Monday, December 30, 2013

Mama-on-Days: Tales from the Elf

Last year I bought an Elf on the Shelf.  We named it....something.  I forgot to write it down.  I lost it for about 2 1/2 weeks.  We have a little miniature pinscher and I spent my days running in the room before the Biscuit glancing frantically around for plastic bits of elf remains.

About a week before Christmas I found him sitting on the wreath where I'd left him weeks ago.  It's pretty bad when you can't even keep track of a little Elf in your house.  But I was glad that I didn't find his dead elf carcass because he cost me 29.99 and that's a lot of money to pay for a dog toy.

This year I started hearing rumors of Elf on the Shelf calendars and that PINTEREST was where to go to get Elf on the shelf ideas.  These are the CUTEST ideas I've ever seen-little Elf's in a bubble bath, a little Elf flying across the room, an Elf with a stick roasting marshmallows over a battery operated candle.  There are even whole Pinterest boards devoted to "naughty" Elf on the shelf ideas.  

Pinterest had me at the elf in a bubble bath.  I was in.  And then I wasn't.  Once you step foot into this Elf territory there's no way you can go back to just hanging him from different door knobs in your house.  OR lose him for 2 weeks.  Could I commit to reenacting fanciful elf scenarios for the next 10 years or so? How would I top the Elf in the bathtub scene? 

In the end my Pinterest obsession won out.  I set up a calendar with a bunch of fantastic Elf ideas and bought mini and jumbo sized marshmallows.

Week one:  I am not nearly as good at the Elf scenarios as the pictures I've seen online.  They all look vaguely disturbing.  Luckily for me, the Biscuit is in love with the Elf.  Some of the kids at his preschool have elves who have come to their house weeks ago.  He's excited that his house wasn't passed by. 

Supposed to be Elf lifting marshmallow weight.
Week two:  Biscuit HATES the elf.  I think he has decided Elf is a snitch.  He hasn't even tried to go look for it for three days.  After discussing this in depth with a girlfriend at happy hour, I decided to add a note component to the Elf saga.  I realize that a serious Elf discussion at happy hour is a pathetic waste of precious happy hour time.

Week three: Thanks to a note praising good behavior, the Elf is back in the Biscuit's good graces.  I accidentally placed the Elf in the same place twice which has led the Biscuit to decide we have 2 elves.  He spends his days trying to find both of them.  It gives me more time to read and prep for the Holidays. 

Week four:  I'm Elfed out.  Twice this week I had to rush in the morning to move Elf.  He's back to hanging on doorknobs and once I just threw him on the Biscuit's bed.  I'm going to save the rest of the Elf ideas for next year.  Biscuit also saw a huge display of Elf on the Shelf boxes at Target.  He asked if we BOUGHT our Elf.  I know that we will keep seeing the boxes so I admit that we did.  I said that Santa packages these little elves and people can buy them.  Santa knows that people might freak out if a small elf just showed up in their home.  I didn't realize that parenting could involve so many lies on the fly.  Elf left our house on Christmas eve leaving us with a box of comfy pajamas and a movie.  I've got until next year to hone my elf skills.

Do you do the new Elf tradition, what is your favorite thing you've done with Elf?  I'd love to hear about it below. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Perspective Taking and Gift Giving: Activities to Try

It's been awhile since it snowed a lot here, but I'm still digging my way out of paperwork, Christmas shopping and other holiday activities.  I should be back to regular blogging in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, here are two activities I posted about last year related to gift giving and perspective taking:

Gift Giving: Avoiding the Tinkerbell towel.
Gift giving is a great exercise in perspective taking.  Can your clients think of some things that their parents would like or their siblings?

This is a hard skill for a lot of neurotypical adults such as my husband.  One year, he bought me a child sized Tinkerbell towel at Target.  First of all, I am not a one of those fortunate child sized ladies.  Why would he get me a gift that I can't even wrap around myself?  When he gave it to me, he was so excited because I LOVE Tinkerbell.  Randomly, he still thinks that I love Tinkerbell.  Last Christmas he bought me a Tinkerbell lip gloss watch.  It's not actually watch-it's just cleverly designed to look like a watch-but then when you open it up-it has lip gloss in it.  Let's take a minute here-I am a 40 year old woman.  When would I have the chance to wear a lip gloss watch?  

Choosing a gift requires you to think about the other person.  It's a great opportunity to use our "people files" by remembering information about people.  Questions to think about when getting a gift
  • How old are they?
  • Are they a boy or a girl?
  • Do they have any hobbies?
  • Have they mentioned that they need or want something?  
  • Who is in their family?
  • Do they have any pets?
  • What about favorite movies, t.v. shows or other special interests?
  • Do you know what they already have?  
  • Is there anything they really DON'T like?
Here is what we are doing next week.  You will need a Sunday Paper chock full of advertisements.  It would be great to have pictures of the child's friends, parents, etc.  I would use a sheet of paper for each gift giving subject.  Starting with first person, have your student or client determine what store would be appropriate for them.  Then they go through the circular and cut out 3-5 items they think the person would want.  
Then you can discuss how to narrow down your options.  Price might be one factor.  You could extend this activity by creating a "budget" and having the student determine where to spend the money or discussing concepts such as greater than/less than.  

I don't expect that my clients (or clearly, my husband) will be able to think of the "perfect" gift so as long as they are in the ball park of an appropriate gift, I would give them credit for it.  What activities are you planning for the holidays?

Gift Giving: Video Perspective Taking Activity

Last year, Jimmy Kimmel had a segment on his show called, "I gave my kids a terrible present."  In it, parents across America wrapped up cleaning products and old bananas and gave them to their children as presents. 

This is a great video to use during speech therapy for expected and unexpected behaviors.  First from some of the kids who have some pretty extreme reactions as well as talking about what would be expected and UNexpected as a gift from a parent.  If you decide to use the video, make sure to preview it first.  I think the last kid in the video uses some inappropriate language. 

My husband tried this with our son last year when he was three.  He didn't have expectations of what a "Christmas gift" should be yet, so he was really excited to get a can of Spray starch.  (That this was what my husband picked would be the subject of a whole different blog called, 101 dangerous gifts my husband tried to give to our kids.) 

Struggling with how to accept an unwanted Christmas gift is part of normal development, but for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other pragmatic language impairments, more direct teaching is required.  Here are some ideas I've used in therapy:

1.  I usually start with a Social story to give them information about what will happen during gift opening time.  An example would be something like: "On Christmas Morning we will eat breakfast and then it will be time to open gifts.  Everyone gets to take a turn opening a gift.  On my turn, I will open my gift and see what it is.  Most of the time, my gifts are things that I like.  Sometimes they are not.  When I get a gift I don't like, I can try to smile and say, "Thank you" to the person who gave it to me.  This makes them feel happy."
2.  Practice.  Years ago, I bought a fabric wrapped box with a bow on it.  We practice putting gifts in it and using a script to "thank" each other.  I try to have 5 things I think the client would like and 1-2 silly or unexpected gifts.  You could expand that activity by first writing a list and then cutting out items from catalogs that matched-OR didn't match the list. 
3.  Apps.  There are alot of "present" opening apps available for the Ipad.  You could use these apps to engage the chilld. 

For some of my more "black and white" kids who can't get past the idea that saying "I like it" is lying, we work on the noncompliment.  I use this all the time.  You start by just naming it.  Let's say you give me a T-Rex.  I open the box and say; "Wow, a T-Rex."  then finish by making an observation regarding the present: "I can't believe it's arms are so little." 

What activities have you used to teach gift giving?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Guest Post: Scanlon Speech Therapy

I'm excited to be guest posting over at Scanlon Speech Therapy today!  Head over to her site to learn some ways to teach communication alternatives to challenging behaviors.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Tree Cones: Rerun Christmas Activity

December has turned into a really busy month for me. Since last December I was still running under 500 page views, I thought I'd rerun a few of my posts. This is one of my favorite crafts to do at Christmas:

I love to make quick snack crafts in Speech therapy.  It's an easy way to include worksheet drill activities.  In between each step we can practice our word lists or answer wh questions.  It's also a great way to work on sequencing, paraphrasing and story retell.  Last week we made these cute Christmas tree cones.

I started by showing or telling the kids what we needed for the task.  Then we went into the little kitchen to see if they could remember what we needed...

Once the frosting is on, you could add any kind of candy, we used mini M and M's because I had some left over from a Halloween activity.  (There is probably something wrong with me, that I had candy left over from Halloween...)  

Here are some of the ways we incorporated our goals into the activities:

We practiced the following verbs: mix, spread, get, put, place, and eat.  For each activity, I had the client say what they were going to do, what they were doing and what they did after.  Ex. "I will spread frosting on the cone, I am spreading frosting on the cone, I spread frosting on the cone."  This activity correlates with Mobile Education's TenseBuilder app.  

We were focused on before/after, so just using colored m&m's seemed to help the kids focus on the direction.  Ex.  "Before you put a yellow ornament on, put the red ornament."  For students who continue to have difficulty with this, I would use a visual cue by pointing or manipulating the m&m's as I was talking to show them how they were supposed to put them on.  

To play this game, you would need a variety of candies.  Then you can take turns describing and adding the candies to the cone.  Ex. "I'm thinking of a round candy with stripes. 

Following the activity, we used the pictures above to retell the activity using a First/Next/Last visual.  

We really had fun making and eating (something about the combo of peppermint and sugar cone: YUM!) these cones.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday Soapbox: Grade level Shmade level

My Saturday Soapbox series in November was focused on some of my "goal pet peeves."
You can check out my previous posts by clicking on the links below.
My last pet peeve is about writing goals to meet grade level criteria.

  • Johnny will define grade level vocabulary using category plus function plus 2 descriptors.
  • Johnny will improve knowledge of vocabulary be defining 40 7th grade curriculum words by April 2013.
  • Johnny will answer questions related to grade level reading material with 80% accuracy.  

I'm open to debate on this one.  I think this is our way of tying speech therapy goals to the curriculum .  We are trying to meet state standards or common core because we are working on grade level vocabulary.  It is functional, our students need to understand grade level vocabulary or curriculum vocabulary in order to participate in fully in their classroom.

Here's my thoughts, most of the students or clients I work with, need to be working on vocabulary that is significantly below grade level.  Often times their reading skills are also below "grade level."  If a student really only needed help keeping up with their grade level material, then maybe a tutor would be more appropriate then a speech language pathologist.

I've written a lot of goals for defining vocabulary.  Now, I'm starting to think that this is a better goal to write when  working on sequencing or oral narratives.  I love programs like the Expanding Expression Tool which helps to build a framework for the student to explain or define vocabulary/events.  I think it helps a lot .

Here's what I'm wondering: Is being able to define vocabulary a good measure of a student's vocabulary abilities?  Does it predict whether or not a student is able to use the word appropriately and comprehend the word in the text?  I don't have an answer for this.  I'd love to hear your opinions.

Jenn from Crazy Speech World has recommended and written about the book Bringing Words to Life.  I've started reading it and really like how they explain teaching vocabulary.  There are a lot of good examples and methods for making sure the student really understands the meanings of the word.

This book was also my first experience with Tiered vocabulary instruction.  Tiered One words are basic vocabulary vocabulary that we would expect students in a mainstreamed setting to know (house, run, find.)  Tier 2 words are words that are more academic in nature but are used in a variety of classrooms (ex. analyze, predict.)  Tier 3 words are words that are specific to one class or area (ex. precipitation, geometry).   Since I've read part of the book, I'm rethinking some of these "curriculum" vocabulary words.  I want to start focusing more on Tier 2 or "high frequency" vocabulary.  The great thing about the internet is that you can do a search to get a lot of different lists to get you started.  This would be a fantastic resource-especially if you are pushing in to classrooms.  I could really see this technique being successful with a lot of students.  You would just need to get a copy of the textbook and pick out 5-8 words to "preteach" during your lesson.

Is anyone else a half a book reader?  I'm a SLP book hoarder.  I usually start out and get really excited about the book and then once I have the gist of it, I put it on my bookshelf and start the next book.  I had a counselor once who asked if I had ADHD, I don't think so, but the half-read books on my bookshelf may suggest differently.  

Based on the information in this book, I think a more effective vocabulary goal might be that the student is able to USE the vocabulary word within several appropriate contexts.  To me this is really demonstrating that the student is understanding the vocabulary.  I want to be careful not to write a goal like "Given a vocabulary word, Johnny will use it in a sentence with 80% accuracy." I also want to make sure that it isn't a nightmare to chart on so I may want to work from a closed set of vocabulary words.  (ex. given 40 words.)  I also want to make sure that it's where I'm getting my closed set of words from-sometimes that 40 words can be really confusing-especially if the student transfers.

So maybe my goal would look like:

Given weekly instruction targeting 5 high frequency vocabulary words taken from classroom texts, Johnny will demonstrate the ability to use 60% of taught vocabulary appropriately in sentence level productions over three sessions.  

This is another goal that may need some work.  But I can tell that I am going to be teaching 5 new words per week.   I know where I am getting the vocabulary words are coming from.  I have some flexibility with what vocabulary I choose so I can pick vocabulary that is appropriate to the child.  I can keep a running list and check words off as I hear them used appropriately within our activities.  When progress reports are due, I can tally these up and get a figure.  Assuming that the school year is 36 weeks, I'd be working on 180 vocabulary words in the year or 45 words per quarter.  I might make up a sheet like:

What do you think?  Is writing goals to work on grade level vocabulary at your school?  I'm taking a break from goal writing for December.  In 2014, I'm planning on going a little more in depth on some of my ideas for different goal areas.  I'm thinking about picking one topic per month.  Anything you find you struggle with?  If you liked this post, please take time to comment or share with others on Pinterest or Facebook.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mama-on-Days: A Christmas reminder and warning

Watching the news report the holiday sales, I'm struck by how much time and attention we give to retail and shopping.  Pictures of people shoving each other to get the best deal or one of the few televisions that a store puts out to lure shoppers into their store.  Shopping and reporting on shopping has become an American tradition. 

I'm guilty of spending entirely too much time on finding the "perfect" gift for the special people in my life.  I balance the desire to shower my little guy with presents with the knowledge that doing so will turn him into a monster.  Experiencing and learning to deal with disappointment is a skill I want him to develop (but it's a hard one for a mom to let her son learn sometimes.) 

I'm sharing our family Christmas letter that I wrote four years ago.  In part as a warning to be careful and in part to remind myself of what I want to FEEL at Christmas (hint-it's not a cashmere sweater-although they are quite nice. )

Dear Family and Friends,

This hasn't been the easiest Christmas for us.  The dramatic changes in print media, have made it difficult for my husband to find freelance work.  The caricature stand has been slow. So we'd decided quite awhile ago, that we wouldn't exchange gifts this Christmas.  I told my husband I had a few small gifts for him (because I buy gifts throughout the year.)  Business picked up a bit the last week before Christmas and He began getting freelance jobs from Craigslist.  We were starting to feel hopeful.
On Wednesday, we attempted to take our son to see Santa for the third time.   My husband looked at the longest line yet and sighed.  He didn't want to wait-and he started complaining about how he'd had no time to Christmas shop.  So I told him to go run his errands and I'd wait in line. I think we waited for about 2 1/2 hours-and my son was happy for the first 2 1/4 hours.  
I called my husband on his phone and he came back.  He was no longer crabby-he had a smile on his face and with a  mischievous grin told me "No peeking in the car."  From a distance, Santa looked pretty good-but it turns out he was one of the sketchy ones-and couldn't even muster a smile when we came up.  We got our Santa pictures and we decided to get some appetizers before heading home.  Our spirits were bright in spite of Grumpy Claus.
I was almost to my car, when I got the phone call from my husband.  From the sound of his voice, I thought our son had gotten hurt-or hit by a car.  But while we'd been waiting in line to see Santa, someone had smashed the window and stolen all of the Christmas presents he'd bought.  They took a pop he'd had and threw it all over the car-did they think he was hiding something in it?  Our son's car seat was covered in glass.  
It wasn't about the presents, it was the loss of hope.  My husband's shoulders were down, I knew he felt completely beaten.  “They stole my Christmas,” he told me. After filing the police report, he went home and went straight to bed.  I cried more than I have in a long time, for my husband, for me, for the state of everything.  
Woke up upset and wondered how I would be able to pull myself out of this funk.  We had to try to get the car fixed so I could get to work, shovel the driveway, call the insurance company and if we couldn't get the window fixed, I’d miss Christmas eve with my parents.  After a cup of coffee, I grabbed my shovel and started to clear some of the snow away.  There was a younger man across the street snowblowing the neighbor’s driveway.  “Hey, put that away!  We’re coming to get you next!!!” he shouted cheerfully. 
This was exactly what my husband and I needed this morning.  A reminder of the kindness of strangers.  We told our neighbor what had happened-and how his coming over to do our driveway had made our morning.
My husband went to work, and my insurance company was able to find a glass company that was open on Christmas Eve.  They were able to find the glass at a dealership in Burnsville and promised to be at our house before one. 

Jim had called the owner of the Caricature stand in the morning to see if he still needed to go in-it’s been slow and with everything happening, he’d hoped to stay home so I could go in to my work.   The owner said he was sorry but he didn’t have anyone to cover the shift.
So my husband schlepped the baby over to my parents and went to work.  With the weather it was another slow day.  He did one drawing-of which he gets 40%, so he made about 6.00 on Christmas eve.  Except the owner stopped by the booth. He thanked my husband for his hard work and told him he is thankful to be in business with him.  Then he gave my husband his first Christmas bonus-500.00 in cash!!!!!  

It’s not about the money either, it was about the return of hope.  My husband called me to tell me the news-he was choked up-he said he almost hugged the owner-but they were in a public place, so he didn’t. 
This Christmas I was reminded of the kindness and generosity of our friends, neighbors and strangers.  Without the friends and family in our life, we could’ve continued to feel violated and bitter.  But our friends are there to help lift us up when our spirits flag.  This Christmas I remain grateful and humble of all the great blessings we have-fabulous friends, thoughtful neighbors, amazing family members and a wonderful life.  This Christmas seemed like it would be the worst Christmas ever-but instead it’s turned into one of the most memorable ones ever. 

Best wishes to you and yours on this Christmas Day!!!!
I read this letter to remind myself of what I want to experience at Christmas: the joy of hanging out with friends, a sense of community and a feeling of gratitude for the blessings I have.  This Christmas season, I wish the same for you and your family.  (It  would be better if I ended this blog there, but I want to remind people that people wait in parking lots for people to drop off their packages and then break into your cars.  If you need to leave a package in your car, experts recommend driving away and finding a new parking spot.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What's in my Cart: Cyber Monday and Tuesday Preview and Linky party

Teacher's Pay Teachers is having a site wide Cyber Monday and Tuesday sale.  My products (including bundles will all be 20% off).  If you use the code: CYBER you can get an extra 8% off your purchase for a total of 28% off.  That's a great deal.

I usually post about the products I've purchased after the sale.  This time around, Jenna from Speech Room News is hosting a "What's in my Cart" linky party.  I'm pretty excited  because I have a speech volunteer who will be around for the holidays (Woo-hoo, lamination slave!)  I'm going to start with a few of my top selling products in my TPT Store:

Ok, enough of the self promotion, here are 10 items I have in my Wish list right now!

Gingerbread Craftivity from Jenn at Crazy Speech World.  This looks like a really cute activity.  Plus I've used so many of Jenn's free activities from her blog that I wanted to make a point to support her during this sale.   

Cariboo Cards for Language by Liz Haider. Making custom Cariboo cards has been on my list for years.  Sometimes you just have to admit you aren't going to do it.  That's one of the best parts about TPT.  You know that someone HAS taken the time.

Holiday Sentence Pack from Lindsey at Word Nerd Speech Teach:   I've got a lot of students who need to work on complex sentences:

Who Dun It Mystery by Practically Speeching.  This looks really interesting.

Newspaper Companion Packet by Speech Room News:  Working out at the high school this year, I thought this might be a good product to try out.

Voc"Apple"ary Building for Older Students by Rose from Speech Snacks: I know apple season has passed.  But I'm excited to use this to teach Tier 2 vocabulary with some of my students.  

Articulation Placemats by Jessica at Figuratively Speeching.  I love this idea.  My families are busy and getting them to buy into homework is difficult.  With this product, I can send it home and have them put it out at dinner time or when they are at a restaurant.  Perfect!
Articulation Cans from Mia at Putting your Words in your Mouth blog.  This is going to be a GREAT project for my volunteer.  And a good way to use up some extra popsicle sticks I have laying around.  

Magnetic Wand and Chips Token Boards By Rachel from the Queen's Speech blog.  I love token boards to use in Speech therapy.  These are really cute and super affordable.

 I've got a lot of fronter's on my caseload right now.  These are a couple of fun ways to address it:

Articulation Bingo for /k/ and /g/ by Straight up Speech

 Poppin' /k/ and /g/ games by Rae's Speech Spot: 

You Can Join's Jenna's Linky party by clicking on the cart below and let her know what's in your cart:

What's New at Speech2u: November Edition

Teacher's Pay Teachers is having a site wide Cyber Monday and Tuesday sale.  My products (including bundles will all be 20% off).  If you use the code: CYBER you can get an extra 8% off your purchase for a total of 28% off.  That's a great deal.

I almost missed my what's new at Speech2U feature.  Once a month, I take some time to review new products I've made.  I was busy in November!  Here are some of my new products: 


I added a few new bundles.  Bundles are priced to be 20-25% less than the purchase of individual products.  During the cyber sale, they discounted even more!  My conversation starter and WH bundle is a progressive bundle which means it will progressively get bigger and more expensive.  If you buy it now, you lock in at the current price and will continue to get future products in this area for free.  


These include a lot of quick play conversation starters with holiday and seasonal themes as well as the Add it up games.  


I work with a lot of clients who have a difficult time comprehending humor or comprehending the structure of humor.  This is structured in a similar manner to my interactive flashcards series which focuses on teaching skills by progressively decreasing the amounts of visual cues provided.  

This is another one of the popular Interactive flashcards products.  I have a few clients who needed categorization to be broken down a little more.  This product contains activities for category sorting, labeling, and naming.  I designed it to really teach What does Not belong.  

I'm working on a list of other products from other sellers that I am hoping to post later today. Are you shopping the Cyber Monday shops?  What are you planning to purchase?
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