When I first began working in the field of speech therapy as an SLP-Aide, I had access to my supervising SLP’s materials.  He had all of the card sets created by Color Cards.  I used those sets quite a lot over the years as an SLP-Aide.  Therefore, I was pleased to see that they now have apps and even more delighted when I was contacted and asked if I would be interested in doing a review of the Everyday Objects App.  Although I was provided the app, the opinions in this review are all mine. 

This app provides three activities: describing, reveal, and viewing the cards.  The viewing option allows for you to pull each one up so that labeling skills can be worked on and/or to provide a review of what vocabulary will be worked on during the session.

The describing task brings up one of the pictured cards for students to describe.  It provides an audio stating “Tell me about this” but also provides a visual sentence prompt.  In the top, right corner, the app provides a little microphone so you can record what the student says. On the bottom of the screen, you are able to take data for the activity by marking if it was completed accurately, with prompting, or not correct.  I love that I have the option to state if prompting was needed beyond just correct or wrong.  

The reveal activity will show a small portion of the screen and students are asked to guess what the picture is of.  Each time you touch the screen an additional portion is displayed. Again, the microphone is on top to record student guesses and the bottom allows you to mark if the response was accurate, required help, or was not correct.

I like to get the biggest bang for my buck, so I do not use it in this way.  With the knowledge I have from choosing which pictures to work on, I provide the student with descriptive features and see if they are able to guess accurately prior to final reveal of the object.  I attempted to also have the students choose three pictures and then turn the tables on me.  They would give me descriptive features (function, location, appearance, etc..) for me to guess.  Of course, to get the most out of it, I would play along as if I could not guess correctly until the final reveal. 

In the settings, the cards are grouped by difficulty: easy, medium, and hard.  The settings screen allows you to view the image banks and choose the number of cards and which cards you wish to use. It also allows you to set up the activity by determining the background color, cut out shape (for the reveal), collect information for reports, and whether  you wish to provide a counter or not.  It also allows you to decide if you would like the task broken up with a cute reinforcing animation or not and if the keytone or audio is turned off or on.   You are also able to review student reports with a graph to monitor progress and buy additional cards. One of the BEST FEATURES for this app is that in the settings area, I can add my own cards to the mix.  It is simple to do too!  Simply take a picture of an item on the spot or use a picture in your library, name it, choose which category it fits (verbs, objects, emotions, what's wrong), choose level of difficulty, and save! 

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS:  I loved the flexibility of moving along as I see fit and that the app provided a microphone and the option to report that the student required additional prompting to complete the task. Real life pictures are also wonderful to have instead of line art or cartoon clip art.  I definitely see how these pictures would also speak to older populations.  The data collection graphs were also helpful.  I LOVE that I can add my own pictures too! That is a wonderful feature to have because I can add more recent or age-specific pictures.   However, there were a few things that I felt would make the app even better.  The pictures as they are work for older individuals; however, for littler kids updated pictures would be helpful.  I recognized a lot of these pictures from the same cards I used years ago. The last thing I would suggest is that in the view the cards portion, it would be great if you could choose a field of 2, 3, or 4 pictures that can be side by side to work on receptive identification or compare/contrast.  One of the things I loved about the original cards is that you can work on so many different skills and it would be great if some of that flexibility could be applied into the app.  Overall, it is a great and simple app for working on labeling, descriptive features, and inferencing using real pictures.  Plus, the price just can’t be beat especially when you can add your own cards and tailor it to meet student vocabulary needs!

You can buy Everyday Objects App from Color Cards for $1.99.  Add-on packs can be purchased in settings.  Each additional pack includes 100 cards for $4.99.  Add on packs include: Everyday Objects, Verbs, Emotions, and What Wrong cards. 

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Holidays are a great time to score some wonderful deals on toys that encourage speech and language skills and family time! Christmas. Hanukkah. Kwanzaa.  It really doesn’t matter which holiday you celebrate in Winter, we all know that right after Thanksgiving there is that mad dash to the stores to get the super sales.  In our home, we celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, and Yule.  You can say my daughter has been spoiled over the years.  Since our only immediate family here in Vegas is my Gambling Guru Grammy, we always fill out the various store wish lists for our scattered family members.  Here is my confession, when she was super little, I always thought about what would be a fun toy that would facilitate growth of speech and language skills (that I could also use later for work once she outgrows it).

Here are some wonderful toys that I would suggest, both personally and professionally, putting on Santa’s list to facilitate speech and language growth and quality family time:

BOOKSBooks are great for all ages!  For the little ones, you can use them to build basic receptive and expressive vocabulary, prepositions, adjectives, wh-questions, etc.. as you talk about the pictures in the story book ("Look!  Santa is trying to come down the chimney.  See his boots? Show me Santa's boots.  Boy!  He will be dirty coming down that chimney...") For older children, the story vocabulary increases in complexity so they continue to increase vocabulary but begin using context clues to determine the meaning of the word or phrase.  They can also work on the higher level wh- questions such as how and why.

CAUSE and EFFECT Toys- These are great for the little itty bitty ones!  Especially those that are just developing language.  You can entertain for long periods of time while working on basic concepts such as colors, stop vs go, more, roll, pop, fast, etc.

PLAY SETS- So much language can be built from play sets such as doll houses, farms, Duplo sets, etc.. With the Duplo or block sets you can work on colors, prepositions, size, following directions, and prepositions when first creating the scene.  With all of the play sets you can continue to work on receptive and expressive language vocabulary, action words (verbs), basic concepts, following directions, and narrative skills.

REUSEABLE STICKER SETS- Play sets can get expensive and sometimes they are not easy to move around from location to location.  The reusable sticker sets by Melissa and Doug allow you to work on all the same skills as the play sets.  I love that they are reusable stickers so they can be used over and over for half the price of the play sets.  Plus,
they are easy to bring from location to location (including those long car trips).

BOARD GAMES- Board games are great for learning social language and bringing families together!  From board games, kids can learn that there are rules that must be followed such as turn-taking, eye contact, social exchanges ("It's your turn.  Oh wait. It's my turn.  Give me the dice, please"), which are all important skills for functional communication and conversational exchange. One game that is full of wonderful family fun and builds language is the game Headbandz.  While playing this game, the following language skills can be worked on: categories, descriptive concepts, and asking and answering questions.

GOLDIE BLOX- My daughter is in love with Goldie Blox!  If  you do not know about these sets, I would definitely suggest you check them out.  They were designed with teaching girls about engineering concepts.  However, boys can find entertainment with them too. The sets come with a book that explains the concepts and gives step by step directions (in a fun way!) of how to build the set.  It teaches higher level vocabulary and concepts while incorporating fun! It is a fun way to also incorporate social language exchanges (making requests, conversational exchange, etc..), following directions, addressing how and why explanatory concepts, and more.

Too often, myself included, it is easier to let our children play with the tablet.  We tell ourselves that they are still engaging in learning activities since they are using academic apps or apps created to encourage speech and language skills, but at the same time if we only provide them with technology we are missing wonderful experiences that we can enjoy with our children.  Family time with laughter and fun!  Teaching the art of conversation.  Learning opportunities that only can occur with the interaction of another person.  Those moments are sacred.  Those moments are what make us human and those moments fly by far too fast.  So when you are thinking of what to get your child for the holidays, think of the the activities and toys that would include YOU and PLAY with them. It makes for wonderful memories and natural opportunities to facilitate speech and language skills.  

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Are you a traveling SLP? Do you feel like you spend more time walking the halls to get students than in your office providing services? By any chance, are you at one school but do not have an actual office?   Do you find that by the time you pick up your students on one end of campus to take them out to your portable that is on the opposite end of campus that you have just enough time to touch the door and head back? Been there!  Done that! Yes, I have been in ALL of these situations and I KNOW that I am NOT alone in finding a way to just make it work in an effort to provide the best services possible to our favorite little clients (our students!).
  • INVEST IN A ROLLING CART- I love mine! It has really come in handy and saved my back when I found myself without a permanent office.
    • Door-to-Door RTI or Serving Speedy Speech (or Daily Apraxia) Kiddos: I could just put all my materials in the cart and roll around the school site without losing time from picking students up and walking to office and back.  It made schedules with heavy caseloads easier too!
    • Hauling Early Childhood Props: When I provide services to our Early Childhood Class, I like to bring a lot of goodies!  I typically go along with my Early Childhood Teacher’s thematic plan and choose a book with the theme and build my whole group lesson around the theme or dramatic play but targeting specific skills that the kiddos are working on. This often requires a lot of props.  The cart is also helpful in hauling the materials to target individual goals when working with some of my Pre-K kiddos individually. 
    • Goodies Galore for Self-Contained: I like to have more than just one or two Type A Level Reinforcers in my goodie bag while working with my self-contained students with Autism or Multiple Disabilities.  When possible, I use the materials in the class especially when teaching them to communicate using their device or a picture exchange system.  It is best practices since those are the materials in their immediate environment and what they will have access to when making requests or commenting. However, sometimes those items are no longer reinforcing and I need to pull out some of my own goodies to get a response.
  • TABLET- Oh, how technology has made my life easier!! It is almost like it is my own little communication device. I do not always use it, but it is great to have on hand!  Between the many different application programs I have on there to address a wide range of skills, quick articulation screener, or to use as a reinforcer, my tablet is an easy go to and now I do not have to carry a million books or copies of papers from books.  Plus, it saves the trees by not having to make so many hard copies.
    • Dropbox- I have easy access to some of my favorite TpT products on here, as well as important school information to make jumping from school site to school site easier on me.
    • Moka - Do you have this app?  If not, you may want to consider the small investment to get it.  I am able to put some of my old files or books in these apps.  For example, I have put a folder of search and find games into them and I am able to easily pull them up. 
      • Searching by Sound: I have the students find pictures that have their sounds in it and highlight the picture or circle it.  
      • Language Ideas: Same as the ideas as above but I describe an item and they have to find it or I provide the student with 1-3 step directions and they complete the task using the highlighter and colored pencils. 
      • No Print Tpt- I put a lot of my No Print TpT products in here.  Then it really is No Print and I can move around in the product as it is intended.
 What about the students that time seems to be wasted when you have a long walk but there is simply just no place to see them outside their class and they have a lot of service minutes (traditional services)? I have some ideas for that too! I won’t discuss them all, as I have put six of them into a little freebie for you and you can just go download them and have them on a ring as a go to.  But I will mention a few fun games I play while we make that long walk.
Grab this Freebie!  Therapy on the Go!
SOUND SEARCH- While walking from point A to point B, I ask the kiddos to look around their environment and see if they see anything that contains the sound they are working on.  If there is, I have them say the word while practicing good placement, say it a set amount of times, and then tell me if the sound was at the beginning, middle, or end of the word.  If they are past the word level, then I have them use it in at least two different phrases or two different sentences.  If it is a word that has more than one meaning, I ask if they can think of two different meanings for the word and use it in a sentence in at least two different ways.  The point is, I want them thinking, engaging, and not wasting time while we walk towards our destination.

If I know that we may be limited with time, then I bring along my little data flip sheet.  We can easily get 100 trials in if they are at word level without even making it a game (though, I find they like to take turns on finding things).  Also, once we have gone over our immediate environment over and over and we can not think of any new words on follow up walks, I change it so that they have to imagine a place (bowling alley, grocery store, library) and ask them to think of words for things they would find in that location.  I find it continues to keep them engaged plus they like to see if they can stump me and I run out of words before they do! Grab the above freebie here!

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The Frenzied SLPs are hosting a Linky Party and they want to know…. What did you learn this summer? I had to think about that.  What did I do this summer?  What did it teach me?
I learned a lot of interesting things at the TpT conference, how to use new-to-me apps (Facebook Groups, Periscope, etc…), and that I HATE when my little one is gone for so long (6 weeks is the WHOLE summer practically!)

This summer, I had a huge to do list in my head.  I was going to clean my house so that all EXTRAS would be gone (downsize!) and the house would shine!  I was going to finish my daughter’s quilt.  I was going to work on creating all the products swimming in my head.  I have stepped up to the plate, gripped the bat of completion, and have only managed to hit a few balls as they passed the plate.  My house has not downsized at all, and when it shines it only does so for a day or two, and my daughter’s quilt is not completed.   Normally, this would cause me unnecessary stress and my anxiety would go through the roof!  

SLOW DOWN AND BE IN THE MOMENT: Who cares if my house is a bit messier than I like.  It will be there for me tomorrow to clean too.  Even if I manage to make it shine for a week straight, my daughter will be home soon and it will be a mess in 10 minutes after she walks through the door.  Why let my home stress me out?  Time with my loved ones is far more important than if I have managed to downsize or not.  Date nights with the Hub and Girls Night with Gambling Guru Grammy has been far more rejuvenating this summer than if my home sparkles!

TAKE TIME:  We always hear how we should take the time to give to ourselves.  Maybe a little pampering is in order.  Maybe just take the day off and read all day.  I don’t do this.  I should.  I know I should.  However, I do not.  Everything I do, I do for my family.  I learned as a small child that we must work hard, sacrifice, and keep going until we are free from financial debt.  Although part of that is a good lesson for a child.  You know the part where the world doesn’t owe you anything and you must work hard for the people you love and for a better life.  However, the unsaid part which suggests you work, work, work, and never play is a poor lesson to teach a child.  I often fear that I am teaching my daughter that lesson.  Her entire life she has seen me work, work, work and never play.  She has seen me stress out about debt and that we can never “afford” to go on vacations that do not involve visiting in-laws.  It got me thinking, I think I observed these same things when I was growing up.  I do not recall many family vacations.  So I decided change was in order!  Don’t freak out.  I will not be going out on a spending spree, throwing responsibility aside, and being frivolous. No, I have to be responsible still but I can still throw a little caution to the wind and just TAKE TIME for my family and myself.

Secret Ice Cream with Grandma- Summer 2015
I have been with my husband for 10 years now.  We eloped so we never had a big wedding and we didn’t even have a honeymoon.  We happened to be in Lake Tahoe for a weekend trip (this was when we lived in Sacramento and it was roughly a two hour get-a-way) and while researching possible places to get married, he leaned over with a devilish smirk and said, “Want to get hitched? I dare you!” So we called our families and said “Think of us in an hour because we are getting hitched!”  Our families were not too thrilled about our spontaneous decision.  That happened to be the last of the spontaneous decisions for us.  (Well, my daughter decided to spontaneously be born three months early but that was not on us.  That was her!)  That was…. Until…. Now! 

I have been saying for the past three years how I wanted us to take a family vacation.  However, there was just never the time or the extra money to do so.  My little one is about to turn six soon and time is flying by so fast I am rather fearful that if I blink she will become eighteen and ready to leave our home. What memories will we have given her?  So, I made a decision.  TAKE TIME!
Four days after she comes back from her summer vacation with my parents, we are going to quietly pack us up and put her in the car.  She is naturally inquisitive so she will ask me a lot of questions.  However, I plan to bite my tongue and not say anything until we are all in the car.  Then, I will turn on the recorder on my phone and tell her…. “WE ARE GOING TO DISNEYLAND!”  I’m excited to TAKE TIME with my family.  This will be our first vacation without visiting family.  It will be our first vacation as just our little family of three. Can I afford to go on vacation?  The better question is, can I afford NOT to go on vacation?  No one is guaranteed tomorrow.  Time together and special memories are priceless.  Besides, that is what credit cards are for.  

What did I learn this summer?  It wasn’t something I hadn’t heard or told myself before.  However, it was something I planned to make sure I incorporated more into my life.  Take time to enjoy the special people in your life.  Take time to pamper yourself if you need it.  Just SLOW DOWN and BE IN THE MOMENT, and TAKE TIME for yourself and those you love!

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