I am a speech therapist in the Edmonds School District. I work at Spruce Elementary and Edmonds Elementary, with students grades k-6.

This blog is intended as a resource for parents and teachers of the students I serve. It has information, ideas, and practice materials. I try to update it weekly, as I am able.

Take a look around!

It is spring break this week in Edmonds. So far I have gotten a pedicure, spent time with family, and done some home improvement (new baseboards!). It’s not exactly relaxing, but it feels good to accomplish things.

It is time to start thinking forward to the end of the school year. (I can’t believe it, either!). There are 71 days until students will be let out for the long break of summer. And when that happens, there are three things that can happen.

  1. The student stops learning, and forgets some of the things they know. They return to school in September with fewer skills than they had in June. :-(
  2. The student stops learning, but maintains what they already learned. They make no gains over the summer.
  3. The student continues learning, and returns to school in September knowing even more than they did in June! :-)

Obviously, I want option #3 for all of my students. In order for students to continue growing over the summer, they need to continue practicing EVERY WEEK of break! I send summer practice calendars home with each student at the end of the year, which are a great way to keep learning at the forefront. You will see those posted in the coming months, when I update them for this year. READING every day is another way to practice language and articulation skills.

One more way to keep on-track with summer learning is to do private therapy over the break. I take private clients in the summer (though none of the students I see at school, for ethical reasons), so if that is something which interests you, and you live in the Seattle area, let me know and we can schedule a free consultation in May or June. If you are looking for summer private therapy and I work with your student at school, let me know and I will refer you to some great SLPs in our area.

Either way, with home practice or with some extra therapy in the summer, students can come back in September ready to begin another year of learning!

This weekend I found a wonderful animated video about stuttering, which I’ll be using with ALL of my stuttering groups this week!

Reasons I love this video:

  • It uses kid-friendly animations
  • It gives a simple, yet *accurate* overview of why people stutter
  • It talks about the range of feelings experienced by some people who stutter
  • It talks about the variability of stuttering
  • It gives tips for how to talk with someone who stutters

I’m adding it to my YouTube playlist of stuttering videos. You can find my other favorite videos here.

I designed a new unit this month, focusing on making inferences and predictions. Making a “smart guess” based on clues from what someone else says, or from written text, is something that children are often asked to do in school. When interacting with fiction, students frequently are asked to predict what will happen next or how the story will end. For students who have language disabilities, these skills can be hard.

We started with the poem “The Secret Place” by Tommy DePaula. I put the poem on a powerpoint presentation, with one line of the poem on each slide. After each line the students made smart guesses about what was happening. As we learned more, the students changed their guesses to match the new information. The poem has a surprise ending which was very fun to discover. You can find the powerpoint here in my TPT store (it’s free!).

We read “Suddenly!” by Colin McNaughton as a whole class. Each page set up a situation where Preston the Pig was about to be eaten by the hungry wolf. But SUDDENLY! something would happen to change the outcome. The students used clues from the picture and from what Preson said and did to infer WHY the wolf was unable to eat him! It is a very fun book, with lots of opportunities to make inferences and predictions.

“I Like Your Buttons” was our next book. This book featured a cause-and-effect chain of reactions between people, as one person did something nice for someone else, who passed along their good feelings to someone else, who passed them along to someone else. I chose this book because it gave practice inferring feelings of other people, which lead to actions (a critical skill for social development!).

Our last book was my favorite of this unit – I Need My Monster! A boy discovers that his normal under-the-bed monster is on vacation, so he receives a series of substitute monsters for the night. Each monster is missing a critical element the boy needs in his monster, which leads perfectly into what we did half-way through the book. We made a list of what we could infer about the boy’s monster, and each student drew a picture of what they inferred the monster to look like. Then we finished reading the book and compared our drawings to the illustrations in the book. CLICK HERE for the freebie worksheet to accompany the book!

More resources:

I found this short clip this morning while browsing my stuttering sources on facebook! I’ll be using this clip from WBTV in Charlotte, NC this afternoon with a group of students to talk about how to approach fear of stuttering in public, and job opportunities for people who stutter as adults. This man obviously has been able to make the most of it! I enjoyed hearing him tell his story.

CLICK HERE to see the clip.

CLICK HERE to view my previous post on using video clips in stuttering therapy.

This month our topic in room 10 was multiple-meaning words, otherwise known as homonyms. Words like flour/flower, blue/blew, see/sea… Working on these words helps expand students’ vocabulary, but also increases the connections between different words within their vocabulary. Those connections contribute to overall language skills and vocabulary robustness. Working on multiple-meaning words helps students who are concrete and literal in their thinking to learn to be flexible. Words can mean more than one thing! How cool!

Our first book, Dear Deer, was made of letters between Aunt Ant, and her Dear Deer friend. I put the book on the overhead, and the students enjoyed finding the homonyms on each page. The illustrations helped the more literal students understand the different meanings. Each page had a scene featuring at least one homonym pair, and telling the story of Aunt Ant’s move to live at the zoo.

Amelia Bedelia is a classic story from my childhood, about a MAID who MADE mistakes! Some of the exploits in the book are triggered by idioms (such as when Amelia Bedelia “put the lights out” by unscrewing the light bulbs and hanging them outside!), but others were homonyms (like when she “drew the curtains”… on a piece of paper!). The silliness kept the students engaged, and the fact that it was an older book gave some nice opportunities to learn new vocabulary words (like “draw the curtains” or “dress the chicken”) which most of my students had not heard before.

There are also many jokes which use homonyms for the punchline. We used this set, which is available free on TPT. There are many books featuring jokes also, such as Eight Ate.

YouTube:

Between the Lions, with Brian McKnight!

Also, homophone MAGIC!

Free products on TPT:

This video is covering the basics of R – the types of R, how to elicit R, and how to put R with single vowels. I hope it is helpful!

You can download the R Star exercise that I talk about in the last portion of the video here.

*note: when I say “Here’s a photo of your tongue” I obviously mean “picture of your tongue”. I didn’t notice that until after recording, but I’m not going back to redo the whole video because of it. :-P

For everyone living in the Edmonds School District:

Ballots for the special election are due TOMORROW! You can drop them off at a drop box for free, or you can mail them so they are postmarked by 2/11/14. A list of ballot drop boxes is here. The ones within school district limits are in front of the Lynnwood Library, and in front of the Lynnwood City Hall.

The Edmonds School District has two school funding levies on the ballot. These require more than 50% of voters to vote ‘yes’ in order to pass.

REMEMBER TO VOTE! :-)


Stuttering therapy involves many things. Because it is a multifactorial disorder (meaning: there are multiple influencing factors which contribute to stuttering), it is important to address these different areas intentionally in therapy. I follow the research of Dr. Charles Healey, et al when I construct therapy programs for children who stutter. Dr. Healey and his colleagues have developed a model of stuttering that includes cognition (how much a person knows about stuttering), affective (how a person feels about their stuttering), linguistic (their speech/language skills), motor (the actual stuttering), and social (the social impact of stuttering). I won’t get in to the whole model in this post, but you can learn more about it here. Also, Dr. Healey has put together the CALMS assessment, which you can purchase here. I highly recommend it for evaluating school-age kids who stutter. (I have no financial connection with Dr. Healey – I just think his assessment is the best!).

But that is not the point of this post. In this post, I want to share how I use YouTube to target the areas of cognition, affective, and social. In therapy, students should be learning more about stuttering (how it works, what causes it, what DOESN’T cause it, strategies to speak more fluently). They should be provided a safe space to discuss their feelings about stuttering, connect with other kids who stutter, and be affirmed in themselves as communicators. And lastly, if there are any social impact issues (bullying, teasing, reluctance to participate in social events because of fear of stuttering), these issues also need to be addressed. These issues are in addition to practicing strategies to speak more fluently (working on the motor component).

One way I have found to work on these areas is using YouTube. There are many, many great clips available, if you have the time to sort through them. It takes some careful screening (especially of the comments on videos!), but the benefits are substantial. YouTube is free, which means that you can send video links to parents, and they can stay in the loop for what is being targeted at school. I am fortunate to have several students at each school who can meet in a group, but if you have only one student who stutters, using YouTube can help them see other students who stutter, and feel less isolated being a child who stutters.

For my older elementary students I start each session with a short video. I have an “agenda” for each video I share. We use the video to start discussion about different topics.

Here is a list of my favorite stuttering videos to use in therapy, and how I use each one.

Famous people who stutter: discussing famous people who stutter, their struggles, and their successes. Working on stuttering desensitization (the idea that stuttering is normal, and not something weird or worrisome). Also, identifying the kinds of stuttering in the speech of famous people.

Learning about stuttering: discussions about what causes stuttering, stuttering “cures”, identifying types of stuttering

Social impact of stuttering: talking about feelings, teasing, and how to talk about stuttering with your friends

I have a YouTube playlist of all of my favorites (there are more than 20 on there!) which you can find here. I’m always adding new clips as I find them, so feel free to add your own favorites in the comments!

UPDATE:

- Another favorite video is here: Stuttering: a short animation film
- A news clip about a man who stutters doing stand-up comedy!

Our January unit in room 10 was SYNONYMS – words that mean the same thing. It was a big/huge success! We had fun/enjoyed learning about synonyms this month!

Understanding synonyms is an expected language skill for students in elementary grades. Knowing multiple words for the same concept deepens a student’s vocabulary, and helps their speaking and writing to be more descriptive. If students don’t know/understand synonyms, there is a lot of language that they will miss!

Fancy Nancy is the first book in a very large/sizable series of books about a girl who likes being fancy. She uses fancy words for everything! She eats parfaits (ice cream sundaes), wears a plume (feather) in her hair, and her favorite color is fuchsia (pink). There were examples of synonyms on every page, and many chances for students to learn new words. The whole series would be great/fantastic to reinforce synonyms at home.

I found Chicken Cheeks at my local library. Oh. My. Goodness! This book is so fun, and only mildly inappropriate. :-) Each page features a different euphemism for “bottom” – tushy, keister, caboose, heiney, derriere… The illustrations are funny/hilarious, and the topic is engaging for almost any student. There are so many synonyms for your backside!

For more [free] activities and ideas, the TPT website has hotdog stand synonyms, cupcake love synonyms practice, synonyms pea pod freebie, and synonyms dominoes. (Those were just the first few of the 900+ results! There are many, many activities available to practice synonyms.)

Let’s not forget YouTube. There are synonyms everywhere! A classic sketch from Sesame Street:

Or a wonderful/fantastic song from Between the Lions:

An update from the front lines on Washington State education politics. :-)

In 2012, the State of Washington was sued by NEWS, a coalition of 420+ education associations, community groups, and school districts for failing their constitutional obligation to fully fund K-12 public schools. The case, McCleary v. State, resulted in the State Supreme Court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs on all counts.

Because our state has a history of underfunding education, promising to fix it, and then doing nothing, the Supreme Court retained jurisdiction in the case. This means if the State does not fix the problem, the Court has the right to make them fix it. Since 2012 the Court has issued several warnings about the case, and has not been impressed. That is probably because Washington classrooms remain the 47th most crowded in the nation, we come in 43rd in per pupil spending, and our teachers are the worst paid on the west coast. We don’t have money for things like copy paper or pencils, and have resorted to asking parents to bring in basic supplies. (True story: since 2009, parents at my schools have been donating reams of paper to the school every fall. We still run out before the end of the school year…)

When schools do not have money even for paper, how much money do you think they have to pay for the extra needs of students with disabilities? What is their budget to pay for SLPs, therapy materials, or adaptive equipment? Not much… Our schools do an amazing job of magically staying open every year, continuing to educate our children, but there is only so hard we can pinch each penny. Thankfully, we have the State Supreme Court on our side.

The most recent statement from the Supreme Court came last week. You can read a summary of it on the NEWS website.

Basically, our legislators have done almost nothing [yet] to fix the problem. Current funding levels are only 57% of the State’s own estimate of the cost ($7,200 of $12,700 per student).

As you can see from the chart above, there is lots of work (read: MONEY) left to be done. The green line is the needed funding increases each year to fully fund public education by the court deadline in 2018. The red line is the “progress” made so far.

What can you do? I’d suggest calling/emailing your legislator (daily?) and asking her/him how they plan to fund education. (You can find their information here). The session only lasts for 60 days, so they have a limited amount of time to fix this problem before the Supreme Court will fix it for them.

You can email your legislators using the WEA Take Action website HERE, to email specifically about the voter-approved COLA for educators.

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