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?!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Always striving to be....BETTER!

So it is MAY!  FINALLY...nice weather, colorful flowers and...


Figure 1, adapted from ASHA.org

I currently teach an undergraduate course on Language Disorders and this past week, as we near the end of the semester, our focus has been on intervention.  I truly enjoy teaching; I get an intense satisfaction from my interactions with the students and sharing with them therapeutic technique(s).  When students come to my practice to observe, I become more conscious of my techniques and the materials I have chosen to facilitate the current goal(s).  Sometimes in therapy, I notice I go into "auto pilot", and this increased consciousness is important.  This is also how I feel about teaching.  It keeps me current. It is nice revisiting theories that are logged in my brain and don't necessarily come out for air much--but definitely guide my assessment and intervention approaches.  It is also nice to take another look at old (and new) research as an "older" or shall I say "seasoned" clinician.  I enjoy reading this literature with the students as well, who are digesting it for the first time. 

The past week we have talked a lot about the continuum of "naturalness" in therapy, which Fey introduces in his 1986 book Language Intervention with Young Children.  We focused on how each approach is distinct and uniquely important.  But we also talked about how these approaches can exist in harmony within an SLP's therapeutic practice.
Fey identified three basic approaches to intervention:
1. The Clinician Directed Approach,
2. The Child Centered Approach,
3. The Hybrid Approach. 

Most Natural                                                                                                              Least Natural
Child Centered                                          Hybrid                                               Clinician Directed
Daily Activities                                          Milieu Therapy                                             Drill
Facilitated Play                                         Focused Stimulation                                      Drill Play
                                                                Script Therapy                                              CD Modeling

Figure 2, The continuum of naturalness.  (Adapted from Fey, M. [1986] Language Intervention with young children.  San Diego, CA: College-Hill Press.)

My assumption is many of the therapists practicing right now rarely think about these approaches--rather we just adjust to the needs of our clients.  After observing a session of mine through a two-way mirror, a wise parent once exclaimed, " There is a lot of "art" to the science of pediatric speech therapy!" YES...there certainly is! I remember thinking....now here is a parent who really gets it!  A big part of this "art" is understanding how to approach our clients.  As we have been discussing this continuum, I find myself thinking a lot about how I approach intervention and, generally, where my sessions fit in the above paradigm.  As it is BETTER HEARING and SPEECH month--I have been reflecting on my practice and how I can be better.  How can my sessions be better?  

Assessment and goal planning, although challenging, are many times easier than execution (although, not always).  When a session doesn't go as fabulous as I had planned, I have learned to re-think how I could of executed my goals better.  Was I too rigid (clinician directed)?  Did my kiddie over-run the session (Child Centered)?  Should I have swayed a little to the right or left of the above paradigm in an effort to actively engage my client while simultaneously targeting my goals?  I used to pride myself on being a "tough" clinician; keeping my sessions very structured and rigid and expecting a lot of trials on part of my clients.  And, although this can be a very productive way to do therapy, I came to realize it was more about my need to feel "in control" and less about what my clients' needs were.  Now, I see there is a certain fluidity that my sessions must have to keep my clients working optimally.  Maybe that means I fluctuate between all three of the above mentioned approaches within one session, because that is what my client requires.  It certainly goes, without saying (although, I am saying it aren't I????) different activities lend themselves to different approaches and we must adjust accordingly.  

So...how can my sessions be better?  I like the idea of bringing to the forefront of thought--goal execution and this continuum of naturalness.  I think for many of us, therapy feels intuitive (which it MOST CERTAINLY is), but like a conversation with a good friend, thinking about this paradigm and our interplay between ourselves, our clients and the items with which we have chosen to address our targets (Pop Up Pirate anyone?) can only strengthen our sessions, not hinder them.  I will now always include a comment in my notes indicating where on the above continuum my client seemed to fare the best and how I responded.  Was I comfortable?  If not, why? And lastly, how can I make myself comfortable in the approach which seems to really fit my client.  A little bit of self-reflection always goes a far way!  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Where do you get your Multi-Syllabic words from??????

Welcome to my first blog entry!  This is something I have wanted to do for a very long time, but, life has gotten in the way (or...rather, my two beautiful children have kept me very, very busy.)

Anyway...back to work!

Something I am always thinking about is multi-syllabic words...I know I am not the only one?!?

As my clients progress through their speech goals, I often find myself in the position of targeting multi-syllabic words.  These words can be particularly challenging for many reasons, the most obvious being the complexity issues they present with--especially in terms of phonological awareness, articulatory precision,  syllable stress and timing.  (*It is also important to always keep in mind that phonological awareness is very important for literacy acquisition.)

I really like the multi-syllabic word screener in the Hodson Assessment of Phonological Patterns 3rd Edition (HAPP-3), when I am doing an initial assessment or if I want to get a quick picture of my client's skill level.

Sample target words are: aluminum foil, calculator, spaghetti. The pictures are black and white and not very exciting, but they are clear and they get the job done. 

If I need ideas for use in therapy, Home-Speech-Home also has a nice list, segmented into syllable type (2 syllable, 3 syllable..etc) at http://www.home-speech-home.com/multi-syllabic-words.html.  

But, over the years, I notice that I am always more comfortable using children's books (sorry Super Duper!) in therapy.  Children's books are friendly and inviting.  The colors are captivating.  The story lines are fun.  So, I realized the other day that I ALWAYS use Wake Up, Buttercup (by Alison Inches) with my kiddies.  

It is essentially about two toddlers getting ready for their day, i.e., getting dressed, eating and playing. There are many pros about this book--it is hard cover, it has tons of flaps and tabs and pulls to keep kids interested and, best of all, it has numerous multi-syllabic words revolving around animals (kids LOVE animals!) Rise and Shine, Porcupine! Tie your shoe, Kangaroo! Wash your dish, Jellyfish! (yes, just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it is also a RHYMING book!!!)  

So, you can imagine how bummed out I was when I found out this book is no longer in publication--it was printed in 2002--does this date me???   On Amazon, you can purchase it used at the following link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0152163468/ref=dp_olp_0?ie=UTF8&condition=all

Are there other children's books that target multi-syllabic words??  I am now on the hunt....

For now, time to say..Goodbye, Dragonfly!!!