Tuesday, July 17, 2018 No comments

I love how hands on activities spark engagement in my therapy sessions. Don't get me wrong, I don't go big in every session but when I do, I often find that as engagement goes up, behavior management goes down. I love how escape challenges facilitate cooperative learning (hello social skills) in a structured way as students work together to complete each mission. I couldn't resist taking the fun into my articulation sessions!

Mission One:

The first mission requires them to complete a 9 piece puzzle containing the target phoneme in the initial, medial and final position of words. They give you the flexibility to tailor expectations to your student's level of success (say each word 10x, identify the position within the word, auditory bombardment paired with sound in isolation, etc.). Once they complete the puzzle, the remaining three pieces will determine the first lock code. (Total puzzle pieces: 12)


Mission Two:

In the second mission, the students use the decoder ring to decipher the lock code by spelling it out. Each letter of the alphabet is represented on the decoder ring with a picture containing the target phoneme in either the initial, medial or final position of the word. You may also choose to use the decoder ring for additional therapy activities outside of the Escape the Speech Room Challenge. For example, students could spell their name using the target pictures, spelling/vocabulary words, etc.


Mission Three:
The third mission includes sentences containing words with the target phoneme. Students determine if the statements are TRUE or FALSE to color a grid which will reveal the third lock code. This mission encourages students to practice the target sound at the sentence level. Two different lock codes are provided for this mission for you to choose from.

When the students unlock all three locks, they can then open the toolbox to discover "I Escaped the Speech Room" brag tags (included) or a prize of your choice (not included). 

Materials you will need to purchase separately:
⇨ 3 Three Digit Combination Locks 
(Locks that you can program work best. Links are included for the ones pictured).
⇨ HASP - Allows all three locks to be attached to one toolbox. 
If you prefer, you can add holes to your toolbox or use separate toolboxes.
⇨ Toolbox or container to attach locks to.
I purchased the one that I use at the dollar tree.

★ Lock codes are consistent for each Escape Room Challenge to alleviate the prep of reprogramming locks between groups/phonemes. It also allows missions to be used interchangeably within mixed groups. For example, you may choose to use a different phoneme for each mission.
★ If you prefer to set your own lock codes, an option for you to customize is included. This is not digitally editable but allows you to customize printed missions.

If you would like to try more Escape the Speech Room Challenges, you can find more Articulation Challenges here.

I would love to hear what activities your students love! If you try an Escape Room Challenge, let me know how it goes!

P.S. If you are looking for an Escape Room Challenge to teach all about SLP, you may also want to read about one I used for my son's career day in this post.

Why I Follow Teachers on Social Media and I Think You Should Too

Friday, June 1, 2018 No comments

As a school based SLP, I have seen the most growth in my practice as an SLP in the last few years. I attribute a large part of that to insight I have gleamed from teachers that I have "met" online. I know, it sounds crazy. If I were reading this post from another SLP prior to this discovery, I would be skeptical, for sure.

Humor me as we work this out mathematically (gotta add data after all). For the sake of this example, let's just say you see a student 60 minutes per week. Somewhat typical amount for us, right? Well, that means there are 10,020 minutes that we are NOT seeing them each week. How are they spending that time? The school week has approximately 2,100 minutes (based upon a 7 hour school day). Take out 30 minutes out each day for lunch, 30 minutes for specials such as art, music, gym, etc., and don't forget about our 60 min/week for speech and you are left with 1,740 minutes. 1,740 minutes that they are spending with their teacher.  That is 29 times the amount of time that they spend with us each week! Now I realize that there may be additional pull out times thrown in there but wow, that is staggering.

So now what? Well, to best support our students and see the most growth, doesn't it behoove us to take a peek into what those 1,740 minutes may look like? In a perfect world, we would be in and out of classrooms observing, collaborating with teachers from all grade levels and consistently having in depth discussions about every student. In reality though, that would leave us with no time for actual treatment. Please don't misunderstand, you should absolutely be collaborating and having rich discussions with your teacher colleagues within your workplace; however, those discussions and what you learn from them does not have to stop there.

Summer of 2015 opened a whole new world for me as I discovered some amazing teachers on social media. I slowly started to follow a few, then a few more as I found that I learned so much from their insight! I was learning more about both what my students were expected to do but also how I could help them reach said expectations.  Three years later, I find that I am truly a better SLP having learned (and continuing to learn) from these remarkable educators. Instagram has quickly become my favorite platform for following many educators. I particularly love the Instagram Stories feature. I follow a ton of teachers now, but here is a snapshot of some of my favorite accounts (in no particular order) and what I love about them.

Just a Primary Girl - Aly is a first grade teacher and mama to a first grader that receives speech-language services. She adapts many ideas within her classroom to meet the needs of students requiring special education services and offers valuable insight from the other side of the table as a Mom. I love her heart that she wears on her sleeve, her evident passion for education and you will undoubtedly fall in love with her precious son.
Speechie tidbit you may enjoy from Just a Primary Girl: Centers, Organization and Gift Ideas

BabblingAbby - I love following this beautiful teacher's educational and personal journey. Abby also opens her home to you as you get to know her whole family including her daughter who was born premature with medical needs and receives speech therapy. Having met Abby over the summer, I can say that she is just as sweet in "real life".
Speechie tidbit you may enjoy from Babbling Abby: free Literacy Center Posters

Hope King- This girl's room transformations are to die for! Hope and her husband Wade work at the Ron Clark academy and their passion for education is contagious. I love a good room transformation and this girl blows them out of the water!
Speechie Tidbit:  The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King is a great read for any educator, including SLPs! (affiliate link)

Primary Cornerstone - Not only is Kay fun and entertaining, she also offers insight into what it is like to be an English Language Learner growing up. Kay's Instastories are some of my favorites!

MrDtimes3 - Okay, he is just simply hilarious and the fact that he has included his school's SLP in an Instastory from time to time just gives him bonus points in my eyes! You may remember him from the spoof spelling test he gave his students that went viral a couple years back.

Teaching On Less - Kayse is an educator who radiates positivity. I love that about her. She is collaborative by nature and has a fun sense of humor that I enjoy. Her kind hearted spirit will bring a smile to your face.

Luckey Frog - As a parent who was luckey (see what I did there?) enough to have my son in her class, I can attest that Jenny is the real deal. Years later, she is still his favorite teacher. Jenny takes time to invest in developing authentic relationships with her students, even authoring a blog of her summer travels to keep her students learning. I drool just looking at the beautiful hand lettered style  notes that she takes when she attends professional development courses. They definitely put my chicken scratch to shame!

While there are SO MANY other educators that I enjoy following, that should get you started. I'd love to hear who you love to follow. Let me know in the comments below!

Blowing Bubbles for Autism

Thursday, May 31, 2018 No comments

Blowing Bubbles for Autism is one of my all time favorite events of the year. I have organized and participated in Blowing Bubbles for Autism events for well over a decade and let me tell ya- it never disappoints! So what do we do you ask? We blow bubbles. It is as simple and glorious as that. 

Blowing Bubbles for Autism started 15 years ago in NJ with Kyle Mosca and his preschool class. Kyle, like many children both with and without autism, loved bubbles. In fact, as Kyle was learning to verbally communicate, he frequently used bubbles in speech therapy to elicit language. Isabelle Mosca, Kyle's mother and founder of “FACES Autism Support Group”, a Family Support Network for families with children with autism (, had the insightful idea to have Kyle blow bubbles with his preschool class so that they could participate in an enjoyable shared experience. It went over so well that others began to do the same and "Blowing Bubbles 4 Autism" was born. Blowing Bubbles for Autism has grown exponentially every year with tens of thousands of people all over the world now participating! It is held every year in April, Autism Awareness month, fostering acceptance, a sense of community and an awareness for the importance of celebrating diversity.

This year, the entire student body at my elementary school (approx. 700 students) went out to the playground at the same time and blew bubbles across the sky as messages of hope, joy and support for families facing Autism; an opportunity for unity as we embrace one another’s special gifts and work together to face our challenges. Imagine 700+ people blowing bubbles at the same time, the sight of thousands of bubbles and sounds of joy and laughter are nothing short of magical.

Pictured is a staff member's service dog in training as she popped bubbles at last year's event

So how does it work? Each student received their own bubble wand,  purchased with money that students had raised from the morning snack cart program. In the past, I also have received bubbles as a donation from major retailers such as Target, Oriental Trading, or Walmart. The students usually use the wedding sized bubbles and staff members use the large bubble wands to mix it up (there are occasional perks to being grownups after all). 

What is the connection between this event and Autism?

The connection between the event and autism is to raise awareness as well as lend support to families and individuals facing autism by sending them a message that we are all there to support one another. I use this opportunity to send out information to teachers about Autism as well as an opportunity to open dialogue with students about Autism.

Here are some of the video links that I send that many teachers share with their students. I have found that this not only helps individuals with Autism but also helps students who have family members with Autism by increasing awareness of how their life may be affected. 

Just Like You (a favorite of mine, especially for 3rd and up, but is about 20 min. long)

Some books that I offer for the teachers to borrow from me include:

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca is a story about Dr. Temple Grandlin who is well known in the Autism community. Temple has autism and is a very successful scientist. This one would be good for any grade. It has a picture book format and offers additional bibliographic information in the back with a timeline of events. 

Uniquely Wired: A Story About Autism and Its Gifts by Julia Cook discusses Zack's point of view as a bot with Autism.

Adventure to Autism Planet written by Isabelle Mosca when she was in 6th grade. She wrote it about her twin brother Kyle, who inspired the Bubbles for Autism event. Kyle illustrates the book. The story format is geared towards K-3 but being written by a 6th grader makes it applicable for any age. 

(affiliate links included)

The students also created a Bubbles of Kindness Display in the hallway, depicting kind actions that we can take, with one student adding, “Always be kind to everyone. That is what our school is made of.” 

I hope that you are able to experience Blowing Bubbles for Autism. When a large group of people come together to all blow bubbles at the same time, it is breathtaking. Watching as the whole sky fills with bubbles illustrates how powerful it can be to work together. Bubbles are symbols of joy, hope and laughter. They bring people together. When we Blow Bubbles for Autism together, we create a new awareness of families facing autism. 

If you have any questions or need help starting a Bubbles for Autism event near you, let me know!

FACES 4 Autism is a 501 (C) 3 registered non-profit organization comprised of parents, siblings, and professionals who know that awareness is the beginning of action.

5 Ways to Increase Independence and Carryover in Speech Therapy

Saturday, February 3, 2018 No comments

1. Above all else, establish rapport with your students and families. Allow them to see you as a person. Expose not only your strengths but your weaknesses too.

This is pretty self-explanatory but relationships come first, hands down. Let's face it, we work harder for people that we can relate to. You students and families do too. When they think about or talk about you (all positive of course) they are reminded to practice what they are working on.

Students and parents need to trust you to expose their vulnerability but trust takes time. Start building those relationships from Day 1. Your first contact with the parent should be a positive one.

When you know your students, you can find examples that they can personally relate to which makes learning more salient. While you're at it, establish rapport with the general student population too. Eliminate the mystery! Read about one way I did so here.

Whether you space is a closet or classroom, make your space warm and welcoming, a space kids WANT to be. However, remember that YOU and YOUR STUDENTS are the most important aspect of that room.


2) Ensure that your students are aware of what specific goals they are targeting in speech, not only at the beginning of the year but throughout the year as well.

My articulation students could typically tell you what their goals or "their sounds" (as they would say) were because it was more concrete. My students targeting language goals on the other hand? I'd have some that would still say a sound for themselves, even if we had gone over their goals what seemed like 852 times. When I took a step back, I realized that we are great at providing visuals within therapy sessions, so why not offer visuals as to why they are in speech-language in the first place? I started using goal tags last year (it only took me 15 years to have that aha moment) and I haven't looked back. You can read more about how/why here.

3) Students should be active participants in the therapy process.

Many students have limited control over many of the variables in their lives so offering controlled choices helps make them feel like they are part of the process. Empower them. You create mini-SLPs that will come up with ways to practice their goals outside of speech therapy too which facilitates that independence and carryover. Not to mention, students come up with some innovative ideas that you may find yourself incorporating into other groups as well!

 Increase Goal Awareness and Accountability

4) Use speech centers to support skills and activities you have previously introduced to facilitate independence in a gradual way.

While small group instruction allows us to teach students new skills while giving them more opportunities, our students inadvertently become dependent upon us, creating a learned helplessness in a sense. Speech centers facilitate independence using a natural progression by allowing students to practice their target skill with increased independence in a familiar environment. 

Don't feel intimidated by the idea of centers. More than likely, you can adapt materials you already have that do not require your direct support. You may use an iPad app for one center and an activity you have previously introduced in another. Some of my favorite materials to use during centers include Articulation Sticks, Language Sticks, Pizza Perfect Speecheria, Articulation Mirror Station, and a Literacy Sensory Bin.

 Speech Centers

5) Get out of your speech room! Take a "field trip" through the hallway, participate in school activities, make yourself visible.

Students travel through the school environment daily yet they may only be in your room 1-2 times per week. Spark their thoughts when they aren’t with you! 

Travel through hallway, visit playground, etc. Search for articulation targets or Language Concepts. Bring along clipboards or take photos to add to Seesaw and suddenly the trip feels official.

Are you a one of the luck winners with lunch duty? Whether we should have duties is a conversation for another day but if you do have one, why not make the best of it? While you are there, can you incorporate activities for student body that facilitate communication? During lunch duty this year, we started playing the age old "Categories Game" where you name a category and go around until someone can't think of a member of that category. For us, the winner of each round, earned a spot at the "VIP Table" the next day. The VIP Table is simply a table with a VIP signed displayed and a deck of "Would You Rather" cards. Winners get to choose a friend to join them at the VIP table the following day. It is simple and doesn't cost anything but man is it a motivator! We won't tell them that they are learning in the process. Teehee.

SLP Valentine's Day Hop

It's time to add five more FREEBIES to your collection! 

Frankie's back with some Valentine treats! We sang our way through Halloween with the #SLPHalloweenHop and jingled our way through the #SLPChristmasHop so it only seemed fair to add some more love to your collection with the #SLPValentineHop.

 SLP Valentine Hop

To collect your collaborative freebies, that's right they work together, search #SLPValentineHop on Teachers Pay Teachers or click on the links below!

The Pedi Speechie starts us off with a Frankie song book, sung to the tune of Wheels on the Bus.

Sparklle SLP added story and song visuals for sequencing, smash mats, a game board and sentence flips! Wow! 

Sparklle SLP Valentine's Day Hop Freebie

Speech Wonderland adds Category goodies and blank Valentine's Day cards. Her freebie includes a colorful categories booklet, categories game board, heart category match and blank Valentine's Day cards!

 Speech Wonderland Valentine's Day Hop Freebie

Wait, there's more!! Speech Owl adds phonemic awareness activities that are simply adorable.

 Speech Owl Valentine's Day Hop Freebie

Finally, hop on over to SLPTalk with Desiree, where I added a Wh- Questions activity to the mix with another interactive Wh- Questions board.

SLPTalk Valentine's Day Hop Freebie

We hope that you enjoy all of the Valentine's Day fun that Frankie brings to your speech therapy sessions! 

Hoppy Valentine's Day!

P.S. If you missed out on the #SLPHalloweenHop or #SLPChristmasHop, you can still find them by searching on Teachers Pay Teachers.