June 28, 2013

No More Google Reader - Now What?!

Google Reader will be no more come Monday. So what's a devoted blog reader supposed to do? Look elsewhere. I have spent June testing out new avenues for reading all my favorite blogs, and I've come up with my top three replacements. What follows is completely my own opinion...take it however you'd like. This post isn't meant to provide a lot of options for replacing your Google Reader feed. It's more an outlet for me to "think out loud" and figure out which option I'm going to use.

1. Feedly

*I like the overall look - really clean and modern.
*The organization is great. I can sort my favorite blogs by categories and can add tags to posts making it easy to go back and search for things I've previously read.
*There are many options for how posts appear in your feed. You can even change the 'theme' or colors of your Feedly.
*Feedly has app options, making it easy to keep up on your favorites via smartphone or tablet.

2. The Old Reader

*The overall look is practically the same as Google Reader. It feels really comfortable to me.
*You can favorite posts, and share via social media.
*You can follow other The Old Reader users, and they can follow you. I haven't tried this yet, so I'm not sure what it does or if there are benefits of doing this.

3. Bloglovin'

*Very clean look. You can 'like' posts and there are many options for customizing layout.
*There are options for sharing to Facebook and Twitter.
*There is also a bloglovin' app.
*This site is my least favorite of the three. It wasn't very intuitive for me at first.

<a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/4723741/?claim=mpvw92hj6zk">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>
So what are you going to use to replace Google Reader?

June 27, 2013

5 Tools to Increase SLP Productivity

tips for using the iPad to improve SLP paperwork, productivity, and time management

Ask any SLP out there and they'll probably say one of the top complaints about their job is the paperwork. Ugh, I'm right up there with them! Rubrics, progress reports, graphing data, screenings, evaluation reports, IEPs, meeting notes, parent notes home, lesson plans, not to mention tracking data and minutes for each individual student on bulging caseloads - it's outta control!

My paperwork 'methods' and organization definitely went through many different phases this year as I tried to figure out what would work best for me to complete things thoroughly, yet efficiently and in a timely manner. It wasn't until the very end of the school year that I truly felt comfortable and efficient. Here's a roundup of 5 tips and tricks that I've learned all in one spot for you:

1. Use Pages to upload and edit electronic copies of important student documents.

Pages is a wonderful app for creating and viewing word documents on the iPad. Luckily the agency I work for installed Pages on all iPads they give their employees. So what do I do with it?

Create a folder for each of your students, and upload all their important documents that need to be updated regularly. For me, that could mean their log of services calendar, progress notes, data sheets, and goal rubrics. I also keep a blank Pages document to make personal notes as I go.

Press and hold document you want to copy until all documents start shaking or tap the 'edit' button in the upper right-hand corner. A menu bar will pop up across the top of the screen. Tap the document you want to copy. A gold box will appear around the document you selected - press the symbol with two boxes and a + to make a copy of the document you selected.


To upload documents faster, upload a master first and then make as many copies of that document within Pages as you will need.

Another great thing - Pages has voice-to-text capabilities! Check the video below for a quick tutorial about using voice-to-text within Pages to write super quick progress notes.

 You can save these documents as a pdf and email directly to parents if they are okay with being contacted via email.

Bonus Tips: Be sure your iPad is password protected to guard confidential information. Also, save all documents in the cloud (using Dropbox, etc. See tip #3) so you still have your information if your iPad ever gets lost or stolen.

Pages is available for $9.99 in the App Store.

2. Save on printing costs and use Notability to edit PDF documents.

I was just recently introduced to Notability and I am hooked! Notability is capable of editing PDFs, so save on printing costs, upload your probe sheets and therapy materials, and have students manipulate them on the iPad during their session!

My favorite thing about Notability is the capability to edit and manipulate PDF documents. In the example above I uploaded my Yes/No Question Monsters and scribble on the screen.

You can also add text boxes and type performance notes, data, or notes to parents (and then email for home activities!)

Notability is also a great app to use for record-keeping because the app allows you to store folders within folders. Meaning, you could have an individual folder holding documents and therapy materials for each student on your caseload. You could then organize those folders in bigger folders for each grade level or building. OR, have folders for articulation, expressive language, receptive language, fluency, etc. and store electronic copies of your favorite therapy materials in those folders!

I also customize colors to set groups apart visually. And you can password protect documents, which I would suggest doing for HIPPA compliance.

Bonus Tip: Notability wasn't very intuitive for me when I was trying to create categories and folders, so be sure to utilize the Welcome to Notability document and User Guide (by tapping the ? on the bottom right of the screen) to learn your way around.

Notability is available for $1.99 in the App Store.

3. Store electronic copies of your most important documents "in the cloud" for safe keeping and quick access.

The apps I recommend and use:

DROPBOX - free in the App Store

EVERNOTE - free in the App Store

GOOGLE DRIVE - free in the App Store

Bonus: Install these apps on your computer, smartphone, and iPad, and now you can access your documents from any of these devices no matter where you are.

4. Scanner apps are great for saving time - no more long trips down to the office or copy rooms!

TinyScan Pro

Scanner apps have been a huge time saver for me this past year. I use them to scan signed consent forms, which I then email to myself as a pdf and upload to the web-based IEP system. I don't have to send forms to secretaries and wait for them to be uploaded (or worry I'll misplace them) - bing, bang, boom and it's done!

I've used CamScannerHD (free) and TinyScan ($4.99 - I grabbed it when it went free a few weeks ago), but actually prefer CamScannerHD.

5. Take advantage of apps that allow you to create student profiles and save results. 

Apps that allow me to track student responses or that calculate percentages for me are such a time saver. I don't have to keep tallies or pull out the calculator later on when updating data. I especially love apps that allow me to create student profiles so all my students' results are saved in one place. I'm even more of a fan if I can then email results, which makes it great for updating parents and organizing data. Some of my favorite apps with data systems:

StoryPals ($19.99)
Articulation Station ($49.99 for all sounds, or can buy individual phonemes separately for smaller fee)
Super Duper Fun Deck apps (prices vary)
Apraxia Ville ($29.99)

I'm so looking forward to using my iPad a lot more next school year to help me with productivity. With these tips, hopefully I'll have more time for blogging and creating new materials!

So tell me: What's your #1 tip to increase productivity?

June 21, 2013

Friday Funny

My husband was making fun of me for using hashtags outside of twitter today, and then I saw this:

#musicgeek #twitter #ilovehashtags

I laughed so long! Happy Friday #SLPeeps!

June 16, 2013

{FREE} Speech Therapy Progress Report Template

Hey y'all! I just added a free progress report template in my TpT store. It's an editable PowerPoint file so you can just click on the text box, add your information, and print! Easy peasy - your progress reports will be finished in no time at all! I have used these this past year for quarterly updates as well as end-of-the-year notes sent home to parents.

The borders are from Teacher Tam. You can download these {FREE} progress report templates here. Hope they make the busy-ness of progress report writing go quickly and smoothly. Thanks for reading!

June 14, 2013

Summer Speech Homework

use these calendars to help your students with their skills over summer break

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you have some exciting or relaxing activities planned for your weekend. I'll hopefully be swinging by the Farmer's Market, and creating more products for you! I'm just so excited to have time to work on more activities and blog posts now that school's out for summer :)

In fact, I just posted a couple new products in my TpT Store - {FREE} Summer Speech Homework Calendars.

There are two sets: Articulation Calendars and Language Calendars. Each set comes with a color version and a black-and-white version to make printing easier. The calendars contain free, fun, and quick activities that your students can complete with their parents to work on improving their communication skills during June, July, and August.

Instead of activities for parents to have to do every single day, each month contains 20 activities that parents can complete as their schedule permits. They can choose to do something daily, or do a few activities on the same day. They can even have weekends off if they want! Activities are brief, and can be completed in 20 minutes or less.

Articulation Calendar Activity Examples:
*I Spy! Find 10 foods with your sound and say them 3 times each.
*Arts & Crafts! Cut out letters from magazines to create words that have your sounds. Say them 3 times each.
*Play Time! Say a word with your sound 4 times before you take a turn blowing bubbles.
*Book Worm! Read and book and listen for your sounds, then say the word 4 times.
*All Ears! Listen for your speech sounds while riding in the car.
*Action! Use your good speech sounds while eating a meal with your family.

Language Calendar Activity Examples:
*Answer category/describing wh-questions about pictures.
*I Spy! Find 10 things that go outside and make a sentence about each one.
*Arts & Crafts! Cut out pictures from a magazine and think of a word to describe each one.
*Book Worm! Read a book with a friend and then retell the story in your own words.
*Tell what the word BAT means and use it in a sentence.
...and MORE!

Each calendar also includes:
*Parent Letter
*Online Resources
*List of Favorite iPad/Smartphone Apps

You can download these {FREE} resources here:
Summer Speech Homework Calendars for Articulation
Summer Speech Homework Calendars for Language

June 11, 2013

Blogging about Research

Once a month SLP Bloggers are blogging about research related to the field of speech pathology. You can learn more here.
"Oh no! Not another /r/ referral!" (source)

This month I selected a research article about using biofeedback during intervention for /r/. Most speech-language pathologists I talk to will probably say /r/ is the most challenging speech sound to train. So any new treatment approaches should be welcomed with open arms, right? Let's find out.


"Uh oh, I just know she's going to make
me work on /r/ again today!"

The authors of this study aimed to investigate a treatment approach using biofeedback for persistent /r/ speech sound errors. These are the children who don't make much progress, if any, as a result of traditional therapy approaches. They quote other research articles (which I'm now also interested in reading) which discuss the ethical considerations of discharging patients with residual/persistent speech sound errors from therapy vs. keeping them on the caseload when showing little to no progress.

Because the tongue formation of /r/ is not easily visible, the researchers used visual biofeedback in the form of a real-time LPC spectrum of speech sounds. Now children could see a visual representation of their speech compared to a visual model of a correctly articulated /r/, allowing modification of his/her productions to try and match the models.

A total of 11 children with treatment-resistant /r/ errors were chosen for this research study. They ranged in age from 6 years 0 months to 11 years 0 months; 10 males and 1 female; previous traditional treatment ranging from 0-4 years.

There were two phases to the research: Phase 1: All participants received a standardized program (moving from isolation, to syllables, to words) of traditional treatment last 4, 5, or 6 weeks. This treatment phases was intended to overcome differences from previous instruction the children had received. Phase 2: Immediately after the traditional treatment period ended, participants entered a similarly structured period of visual acoustic biofeedback. Participants were trained with vowels to match their speech productions to the templates on screen. When they were able to show success, they moved on to /r/ productions. Participants were cued to modify productions using cues learned during treatment Phase 1, resulting in a hybrid of traditional and biofeedback therapy. Word list probes were administered prior to treatment, following traditional treatment phase, and following biofeedback treatment phase.

Progress was monitored based on the perceptual accuracy of the /r/ probe lists, the acoustic measurement of the /r/ probe lists, and the perceptual accuracy of /r/ in isolation and /r/ + vowel during treatment.

A variety of mixed results were found:
1) /r/ sounds produced in cluster contexts were significantly more likely to be perceptually rated correct by clinicians than /r/ in other contexts. Vocalic /r/ sounds were also more likely to be rated correct than consonantal /r/ sounds. This could all be the result of the duration of these /r/ sounds - shorter duration = less time to pick up on erroneous productions.

2) Acoustically, the mean F3 formant following the biofeedback treatment phase was lower, indicating the /r/ productions following biofeedback were more acoustically correct than before treatment.

3) As a group, there were no significant changes noted in accuracy of /r/ productions following the traditional treatment period, but gains were observed following biofeedback treatment period.

4) BUT, only two participants showed a significant degree of generalization to /r/ in untreated words - i.e. there wasn't a whole lot of carryover! However, the significant changes noted immediately during and following biofeedback treatment show that this treatment method may be most effective in the earliest stages of intervention when students are acquiring their target sound, and then proficient productions of the target sounds can be mastered through traditional treatment or motor learning approaches.

My Thoughts:
*I'm a big fan of the idea of children "seeing" the results of their articulatory placements. With biofeedback they can visually see the effects of moving their tongue around or rounding their lips. This may be especially great for those students who aren't perceptually accurate at rating their own sound productions as correct/incorrect.

*Initial cost to integrate this technology into practice would be too high. Is it really feasible for schools/clinics/private practices to acquire the equipment necessary to use biofeedback? Would it be applicable to enough students to make the cost worth it? Would clinicians be willing to be trained to use the equipment? I know of some clinics near where I live that are using VisiPitch in their practice to target /r/ treatment. The Voice Analyzer Pro app is an example of much less expensive spectrum/spectrogram software that would be more reasonable for everyday use. However, I'm not familiar with how accurate or easy to use it is.

*This study was limited to participants who showed only /r/ errors and had not responded to previous intervention. I would be interested in seeing if faster progress could be made for children who are responding to traditional treatment approaches. If that's the case, we could get them back into the classroom sooner. Also, I would love to see follow-up studies targeting other speech sounds (e.g. /s/, /l/, /sh/)

*The lack of carryover and generalization makes sense. It's not like the equipment could be sent home with participants so they could practice in other settings and with other communication partners (e.g. parents, teachers, neighbors, etc.) Perhaps a longer-term study would show treatment effects generalize to other settings and other people. Also remember, though, that not all children respond to traditional and empirically sound treatment approaches at the same rate in the real word either.

*The study had mixed results when looking at age as a predictor of progress using biofeedback intervention. More research definitely needs to be done in this area. It may depend on the individual, but do children younger than 6 years old have the cognitive-linguistic skills necessary to understand and respond to biofeedback?

*The authors also noted this wasn't a true biofeedback approach due to the use of articulatory cues during the biofeedback phase that were trained during the traditional treatment phase. This is an understandable complication from a scientific standpoint, but in the real world, most students are likely to receive more than one treatment approach or a hybrid of elements from various approaches anyway. Personally, as long as improvements are made, I'm not too concerned about following standardized treatment protocols to a T.

How I Will Transfer To My Practice:
In this research study, children showed different results with the vocalic /r/ vs. consonantal /r/ and /r/ in cluster contexts. This will be great to keep in mind when working with my students. I need to find a context they are successful with and use that success to shape their treatment.

I would love to use some form of visual feedback for my students. Particularly those who I'm running out of "tricks" to use! Even video self-modeling has been shown to be effective in articulation therapy. If I can capture video of them successfully using their target sounds, I can show them being successful! How powerful for students to see!

I would also definitely be interested in applying biofeedback therapy to the treatment of other sound errors as well. In my opinion, /sh/ and /ch/ affricates are such tricksters to train - maybe biofeedback could result in a breakthrough!

What do you think? Did this research intrigue you? Get you thinking about how to incorporate into your own practice? What research topics would you like to read about in the coming months?

McAllister Byan, T, & Hitchcock, Elaine R. (2012). Investigating the Use of Traditional and Spectral Biofeedback Approaches to Intervention for /r/ Misarticulation. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 21, 207-221.

Whew! I've been a bit out of practice reading research articles since finishing graduate school. I'm so excited to challenge myself and dive into current research again. Head over to Talks Just Fine to see all the other participants and read their research reviews.

June 10, 2013

June SLP Link-Up

The June SLP link-up is here! Visit Laura over at Oh, How Pintearesting to learn how to participate.

 This month, I am:

Jamming to Andy Grammer...I am in love with the Andy Grammer station on Pandora! Perfect mix of Maroon 5, One Republic, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Parachute, Sara Bareilles, Colbie Caillat, and more. This has been my go-to background music while cooking supper, dinking around on the computer, cleaning, relaxing...So good!

Unwinding with books...I finally have time to read again! In April/May I had to renew my library book THREE times in order to get it read. This week I started three more books to get my summer reading list going.

Needing a summer job...I have been looking for a part-time summer job (not speech pathology related) in order to earn some extra cash, but it's been a struggle! I'm not really wanting to do retail or work in a restaurant. I used to be a lifeguard in high school and it was the BEST job ever. Wish I still had my certification.

Excited about free time...School's out for summer! Time to read, relax, soak up some rays, and not worry about paperwork that's due or meetings to attend. Enjoy!

Now go join the link-up over at Oh, How Pintearesting and see what other SLP bloggers are up to this month :) If you're not a blogger, leave a comment and let me know what June has in store for you!

Lessons Learned

reflections on what I've learned during the past school year

I'm not going to lie. This school year was quite challenging for me. I left a job I loved to move to a new state. Had to adjust to a new school with new teachers and new students and a tremendous amount of paperwork (I mean, really...a form to fill out keeping track of the forms I've filled out?!). Plus I received a huge number of referrals on top of my already bulging caseload. And the evaluation procedures are so different here in Iowa than anything I was used to. No standardized testing. More than once I broke down crying with my husband consoling me.

Don't get me wrong, things weren't all bad! I dismissed nine students from speech services, put together this little blog, was able to attend some great professional development classes, had a mom tell me that I was the first SLP in three years who was able to help her son correctly say the /k/ and /g/ sounds, people out there valued the TpT products I've created (!)...there were definitely some great moments!

Now that the school year has come to a close, I've spent some time reflecting on what I've learned and I thought it would be nice to write it all down 'for the record'. Perhaps some of you have struggled also this year and will find something useful here. Let's get going!

1: Be Flexible, Be Organized, and Prioritize!
More than any other previous year working as a speech pathologist, I had to learn flexibility this year. My schedule was a working, living document. Organization isn't my strong point, but I capitalized on using my online calendar, which was a huge lifesaver for me. Also, I have Stickies on my MacBook holding every list, thought, idea, personal to-do, blog post ideas, etc.

 April: color-coordination is key to an organized calendar

It also became extremely important to prioritize my to-do lists. I kept a running list of all the tasks I needed to complete, and also kept a second to-do list of the most important tasks to get done that day. I kept both lists on post-its taped to my laptop so they were constantly reminding me to get things done. Oh, and procrastination is my downfall! It's still a struggle for me to buckle down and get things done, but I learned this year that when I put things off, there was twice as much to do the next day! How do you keep your work life organized?

May 2013: Narrative Discourse course

2. Don't be afraid to accept help from others or to ask questions.
The education agency I work for has a mentor program for the first two years of employment with the agency. I was blessed with an amazing speech-pathologist with 20+ years experience here. She is just a wealth of information and I definitely took advantage of her expertise any time I needed help. But we also learned from each other! I did some things differently with scheduling, graphing student progress, and using the iPad that she thought were great. Continue sharing your ideas with other SLPs and parents and coworkers! We can all learn so much from each other!!

September: Homecoming Week - Mismatch Day

3. It's okay to say no.
In March, when assignments were starting to be reviewed for next year, I was approached by my regional director and asked if I would be willing to add the middle school in town to my caseload next year. Honestly, I didn't want to do it, but I said I would consider it for a couple days and let him know. My assignment involves working with 10 preschool classes, plus 12 kindergarten and first grade classrooms. Those ages have lots of needs and come with lots of referrals. It's a busy time! It's always been challenging for me to say no to people, especially people who are an authority to me. But I had to think about what was best for me, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to say no. So I did. And my regional director was okay with that.

April: flowers from a preschooler
on the playground

4. Communication with parents is key to everyone being happy.
There were a couple instances this year where I had parents upset with me. For different reasons. One didn't think I was providing the correct number of service minutes stated on her child's IEP. Another parent was upset her son didn't qualify for extended school year services. Both situations scared me at first. I just don't like disappointing people. But both conflicts were resolved once I was able to talk directly with these parents rather than them communicating through other people not directly involved in the situation. In both instances, I was able to communicate the truth to parents. I was providing the correct number of minutes, but the parent didn't realize that because I didn't send home a session note every time. Easy fix. The other parent wanted her son to qualify for summer services because he qualified last year. I helped her see that he was making such great progress that he didn't need the extra services over the summer. Communication directly between me and the parents changed everything.

October: a little appreciation

5. Things aren't always as bad as they seem.
I think it was mid-November and I was struggling to keep afloat amid the numerous referrals I had already received since the school year started. Thinking about all the tasks I had yet to do led to a cry-fest with my husband. I think my words included, "I don't know what I'm doing!" and, "I just have so much to do and no time to do it or I'll be missing minutes with my students!" and, "I wish we had never moved to Iowa!" He's the best at calming me down when I'm at my worst. And he helped me put things in perspective: I did know what I was doing. I just needed to prioritize (see #1), and I would get through this. I do enjoy living in Iowa. And so on.

And now that the school year is over, he was so right. Things aren't as bad as they seem. My year could definitely have been worse. Here I am reflecting and wallowing in the difficult year I've had when I read this. Laura at Oh, How Pintearesting! is one of the first "big time" SLP blogging celebrities that started following Schoolhouse Talk. She's going through some major struggles right now, and it really put my year in perspective. Go leave her some love.

I've also been thinking about the SLPs, teachers, students, and families who lost everything in the Oklahoma tornadoes recently. Oh, I can't watch The Bachelor tonight because I have progress reports to do? Stop complaining, at least I still have a home. Makes my situation pale in comparison.

May: Super Duper bag all packed up for preschool therapy

6. Be sure to take time for yourself.
So you have a caseload of 60 students, but teachers won't let you see them during reading instruction, or math instruction, or recess, or specials, or reading group, and they all have to eat lunch, and you have three buildings to travel to, and meetings before and after school most days, and two evaluations and four IEPs to write, and three phone calls to return...there just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done! Every speech pathologist deals with this. Just like classroom teachers, we end up bringing work home with us. Whether it's lesson plans, materials to print and laminate, or paperwork to complete, there's always "something to do".

October: Halloween costume

I learned this year that it's important for my mental health to take some "me time" regularly. I don't have to feel bad if I take a few evenings a week and leave the paperwork at school. I don't have to feel bad taking a personal day here and there. Sometimes I need to take a break from blogging because I don't want this blog to just be a machine that pumps out random products. I want my blogging to be meaningful to myself and others. Maybe I just need a couple hours to unwind after work. So as long as I get my paperwork and to-do list completed in a timely manner, it's okay to take some time for myself and just. do. nothing.

May: double motivation: iPad and Connect Four

7. Technology is my friend
I'm fortunate that the education agency I work for supplied me with a MacBook and an iPad. Both have been instrumental in my practice. I recently attended a two-day technology for SLPs workshop and learned so many productivity tips that I know will save me so much time next year! (Stay tuned, blog post on that to come soon!) We are all learning how remarkable the iPad can be in therapy. It's our responsibility to share this knowledge with teachers and parents we interact with. Also, the SLP blogging community is a lifesaver! There are over 130 blogs about speech pathology out there. So many great ideas and resources being shared! I am so thankful to be a part of such a great group of people.

June: all packed up and ready to go

I'll be transferring to a different school district in August. I am so excited for the change. My caseload will be smaller. My commute will be 1/3 as long. I'll have other SLPs in the same building! I'm looking forward to starting new after learning all the above lessons this year. But first, it's time to embrace summer break. Regroup. Plan for next year. RELAX. It's going to be fantastic.

On your toughest day, remember: We all make a 
difference in the lives of the children we work with!

Leave a Comment: How do you deal with stressful days at work?
I love coming home to my husband and opening a bottle of Barefoot Sweet Red :)