Parent Information

This page is designed for parents who have questions about the child’s speech and language development.  Please visit my other pages too, especially Your Middle Schooler even if your child is years away from the tween years.  Please contact me if you have any specific questions or need information in any specific area of speech and language development.


Buzz Words in Education

Posted by on Jun 7, 2015 in Administrators Page, Parent Information, slider, SLP Chat | 0 comments

Buzz Words in Education

In the field of education buzz words come and go quickly. Current buzz words in education usually reflect the trend of the week and saturate conferences, school meetings, program development, scholarly articles, blog posts, social media and even lunchroom conversation for short periods of time. After working in education for so many years, it is difficult to take any new or even recycled buzz word seriously. Reality is most buzz words in education don’t buzz for long and are quickly replaced with a new flavor of the day.

The buzz word I dislike the most has been around forever. It’s only been the past 10 years or so that this word has taken on a negative connotation for me. The buzz word I have grown to dislike is STRATEGY. This was a perfectly good word until it became overused in education.

Now I am not recommending we stop using and suggesting strategies all together. We need to suggest them and kids need to have a set of strategies to use. However, based on meetings I’ve attended over the past several years, in a variety of educational settings, it appears that somehow educators have gotten it into their heads that if we put enough strategies in place, learning and development emerges. We all know strategies can help but the overuse of the term strategies leads one to believe that strategies can replace learning.

Strategies generated can be very vague, somewhat vague, fairly concrete or solid. What defines a special strategy? Are strategies that special or just best practices repackaged. Does a strategy involve direct or indirect intervention? How can you really measure a strategy’s success. Do you need a baseline? Who should be suggesting/approving strategies? Who monitors strategies? Who teaches strategies? Why are so many kids needing so many strategies? So many questions come to mind.
Rather than teaching the deficit or missing skills, “strategies” are put into place. Most strategies (initially suggested) are very superficial and do not increase direct time or effort with the student. Many students often remain in “strategy mode” for years.

Strategy, as a buzz word has become too broad and thats why it bothers me. Everything we try in schools has become a strategy. I would like to see this word used a little less and strategies in schools become a more defined.

What buzz word bothers/bothered you the most or what buzz word do you find the most humorous/useless?

Check out my Facebook page for a giveaway of my new book when you tell me your most bothersome Buzz Word in education.

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Therapy Hot Spot Review

Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Parent Information, slider, SLP Chat | 0 comments

Therapy Hot Spot Review

I recently came across this new service/product and fell in love with the concept. Therapy Hot Spot is a relatively new business that puts together monthly therapy kits based on the needs of your current caseload.
Wendy Underwood OTA/L is the owner and brains behind this idea. Wendy and her staff create therapy boxes for PTs, PTAs, OTs, COTAs, SLPs, SLPAs and parents. After having you fill out a questionnaire and personally speaking with you, a “therapy box” is filled with materials and suggestions that target your needs and the needs of your students.


I reviewed a sample kit and found a variety of items that could tackle general speech and language related concepts and student needs. The box was easily portable and sturdy. I don’t know about you but my workload is bursting at the seams. I often miss my planning time for other workload activities. If Therapy Hot Spot can save me a little time hunting, gathering and creating therapy activities it would be well worth the fee.
Wendy has promised me a tailored kit in the near future. I’m so looking forward to using her items with my specific students. Now my caseload it huge and very diverse so I’m not expecting her to send the perfect activity for every student but we’ll see. However, a good SLP should be able to use their therapeutic skills to take just about any activity and modify that activity to match the needs of their students.
My thoughts are that Therapy Hot Spot boxes would work well in both clinical and school settings. Therapy Hot Spot is defiantly worth a peek online and serious consideration, especially for those who find their planning time disappearing into the abyss.
For specifics and fees please visit their website


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Play, It’s more important than you think

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Parent Information, slider, SLP Chat | 0 comments

Play, It’s more important than you think

I ran across this fun article floating around Facebook.  33 Activities for Kids That Cost Under $10 Dollars.  Some of these activities looked like a lot of fun.  While the examples they show look a little too “neat” to be done by kids, with some of the activities you can hand them the materials they need and step back.  As a matter of fact it might be a good idea to let them develop their own style of play with their friends.  The amount of learning, experimentation and problem solving the kids can do on their own is amazing if you let them try before swooping in to help.

Take a look at the tin foil and hose experiment, what is the worse that could happen.  First they could actually learn how to rip foil from the role or they could get a small cut in the process.  They could learn how to control or roll up a hose when the were done.  Don’t worry it is still OK to drink from a hose once in awhile.  Have you done it lately, it is still a fun thing to do. Little Jack 1

Several years ago I wrote an article called Play Skills Are More Important Than You Think. With all the changes in our society and education today, emphasis on play has gone by the wayside.  The developmental experts are not promoting PLAY the way they use to.  I seem to remember much of my initial education in college, focused on the different stages of play.  Anyone else ever heard of Piaget?

I hope all kids get to have some fun over the summer, play with their friends, learn the art of problem solving and become creative on their own.

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How SLPs can deal with Middle School rudeness

Posted by on Jan 19, 2015 in Parent Information, slider, SLP Chat, Your Middle Schooler: A Unique Age | 0 comments

How SLPs can deal with Middle School rudeness

I received a question from a middle school therapist asking if I had any suggestions on how to deal with rude disrespectful students. No other information than that in terms of community, severity of students, size of groups or gender. From my 15 plus years of experience at the middle school level I think I relate to the situation she might be in. I’m going to assume her students are mainly boys and basically language/learning disabled students.

Three things to consider. First, Speech Language Pathologists do not also have to be experts in behavior. We have enough on our plate. Second, the rules have changed just in the past few years and we are not always allowed to use our professional judgement on who will continue to benefit from therapy and who will not. Third, middle schoolers specialize in rudeness, but it shouldn’t be consistent.

As few as 5 years ago I was able to go into a middle school annual review meeting, explain any behavioral difficulties that might be going on. I would proceed to tell the parent that the student isn’t working in therapy and not really getting anything out of it. Parents usually realized the issue because they were dealing with similar behaviors or complaints at home. We kept any language accommodations and modifications in place but the student was officially discharged from therapy. These days students have to “test out” of therapy before they can be discharged. We all know that “testing out” rarely happens for our language kids. Hence our professional judgement is ignored by the system. However, at least at a 3 year reevaluation you can bring up concerns around not continuing to benefit from services.

They are middle school aged children and figure if they keep behaving badly they eventually won’t have to go to therapy. Keep in mind that these children are probably having considerable difficulty in middle school as the language demands in all subjects quickly becomes more difficult. Going to therapy isn’t cool. I’ve been fortunate to work in schools for the past 20 or so years that have been on the cutting edge of integration services. Most kids accept each other and do not pay much attention to the limitations of typical language/learning disabled students. You might want to consider your schools history in terms of special education integration.

I use to be able to tempt the students with food treats once in a while. However, that was before all the food rules schools now have. A granola bar, cookies, dum dum pops or a stick of gum went a long way. By feeding them it showed I cared. It was something special to look forward to and most middle schoolers are hungry all the time.

Some middle school students that were embarrassed to be in speech therapy, especially if someone had the bight idea for me to see them in the classroom.  Rudeness could be the result of embarrassment.

If you think you students are embarrassed about having to go to therapy here are some suggestions.

  • Talk to them about therapy, what they are working on, who made the decision that they would have to see you (yes include parents), try to do pull out therapy whenever possible. Polling my middle school students over the years, few wanted me breathing down their necks, in the classroom with their friends watching.
  • Spend time working gently on raising awareness of their language needs
  • Don’t label your door if you don’t have to. If you do just put your name.
  • I think all therapy rooms should have windows in their doors but make the student’s seat placement outside the view of the window so their friends don’t see them.
  • Explain any scheduling decisions
  • Don’t show up at the classroom door to pick them up, make a phone call to class instead.

Here are some other suggestions you might try

  • If the groups aren’t working try changing them up (I realize that is easier said than done because our scheduling is based on the school schedule). Are your groups too big to manage?
  • Try changing your therapy methods to make activities more fun. Throw in a game once in a while, even if it is a game that has little to no educational value.
  • Laugh with your students. I created a joke curriculum that focused on many aspects of ambiguous and figurative language along with vocabulary.
  • Occasionally give them a day off, especially if there is something going on in class that they want to be part of. Cut session short once in awhile, they like that. (this of course depends how strict your administration is on comp services)
  • Be firm, make it clear that you are tired of their rudeness. It’s ok to use your mean teacher voice when necessary. Follow up with an activity that they like then thank them for their cooperation or tell them this was a fun group.
  • Occasionally bring in classwork and let them finish homework, help them muddle through a book they’re reading.
  • Design some activities where they can get up and move around. A white board comes in very handy for this.

If these suggestions don’t have any effect, its time to bring your issues to the principal or vice principal. It might be a good issue to pose to teachers at staff meeting. Teachers and counsellors might be able to provide some insight or even support. At the very least you’ll find out if this is a general school issue or individual specific. More than likely these kids are rude everywhere not just in therapy.

As mentioned earlier middle schoolers specialize in rudeness. Our language disabled students have difficulty knowing when it might be ok to be rude and when it isn’t. Most middle schoolers will not be blatantly rude to adults other than their parents but it does happen. Keep in mind they’re a bundle full of hormones and sometimes can’t help it. Rudeness shouldn’t happen on a consistent basis. If you see a problem try talking privately to the student about it or if you know there are issues mention it to the guidance counsellors/school psychologists.

Middle School Therapists, please feel free to add any additional suggestions

Good Luck

Professional Liability for SLPs
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Have a good chuckle but think while you’re laughing

Posted by on Nov 29, 2014 in Parent Information, pictures, slider, SLP Chat | 2 comments

A few weeks ago I saw this “Buzz Word Bingo Card” floating around Facebook.  So much of this buzz word bingo had to do with measuring what students have learned rather than how/what students are being taught.  I assumed that that was why it made it on some of the funny education and anti-common core pages.  Does any buzz word here actually tell you anything about what the students are learning?  I’ll let you generate your own opinion on that.  Now compare this buzz word bingo card to the one below.

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Here is the Buzz Word Bingo that teachers might have shared in the late 1960’s.  Granted someone would have had to recreate it and run it off on on mimeograph machine (which were still used until the early 80ies).  It is important to note that using the Buzz Words from the 1960’s, many children received a good solid foundational education.  Was it perfect? No.  Was awareness yet heightened around learning and language disabilities? NO!  However, the good teachers who did not have bulging classrooms did try their best to help all children succeed.  I know there was more teaching and less measuring.  I know many of you may have hated Dick and Jane but guess what the formula worked for a variety of children, giving them not only reading success but self confidence to read.  My favorite three on the Buzz Word Bingo 1960 are PHONICS, HANDWRITING and FOCUS ON MEMORY SKILLS.

Buzz Word 1960 #2

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Thanksgiving Humor

Posted by on Nov 28, 2014 in Parent Information, pictures, slider, SLP Chat | 0 comments

Thanksgiving Humor

I found these Thanksgiving themed jokes floating around Facebook this week.  Even though it’s after Thanksgiving I am going to use these (or some of these) in therapy this week.  I believe they’re still relevant because the students just experienced Thanksgiving and with any luck remembered some of the details.  I am big on teaching how to recognize and understand humor.  Understanding humor is a huge part of social pragmatics.   I often have an objective focusing on humor written into my student’s ed plans.

If students can’t “get it” they are often left behind both within the social realm and as curriculum/materials becomes more challenging.  Subtleties in language are all around us, from tv to textbooks.  Some kids “get it” easily and naturally and some do not.  Most of our language disabled kids need a lot of help learning how to “get it”.

15 Thanksgiving Jokes

  1. What happened when the turkey got into a fight?
    He got the stuffing knocked out of him.
  2. What did the baby corn say to the mama corn?
    Where’s the popcorn?
  3. Why did the police arrest the turkey?
    He was suspected of fowl play.
  4. What are unhappy cranberries called?
    Blue Berries.
  5. What sound does a turkey phone make?
    Wing! Wing!
  6. What kind of car would a pilgrim drive?
    A Plymouth.
  7. What is a turkey’s favorite dessert?
    A Peach Gobbler.
  8. When does Christmas come before Thanksgiving?
    In the dictionary!
  9. How does a turkey drink her wine?
    With a gobble-let.
  10. Why did the cranberries turn red?
    Because they saw the turkey dressing.
  11. What do turkeys use to clean themselves?
    A feather duster.
  12. Why did the pie go to the dentist?
    Because it needed a filling.
  13. What kind of music did pilgrims listen to at the first Thanksgiving?
    Plymouth Rock
  14. Why do potatoes make good detectives?
    They keep their eyes peeled.
  15. How many cooks does it take to stuff a turkey?
    One, but you really have to squeeze him in.

Originally compiled by Michelle Regna BuzzFeed Staff

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Shopping on Amazon this Season

Posted by on Nov 28, 2014 in Parent Information, slider, SLP Chat | 0 comments

Shopping on Amazon this Season

With Cyber Monday beginning for some probably today, if you order from Amazon remember to order through your favorite blog (such as mine)  Look for the Amazon link on the site and order from there. Or sign up for Amazon smile and send a few pennies to your favorite charity. It truly is only pennies but every little bit adds up. Since I can’t order through my own blog, I support the Trustees of Reservations.

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Osmo-I do like this new product!

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Apps I Can Use, Parent Information, slider, SLP Chat | 1 comment

Osmo-I do like this new product!

Over the summer I was inundated with ads from a new educational product called Osmo. It’s basically a very unique app that works with your iPad and incorporates manipulative. After seeing the demo video I was hooked and I had to have one. Mine arrived this week.
The special edition pack came with 2 sets of game manipulatives, Tanagram and Words. A third game called Newton was available for download (using the manipulatives of a paper and pencil or any solid object, including your hands). What puts a different spin on the Tanagram game is that the child has to shift their eye gaze from table to iPad to complete the tasks rather than lay an tanagram on top of a copy. It’s a fairly simple task but for young children or those with learning issues it is wonderful practice. As a therapist, I would love to see Tanagram leveled and expanded down the road.
Word comes with scrabble like pieces and you have to complete a variety of leveled word completion tasks. Pictures are presented, some with letter clues and some without. It’s a little like hangman. You can download and use pictures in a variety of categories. Being able to break the pictures down into specific categories is a big plus for me as a therapist. The most challenging level was somewhat abstract, with a few words/places we had not even heard of but that did make it fun for us.
Newton is difficult to describe. It’s like a pinball game where you have to hit targets, only you are trying to figure out the path to the target. You’re creating the path using pen/paper or other items to create the path, allowing the balls to bounce off and hit the target, while watching it on the screen. Again practicing that eye shift skill.
I tried the Osmo games with a couple of my students yesterday and they both loved them. Both the Tanagram and Word games focused on practicing some of their weak underlying learning skills. It didn’t move too fast for them. Since they really don’t need to touch the iPad while using it, inaccuracy often experienced when hitting the iPad was almost a non-issue.
The one drawback to this first edition of Osmo is that you have to remove the iPad from its case before it can be used. Personally I won’t let my students near the iPad unless it is encased in my Otter Box. Most schools are protecting their electronics with similar sturdy cases. I mentioned this to the company early on, they know it is an issue and are working on it. However, I was so excited with the technology and possible applications I was willing to try it knowing I would have to unearth my iPad from it’s case. At this point it will keep me from using Osmo with certain students and as often as I would like.
My mind has been swimming with ideas on different apps Osmo developers could create to target speech and language, occupational therapy and educational needs. I believe the possibilities are endless. In this day and age where second graders are now issued iPads and preschoolers are put in front of the iPad instead of the tv, adding manipulative to the iPad experience will help to create a more traditional and developmentally appropriate learning experience. I am so looking forward to the development of new applications for education, speech and language development and just for fun.

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55 Movies Every Kid Should See and Talk About (before they’re 13)

Posted by on Aug 19, 2014 in Parent Information, slider, SLP Chat, Your Middle Schooler: A Unique Age | 0 comments

55 Movies Every Kid Should See and Talk About (before they’re 13)

As a speech language pathologist I always look for fun ways to encourage language development. No matter what I am looking at or reading, my mind is always thinking about how I can present or modify the information/activity to benefit my students (or my own kids). This week I read an article in Entertainment Weekly titled “The 55 Essential Movies Kids Must Experience (Before They Turn 13).” Then I noticed my own young adult children joking with each other by quoting lines from TV/movies or talking about characteristics of memorable characters. Sometime these conversations go deeper discussing the music used in movies, the historical relevance/mistakes, continuity/goofs and trivia.

There is a lot of language that can be learned from TV and Movies. Think about some of the animated Disney or Pixar films that constantly use play on words and sarcasm. Many of these movies have over dramatized scenes that get the humor or point across. These movies pair fun visuals with novel language and kids pick it up. The novel language is also presented in context, making it easier for kids to figure out. They also benefit from hearing the appropriate intonation or sarcastic tone. With video streaming watching a movie more than once is the norm so kids hear movie language over and over.

Use this list of the “The 55 Essential Movies Kids Must Experience (Before They Turn 13)” as a guide to choosing a movie some night when you can’t find anything good on tv. Note that many of these movies are a little old or are based on books. That doesn’t make them any less valuable language wise.

Even though I’ve always personally been drawn to tv and movies, I still recommend reading the book before seeing the movie. Reading will stimulate and help to develop kids inner visualization and visualization is key to language comprehension and critical thinking. Discussing differences between books and movies can also be a lot of fun

Watch movies together once in awhile and after the movie, talk about it. Ask questions beyond “Did you like it?”, quote the lines from the movie once in awhile, sing songs from the movie and bring up movie scenes when they might relate to something currently going on in your child’s life.
This list of 55 in not totally comprehensive. There are a lot of good movies for children and especially tweens that will broaden their language skill and make them think. What movies would you add to this list and for what age level?

Amazon Prime makes it easy to find and stream movies, some free some not.  If you shop Amazon a lot, Prime ends up paying for itself.

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