Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lawyers and meetings.....a few lessons learned

I'm counting down 8 days til break!  I still have a few IEP and miscellaneous meetings to go--it seems the more challenging meetings are usually at the end of the school year.  Transitions bring on stress--parents worry about the next grade, the next school, slow progress,  sometimes a new setting.  Hence---we meet.  These are usually not the meetings where everyone tells me what a wonderful therapist I've been.  Sometimes, there are loud words, tears, door slamming, and......lawyers.   This year is typical.

Without going into any details, I feel sometimes parents are justified and sometimes not.  Lawyers aren't always a bad thing, and one year, I grew to really love our school system's lawyer!  Good lawyers are objective, which I like.  When I have a special education legal question, I have a lawyer friend across town (not the school's lawyer) that I email. I want to do things right, and it's helpful to have people around that know IDEA and disability rights.  I also check out websites such as WrightsLaw and various parent blogs.  Anyone in special education should know the resources out there. 

Over the years, I've learned a few tips to help me get through some brutal meetings.  Usually in the cast of IEP characters, I am not the central figure.  The issues don't revolve around speech therapy typically and are most likely broader such as disputes over setting and demands for one-on-one assistants.  I attend these meetings, but am not on the hot seat.  It's still stressful, and often, I do need to talk to the issues when it's my turn. Sometimes, the seating is uncomfortable, the room is too hot/cold, and once the meeting lasted all day.   I never learned about this aspect of my job when I was in grad school!   How about you?

Tips for getting through these difficult meetings---

1. Stay out of the hot seat!   How, you may ask?  Do your paperwork.  Take detailed attendance, record
therapy data, monitor progress or lack of progress, do what the IEP says you were going to do. Write measurable goals with your team; don't write too many goals.  Write progress reports quarterly and share with the parents. This of course needs to be done throughout the year--not the week of the meeting.  If this doesn't work, read on.

2. Be professional.  Maintain confidentiality, don't get worked up, maintain objectivity, adhere to the ASHA code of ethics, bring your data to the meetings and stick to facts, not feelings.  Breathing deeply and finding your inner happy place works too.  If you have done number 1, you've done your best anyway!

3. Don't grandstand with email.  Did you know that people print out, forward, and save emails?  If you have a lot to say, call a meeting. You can also talk to people face to face, or use a telephone.  Emails, however, can come back to haunt you.  If you have doubts about what you are going to send, then don't.

4. If you meet informally with parents during the course of the year, it's sometimes good to have another school person there.    This could be another teacher or therapist who knows the child.  Keep a log of meetings and phone calls. 

5. You are part of an IEP team.  It helps greatly if your IEPs are collaborative and the communication goals are integrated into the other goals.  In this way, everyone is accountable for the whole document, and you, the SLP, will not be singled out if the child doesn't progress as well as others think he should.     If you do number 1 and number 5, you should be fine.

6. Don't sweat the small stuff.  Sometimes, you have to give in a little.  If you dig in your heels about 30 additional minutes of speech time, an inordinate amount of meeting time might be used to discuss and defend this. The other staff members might be grateful that you are in the spotlight.  Occasionally there is room for compromise for your own well-being.  Read number 1 again.  If you have documentation, then that can help determine if your services are effective.

7.  After such a meeting, make plans to have a nice evening, and leave work behind.  The kids will be there the next day, and so will you.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Beach Fun Prepositions Bingo---free download

Today was a beautiful day here in North Carolina!   I have a free download for you (all of my stuff is free).  This is Beach Fun Prepositions Bingo--there are three Bingo cards, and the calling cards.  Kids can practice describing the pictures using beach/ocean vocabulary and prepositions such as over, under, beside, on, and between.  This is a great activity for the end of the school year, or in the summer.  I'm working in the Extended School Year program!   What are you all doing?

I am going to go off-topic here now, and remind all SLPs to vote for the ASHA board and president by May 31st.  Not everyone is totally happy in their job, and I'm sure that you would like leaders to hear what you have to say and advocate for smaller caseloads among other things.  Check out this blog posting with a really clear infographic which clearly illustrates some difficulties in the life of an SLP..

Then click here to vote.  I personally voted for those who had experience in a school setting since that's where I am.

Click here to download this in Boardmaker

Click here to download this in pdf

Again, vote.  Last year, only 3% did. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life. ~John Lubbock

My lovely daughter just graduated from UNC Asheville.   Her major was biology; minor was ceramics.    These pieces were from her senior art show.  I'm in awe.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Larger and Smaller--free printable book

Hi, It's now several years later since I wrote this initial blog. I've improved on the downloadable booklet. I have no idea whether Common Core Math is even a thing in pandemic kindergarten, but the book I've downloaded is great for the concepts of  'large' and 'small'.  I love all of you kids and therapists, and wish you well during this pandemic.   Hugs!  Ruth

--------------(the following is a post from ancient times, ha ha. Pre-corona!)

Last week, I posted about Common Core Math Vocabulary.  Two of the words on the kindergarten list were 'larger' and 'smaller'---so I decided to modify a Tarheel Reader book, going beyond 'big' and 'little'. The actual kindergarten CC goals related to these words are:

1. Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.

2.  Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of”/“less of” the attribute, and describe the difference. For example, directly compare the heights of two children and describe one child as taller/shorter.

I'm sure you would extend your activities beyond the book and compare lots of things in the room and around the school or home (wherever you're working with the children). The book I'm offering is meant to support this and is free and available on the link below (along with icons if you need them).

Obviously, this is a simple book, in simple language.  Look for more vocabulary books based on Common Core Math Vocabulary in the near future!

Click here to download the book.

  Only 14 school days left!!!!    I'll be working in the ESY program, so look for my blogs about speech stuff all summer!  Who needs vacation, anyway?



Friday, May 17, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Common Core Math Vocabulary List

I'm sure there are lots of vocabulary lists out there for common core math, but I've been using one that I found from East Moline School District.

You can go here to see the full list--it goes way on up to advanced vocabulary in high school.  My kids are struggling with the kindergarten concepts, though.  I've been surprised at how little they understand the language of math, and depend on adult prompts and cues and demonstration (even my regular education 2nd graders are lacking in many of the kindergarten concepts). Unfortunately for them, simple computation is a thing of the past.

I don't have any materials yet to teach these concepts, but will be developing some games and simple assessments on my own for the younger grades, so be on the lookout!  For now, the list is useful, and it's easy to work on many of these with what you have already. I just found this list handy for keeping track of what the kids need to know, and what you have taught them.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Gluten Free Goodness!

I never win anything!  Yet, when I entered a Facebook gluten-free cake contest--lo and behold!  I was declared the winner!  The cake-baking company, Golden Age Bakery, is right in town and is all gluten-free!  Are any of you locals in need of specialized gluten-free cakes for a wedding or a party--they do this!  Check out their website for other products.
The owner, Sylvia, delivered a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, and it made for a perfect Mother's Day treat!  It's so rare that I actually get to eat dessert!  Those of you who are gluten-free know what I'm talking about.  I may have to order more of these!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ocean Unit---free collection of materials

  Things are winding down at my school in preparation for our annual test-taking ritual.  This year---a little less frenzy, since scores won't be available for everyone until October.  This late date will eliminate retests (if a kid didn't pass in the past years, he or she had the joy of taking it again).  This year, there's a reprieve from that for both the kids and for the adults who have to administer the tests.  I'm happy!

For those of you who need materials centered around the beach or ocean theme, I've been collecting them over the years.  During summer ESY (extended school year), we typically celebrate the beach and ocean, so I have several adapted books and crafts in my tool chest.  Here they are!  All free as usual.

The Ocean Book Packet






  Crabs Everywhere 

Fish and Friends




Sand Art Fish

Let's Make JellyFish





Beach Fun Preposition Bingo





  Who Swims? Printable book and icons



Friday, May 10, 2013

Tell Tale---Review of a Fun Story-Telling Game

Heidi Kay over at PediaStaff asked me to review a couple of games by Blue Orange Games.  Of course, I said yes---if you look at my therapy room, it looks like the game aisle in a toy store.  I love games, and my kids do too!  Even with the current iPad craze, most of my students will choose a game in a box to play when the time is right.

The game we played today was Tell Tale--the game comes with 60 double-sided cards. Kids pick several cards and tell their best stories using the pictures.  Some of the stories can get a little funny since the cards lend to humor!  Check out the video at the end of this post for specific directions but it's not complicated.

From the website: Discover the art of storytelling with Tell Tale. Be guided through your own unique tale with cards illustrated with a variety of characters, settings, objects and emotions. If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the possibilities with 120 inspiring images! Create your own storyboard or improvise a tale together; there are four ways to play! In this creative storytelling game, everybody is a winner.

  The ages suggested were 5 to adult, with 1-8 players playing for 20 minutes. 

I used this game with two types of students.  One was a first grade boy with a fluency disorder.  His language skills were great, and he was easily able to create stories using a set of cards.  This was a very nice way to work on fluency in connected speech.

The second group were five 4th graders in a special education classroom.  These students needed more structure to create stories.  In addition, their goals were to create stories with characters, a setting, and a plot, so they used a graphic organizer when telling their stories.  I created a simple one which you can see in the picture, but there are many types out there.  Here is the link to the organizer in the picture.  For the top space, I asked the kids to think of a title to their story.

Overall, the students enjoyed the game.  The students with more limited language skills needed more structure such as using a graphic organizer. This was a nice way to motivate students to tell stories, and we never played this in a competitive manner.  Thank you, Heidi, for letting me try it out.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

There's no Magic Answer, but We Keep Trying

I have a couple of kids with limited verbal abilities.  One is hearing impaired, with a vision impairment, so sign language seems to be the easiest communication route.   The other comprehends  pictures, and boardmaker symbols.  He is even beginning to spell words!  Unfortunately, he stims off of electronic devices, but we have devised a notebook with core vocabulary on one side, and fringe on the other.  There are multiple pages, and it seems to be versatile in different settings.  The teacher has taken ownership of this notebook, and I've observed her eliciting and responding to communicative attempts by this young boy.  The notebook isn't perfect, and I think the goal eventually will be to utilize a PODD system in the classroom.  For now, this is what we have; the child is initiating and responding, which is a big step up from tantrums and self-abuse. 

These are some of the pages---there are more such as vocabulary for the ipad, letters, numbers, calendar, and feelings.  This system allowed for a large vocabulary, but is easy for the adults in the classroom to implement.  A true dynamic display system such as PODD is a little more adult intensive; sometimes, elaborate systems get abandoned in my school.  
places to go in the school

people he knows

If you see discrepancies  between some of the core vocabulary pages, it's because different people have been working on this notebook.  I'll take that--I like it when others think about it enough to add a page or two.  This is not just for the speech pathologist to tinker with!
school tools


Several of you have asked about the Core vocabulary.  Click what you need below.  The other vocabulary is kid and school specific.
I expand the core regularly as the child develops.

Download Core in boardmaker

Download Core in pdf

I printed these at 80% size to fit.

I remind all ASHA member to vote for your board of directors and president.  Last year, only about 3% of you did.    I personally voted for those who had public school experience.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week---What you can do

This was written by the Principal of Ephesus Elementary, and is a great suggestion for Teacher Appreciation Week.  Please pass this on:

"So many people have asked my opinion about what to do for teachers for appreciation week. I agree that we all love the treats, the flowers, the gift cards, and the cards, so keep them coming! But you know what would really be helpful? Please take a moment to write to your legislators to demand that teachers get pay raises, step increases, and a fair wage. In NC, teachers haven't gotten that in over 5 years. Some of the people that work with YOUR CHILDREN each day are living below the poverty line. And while you're writing, demand that teachers be treated with respect. We are educated, caring individuals who make thoughtful decisions that ultimately affect all of society. Demand that non-educator lawmakers stop making ill-informed educational decisions. Demand that they have paid time for professional development. Demand that they stop cutting the education budget while padding their own pockets (think Governor McCrory's pay raises for new cabinet members). Demand that teachers earn a fair wage that will allow them to possibly purchase their own Starbucks treat one morning before school. Because while none of us went into education for the money, many of us leave because we simply cannot afford to stay. And that's a shame for children everywhere."

Thanks Principal Creamer!


Friday, May 3, 2013

Ladybugs in Speech Group--printable directions

Happy May!   This school year has gone by quickly with major life events ongoing  (one twin graduating, other twin overseas in the Peace Corps, another child becoming a police officer, me a soon-to-be grandmother).    I find myself thinking about these things more and more, those thoughts overshadowing the thoughts of the fun times (and hard times) I have with the kids at my school.  Life is a balancing act, with a certain ebb and flow to it all!

I had a great day today in our primary EC classroom with ladybugs.  We read "Ladybugs Everywhere", and I was amazed at how well the kids did with the icons and sentence strip.  "Ladybug" is actually a complicated word to pronounce, and my one little guy did a fabulous job at it!  He was so motivated by the book!  For whatever reason, I'm finding the simple Boardmaker graphics a real draw when creating adapted books---kids pay attention.  Once I have their attention, half the battle is won.

The second part of our activity added more fine motor.  Alas, our occupational therapist just had a baby, so today, I was part O.T. (We SLPs have to be flexible!)    I prepped the materials in advance---cutting up circles, and rectangles to make ladybugs.  The task was one of assembly and following directions.  There was also the pragmatic piece--requesting materials and colors.  A couple of my kids use a communication notebook with the left side always being core vocabulary, while the right is fringe (activity specific vocabulary). 
I encourage independence, so final products from the kids may not match exactly with the model.
 Communication is the goal, not the product.

Below are the screenshots of the step-by-step.  I did a lot of prepping in advance to avoid difficult scissor requirements.  Glue and tape were the tools needed.  I used the Pictello app (my favorite) for this activity.  The kids merely touched the iPad for voice output, and swiped to turn the page. 

Title page

Screenshot, and the photo of my midnight prepping!

They clearly understood this step!

If you would like the ladybug directions in pdf, click here.  I cut out the body from red poster board, while the black parts are construction paper.  The cutting, as I said, was in advance, and not part of the directions.

This weekend, I'm in Brevard NC.  The fog over the mountains as I drove in was lovely.  This picture isn't mine, but captures the essence.  Have a nice weekend everyone!