Hello Live: Admins Connect - John Carver of Howard-Winneshiek Community School District

John Carver sits down with us for our 15 minute podcast for special education administrators

This month we talk to John Carver, Superintendent of the Howard-Winneshiek Community School District in Northeast Iowa and participant in the first-ever National Connected Superintendents Summit at the White House in November 2014. This was an exciting interview! After all, how often do I get to glean insights from one of the top superintendents in the country? It only took this 15 minute conversation for me to hang up and reflect, 'How are we getting it so wrong everywhere else when they are getting is so right in Iowa?!'


  • Total Enrollment: 1,467 students across 7 schools and 426 square miles
  • Population Served: PreK through 12th grade
  • Interesting Tidbit:  The school district has been recognized by the US Department of Education as one of the top 100 most technologically innovative districts in the nation as part of the Future Ready Initiative.

Sharon Soliday

Sharon loves to help people communicate more effectively. She has been a licensed speech-language pathologist for 18 years serving both young children, teens and adults. She has a passion for adolescent language, communication and social skills. Individuals with disabilities have benefitted from her services as well as individuals just wanting to refine and improve their skills. She has worked internationally and has been recognized on a national level for her excellent work.

Want Caseload Relief? Do Artic Differently

Sometimes in an effort to be extra helpful, we give kids a lot of help. On the karma-like rating scale of “Niceness,” giving extra help is super nice.

But in the reality of the school-based SLP, giving a lot of help to students doesn’t always equal remediation and dismissal. And when students are not remediating and being dismissed, caseloads are not going down.

So instead of giving more help, what would happen if we set deadlines as to when students should remediate their articulation challenges? What would happen if we set the expectation that service models should change as students made progress?

As it turns out, when we do those things, kids make growth. SLPs dismiss. Caseloads go down.

Most any SLP will tell you (and national data from ASHA indicate) that higher workloads often result in speech groups increasing in size. These larger groups result in longer remediation time for articulation disorders.  

Part of the reason remediation can be delayed is the struggle to individualize therapy in a group setting. During the Spring of 2012, a work group of speech-language pathologists set out to identify a more student-centered service delivery model to increase rates of articulation remediation. At that time, approximately 40% of these SLP's workloads related to students with articulation eligibilities. Increasing remediation and, consequentially, dismissal rates from special education, would significantly lower overall numbers of students on individual caseloads for speech pathologists.

SLPs in the schools can reduce their caseloads by doing articulation differently. Here's how.

But what does a “more student-centered service delivery model” actually mean? The study team of SLPs decided that it meant more individualized service in the area of articulation, with flexible service models that change as the needs of children change. Furthermore, they decided that . . .

  • Without complicating factors, students with articulation errors should make significant progress within one academic year (i.e., students will move from severe to moderate, moderate to mild, or mild to remediated).
  • Students are capable of making significant progress in articulation after 20-30 hours of direct intervention (5-18 months depending on service delivery model).
  • Articulation therapy efforts must be consistent across the school day and home environments for significant progress to be seen.
  • Best practice for establishing correct sound production is therapy with a 1:1 or 2:1  student:clinician ratio.
  • Once correct sound production is established, practice at the sound, phrase, and sentence level should be constant throughout the week. Students should be practicing their sound with multiple people in the school building, not just the speech pathologist or speech assistant.
  • Once correct sound production is established, students should have 75-100 correct productions per session, at any production level (syllable, sentence, etc.) or grade level. 

Here are a few examples of strategies the SLPs in the work group utilized to increase the rate of articulation remediation:

  • Increase direct service throughout the week
  • 1:1 therapy outside of the classroom (in the hallway) for 8-10 minutes every day by the SLP or SLP-Assistant
  • Combine a day of group therapy with a short drill session
  • Provide HW packets for parents to monitor and sign
  • Utilize classroom practice buddy (class peer; could be another speech student or a typical speech peer)
  • Utilize classroom vocabulary as articulation targets with the expectations for correct production in class.
  • Utilize a 60 day RTI or “in depth screening” to assess stimulability and level of support needed for remediation (i.e., does this student need specially designed instruction to identify and utilize correct sound productions) [either effort would involve parent permission]
  • Self-monitoring instruction is maximized when video, audio, and self-charting are utilized
  • Utilize personal iPhones for recording their speech (high interest activity for students)
  • Utilize a mirror
  • Monitor facial expressions for student awareness
  • Utilize other people in the building to support speech practice (teachers, parent volunteers, aides, SLP-Assistants, peers)
  • Include a visual representation of how sounds “look” inside the mouth for students to reference (great support for visual learners) [University of Iowa Phonology]  This can be tied to the LIPS program as well.

So what happened when these SLPs decided to do things differently for 40% of their caseloads??

They created their own magic. Kids’ speech improved. More people took ownership of student goals. More kids were dismissed.

Now, what would happen if every SLP decided to do something differently?

Sharon Soliday

Sharon loves to help people communicate more effectively. She has been a licensed speech-language pathologist for 18 years serving both young children, teens and adults. She has a passion for adolescent language, communication and social skills. Individuals with disabilities have benefitted from her services as well as individuals just wanting to refine and improve their skills. She has worked internationally and has been recognized on a national level for her excellent work.

Hello Live: Connecting Assessment Results to IEP Goals - Are You Doing It Right? with Heidi Peters, MA, CCC-SLP

Join Kelly and Heidi as they talk about how SLPs can connect their assessment results to their IEP goals!

Are you looking for strategies to connect your language assessment results to IEP goals?  Do you ever wonder how other clinicians do it and what best practices are?  Join Heidi Peters, MA, CCC-SLP as she shares guidelines and tips to help you improve what you've been doing so that you can easily write great goals that are measurable, realistic, and functional for your students.  In this podcast, she addresses what 6 steps you should be following from assessment to goal, 4 things you should never do when writing goals, and results from a recent survey she did asking other SLPs for their input into this topic. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post for her great handout to accompany the podcast. 

And once you've listened to Heidi's formal talk, take a listen to our little conversation about our unique window on the wide world of IEP goals and how I don't know the difference between The Pottery Barn Rule and the Girl Scout motto. 

Double Decker Wine Day!

We had such fun this weekend cruising around wine country in the Double Decker Pdx bus! What a truly glorious day, and in February no less. We love Professional Development just as much as the next lady, but this day was all about hanging out, laughing and chit chatting, and just having a perfectly swell time together :-)

The THF Expert Wine Tasting Crew! Back Row, L-R: Tom, Kira, gina, Debbie, Anka, Kay, Christina, Angela, Sharon Scheurer, Lucinda, Nina; Middle Row: Sasha, heidi, Helen, Kelly, Meagan, Linda; Front Row: Wendy, Gretchen, Liz, Dena

Harnessing the Power of Flashcard Apps

Talk to almost anyone who has done articulation therapy, and at some point they have enjoyed the convenience of a deck of cards. Flashcards offer pre-selected targets with a visual representation, and great opportunities for repetition and practice. Given a batch of articulation cards with words containing your target sound, it’s easy to scaffold from practicing an initial sound, to words in phrases and sentences, to more conversational tasks. 

So what does technology have to offer us in the way of flashcards? Actually, quite a bit! 

Though an app requires some investment in technology (e.g. an iPad), flashcard apps offer some significant advantages over traditional decks of paper cards:

  • Individualized Practice - Many flashcard apps allow you to create your own content or search for and download shared decks of flashcards that others have created. If you download a shared deck, you can usually go in and further customize the deck to your needs by adding or deleting specific cards
  • Generalization Support - In the same way that you might send a homework page home with a student, many flashcard apps allow you to “share” the electronic deck with other users. Your students might be able to review decks or exercises they have already mastered in class or at home! If a parent installs the free app on their phone, speech sound practice could happen in the car, as a break between homework assignments, or over breakfast! If your student has access to an iPad at school, they may be able to practice their speech sounds when they’re done with their work, during a choice activity time, or for a moment during transitions! As a bonus, reminders and verbal cues can be added as “cards” in the deck (e.g. “Remember to keep your tongue behind your teeth”), helping teachers, aides, and parents know what words to use.
  • Novelty - Students enjoy working on an iPad, and novelty can go a long ways in encouraging frequent practice. In addition, decks can be changed quickly and easily, so that practice doesn’t get boring! 
  • Cost and Space Efficiency - A free app like Bitsboard that allows you to download shared community decks is a great deal when you don't have a big materials budget! And you can download and carry around on your iPad as many decks as you can organize and keep track of. 

If you are interested in playing with the idea of flashcards within an iPad app, here are some we recommend: 

Bitsboard - My personal favorite for creating custom flashcards, the app makes it easy to create, find, download, modify, and share decks of flashcards. I love the option to email a parent, teacher, or SLPA with a direct link for the custom deck I just created! The free version is quite robust, though pro upgrade offers multiple user profiles and the ability to search the web for images from within the flashcard maker.

Smart Baby Touch - The free version downloads with a couple of play mode, and allows you to use the same deck with different users. There are no sharing options. 

Picture card maker - This app is a great option if you want to be able to print out your cards or make picture-exchange style cards (e.g. to use on a sentence strip), though there are not as many adjustable settings as other flashcard apps. I recommend the paid version (Picture Card Maker Plus), as the free version has a lot of clickable ads. 

Keynote/Powerpoint - Both of these presentation apps are available as iPad apps, allowing you to create a "deck" of images at your desktop computer and then swipe through them on your iPad. Easy to share with other users, you can even create games using hyperlinks embedded in the pictures! 

Flashcard apps are an easy way to create your own content on the iPad. And when you are using your own content, students are supported exactly at their level with individualized materials! How do you use flashcard apps in your practice?