August 3, 2018

Why I Left the School Setting - An SLP's Personal Experience

I want to start off by saying that I absolutely LOVED working in the schools. Between being a teacher and then SLP, the majority of my adult life has been spent in a school setting. When I became an SLP, my plan was to continue to work in the school setting...always and forever. But life happens and plans change.


This past spring I officially resigned from my job at the special education co-op I was working for. I am not going to go into all the nitty gritty details about what led to my resignation, but there were several reasons. At the time of my resignation, I planned to find another school based position. I updated my resume and began to scour the region for SLP job listings at all of the local schools. That's when I realized...it was not going to be easy to find another school SLP job in my area.

My area of Central Texas is pretty rural. There are many small school districts, several medium sized school districts, and just one or two large districts. Most small school districts use special education co-ops for their speech therapy services. I did not want to go from one co-op to another. I was looking for a job with an actual school district where I could be in one location. I didn't want just any job. I wanted one that was a good fit for me as well as for the district. 

Unfortunately, there just weren't many openings. I did submit an application to one local district and was called for an interview. I thought the interview went extremely well and I was certain they would offer me the job. They didn't. It was disappointing, but I knew it meant it wasn't the right fit for me. I am a firm believer that God has a plan for my life and I knew in my heart that He would lead me to the right position. 

As the school year began to wind down, I knew I had to get something lined up. This is when I began to explore the possibility of working in other settings. 

Home health and the SNF setting were not what I wanted to do as a full-time job. I knew this from my PRN work in both settings. I have always enjoyed working with adults, but I feel the most passion and confidence in myself when I work with pediatrics. I decided to reach out to some local pediatric clinics and see what happened. 

Several job offers came in! The hard part was making a decision. 

Did I really want to leave the school setting?
Which clinic was the best fit for me?

After much prayer and conversations with my husband and several close friends, I finally came to a decision. I sent the email and accepted a job at a local clinic. 

At the end of the school year, I said my goodbyes (possibly shed a few tears), and enjoyed my last summer off...

It's now August and I have completed my first two training days at the clinic. I have had some anxiety about making the change, but I trust that God led me to this job for a reason. 

I don't know if I will stay in the clinic setting forever, or if I will return to the school setting someday. I have had moments where I was overwhelmed with guilt for leaving my school job, but I also know that guilt is not a reason to stay somewhere you are unhappy. I am excited about the new setting and using my teaching and school based SLP background in a new way. I know I will have several patients who receive school based speech therapy, and I look forward to working with their school SLPs to help them make great progress. As difficult as it was, I know I made the right decision for me and for my family. 

I decided to share this on my blog because I know there may be other SLPs who are feeling that they may want to switch settings, but just aren't sure. My advice to you is, do what you think is best for you and your family. Don't let guilt or other outside pressures influence your decision. You might be a private clinic SLP looking to move to the schools. You might be a school SLP looking to get into the medical setting. You might want to try home health. Whatever it is...think about it, pray about it, and I say go for it. The variety and different settings we can work in is one of my favorite things about our field. If you don't like the new setting, you can always go back.

**UPDATE** After 2 months in the private practice setting, I realized it wasn't for me. I struggled with inconsistent pay due to no shows/cancellations and really missed being in the school environment. I enjoy working with students and teachers in the classroom, seeing them in a natural environment and being able to incorporate classroom materials into my therapy sessions. I found a nearby district who was hiring and I got a school based position! 

If you have any questions for me, please feel free to send me an email at kristin@talkinwithtwang.com.

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July 23, 2018

Cycles Approach: Making the Most Progress in the Shortest Time

We've all been there...a new student on the caseload who is maybe 25% intelligible...if that. They have so much to say, but also so many errors. Where do we even begin? It can be overwhelming at first, but there are things you can do that will ensure your child makes excellent progress in the shortest amount of time.


First, you absolutely MUST conduct a thorough evaluation. I'm talking more than just a quick administration of the Goldman Fristoe. Make sure you have as much data and information as you can to determine the best type of treatment for your student. When I have a child who is highly unintelligible, I immediately start by looking for error patterns. It's important to note what sounds are being deleted, distorted, or substituted. If there are substitutions, what are they? Where are the errors occurring - initial, medial, or final position? Are errors consistent across words, phrases, sentences, and conversation? Your formal assessment (i.e. Goldman Fristoe or other articulation test) will provide some data, but I recommend going beyond that. If possible, record a speech sample. You can use sound loaded articulation scenes to help with this.

Once you have a good amount of data, start looking for phonological processes in the child's speech. These are error patterns that occur across a wide variety of words. Examples include deletion of final consonants (saying "ba" instead of "bat"), stopping of fricatives (saying /p/ instead of /f/), or gliding (saying /w/ instead of /l/). The ASHA website has a summary of different phonological processes with examples. Click HERE to see it. I also love this chart from Little Bee Speech. It's important to note which phonological processes are still being used that should have resolved by now (according to the child's age).

If your student is indeed demonstrating some of the phonological processes listed on these charts beyond the age that is considered typical, you know you can proceed with the cycles approach. Using the cycles approach allows your student to make faster progress than they would with traditional articulation therapy. Rather than focusing on one sound error, treatment cycles through the error patterns focusing on one phonological process at a time and cycling through the others. This allows you to work on many targets in a short amount of time. You can read more about the cycles approach on Caroline Bowen's website by clicking HERE. She has a great list of references and information on how to implement the cycles approach.

Here are my personal tips for implementing the cycles approach (please refer back to the websites I mentioned earlier for more specific information on the cycles approach):

1. Identify the phonological processes that may be impacting intelligibility the most. Start with the earlier developing patterns and make a list of all the deficient patterns. It's also a good idea to list which targets the child is stimulable for. This will be your road map as you work through your cycles. I usually focus on 2-3 main phonological processes at a time.

2. Keep a cheat sheet handy to help you as you go through each session. In the Cycles Approach, each session follows the same structure. Having a cheat sheet handy will help you as you get started, so you don't miss any steps. You can download my free Cycles Session Structure handout HERE.

3. Select 4-5 target words to focus on for each session. I use the same 4-5 target words for a total of 60 minutes (either 2 30-minute sessions, or 3 20-minute sessions) before moving on to a new set of targets. For example, if a student is deleting final consonants and fronting, I may work on words with final /p/ for a total of 60 minutes, then move on to words with final /m/. I would then move on to target fronting with initial /k/ for a total of 60 minutes, then initial /g/. I would then go back to final consonants.

4. Use minimal pairs! Using minimal pairs allows the child to begin to hear when they are saying a word incorrectly. I always use minimal pairs when I am working with the Cycles Approach. Minimal pairs are words that are different in only one way...(i.e. bow/boat, tea/key). It's a good idea to keep a set of minimal pair cards handy for each phonological process. I use a minimal pairs bundle I created called Phonology on the Go. Each set in the bundle includes minimal pair cards and data sheets. I can carry these cards with me easily from location to location, or use the no print resources that are included.

5. Encourage home practice. I always include parents and teachers in my treatment. It is so important to provide parents and teachers with the list of target words a child is working on. If I see the child for 20 minutes, 3x per week, they also should be practicing the target words in between sessions. You can jot down the target words on a sticky note for parents/teachers, or send a copy of your target word cards home for them to play memory or even just drill for a couple of minutes. I also demonstrate what a short practice session might look like to show them how quick and easy it can be. The easier it is, the more likely it is going to be done.

This may sound like a lot and be a little overwhelming, but I promise, once you get going, it becomes second nature and you will see so much progress!

Be sure to check out my Phonology on the Go resource, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

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July 17, 2018

Five Reasons You Should be Using Sudoku with Your Students



Have you ever tried solving a sudoku puzzle? I often try, but I am not usually successful without cheating...haha. But I truly love solving puzzles and going through the process of trying to solve them.

Many of my students also enjoy solving puzzles, but often find standard number sudoku puzzles too difficult. That's why I began creating picture sudoku puzzles to use with my students. I have sudoku puzzles for articulation, language, and book companions. My sudoku pages are great for all levels and I have even used them with students as young as 5 years old. Today, I am sharing 5 reasons why I absolutely LOVE using sudoku with my students.

1. They are highly engaging. Every time I pull out my sudoku pages, I instantly have my students' full attention. They think the puzzles are so fun, which keeps them engaged. It doesn't feel like work. Many of my students often ask for more...just for fun!

2. I can easily differentiate. I never have students who are on the exact same level academically. Sudoku puzzles come in a variety of difficulty levels. When I use my sudoku pages with my students, we can all be working on the same activity, but each student has a level appropriate for their ability.

3. They require no prep! Sudoku worksheets can be printed and used with absolutely no prep required. I have even have friends who have used them on the smart board as a group activity. Need to save paper? Print once and use them in sheet protectors with dry erase markers.

4. They are great for executive functioning skills. Completing a sudoku puzzle requires the ability to pay attention, self-monitor, organize and plan. When I use sudoku with my students, we are always working on these skills. It's not just about solving the puzzle, but also learning how to focus on certain sections, use the information on the page, and think through possible solutions. The harder these pages get, the more focus and persistence is required. It's a great way to help students learn how to work through a challenge.

5. They are so versatile. You can use sudoku pages as large group activities, with small groups, individuals, or even as homework. The opportunities are endless!

If you want to try using sudoku with your students, I have several FREE options for you to try. Click on the titles to download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Don't know how to do sudoku? Just start out with one of my level 1 pages and go from there. You'll get it in no time!

FREE Articulation Sampler

FREE There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly book companion

FREE Earth Day vocabulary

If you're looking for more sudoku options, click the following titles:

Articulation Sudoku Mega Bundle

Langauge Sudoku

Old Lady Sudoku Bundle

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April 9, 2018

State Testing...An SLP Survival Guide

Springtime. Blooming flowers, green leaves, rain showers, warmer temperatures (hopefully), and...standardized state testing. Oy.


In Texas, we have two major testing weeks...one in March/April and another in May. Our first round of state testing begins tomorrow (April 10) and will include 4th/5th grade as well as middle and high school students. Then in May, everyone in grades 3 and up will test.

Most school based SLPs do not have to administer state tests (though I know a few who do), but testing weeks definitely still impact us. At several of my schools, the speech therapy room is used for small group or individual test administration, so I lose my therapy space for several days. Any schedule I have been working from goes out the window due to students testing or rearranging of PE times, etc. Testing weeks are not easy for anyone, including the SLP.

But have no fear! I am here to share some testing week survival tips. Just a few things that I have found make my week(s) a little easier to deal with.

1. BE FLEXIBLE - This may be easier said than done. You may show up on Tuesday with a plan, and then show up and find out your plan needs to be scrapped due to a sudden schedule adjustment. Just roll with it and expect that last minute changes will occur. You may need to be flexible with everything from your location to how you group your students. Just roll with it and do your best.


2. GET CREATIVE - One of the biggest challenges I face during testing week is not having a therapy room to see my younger students. To this I say, 'No problem!" I use this opportunity to get creative with where we have speech therapy. If the weather is nice, we might go outside. Can't go outside? Try the gym or cafeteria, or another empty room. Walking the halls is probably not allowed when testing is going on, but you might be able to find another space and make it an adventure! You could also try pushing in to your students' classrooms for the day.


3. CATCH UP ON PAPERWORK - Sometimes, testing schedules make it pretty impossible to get any kind of therapy done. This is when you can use your time to catch up on paperwork. Write IEPs, reports, or progress notes. Maybe you have Medicaid billing to catch up on...

4. GET SOME CEUs DONE - If you can't see students, you could spend some of your day completing online CEUs. There are so many great courses offered online now and days. I am a member of SpeechPathology.com (affiliate link) and can pretty much complete CEU courses whenever I want to. I hear Medbridge is also fantastic. Or check out the ASHA website or Northern Speech Services and see what they have to offer.

5. CHECK IN WITH YOUR TESTING STUDENTS - When testing is finished for the day, I always check in with my students who had to test. There is usually enough time at the end of the day to get a session in. I do not force my students to come to speech after testing all day, but many times they want to come. I always check in, see how their day went, and ask them if they want to come to speech. I also make sure to have something extra special planned if they do make it to speech.

Testing weeks are usually not fun for anyone on campus. Stress levels are high and schedules are a mess. Just try to stay positive and know that it will all soon be over. Try to be flexible and get done what you can get done. Hang in there and just be thankful that this only happens once (or twice) a year.

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have to help administer state tests? How do you handle testing weeks? Leave a comment below.

March 30, 2018

Story Champs - Why Every SLP Should Have this Resource

Let's get straight to the point. There are MANY different commercial products on the market for language intervention. But have you heard of Story Champs from Language Dynamic Group? I have had the privilege of using Story Champs in my speech room this year and it has been a game changer.


Story Champs is a language intervention tool that can be used by SLPs, reading intervention teachers, general education teachers, ESL teachers...pretty much anyone who works on language or narrative skills. It can be used in large groups, small groups, or one-on-one.

I have been using Story Champs with most of my students this year. We started back in September and they still love it. I use it to work on listening skills, story retell, sentence structure, vocabulary, comprehension, answering wh- questions, sequencing, articulation, and more. My students love the stories and I love that I can differentiate for each student, even within mixed groups. It's great for grades pre-k and up and for students with a variety of disabilities and cognitive abilities.

The Story Champs kit comes with:

  • Storybook
  • Illustration Cards (digital version, too)
  • Icons
  • Games
  • Flashdrive with loads of extra printables

How I Use Story Champs:

Students are taught what each of the story icons represents - character, problem, feeling, action, ending. There are additional icons for more advanced students, including setting, plan, consequence, etc. The elements and icons are used through every story. 

I then present the story to the students using the illustration cards. As I tell the story, I place an icon on the corresponding card to help make the connection between the icon and that part of the story. 

After I tell the story, we discuss it and work on answering questions and practice vocabulary. We then review the story and each element. 

With the illustration cards and icons still on the table, we then retell the story together. I help my students as much as they need it, modeling language and vocabulary use the entire time. 

I then allow them to retell the story on their own, supporting them as necessary. Once they are ready, I remove the illustration cards and allow them to retell the story using only the icons. The final step is for them to retell the story again with no icons or illustrations. 

We always wrap up using a printable from the flash drive where they can cut and glue blackline images of the illustrations on a story board. They get to take this home with a parent letter that explains the story and has information for parents to extend the learning to the home setting. 

I have also been able to use Story Champs for large group lessons in the kindergarten classroom. Every Friday, I  led a lesson with the entire kindergarten class (my little school only has one kinder class). We went through the story, discussed the story elements, practiced listening and retelling together, and in partners. We all loved this time we shared and I was able to monitor my speech students during the activity, too. Students can then work in centers on extension activities related to the story. 
 

Overall Opinion:

Now that I have had the opportunity to use Story Champs, I am hooked. I absolutely love this tool and how versatile it is. I can modify the stories and the level of difficulty for each and every student. The illustrations are appropriate for all ages and really help students focus on the elements of the stories. 

Once students have a good grasp of the story elements, we work on carrying these elements into their own narratives. This is a great way to extend their learning and allows them to make personal connections with their own experiences. 

I love that I can use Story Champs with mixed groups. Students with language goals get what they need, and my students with articulation goals have the opportunity to practice their sounds. I sometimes modify names or vocabulary in the stories to add specific phonemes for articulation goals. 

The best thing about using Story Champs is that all of my students are ENGAGED and actively participating through the entire session. 

I highly recommend Story Champs to anyone who is looking for a great language intervention tool. If you have any questions about this resource, feel free to comment below or email me at kristin@talkinwithtwang.com. You can also reach out to Language Dynamics Group. They are very helpful!

Special Offer: If you are ready to get your very own Story Champs kit, Language Dynamics Group has provided me with a discount code to share with you! Enter code LDG10MP at checkout to save 10%

Enjoy!