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Monday, March 26, 2012

Fun Easter Ideas for Pre-K

Wow!  Two blogs from us in one day?  Amazing, but you really need this one this week!

We want to share with you another wonderful Pinterest board.  This one is  it is from Vanessa Levin @prekpages

This particular board features, you guessed it, Easter and Spring related activities for our little ones!  All the activities are "egg-tra" special as they are all egg related.  (You know I had to say it like that!)  I can really appreciate the simple and inexpensive ideas you'll find here. Crafts, counting, printable sheets, and snacks they have a little something for everyone!

Dye eggs with Kool Aid
Gold fish instead of candy!

You know sometimes activities may seem old hat to us but to our little ones this is new and exciting.  I hope you will let their excitement rub off on you and that you'll share the wonder and excitement of Easter with them!

Have fun!

Leah J Musgrave M.S. CCC-Sp
Dean Trout, retired SLP

e-Learning for Kids

Spring has come and so has our new look.  We hope you like it.

We have not shared any new interactive resources with you in a while so today we are going to share one of which you may not be aware.  It is called e-Learning for Kids.   This is how they describe the purpose of their site. 
"Established in late 2004, e-Learning for Kids is a global, nonprofit foundation dedicated to fun and free learning on the Internet for children ages 5 - 12. We offer free, best-in-class courseware in math, science, reading and keyboarding; and we’re building a community for parents and educators to share innovations and insights in childhood education."
A very worthy endeavor is it not?   I know there are many delightful and wonderful apps out now and many more to come along, but for some families and schools the new gadgets such as iPad, iTouch,or iPhones are not available, so sites like this one has great value.

When you visit this site you will see it offers many interactive activities.  I especially like that you can readily see what that particular activity teaches and exactly what age level the skill is appropriate for.  Many of the activities that I tried out reminded me of Sesame Street and Electric Company.  The pace was slow enough for the child to grasp it and was geared or themed around things kids like.  I could see these activities being very useful for your RTI.  I can especially see you sharing these with your parents for your language students to practice at home with the parent!

Here is the link to take you to the course page:

Certainly the Language Arts activities would be appropriate for many therapy goals, but so too would some of the math ones. I hope you will check this one out for yourself.

Have fun with your kids this week!

Leah J Musgrave, M.S. CCC-SP
Dean Trout, retired SLP

Monday, March 19, 2012


Spring will officially be here tomorrow.  YAY! For Leah and I, spring heralds a couple of different things.  For Leah, spring's arrival means "spring break" as a public school SLP.  Unfortunately for her, spring break includes writing 9 week reports and getting caught up on all the other paperwork we do.  Not really a break, huh?  For me, it means spring cleaning and that will include this blog.  Leah and I have been discussing updating our blog, so what better time than Spring for a fresh new look.  We were also debating whether to change our writing style to a more formal professional blog but decided that that is too much like being in school.  So we will be keeping our informal "chatting with you" style of writing because that is who we are.  When you come to visit our blog, we want you to be able to take your shoes off, put your feet up on the couch, and just talk about speech therapy.  That's what we do!

With Spring comes "spring fever" for must of us.  This overwhelming desire to get out of our stuffy houses, schools, or rooms. We need to breathe some fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun on our faces. Ahh, Spring....can't you just hear the birds chirping as I write this?  YES! I have the FEVER, so I thought I would share with you a few simple ideas (aren't simple ideas the always the best) of how to do therapy out doors.  I suppose this is where I should make a caution statement: You will not be able to take all your speech kids outside. There are some, due to their disorders/disabilities, for whom it would not be a wise choice.  Always bear in mind those students who are a flight risk and might get away from you.   There are also those children who have sting allergies!  I would be sure to take their Epi pen with me. Just bear in mind any medical needs before you head out. The next thing you need to do is clearly state the rules for your outing. Everyone needs to know what the expectations and rules are for going outside for therapy.  Now grab a notepad and pen for keeping notes and you are ready to go!

There are many ways to hit those speech or language goals/targets as you walk.  Here are a few suggestions:

Have your speech students find things that have their sound. You can have them say the word or use it in a phrase or sentence. Carrier sentences like "I see a____" or "I found a____" work great on a hike!  To get you thinking consider these possible words: tree, road, gravel, playground, grass, slide, swing, chain, leaf, limb, bark, sun, sky, cloud, bird, school, bus, etc.  The words you can target are endless!

For your older kids you might want make it a competition and have them list the words they find with their sound and use that word list in therapy when you go back in or the next session.  The person who finds the most words wins!  Or why not give them chalk and let them write their words on the sidewalk?

For your language kids this is a target rich environment as well!   You can target many language goals in a very naturalistic way. 
Example: Stop to look at tree.
  • See the leaf?  One is called a leaf but when there are more than one we say leaves. (irregular noun plurals) 
  • A tree has a branch.  What else could we call it? (vocabulary expansion-synonyms, etc) 
  • A tree has bark.  How does it feel?  Rough (describing) 
  • Can you think of another way we use the word bark?  Yes, it is how a dog speaks!  (multiple meanings) 
See how you can hit many language targets just by looking at and talking about a tree! I would say this is definitely free language material. 

There are so many ways you can hit language goals if you stop to think about it. You could observe another class on the playground.
  •  I see a child on the slide. Do you see the children on the monkey bars? (irregular plurals)
  • Why is that boy crying? He fell. Why is she in time out? She hit someone.   (irregular verbs)

I hope these suggestions will get you thinking about therapy outside the therapy room!

Have fun with your kids in therapy this week and expect a new look from us the next!

Leah J. Musgrave, M.S. CCC-SP
Dean Trout (retired SLP)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Guest Blog Post--AAC

Surprise! It is Monday and I'm posting a blog on time!

Today's topic is AAC in the Classroom.  I was going to summarize Melanie's blog and give you the link to it so you could go read it on your own, but then decided it is to good to be missed.  Since I'm afraid you won't have time to go there, I'm going to put it here for you.  You don't even have to leave this page.  All you have to do is keep reading :)

The following post is by Melanie Broxterman, an intervention specialist from Southwest Ohio. She holds two teaching licensures, one in regular education and the other in special education.  She has been working with children for the past 13 years and is currently furthering her education in Educational Technology pursuing a Masters Degree. Melanie is also an integral part of her school’s technology team as well as a local resource for students with special needs focusing on the use of SMART Board and iPad.

(Here's Melanie's post with her permission.)

How to use AAC in the Classroom to integrate non-verbal students in to daily classroom routines

One of the things that I tell the parents of my students early on is “expect communication”. Expect me to write a note home, possible asking some questions or wanting feedback. Expect a phone call home for positive things. Expect IEP information to be presented in a timely manner so that if parents have questions, I can do my best to answer them. But most of all, I let the parents know to expect communication from their child. All children communicate, it is our job, as teachers, to figure out what they are saying and teach them ways to communicate more effectively. For this reason, I feel that exploring and utilizing various AAC options within the classroom is vital to the communication development of the students.  (Before I continue, I must give my disclaimer. While it is OK to explore a variety of AAC devices, please be sure to complete a formal AAC evaluation before settling on a single device for a student.)
As mentioned before, communication, especially the exploration and use of AAC, within my classroom is a high priority. Once you know your students and how they communicate, you can begin to help them develop ways to express themselves. During a recent cooking lesson, done in conjunction with the speech therapist, the students were exposed to a variety of AAC options in order to allow ALL students the opportunity to be active participants.  Below you will find a brief description of the levels of AAC as well as examples of the AAC options utilized during a recent recipe lesson for “blender applesauce”.
Integrating a variety of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) within the classroom can be done in a variety of ways. As my students are younger and still learning language, we often use low tech options for AAC. Some “low tech” options are simple line drawings that represent items, actual photographs of objects, single message voice output devices (ex, Big Mack switch), a simple choice board, or an eye gaze board. “Low tech” options are great to use in a structured situation. Line drawings or photos of snack items are often good place to start. Giving the students just one picture to point to can begin to build the concept of communicative intent which is so important to develop. I like to use the single or multi-message voice output switches during stories with repetitive text. I have my verbal students say the text while the other students can use the switch to participate. This year, my students enjoy recording their own voice on the device. The non-verbal students also enjoy hearing a peer’s voice more than the adult voices. I have found that choice boards and eye gaze boards are great to use for students to make preferred choices, like what center to play in or who gets to go next.


Sometimes, “mid tech” options are appropriate to use. An example of “mid tech” AAC is a device that offers prerecorded voice output that have changeable displays or overlays (ex, 7 Level Communication Builder, Tech Talk). This option offers a static display often requiring an adult to assist with changing of the overlays to match the activity. I utilize the class device when we have a project that requires more choices than what a voice output switch might offer, but I want to limit the word choices to be specific to the activity. I find devices that offer changeable overlays are often very versatile devices. I have successfully used a 7 Level Communicator over the years as a way for students to participate in routine answers throughout the day, such as calendar or morning message activities. I also think this type of AAC devices work well when students need to report something in a sequence (like give a report). Another great way to use devices like this is to program the device and making overlays to tell “ALL ABOUT ME” so a student can tell about herself to her peers.
The third option for AAC would be “high tech”. An example of a “high tech” device is one that offers an extensive build in vocabulary with the ability to change between screens. This option often has a dynamic display. The “high tech” option usually also function like a computer or offers environmental controls.  Some examples of “high tech” devices are the Dynavox Maestro, the Vantage Lite by PRC, use of an iPad with a voice output app (such as SonoFlex). “High tech” AAC devices are often personal devices to an individual student. It is imperative that as educators, we work with the student’s private therapy team to create the most successful environment.  I utilize “high tech” AAC devices much the same as the “mid tech” devices. The devices are set up and used as a part of the school day as much as possible.
Over the years I have discovered that students are more willing to engage and use AAC when it is something that is FUN and the focus is on commenting. This took me a while to understand, but I get it now. How bored would you be if all you said each day was, “cereal”, “I am a girl.” and “no”. We must find the opportunities to engage the students in the fun stuff, like “CRASH!” (when blocks are knocked over), “Mix it up!” (during a recipe), or “Boo!” (during a Halloween story).  After seeing some success and engagement, then work on the nitty gritty. One activity I like to do that utilizes the “academic” and “fun” is having the student that uses the AAC device be the BINGO “caller”. Allowing the students to be the one in charge has helped them be more willing to use the device.
I challenge you to find those highly motivating, communicative moments and build on them! Start small, maybe choosing one 5 minute session a day. Allow for peer models as well as model the use of the AAC yourself. If you and your school team are not familiar with AAC or other AT (assistive technologies), I encourage you to check around for local resources. In Ohio, we have a great system of SST’s, or State Support Teams, which can help with training and assessment. Local children’s hospitals and therapy clinics are also places that could offer support.
The SMART Board used as a communication options. The students walked up to board to tell class if the applesauce was yummy or yucky.

I think there is some excellent information here on practical ways to include your non-verbal kids.  I know I rarely have a child who needs an augmentative device and  this basic information will save me hours of research on my own.  Thank you, Melanie, for sharing your expertise with all of us!

Have fun with your kids this week!
Leah and Dean