Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Quantifying Engagement in Autism Education Models

My good friend and colleague, Amanda Friedman, director of Emerge and See education center,

 has just published her new blog on Psychology Today and her insights are moving and powerful.  When she asked me to answer a "few short questions" I was curious what she was up to.  Now that she has availed the finished product, I find myself thinking (out loud) how lucky I am that our paths crossed and that I have the opportunity to learn and grow from her.

She is forever inspired by this idea of engagement and "connectivity", especially emotional connections and how this relates to the learning environment:

"T.S. Elliot wrote "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." In schools for individuals withautism and other different abilities, many programs measure out success and learning with token boards, edible reinforcers, gradual climbs along nuanced developmental charts, and acknowledgement of "maladaptive" behaviors. What is missing here? Ways to measure initiation, engagement, motivation, and interest. If only we could use our research to inform our practices and not just the black and white notion that our methods are perfect and students either succeed or fail within these confines. It is time to measure our methodologies, our affect and presentation of materials, as well as the balance between our output and their processing ability to receive the input. Dare I say, we can use research to create an integrated and TRULY individualized approach to education, engagement, and higher level and more meaningful communication between us and our students, your children? I do. "

If you are inspired, you can read more here.

Thank you, Amanda, for including me on this journey ;-)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Healing Sounds of the City

I am so so proud of my colleagues and friends, Amanda and Allison at Emerge and See Education Center.  They have taken on so many new initiatives (too many to list!), but their latest therapeutic scope now includes listening therapy and the Solisten program (you can learn more here).  I am well aware of the controversies surrounding this intervention (which I am not going to address here) and I do typically prescribe to data driven research versus anecdotal evidence in regards to intervention (especially when it is not covered by insurance and tends to be costly), BUT in this very particular case (featured in the video below), I am a convert.  Chris has also been my client since he was 18 months old (he is now 15!).  He was my very first client through NYC's Early Intervention program and I have a very special place in my heart for him.  I know everyone in this video personally and I have been witness to Chris' growth--I am also so proud to work closely with Amanda Friedman at Emerge and See Education Center (and so lucky to be privy to her brilliance on a weekly basis).  After all of these years, Chris continues to impress all of us (and keeps me on my toes!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tribbit and Categories: Organize Your Mental File Cabinet!

Another review with Toys are Tools! Thank YOU Jenn!  It is always a pleasure working with you--stimulating conversation and wonderful educational toys!  What more could an SLP ask for?!?

WHAT: Tribbit by Mindware and Categories by eeBoo
INVENTOR: Hank Atkins (Tribbit) and Saxton Freymann (Categories)
DOES: helps you organize the words in your head so you can use them when you need them and use them efficiently. 
INVEST:  $19.95 for Tribbit; $14.95 for Categories
 8+ Tribbit; 5+ Categories
TOOLS: Foment the Love of Language; Express Yourself, My Body Needs to Move 
EXPERT OPINION: Nicole Kolenda, M.S., CCC-SLP, P.C., Speech & Language Pathologist
GIVEAWAY: Win both of these awesome brain-building games! 

Find Those Words- Shoot, Where Are They?

Today I say that I have trouble with word recall but I think the larger problem is just organization.  It's really hard to have an organized mind.  I think so many things are interesting and so I can associate it in a variety of ways. This actually helps me to see all the amazing things a single toy has to offer but when it comes to talking out loud, I just don't make much sense sometimes. 

It's funny how I see my kids on the same track.  When they get excited and try to tell me something, it literally sounds like someone took all the words of the sentence they are about to say, stirred them up like crazy and let them pour it all out before they had a chance to collect themselves.

I love when my son just gets it. (I only pretend to be disappointed when he beats me).

New Year's Resolution: To Have an Organized Mind

Does this type of storytelling spillage happen with your child? Even if it doesn't, listen up because I am going to show you two speech coaches who come conveniently in the form of very well-designed card games.  To me, it's simple: if you speak well, you have a duty to fine tune it, and if you don't speak well, then here is something that is very useful! You win either way with Categories or Tribbit. I love them both.

Just for the record, I should tell you that I didn't come up with this idea on my own. I learned about this from Nicole Kolenda, an experienced speech and language pathologist who treats kids in her private practice AND happens to teach at the university level in schools such as Columbia and NYU. She said that categorizing games helped a child with his communication skills. She uses both Tribbit and Categories with her clients and everyone (including the kids) thinks they're great."They both teach children to look with a critical eye and to think about how to categorize pictures based on different themes," she said.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dear Neurodevelopmental Pediatrician: Please Don’t Do That!

I have been supervising and teaching at the university level for over 10 years and I keep in touch with many of my students.  I enjoy hearing about their successes and I welcome their clinical questions.  I couldn't be more proud of Tatyana Elleseff, a former student of mine from the New York University Graduate Program (Speech Language Pathology).  Tatyana was a dedicated, inquisitive and insightful student; her success comes as no surprise to me.  Please see below one of her recent Blog entries about a topic near and dear to my heart.  Thank you, Tatyana!

Recently I got yet another one of the dreaded phone calls which went a little something like this:
Parent: Hi, I am looking for a speech therapist for my son, who uses PROMPT to treat Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). Are you PROMPT certified?
Me: I am PROMPT trained and I do treat motor speech disorders but perhaps you can first tell me a little bit about your child? What is his age? What type of speech difficulties does he have? Who diagnosed him and recommended the treatment.
Parent: He is turning 3. He was diagnosed by a neurodevelopmental pediatrician a few weeks ago. She recommended speech therapy 4 times a week for 30 minutes sessions, using PROMPT.
Me: And what did the speech therapy evaluation reveal?
Parent: We did not do a speech therapy evaluation yet.
Sadly I get these type of phone calls at least once a month. Frantic parents of toddlers aged 18 months to 3+ years of age call to inquire regarding the availability of PROMPT therapy based exclusively on the diagnosis of the neurodevelopmental pediatrician. In all cases I am told that the neurodevelopmental pediatrician specified speech language diagnosis, method of treatment, and therapy frequency, ALBEIT in a complete absence of a comprehensive speech language evaluation and/or past speech language therapy treatments.
The conversation that follows is often an uncomfortable one. I listen to the parental description of the child’s presenting symptoms and explain to the parents that a comprehensive speech language assessment by a certified speech language pathologist is needed prior to initiation of any therapy services. I also explain to the parents that depending on the child’s age and the assessment findings CAS may or may not be substantiated since there are a number of speech sound disorders which may have symptoms similar to CAS

Click here to read the rest:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review + Giveaway: PicWits! Sharpen Your Social Wits!

I am so excited to be collaborating with Jenn Choi, editor from www.ToysareTools.com.  Her website is a wonderful resource for both parents and therapists looking for fun, educational toys for their children/clients.  It is a win-win situation--she sends me AWESOME toys to review and then we get to have a fun "chat" about what my "expert" opinion is.  Below, is the most recent review she did on PicWits--I think you will find her insights to be incredibly helpful, thorough and informative.  

Number 1 loves to say "Awkward" as a one-word comment.  I think that's a thing to say these days.

PicWits! from Mindware
INVENTOR: Nicolas Cravotta and Rebecca Bleau (Blue Matter Games)

 practice being flexible and fun with language; practice being a better social communicator

INVEST: $24.95
AGES:10 and up (you may be able to go lower with adult guidance)
TOOLS: Flexibility is My Superpower, Foment Love of Language, Lose and Win Gracefully
EXPERT OPINION: Nicole Kolenda, M.S., CCC-SLP, P.C., Speech & Language Pathologist 
GIVEAWAY:  Win your own box of PicWits!

I am a huge fan of Howard Gardner and so I believe that humans possess different kinds of smarts.  However, if you asked me which profession has THE SMARTEST PEOPLE, I would take off my HG-groupie uniform for a quick minute and give you an answer. But you may be surprised, I would not say brain surgeon, rocket scientist, or professor of ancient languages.  Actually, I would say that the smartest people in the world are comedians.

Come on. You know who I'm talking about, those people who tell joke after joke after joke? They make it up right there on the spot!  There is no prepping, no memorizing and definitely no cheating.  There is definitely no cheating when a person can make you laugh so hard that you cry... or pee... or both.

I suppose you can train to become a comedian but some people are harder to teach than others.  The good news is this kind of teaching and learning can be done. It really can! So... if you have one of those kids who have a hard time understanding meanings of jokes or really any play on words then you are going to want to invest in PicWits!  This game totally rocks! 

Click here to read the rest of this wonderful review!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A fun, easy (and cheap) way to target /k/!

Below is a guest post for  I wrote for "articulation week" on the [simply speech] blog http://kcummingsslp.blogspot.com/ 
(thanks Kristin!) 

A fun, easy (and cheap) way to target /k/

I have a client who can produce the /k/ in the final position of words but not word initially or syllable initially (within a word).  I typically find that the PROMPT technique (www.promptinstitute.com) usually works for this phoneme—but not this time.  I then tried the lollipop trick—where I put a lollipop (or tongue depressor) on the tongue tip (to hold it down) and instruct the child to articulate the /k/.  This didn’t work either.  My client was also not AT ALL interested in any of my exciting ideas for the session to target this sound…/k/ bingo, /k/ worksheets, /k/ Go Fish!  I needed to come up with something fast, so I looked around my room and gathered the following:
YES, that’s right, a handful of paperclips, a small paper cup and a magnet “fishing” pole.  Doesn’t every SLP have these?!?
I also invited some friends to join us:
Oscar, Cookie, and Monkey!   They are always ready to join in on the action in my office!

I threw the paperclips on the floor and explained that we were going to pick them up! This was an easy way to thenchain this sound –we were pick-King up the clips!
I instructed my little guy to say, “pick up”—pick-Kup—pi KUP.
Immediately after he picked up a paper clip, I would have him put it in the cup, requiring him to articulate “cup” after I “flew” the cup over to him while singing “in”.
Oscar, Cookie Monster and Monkey all took turns pi-King up and putting in the Cup! 
My kiddie LOVED this activity and eagerly attempted each target word, over and OVER and OVER AGAIN!! 

Ahhh…if only it was this easy all of the time!

Friday, May 10, 2013


Below is a sonogram of my son when I was 5 months pregnant...who said lip rounding was hard?!