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I do not know about anyone else but I am ready for THE END.  I mean, I'm ready for the end of the school year.  This has been a tough year.  In all my years, I have never had so many out of state students come in or as many of the initial evaluations. So, YES!  I have been on the count-down wagon for some time. 

Truth be told, I know the chaos of a fast year is not the only thing that has me stressed.  My family is also looking at a possible BIG MOVE and that requires a lot of preparation. Keeping my sanity has been #1 on my TO-DO List.  Here are the TOP 5 things I have been doing to maintain my sanity and hopefully, they can help you keep yours too!

1.  LIST IT & PRIORITIZE.  Okay, I am notorious for making lists just so I can cross things off and feel like I accomplished something for the day.  It's true!  Don't tell anyone but sometimes I add simple things on my list just so I can feel super accomplished (get out of bed, feed the kid, etc..).  So I highly suggest you make your list of what you HAVE to accomplish (make a separate list for WANT to accomplish) and put your deadlines next to it.  This will help you prioritize your list and life!

2.  "I'm HAPPIEST WHEN...list".  I know, it is another list.  My husband hates the mess I leave behind in lists but I am a very visual person.  I feel like if I can "see" it then I can "be" it. Write a list of 5-15 things that make you smile.  If possible, make it be things that will not be unhealthy for you in the long run.  For example, I'm happiest when I am scarfing down a huge 8 inch chocolate bunny (left overs from Easter).  However, although I will be immediately happy from chocolate bliss, in the long run my hips will not be pleased with me. My list contains things like, playing a board game with my daughter, tickling her senseless so I can hear her melodious laugh, or fill the tub with yummy bubble bath and relax with a good book while soaking!  What makes you happy?

3.  VISION BOARD REWARDS.  Search the internet or old magazines for pictures representing what you will reward yourself with or make another list.  Again, you do not have to break the bank (but feel free to put that family camping trip or pedicure on your list if it is in the budge). For each day you complete your list or after all deadlines are done.. reward yourself!  YOU DESERVE IT!

4. MAKE YOUR JOB EASIER.  By this time of year, planning is about surviving the last few therapy sessions.  Make it easier on yourself.  Teachers pay Teachers has a lot of wonderful end of year products.  Personally, I start Summer a little early.  You know, all the kids are dreaming of it just as we are. Working on Apraxia, Articulation, Language, or Phonological Processing Errors? These beach ball crafts work great for mixed groups (yes, so those last minute mixed groups you need to put together to squeeze an additional 30 minutes in your schedule to assess a new student... you are covered!).  Best part, is that they make cute take home crafts for students to practice their during summer break. another mixed groups idea?  Grab Summer Open-Ended Games pack. You can work on any skills and reinforce the group as a whole with three different games featuring a summer theme! a lot of students working on articulation and need a little something to go home for summer practice?  My students have loved practicing their sounds while coloring in mystery pictures.  I think it is funny what they think the picture will create in the end.  They have come up with some imaginative things! They have also enjoyed working through the summer themed mazes!

5.  REFLECT and ENJOY.  On my last session with the kids, I like to talk about what they learned over the year and what they plan to do during the summer to continue practicing. I like them to think of practical ways and when necessary I help facilitate that thread of thinking.  For example, practice their sound while reading aloud to parents for 5-15 minutes a day, play "I spy" in the car for describing skills, inferencing skills, and practicing fluency and articulation. 

Hope we all SURVIVE THE END with a smile and a feeling of accomplishment!  Do you have any end-of-the-year survival tips or traditions from your speech room?

I love a GREAT FIND.  In fact, I spend too much on my little treasures but I use them so I figure in the end the amount I save is more than the amount I spend (I know, I'm a "retail therapy -therapy materials fanatic").   This is where I go to find "My Precious" (Yes, that was a Lord of the Rings reference you should have heard in your head) therapy material treasures:

TARGET DOLLAR SPOT (99 cent store, Dollar Tree, etc..)-  Okay, most of us know to check there regularly.  If you don't, I can not stress to you enough to check it out! The cue little felt book in the picture is from the dollar spot at Target.  I also found the cute bunny wand (it lights up like a strobe light and my kiddos with sensory needs will LOVE IT) there too!  I have found a lot of my sensory toys in this section along with some goodies for my speech organization needs.

GOODWILL-  I go there so often that my daughter asks to go with me all of the time!  I have found two Cariboo games there, Zingo game, and an Operation Brain Surgery Game.  In fact, I have found a lot of my games there.  Just be sure to open and make sure the pieces are all there.  Sometimes they are not.  Also, if you go and you do not find anything of interest just try again a different day or at a different location.  When I was looking for my first Cariboo game it took me 6 months!  I had a routine where I went to three different Goodwill locations every weekend during that time.  However, once I found the first, I found a second one two weeks later (I gave that second one to my CFY at the time).  You can also find cute books there!

SAVERS-  Do you know Savers?  Do you have one where you live?  Savers is similar to a cross between a thrift store and a dollar store. I have found a few good toys for therapy there.  Especially little bags of manipulatives.  However, the best find I have found at Savers were the storybooks for therapy. It takes a while to sift through all of the shelves of books but I found it was well worth my time! 

THRIFT STORES-  I do not stop at Goodwill alone.  If I drive by a thrift store I will STOP.  It never hurts to look and I found my third Cariboo game at a small Christian organization thrift store.  It cost a little more than at Goodwill but it was still significantly less than online.  Also, it went to a good cause so it was a WIN-WIN!

CRAIGSLIST-  This one I say to proceed with caution.  The good news is that you can see pictures of items that people have.  The bad news is that you just need to be safe about the deal that you make.  Have them bring the item outside, do not go alone if you can help it, and just be cautious.  I guess, I'm not a trusting person.  I put ads on Craigslist also but I always make sure that my husband is around when I plan to meet up and I always go outside to the person who comes over.

FACEBOOK-  Yes, you read that right.  Did you know there are a lot of Facebook groups featuring swap meets, personal garage sales, and items that people are simply putting up for sale.  I find many teachers and fellow SLPS put their stuff up on Facebook.  I've been tempted but sometimes it just takes too long to clean the closet if I did it personally.  You can find some wonderful sales that way though! Look up groups and pages within your area that also have the keywords: Donate, Sell, Swap, Garage Sale.  Just use caution when meeting up via Facebook too.

YARD/GARAGE SALES-  In the day, I was a yard sale weekender.  Not so much now that I have a little I have to get from point A to B to C.  However, as I chauffeur her around and see yard sales in the neighborhoods, I will pull over to check it out or drive slowly to look (as long as it is safe to do so).  My neighbor is notorious for having a yard sale every weekend.  They also have several kids so the kid stuff is always out.  How is that for door to door service.  I do LOVE that! 
PARENTS & COLLEAGES-  When I say parents, I mean our student's parents.  However, my own mother is a Yard Sale Diva and has called me on several occasions to see if I can use a certain item or two for therapy that she finds at yard sales.  I have also been fortunate to have parents donate toys and games to me.  After explaining to colleagues how I incorporate them, I have had colleagues donate too!  Plus, if you are a parent yourself, be sure to save those certain items that you think could be helpful in therapy.  I do not personally go about asking my parents or colleagues for donations but at times it has come up such as when they are moving or talking about donating books and toys to goodwill that their child no longer uses. I will bring it up then and inform them nicely that I appreciate any donations they may have that I might be able to use for therapy. 

Why spend so much on new items when you can find great treasures given a little time in a search?  Do you know of another great resource to find treasures?   I'd love to hear where else you have found great finds for speech!

I know that for many of us, we get to a point where we are internally diagnosing or assessing our communication partner's speech or tongue posture.  For example, my husband (and initially my daughter) have a bit of a tongue thrust and it makes me want to reach over and snatch that tongue (only kidding... kind of).  When my daughter's friends come over and speak with me, I am always analyzing their speech patterns ("Ahh.. she is still fronting and reducing consonant blends").  It is enough to drive my husband crazy.  It is just part of me now.  With that being said, I still audio record.  This is why....

MY FOCUS IS MY CLIENT - I want all of my attention to be on the interaction with the child or adult in front of me.  If I am playing with a child to get a natural speech and language sample, obtaining a narrative from a teenager who stutters, or holding a conversation with an adult, I do not want to ruin the flow of the session, screening, or assessment by pulling my attention away to write down what they say.  First, I would find it incredibly rude as an adult if someone did that to me.  Secondly, it ruins the spontaneity of the moment.  It impacts the relationship and trust that I am building with my communication partner.

I JUST CAN'T CATCH IT ALL - I would like to think that I am pretty quick but I know if I do not record, I will miss things I am not even looking for. For example, I may be listening for articulation and phonology with a little friend and missing all of the language (vocabulary, verb tenses, adjectives, articles, etc..) that they are providing me.  I had one little come in with "limited language" and just overall difficult to understand.  I was playing with her on the floor and had out certain toys to get a wide variety of speech sampled.  My recorder was on while we played and I focused my attention to her.  When I went back to listen to the recording to evaluate her speech sample, I was amazed at the vast amount of language she used.  She was not "limited" by any means.  She had made amazing growth and we now needed on turning our attention on increasing her intelligibility. 

I CAN LISTEN AGAIN AND AGAIN -  Sometimes, I find that my ears are just plain wrong.  I can be speaking with one of my students and keep a general checklist in my head.  Such as, I heard part-word repetition, sound repetition, interjections, etc.. However, when I go to do a complete analysis of the speech sample, I will find that I missed some prolongations or revisions. Having the recorders on, allows me multiple opportunities to listen and make sure my analysis of the speech or language sample is accurate. 

I still use my old recorder as back up to my iPhone recorder.  I am not so trusting with technology and I would rather have a back up than to only use one mode to record and lose it all due to an error, malfunction, or a curious kiddo that likes to play with technology and accidentally turns it off (yes, I have had that happen a few too many times). When I am working with school age children, super curious preschoolers, or adults, I always inform them that I will be recording and why (for the kids, I explain that I'm just old and my ears do not work so well). I have never had any one object to my recording or ask too many questions. The free recorder app I have found the most success with is Voice Recorder by TapMedia Ltd.

There are some great apps that have built in recorders such as Little Bee's Articulation Station Pro, Articulate It by Smarty Ears, and Outdoor Fun by Virtual Speech Center Inc. When the using an app that has the built in recorder, I use only one other recorder as an on going back up.  I just learned a long time ago that no matter how decent I think I am at catching what is said and how it is said, I just can not get it all.  To be able to provide details while progress monitoring, or evaluating I strongly suggest always having a back up and record.

What do you use to record?

You may have noticed that I have not blogged for some time.  This Winter season has been full of family trips, family illness, and updated materials! Since it has been a crazy time for my family, it has limited my therapy planning time. Work is one place that I do not slack though (unlike my home that looks like a tornado hit it!) since I know I have little one's and families depending on me to give them my best and build communication.  When time is in a pinch, I pull out the following:

1) SEASONAL STORY BOOKS- I've shared this in the past and I will share again!  You can hit just about any target goal with a story book! I have used them to listen for, dictate while drilling, and then sending home those same articulation lists.  I love doing this as students can practice auditory listening, fine motor control with writing, and then when they go home they can also share with their parents what the story was about!  I have also used story books to work on wh- questions, pronouns, prepositions, sequencing, yes/no questions, labeling, categories, and functions.  Story books are perfect since they already contain the built in picture cues! NO PREP SPEECH & LANGUAGE MATERIALS- I have made these No Prep packs that work on the following speech sounds in all word positions and on mixed pages: k, g, f, v, s, l, ch, sh, j, th, and r. They also include rl words, s-blends, l-blends, and r-blends!  The following language skills are also addressed: action, pronouns, categories, antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, and functions.  Most seasons and holidays have been created and a GROWING BUNDLE has been made to provide all of the packs and future seasons and holiday packs at a discount.

3.) PLAY DOUGH for ARTICULATION, APRAXIA, and CONVERSATIONAL EXCHANGE- Earlier in this post I stated that I had been updating materials.  I have been updating like a crazy lady! Just pull out the play dough, crayons, or daubers and enjoy!  I have also used these mats for practicing fluency strategies and building language skills (wh- questions, function, descriptions),
  • I have updated ALL of my DOUGH N' GO ARTICULATION MATS.  Each set addresses the sound in each word position and provides a mixed position sound page.  For the update, I have made the pictures larger and no longer trapped in a circle, the words are now positioned around the picture (no more guess work for some of the more difficult pictures with the word list), font changes, graphic changes, and word choice changes are also throughout all of the products!  Grab a FREEBIE here for the J Sound!
Grab this J sound FREEBIE!
  • ALL of my MAP & MASH APRAXIA MATS  have been updated too!  Each set is provided in color and in a low ink/no prep black and white option (great for take home practice!).  The following sets are covered: CV, VC, & CVC; CVCV & CCVC; CCCVC, CVCC, CCVCC; and 2-3-4-5 Syllable Multisyllabic Words.
  • Any of your students working on conversation?  All of my MAP, MASH, & MARK CONVERSATIONAL EXCHANGE MATS have been updated too.  These sets cover holidays and seasons.  Each set includes suggested topics, Venn diagrams to identify common interests, maps for planning out a conversation including introducing a topic, maintaining topic, and if responses are appropriate. Each pack also includes several mats to track asking questions, responding to questions, and making a comment.  These sets are also provided with the color versions and a low ink/no prep black and white version (families can practice conversations at home)!
4.) MUSIC & MOVEMENT-  Sometimes, you just need to dance or move in speech! Here are a few quick ideas! 
  • PLAY MUSICAL DRILL!  Post or hide drill cards around the room and turn on the music.  All the kids in the group dance around the room and look for their speech sound cards.  When they find one they dance in place until the music stops.  If a student has not found a card, they must sit back down at the table but you provide them their drill word.  For the students that found one of their sounds, they practice their drill word while standing up, and hand you their card.  Then you turn the music back on!  The last kiddo left dancing... wins!
  • HOPSCOTCH ARTICULATION/LANGUAGE.  You could get fancy and get a hopscotch rug but why spend that money?  I simply put pieces of colored paper on the ground in a hopscotch pattern and place the articulation or language cards down on the colored paper.  Students take turns tossing a penny to the square and then hop their way to pick it up and finish the pattern to the end.  No matter if they make it all the way to the end or not without falling, they practice their word or skill.  However, they can only keep the card if they made it through without falling.  Be sure to CLEAR THE AREA of any thing that the students could fall into and hurt themselves (chairs, tables, desk, keep away from filing cabinets and bookshelves).  If you do not have enough room to do this in your speech room, I have taken speech outside when it wasn't too cold or windy, and have used it in the gym/cafeteria. 
Planning speech has never been so simple for me!  I have found that having these resources always available it makes quick changes possible (a new student transfers to my caseload, little are too wiggly and need a back up plan, need to change up activity due to lack of progress with planned speech activity, etc..).

If you have purchased any of my updated materials but love the originals, please be sure to upload the revised materials and give them a different file name.  That way, you get double the mats in all by still keeping the originals and adding the new revised materials to your speech materials arsenal. 

What Low Prep or No Prep materials or activities do you use?
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I am chomping at the bit for the time off.  We have one more week of school and for the first time in five years, we will have the entire week off for Thanksgiving.  Do you?  Is this usual for your school district?  Or do you work up until the day before Thanksgiving and then have Thanksgiving and the day after off?

Either way, we still have a few days of crunch time therapy before enjoying a little relaxation time off.  Are you still in need of some little "reinforcements" with a Thanksgiving theme? Here are five great apps that I found that can be used to target speech and language goals and act as a Thanksgiving week reinforcement.

THANKSGIVING EBOOK (Mr. Turkey, where are you?) by Visual Works: This is a very basic ebook introducing Thanksgiving characters (Pilgrim, turkey, Native American, leaf, etc..) and is a simple way to work on answering basic who, what, and where questions.  The great part is that you can also personalize the story for your student. The designer of this app also has similar ebooks for other holidays too. If you go to their website, you can also download a pdf version of this story.

HAND TURKEY App by Jay Ayres: This is a multi-touch app.  It is great when working on cause-effect, making requests, and following directions. My little one loved playing with it and I heard a lot of giggling happening so I am excited to see how my kiddos at work like it.  Student places their hand on the tablet screen and the app will make a turkey using their hand.  Students can name their turkey and decorate it. 

WORDSEARCH THANKSGIVING by Astraware:  I love this one! I'm pretty sure my older students will love it too.  When you start the game it creates a lit of words associated with Autumn and Thanksgiving.  Tap it again, and a huge wordsearch with the same words comes up for the students to locate the words.  This app is great for targeting articulation (especially if students are at a mixed position level with their sound), definitiions, and grammar (using a word in a grammatically correct sentence or identifying the part of speech).

THANKSGIVING GAMES for KIDS by Maria Dolores Garcia Ferre: This app features multiple games such as simon says (with Thanksgiving foods), identifying pictures that are not the same, word search, memory, building words by moving letters in place, etc.. This is just a great app to reinforce completion of speech tasks.

THANKSGIVING PUZZLES by Scott Adelman Apps Inc: These puzzles are very simple and cute (9 pieces).  I have the free version and it provides you with four puzzles.  You have the option to buy more and if you do purchase you are able to change the number of puzzle pieces too.  Personally, I found the free version more than meets my needs for reinforcement.  Once the student puts all the pieces together a cute little animation takes place.

The opinions expressed here are my own and I have not received any compensation for sharing this information.  All websites and tablet applications that are mentioned in this blog are done so as potential tools to encourage and assist in the development of speech and language skills.

Do you have any suggestions for free Thanksgiving apps that can be used in therapy?
Have your student's mentioned to you over and over that the new Trolls movie is coming out?  Between work and home, I have heard my students and my child mention it a time or two.  It made me wish my childhood home was closer to where I live so I could ransack my old toy box and find my troll dolls! I know they have to be in there somewhere.  I use to love the sensory of the troll hair! get my student's into the groove of therapy, I have been using my Trolls No Prep Speech and Language set and they have been loving it! I loved that it made therapy easy.  Just print the pages I need and grab daubers, dice, and/or a paperclip.  I'm about keeping it super simple so in many cases, I just grabbed the pages, crayons for the kiddos to color instead of daub, and used the Make Dice App so I wouldn't lose any small parts! The app added to the magic for the kids too since they all seem to love using the tablet even when it is something so simple. I even created a Trolls No Prep Speech and Language FREEBIE which is a small sample of the big 160 page set.
This week, I will also be pulling out my new Open-Ended Trolls game boards and points game. I figure the Trolls are back in full force so I made game boards for several seasons (Fall, Winter, and Spring) that school is in session.  The points game reminded me of collecting Trolls since that is exactly what you do with the game.  You collect Troll cards and points.  At the end, the person with the most points wins!  I'm super excited to see my kiddos faces when they see the new games featuring Trolls.

Sign up for my Newsletter for your own copy of Trolls Open-Ended Games, information about upcoming sales, and future exclusive Freebies.

I have said this a million times and I will say it again.  I LOVE HALLOWEEN!  Okay, I love Autumn.  I think it is my favorite season of all (well, that and Spring. Hmm... Summer is great too for obvious reasons)!  I love seeing little dressed up in costume. I remember trick or treating fondly. Plus, I just love the change in colors. Halloween therapy week is always so much fun. The kids are excited and even the most resistant child to conversation typically becomes more of a social butterfly.  I mean, who wouldn't when you can talk costumes, favorite candy (chocolate!), and Halloween parties or community events.  This week, I will be pulling out or continue to use the following materials to engage the kids in building their skills in articulation, language, and conversation.
I recently revised all of my Map, Mash, & Mark Conversation Mats.  In some cases, the product itself is completely new with better graphics, font, and design.  One such set is my MAP, MASH, & MARK: HALLOWEEN CONVERSATION MATS.  The kids loved the Frankenstein Mash Mat the best. The pumpkin carving was second favorite because it elicited A LOT of conversation about how they like to cut their pumpkins, what they do with the seeds, and what they put inside the pumpkin for light (candle, LED light, or glow stick.

The Map, Mash, & Mark sets provides students with conversation flow maps to determine who their audience is, what they may have in common to discuss, map out a possible conversation, and determine if their responses and continue topic maintenance. All charts, conversation suggestions, and mats are provided in color and in low ink black and white (which is perfect to take home and practice conversations with parents, siblings, and friends). I typically use the Mash mats in therapy because it keeps hands busy with dough and doesn't result in ink all over my table or space (I tend to always get the daubers that like to leak or else everyone who steps into my speech space simply does not know their own strength). used my new NO PREP SPOOKTACULAR pack last week over and over again.  The kids loved using crayons to color in the potion bottles, cauldrons, and coffins.  In fact, using the crayons and color pencils were just as much a win as using the dauber bottles typically are.  Plus, once they finished working on their targeted articulation or language goal, they were able to color in the cute graphics.  All that was needed was the necessary pages, dice, or a paperclip.  It included a dice game, double dice game, and spinners game. I do not like hauling dice around with me. I tend to forget where I place them. So, I used my tablet and an app called Make Dice Lite.  The kids liked seeing who could complete all 12 articulation or language tasks first. The pack consists of 106 pages and targets the following sounds in all word positions: k, g, f, v, s, s-blends, z, l, l-blends, ch, sh, th, r, r-blends, and rl words.  The language section targets: verbs, pronouns, category, function, antonyms, synonyms, and homonyms.

To wrap up my week, I will also be using these SPOOKTACULAR NEW STORIES that I blogged about earlier this week with the classes that I have not yet used them with.  I also will continue to use these 5 FREE HALLOWEEN APPS that I blogged about earlier this week over at Speech Spotlight.

After Halloween, I will begin using my NO PREP Trolls again.  Which is set up like my No Prep Spooktacular but even larger at 160 pages! The kids enjoyed the Trolls set and have asked for it repeatedly because of the upcoming movie. I love when the kids enjoy what we are doing and ask to repeat activities!

What will you be doing in speech this week?  Do you know of any great new books?  Do you have any favorite Halloween therapy apps? If so, please share.  I love hearing about other great therapy finds (especially when it is holiday based).
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