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, December 13, 2010

Visualizing and Verbalizing in the Classroom

I'm presenting an overview of the visualizing and verbalizing program to my special education staff tomorrow. I love this program and think the concept behind it is key to success for all kids.  I'd love to know how this works in other schools as part of the curriculum.  Anyone out there using it in the classroom on a regular basis?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Did You Know October is "Month of the Young Adolescent?"

New England League of Middle Schoolers sent this to me.  I found it interesting with good ideas and information on Middle School life.  The National Middle School Association puts this together.  Principals and teachers might find this particularly interesting.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

1 in 5 teens suffering significant hearing loss - White Coat Notes -

Something to think about and to be aware of. If this is true it and your child is the 1 in 5, school performance may be effected, especially if your child has weak auditory perceptual skills. It would be interesting to note if the 1 teen in 5 also had a history of significant hearing loss early on due perhaps to ear infections or fluid.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Editorial From ASHA Services in Schools Magazine

From the Editor...

It's NOT Too Late to Help Adolescents Succeed in School

Marilyn A. Nippold, PhD, Editor

Hit manual download after the page appears

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Therapist to Therapist: Why Am I Hearing More Older Student With Articulation Errors?

     I’ve recently received several advertisements for a new Articulation Test put out by LinguiSystems referred to as the LAT (Linguisystem Articulation Test).  I haven’t reviewed the test but one of their advertising selling points is updated norms, “why use 10 year old norms.”  Initially I had to chuckle at that one because it’s only and articulation test and how much could norms for an articulation test actually change over 10 years or even 50 years.  Despite theories of some researchers, I don’t think child development has changed that much but experiences and exposure has.  
     Then I started thinking about recent observations I’ve made at the middle school level.  Going into the classrooms more often, I’m hearing more and more older children with significant articulation issues.  The errors noted are usually distortions (not substitutions) of later developing sounds /s/, /l/, /r/, /w/, open vowel sounds and even some difficulty coordinating oral motor movements (making their speech look and sound awkward).  
     The older students demonstrating these articulation errors are not children with a history of special needs or developmental disability.  These are not students who might be considered uncoordinated.  Most of these kids are average to above average students, coordinated, relatively mature and social.
     Now my observations were very unscientific but I starting asking myself why are there more older kids with articulation errors.  Of course I’ve developed some theories on this
  1. I feel the biggest reason for increased articulation difficulties in older children is because there is a lack of phonics instruction and drill during the early years.  Most of the children I observed were exposed to a whole language approach to reading without consistent phonics supplement across all classrooms.  Without a strong phonics background the ability to identify and discriminate between similar sounds may be lacking.  Phonics helps to develop auditory awareness which is key to many language skills.
  2. Schools often do not allow or encourage the necessary intensive therapy needed to remediate articulation issues.  Some school systems are insisting that all therapy (articulation and language) take place in a classroom setting.  That works for some kids, not all.  Sometimes iii a budget issue disguised as a “new articulation therapy approach.”  These schools might have very large group articulation therapy.  The “new therapy approaches” are usually not designed by Speech Language Pathologists either.  Some schools have made mandates not to work on articulation in the older grades at all.  It’s my opinion that  articulation therapy is very individual and private matter, especially with older students.
  3. These kids are not already on the special education rolls so most of the time we are not going to pick them up for an articulation errors unless they are clearly dyspraxic or have parents who are insistent.  For some schools it is the whole thing about articulation being a medical issue rather than an educational issue.  
  4. As therapists we often hesitate to pick up kid with later developing sound errors either through an IEP or 504.  Later developing sounds are more difficult to remediate.  By the time students are developmentally ready to work on and remediate later developing sounds they don’t want to, parents don’t push it, schools don’t push it and it takes a lot of practice.  However, the process is always made easier if the kids have a good background in auditory perception and discrimination.  Again this is what develops when students are exposed to a strong phonics approach.
  5. School schedules at the middle and high school level often cannot accommodate individual or pull out therapy for either articulation or language.  To rule out pull out therapies for all kids based on the idea of total inclusion, takes the “individual” out of the individual educational plan.  Some therapy issues are just so private or need to be addressed so intensively that it just can’t happen in a classroom setting.  School schedules must offer flexibility for students in need (addressing language, articulation issues or other learning needs).  One therapy model that is working well for some therapists is intensive sessions for a shorter duration.  For some older kids it isn’t appropriate to address articulation at school and an outside therapist would be a better choice.
     Should we be addressing articulation with older students in school?  Should schools be advocating for this?  I guess that depends on the what you want for students.  Do we just want kids just to be able to get by and pass state mandated testing or do we also want kids to grow up to be articulate adults who can express themselves?  Do we want kids to be able to present themselves as confident well spoken adults?  If we do, articulation therapy is very important.  
     Most older students with articulation distortions have little or no awareness of how they pronounce their sounds.  Even if their speech is accepted by peers, teachers and parents for now, someday they will have to go on a job interview, interact with clients, interact with customers and make important phone calls.
     I am very interested in comparing the norms from the old moldy Goldman Fristoe.  Which in all honesty I would be more than happy to replace since the pictures are so dated, the stories are babyish and I never found it easy to track when giving it.  I would love to see where students stand in terms of articulation development (even though it is only normed from ages 3-8).  I curious to see if there are any changes in articulation development in younger children.
     Do Speech Language Pathologists really even need to use an articulation test?  Yes, of course if we want to prove to administrators that articulation needs to be address.  However, most experienced speech language pathologists know articulation development guidelines and can differentiate between a developmental delay, out of range distortions and apraxia just by looking, listening and observing.  
    I think it is really sad that so many “typical” older kids are affected by articulation difficulties.  What have we done wrong?  Most people in this country think our primary job is working on articulation errors in children.  Historically we’re known for fixing “speech” as opposed to working on “language.”  This is an issue which needs further investigation. 

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fifty Great Things About Middle Schoolers

     My principal sent this home in the last newsletter.  I though it was kinda cute.  He got it from site called Education World too many years ago. Anyway Education World turned out to be a site with lots of good information.  Check it out

I invite every one to add their ideas on why Middle Schoolers are great.

1. They are eager to learn.
2. They are willing to be directed. 
3. They are diverse and interesting. 
4. They leave after three years!
5. They're just plain fun to be around. 
6. They have lots of energy. 
7. Most of them love school. 
8. They are like clay -- still impressionable. 
9. They can be influenced...positively. 
10. Ninety-two of them are great singers (says the director of the 93-member middle school chorus). 
11. They keep me young. 
12. They want to fit in, but they also want to do well in school. 
13. They have great personalities. 
14. Every day is different. 
15. They are potty-trained -- hopefully! 
16. They are a study in contrasts. 
17. They love new ideas. 
18. They have good manners...generally.
19. They will contribute to my social security fund! 
20. They respond well to adults.
21. They are enthusiastic -- times two! 
22. They are caring (usually *not* just about themselves!). 
23. They are fun to teach -- and to learn from. 
24. They're electric!
25. They are easy to please. 
26. They grow out of it! 
27. They're becoming so aware of everything around them.
28. They make me laugh all the time. 
29. They are cool!
30. They come up with the most interesting ideas. 
31. They like to try new things. 
32. They aren't shy about sharing their thoughts. 
33. They are so in-your-face honest! 
34. They are independent, but they still like their teachers. 
35. They love to use my mirror! 
36. Hugs are still popular (as long as the other students don't see them giving you one!). 
37. They still have hopes and dreams, and they love to share them. 
38. They are fashion critics, sure to tell you if you're dressed to meet "the standard"! 
39. Everything is funny to them. 
40. They're unpredictable. 
41. They have great conversation skills. 
42. They enjoy my corny stories and jokes.
43. They're unorganized, but manageable. 
44. There's no need for aerobics because teachers get plenty of exercise trying to keep up with them!
45. They are helpful. 
46. They can be molded in spite of the "supposed" I-hate-all-grown-ups attitude. 
47. The light in their eyes still shines.
48. You never know what will come out of their mouths next. 
49. There's never a dull moment! 
50. And the fiftieth thing teachers think is great about teaching middle schoolers..............June, July & August
Article by Gary Hopkins Education World® Editor-in-Chief Copyright © 1998 Education World

One Place for Special Needs: Are you a honey parent or vinegar parent?

I found this article which poses a very interesting question.  Believe me, over the course of my career, I've met my share of both "honey" and "vinegar" parents.  However, I feel the author is a little off on her suggestions.  While it is great to get little additions to the classroom or have parents volunteer,  those suggestions are at the bottom of my criteria list for a "honey" parent.  In my opinion, "honey" parents are those that truly care about their child's education and do everything they can to help make their child successful.  These are parents that work with their child and provided them all opportunities possible.  These are parents who try their best to accept their child's limitations and disabilities.  These are parents who have educated themselves the best they can around their child's disability.  These are parents who have realistic expectations for their child's success.  These are parents who try to at least see a little humor in their situation.  These are parents who speak up when necessary (it is a shame so many school systems make them fight and feel they have to be aggressive.  I never have problems supporting parent's realistic demands).  These are parents who say "Thank You" once in awhile and these are parents who genuinely like their children.

Just something for parents to think about.  Please post any other criteria suggestions for a "honey" parent.

 One Place for Special Needs: Are you a honey parent or vinegar parent?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Have you ever heard of the Marshmallow test?!

This is very interesting and I think even middle school and high school parents can learn from this.

Remember parents it's ok to say NO!  We should all say it more often.


Misinterpreting Social Context

When kids are taught about “context” most classroom teachers are usually referring to the context of a story.  Middle schoolers, especially the ones who have Non Verbal Learning Disabilities, Aspergers or even just lack of social experience may often not understand the “context” of social situations.   Not understanding the context of a situation may cause misinterpretations.  This is where difficulties may arise.  Students may not understand when they are being teases or even bullied.  They may also not be able to interpret teasing and bullying from playing around.
With the new models in education suggesting less pull out (something I support when appropriate) these are the kids that are falling through the cracks.  These students are usually bright enough to pass standardized tests, they are usually doing well enough in the classroom to get by.  However, classroom teachers do not often recognize how many social cues these kids miss.  It’s important to look at manner of performance and observations in both structured and unstructured situations.  Administrators tend to say just put them in class where they can practice their social skills.  Unless you really understand children who have difficulty within the pragmatic realm you may believe they can do this on their own.  But the reality is if it was that easy and automatic we would have no kids with social skill problems because they have been in class all these years practicing their social skills.  The reality is that these kids need some therapy or if people are more comfortable with the word “coaching”.  Just like reading and math, awareness, learning and carryover of pragmatic skills is not going to happen without instruction.   
Over the years I have tried to get my kids to learn about social context, how to analyze it and how to read it.  You have to keep in mind this is probably going to be a weakness for these kids throughout their lives.  However, it’s important to give them the best tools possible.  Sometimes I will do this as a lesson and sometimes just interject as situations come up.
To figure out social context I work with the students to become more aware in the following areas:
  1. Relationship......Look at the relationship of the person or persons involved.  Is it a family member, a close friend, a stranger, a teacher or other respected adult.  We go ever several examples of how we might approach or react to different people.
  2. Tone.....What is the tone of the interaction.  What tone of voice are they using.  Is it a happy tone, mad tone, sad tone.     We also go over several examples of this.  Most children can tell what tone their parents are using so I often role play their parents.
  3. Sarcasm..........Are the people using sarcasm?  How do you tell?  Is someone joking around or are they serious.  This takes a lot of practice.  Even during role playing sometimes the kids aren’t sure if I am being serious or not.  To see the confused look on their faces tell it all.
  4. Facials Expressions....It’s important to know how to read those.  You actually have to be aware and know what to look for.  This come easy for most of us but for people who have difficulty with this or have difficulty making eye contact it’s hard.  You miss a lot of nonverbal cues thus contributing to misinterpretations.
  5. Gestures...same as facial expressions you have to look for them and interpret them correctly to help understand intent.
  6. Mood....What is the mood of the situation.  Did something just happen to make the person angry?  In that case you will approach the situation differently.  This again could invite a variety of emotions and all have to be figured out.  
Even people who don’t have a specific diagnosis that impacts the pragmatic realm may misunderstand or misinterpret situations within social situations.  These steps are just a glance and what it takes to understand social situations.  Children who experience pragmatic difficulty in social situations have to be walked through almost every situation for meaning and intent until they can start to do it on their own.  
Explain, explain and explain some more.  If you have a child who frequently misinterprets social interactions talk to them about it all the time.  Let teachers and other adults they come in contact with know about the struggles your child has.   Talk about how to handle situations and how to react to situations.  You are your child’s best teacher and advocate. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Interesting Article on the Fate of Education

A friend sent me this article. It's a perspective that many are missing because of the push for testing and as result most states are "teaching to the test". Let me know what you think. It's not really on middle school but an interesting comment on education in general.,0,2024751.story

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Restitution for Bullying

A friend sent me this article and I wanted to share it with you. A court in Michigan has finally said a school system did not do enough to either prevent bullying or to keep a student safe (which ever way you like to like to look at it).
I would still like to see a bigger parent role in this. Perhaps parents should be fined in civil court if their child continues to bully, especially when it is the same child for years and years and most definitely when it becomes physical. What ever the situation parents need to be brought into the situation earlier and much more often.
As a teacher in the public schools I know a lot of bullying takes place out of our sight but since there was a problem why weren't teachers on alert especially in middle school?

Please check out my other bullying article from September/October 08

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Teaching Etiquette in Schools

A friend recently sent me this link. It goes along with some thoughts I've been having around expectations and behavior both in schools and at school functions. At my son's high school they always send out a list of dos and don'ts before each formal event. At the very least it saves a lot of questions for the parents. Some of the items on this list include general expecations for behavior, how to introduce your date (yes they have a receiving line), appropriate dress tux vs suit vs sport coat/long dress vs short dress and if flowers are appropriate. Guidelines like this should also be instituted for middle school events. Couldn't hurt anyway.

One thing that is often missing with the boys is the hat off inside and handshake when meeting new people. How many of you teach or expect your boys to do this?

Let me know what you think about the article. All of this ties in with appropriate use of language and how to read and respond in new situations. Not to mention it makes the kids look good.