June 22, 2014

My Summer Reading List

here's what I'll be reading while lounging at the pool or on the patio this summer

Summer! It's here! And it's hoooot! Perfect excuse to lounge by the pool, get a little vitamin D, and immerse yourself in a good book. Here's what I'm hoping to read this summer. (Note: Descriptions borrowed from Goodreads.)

1. The Forgotten Garden - by Kate Morton
Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra's life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

2. Bright Not Broken: Gifted Kids, ADHD, and Autism - by Diane M. Kennedy and Rebecca S. Banks, with Temple Grandin (A work-related read for the summer.)

3. Hollow City - by Ransom Riggs (The first book, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was so unique. Unlike any other book I have read. I have high hopes for this one.)
The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London the peculiar capital of the world. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner.

4. This is Where I Leave You - by Jonathan Tropper
Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family.

5. Dad is Fat - by Jim Gaffigan (I laughed until I cried watching his Mr. Universe comedy special on Netflix. Hopefully this book is just as funny.)
In Dad is Fat, stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan expresses all the joys and horrors of life with five young children—everything from cousins ("celebrities for little kids") to toddlers’ communication skills (“they always sound like they have traveled by horseback for hours to deliver important news”), to the eating habits of four year olds (“there is no difference between a four year old eating a taco and throwing a taco on the floor”).

6. Until I Say Goodbye - by Susan Spencer-Wendel
Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) and no longer able to walk or even to lift her arms, Susan wrote this book letter by letter on her iPhone using only her right thumb, the last finger still working. Until I Say Good-Bye is not only Susan Spencer-Wendel's unforgettable gift to her loved ones--a heartfelt record of their final experiences together--but an offering to all of us: a reminder that "every day is better when it is lived with joy."

7. East of Eden - by John Steinbeck
Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.

8. The Light Between Oceans - by M.L. Stedman
Tom Sherbourne is a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a tiny island a half-day's boat journey from the coast of Western Australia. When a baby washes up in a rowboat, he and his young wife, Isabel, decide to raise the child as their own. The baby seems like a gift from God, and the couple's reasoning for keeping her seduces the reader into entering the waters of treacherous morality even as Tom--whose moral code withstood the horrors of World War I--begins to waver.

9. The Death Cure - by James Dashner (The first two books in The Maze Runner series were so great, easy to read, and hard to put down. I hope this one is just as good as it wraps up the trilogy.)
Thomas knows that Wicked can't be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they've collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It's up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test. What Wicked doesn't know is that something's happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can't believe a word of what Wicked says. The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.

10. Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption - by Laura Hillenbrand (I don't read many books based on true stories. This one came highly recommended by my Dad, and sounds thrilling.)
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

Have you read any of these? What's on your summer reading list?

June 17, 2014

Guest Blog Post: Building Blocks in Speech

Note: This post originally appeared on the Twin Sisters Speech and Language Therapy blog on May 29th, 2014. Thanks for reading!


Big props to Shanda and Manda for allowing me to guest post for them today! Those two girls have wonderfully creative ideas, so I am thrilled to add to the mix.

With our hectic school schedules, sometimes we have to provide therapy "on the fly". I was thinking last week about my therapy sessions, and I found myself going back to Lego/Duplo blocks again and again as my go-to "grab and go" therapy item. My current assignment is working with early intervention (birth to 3) as well as preschool-aged children, and these little blocks of joy are perfect for bringing communication opportunities and fun to our time together.

What can I target with Lego/Duplo blocks?

You can target so, so much with building blocks! Here's a sampling of what I've done with them:

*Basic Concepts: talk about the colors of the blocks; the number of "bumps" they have; discuss the attributes of the blocks (long, short, skinny, large, etc.); build different shapes or letters out of the blocks; talk about which blocks they need first, next, and last
*Emerging Language Skills: Legos provide the perfect opportunity for students to practice requests: more, block please, my turn, more blue, I'm all done, etc.

*Turn-Taking and Pronouns: Some of my preschoolers have a behavior goal for turn-taking. Building blocks are also perfect practice for this as you work together to build a masterpiece. We also get tons of opportunities to practice pronouns: my turn, your turn, we go at the same time, his turn, you do it, I need help, etc.

*Prepositions: up, down, around, bottom, top, inside, through, first, last - they're all covered here!

*Following Directions: You can instruct your kiddos how to build something with the blocks, or have them practice telling each other directions. Since the building pieces are different colors and shapes, it's perfect for adding describing words to your sentences: "Put the long red piece on top of the short purple piece." You can also download building plans such as this one online. Instead of printing them off, I just display them on my laptop or iPad for students to reference.

*Articulation: I have my articulation students practice their target sounds a designated number of times before they can earn more blocks to use. I've also attached their target pictures to the blocks and had them practice as they build. (By the way, this adhesive is such a time and money saver for temporarily attaching pictures! So much better than Velcro!)

Another favorite Lego activity of mine is the Lego Read & Build kits. These neat little activities come with a book and all the Legos you need for building the characters inside the book.

I have this farm set, but there are also caterpillar, fairy tale, jungle, and vehicles sets that I've seen. They are great for little ones and the pages show them exactly how to assemble each item. These are great for traveling SLPs because they are compact and contain only the specific blocks you need for that book.

Finally, if I don't want to lug around a set of Lego blocks as I travel from site to site, I always can count on the Lego Juniors Create & Cruise app to help me out. It is a wonderful and FREE app that I recommend to all the parents and teachers I work with. Students get to build their own Lego car (great for targeting language goals as they describe the car they want to build!), and then drive it while they earn additional game pieces! This one is a must-have app and it is definitely a favorite of all my students :)

Thanks so much for reading! I hope I've inspired you to "build" some fun into your therapy sessions!