Monday, November 4, 2013

What we're doing in Speech this week - Veterans' Day Edition

I've sort of let my blog go dormant since I have spent the better part of the last 3 months adjusting to full time work and managing the trio of the monsters I have underfoot, or rather on my lap any time I dare sit down for more than 12 seconds. 

So I am going to try to post what materials I am using each week and share my sources.  There are so many fun, free (or cheap) resources out there online these days, I feel fortunate to be starting my career in the internet era.   Besides, I'd get laughed out of the Sixth Grade Academy if I tried to use some of those outdated old materials that I found in my office.  

What the heck is this anyway? 

This week, I have decided to work on Veterans' Day materials, inspired by one of my SLP Heroes at Speech Room News.  We are in school on 11/11, but will be at an all-school field trip (to which I say "YAY!  Field Trip!" and the more experienced teachers say, "I wish I could call in sick that day."). Thus, the week leading up to Veterans' Day was a good time to cover this theme.   That way, we can rock Tgiving for the last 2 weeks of the month before break. 

First up, a sequencing activity - Veterans Day Timeline.   I read a history of the holiday, get to review vocab terms like "armistice" and "observance", talk about what "federal holiday" means, discuss "wh" questions (why did the name change?) and of course...sequencing and retell.   I put the events on magnets for the kids to order them because dude...magnets make everything more fun!    

Then I decided have them write letters to the troops, inspired by another Speechy Hero blogger, who suggests letter writing as an excellent speech therapy activity.   I downloaded a letter writing tip sheet and a flyer from Operation Gratitude, let the student pick the recipient (Wounded Warrior, currently serving or veteran of a specific war) and we worked on an outline today.  I will probably continue these through the month and send off a pile of letters and a care package over Turkey break.  Hopefully one or two of my students will get a return letter.   

Next, the USA Synonyms game.   Not too many of my kiddos have goals specific for synonyms, most are working on "grade level vocabulary" so I was surprised at how challenging this game was.   They tend to default to antonyms.  I also made them construct a sentence for each word to work on various syntax goals.

Finally, not related to Veterans Day, but I am slowly trying to teach the kids the "EET" method of describing things.    We do a lot of guessing games, where I instruct them to start with the "Group" (or category) and slowly work their way through the description, otherwise all I get are vague descriptions containing lots of "things" and "stuff".   So I pulled 25 cards from a deck of picture cards, whipped up a set of bingo cards and had the kids take turns being the callers, by describing the pictures using at least 3 of the EET "beads".    The hardest part is keeping the other players from yelling the answer out after one clue.    But they did enjoy it.   It could have also been the magnetic chips/wands I let them use, too.    Magnets, man.    No one is ever too old for magnet fun!

If you look closely, you will see I misspelled raisin.   I bring shame to my profession.

The benefit of having a caseload comprised of mostly 6th graders with language goals is that I can use the same materials over and over all week with minimal tweaking as I go.     So by the time I finally nail the perfect session, it's time to put it all away and start over.   

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Ukrainian drinks tea during lunch duty.

OK, so I started my first job.  (Yay, me!)  I wanted my first official blog post to be about my speech room design, but it's still a Work in Progress, so that will have to wait until I am ready to call it "done".  So my first official blog post as an SLP will be about scheduling. 


You know those logic puzzles?  Where you are given a seemingly random set of facts and are instructed to figure out WHO OWNS THE ZEBRA

This is what scheduling a caseload of middle school speech kids is like.   The principal specifically instructs you not to pull the kids from core academic classes.  The kid's IEP tells you how long and how often you see them.  There are 6 periods.   There are A schedules and B schedules that alternate.  Wednesdays have 7 periods.   There are 3 lunches.   There is lunch duty and bus duty.  Don't forget about the speech meetings, IEP meetings, RTI meetings, faculty meetings, team meetings, department meetings.  It's also nice to group your kids by what they are working on:  pragmatics, fluency, articulation, etc.   Oh and you also have to find room for the 3 kids you have at the school across the street.    And last but not least, we are expected to see as many of the kids as possible inside their classroom, or what they call "push in" services.    Now do you understand why I cannot figure out WHO OWNS THE @$#@&* ZEBRA????

This is how I started:

Pictures have been blurred to protect the innocent.

So I moved to a bigger table:

The addition of post it notes enhances any logic puzzle.

And decided to make a giant schedule

I'd been wondering what to do with that single piece of giant paper that was left in my office.

And put all my kids on sticky notes and VOILA:

None of those sticky notes better fall off over the weekend!

Five hours of work and a perfect schedule that was already rendered obsolete by the time the final bell rung because I had at least 2 kids added to my caseload and the VP is planning on completely rearranging the lunch schedules.  

I probably should have listened to my supervisor when she told me to wait until the dust settles to work on my schedule in earnest.   What can I say?  I'm an excited and enthusiastic new SLP.    I want my kids....NOW!

No zebras were harmed in the writing of this blog.

"Don't ask me, all I know is that the Spaniard owns a dog." 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Professional Issues Class - Book Review

My last project for class (and for grad school!) is a book review.  The assignment:  To help you understand the impact of a disability on a family, each student will read a book pertaining to communication disorders and families.  We were charged with choosing a book from a great list of options.    After reviewing the list, I chose:

Not My Boy, written by former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, is really two books in one.  The first part is the personal story of how the Peete and his wife, actress Holly Robinson-Peete, came to grips with their son RJ’s autism.  The second part is written like an advice manual for parents of children with autism, with specific advice geared towards fathers. 

I could relate to a lot of what Peete shared in his book.   Stories of how hard it is to let go and allow his son to fail, when you really want to be there each time he stumbles.  Stories of minor events, such as oral reports in class or ordering a drink at the fast food counter, and how they become as big as Olympic gold medal moments when you are on the sidelines watching your special needs child accomplish them.    He shared their struggles to find the right educational setting for RJ as well as struggles with coming to grips with his expectations of how he would parent vs the reality of what his son needed.   Summed up in this quote:
In a way, it seemed like an abandonment of RJ to mentally remove that little football from his hands.  Yet I knew I would be building a legacy of frustration and conflict if I spent my energy trying to turn him into something he was not.  I needed to let him be himself.   That’s what it takes to be a great dad to the child you brought into this world: being the person who helps a child grow into the fullness of who he is.

After the personal account of how he was pulled from his denial and self-destructive behaviors (such as drinking) by an ultimatum from his wife, Peete shared the ways he became involved in his son's life and how he became a better man for it.
The part I liked most about this book was the second half, which offered advice on topics such as marriage, siblings, discipline, team sports, making friends, finances and reaching out for support.
Peete doesn't just cite high divorce rates among special needs families, he gives tangible ways to keep your marriage strong.    He doesn't just talk about how special needs siblings are sometimes given less attention by their parents, he comes right out and says that one of the best things you can do for your special needs child is to give him/her siblings!   I know the personal struggle of deciding to have more children when your hands and minds are already so full dealing with the special needs child you already have.  I agree with Peete, my son’s two sisters are the best social/peer group he could ever have.  They annoy him, they protect him, they include him, they exclude him, they love him, they brag about him and in the end they love him unconditionally, as we do. 
Ben and his 2 girl fan club
Additionally, Peete gives real world tips on helping your child make friends, getting him/her involved in team sports, and finding support from other parents, specifically dads.   He even included a section on finances.   Peete admits that they spent around $160,000 per year on RJ's therapies, alternative medical treatments and aides.  That is a number not fathomable to families that are not comprised of a former NFL player and an actress.   But he does offer some advice and stories of how families of less means have been able to advocate for their children. 
This book is chock full of practical, real-world advice, written in an easy to read, relatable manner.   Kudos to the Robinson-Peete family for sharing their struggles as well as their joys in this book.  Next, I want to purchase the book written by Holly Robinson-Peete and RJ's twin sister Ryan called My Brother Charlie for the sibling perspective.  

So as a parent, I enjoyed the book.  Would I recommend it to fellow professionals who will be working with special needs families?   I think so.  In my schooling experience, I have heard criticism from fellow professionals and students about how  parents are not doing X or how they should do Y.   I hear criticism about parents who delay diagnoses or refuse to use certain medications.  Sometimes I feel like a spy amidst these conversations, because not only am I the "professional" working with these families, but I am also one of those parents.   I think reading accounts like this, where otherwise educated, well supported families really struggle with the diagnoses and finding the best care for their child, can only give professionals an understanding what all families go through, especially those who are not as well off, supported and educated as some families are.  
Empathy and understanding are always a good thing!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Professional Issues Class Post 10: So now what?

Yup.  That's the topic for this last blog post.  So now what.  Those are 3 loaded words.  I have spent a long time preparing for this new career of mine.  Class, research papers, internships, externships, accumulating a set of textbooks that have a net worth more than my house....

For starters,  I already have a job lined up.  I guess I am better off than a lot of folks about to graduate with their masters degree.   I had a choice of a couple school districts in the area and I hope I made the right choice.  It was a combination of location, schedule, demographics and size that sold me.   However, I don't know where I will be placed.  I have been told its either going to be elementary or middle school.  

So now what?  

Just because I picked a public school for my first job, doesn't mean that is where I will stay.   This field is ripe with choices.  Honestly, I cant decide.    I'm currently working in a Skilled Nursing Facility and while I hated it at first, those elderly folks are growing on me.  I mean, they aren't all Betty White, but I've grown quite attached to my current and former clients. 

I really want to try working in a hospital so I can do Modified Barium Swallow Studies.   I would get feed people stuff filled with barium and watch the food and drink go down on an Xray machine.  How cool is that?  

The private clinic setting is more relaxed than a school with way less paperwork.  Home health.   Early Intervention.  Voice work.   Hippotherapy.   Llama Camp.  There are way too many choices  And I want to do them all!  

So now what?

Oh and did I mention that I also want to work overseas?  At the top of my bucket list is living in another country for at least a year.  I want to immerse myself in another culture in a way that vacationing doesn't allow.  I want my kids to expand their horizons.  Speech Language Pathology opens that door to me, as SLPs are in demand most everywhere.  From International Schools to DoD schools on overseas military bases to reciprocal agreements between ASHA and their counterparts in other English speaking countries, the opportunities are out there.  I do intend to jump on one of them at some point.

So now what?

Oh and don't think I am done with school!  I have big plans.   First, my BCBA certification so I can learn how better to unlock the magic that is inside the autistic brain.   I have even researched a PhD program in Neuroscience at Georgia State University.      There is so much I don't understand about the brain and my son is my inspiration.  This degree has only whet my appetite for additional learning.    But first, I have a few student loans to pay off.

So now what?

I guess, for now I will just keep on trucking with my last class and my last externship.  I will finish up with this semester on July 25th and start my job on July 29th.  I will complete my Clinical Fellowship Year in 2014.  I will get my ASHA CCC's and become a bonafied Speech Language Pathologist.  I will make an effort to balance my new career with my family.  I will laminate a lot of stuff. I will take a break from reading peer reviewed journal articles for at least 6 months. I will take my kids to Walt Disney World for putting up with a stressed out mom for the last 4 years.  I will start contributing to my retirement again.  

Oh yeah, and I will have fun.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Professional Issues Class Post 9: Bootcamp

The assignment: Our Web 10 students are coming to Bootcamp next week.  Think back to that time for you.  How did it or didn't it shape you?  Residential or campus students don't have an intensive training period like that. Is that good? Are there some aspects to intense clinical training that are better?  Do you think that you might have learned as much or more throughout the process had you been a traditional student?

My masters degree program is comprised of three parts.  All of the coursework is done online, via live Abode Connect chats with the professors and my classmates.    The second part is an in person, 6 week "Bootcamp" at Western KY University in Bowling Green, KY where we worked in their Communication Disorders Clinic seeing clients.  The third part (that happens while we are still taking classes) is the 3 local externships that we secure ourselves and attend for 40 days each, under the supervision of an ASHA certified SLP.   

Bootcamp kind of served as that segue between being a classroom student and a "practicing in the real world" student.    The name is apt, because we were all thrown together onto a team, from far corners of the earth (no really, someone came from Morocco), with no idea what we were doing for the most part and all came out of it changed.  

Our supervisors did have better "personal space" skills.

For me, it was also the first time I had been away from my home & family for such a long time.   I had to leave my kids behind, with my husband and the babysitter responsible for everything from breakfast to bedtime, hair brushing to sunscreen application, endless My Little Pony marathons to endless sibling bickering.  Yup.  It might as well have been a spa vacation!

OK, so maybe I haven't had too many real spa vacations.
I lived in a studio hotel apartment, got to wake up and get ONLY ONE person ready for the day.    I came home to a quiet room that was in the exact state in which I left it.  I went out every Thursday night with my friends for drinks and dinner.   We hiked the caves, we formed our own Hotel HotTub Club, we shared meals and lots of laughs.  It was amazing!  

Oh yeah, I did learn some stuff about speech therapy, as well.  

Sadly, Bill and Tom's conversations seemed to go nowhere.
In that short month, we had to review files, create lesson plans, write up daily SOAP notes, prepare behavioral management tools, familiarize ourselves with assessments, work in teams, work in pairs, track down our supervisors for feedback, interact with parents...oh yeah, and hang out in a room with a kid for 45 minutes while being observed through one way glass and attempting to "therapize" said child!   Actually, the kids were the least scary part of the process. 

What it feels like to be watched behind one way glass.
SLP students at a traditional graduate program will pick up 1 or 2 clients over the course of an entire semester.   There are some pros to the intensive immersion program. With Bootcamp, we were constantly under pressures of deadlines for lesson plans and treatment summaries and assessment reports.    With only 3 clients (2 of which had both group and individual therapy), I felt like I was always running around, prepping or writing paperwork.   I wondered how on earth I would manage a caseload of 50!   I didn't have the time or resources to print ideas of Pinterest, so I had to learn quickly how to use what we had in the clinic to make the most of my therapy sessions.   I had to chase down supervisors to answer questions, which I have learned is very typical of the real world.  I would rush around behind the scenes getting ready and then appear composed when I walked out that door to meet my client.  When taking over a client for a classmate, I sometimes ended up with back to back to back sessions, so I had to plan early for the entire morning.    Sometimes I desperately needed blue construction paper and all we had was green, so I had to switch gears and change my craft from the ocean to a tree!  It was crazy, hectic and busy, but very much like the average day of an SLP. 

However, one major con to the intensive program is that we didn't really get to see much change over the course of the month.   We were just finishing up treatment plans when we needed to start working on our final summaries.  For one child, it took the whole month to get through a PLS-5 assessment (and the language sample, oral exam, hearing screen, etc) and I had no chance to work on the goals I had to write for him.    Bummer, dude!

I can't say I was totally prepared for my first externship.   First of all, each setting (I have done a public elementary school, a private speech clinic and a skilled nursing facility) has its own guidelines for paperwork, lesson planning and client contact.   Each setting has access to different materials and requires different levels of planning and creativity.   It's really been in that externship process that I have found myself as an SLP.  But I don't think a traditional campus clinic setting would have been much different.    It's really merely a taste of what's to come.  

I walked out of the Bootcamp experience like a person who just jumped into a freezing cold pool.  Shell shocked, wondering what just happened and a little embarrassed at the end results.   But some of those big hurdles had been talking to parents, meeting a kid for the first time, overcoming a child's reluctance to speak, working with a nonverbal child.  Which gave me the confidence to jump over more hurdles in future settings. 

Or trip over the hurdles. 
Of course, now that I am externing all day and coming home to a messy house, loud kids, an empty fridge, piles of laundry and a profound lack of a hot tub...I am definitely missing Bootcamp!   

Monday, June 17, 2013

Professional Issues Class Post 8: Social Media

The assignment:  Discuss the role of social media in your education.  Then talk about how (if?) you anticipate using it professionally.  Are there more disadvantages or advantages? What are the cautions for you, your clients, and the professions?

Facebook.  What is that?  Oh, yes.  It's that social media site that represents the downfall of society.  The scapegoat of the everything that is wrong with America and beyond.   Facebook is why children can't multiply, why we are obese, why men throw clothes on the floor next to the hamper and no one writes Thank You letters anymore.  I also have it on pretty good authority that Mark Zuckerburg secretly runs the TSA.  

Ok, so I may be exaggerating a wee bit.   Zuckerburg only runs the IRS.   But really, a google search of "facebook is bad" returns over 3.8 million hits from sites as varied as Cosmopolitan to US News & World Report to WebMD and a myriad of techie and parenting sites.  

If the sarcasm wasn't patently obvious, I love Facebook.   It allows me to reconnect with old friends, stay connected with new friends, learn what kid-friendly events are happening in my town, read funny blog posts written by fellow frazzled special needs parents and has allowed me to form a bond with my fellow distance learning classmates, despite us being flung to all corners of the US.  I feel so much closer to my classmates in this current online program than I did to most of the people I sat next to in a traditional setting the first time through college in the early 90's.   

Of course, I am a little nervous about entering a job in a public school setting and worrying about whether I can still drunk-post from the karaoke bar without fearing a loss of my job.  On one hand, I have been told to just avoid accepting coworkers as FB friends and yet on the other hand, I have been told that there are no privacy settings that can keep someone away from your info if they really want to see it.   

Sharing some of the gritty details of my life is what allows me to connect with others.   Sometimes being a stay at home mom, a special needs mom, a student in a distance education...can be lonely.   As an extrovert, I crave contact with others and social media allows that.  I share about a bad day with the kids, other moms commiserate, we laugh, we cry and we keep on trucking and sharing funny pictures like this:

So I have not yet decided how I will handle my potential for over-share on Facebook once I am gainfully employed.  I predict references to vodka will reduce by 79%.

I suppose I could switch to LinkedIn and be all professional-like.  But LinkedIn is kinda boring.    It seems to be all resumes and recruiters.    Which is great if you're job hunting, but not what I am looking for in day to day online camaraderie.

I suppose I could finally learn how to Twit, er rather Tweet or whatever they do on Twitter that includes all those ###'s.     Those SLPeeps looked like a really fun group at the 2012 ASHA Conference.  They even did a Flashmob!

I do know that I will not give up on Pinterest.  Pinterest single handedly got me through my first two internships with great therapy ideas that kept me laminating stuff late into the evening.     I appreciate all of the SLP's who are out there blogging and sharing ideas, and putting documents up on Teachers Pay Teachers for download.     Maybe one day, this blog will serve as a place for me to share ideas and tools, so that I can pay it forward a bit.  

Hopefully the Facebook group that my classmates and I have been posting on together for 2 years now will stay active and we can support each other as we enter the "real world".   I am sure not having deadlines and group projects to keep up with on a regular basis will slow the activity down a bit.    But in the end, I am thankful for all of the amazing ways that social media makes this world a little friendlier, a little smaller and a lot more colorful. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Professional Issues Class Post 7: Counseling

The assignment:  Counseling is a critical part of the SLP’s scope of practice but not a large part of the curriculum. Consequently, many of us are not comfortable with this topic. Why is that and what can you do to feel comfortable with the interpersonal aspects of the profession?  Should the department and/or ASHA focus more on this topic?  If so, how?

Speech Language Pathology is a very inter-personal career.   As SLPs, we don't just jump in and start working on that stutter or the lisp or the swallowing challenges brought on by a stroke.  We have to consider the entire "package" that contains the stutter, lisp and swallowing problem.   That package is a human being with social, emotional and cognitive needs.  

  • An adolescent girl who is falling behind in her class academically because she has an auditory processing disorder. 
  • A retired teacher in the early stages of Alzheimer's. 
  • A middle aged woman who attended a weekly coffee klatch with her friends, but can no longer eat safely after her throat cancer treatment.  
  • A 10 year old boy with Asperger's who wants desperately to make friends but cannot.  
  • A 2nd grader who is being teased because her /r/ distortion makes her "sound like a baby".  
  • A father of 3 who is slowly loosing his ability to speak due to ALS.  
These are just a few examples of situations in which the SLP may be called upon to provide more than just speech/language/swallowing therapy. 

But do we need additional classes or training to handle this?  I don't think so.  I think this profession, like nursing and social work and other "caring" professions, attracts people who bring a level of compassion and understanding to the table already.    Or in other words, if you don't have those skills, no class on earth is going to be able to teach them to you.   Furthermore, if you don't have the ability to empathize with your clients and see the bigger picture, then you wont last long in this business!   

I also don't think it's rocket science.  It comes down to Respect and Kindness. 

Every client, as well as every parent or loved one of that client, deserves our respect.  We should never look at this person in front of us as "the stutterer" or "the biter" or the "grumpy old man" but rather maintain their humanity in everything we do.   

Kindness, in my opinion, just means being nice.  For the sake of being nice.   

I would hope that if I ever found myself lacking in these two areas, that I would reassess my current job and decide if I am in the right place for me at that time.   I understand that while it sounds simple to break it down to two words, it will not always be easy.    We are all human and get affected by stress, deadlines, Seasonal Affective Disorder and IEP season.  And if I falter in giving my clients the best care possible, I hope those around me can send a little Kindness and Respect my way.   I promise to pay it back!