Saturday, February 2, 2013

Speech/OT groups---there's a method to my madness

I totally love my EC classrooms.  These are classes where the children can not function independently in a regular education classroom and need more intensive small group instruction.  Most of the children struggle with functional communication.  I realize that some school systems mainstream (include) everyone. Our system does not and this blog entry is not a statement about the benefits of either setting----These kids are on my caseload so I collaborate with the EC teachers and try to do many of my sessions in their rooms. The teachers need to see what I do!  

Every Friday, the OT and I lead a group in the primary EC classroom.  This group is always centered around a monthly theme, and has a literacy component, a fine motor component, and a 'fun' (otherwise known as a pragmatic language) component.  I can say it's totally fun. There's lots of laughter both from kids and adults---if the activity isn't reinforcing, then who would want to communicate about it?

So, here is the method to my madness---an outsider looking in might see a lot of chaos.  I actually have a schedule and structure to every group (plus IEP goals in my head for each kid).  With the help of my incredibly talented graduate student clinician and our OT, here is the latest session:

1.  Schedule:  We made a schedule (written and drawn) with the children.  In this case, the events were video, book, spider craft, and spider web.  We list the items on paper, and have kids each item off as we complete it.  The first item which was a Youtube video was a 50 second Itsy Bitsy Spider Song which was just to grab their attention to the theme (spiders).

2.  Literacy:  If you read my blog at all, you know that I adapt books.  Sometimes I even make them up.  Today, however, we used an Eric Carle book---The Very Busy Spider. You all know this book---repetitive, simple vocabulary, and easy to adapt.    You can find simple pictures to use with this book lots of places, and in the past, I've even used Beanie Babies to go with it.
If you have Boardmaker, hop on over to Boardmaker Share for this ready made board with all the icons.

3. Fine Motor Activity    Today, our fab OT had the kids make paper spiders.  You will notice the notebook on the right.  We are working on the kids using more core vocabulary words when communicating.  One child's communication book has a consistent core page on the left---and activity specific vocabulary on the right.  We add core words regularly along with new content pages, and with modeling and practice, he's communicating better all the time! 

4. Fun  Once the spiders were made, the kids made a group spider web by throwing a yarn ball across a big piece of bulletin board paper.  This was actually a great turn-taking activity and a way to teach attention-getting, calling a name, throwing, catching, participating.....   We had a page in our notebook of all of the children's and adults' pictures, so the kids could select who they wanted to throw the yarn to next.  After each throw, the yarn was taped down.  The spider web which resulted was perhaps not a perfect, symmetrical one, but it certainly was the kids' work!

5. Result   I thought this was adorable, and the classroom teacher proudly hung it on the wall outside the classroom.

Just to sum this all up, I love working with other professionals, and these groups are the highlight of my week.  The activities are not the goal---it's all about the process during the activities---naming vocabulary, requesting items, turn-taking, commenting, the list goes on, with the objectives varying with each student.

I have to give credit where credit is due----my graduate clinician planned and implemented a lot of this lesson---her first time for this group!   She'll make a wonderful SLP someday!  

 Happy Groundhog's Day!!!



  1. I love this! I teach in a center-based sped school and my students all have multiple disabilities. Our therapy department does a monthly collaborative activity with our students that's run pretty similarly - we call it SPOT (speech, physical, occupational therapies) and my students love it and get a lot out of it. Fun to combine the therapies and for the kids to see how they all interact and even overlap functionally.


  2. This is AWESOME. I love your resources and think I'll have to copy this spider unit (using an old weekly reader I still have). Last year we did something similar and used chairs and string for our web - it was a disaster! Lots of tangles and kids stimming with string. I see this being so much more appropriate! :)
    Thanks for always being so awesome.

    1. Thanks! I've had my share of disasters too! I've learned that happens sometimes. It's not the product, but the process that matters.

  3. This is how it's supposed to be done! I love the visual supports and collaboration of with the other professionals.

  4. I LOVE co-therapies!!!!!!! I haven't planned any with our OT, but if I am working with kids when she comes in, I change my lesson to just adapt what she is doing into a communication goal too!

    1. Sometimes it's hard to juggle schedules in order to work with another person. And, sometimes the teaching styles of the professionals don't mesh. Most of the time, though, the professionals see the benefits of it and work to make it happen, as it has in my case.


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