Questions and Answers

If you have any questions or concerns that relate to speech language pathology in any way, at any level....just ask.
I will answer them to the best of my ability on my blog.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Extended Time

I have to admit I am not a fan of extended day or extended year at the middle school level or at any level for that matter. What I would like to see is the hypothetical money used to enhance and create after school programs, provide enrichment for kids who need it and provide training/support for parents who have significant difficulty with their kids.

As a parent, I loved spending time with my kids even when they were hormonal pre-teenagers. I always felt that I needed to get to know them at this stage of their life if we were to ever have a good relationship as adults, don't know why just a feeling. I loved supporting their after school/evening activities and still tried to volunteer at school when I could. In one fell swoop, the government could take that away by decreasing the time you spend with your child.

This is one time when I am very glad my children are in a "traditional private school" without new "initiative" presented every year. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Visualizing and Verbalizing: A Reflection Paper

In June I participated in a Lindamoodbell Visualizing and Verbalizing workshop. As part of the credit requirement I chose to write a reflection paper. After learning more about this program I think it can be very beneficial at the middle school level. I'm looking forward to trying Visualizing and Verbalizing with students this fall.

Visualizing and Verbalizing
A Reflection Paper
Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

Whenever I take a class or a workshop, I always think about my current caseload and how components of the program presented might work with a particular student. Visualizing and Verbalizing sent my head spinning, not just about how certain students might benefit but how I address remediation of Higher Order Thinking in general.

I work with older students, mostly middle school. Visualizing and Verbalizing has been out for years but I never got the impression it targeted older students. In fact, I believed it only targeted younger students with reading issues. At my old school, a Visualizing and Verbalizing kit sat on my shelf for years gathering dust. Now, after learning more about the program, I now know Visualizing and Verbalizing can work for middle school students.

My initial reasons for taking the workshop were selfish. I needed continuing education hours and it was close to home. It was also about time I learned what Visualizing and Verbalizing was all about. What I learned was that the Visualizing and Verbalizing program focuses on developing the underlying skills necessary for comprehension and higher order thinking.

Most of my therapy with the typical language disable middle school student, focuses on developing higher level language tasks or higher order thinking (HOT) as referred to in the Visualizing and Verbalizing program. Higher order thinking includes such skills as understanding humor, perspective taking or problem solving (there are many higher level language areas, those are just examples). There have been moments where I’ve often wondered if my students even have the underlying skills to understand the subtleties of humor, the whole perspective of another, can plan different scenarios for solving a problem or can even see the steps to solving a problem.

The interesting thing about Visualizing and Verbalizing is that it clearly addresses skills that we as speech language pathologists are aware of but may not ever identified the specific missing piece creating the language disability. I know and understand all the concepts behind Visualizing and Verbalizing I just never put a systematic program behind it or understood the implications when a piece of the “problem” was missing. I feel my statements are rather ironic since the student’s ability to see the gestalt or the "whole" of something is the basis of the Visualizing and Verbalizing Program. Everyone needs to be able to “see the whole” in order to comprehend correctly. One might think that comprehension only involves reading, but comprehension is required throughout our day in order for us to be competent with language. Brainstorming at the workshop, we concurred that:
“Comprehension is the understanding of verbal, visual and pragmatic (non-verbal) messages conveyed.”
If a student only comprehends certain parts of a problem, situation, idea or context rather than whole problem, situation, idea or context, difficulties or misunderstandings will arise. As mentioned above, comprehension difficulties are not limited to reading but can also affect understanding in math, academic content and social/pragmatic situations. Basically, if a student misses information or can not “connect the dots” they will have difficulty understanding the gestalt or the “whole”.

As far as the middle school population goes, other than typical language disabled students, I thought of 5 specific groups of kids that would benefit from some (if not all) of the Visualizing and Verbalizing program. See descriptions below:

1. Children who have decoding problems spend so much time decoding they miss content. If a middle school student cannot decode we are worried. Instruction will obviously focus heavily on decoding. While decoding instruction is desperately needed at the middle school level, comprehension demands also grow by leaps and bounds. We usually see a wider gap developing between decoding and comprehension in middle school creating significant academic issues. I believe the Visualizing and Verbalizing program was originally designed for these students to help them gain awareness of comprehension demands.

2. Children with attention issues may be reading or listening to words but not concentrating enough to take it in. Thus, comprehension is lost. Have you ever had to read a page over again because you were distracted? Well that happens to ADD kids all the time, even kids on medication. They haven’t learned to pay attention or listen.

3. Children who haven’t learned to listen due to intermittent hearing loss. Over the years, I have worked with children who experienced some type of significant hearing loss at a young age. Many of these children struggle in school. In any given school year, I would estimate that at least 50% of my caseload had a significant history of ear infections or another malady effecting hearing for a significant period of time when they were younger. I document and explain my theory further in a paper I wrote a couple of years ago after taking the Lindamoodbell LIPS program.
These children may also fall into the two categories mentioned above. When you work with students who have a history of intermittent loss, especially at the younger levels, you can usually tell something is wrong but can’t quite put your finger on it. Several components of the Visualizing and Verbalizing program combined with a strong phonics program could be extremely beneficial for these students.

4. Children diagnosed with a nonverbal learning disability. Talk about students who cannot see the “whole”. These students tend to have a weak sense of humor, difficulty with abstract comprehension/thinking and difficulty organizing higher level language in terms of being able to make a point with supporting details. Visualizing and Verbalizing could not only help develop higher order thinking, it could hopefully help them identify or at least increase awareness of “the missing piece or pieces”.

5. Children with very low cognitive skills, maybe even my autistic students where the main goal is to expand language, add descriptors, improve grammatical usage and increase vocabulary. If it also helps them increase comprehension and see the gestalt those would be an added bonus.

I can actually visualize and understand how the Visualizing and Verbalizing program could be used for all these purposes and at many different levels. As speech language pathologists, we are skilled at being flexible with instruction and able to modify lessons as needed. Visualizing and Verbalizing is an adaptable program, the student’s response and progress directs their movement through the program. I actually feel that as a speech language pathologist with many years of experience, I have an advantage and advanced skills when it comes to modifying to specific needs and levels of development. I am a little concerned that many of my middle school students will feel this program is a little babyish for them. However, I plan to address this by using pictures that are more mature, expecting a little more from them at each level in terms of content and written product and increase role playing. I am sure once I try this program with older students I will have a better idea of what modifications I need to make.

Since this is a reflection paper, I feel I have to get on my soap box at least once. With the introduction of the “whole language approach” to reading in the early to mid-eighties, we’ve lost strong phonics instruction at the early grades. The people making decisions in the field of education seem to focus too much on content, too early. Content is important, however, the content is often too high from a developmental perspective. So not only have students lost what I feel is necessary phonics immersion, they are also presented content that they may not be able to grasp, have the necessary background/experiences to understand or just plain don’t understand the vocabulary even in context. With a lack of phonics and a lack of comprehension, there is a higher chance that some students will not develop appropriate decoding skills and/or misunderstand content. Both of those factors could lead to significant reading disabilities in some students. In my experience and observation of school based reading programs, reading programs heavily laden with phonics and phonics drill during the early years, appear to be more successful in developing overall reading skills.

At the middle school level, we raise the bar for students in terms of classroom performance. Teachers have expectations for development of higher order thinking and use of higher level language (especially written). It’s just a given that all students are developing higher level language skills. For our disabled students, students without enriching environments or students without academic expectations (parent and school) this may not happen. Teachers without the understanding of how higher order thinking develops are often mystified as to why a student struggles. I write a standard goal for most of my students who have not been able to expand their verbal and written language on their own. The common goal that reads something like this:

Jack will generate ideas and formulate complex sentences, (grammar, word order, logic and increased detail) about pictures of situations, interactions or events both spontaneously and when incorporating selected vocabulary.

My theory has always been that the kids have to be able to do it verbally before they can write it down. Now Visualizing and Verbalizing has given me a systematic method to help them expand language, increase comprehension of higher level language and perhaps speed the process along. Speeding the process along is important at the middle school level because writing demands increase significantly, higher order thinking is expected, students are preparing for high school and the three years tend to fly by very quickly.

I am fortunate that in my school I have both a reading specialists and a special needs teacher to address reading and writing issues. However, I now see even more clearly that their work cannot make the expected progress if the student does not have the necessary underlying language comprehension skills, skills that the Visualizing and Verbalizing program can help develop.

I look forward to incorporating Visualizing and Verbalizing into my therapy next year. However, with an integrative therapy model pushed at the administrative level, I may not be able to work as intensely with students to make the expected progress or to move the program along quickly enough to keep the student interested Lack of individualized intensive services is my concern with all aspects of therapy under this model. However, I can try to encourage teachers to include aspects of the Visualizing and Verbalizing program in their presentation. I believe this will be difficult at the classroom level for two reasons. The students who can significantly benefit from the program won’t get the tailoring or intensive practice needed to make a significant difference and the rest of the students will find it too easy or more of a fun activity. It might be easy to get teachers to buy into the theories behind the Visualizing and Verbalizing program but getting them to use it, well; I don’t feel that will happen. As we know, teachers have a lot on their plate already.

If I am able to work with students on an intensive level, I hope to see immediate progress within all the subgroups mentioned above. Looking at my standard goal, there is really no way to measure it other than formal testing one to three years down the road. With Visualizing and Verbalizing, I will be able to measure progress obviously as the child moves through the program. What I expect to see outside therapy will differ based on the students individual disability. I want my low cognitive kids to expand language, I want my NLD kids to see the “whole”, I want my ADD kids, kids with decoding issues and kids with a history of hearing loss kids to learn to listen and to take the time to enjoy content, I want all my kids to improve their comprehension of higher level language and hopefully their writing skills. I guess I have high expectations, maybe too high. We’ll see.

I look forward adding Visualizing and Verbalizing to my therapy repertoire. I wish I picked up this old but exciting program a little sooner.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The 09-10 school year starts soon

With the new school year starting in a week or so, already started in some parts of the country, does anyone (parents, teachers, therapists) have any specific concerns or worries? Is your child looking forward to the new school year? Are you (parents, teachers, therapists)looking forward to school starting?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Question for SLP's only. Therapists in Pain

This isn't a speech related question but maybe it is. Actually I am just curious. I have spent the good part of the last 6 months with intermittent shoulder and neck pain on the right side. My acupuncturists told me that in Chinese medicine it is referred to as 50 year old shoulder. That made my day. The past few weeks I have been going to PT and they feel it is a posture issue. So they have me doing their exercise routine and participating in treatments. Actually I am feeling better.

Here is the funny part. Another speech therapist was at the PT center receiving the same treatment for the same thing. This woman was a little younger (still wearing shorts with her college name on them). That made me think that maybe this is a occupation related issue. Even an occupational hazard. Think about it we lean over the computer a lot, lean over desks and tables, look down at kids, carry heavy bags from school to school, lean over hospital beds (if that's your setting) and even lean down over testing to keep it hidden.

Anyone else with the same symptoms? Just wondering:)


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Interesting and Informative Web Site

The New England League of Middle Schools has an interesting and informative page called the parent room. On this page they have lots of links to sites dedicated to the middle school age level. On regular searches these sites are often hard to find. It's worth a look.

Book Review-Alphabet Kids

Alphabet Kids

By Robbie Woliver

I picked this book up at my public library a few weeks ago. The title and cover caught my attention. It’s a book that highlights and explains many childhood syndromes. In a nutshell, I like the book and feel it could be a very useful tool for both professionals and parents.

Mr. Woliver explains syndromes their possible causes, symptoms and typical expected behaviors in a way that is easy to read and easy to understand. I obviously didn’t read the whole book but I did peruse the syndroms with speech and language disorders along with syndromes I’ve become familiar with over the years. I felt the information he provided was both accurate and again easy to understand. Some of the syndromes have “true stories” to go along with the general information. “True stories” are good and bad in this context but for everyone they provide some perspective to the syndrome.

I wouldn’t recommend that every parent go out and buy this book but it is certainly a good reference book for anyone who’s child is in the process of being diagnosed or was recently diagnosed. However, any professional who works with families trying to understand and cope with early diagnosis of a syndrome would find this book very useful (guidance professionals, early intervention programs, hospital evaluation teams, neuropsychologists). I could also see this book on the shelf of every school psychologist to provide teachers with quick and easy information to help parents understand particular syndromes. Teacher’s lack of understanding and in honesty the special education team’s lack of helping teachers to understand syndromes and disorders is usually a problem especially at the middle school level. Yes, I include myself as lacking in this area.

Pediatricians need this book. Over the course of my 20+ years as a speech language pathologist, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have heard parents report that their Pediatrician told them to wait for development to kick in, they’d grow out of it or that nothing was wrong. I hope this has changed and I hope Pediatricians now take more intense courses on child development. I also hope they are more aware of syndromes, disabilities, mother’s intuition, assessment and services available. It wouldn’t hurt to have this book sitting on their shelf too as a reference.

It is obvious that a lot of this information is on line. However, I am old school and still like to have the reference in my hand. I do believe Alphabet Kids presents information in an easy to read and easy to understand format. Mr. Woliver takes out the medical jargon and clearly explains acronyms. Parents especially need a format like this. I’ve worked with families from all different economic backgrounds and levels of education. It’s interesting that parents with the higher levels of education often have more difficulty understanding and accepting their child’s needs.

Hopefully, most students arrive at the middle school with a diagnosis. That doesn’t mean that everyone working with the child understands the behaviors presented by the child. It also does not mean that we are super educators and can immediately design the perfect program for the student. Alphabet Kids could be very helpful in providing initial information for all professionals, staff and administration (administration often does not have a good understanding to the extent of disabilities related to syndromes) in order to help design that almost perfect program.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Assessment Question: Higher Level Language

I recently received the following question after a Speech Language Pathology graduate student glanced at my blog. I hope my response was able to help her out. Please comment with any other opinion sor suggestions I may of left out. I'd be interesting in knowing what other tests SLP's like to use.

I just read about higher level langauge skills on your website.
I am a speech pathology graduate student working on a question, and was wondering if you could give me some guidance.
Here's the situation:
I am a school SLP that needs to make an assessment plan for a 12 year old girl who sustained traumatic brain injury in a car accident 2 months ago. She received care at an inpatient rehab facility. The rehab report states she has residual mild executive functioning difficulties as well as difficulty with higher level langauge skills, including mild response delays, word finding and circumlocutions.
So, in order to develop her IEP, I must have standardized test results. But where I am getting stuck is choosing an appropriate test. I don't want to test this girl to death but I think I may have to give her a couple of different tests so that I can set goals for her langauge skills as well as the executive function skills. Do you have any recommendations?
Thank you,

Hi B,
Thanks for taking a look at my blog. Lets see if I can give you some good suggestions. First thing I would do is look over old school reports to see if this child had any difficulities in school before the injury. I would then pour over any post injury testing. In these situations or similiar (outside evals) I always try to include previous testing if I think it is valid rather than re-test using different measures. In my report I usually include past findings again only if I think they are credible.

As far as the executive functioning goes, your school psychologist should be able to focus on that either through her testing or interpreting past testing. At my school my school psych is much better at explaining/brainstorming around this area. The school psyc should also be able to shed more light on the response delays.

Remember, most kids are still developing their higher level language skills at this age. What I am finding now is most of my students (without significant disabilities) who have difficulty with higher level language development sometimes come from homes that are not very enriching, stimulating or lack expectations. So I guess my point is you have to also consider the environment in which the child was exposed to before the injury. That probably won't impact your findings and I might not add it to a report but it is good for you to know this.

12 is a tricky age to assess higher level language because most tests cut off around 12 so are too easy for most 11 year olds. And the adolscent versions 12 and up, sometimes have content that is not appropriate to present to a 12 year old. I run into that a lot with the Test of Problem Solving. I do like the TOPS but I am careful how I interpret when the kids are around 12. I have recently begun using the Test of Auditory Perception Skills-cohesion portion to screen or confirm higher level language difficulities. However, that is almost too easy for older children and does not pick up the specific problems in the older children. The WORD test might be an option. However, I have not used it in years or review either elementary or adolscent versions.

I haven't tested for word retrieval in years. I use clinical observations, comparision of PPVT and EVT and sometimes the CELF rapid naming. I seem to remember the WORD test being good for clinical observations around word retrieval.

For a general test battery I use the CELF but that does take some time to administer. In my building we have a reading specialists for reading issues and as far as writing goes our school psych and special ed teachers assess that. I often comment on difficulty with organization of verbal language impacting writing.

Let me see if I can put together some samples of how I write up my evals. I will e-mail those separately. Hope this was helpful. If you don't mind I may post your e-mail-editing your name out on my blog.

Thank you very much! Your suggestions really helped to solidfy what I was thinking in terms of types of tests and directions I should go. I was thinking that I might like to use the Test of Language Development as well as the Expressive & Receptive One Word tests to help substantiate the resulsts of the TOLD. What do you think?
I absolutely don't mind if you post my question. I hope that it can help someone else!
Thank you again,

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

10 Ways to Enhance That Summer Reading

When your kids were small, you read to them. That’s just something parents do. At first, it’s a good bonding experience. Then you begin to really understand what a good learning experience it is. Reading to a child clearly helps with language development, phonemic awareness, listening skills, comprehension skills, general learning and obviously learning to read.

So why should this stop just because they are older? OK so maybe they don’t want to curl up on the couch with you to read anymore but there are ways to enhance the reading skills of older children.

1. Show interest in what they’re reading. Make sure you know the types of book they like, subjects that interest them. Ask questions and encourage discussion.

2. Every once in awhile read the same book as your child. That way you can talk with your child about the book. Expand your questions to include character, setting, plot, conflict, climax and ending. Don’t read every book they read because they will see that as an invasion. Summer reading is perfect for this because during the school year, teachers guide them through books (almost too much sometimes to the point where they end up hating the book, another subject for another time) so some kids might need a little extra help or encouragement to get through a book on their own. Summer reading book are usually books they are not their choice therefore not real personal to them.

3. If the summer reading book is on audio, get it. Fill those long car rides to and from summer activities listening to something productive. Make sure is it the unabridged edition. And check out the library. That way is doesn’t cost you and arm and a leg.

4. Just like homework, you have to provide an atmosphere that is conducive to reading. If you have a child who is obsessed with video games, computers or TV, cut them off. Put limits on those things. Kids need structure just as much in the summer. However, don’t make reading time too formal or they might balk at it. The idea is to make reading more natural rather than forced.

5. Encourage fun summer reading. This includes magazines, newspapers, comics and internet articles. All reading has value even some of the most questionable material such has Mad (which I personally love for older middle schoolers) or superman comics. You want to child to read challenging material that will improve their vocabulary but reading mindless material is ok too. We all pick up People Magazine in the doctors office every so often, it’s a quick easy read.

6. Set a good example. Let your child see you reading.

7. Drag them to the library or bookstore several times over the summer. Encourage them to pick out something that they are interested in. At the very least, you are exposing them to a library/study/research atmosphere. Knowing how to behave in and use a library properly is a skill they will need for success in high school and college.

8. Have your child bring books with them so whenever there is down time they're able to read and get something productive done. Some suggestions are: car/plane/train rides, trips to the beach, while waiting to pick up your other children at activities, rainy days

9. Try to get through the assigned reading early in the summer so they have time to make some fun summer reading choices. This also alleviates stress at the end of August when the reading/projects are not complete.

10. Hit the used book stores, used book sales and even garage sales, looking for used books. Sometimes you can pick up a bag of books for a buck. Even if your child only looks at on book in the bag, you’ve gotten your money’s worth. It can actually be a lot of fun perusing old books. This also adds a nice variety to your library.

If you don’t think the books are appropriate for your child in terms of reading level or topic, speak up. Talk to the teachers about alternatives immediately. However, if teacher’s choices are just books that you or your child don’t like, do your best to help them get through the books (and follow up paper or project “aggggg” if there is one). Do not put down the teachers choices in front of your middle schooler (or even younger child). In high school and college they will have to read a lot of things that are not of interest but important. Reading challenging and varied material is how children continue to develop their adult vocabulary.

Summer reading should be enjoyable, relaxing and somewhat natural. Some kids will just not want to read. Try to find out why reading isn’t coming easy for them and see what you can do about it. However, make your expectations clear. Summer reading is important and it is their responsibility.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Essential 55

I’m always on the look out for common sense ideas that enhance more than just academics. In my field of Speech Language Pathology, pragmatic skill development is as important to us as receptive and expressive language development. Pragmatic skills are the social speech skills that help us become effective communicators, critical thinkers and problem solvers. People who are not strong students academically can do well in life if pragmatic skills are well developed and expectations are high.
I recently picked up the book The Essential 55, An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child, by Ron Clark winner of the 2001 Disney Teacher of the Year Award. The title caught my eye, I see so many kids that are bright but seem to be lacking the tools for success. In the Essential 55, Ron Clark gives his opinion on the 55 rules that can make every child successful as a student. His rules are not on the order of study more, read more or stay after school for help. Clark’s rules are rules for life. The focus of the rules is on enriching pragmatic awareness, improving pragmatic skills and expecting basic etiquette. Not to mention his rules make sense.
The Essential 55 also focuses on providing clear cut expectations for a child. If you read my blog, you know I am BIG on providing expectations for children. Six of The Essential 55 that I like best are:

#1 Responding to Adults
Mr. Clark suggests that you tell/expect children to say, “Yes sir” and “no ma’am. He says it set the tone for the kind of respect he expects from his students. For him a nod of a head or a “yeah” is not good enough. I sometimes feel the child/adult relationships, especially in schools, are too casual. This is great tool for kids to have, saying, “yes sir” and “no ma’am” usually makes a very good impression on others.

#2 Eye Contact
Eye contact is so important in communication. When you make eye contact, you are attending to and acknowledging the speaker. From my perspective, eye contact is also important because without eye contact you miss many of the non-verbal cues that clarify messages. Plus it’s polite. When a child’s disability effects their ability to make good eye contact, I spend a lot of time trying to get eye contact to the best level possible.

#6 If you are asked a question in conversation, ask a question in return
This is an excellent habit to get into. Again, it shows people you are listening and interested. This is a good foundation for developing good conversation skills.

#11 Surprise others by performing random acts of kindness
This is an excellent suggestion and should jut go without saying. However, we all need reminders to do this from time to time. How many times have you said to yourself “I should have helped……..”, when regretting that you did help someone out. This one goes in effect at my house today. We all seem to be lacking in that lately. Recently, one of my very disabled students in the middle of a tough moment said to me “Stop being nice to me!” When I responded with a smile “No, I can’t do that, I am just a nice person”, he was so taken back by my kind response he calmed down almost immediately. A little kindness actually made a tough situation easier and almost humorous for me.

#15 Do not ask for a reward
Mr. Clark rewards his student’s often but asking for a reward is out of the question. He feels students should strive to do their best all the time not just for a reward. He states that in the real world rewards are not always given for a job well done. He feels that that this rule helps kids appreciate their efforts over their rewards.

#48 If anyone is bullying you let me know
He wants the kids to feel safe in school and know that he will stand up for him. Kids should never have to put up with bullying in school (we would not expect or put up with bullying at work). A big step to preventing bulling is to empower children to report bullying incidents since most happen out of earshot or view of adults.

If you notice Ron Clark’s rules are not just school or student rules they are rules for life. It was hard to pick just 6 to highlight. I would like to tell you more of them but you will just have to pick up his book.
With the Essential 55, Ron Clark has developed a “hidden curriculum”. A “hidden curriculum” is defined as the rules we all know but are never taught. I could see his Essential 55 presented weekly or expanded and presented daily at announcements instead of (or in addition to) “word of the day”.
This is a good read for both teachers and parents. The reality is if you expect good things from kids and are willing to teach them, they usually deliver.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Michael G. Thompson PhD Lecture

A few weeks ago I attended a lecture at my son’s high school by Dr. Michael Thompson, topic “The Pressured Child”. Dr. Thompson is the author of many books dealing with topics on raising boys, social lives of children/families and pressures children face at school at home and with peers. I’ve read a couple of his books own a few more of them and should read the rest. Some of the points Dr. Thompson makes in his books are very insightful and extremely helpful for both parents and those working with children. I would recommend these books to parents in a heartbeat. If I could also get the staff at my school and my administrators to read them, I think we would have a better understanding of children in general.
I found Dr. Thompson to be an engaging speaker and I wish I had taken more notes. Here are some key ideas that I felt were noteworthy.

School is a deeply flawed institution but it is the best we’ve tried. In school, things are thrown at the kids and by the time they master it, we take it away and give them something different to work on. Adults do not have that issue we get to take our time and master information/skills. He also pointed out that attending 6 hours a day to different subjects cannot be easy.

School is not a competition. Apparently, traits and abilities are fixed easily by 4th grade. I believe Dr. Thompson directed that statement to parents who believe their kids are in competition with other kids.

A lot of his lecture was directed at parents who’s expectations are too high and think their kids are better than everyone else. Pointing out that just because your child is in the top of his class does not assure their top college choice because every school in America has top kids. He also laughed a little at the parents who have their students tutored several nights a week to improve SAT scores or other skills. I was under the impression he spends a lot of time telling over the top parents to let up on their kids.

Towards the end of the lecture, he made the following statements that really made me think. I may not have gotten it down word for word

“Learning is an act of exposure.”

“Follow their journey” then he added something about staying about a quarter step off your child’s journey so it is their journey not yours.

“They are doing their best at any given moment.”

If you are interested in reading more about Dr. Thompson and his insights and advice, his web site is

Friday, March 6, 2009

Speech Language Pathologists...I need your opinion.

Hello Speech Language Pathologists

I have three topics I would like you to sound off on..........

1. Does your school have formal entrance and exit criteria? If so what is it and do you use it? Several years ago I was under the impression that you could not use specific entrance and exit criteria but I guess that changed with the new changes in the laws.

2. Do you have a problem with teachers and administrators understanding your role? I believe that most still think all we do is articulation, which could not be further from the truth. I also think that they do not understand that these so called artic kids could be shooting up red flags for reading and discrimination disabilities.

3. What is your district doing about RTI/co-teaching/integrating therapy (whatever you want to call seems to be interpreted differently by many) ? What is their model and how will it effect your job?

Contact me through comments on this site or at

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Here Come The High School Years

Even though we are still in the dead of winter most middle schools around the country have already began preparing their 8th grade students and their parents for High School. In my district, they have already hosted a parent information night and visited the High School. Next week our students take their placement test. Most private High School and alternative High School applications were due in December and students are anxiously waiting to see if they get in. Moving on to high school is a big deal for these kids and most are ready to move on. However, I guarantee that most kids are thinking about what their social status will be in High School, not “am I going to be able to do the work or will I be successful?”

Students will enter high schools at a variety of different academic and maturity levels. High School placement tests are fairly good at placing students in the proper academic level. Public Schools will usually offer 2-3 different academic levels for students to enter. Private Schools will often offer 4-5 different academic levels. Parents need to understand that just because their middle schooler was an honor roll or even high honor roll student that does not automatically mean that the student is placed in the highest academic level. “A” work in middle school is very different than “A” work in high school. So don’t be too concerned about your child’s initial placement but do keep an eye on your student’s progress. You and your child will realize quickly if the work is too easy or too difficult. At that point, your child can speak to their teacher or guidance counselor about moving levels. Always let your child try to work things out on their own before intervening, it is high school after all.

By the end of 8th grade, kids are starting to feel really grown up. Parents occasionally seem to think it is the right time to back off completely. Don’t think they don’t need you because they do. They still need guidance, support and supervision in High School. What they don’t need is hovering. It is a fine line but you still need to know what your child is doing in school and how they are doing in school. Supervision after hours is just as important. They are experimenting with new friendships. Keep tabs on who their new friends are and don’t assume every parent has the same rules and values you do.

Homework becomes more important in high school. Usually a good percentage of a student’s grade is based on homework completion. If your school keeps grades on line, continue to check assignment completion, often. Your child should be doing some homework at home if they are not I would check in with teachers or review teacher expectations (usually provided as an outline). Some district might even have a homework policy. There is some controversy among teachers and administrators around homework. Let’s face it not all parents can do calculus or even algebra for that matter. We are probably all a little rusty on our French or Spanish. The controversy is that students do not go home on an even playing field where homework is concerned. However, by High School shouldn’t expectations be raised and shouldn’t students be more independent around homework? If your child is having difficulty academically in high school, encourage them to get help from their teachers before you step in. At the same time make sure they are doing the work.

I think it is important for all parents to have a basic idea of the school curriculum. You need to make sure of what they are taking and when they are taking it. If you have a child who receives special needs services it is a lot more important for you to be involved. You need to know exactly what your child is suppose to get, when the services take place, who will be providing the services and a direct contact person for any special needs concerns. Most schools will go out of their way to review programs and educational plans with parents of special needs students. If your child’s high school balks at this, pay even closer attention to their services. Any school I have ever been involved with as a Speech Language Therapist or as a parent has tried their best to design appropriate service plans, listen to students and parents and respond appropriately. Schools are not always perfect but remember you also have to work at developing a good working relationship with them. Education plans should be ammended or updated to dovetail with the high school schedule.

Don’t be too worried about your baby going off to high school. They will probably be ok. It’s scary for us parents and I know I’ve been on pins and needles those first few days of high school…..just worrying and wondering if everything is ok. Rather glad I don’t have to go through that again. Try to know what is going on with your child. Keep talking to your high schooler even if they don’t want to. Find something you can both feel comfortable talking about or do together, and then sneak some serious discussions when you can. Let your child know your expectations for their academic performance and behavior in general. You don’t have to set expectations at an impossible or stress inducing level but set some expectations. I’ve seen one child through high school and off to college and enjoyed almost every minute of it.
The picture above is of my son's 8th grade graduation last June. I no longer have a middle school student. A little sad I have to admit.