Spruce up Articulation Therapy for the New Year

Are your articulation therapy groups bringing you down? Maybe you started the year with some new apps or fresh ideas that got you through the fall, but now you feel like you're in a rut? In the back of your mind, you know that if you are bored by the memory games with winter-themed articulation cards, your students probably are too! 

We've all been there! Here are some ideas for shaking things up and helping kids make progress:

  • Take a close look at your schedule. No, really. Let go of all the painful memories you have of birthing the schedule last fall and open yourself up to potential change. Don't worry yet about where to move kids or what to tell teachers. Just give honest consideration to:
    • WHAT students are working on - There are always some groups that seemed like a good fit at the beginning of the year, but aren't working so well now. Maybe some students have progressed much faster than others? Or you've had some new referrals that change things. Do you have students who are working on sounds in conversation or generalizing skills they have mastered in structured activities? Put an asterisk by these students - we'll deal with them in a minute.
    • WHERE you are seeing students - I like to see students in front of a mirror when they are just learning a sound and need lots of feedback. After students can reliably produce their target sounds in sentences, they may be able to work on these skills in other (less restrictive) environments - could you pull them in the hallway 1:1? Could you see them in class during a read-to-your partner time? Or silent reading, when they could read to you?
  • WHO is supporting your students' work on articulation? We all know that 20 (or even 40!) minutes of work per week is not enough on its own to change a habit. Make it a part of your lesson to have kids come up with other people they can share their 'best words' with. Tell teachers what cues have been working a particular student. Email today's most successful words or phrases home to parents or pin them to the outside of a student's backpack.
  • HOW are students practicing their target sounds? Are they dependent on you to give them a model, an assignment, or an activity? That probably is not setting them up to think about generalizing their speech work outside the speech room. Have them find target words in their own conversation and stories. Involve them in coming up with their own words to practice, identifying their own 'best words', and making their own materials for home practice. This could be a hands-on art project or some doodling/coloring to do while repeating their targets. Consider allowing students to create their own digital flashcards using a free flashcard app like BitsBoard, that even allows you to email the flashcard deck to parents or teachers when you're done!
  • And, what about those students getting close to meeting their goals? The ones targeting their sound in running speech? It may be time to reduce their minutes, and use targeted reminders and planned carry-over activities. My current district addresses reading fluency in upper elementary grades with a short passage that students read to each other each day for a week (6-minute solution). We can set the student up for thinking about his sound outside of 'speech' by reviewing the passage with him on Monday, highlighting target sounds and trouble words, and then listening to a read through later that week. He's reminded of his speech work - on his own! - every time he takes it out. Look for other generalization targets in language that is repeated - a vocabulary unit or science theme. 

The new year is a great time to think about things we can do differently. What are you doing to mix up your articulation routine and to move students towards their goals? 

THFLife On the Road - Scarf and Mittens Edition

Waaaaay back in October, we kicked off the start of the school year by sharing some of our favorite contractor photos from their first days on-site. It was all short sleeves and warm sunshine back then, but now . . . well, now exposed skin is kept to a minimum and the sunshine is most notable for the way it makes the icy landscapes sparkle. 

Check-out the photos our peeps sent my way this month. There are lots of reasons I love my job, and having the opportunity to see the world through their eyes is definitely one of them. There were so many great ones (some of which I'm hoarding for a future post), but these were some of my winter-y favorites. 

So, are you feeling the need to bundle up yet? No? Then head over and read Sara's latest dispatch from AlaskaHer photos of life north of the Arctic Circle are truly stunning and are guaranteed to make you wish for some hot chocolate :-) 

Call of the Wild: Christmas Bazaars and Sunsets

Selfie during daylight hours.

Selfie during daylight hours.

I love the arctic in the winter; it looks exactly as one would expect.  The snow is so clean and white.  The air is crisp and the sunsets seem to last forever. At first, the darkness can be oppressive. This was certainly the case when I stepped off the plane at 8 in the evening and didn’t see the sun until after noon the next day, through the school window. During this time of year, there are around 4 hours of daylight, from noon until 4pm.  The sun starts going down sometime around 3:30pm, so there isn’t a lot of full bright light, but the sunsets are incredible.  I took over 75 pictures of the sunsets on this trip.  Although I think the pictures look stunning, the real thing I assure you was even more awe inspiring. 

It seems like deep night, but it's already after 10 in the morning!

It seems like deep night, but it's already after 10 in the morning!

My December trip is only a week long, so it’s always very busy.  If the weather is bad and flights are delayed or cancelled there is a strong possibility I will miss seeing Selawik, my small village to the east.  Weather was relatively mild this time, so I was able to travel in a mostly timely manner, however, this trip I did get to unexpectedly see a few extra villages.  Usually, I have direct flights to and from Kotzebue to Selawik.  This trip, though, had two stops to Noorvik and Kiana on the way there and one stop in Buckland on the way back. On the way out to Selawik, the visibility was extremely poor due to snow and darkness. Although, I usually feel somewhat safe, I certainly felt trepidation taking off and landing each time!  Regardless, all was well except for a few lost hours, which, when counting down from 12 total hours of student contact time, can seem like a lot. 

In Selawik, watching as the plane leaves me and my gear on the runway.

In Selawik, watching as the plane leaves me and my gear on the runway.

Early evening in Selawik

Early evening in Selawik

It was Christmas Bazaar time in the Kotzebue!  There were three Christmas Bazaars on the Saturday I was there.  I was able to get a seal skin polar bear ornament and my co-worker/ friend Sadie purchased a fox fur hat.  Other goods seen at the markets included arctic cranberry sauce, pickled salmon, fresh donuts, arctic dolls, earrings made of beads, fur and fish skin, lots of scarves, atikluk (lightweight hoodie), aitqatik (roomy mittens), headbands and bags made of fur or skins (seal and beaver are common).  Traditional goods such as furs and skins are very common.  I discovered that as a non-Inupiaq or native person it is illegal to own seal or polar bear skins, however a finished produced such as mittens or slippers can be owned legally.  

My next visit is February, which is my favorite trip of the year!  I look forward to telling more about my visit next time!

Research Tuesday: Consequences of ADHD on children’s Language Impairments

As school-based SLPs, we often serve children with language impairments who also have a diagnosis of ADHD.  But is there a link between the two? Do students with ADHD tend to perform lower on language assessments? Or better?  

When I assess students with ADHD, I can't help but wonder if their performance is impacted by their compromised ability to attend and focus on testing items. Why do they seem to do poorly on Repeating Sentences on the CELF?  Is it because of attention difficulties, or because they have a language impairment?  Or both?  This article, just published in November, 2014 in Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, attempts to examine the link between the two disorders.

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The Details: Sean M. Redmond; Andrea C. Ash; Tiffany P. Hogan; Consequences of co-occurring attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder on children's language impairments. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 2014, Vol. doi:10.1044/2014_LSHSS-14-0045.  Retrieved 1/13/15 from http://lshss.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=1934978&resultClick=3

The Question: The authors of this article sought to examine whether the presence of ADHD in children further impacted their linguistic skills beyond what could be attributed to their primary language impairment.  

The Method: Data was collected from a sample of fifty-seven 7- to 9-year old children. Measures of nonword repetition, sentence recall, and tense-marking were collected, and the performances of children with ADHD+LI status were compared to children with specific language impairment (SLI) and to children with typical development (TD).

The Results: Results from this study found overall that ADHD status had little noticeable impact. Performances of children with ADHD+LI were similar to the performances of a matched group of children with SLI.   In fact, the group means for the ADHD+LI group were, in most cases, higher than the observed group means for the children with SLI.  Also, symptoms associated with the SLI group were much more severe than the ADHD+LI group when both affected groups were compared to the control group.

The Take-Away:  Frankly, I was surprised by these results, and it called to attention my own personal biases when evaluating children with ADHD.  Children with co-morbid diagnoses of ADHD and SLI actually perform better on some language tasks than children with SLI alone - really?!  

This is an eye-opener for me, and makes me wonder if I've been more dismissive of low scores for this population than necessary.  If children with ADHD and SLI actually perform higher on standardized language assessments than their SLI peers, perhaps a low score should be a red flag that language services really are warranted.  

This study focused mostly on syntax and working memory, however.  I would be interested to find out more about how children with ADHD+SLI perform the areas of story comprehension and vocabulary compared to children with SLI.  Would they fair just as well in that area?  

Also, I'd love to know why children with ADHD+SLI performed better on these tasks.  The authors propose that children with ADHD may be more likely to be referred for language disabilities, although their language difficulties may not be as severe as children who are referred for SLI alone.  Additionally, this study was only conducted on 7 to 9-year olds. The DSM 5 now states that behaviors can manifest prior to age 12, instead of age 7 as stated in the DSM IV.  How would 10 year olds with ADHD+SLI do on these tasks compared to children with SLI only?  How about high schoolers?

But alas, that will have to be for another Research Tuesday!  How about you?  Have you seen a difference in students you work with that have ADHD?  Leave a comment below and keep the conversation going.

January 2015 THF Clinician of the Month

In our tradition of honoring a clinician each month who exemplifies one of the core values of our organization, we have chose to recognize Jenny for the way she has modeled our value of Give!"

Jenny is a long-time Hello team member, valued by districts and colleagues alike for her sharp clinical skills, insightful questions, and smart sense of humor. 

Long before she agreed to take on a student intern this fall, I had shared with her that I secretly longed to be her intern, sitting beside her throughout her work day! But she is wise in the way of work-life balance, and only agreed to take on the responsibility of a student this fall after careful consideration of her workload and family life. 

We want to recognize Jenny for her efforts to share her wealth of knowledge and experience with a student in our field. In this case, she was giving a very unique experience to the student — lesson planning, leading groups, and taking data through our Hello There model. 

Jenny blesses us at The Hello Foundation, as well, with her ideas for novel therapy approaches and contributions to company-wide discussions and events.  

Thank you, Jenny, for truly giving - and guiding a future SLP! Congratulations on being our January 2015 Clinician of the Month!