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How I Make Visual Aids {& Giveaway!}


I am always looking for ways to make it easier for my kids to understand things more easily. A method I use for literally all of my students is visual aids. Pictures provide help to all students to aid them in understanding what they hear or read, but they are especially helpful to students with difficulties understanding language. Words can be pretty abstract, so pictures help give a concrete representation to those words. Visuals can also provide structure to help my kids produce more complex sentences. I love creating these supports for my students and seeing their success with them. I routinely use visuals to make therapy materials, visual schedules, and materials for TPT. It can be time consuming to find the specific visuals my students need. That was why I was excited to try Smarty Symbols.

Smarty Symbols is an online library of tons of picture icons! They currently have over 19,000 images. The pictures range from common objects, adjectives, and verbs to specific academic vocabulary. They even have symbols to help with more abstract concepts such as prepositions and grammar. One of the things I love about Smarty Symbols it that since it is online, they are constantly adding to and improving their pictures. I do not have to purchase a new CD every time I need more updated pictures. Also, if you can't find the specific word you are looking for - just ask! When I needed a picture of a fried egg and it was not a part of the library, I sent in a request and it was added to their website in just a few days. They even have an activity library where you can look and download what other people have created! It is a great space for SLPs to share their resources.

Here are just some of the many ways that I have used Smarty Symbols since I signed up for a subscription last year:

• Picture schedules
• Behavior picture supports
• Social stories
•Sentence strips
•Vocabulary and articualation cards
• Games
•Communication boards
•Adapted books

You can checkout more about Smarty Symbols at their website here.  The great people over at Smarty Symbols have also allowed me to give away a 1 year personal subscription to one of you! Be sure to enter below! I will announce the lucky winner on Monday.

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Cyber Monday Sale and Giveaway!


How was your Thanksgiving? Did you enjoy a nice break?

Mine was an interesting week. First, I took a personal day on Monday to take my dog Leah to get eye surgery. She has tumors in her eye and they had to do stuff with lasers (technical terms I know) to keep them from getting bigger. I thought the long trek back from the eye specialist with my half blind and sedated dog in the back seat was going to be the tricky part. But then things got much worse.

My dog was allergic to her pain medication.

Super allergic.

Like she is never allowed to have pain medication again allergic.

It took 24 hours for her to develop stomach ulcers and 48 hours until we ended up at the emergency vet. In case you were wondering if it is a good idea to schedule vet appointments around Thanksgiving - it isn't. Absolutely nobody was open or returned our calls to figure out why the dog was suddenly so sick.

So Wednesday night was spent at the vet emergency room out of desperation. My pre-holiday cooking plans went out the window. But luckily, Leah is all better now and has been spoiled rotten all week.

Anyways, after a long week, I am super happy to announce a happy beginning for next week:

The TPT Cyber Sale is on Monday and Tuesday!

Use the promo code CYBER2016 to grab 28% off of my whole store! Here are some great steals that are perfect for the upcoming winter season:

These NO PREP activities are perfect for those busy days when you don't have time to plan and you will never find these at a cheaper price than during this sale. It's already a good deal at 20% off, but with the sale it will be a total of 48% off!

Have you read Turkey Claus? My kids and I LOVE it! This is the perfect companion for this funny holiday book.

Looking for something for your older students? Weird Winter Sports will keep your upper elementary and middle school students interested and engaged while reading about some strange winter sports and watching videos of them using QR codes! Bonus: No prep!

More good news:

I've got a giveaway going on over on my Instagram page! I am SUPER thankful for all the support you have given me and for that I am giving away a $10 TPT gift card. Just click here to head on over to my Instagram account and look for the graphic below. Follow me and comment about what you are thankful for this year and you will be entered to win! Tag some friends for some extra entries.

Happy shopping and I hope you have a good first week back from break!
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The Best Speech Therapy Materials for November

Tomorrow marks the beginning of November! This is my favorite month! If all months could be full of colorful leaves, scarves, boots, family, and mashed potatoes, the world would be a perfect place in my opinion. I love incorporating fall and Thanksgiving themes into my therapy this time of year. It's something all of my students can relate to and enjoy. I asked some of my SLP friends what their favorite materials for November are, and here is what they said!

What are your favorite therapy materials for this time of year? Comment below. I would love to hear from you!

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Is Your Team a Perfect Fit? {Linky}

Hi! I am linking up with the Frenzied SLPs today to talk about working as part of a team! Some of you may be lucky enough to work with other SLPs in your school, but at my schools it is just me! Also, I am literally in my own building that is an annex building off of the regular school building... there are no general education teachers out with me! This can make it tough sometimes to feel like I am part of everything going on with the teachers. I try to avoid being on an island by myself by making sure I really try to be part of the team with my teachers!

One thing that I have found to be really helpful in boosting teamwork and collaboration is pairing with a grade level to complete one of my SMART goals. Do you have to do these types of goals where you are? Having a goal or two to measure a select group of students' growth is part of the evaluation process in my district. For the last two years, I have paired with my kindergarten team to address a language goal. I find that this works well with kindergarten because their students are working on lots of language skills in the classroom and they are not bound to goals involving state tests like most of the other grade levels. Last year we implemented the Story Champs program together to address narrative language with all of the kindergarten students. I trained the teachers how to use the program and they implemented it during their language arts blocks. Then, I would come into their classrooms once monthly to lead small groups during stations (in addition to using the program in my therapy sessions). My students made great growth and I really believe that the collaboration between me and their teachers made a big difference! I love getting to see my students practicing their goals across settings, working with other students I normally wouldn't see, and showing teachers that SLPs can be part of the team, too! It worked so well we paired up again this year and are working on using the Expanding Expression Tool (EET) together!

Do you have any tips for working as part of a team? Link up with the Frenzied SLPs here to share!

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How Being an SLP Has Changed How I Vote

Politics. It's a dirty word. We aren't supposed to talk about it at the dinner table. I have it on my lists of topics to avoid when I review "touchy subjects" with my social skills groups. It sits in the same group as religion and money. But today... I'm putting the rules aside and talking politics. I'm not going to tell you how to vote or why you should vote a certain way. But I am going to talk about how being an SLP has changed how I view politics.

As an SLP, I work with a variety of students from preschool through 8th grade. I see students from every walk of life. Some students have significant disabilities and are in self-contained classrooms. Some of my students are extremely intelligent but happen to stutter. But the students who I think about when I lay awake at night are my kids who look "normal", my students who are in general education classrooms who work alongside their peers, but find learning to be very difficult. Some may have "Learning Disability" as their disability category at school, while others may have "Other Health Impairment". Either way, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that school is always difficult for these students. What other kids easily pick up on, my kids work tirelessly to grasp. They are always 3 steps behind while the teacher has to keep plowing ahead in order to cram in everything before the end of the year state tests. Most of my students seem to never be able to catch up, yet they are held to the same standards as their peers.

I think there is a perception held by some people that people who hold minimum wage jobs, jobs that appear "easy" or jobs that "anybody could get", must be lazy. But here is the thing. No job is easy. While technology has made things easier, you still have to know how to read that fast-food order, you still have to know how to count back the correct change in the check-out line, and you still have to sequence the steps to place that order in the computer system. The skills that I work on with students are not just impacting them at school, they are impacting their ability to participate in real life. They are going to grow up to be adults who have to work just like you and I to make ends meet and they need skills to do those jobs. This perception of the "American Dream" where anybody can get ahead as long as they work hard seems pretty unreachable for my kids sometimes. My students work ten times harder than any of their typically-developing peers. They work on their assignment with their teacher, then again with their special-education teachers, then again with their parents, and probably again in the morning before class. We celebrate their successes of making a 10 point growth over their state test score from the previous school year, even though the state will only see that they failed the test yet again. If my students can go on to hold a job where they can read the orders of the tickets, where they can remember the multi-step directions given to them by their boss, or where they can give back the correct change, I will be so thrilled for them because I know they will have worked extremely hard to get there.

When I used to think about politics, I used to think about how the policies or the candidates would impact me. What can this candidate do to make my life different or better? But now? I also think, what plans does this candidate have that will make life for my students better? My students deserve a chance just like anybody else. My students deserve to be able to support themselves and live independent lives in which they are valued members of their communities. They deserve a living wage. They deserve to be happy. They deserve their shot at the American Dream.

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Quick Strips for Following Directions

When I first started doing therapy, I targeted following directions primarily through crafts or seasonal cut and glue or color pages. While these can be great and I love a good craft, I was finding I needed something that I could just pull out and get to work with that provided lots of repetitions and opportunities for practice. That is why I created these Quick Strips for Following Directions. They are great for a grab and go activity to target a variety of following direction skills.

Here is what's included...

There are four targets for following directions: basic, sequential, quantitative, and temporal. The basic directions include one to six elements, such as color, size, and location. The more elements, the more complex the direction. This is especially helpful for my students who are working on remembering details about directions or understanding basic concepts.

The Sequential Directions include both two and three step directions. I always have lots of students working on multi-step directions, so I love that I can just pull these out for quick and easy practice. 

The Quantitative Directions include the concepts of one, all, some, both, or, either, except, not, and don't.  I especially love these strips for my older students who still need to work on these concepts, but are too old to target through play.

The last type of directions included is temporal directions. These strips include concepts of before and after.

The packet ends with a data collection sheet so you can progress monitor how your students are doing! You can check this product out here on TPT! Grab it for 50% off until Monday night.

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Using Google Calendar to Write Lesson Plans

Happy October! Today I am sitting here typing this up while I lay under a warm blanket watching the rain outside. I hope all you east coast people are staying dry and safe!

On Friday, my district had a half day for professional development in the afternoon. I assisted in planning the SLP session and coordinated with the tech people who presented a great session on how Google tools can help therapists streamline our never-ending paperwork. I thought I would share a cool tidbit I learned!

Not only can you use google calendar to make your therapy schedule (check out this post incase you missed how to do this!), but you can use that same calendar to keep track of your therapy plans! Here's how....

Here is a fake therapy schedule (looking pretty light I know, but you get the point!) 

Click the group you would like to plan for, then choose "edit event".

In the description box, enter your plans! Then click the red "save" button at top.

After you clock the "save" button, a pop-up window will appear asking you if you want what you typed in the description to save for only this session, all following sessions, or every single session including past sessions. Unless you plan on doing the exact same thing in therapy with that group forever, I suggest clicking the "Only this event" button.

And that is it! When you want to go back and view your plans, just click on the session on the calendar and click "edit". Then you can quickly see what your plans are no matter where you are and not waste any paper (a precious commodity in my school!) I thought this was such a great idea to quickly and easily make plans. Also, if your administrator requires you to submit lesson plans, you could just share your therapy schedule with them and they would have access to see the plans as well! I also like it because I travel between schools and hate having to lug anymore folders/paperwork around than I have to. 

How do you do your plans? Do you think this would save you some time? Comment below! I would love to hear from you!
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