeous one.


What "grey" thought have you reframed that boosted your happiness? 

An Egg Hunt Extravaganza

Sorry I was away from the blogging world for so long!  I missed it!  I kept thinking of wonderful things to post but just didn't have the time last week.  I was busy getting ready to go out of town for Easter and for some interviews, and then also haven't been feeling so hot.   I'm not sure if it's stress or a virus, but I'm hoping it will be short lived and I'll feel better soon.

Annnyway.  Here are some pics from an egg hunt extravaganza Flanna and her cousin went to at my in-laws' church.  It was great fun, with inflatables and food and the much-anticipated egg hunt.  We had a wonderful time!

such a sweet big cousin protecting little Flanna!

posing with the sun in their eyes

Flanna with a "gazillion" eggs

Boy, do traditions make me happy.  What's your favorite Easter tradition?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Princess Collection

It's our family portrait, and I am the only lucky one with a crown AND arms.
Every child has something they just love.  For Flannery, her "favorite" themes have varied over her life so far...from dogs & cats, to Elmo, to Angelina Ballerina, to Ariel, and now to just princesses in general.  She just loves princesses.  And princes.  And castles. And long fancy dresses with "puff sleeves."  And crowns.  And hair up in buns.  And fancy high heels.  And fairy godmothers.  These are everyday topics of conversation in our house, and, come to find out, at school, as well. 

Lately we've been noticing a theme to the artwork she makes during "free choice" at school.  Her puffed sleeves are getting rather detailed.  Her eyelashes are getting pretty realistic.  Her ballgowns are getting more and more embellished with rainbows and flowers.  I really think we should frame these and have "royal" art show soon.  What do you think?

Careful, or I'll hug you with my hip hands. 

Rapunzel.  Her dress is da bomb.


The fingernails are painted, no less.

Beauty and the Beast

Princess Tiana from the Princess & the Frog

The princess who started it all.

Flanna drew me and Robi on our wedding day.  (poor Robi even had gray hair back then, apparently!) 

What was your passion as a child?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

SLP Job Interview Questions

Because we're moving this summer, I've been interviewing for jobs like crazy lately.  Over my spring break, I had, I kid you not, 7 interviews in 3 days.  I've also had 2 formal phone interviews, which are just as stressful as in-person interviews, or maybe more so, because phone interviews remove the body language and facial expression cues that can sometimes help set everyone more at ease.

Anyway, I was recently telling my graduate student intern about my interviews, and it occurred to me that maybe other grad students and job-seeking SLPs might be interested in the types of questions typically asked during job interviews.  I actually wrote down the questions I could remember just after each interview during my "7 interviews in 3 days" marathon, so I could share them with my intern.  (Yup, I'm nerdy in so many ways, even job interviewing!)

So, here are the questions I could remember from all my interviews, combined.  I've grouped them into overall categories because the disorganized list I first jotted down seemed too confusing.  Of course, I'm a pediatric SLP, so most of these questions apply to interviews with pediatric providers, but they might help you prepare in general for other interviews, as well. 

Organizational Skills
1.  How do you keep up with due dates and important to-do items?
2.  How do you organize therapy data and session notes?
3.  How do you stay organized?
4.  How do you keep data during a therapy session with a busy client?

1.  What's your philosophy for serving preschool students for speech/language?
2.  What model do you use to serve students currently?  (pull out, push in, inclusion, collaborative, coteaching, consultation?)
3.  What model do you use to serve students with autism?
4.  What program/model do you use to serve students with articulation/phonology disorders?
5.  How would you approach serving children with multiple special needs in a self-contained classroom setting?

1.  Tell me a little bit about yourself.
2.  Tell me about your current work setting.
3.  What social skills resources do you use for children with autism spectrum disorders?
4.   Tell me about the most difficult client you've ever had and how you worked through it. 
5.  Tell me about the hardest therapy session you've ever had and how you made it work.
6.   What experience do you have with children with  __(whatever disorder the site specializes in serving)__________?
7.   What AAC/Assistive Technology experience do you have?
8.  How do you involve parents and teachers in treatment?
9.  Tell me what you do in your current job. 

Personal Qualities
1.  What are your strengths?
2.  What are your weaknesses, and how do you overcome them?
3.  What prompted you to want a career in speech language pathology?

Goals/Job Outcome
1.  What are you looking for in a job?
2.  Describe your perfect/dream job. 
3.  What's most important to you in your job hunt?
4.  What are your favorite settings/special populations to work with?
5.  What age group do you most enjoy working with?

Knowledge Base
1.  What continuing education courses have you taken in the past 2 years?
2.  Are you certified in any therapy program such as Hanen, Floortime, ABA, Lindamood Bell, etc?
3.  Do you regularly attend ASHA, and which courses do you typically go to?
4.  Tell me what you think the current events/issues are in speech-language pathology. 
5.  How do you usually come up with goals/objectives for clients?
6.  Describe the steps you'd take to conduct an evaluation (both quantitative and qualitative).
7.  What do you see as your role in the Response to Intervention (RTI) process in a school system?
8.  How would you keep your caseload manageable?
9.  What do you see as your role in regard to reading/writing skills for elementary school students?
10.  What strategies do you use regularly for children with _______ (autism, social skills deficits, Down Syndrome, apraxia, feeding disorders, etc.)?

Also, I think it's smart to have a list of a few questions you are going to ask your interviewers, so you don't feel put on the spot when they ask you whether you have any questions.  Some basic ideas are:
1.  What's the typical caseload?
2.  What are the typical hours?
3.  What paperwork/documentation am I typically expected to complete on a regular basis?
4.  What types of support for continuing education do you offer?

I think that preparing my responses to possible questions ahead of time, and actually saying them out loud to myself or someone else, really helps me reduce my stress level during actual interviews.   I hope this is helpful to other new or job-hunting SLPs, as well!

Are there any questions I've left out?  Please leave a comment to add to my list if you think of anything a new graduate or job-seeking SLP might need to consider during their job search. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

10 Ways I Used My iPad/iPhone This Week

As a busy mom and pediatric speech language pathologist, I can't imagine my life without my iPhone and iPad.  They make life easier for me in so many ways every day.  Here are just a few ways I put them to good use this week:

1.  iPhone "Clock" feature:  as a countdown timer that buzzes after 1 minute, to see how many perfectly enunciated /r/ loaded sentences a 5th grader could produce.  He loves trying to "beat" his own time in this type game.
2.  iPhone "Notes" feature:  to jot down 2 exciting blog post topics that popped into my head so I don't forget them immediately.    I also keep a shopping list in the notes section.
3.  iPhone "Maps" feature:  to find a shortcut from a daycare to a client's home when there was yucky traffic.
4.  iPhone Camera:  to record a "movie" that a student wrote about Michelle Garcia Winner's social skills superhero, "Superflex"
5.  iPad with Google Forms:  to record individual student data from a reading comprehension collaborative group.  The cool thing is that this Google form just asks me a few multiple choice questions and then uploads my responses into a spreadsheet that keeps track of the student's performance on each goal for each date.  This process is so exciting for organizing my therapy data that it deserves its own blog post.  (Let me just jot that idea into my iPhone notes section.  Done.)
6.  iPad Toy Story Book App:  to motivate a 3rd grader with autism to identify narrative structure elements and write them into a graphic organizer in complete sentences with punctuation and temporal markers.  Kids will write anything for me if I make it engaging enough.
7.  iPhone as a calculator:  several times each day to calculate accuracy percentages for my speech therapy clients during therapy.
8.  iPad Math Pop App:  to encourage two students with social skills goals to work together to solve problems and to take turns quickly and automatically.
9.  iPad Zoola Lite App:  as quick photo references of a variety of animals for a lesson in using "descriptors"/adjectives in writing
10.  iPad Cupcake Matching app:  as a reinforcer for a student for 2 minutes at the end of a productive therapy session

The funny thing is, that I think I only used my iPhone as a "phone" maybe 4 times this whole week!  Hah! 

I really don't know how I got along before touch screen technology.  It can be daunting at first, but ultimately, it makes me happy to master new technology. 

How has technology made your life easier?

Spring Social Skills Activity: A Superflex Egg Hunt

For the last few months, I've been using a comic book superhero social skills curriculum by Michelle Garcia Winner to teach social thinking, flexibility, and calming strategies to my student with autism and pragmatic language difficulties.  We've discussed the many different "bad guys" (a.k.a., Unthinkables) who can send our brain messages such as "be bossy!", or "have a super huge reaction to this problem!" or "demand things to be your way only!" and the superhero "Superflex" who is able to defeat these characters using social thinking strategies such as positive self talk, calming strategies, flexibility, and thinking about others' thoughts and feelings. The students have a good basic understanding of the Unthinkable bad guys now, and, this week, I felt they were ready for a generalization activity to pull it all together. 

 So, this week, for our third grade social skills group, I filled plastic eggs with pictures of various "Unthinkable" Characters from Michelle Garcia Winner's Superflex curriculum, and then had each student take turns finding an egg, reading the description of the "bad guy"/unthinkable, and then telling us how to "defeat" that bad guy using calming strategies or flexible social behaviors. 

It was a great activity!  The students in the group seemed to enjoy it, and really recalled useful calming strategies and self-talk phrases they could use in difficult situations.  The resounding favorite phrase for the group?   "No biggie!"  (It's one of my favorite phrases, as well!  Just ask my grad student intern, who hears me say it several thousand times per week!)

Michelle Garcia Winner's materials have been a breath of fresh air for my social skills practice.  Students are highly motivated to engage with them, to read about the characters, to try out the strategies Superflex suggests, and are just generally excited to learn from these materials.  One of my students has even written and acted in his own mini movie about Superflex and Rockbrain, and carries a picture of "Glassman" with his books to remind him not to "fall apart over every little thing." 

I am so grateful that I have access to a plethora of wonderful materials for teaching social skills through a grant given to our school by the Public School Foundation.  These materials are enriching not only my practice, but the practice of many of our other CHCCS SLPs, who have been borrowing them and learning to use them, as well. 

If you're an SLP, how have you used Michelle Garcia Winner's social skills materials in your practice?

A Clean Room! Quick, take a picture!

Flanna with her blanket from Grammie
I was just thinking today that we are going to need to start packing our apartment up soon.  Which makes me sad.  There are so many things I love about this place.  Its location.  Its natural light. Its storage space.  It's low rent.  Hah. 

Anyway, here's a peek at Flanna's room one of those rare days when it was clean.  So cute!

What's one thing in/about your home that makes you happy?

Spring Learning Activities: A Bug Box

While we were visiting my in-laws, they gave us a "bug box."  Flannery was thrilled with the idea of catching bugs.  So, when the rain finally cleared up on one of the last days of our visit, we went "bug hunting" in a nearby field.  We caught a black beetle, a silver beetle, and a ladybug.  Or perhaps should I say, I caught them.  Flanna and my mother-in-law were not very willing to touch bugs with their hands, hah!  But being the country girl I am, I wasn't afraid of some little beetles. 

We kept the bugs in the bug box for a few hours, and Flannery watched them, studied them, drew them, and begged to keep them forever.  But, alas, we let them go at dinner time "so that their mommies wouldn't worry about them." 

This was such a fun learning activity.  Flannery got to see what is needed for a bug habitat.  She got to study how three different bugs move around.  She got to have a little empathy for tiny things.  And she even got to draw and color, her favorite activities of all time. 
The change in humidity from outside to inside made my camera lens fog up.  See the lady bug?

The silver beetle, the black beetle, and the ladybug.  This kid is such an artist.

Are you scared of bugs, or would you catch some with your bare hands?  You know, for education's sake?