Monday, October 16, 2017

Getting Started with Sensory Bins!

I don't know what took me so long to start using sensory bins in my therapy sessions! I absolutely love using them and my students are responding so well to them. The purpose of a sensory bin is to tie a multi-sensory approach into learning. We learn better when we can touch, smell, and see something. Sensory bins let the child explore and discover through play. They are great for both groups and individual learning and they bring out so much language! 

For years I have adored sensory bins from a far. Always Pinning other's awesome ideas, liking Facebook posts, and taking screenshots of every fantastic sensory bin I saw. But I was afraid to pull the trigger. Since I am a private therapist traveling into homes, schools, and daycares, I didn't want to have to lug a giant bin with me everywhere I went.  Then I decided to start small. I found a small, shoe box size container and thought it would be pretty perfect for a small sensory bin that I could easily bring with me. That was all I needed to get started. The rest is sensory bin history!
If you want to get started using sensory bins but are a little hesitant like I was, here is my advice. Start small. Choose two or three fillers to alternate out. I really enjoy using cut up smoothie straws, kinetic sand, and small erasers. Popcorn kernels and black beans are fun ideas, too. But those have all ended up all over my car (face palm) The first 3 mentioned are much easier for cleanup!
Now let's talk about objects to put in the bins. I have used anything from vocabulary cards, story sequencing pictures, articulation cards to wooden animals and puzzle pieces. I really love adding objects that go with a theme. For example, during pirate week I used kinetic sand and added plastic gold coins and jewels that I found on amazon! SO much language about pirates and treasure happened that week!
Finding storage may be the biggest challenge for using sensory bins. My car is my office so I needed something practical that didn't take up a ton of space. I keep all of my fillers (sand, straws, colored pasta, beans, etc) in large zip lock freezer bags. All of those bags go into a tub. For the fillers, I use a photo and craft box I found at Michaels. Here is a link to the exact one I bought.  It is perfect and easily keeps my objects organized by theme. 
Sensory bins are so much fun and create so much hands on learning and language opportunities! Make sure you're following my Instagram (@simply_speech) to see more ideas! 
Have a great week!

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Peek Inside my Therapy Binder!

Staying organized seems to be a constant battle, but a total necessity to keep my sanity. As a traveling therapist, I have become pretty good at collecting piles of "stuff." Therapy notes, receipts, data sheets... oh my! Keeping client information and therapy plans in order is a must. I wanted to share with you how I organize my therapy binder and what works for me.
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience. This means if you purchase something from my link, I may make a small commission.
 First things first. Let's be real,  a pretty binder cover is a must. It's something you look at daily, multiple times a day at that. So why not make it something you enjoy looking at? I frequently make new binder covers, but the ones I am currently rocking are tropical. I am totally into pineapples and flamingos right now. You can download the binder covers I am currently using, here! They are editable!
When you open the binder, the first thing you see are 2 clear pocket folders. I use one to stash receipts. The other one I use to keep copies of important documents that are often requested by the schools I go into to see students. I usually keep a copy of my professional liability insurance, my state SLP license, and driver's license.You never know when you may need that and it's nice to have copies on hand.  I do not remember where I got my exact folders from (most likely Target) but here are similar ones on Amazon. 
Next I keep a copy of Speech Musings' data cheat sheet, The Speech Bubble's Quick Reference Chart, and the Speech Sound Development chart from Mommy Speech Therapy in page protectors. All have come in handy more times than I can count. I love having the speech sound development chart handy for teachers and parents that are concerned about their child's articulation. It's a very easy way to explain what sounds are still developing and what they should have mastered. 
Also in page protectors is a copy of my schedule and a Plan of Care list of due dates. Insurance companies requires a new evaluation and report every 6 months, so I like to keep a list handy of expiration dates so I don't miss one!
All of my quick reference and go-to forms are in the front of the binder. In the back is where I keep all my student information. I use pocket dividers to keep all their information in. I'm obsessed with these pocket dividers. (Maybe it's a pocket thing, I love dresses wit pockets, too!) You can snag some similar ones, here. In each student's section, I keep a copy of their goals, their Soap Notes, and my therapy plans. 

That's it! This is what works for me. I would LOVE to hear what works for you because I feel like this an every evolving project.
Happy organizing!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Words to Stick With! Homework Freebie

I am a big fan of sending home speech folders. Not just for sending homework, but for communication with the parent. They need to know what we are working on and hear about their child's progress so they can help him or her, too. Last year I wrote a post about what I include in my speech folders, you can check that out here. 
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience. This means if you purchase something using my link, I may receive a small commission. 
But in addition to the communication aspect of speech folders, I do like to send homework once a week. Nothing major. Nothing that will take up a lot of time. But something that will help the child practice his or her goals when they aren't with me. I am a huge fan of simple things to send home. I am also a huge fan of pretty colorful things. So, with those two things in mind, Words to Stick With was created! Plus, I am totally digging the cactus right now... along with pineapples and flamingos :)
The cacti are actually a font from A Perfect Blend.
 3 slips fit on a page and they are black and white so they are friendly to your color ink! Don't these look awesome on AstroBrights paper?! 
To use these, just print and cut! I leave these in the front pocket of my therapy binder so I can easily grab one when I need to. It takes 10 seconds to fill these out and send home in their speech folder. And they are the perfect size to put up on a refrigerator and keep up all week to practice!
You can download these for FREE in my store, here!

Friday, September 1, 2017

How I Teach With Smash Mats!

I really should take stock out in PlayDoh. Seriously.  I have used PlayDoh to help my students reach more goals than any other toy or material. They love it. And I don't blame them. It's squishy, it's fun, and it's super motivating. With the love of PlayDoh so high amongst my students, I decided to make some activities that would help them learn as they played. And this is how Smash Mats were born!
My original goal for Smash Mats were to simply teach vocabulary. After we read story, I would name a target vocabulary word, and the child would smash a ball of PlayDoh on the picture of the word. Simple, yet effective! It was a great way to keep data on receptive and expressive vocabulary. But then so many more on the spot, teachable moments happened while using the mats. And now, the use for smash mats has grown to reach so many different areas and therapy goals. Here are a few examples of how I am currently using the mats....
Articulation, Apraxia, and Phonology. I created smash mats for every consonant, blend, and diphthong. I have my students practice their target word before they smash a ball of PlayDoh on the word. But I have been able to use smash mats to target articulation even with my vocabulary mats. If a child is working on the /s/ sound but we are using the under the sea mats, I will have them say, "I see a crab" or "I see a shark." 
Answering Wh-Questions. I created a whole packet just for Wh-Questions. Having the visual available is great for younger children or those just learning the concept of answering who, what, where, and when questions. 
Asking Questions. This can often be a tough concept to teach. We ask our students questions all day long. But how do you teach a child to ask us questions? I have had a lot of luck using smash mats and letting the child be the teacher. Start with a simple imitation, but let them ask you where the target word is on the mat, "Where is the bat?"

Story Sequencing. This has been so much fun. After we read a story, I love using the smash mats to help my students re-tell and sequence the story. The visuals of the characters and vocabulary words are so helpful for them.
Pronouns. Using he/she/him/her/them/them can be a tricky concept for so many students. Why not make the learning process more fun with PlayDoh? My students have a blast finding the picture that matches the description then smashing a ball of PlayDoh on top! I also have used it expressively by having the child describe the picture using correct pronouns before the smashing begins!

Sight Words. These mats were created specifically for one of my students that hated practicing sight words. Enough said!
Categories.  This has been a very effective way to teach about items that belong in the same category and items that don't belong!
 
Now with all these mats, how do you store and organize them? I use a binder. I print, laminate, and hole punch the mats before I stick them in my binder. It's easy to store them this way and very easy to take with me as I travel to see my students! Smash Mats are so much fun and definitely something I will continue to use to help my students reach their  goals!

Monday, August 28, 2017

DIY Dry Erase Clipboards!

Ever since I was in college, a clipboard has been a staple therapy item. SLPs almost always have a clipboard glued to their arms. But recently I learned a trick that has changed the clipboard game forever. And I am excited to share this brilliant idea with you!
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience. This means if you purchase something from the links provided, I may make a small commission. 
A few weeks ago I was laying on my couch and watching Instagram stories, (it's a pretty regular daily routine for me after the kids go to bed!) when I saw this genius idea from Ashley at Teach Create Motivate! She shared how she used a roll of white board contact paper to cover the back of clipboards and some of the desk tops in her classroom. 
I was so excited about this because there have been so many times during a therapy session that I had wished I had a whiteboard handy to better explain a direction, illustrate the meaning of a new vocabulary word, or better show articulation placement. Since I am a traveling SLP and no longer have a classroom, my therapy sessions are usually on the floor, in a break room, or in the hallway. It's been years since I have had a glorious white board at my fingertips. So immediately I jumped on my Amazon app and looked for the white board contact paper. Since I didn't need a large roll, I found a pack of individual self stick dry erase sheets for less than $9.00. 
They work perfectly and fit just right on the back of a standard clipboard. No trimming necessary! Just peel off the backing, stick in on the back of the clipboard, then smooth out the air bubbles. Of course I then wanted to have a clipboard available for my students and one for Kenzie since she was now in kindergarten, so I bought a pack of clipboards, too. 
 How fun are these? I am so excited to have these clipboards now. As I was making them, I kept thinking about what a fun gift these would be for co-workers! Enjoy!


Monday, August 21, 2017

It's Time to Ditch the Treasure Box!

As educators that work with children, we naturally want to reward them for their successes. Especially when working with students with special needs, the smallest gains should be celebrated! When I started my career in the school system, I used a treasure box. I would spend my own money and buy trinkets from the dollar store on a regular basis. I eventually got tired of spending my own money on "junk" that probably got thrown in the trash a few days later.
Fast forward a few years, and I started using Brag Tags. These were fun, motivating tags that my students could proudly wear or have displayed in the speech room whenever they met a goal or did something pretty amazing. 
 Now that I am traveling to different homes, schools, and daycares to see my students, brag tags don't quite work. I still love the idea but needed something a little more travel friendly. This is when Brag Bracelets were born!
These bracelets are very easy to keep with me as I travel to each student. I print them, cut them out, and store them in a plastic container (a large zip lock baggie would work, too). I made them black and white so they are ink friendly but super fun to print on colorful paper! Another fun idea is printing them on white paper and letting your student color them before they proudly display their bracelets of honor!
 I created 44 different Brag Bracelets with a fun Emoji theme (who doesn't love Emojis?!) and added them to my store for you to enjoy with your students, too! If you would like to see any other sayings added, please send me an email and I can add more to this packet. You can check them all out, here!
 I hope you have an amazing year with your students!


Monday, August 14, 2017

Why I Love Using My Little House in Speech Therapy!

Sometimes you come across an item you just know will be perfect to use for speech and language therapy. One that is engaging and gets your mind racing with ideas of how you can use this to target so many goals. This happened when I was first introduced to My Little House!
My Little House was created by speech language pathologist, Yvonne Johansen. She designed this house after years of using a felt board in therapy. One of the coolest parts of this house is that it can be laid flat or velcroed together to be a 3-dimensional house! 
 There are endless goals that can be targeted with this house. Since it was created by an SLP, each piece of this house was designed with an educational purpose. For example, in the bedroom, there is a clock on top of the nightstand, a pair of shoes under the bed, and a cat behind the mirror. There are so many opportunities to work on positional words in each room of the house!
My Little House comes with 36 felt pieces designed to go with the house. But I have used these pieces to target categorization of house hold items, vocabulary, following directions, and descriptive words sometimes before we even touch the house.  
It has also elicited so much language using it in structured play based therapy sessions. This is a perfect opportunity to work on requesting items. Sometimes I give the child the wrong item on purpose so we can also work on yes/no questions, too! Since the pieces match the items printed on the house, I've also use this to target matching/same/different concepts. 
My Little House is also reversible, and will look like the outside of the house when set up that way. This can be fun for introducing the lesson with a story about the house or a fun inferencing activity where your students could guess what is inside each room before you reverse it. 
As a traveling SLP, I love that this can be folded flat and easily carried in and out of therapy settings. It also takes up minimal room in my trunk which is important these days! This would be a perfect addition to a therapist's bag of tricks or for a classroom.  It would also be a great purchase by a parent so they could have some fun with language at home!  To learn more about My Little House or to purchase your own, click here!
Use code: SIMPLYSPEECH to get 10% off your order!

Thank you, My Little House for sponsoring this post!

Monday, August 7, 2017

DIY Desktop Organization Toolbox!

I cannot believe summer is already coming to an end. Even though I am not "going back to school" and starting fresh, I use this time to refresh my organization techniques and revamp my style! For quite a while now I have seen teacher toolboxes all over social media. I had been dying for one but didn't have the space. This summer I did some major purging and finally was able to bring this baby home!
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. This means if you purchase something from the links provided, I may make a small commission. 
If you haven't seen one of these boxes yet, they are a tool organizer that you usually see used for screws and nails. I remember my dad always had these in the garage for his gadgets. I ordered mine from Amazon but you can probably find them at any hardware store. There are many different types and styles with different numbers of drawers, but here is a direct link to the one I ordered: Toolbox
Unfortunately you won't find these in pretty colors. I mean, I get it, they're supposed to be in a garage. But this dull grey color just wouldn't cut it. So I bought some mint colored spray paint from Home Depot and added this job to my husband's Saturday honey-do list! It turned out so pretty!
Now what's an organization toolbox without pretty organization labels?! This tropical watercolor clipart was calling my name as soon as I saw it. I think I may make matching binder covers with this clipart too....
You can download these labels in my TpT store for free here: labels. They are editable but if you want to match the font, it's called Coffee Makes Me Smile by A Perfect Blend.
Print out the labels on cardstock, cut, and secure them in the box with a little bit of scotch tape. I didn't laminate them but that may make them a bit more durable.
Now my desk looks so cute with an extra pop of color! And my desk drawers have much more space now that all my gadgets and office supplies are stored in here.
Enjoy!

Monday, July 31, 2017

How I Use One Book to Reach So Many Goals!

I absolutely love using books in therapy. It doesn’t matter if I am working on articulation, vocabulary or fluency, I will find a way to work a book into the session.  After years of group therapy while working in the schools, I believe I have perfected the skill of working just about any goal into a lesson with a book.  Below is an example of how I have done this with one of our most beloved books, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Lucille Colandro. I would love to hear how you use books in therapy, too!
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience. This means if you purchase something from the links provided, I may make a small commission. 
Articulation:
Go on a word hunt! Search for words that contain your student(s) target sound and make a list! If your students are older and are readers, have them read the book aloud to the group while they work on carrying over their good speech sounds as they read.

Part Whole Relationships:
Picture books can be the perfect tools to use to work on part whole relationship questions!
“Where is the lady’s hat?”
“Where is the cat’s nose?”
“Where are the dog’s eyes?”

Yes/No Questions:
Working on yes/no questions can be really fun. When you (the adult) make a mistake, kids always find it hilarious. On the page pictured above, the lady swallowed a cat. But read the story as, “There was an old lady who swallowed an elephant! Is this an elephant?” You will most likely get a giggle and a “Noooooo! That’s a cat!”

Retelling/Sequencing
These Old Lady books are fabulous for retelling and story sequencing. Use visuals and have your kids retell the order of events for the story.
Predicting: 
Guess what she will swallow next! Take it a step further and ask why?

Fluency:
Read the story aloud to your students. Read some pages with smooth speech and other pages with "bumpy" dysfluent speech. Have your students raise their hand when they hear "bumpy" speech or tell you if you are using your good fluent speech techniques! 

Memory Skills:
Randomly close the book and have your student recall all the animals that he/she remembers seeing in the book so far.
Attributes:
On the page below,  all of the animals are pictured. Ask your student(s) questions about defining characteristics of the animals. For example:
"Which animal has wings?" 
"Which animal has soft fur?"
"Which animal has pointed ears?"
"Which animal is the biggest?"
Pronouns:
Talk about each picture using pronouns to correctly describe what happened. (I like to use a visual sentence strip to help my younger students with this.)
"She swallowed a cow!"
"The cow is bigger than her!"

And these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg! I really love using the Old Lady series books in therapy because there is one for just about every season/theme. You can check all of them out on amazon, here. But so many books work just as well for hitting multiple goals, not just this one. 
A huge benefit to using one book to touch on all, if not most, of your caseload's goals is that it reduces your baggage. Since I no longer have a classroom and travel to each of my students, the lighter the load, the better! 
Have more ideas of goals to hit with this book? Share with everyone below in the comments!