Friday, July 9, 2010

Speech House...3 weeks and counting down!

Whew! I am tired. Spent all day cleaning very filthy windows and sweeping up construction trash. I think we will actually make it into our new office by the end of July.

Why are we moving? Since I entered into ownership of my own private practice speech clinic over 10 years ago, I have had a dream. That dream was to have a "house" type office with a yard in which we could do fun outdoorsy activities with our clients. At our clinic, we believe that one of the most effective ways to help a child with a communication disorder is with meaningful practical engagement in activities that are fun and motivating to the child. What is more fun than being able to go outside and plant a garden, find bugs, or paint pictures? It is a whole lot more interesting than looking at card decks or doing worksheets (which have their place, but not ALL the time).

I quickly found that such a place at an affordable price is VERY hard to find. I recall that this house I have recently purchased came on the market about 6-7 years ago. I saw it, thought it would be a good location for us, but had no money and was still acclimating to running my own business. For the next several years, everytime I drove past this house, I thought "that would be a great place for my business" and often said a quick little prayer that someday I would find the right place.

Fast forward to February 2010; I find out my lease is due and they want me to sign another 3 year lease. Add to this the fact that 2009 was the worst year ever with insurance reimbursements for our services (I won't bore you with the details). I am desperate to move away from dependence on insurance, especially with socialized health care on the horizon. I also have had a burden to offer more autism services such as pre-k groups to prepare PDD-Nos children for school. Anyway, I have looked for a place, I am holding over on my lease paying an additional 25% per month for this privilege, I considered one house but it was ultimately going to be too expensive for my budget, I was discouraged and decided I would go ahead and sign my lease the next day. I just happened to drive past this house which I had not done in quite some time, and "lo & behold" I see a "For Sale" sign in front of it. My heart skips a beat. I calm myself with the words, "you know it will be too expensive... but you HAVE to at least call first thing in the morning."

Next morning, I am driving to work and dial the Realtor (while at a stop light). I ask him the price. He states a price that is well within my budget. I ask to see the house in 30 minutes. I call the husband, tell him he may want to meet me with the Realtor because if the house is halfway decent, I will be writing a check on the spot for earnest money.

The rest is history. "God is good" is all I can say.

So, "whew", I am tired but happy. I have great plans for our "Speech House"...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Literature & Thematic Units to Address Speech & Language Goals

A great and fun way to address speech and language goals is to use literature. A story or a book can serve as a foundation for working on many targets.

How to pull together a unit: Choose an appropriate book. One book can serve many age levels of students. Younger students and low functioning students can focus on basic understanding, vocabulary, concepts, or just being able to pay attention for a minute or five. Older students can use the story in higher level challenging tasks such as summarizing the story, changing the story, creating their own story patterned after the book, etc.

Gather Story Props & Materials: Search for toys and games that go with the story as well as crafts, snacks, and worksheets. (Fast food restaurant toys, beanie babies, and story telling sets can often be found inexpensively on EBAY.) The internet is a treasure chest of such resources. Simply type in your book title and begin searching. Bookmark and/or print the activities of interest to you. I like to bookmark everything, then cull through the selections and print hard copies of things I like to keep in a notebook for future reference. This way, if the site gets lost, dies, or whatever happens in the virtual world, I will still have access to my notebook.

Articulation: Pull target words from the story to practice, create carrier phrases with targets to practice, readers can read the book focusing on their particular speech sounds.
  1. Vocabulary Building: Pull new words from the story and explore related ideas and concepts
  2. Grammatical Work/Sentence structure: Choose your target (pronoun use, is verbing, past tense, etc.) and create carrier phrases (phrases or sentences that are to be used over and over during the task) or discuss the story from the point of view being addressed. "What did the girl do in the story?" or "What is the girl doing here?"
  3. Processing: Discuss to probe for understanding the story, recall details, answer questions, etc.
  4. Expression: Re-tell story, expand on the story, sequence events.
  5. Reasoning: Cause-effect ("Why did this happen? How did this happen?"), understanding inference, predicting outcomes ("What do you think will happen next? What if this happened instead?")
  6. Pragmatics/Social skills: Understanding motives, emotional states, viewing things from perspectives of different characters (understand that each character has own view points and what one character may know, the others do not necessarily have same knowledge or experience). This is a critical area for children with Asperger's or Pragmatic disorders.
  7. Attending: Low functioning children or those with forms of Autism often have difficulting attending to a full story. To gain and maintain attention, introduce the use of story props, which the child can hold or manipulate in accordance with the story. For example in the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar I like to have a small stuffed or plastic worm/caterpillar and several of the book foods cut-outs (laminated) with a hole in the middlle; the child can use these to pass the worm through each food as it happens in the story.
Here are some links to a few sites with lots of wonderful resource materials for literature units. link to my facebook photos where I list links under pics of books.
Another Link: Literature units for ages K-6th grade delving into literature componenets (character, setting, etc).