Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easter Egg Hunt Fun

We love those plastic Easter eggs at The Speech House.  There is not a more versatile and inexpensive therapy tool to be found!  I have been known to pull them out anytime during the year for a quick and fun therapy lesson.  Most of my ideas are pretty intuitive to anyone who has worked as an SLP for awhile.  But, if you are new, or a parent, who needs some ideas to get you started, here are a few ways to use them:

1. Classic Easter Egg hunt:  Fill eggs with candy, small toys, stickers, etc.  Hide them and have clients find them.  When it is time to open them, require a speech or language target such as a carrier phrase or sentence.  If working on /f/ sound, it could be, "I found a blue egg."  You can figure out a phrase for any target to require articulating prior to opening the egg. 

2.  Fill the eggs with small toys or pictures that represent speech targets: /b/ - bee, ball, baby, bug, bell, bow, etc.  After eggs are collected, open them up and tell what was found inside, make sentences with the targets, tell something about the item (to make a language task). 

3.  Get duplicates of all kinds of decorated eggs and work on matching "same" eggs.

4.  Have a variety of eggs to work on descriptive vocabulary.  I have eggs that are shiny, sparkly, pearly, spotted, striped, flowery, small, medium, large, etc.  I will ask the child to give me a sparkly orange egg and I will then fill it and put in the basket (receptive language).  Or I will have the child tell me which egg to choose (expressive language).

5.  I will hide the eggs completely out of sight and the child will have to follow my directions to find them.  This is especially good for working on positional concepts:  Look "behind" the desk, or "under" the pillow, or "between" the desk and the file cabinet...

6.  Play "hot" & "cold" to teach an abstract way of finding eggs.

7.  For social skills work, play "follow my eye gaze to find the hidden egg". 

8.  For older children, have "treasure hunts".  Follow clues to figure out where clues are hidden.  You can use riddles or descriptions:  "I am hiding in a dark and cold place.  The light comes on when you open the door.  I am beside some milk." (Refrigerator)

9.  For Social Groups, have the group work together to decipher the clues or have one child find one part of the clue and then they have to share their clues to figure out the location of the egg cache.  One way to do this is to write or draw the final location on tagboard, cut up into puzzle pieces and have each child earn a piece of the puzzle.

10.  For higher level students, let them figure out hiding places for eggs.  Then they have to write their own clues.  This can be tricky for some kids because they may have trouble with being too concrete or being too vague with their clues. 

I will add more ideas as they come to mind.  Readers please share your ideas too by adding them in the comments section.  I know there are many other ideas out there!

At The Speech House we are planning on having lots of egg hunts next week.  Since it is usually more fun to do in groups, we plan on having each therapist bring her client together with other clients to join in small hunts outside. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

ST & Games: Cadoo by Cranium

Good old fashioned board games are excellent speech therapy tools. They can target many language and processing skills, they promote communiciation between players (unlike video games), and they add an element of FUN to the hard work of remediating speech and language deficits. Over the next few posts, I will be discussing a few of my favorites.

A good rule of thumb when using board game is to "adapt" the game to the child. Simplify game play or rules as needed. Quicken the pace of the game before they tire of it. Assist the child whenever necessary to ensure success. Do Not le...t the child win everytime (tread carefully here because the goal is fun but we do not want to create a monster that meltdowns as soon as someone else pulls ahead...little doses of reality sprinkled in sparingly...)

Cranium games are AWESOME! Cadoo is geared toward children aged 7+. I always recognized the language development connection but there is also value in this game for children with Autism spectrum disorders, especially high functioning Autism or Asperger's. These children often have diffiiculty with inflexible thinking, pretend play skills, sensory issues (clay sculpting), processing skills that require thinking outside of the box, etc. This game taps into social skills development in the simple interaction of game playing: turn taking, reading and understanding directions, reasoning strategies for winning, blocking the opponent, and the use of the sand timer (which you may need to play without at first) exercises the childs ability to work on a deadline (instead of being a perfectionist) and to deal with anxiety. The specific skills addressed with the card decks are addressed below.

Double Meanie cards: This task exercises flexibility in thinking by helping the child realize that a word can have more than one meaning.
Think of word that means both things:
   - The outside covering of a tree trunk.
   - The sound a dog makes.
The child uses red glasses to read the hidden answer: "Bark"

ACE OBSERVER:  Cards contain a close-up picture such as the #2 on a yellow pencil.  The child must tell what it is a part of. Although children with Autism disorders have stronger visual skills they often have difficulty with processing partial information; abstract ideas rather than concrete ideas and understanding inference.

CODE CRACKER: Another task for processing inference. Card contains a picture code such as an EYE + 2  Drinking GLASSES = "eye glasses".  This task can be difficult for a concrete thinker.
FAST FIND: Find 2 items within the minute: something shiny and something that starts with "C". Again a processing activity that requires quick thinking and looking around the environment and noticing specific items.
CAMEO: These cards require the player to act out (pretend / conceptual play) an item or activity. The child has to work to develop these skills so the other player can successfully guess and they also have the opportunity to observe the other players and learn how to clarify their own portrayals.

CLOODLE: Draw a picture for the other player to guess within one minute...use of the timer requires the child to move beyond the need of perfectionism (no time to erase and redraw). This may too difficult at first so may need to play without the timer. Drawing is also another task of conceptualizing something concrete (abstract representations through art).

SCULPTURADES: Using clay to form the object on the card. Once again, like Cloodle, a task of conceptualization. It also has a sensory processing component in handling the clay.

Playing this game with a child with a language disorder can be done with the game as a whole or you can pick specific cards to work on each skill at a time and then later combine the cards to work with changing requirements. For the children with Autism Disorders, I recommend addressing one skill at a time because each skill set will likely require much effort game play should always be fun and not overly effortful. If the child is learning while having fun, then the task is a success!

For more games on my favorites list go here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Information Bonanza or Information Overload?

Photo credit: English harmony

I love, love, love all the info available on the internet, blogs, Pinterest.... When I created my Facebook page about 2 years ago I was being innovative (I thought).  On my business page I did not want to get into the ethical quandry created by posting pics of clients on the web... not a safe place for that kind of thing.  Since I have for years been building my favorites pages with files (Literature, Autism, Apraxia, Articulation), I had bookmarked oodles and oodles of reference materials.  I lost lots of it over the years when my computers would melt down.  As I tried to figure out what in the world Facebook was good for, I noticed the photos files.  Being a highly visual person and loving to use books in therapy, I decided to use the photos sections to build up a visual reference file of favorite resources.  So I began googling book images, saving them to my computer pic files, uploading them to Facebook albums, and attaching links to online resources in the "comments" boxes below the pics.  Hence my own early version of "Pinterest".  (Unfortunately Pinterest does not allow link backs to Facebook so I cannot share these resources.  But, I think I will start blogging on each book or group of books so that my links and mined resources can be shared on Pinterest.  I want to be a contributor not just a taker.) Now I did this solely for my own personal use.  The benefits of this were multi-fold: I could work on this in the evenings as sort of a relaxation activity and I could go into the office and pull up my Facebook page from any computer in the building and instantly see and access my resources.  Those of you my age, or close to it, have (and probably still have) file cabinets full of old files and copies of resources, not to mention notebooks stuffed to the gills with worksheets and info.  How much nicer is this to click a button, find a link, and print the activity.  The only caveat seems to be the death of links; so maybe I still make hard copies and file away things I truly love, but I am also learning to save them on my hard drive and to back up my computer regularly. 

Unlike Al Gore and the internet, I do not claim to have invented Pinterest.  I was tentative about Pinterest at first glance and played around with it.  But as the popularity of Pinterest has exploded so have the beneficial resources.  It is like having an entire therapy supply store at your fingertips.  Tons of activities, ideas, information.  But to one as myself it is also a littly dizzying.  I am finding myself reeling at "too much" info.  I am repinning so many items that I am constantly having to subcategorize my boards to keep them manageable.  So how to keep sane  and from drowning in this wealth of info?  Here are a few of the things I am doing. (Realize that I am 50 years old, running a business, keeping a busy caseload of clients, raising young adults, dealing with aged parents... my brain cells are already overtaxed and not as flexible as they once were.  So, many of you reading this may be thinking, "What is she talking about, overload?" If so, you can skip this blog post.)

1.  I peruse Pinterest at least once a day, for a few minutes, to see what is new (there is always something great).   I "follow" people's pages that I find interesting, not their entire site. PediaStaff (I always want to call them Pedialyte) is a must as those dear people are tireless and do most of the work of finding great resources for the rest of us. "Thank you!"

2. PediaStaff has some amazing resources boards.  Instead of pinning each item I like (which would be overwhelming and make it impossible to quickly find specific things). I pin entire boards to my appropriate board.  They will often do this for you and you simply have to repin the link.  If you find an entire board of theirs or someone else's, here is how to do it:  Click repin on one of the pics. Save your pin.  Open the link to their entire board and highlight & copy the url.  Open your saved pin, hit edit pin, paste the url into the link window.  Save. Voila! You now have pinned the whole board.  The beauty of it is that as new items are added to their board, your link back always includes all of the great new info.  I especially like doing this with PediaStaff's boards that have picture prompts for problem solving, verbs, etc.

3. For those of you who have your own websites or blogs, do not forget to occassionally pin some of your own materials to Pinterest.  This creates more traffic to your sites.  It also opens up new resources to peruse.  If I click to see who repinned my pin and see their board has an interesting title, I will check out their board too and usually find new pins that I love.

4.  A no brainer tip is to pin the most interesting picture you can find and to rewrite the pin description to make it relevant to your needs.  I often leave what the pinner wrote and add my own words at the top.  This way when I go to find a pin to meet a therapy need (or personal interest), my description is relevant to the reason I pinned it.

Happy pinning and Pinterest management to you all.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Break Rejuvenation

Our office was closed for Spring Break last week.  Some may shake their heads at the idea of closing a private practice office during a school holiday.  But, I do not believe we all have to operate the same way.  I have made a conscious decision to keep my practice small and personable.  That decision is based on the fact that I only want to "bite off what I am able to chew."  Sometimes I do wish I were "SuperWoman" and able to do it all, but I am not.  I accept my limitations. 

I have worked in larger facilities and seen how easy it is to become impersonable, focused on "productivity", and burnt-out.  My ideals for private practice were the opposite.  I am "human" though and I do get stessed about income, paying the bills, and I even tend to get a little jealous when I see other practices surpassing mine.  When I become cognizant of these feelings, I know it is time to pause, take a step back, cock my head to one side, and do a quick re-check on my goals:
  • Am I providing high quality services to my clients?
  • Am I working effectively and efficiently?
  • Am I doing ______, in order to be a better therapist or simply to make a name for myself?
  • Do I really want this thing I find myself a bit jealous over?  (Think about what this would involve in the way of work, stress, time, etc.).
  • Am I sacrificing my personal life on the altar of my work?
A word of caution to those who are or want to be in private practice:  Just as in your daily life, be careful not to fall into the trap of competing with or comparing yourself to others.  Instead, know who you are (or what your practice is), what your goals are, and stick to your plan rather than chasing someone else's idea of what you should become, be doing, or how often you should be doing it. 

My sons are 22 and 18 years old.  My youngest is graduating from high school in May.  Last night I was digging through photo boxes (because my albums have only been completed through when they were 6 and 2 years old... because I went into private practice and have had NO time to work on things like that).  As I rummaged through photos looking for the cutest photo of my son for a Senior ad, I was hit by a wave ("tsunami" actually) of emotion.  Where had those years gone?  What I wouldn't give to be able to go back and just have one day with those sweet little babies?  I would appreciate the moments more, I would not sweat the small stuff, I would hold them and hug them and laugh and play...  (I would not expend so much of my energy on work - my work is very important but I do feel that I fretted far too much about it over the years).

I digress too much.  What I am trying to say is... if you want to take Spring Break off, or a day here or there, then do it!   I have found that most of my clients want their breaks off from therapy too.  If you are in private practice, that is the beauty of what we are doing: flexibility.  I find that if I take the time off to rejuvenate and recharge, that just makes me a better therapist the rest of the time.