CRAZY Hair Day

Monday, October 15, 2018 2 comments

Next time you need a language sample, get one on Crazy Hair Day. It’s a conversation starter, that’s for sure! 🤣 You can address sequencing, problem solving, inferencing... you name it! I’m sure it comes as no shock to you that my concrete thinkers were surprised that it wasn’t real soda. 

Thank goodness I had some fabulous helpers to help get this to actually work. There may have been a teacher using a glue gun while the bottle was on my head... just sayin’. 

It was the teacher version of a trust fall.

So how did we do it? And I really do mean WE, this was a group effort after all.

1. Cut a hole in the side of an empty 20 oz. soda bottle that is big enough for your ponytail to fit through.

2. I cut 2 slits in the soda bottle and then slid a plastic headband through the slits. You can adhere the bottle to your head with bobby pins instead but the head band felt more secure. 

3. Using scissors, cut two slits in a solo cup to feed the headband through. This will sit on the side of your head.

4. Put your hair in a high side pony tail with the pony tail on the side of the bottle with the hole.

5. Put on the headband with the bottle and cup attached. Twist your pony tail and feed it in through the hole in the bottle and out the top. This is where those extra hands really come in handy. We had to hot glue the bottle to the headband as well to position it the way we wanted it but I think that may have been because I cut too big of a hole in the bottle so it wasn't snug.

6. Place the end of your pony tail into the solo cup so it looks like it is pouring out of the bottle.


Quick Tip: Using Visuals with Puzzles

⭐️Quick tip⭐️
When you use Hide & Seek puzzles, label the back of the puzzle piece with the hidden item (in this case, animal). It gives you the opportunity for matching, generalization of vocabulary to different photos/representations of the same item, and increases opportunities for repetition. 🙌🏼

I used the pictured farm puzzle paired with visuals to complete a cloze sentence, expand MLU, ask questions, answer questions, and target noun-verb agreement with singular/plural nouns.

Some of you have expressed interest in a copy of the visuals that I used, so I added them to my FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY. To access this freebie and others, simply subscribe to my newsletter and you’ll receive the link and password. 


Tuesday, September 4, 2018 1 comment

How to Increase Parent Engagement Using Seesaw

I am thrilled with what Seesaw adds to my practice as a speech-language pathologist! If you are new to Seesaw, it is a FREE app that allows you to create a digital portfolio of your students’ work that you can access through an iPad, android tablet or computer. I have been using Seesaw consistently for about 2 years now.  Let me share with you a few ways that I have used it and the benefits that I have seen. Did I mention that it is free?!?! 

{Note: Seesaw also has a paid version but all of the benefits contained within this post can be accessed through the free version}.

How does Seesaw increase parent involvement?

To give you a little background history, I work in a school that is comprised of students from a low socioeconomic background. About a third of our students are also English Language Learners. Historically, this can be difficult for parent communication with both the language barrier and families who are working really hard to get their daily needs met. Seesaw has been a game changer for me. 

A few years back, I attended a session on Cultural Poverty by Celeste Roseberry (Side note: If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak, run. Don’t walk. It’s worth it).  In the session, one of the take away points for me was the power of video with families living in poverty. 

In cultural poverty, families live for the moment, not what tomorrow may bring. So, though others may judge a cell phone or smartphone as frivolous spending, families are really trying to make the best of the current moment. 

The parents of the families that I work with often change their phone number as their minutes run out or their plans change so other applications like Remind weren’t a viable option for me. With Seesaw however, they can access their child’s account regardless of their phone number or from the library because it is web based.

How does Seesaw increase communication in the home?

Parents that do not speak English are able to watch a video of their child in speech therapy and gain an understanding on what they do while in school. Yes, there still is the language barrier but it gives our students a frame of reference or visual support to explain to their parent what they did that day at school. That is powerful

Parents love to know that their child is loved, learning and enjoying their time in speech. To see the smile on a parent’s face on conference night after watching their child in action is PRICELESS.

Seesaw also offers parents insight to topics that they may want to discuss or explore further with their child. For example, I used Seesaw in sessions with a student targeting social language goals by showing task cards and having the student record their response. One such task card involved receiving a text from an unknown person asking for the student’s location. Initially, the student was quick to reveal their location. The parent was able to hear us walk through why this is not a safe approach and what the student should do. The student was highly motivated by the “likes” that their parent would give their posts and it opened up a conversation at home that may not have happened otherwise.

How do you get parents involved?

Seesaw provides an individual QRCode that the parent can scan to access their student’s account and “follow” their student. They also offer an email option. I sent home the letter that Seesaw generates explaining Seesaw and the student’s QRCode in the beginning of the year. 

I’ll be honest, just sending home a QR Code didn’t yield a ton of parent participation in my experience but what did was having students excited about their learning as we added more and more to their account. Seesaw offers an option that generates a QRCode to a particular post. If a student was excited about something that they had posted that day, we would simply print out that post with a QRCode that they would take home to share with their parent. BINGO! This worked like a charm!! Not to mention that it opened up the dialogue between parent and child about their day beyond “what did you do at school today”.

How does Seesaw increase student accountability?

Realistically, we know that not every parent is going to check their child’s Seesaw account. In fact, chances are a large majority may not but do not let that stop you

Why, you ask? 

It’s simple. Our students are growing up in a generation intrigued by YouTube sensations and selfies galore. Putting their work out there (even if you wind up being the only one who sees it) adds accountability and motivation. Say you have a student working on descriptive language. The student can describe a topic/picture by either photographing the object/picture and adding an audio description or can video themselves describing it. Watch the student shine and proudly show off all of those awesome language skills they are growing in speech-language!

Baseline anyone? 

Students love to revisit their old posts on their Seesaw timeline. Let students witness their growth and watch them beam with pride. Show their skills off to their teacher for added reinforcement outside your therapy room.

Data, Data, & More Data!

When using another app in speech therapy that collects data, I can easily screenshot each student’s results page and upload it to their Seesaw account. This helps me streamline their data and reduces the amount of writing that I need to do in my daily session notes. I don’t know about you, but chances are you are back-to-back with groups like me and can’t realistically write extended therapy notes for each student every day. This allows for an accurate detailed account of data. At the end of the year, I simply print out each student’s Seesaw profile and attach it to the back of my Session Log sheet for the student.

Assign Student Practice

When planning ahead of time for therapy, I was able to screenshot a target sheet from a pdf file and save it to specific students. The student could then open the image and edit it using the text/drawing feature or record audio to capture their thinking.

With my preschoolers, I find that having them watch a snippet of therapy starring him/herself elicits more language than the activity itself did. Man, those littles sure do love to watch themselves! Capitalize on that and use it to your advantage!

Summer Carryover

I have mixed emotions about summer homework. I will usually send home a simple packet or calendar of sorts but many likely sit in unopened backpacks or find their way into the recycling bin. Remember when I said earlier that I print out the student profiles at the end of the year to attach to my session logs? I simply made an additional copy to send home with the students. 

In theory, the parents can access this through the app or online but remember, not every parent will do so regardless of how many times you do cartwheels and stand on your head. The students then had a yearbook of sorts of what they did in speech-language this year. Each post prints out a lovely photograph. When students recall what they worked on and all of the fun that they had, the learning extends far beyond your therapy walls!

 Okay, now what?

Download Seesaw here. If you need help setting it up, check out this blogpost on Seesaw I did a couple years back with picture tutorials. Also do not forget, I am just an email away. Reach out anytime!

Do you want to reference this post later? Pin the image below so you'll know where to find it!


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 4 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.