Ever feel like you are stuck using the same materials again and again? These speech and language resources are perfect for your next therapy session. Some of my best selling and highest rated activities! No… More
Growing up I never knew exactly what I wanted to be. A baker, a teacher, a dancer, even a professional potato peeler on a Navy ship (that is 100% true). After many years of searching I landed on a Speech Language Pathologist. How do you go from potato peeler to SLP? This is that story.
Now as a kid I was always trying new things. Technology? Sure! Mission work? I got you. 4-H President? You’re talking to her. But that made choosing my “thing” very hard.
In high school I started to narrow down my choices, and after having a fantastic time doing labs in Chemistry I thought I had found it. I would spend my free time in study hall going down to set up labs for other classes. Doing experiments were like the creative side of me peaking through, while to math spoke to my analytic side. I was going to be a Chemistry High School Teacher.
I applied to several school for undergrad, but I knew there really was only one place I wanted to be. Ball State University. The Harvard of the Midwest (totally joking). I had found the school after my mom had signed me up for a two week summer architecture program there in high school. Yes… landscape design was on my shortlist for awhile. Getting back on track, I was so excited to start at BSU, and study chemistry secondary education.
Well it wasn’t very long after I had moved in to the dorms and started classes that I realized that chemistry was not for me. The physics classes and calculus classes were not enjoyable at all, and I felt way over my head. The only saving grace my first semester was my lab class. I loved going back to the hands on learning.
The amount of time that I wanted to attend my classes and do my homework were quickly declining. By Thanksgiving break I knew I had to figure something else out. It was hard for me to admit that I needed a change. I told everyone I was going to be a Chemistry Teacher what would they think? Looking back now I am so glad I made the switch, and I now realize no one will care if you change your mind, you’re still learning!
Now I am a huge TV junkie and I had been binge watching all of “Switched at Birth”. If you haven’t seen the show it’s about two girls switched at birth, one of which is deaf. I was interested in the ASL culture of the show and wanted to know more. Talking with my parents over Thanksgiving break, I decided to share my newest interest. Ball State had a deaf education program which I thought would be a perfect carryover from chemistry education. Although that path was on my list to consider, my parents brought of speech language pathology as a path in life. At the time I had heard a couple girls in my dorm were doing that major, but honestly I didn’t know much about it.
Doing some research I came to find the large scope and range of services that an SLP can provide services. SLPs can work in schools, hospitals, private practice, and more! It allowed me to pull in all of my different interests, and allow myself to branch off if I ever need a change. All of these things really spoke to me.
So I quickly changed my major and classes for second semester. I knew I would need to pull up my poor grades from first semester if I ever had any chance of getting into grad school… But what would that experience hold in store for me?
Part 2 coming soon…
I’m a school SLP.
That means that I focus what I learned in graduate school on children from ages 3-21 with a wide range of abilities. I can help your child who has trouble with his “s” sound. That also means that I can help the student who stutters while presenting in front of the class. That student who is nonverbal? Yes, they are on my caseload too. Don’t forget about the student who has language difficulties, and sometimes answers questions with the wrong ‘wh’ question. Or how about the student with autism that keeps getting in fights because they have difficulty interpreting social situations? I am on their team too.
Some students you may not realize that I also see could be the child who just had their cleft lip repaired. The student with a life long syndrome that affects their ability to swallow, and eat at lunch with their peers. The student who was in a car accident, and now has a Traumatic Brain Injury affecting their speech.
You may see us playing games in the room, or see us walking around school with one student and think it’s easy. I’m a professional who is constantly evaluating and reassessing my students so they get the best therapies possible.
School SLPs have to ride this fine line between the school and medical communities. What I say next is not everyone, but it’s enough to be said. We are often alone (or greatly outnumbered) in our school districts. Most teachers, staff, and administrators don’t fully grasp our scope of practice. Medical SLPs, OTs, PTs, and doctors don’t always think our evaluations, recommendations, or therapy practices to be up to their level. The letters after my name are the same whether I work in a school or hospital. School SLPs play games, love hands on activities, and participate in school spirit days that to some in the medical community may diminish our professionalism in their eyes. It’s difficult to for me to find my place, and that’s not something that grad school prepared me for. I think this feeling is why school SLPs feel so connected to each other via social media.
I love puns, bright colored classrooms, silly sock days, classroom parties, eating school lunch with my students, and working with teachers, paraprofessionals, nurses, and counselors to help our students.
We (myself included) need to help educate both the school and medical communities on the importance behind what we do. Only through this can we better help our students, families, colleagues, and our own importance in serving the school districts. Be that importance show it’s self in salary, supplies, or even a room larger than a janitors closet.
I am a school Speech Language Pathologist.
As we enter the month before most schools start, I began to take sometime to get my list of must have for school next year. My school has not made the decision yet on what we are doing, but I do know that speech during a pandemic is going to have to look a bit different. Here are some of the items I have on my back to school list.
Expectations– Spend the first week of therapy talking about expectations for your speech room. Most years I have done this in bits and pieces, but this year I am going to tackle it hard. Make sure the students know what you expect for them, and have them decided ways they can keep other students safe that use your classroom. Some ideas are showing where the tissues are, using hand sanitizer when you come in and out of the room, staying in your assigned seat, etc.
Clean Me Bucket– I know that I don’t have a ton of time between groups, so I made this Clean Me bucket for when I do have time. Students can put things in here that they have used so I can clean them for other students. You can grab your decal to make your own bucket here.
Dry Erase Markers– Did you know you can write on most tables/desks with dry erase marker and it comes up easily? (Make sure to try it out first.) Draw a square, circle, line boundaries to keep students in their area of the table to reduce the spread of germs. Having students stay in their bubble of the table doesn’t have to be scary for them, but turn it into a game!
Sensory Bottles– Sensory bins are so last year… Just kidding! I will still be using sensory bins, but to start the year I’m using sensory bottles. These can be filled with lots of small objects that you can use to illicit language. Sensory bottles are also a great way to meet sensory seeking behavior needs, while being able to quickly wipe down between students.
Extra Dice– Make sure to have simple things like extra sets of dice so each student can have their own. There are a TON of ways you can use dice, especially with articulation. Give a student a word, have them roll the die, and say and color in the word on a 100 trials sheet the number on the die. You can grab some free 100 trial worksheets here!
Face Mask– As a speech therapist we HAVE to be able to model our mouth for our students. Although it is unclear if school next year will mandate masks, I still purchased myself two masks with a clear window. This will allow my students to see my mouth for a visual model.
No matter what you do, make sure your students know the WHY behind it. Yes, even your preschoolers and other young students who may need reminding. The more communication and explanation, the more seamless your school year will be!
What are some of your tips for next school year?
I want to start off this blog post by saying I do not do teletherapy full time, but I do want to share my background with you. In graduate school I had two clients through teletherapy, ages 9 and 4. I also did my graduate thesis over perceptions of telepractice in the school setting, and I did a poster presentation on this at my state conference. Previously I did VIPKID which teaches Chinese children English over the internet. That is where I learned how to keep students motivated and engaged. If you would like to see some other great SLPs who do this full time check out Lady in the Box, Whimsical SLP, and Stacy Crouse on Instagram or TPT.
Motivation & Engagement
Recently I wrote a post on ways to keep your students engaged during therapy sessions (you can check it out here). I never thought I would have to be writing again so soon on how I do this through teletheraphy. My main go to product? Find A Star (FAS) activities. Not only does it help keep your students motivated, but it also helps keep you on track time wise. Stars are hidden under pictures and numbers. Students must find all 5 stars before the session is over. I normally like to have they choose a number/card every few minutes. I use the pictures on the cards to ask questions, and prompt further language. Students are being rewarded, while still targeting their goals! I let students choose numbers/images based on their ability to stay focused, not on their ability to perform a goal area correctly. This keeps the sessions positive, and the FAS something to look forward to.
Something else I use a lot to get students engaged are props. That can be something that you have already around the house, or something you find on Amazon. My go to props are giant eyes, ears, and microphone that I printed off and laminated. The students usually laugh at the over sized props when I put them on my face. I use them to indicate to students that I need their eyes and ears on me if they are getting distracted. The microphone is perfect for the students who need some prompting to talk. Remember that for most of our students this may be strange to them talking to a computer.
Now this may be different for every person. Make sure that you have a space that you can set aside to do your therapy sessions. Have an old corner of your house that you don’t use? Great! I find it easier, and less stressful, if I have a dedicated space to work at rather than setting up my station everyday. This allows me time to not worry about setting time aside for setting up my work station everyday. Now I understand not everyone can do this, but think outside the box! Finally, use backdrops to your advantage. Maybe put the FAS on the wall behind you as a reminder to keep your students focused. I also have a blanket on my lap as I like often get cold if I am sitting in one place for too long. remember to take breaks, and get up and move around! If you can set up your computer on a platform you can stand at that is even better.
Just because therapy is now done through the computer, that doesn’t mean you can’t still do the things you normally do. If you like doing themes to keep yourself centered (like me) then keep doing that! If you are a bit more individualized, keep doing that! Therapy is as unique as you and me (and that’s ok).
What if your student can’t stay seated? Send them on a scavenger hunt around their house for certain items. If they are a student who will wander off and never return, set a timer for them! You can also do charades with the students, or brain breaks using videos like Go Noodle.
What if your students doesn’t talk? Remember receptive communication and auditory bombardment that we were taught in school? Yes, that is perfect for a time like this! Students may not understand for a little bit that you are the same person asking them to do the same things they do at school. You are no longer in the environment they are use to, you are now inside their homes.
What if I freeze!? That is bound to happen at some point! Have a list of questions you can ask the student. This can make you ready for any situation, and help warm both you and your student up for the day.
Messing Up, Boundaries, & Grace
You are human. You will mess up, and that is okay. It can be a bit stressful knowing that the parent is their while you are doing your sessions. Remember, you are the professional. Trust your schooling, trust your experience, and trust your gut. Your students may run away, or cry, or not talk at all the first few sessions, and that happens! Remember what it is like when you see a new student face to face, that can be hard too. If a parent is trying to take over a session, do not be afraid to ask them for less input during your sessions. That also works in the opposite way, maybe your parents think that teletherapy is free babysitting. If you need a parent to stay in the room, tell them that. Taking out the physical proximity that face to face therapy brings only means you need to increase your communication with the parents. Going from therapy at school, where you see the parents once a year at IEP meetings, to seeing them every week is not only new for you, but also for them. Give yourself grace.
If no one has told you today, thank you for all that you are doing.
Teletherapy Ideas 💡 I wanted to share some of the resources I will be using if my district closes due to COVID-19. My entire store is an additional 20% off until Tuesday 3/17/3030. Please let me know if you have any questions. Grab my Teletherapy Sample Packet here!
Teen Problem Solving & Inferencing Worksheets– This resource can be easily mirrored on your students screen. You can talk through each question, or have them write on the screen. Each senior even comes with a page with word bubbles you can role play with your students.
One Sheet Articulation Activity– This is a big one to target a wide range of speech levels. It takes you from sound to sentence level. Students can mark off each section once completed, and even do the maze themed to the sound!
Articulation Pattern Worksheets– Normally I have students cut and paste the images at the bottom of the page, but this is easily adaptable to teletherapy. Students can read each image aloud, and then draw a line to what the missing image is!
Mega Articulation Coloring Sheet Bundle– This bundle includes 14 different themes to use with your students! Students can say each word and then cross it out of their screen. The bundle also is an easy way to send a packet home for your students who don’t have computer access at home.
Digital Articulation Bundle– This includes 5 click through PDF resources. Depending on the software you use to provide services, students or you can click through each resource. This adds an interactive layer that some of the other resources might not always provide.
Ultimate Speech, Language, Social Skills Bundle– This bundle includes a little bit of something for everyone. Lots of leveled activities that can easily be adapted to teletherapy. The ultimate bundle saves you 30% on 15 activities versus buying each item on it’s own. This bundle is perfect to use as take home packets as well!
Motivation 🎯 We all need a reason to do what we do everyday. Yes, I love my job, but extrinsically the money is what motivates me to come to work on the days I really don’t want to. Now you may be thinking, “Elizabeth, I do it for the happiness it brings me”, and that’s okay too! You getting that intrinsic feeling may be enough, but I know I need a bit more sometimes.
Well, our students aren’t that different! Different students require different levels of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to work hard during therapy. Some students are okay with a good job or thumbs up, but others need a bit more (and that’s ok)! Let’s put ourselves in their shoes… You may be pulling them out or pushing in on a time they don’t really enjoy. You are pushing them to get better at something they struggle with, so they may feel a bit apprehensive to mess up. Not I know that’s not ALL students, but it is human nature to need to be motivated.
These are just some of the ways I am currently motivating my students extrinsically during therapy. Some take some prep, while others are just a Target run away!
Mini Erasers: Small & easy to use. Perfect to put over target sounds, vocabulary words, or even just to have for good behavior. Themed erasers illicit language too! I get mine at Target or you can buy in bulk on their website. I have seen them available at other stores too!
Smash Mat: I get asked a lot about what it is used for, and the answer is anything! Great to pair with mini erasers or play dough to cover pictures. I like to pair them with my sensory bin cards, when they pull that picture it get covered. I have these available with every themed articulation coloring sheet on my TPT!
Popper: Easily themed for units. Students can pop them at picture cards or use it as a reward for so many things done. I have found these at Target sometimes, but Amazon has a large inventory too!
Play-dough: My students can’t get enough of this sensory item! Great for smashing on cards or smash mats. Bonus free time at the end of therapy! I am a stickler with my play-dough though, NO mixing colors. 5 Below has some cheap play-dough tools that I picked up at the start of the year too.
Whatever motivates your students, whether it be words of affirmation, candy, or something above keep it fresh! I would love to hear what you use to motivate your students by commenting below! Also, check out some of the past ways I motivate my students.
With my move to a new district this year also came with me being the only SLP. I was excited to figure out how I wanted to set up screenings that made sense to me. At our district we screen all Kindergarten, 2nd, and 4th grade classes to start the year. Here is what I used to stay organized as I screened about 150 students in one week.
Step 1: Can you hear me now?
Hearing screenings… the one thing we get thrown into. Sometimes the school nurse does them (if this is you I’m jealous), sometimes the SLP gets them. Honestly I don’t mind doing them… if the students can follow directions. I had one student who would tell me I didn’t hear that every time I hit the button, and only when I hit the button… I’m sure there are lots of ways to have students respond, but these are someways I had my students respond to the tones.
￼Raise your hand when you hear the sound.
Touch the ear you hear the sound in.
Give me a high 5 every time you hear something.
Touch a sticker on the table when you hear the sound.
Step 2: What to use as a screener?!
I looked all over the internet and TpT to find a screener that matched my style of screening. I ended up using the Interactive Articulation and Language Screener bundle from The Dabbling Speechie. I loved how it was broken up into grade levels and even came with screening forms. I ended up making my own forms just for how my brain works, but the full color pictures worked great! I now keep both screeners clipped to my cabinet for easy grab and go when I have REDs. I’m
Step 3: Keeping Track of Pass/Monitor/Fail
All this screening ends up leading to something right?! How can you keep all the students in the correct piles to make sure you don’t miss someone?
I used a color coding system for pass, re-screen next year, and fail (refer). Each grade also had their own folders so I can pick them all up at the start of next year. I printed out a class roster so I could also highlight which students I saw and which folder they ended up in. This extra step made double checking that students were receiving the next steps of RtI or referrals much easier.
Step 4: Keep em moving!
Now you may ask how did I get through my students so quickly being that I had several grades to take care of all of my own. Well lucky for me since I am at a smaller school classrooms are rather close to me since I am up near the office. I put a rainbow rug that is usually in my room outside with some quiet books and puzzles for students to work on while they were waiting to be called in. I would have students on a rotation, two on the carpet or one is in my room. Every time a student was done with me I would send them back to the classroom to grab the next student in line. Many of the teachers already have their students numbered which made keeping the students on track easier.￼￼￼
Stickers! Using my special smelly stickers also made it easier for teachers to identify who they had sent to see me and who still needed to see me. Any student loves to get stickers whether they want to admit it or not. Making them smelly stickers is an added bonus!
I hope this helps with your screenings in the future. Please comment below any tips or tricks you have found handy as we know this field isn’t ever a learning process.￼￼
Social skills, my favorite area of being a speech-language pathologist. I never had a client in undergraduate or graduate school who had pragmatic language goals. I feel like it is not even an area that we truly target in our schooling. We are taught about AAC, PECS, autism, but how do we really help these students, and what is our role on the IEP team? I wanted to share some of the main things I do with my students, as I absolutely LOVE this part of my job.
Life Skills Push-in Therapy
This is one of the biggest things that has really helped my students. I push into work experience classes, created social skill advisory periods, and helped co-teach with teachers to assist with high need students. This has increased the carryover for my students, as I can teach them in the moment. Many of my students don’t understand that what they learn in the “speech” room can be carried over to everyday life. To read more on how I started push-in check out my blog post here!
One of the easiest ways you can start with social skill push in is helping with cooking time with your life skills students. I use yourspecialchef.net for visual food directions. If I don’t find something I like, I make my own. You can target functional skills that students will really use.
How To Structure Lessons
When I do push in lessons with a larger group of social skills students, I make sure it is as structured as possible. These students appreciate the fewest unexpected events, so I have lessons set up the same in order for students to focus on our lesson and not a distraction for the day. Each student has a notebook where they take notes. These notes are for students to think about each answer before shouting out. It also allows students to “stretch your brain” as I tell my students, this is to push them past their first answer.
In the middle of my lessons I do brain breaks which you can grab as a freebie on my Tpt. These brain breaks allow us to practice our lesson for the day, whether it be adding to a conversation, body language, or eye contact. Each of my lessons have worksheets, online quizizz (check it out), or board games that go along with the goal of the day. Finally, I give every student a daily job for the month. This allows us to build a strong classroom system, and keep each other accountable for something.
Social Skill Resources
Some of my go to resources and games for social skill lessons! Affiliate links.
If you are going to buy one thing, it has to be this book! Social Thinking Thinksheets for Tweens and Teens was a lifesaver my first year out of graduate school. I now base all of the language I use with my students off of this book. Includes a TON of lessons with matching worksheets. I use these lessons at least twice a month. I even help teachers by providing them the common language I use with my students so they can carry it over to their classrooms.
Sometimes I need a no prep option for my students to work on, and I struggled to find something for older students. So I made these one sheet, no prep pragmatic language worksheets. Students can fill these worksheets out then we can talk about them together. Allows them time to “stretch your brain” before answering. Grab them to target problem solving and inferencing in one worksheet!
What Do You Say… What Do You Do… At School? Social Skills Board Game is geared for younger students, as one of the areas is on the playground, but it can be used with your lower level students. My students skill enjoy playing games, and I love games that also target goals. Students race around the school to collect tokens and answer social skill questions.
“10 Ways” is the perfect social skills app for middle and high school students. There are 9 different topic areas that are targeted with this game. Why do I love this no prep game so much?
Students love the jeopardy style questions. Able to save a game if you don’t get it finished in one session. Multiple students or groups can play. Variety if question types. I’m also lucky enough to have an Apple TV so I can screen cast my iPad for all the students to see.
Some pictures from my lessons!
IEPs. The thing they never really prepare you for in college, but takes up a third of your time. Whether it’s writing goal updates, summarizing present levels, determining minutes, or sitting through heated discussions, IEPs are a fact of life in the SPED world.
In school you were taught how to write goals using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) or ABCD (audience, behavior, condition, duration). You probably even wrote several evaluation reports and SOAP notes. You learned the basic of an IEP and possibly how your role looks in the ideal team. It seemed easy enough.
Well, I quickly learned I was nowhere near as confident or prepared in my early IEPs as I thought I would be. It’s nerve-racking walking into a new school as a CF, and being the expert for the first time on a student you may barely even know. Parents turn to you to answer why progress is or is not being made. Teachers want to know how to help “Johnny” in the classroom. Your principal may be in the room, and you want to appear as if you know what you are doing.
Here’s the big thing… you do know what you are doing. Be confident that you learned something during your 6 years of education. It’s ok not to know the answer, but it is not ok to make up the answer. You can always offer handouts to parents and teachers if they want more information. Slowly you will gain that confidence to speak up for each student. May the paperwork seem like a lot? Yes, but over time you will find a system that works for YOU! You’re going to have that meeting where you second guess your decisions, and other meetings where you are so excited for the student and their progress.
Below are some helpful hints and resources that really set me on the right path. Be confident, you can do this!
- Read the student’s most recent IEP and/or Eval report.
- Set deadlines for yourself ahead of what your district expects.
- Ask your mentor to read over your first few IEP reports.
- Invite your mentor to a few meetings the first semester. It never hurts to have a sidekick! They aren’t there to judge you.
- Bring notes in the meeting. You may blank because of nerves, and this is the main time to express concerns.
- Sign up for Speechy Musings‘ blog to get her bell curve chart. This has helped me on many occasions!
- Start a goal bank of most used goals so you don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel.
Now do I still have IEPs where I don’t know the answer or I’m nervous for? Of course! You will have those difficult meetings, and that’s ok. Will you get forgotten about sometimes since you may be a related area and not primary? Yes, but keep communication between teachers open. Each meeting and report will get easier. Share your newbie IEP tips in the comments!
Most of my middle school speech and language sessions are homework or classwork related. I find myself helping students with topics from longitude and latitude to math proofs to water cycles. As SLPs and teachers we have to remember that these students are still KIDS! Kids love games, and taking sometime to build relationship with them will end up helping our students in the long run. Bonus if the games also target their IEP goals!
Below are my top 5 games I use in therapy or on game days. Do you have a favorite game that didn’t make the list? Comment below. All links are affiliate links.
Bubble Talk is very similar to Apple to Apples, but you use pictures as the prompt. Students take turns being the judge of the captions students decide upon for each picture prompt. It’s perfect for turn taking, conversation level articulation, inferencing, and describing. You can even use these pictures for other therapy sessions as there are 150 colored pictures included. There are a few pictures that people may not be a huge fan of, but I choose the picture for every round. You can use this game for 10 minutes at the end of a session, or make it last the entire time!
Pickles to Penguins
I originally heard about this game from another SLP in my district who works with 5th and 6th graders. Honestly I think you can use it with any grade, as it is really open ended. The main game is all about how you can connect two cards together. You always have a main card in the center, and you try to get rid of your cards by connecting them to the card in the center. I end up making up my own rules to target my students’ goals for the day. PERFECT for EET goals or expanding MLU as students have to explain how the two cards are similar. There are other ways to play the game that are included in the rules. Most of the pictures are real pictures, and even the ones that are animate do not look “childish”. I find that my older students will not participate in games if they feel it is young for them. You get hundreds of picture cards which can be used for therapy too. For it’s price you could just use the cards as articulation cards!
Do you need a new vocabulary or inferencing game? Then you need to grab Blurt! It has two different levels of cards which are perfect for a variety of ages and abilities. Students read hints for the vocabulary word the other student identifies the vocabulary word. I think what makes this game different than other games like this, are the two levels of cards. Blurt! game does not take up a lot of space either, and can easily store in your therapy bag for the day! It simple and easy to play. Perfect for fun Friday.
This game is great for your larger groups, as the more people you have playing, the more fun it gets! I use this with my push in social skill groups to show perspective. Each round lasts about 10 minutes. Every person is given something to draw on their notepad in dry erase marker. Once you draw the word you pass it onto the next person and they guess what it is. From there you pass it onto the next person who draws what the guess is. This continues on until the notepad returns to the first person. Telestrations is like a drawn version of telephone. When you are done you can go back through and see how the picture was passed on correctly or incorrectly and exactly how the breakdown occurred. I enjoy this because sometimes my students with social language deficits need to see how things occur, and not just be told. **Also a fun game to play with family and friends!
This game is a classic, but my students LOVE to play it. I can target goals from articulation to categories, to social skills all with this one game. I put a twist on mine, and have students only focus on one category at a time with one letter. This allows the game to slow down a bit, and for a deeper conversation to be had about each category. In a given session we may only get through three categories, but we go very in depth. I always tell my students to “stretch their brain” to push past the first few things they know. Giving them time to focus on one category at a time allows them to build up the confidence that they do know, or know more than they think, when just given a bit of extra time.