Thursday, June 30, 2011

Memories of a book

When I was in elementary school, I read all the time.  It was actually a problem---a book hidden in a desk was a nice diversion from math.  One of my most very favorite books seemed to be a foreshadowing of what I was to become professionally (which if you don't know me, I started in deaf education, and then later became a speech-language pathologist.)    I loved Helen Keller's Teacher!  All of us know about Helen Keller---a little girl becomes blind and deaf by an illness at age 19 months in the late 1800s.  Her private teacher was perhaps as interesting as Helen---Anne Sullivan, who grew up in an orphanage, had severe vision difficulties due to infections, attended the Perkins School for the Blind, and was hired by the Kellers to teach and care for Helen, who by that time, was nonverbal and extremely difficult to handle. You'll have to read more about her yourself if you are interested; but the result of wonderful teaching was that Helen Keller went on to be the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, and was an accomplished author and activist. 

    With my background, I know now that one huge factor in her success was the fact that Helen was not prelingually deaf.  Most of the children I've worked with who are hearing impaired were born that way, and as a result, do not have the language input they needed to set a strong foundation for verbal communication without intensive help.  Even with intervention, children who are born profoundly deaf have difficulty keeping up with language demands in school needed for literacy.  By age 19 months, kids generally are talking and interacting, they understand simple stories and directions, and know that words have meaning.  Losing hearing at that relatively older age gives a language advantage over prelingually deaf children.  Helen Keller was also obviously very intelligent, and had the benefit of an intelligent, intuitive one-on-one teacher much of her life.  My interest in her was renewed when I found a YouTube video from 1930 with Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller.  Ms. Sullivan demonstrated techniques for communicating and eliciting speech from Helen.  It was fascinating and enlightening! She was a speech pathologist before there were speech pathologists!

If you don't want to read about Helen and Annie, watch "The Miracle Worker" with Patty Duke.  It's a classic! I just put it on my Netflix cue again. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

To Point or not to Point

I take pointing for granted.  When I want one of my own college-aged kids to take out the trash, I extend my right hand with the index finger --pointing out the full bin (with a stern look, of course).  If I'm at a sushi bar and don't know the name of the item on the menu, I point to it (usually saying something like "I want this one!").  It seems so easy and it works!

    In ESY (Extended School Year), I have the pleasure of meeting all types of children.  Some I've seen for several summers in a row, and one little girl's mom specifically asked about the possibility of trying out the iPad.  My assumption was that this 8-year-old knew that pointing got results.

     After consulting the mom, my graduate intern and I programmed one cell on Proloquo2go---'cat'.  This was chosen because the little girl actually recognizes this animal and sweetly says 'Meow' when seeing one.  I raided my daughters' room for her old collection of stuffed animals, finding one that actually resembled a real cat.  Then, I discovered that just because she can actually label them with a word doesn't mean she really likes the critters---the little whiskers on the stuffed animal were a tad prickly, so after staring at it for a few seconds, she threw it deliberately to the floor, looking distressed.  No requesting 'cat' for her! The next item was candy sprinkles---we quickly took a picture, programmed the iPad, and set it in front of her.  We modeled pointing to the picture of the candy sprinkles, did a little hand-over-hand, and waited for her to point to the picture, activate the cell, which would then gain her a treat.

    She was motivated to eat the sprinkles, reached for them, and even said the word 'off' (wanting the container opened).  When presented with the iPad with the choices of a candy photo and cat photo on it..........
This is what she did---no pointing today!  The iPad was a little drum.

A few days later, I did a little research by reading app reviews on this wiki developed by a talented nationally renowned group of people. Take a look at it!   Anyway, I found a cute little cause and effect app called Peekaboo Barn.  and I got the 'lite' version which was free.  She loved it, and check out this cute little pointing finger! 

So in the future for this child, my graduate intern and I need to continue to reinforce the pointing finger, and add in pointing for making requests with pictures, voice output devices (iPad), or objects.  (In case you are wondering, 'picture exchange' has been on her IEP for at least 3 years---and it's been a bit of a challenge.  I'm not her regular SLP, but she looks at the iPad more consistently than she looks at photos for picture exchange.)   I'll send any data I get to her regular SLP but this girl's mom specifically asked about her response to an iPad.

I'll keep you posted on her progress!   I see her for 4 more weeks.

Any suggestions?   I'm open!

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Mecca

Word Prediction feature with Proloquo2Go
Extended School Year is a mecca for those of us who are speech pathologists and who want to try out different programs, iPad applications, or therapy techniques with children. There are so many speech kids! Of course, we honor the current IEPs, but sometimes, we (SLPs) have extra time with a child and just want to see if something works or doesn't work.  Maybe the SLP just wants to get new insights, or the SLP is teaching her graduate student intern a new program, so today we tried out the word prediction/typing feature of Proloquo2Go with an 8 year old girl (limited speech due to apraxia but good receptive skills).   Our lesson was a bit stilted--the child was merely asked to provide very simple sentences in response to pictures in a book.  From this lesson, we learned that this girl was able to provide initial consonants for any word she had to type, and she recognized many sight words. She knew that she had to produce a simple sentence.  She knew about simple punctuation, and she really liked the auditory feedback.  She preferred to just type the words as best she could, and needed support for the spelling.  Proloquo2Go had a little difficulty predicting what she wanted to type since her choice of words were out of context of other sentences.  I felt that she definitely has potential for using word prediction and exploring this in conjunction with other AAC systems looks promising!  Tomorrow we'll try actually using this for communication (rather than just labeling)!   I'm eager to see how she does!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Meadowmont turtle

I couldn't think of a catchy title for this.  I, like millions, need to find the motivation to exercise more.  I also like to fill out Google forms---iPad or computer doesn't matter to me as long as it's a form.  So, I've created a Google form for exercising, which puts all of my data into a Google spreadsheet.  I'm sure that most of you are rolling your eyes and keeling over in boredom here, but the reality is that in the mornings on weekends, I'm finding the motivation to go on great 10 mile bike rides through the Meadowmont and the Finley golf course trails.  For you nature-lovers out there, I've photographed herons, turtles, ducks, cattails, and dragonflies.  I wasn't quick enough for a picture of the fox.  Incredibly, I've kept this up since April--a record for me!
my data

My Google form
Meadowmont heron

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Celebration of Mentoring (BRMA Picnic)

Vicki (daughter), David and Raul
  • huge pool filled with splashing laughing kids and adults
  • a very patient adult teaching an 11 year old girl to float in the middle of the pool fun.
  • a line of tables filled to overflowing with chicken, desserts and sides--with a long line of enthusiastic picnic-goers ready to dig in
  • Graig Meyer announcing that this was the 16th picnic that's occurred, and most of the mentees were younger than the program
  • Yli (Youth Leadership Institute) teens introducing themselves to nearly all the older-looking adults, explaining their strengths and goals.  I talked to one who wants to be a physical therapist, and another who wants to be an immigration lawyer. 
  • family time and friend time; mentor and mentee time; 
  • our two mentees developing fun relationships with our family and having a great time!
YLI kids
Graig Meyer talks to the group
These were some random images both mental and digital from the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate picnic that my family and our two mentees attended today at Camp New Hope.  BRMA is about the coolest thing going on in my life right now.  Today's event was the end of a great year.  Thanks!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gluten Free Festival

My twins and I went to Whole Foods today in Chapel Hill where they were holding a gluten-free festival.  Yummy!  (I won't bore you here about a lesson on gluten and food intolerances, but this was a real treat for me.)

Free samples

It was so good, I had to buy some!

Beer samples (regular beer has gluten)

more beer

Yummy chicken in spicy sauce

treats to take home

Gluten free fudge cupcakes

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Extended School Year Fun!

Today was the first day of our Extended School Year.  I'm lucky to have such a job!  Despite the fact that there really is no budget for materials, and I work in a different school away from my stuff, and the children and parents are a little nervous, it is turning out to be a lot of fun.  I'm making new friends, meeting new kids, and am challenged professionally by the severity of the communication difficulties the children are experiencing.  Some of the children are returning from last year, and I'm amazed that they remember my room and toys (and ask for them)!  I guess I do make an impact!

I'm working with two occupational therapists this year, and also have a graduate student speech intern from UNC with me.  We all came up with a beach theme for this week, and the first group of kids made jellyfish.  Actually, they watched a short jellyfish video, made a jellyfish out of paper plates and streamers (did I mention that there is no budget for materials?), and then we all read a sea animals book.  They did great--they used the word 'tentacles' and 'jellyfish', answered questions, filled in missing words, wrote their names, and cut with scissors perfectly!!!   I can't wait to do this tomorrow with the next class.  The next class has some children using more AAC, so we will add communication boards and Proloquo2Go to the mix.

YouTube video

These next shots are screen shots of the Pictello app for the iPad--used to make step by step jellyfish direcetions. Only a few of the steps are pictured here.  There is also text-to-speech capabilities with this app. It's very nice!


My biology major daughter advised me that jellyfish actually don't have eyes.  Oh well!

The sweet boys!
A downloaded and adapted book from Tarheel Reader.

I took words out of the book---amazingly, they were able to fill in lots of them with no prompting!

This was a great first day and a fun class.  I'm looking forward to continued adventures in ESY!

Did I mention that Ms. Sandy is the teacher for this group? She's great!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Julia Childs meet special needs cooks!

I'm not a gourmet cook, but really love cooking with kids.  In school, there are a myriad of considerations to take into account when preparing food with children---allergies, school nutrition guidelines, sanitation, time, cost, availability of appliances, and the general pickiness of some kids.  That being said, cooking is a nice way to present a sequenced set of directions with the end product hopefully being something yummy!  I was pleasantly surprised to see a website all about cooking with special needs kids.  In addition, it was developed by a Girl Scout for her gold award!  (Both of my daughters are lifetime Girl Scouts.)

Click here for the website!

Here are some screen shots.
The web designer--a gold award Girl Scout

Each recipe has a lesson guide

The screen shot of one of the recipes.  Each has step-by-step directions.
Way to go, Girl Scouts!!!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day tomorrow to all the dads I know-- especially to my husband and his wonderful dad!  

It's a little hard to write much more than this--thinking of Father's Day sends me down a twisted path of memories, some sweet, and others a bit painful.   I didn't actually grow up in the stereotypical household of the "Leave It to Beaver" era. (Who did?)  Life had many bumps (some would say mountains) including the early death of a mother, difficulties with older siblings, many relocations, parental job loss, the list can go on.

Reflecting back on my dad, and knowing what I know now about autism, I'm nearly 100% certain that he was an individual with Asperger's Syndrome, which caused many of the family dynamic difficulties, and the problems with coping with life's bumps.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, individuals with Aspergers often have high intelligence, but many problems with pragmatic language and social skills.  My  personal belief is that high functioning autism and Aspergers describe the same disorder--others may disagree, but the impact on a family and the children is huge regardless of the terminology.

     My father was highly intelligent.  He was also a World War II veteran.  He had a Masters Degree in metallurgical engineering from Penn State.  He married twice (first wife, my mother, died) and had five children.  He loved classical music and opera, played the piano, and the clarinet. He worked in the steel industry as a metallurgist. He enjoyed gardening, biking, hiking, and Scrabble.  With a profile like this, you would think that we would have all grown up like the Brady Bunch---minor squabbles at most.  The problem with Aspergers is that although the person may have a highly developed vocabulary, the ability to carry on a conversation with one's wife and children, communicate feelings, read other's nonverbal cues, and talk about a topic of another's choosing are all impaired.  Blurting out odd things in public places was a bit embarrassing to his kids (like me), and talking about the same odd thing over and over again was very common (e.g. 'core wash' which was something he was working on in his work--few people really cared much about it or understood it).  He had difficulties holding onto jobs, resulting in disruptive relocations every few years.  As I'm thinking back now, I could add tenfold to this list of his difficulties.  No one, however, really understood the cause of his social issues, but he, along with the family, was frustrated.  As I grew up, I purposefully distanced myself from both him and everyone else in the family, partially due to all of this. Oh, the guilt I feel now! 

        I have a wish-- I would love to go back in time with the knowledge and empathy I feel I now possess, and talk to my dad.  I'm not sure what we would talk about, but I would hope that I could look past the symptoms of the disorder, and talk to him more as the intelligent, nice person that he was.  That's all.

P.S.  I'm not really one to write this type of thing, but I guess Father's Day just brought it all out.   Happier writing will come next time!

Friday, June 17, 2011

iData with the iPad---a tutorial for therapists and educators

Data collection isn't the most fun topic.  Before iPads, my folders for kids were full of sticky notes, therapy data forms, attendance forms, and other assorted loose items.  At progress report time, I would try to study my hand-written data for trends, and come up with some percentages to show growth, or lack of growth.  For children with multiple goals, or those with collaborative goals, consistent data collection was even more challenging!

I have recently updated this to reflect the changes that Google has made in making forms (6/15/13).

Enter Google Forms and Spreadsheets!!!  This blog is a brief tutorial on how to create a Google form for your data collection, which then saves your information into a spreadsheet.  Once I create my form, I can save the form icon to the iPad screen making recordkeeping easier than using pencils and graph paper!

Step 1---go to Google Drive  (you must have a Gmail account).  Under 'create new', select 'form'.  It will take you to a new form which you will name in the next step.

Step 2    In the top line, give your form a title.   If you are collecting data for an IEP, you can name it after the IEP.  If it's some other purpose, call it something else!! Then pick a theme (for IEP stuff, I usually go with the plain form. It's up to you, though.)  Then click OK.

Step 3  Now you are ready for the fun part.  You get to create questions for your form. These questions, in my case, are taken directly from specific IEPs or treatment plans.  You will be creating one form per client
Some questions lend themselves to different types of responses.  If you need the date of a session, or the number of minutes seen recorded, this might work with a 'text' response.  If you are recording whether a child met or didn't meet an objective, multiple choice (yes/no), might work better. If you want to record an anecdotal response, select 'paragraph text'.
    For my first question---I'm recording attendance.   I want to make sure I record if the student was present, and if there was no speech that day, why.  I'm using the 'multiple choice' question type since there is only one answer that will work.  Once finished with the question and answer possibilities, I click 'done'.

After clicking 'done' this is what question one looks like on the form:

Step 4:  You are now ready for making Question 2.  You can add a question by clicking button below your first question, or edit an existing question by clicking the pencil to the right of your question.  You can see that I already added a second question using the 'checkboxes' type of question which can allow more than one response.

add second question

click pencil to edit; click add item to add more questions

You can add as many questions as you want.  One SLP I know collaborates with a teacher and puts the entire repertoire of the objectives from a child's IEP on the form.  It makes for a long form, so if you want a shorter one, limit yourself to one section (e.g. communication objectives).

Step 5  Once the form is complete, send it to yourself and anyone else who will be completing it (e.g. teacher).

Your information collected by this form will go into a spreadsheet in Google drive.  This is what a sample spreadsheet looks like.

With  one click, a summary of all of your information over time can be generated with graphs and lists.  Here is a sample.  
Google forms and documents have really helped my record keeping for my kids. Here is a blog I posted about using Forms and Docs to take attendance.  I hope Google forms help you too, and you can use it in your work!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Washington & Old Dominion Rail-to-Trail

Check out the odometer reading!


This is the last vacation blog entry, unless something stupendous happens on the way home tomorrow (I doubt it).  Today, David and I both reached a new biking distance record--35 miles on the GPS odometer. The place was the Washington & Old Dominion Bike Trail in northern Virginia with the whole trail extending 45 miles--David and I did a smaller part, starting in Arlington, ending in Vienna with Falls Church in between, and then biking back.
Before the W & OD trail, we entered the trail system via a trail named 4 Mile Run. Very nice!

Husband--he had to work hard to keep up with me!

View of the trail around Arlington

I'm more familiar with rural trails such as the Virginia Creeper Trail, but this definitely started as an urban trail, crossing two interstates, and biking adjacent to I66 for a bit--which was pretty exciting.  It progressed to more surburban after we crossed the Beltline.  If we had been obsessed, we could have biked further on to Leesburg, where the trail passes through beautiful farm lands and wooded areas.  Maybe next time!  David and I had a great time, and now I feel very physically fit!  I would not recommend this in July or August with heat indexes at 95 or 100.  We lucked out with the weather--in the 80s with a nice breeze. 
 P.S.  We also found 9 geocaches
Crossing Interstate 66--Note the metro tracks in the middle.
Crossing the Belt Line---lots of traffic and construction.

more trail view

We stopped in Vienna for lunch at Whole Foods--right off the trail.