Monday, December 11, 2017

Keeping It Functional

Middle School and High School Language Lessons
                           Surveys For All Occasions

Working with students at the middle school and high school level can be quite the challenge. Keeping things fun and functional can be difficult for even the most seasoned therapist. Middle school and high school students will let you know if the activity you have planned is not appropriate for them or if it is the dreaded b word: B-O-R-I_N-G! With this in mind I wanted to let you know about an activity that I use with my students.

Surveys! Surveys you may ask – yes surveys. I like to use this tool to target a variety of communication-based goals. Goals may include but are not limited to: greetings, asking and answering social language questions and following directions.

The student will have a survey template with a question written at the top. Under each question are 4 choices and boxes to make tally marks for when people vote for their answer. So if we are working on a survey about school, the question may be “What is your favorite lunch to get at school?” The choices may be a. spaghetti b. walking taco c. hamburger d. pizza.  The students would read the question to the participant and show them or read the answer choices. When the participant answers, the student would make a tally mark under the correct choice.

After they have asked the correct number of people and tallied their answers, they will return to the individual or small group therapy session. We will then talk together and see which answer had the most votes and which had the least amount of votes. If you are working in collaboration with a classroom teacher, you could turn this data into a math lesson. Pie charts anyone?

I love this activity because it gets therapy out into the larger school environment. Planning for the generalization of social language skills is so vital for all students, but must be a priority with older students. If a student can only perform a skill with you in an individual session and nowhere else, it will not help that student become a more independent communicator. Independence with communication is our goal for all students!

So next time you are feeling overwhelmed about how to embed functional language practice for your middle and high school students, think survey! You can check out one of my winter themed surveys here.  

I have many surveys in my TPT store and will continue to add them. Have you tried this strategy before? Come on over and sign up for my freebie newsletter at Each month is a new freebie!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

My 7 Holiday Must Haves

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Everyone has their go to materials that they love to use. Today I wanted to share my can’t live without therapy materials. With the holidays close by – it is a great time to indulge in some new materials!

1.   Winds up toys are a must! They are so fun! I think I got into speech therapy partially for all of the super cool materials we get to create and use. Purchase these and have a blast in therapy. You can use these to work on so many skills. You use the wind up toys to work on requesting. The student can communicate which specific toy they want. You can use these to work on requesting for help- sheesh those little buttons can be hard to turn for small hands. You can also use them to work on intraverbals or filling in the blanks. Pick up the toy, start to wind it up and say, “Ready, Set, ________ and the students says “Go” So much fun in such a small package! Check out my favorites here. 

  2.   The language builder cards are a must as well. I feel like everyone has these – right? If not you should check them out. They are my favorite and comprehensive noun card deck. There are cards from a variety of categories to include but not limited to food, vehicles, colors and shapes. You can target a variety of functional language skills with these cards. You can set out an array of cards and have the student receptively identify the targeted card by its label (“Where is the frog?”) by its function (“Which one do you eat?”) or by it’s class (“Which one is a vehicle). You can also work on categorizing with this set of cards. You can set out a picture of a shape, color and a vehicle. Hand the student a circle and say “match circle”, hand the student a car and say “match car”, etc. Wow what a versatile set of cards! Check them out here. 

   3. Button art. I just love this game/ art activity. It is affordable and fun! You can have the students request which picture they want to make with the button art. It comes with a variety of pictures that they can make. Once they choose the picture they want to make, you can have the student either take turns with the therapist or a peer when choosing what button to put into the picture. To correctly make the picture, the student needs to pick the correct button color that matches the button mat, so this also targets matching skills. When all of the buttons are in, you can work on the student saying “ Look, I made a (picture)”. A must for early learner’s with autism

 4.  Another flashcard set that is amazing for working on actions and for targeting generalization are The Action Builder Cards. The Action Builder Cards contain 100 high-resolution photos with guiding text on the back. The cards are different from what have been on the market forever and that is action sets that contain just one picture of an action. Students with autism need us to use many examples, to help and plan for generalization. If we want students to make a bridge from what is going on in therapy to what is going on in the natural environment, these cards are a must. Check out this video to learn more about how they can help your students increase their language skills. Purchase here. 

 5.  I also just love Pete the Cat. My students love seeing all of the mischief that Pete gets into with each turn of the page. Students can help you repeat the phrase “ Oh No” before we find out what new thing Pete has stepped in. There is an amazing video that I like to show when I read this book. It is wonderful to see the students reference the book and the video for an amazing literature experience.

 6.    Llama Llama is another favorite! This Christmas book is perfect for very young students or students who need a simple story. This book has a great story but only one line of text per page. So it tells a great tale but it is not overwhelming. My own children at home just love to hear about Llama Llama and Christmas time.

 7.   Uno. I know that most of us probably already own this game but there are so many different variations that it is worth another look. They have Frozen Uno, Emoji Uno, etc.… Some students that we work with may have difficulty playing Uno with all of those complicated skip, reverse and other direction cards. But don’t despair, when working with students on modified leisure just take a peak at this freebie video and all will enjoy this game! Age appropriate and an easy game to modify, so that all students can have fun!

So this holiday season – indulge! You and your students will benefit. There is nothing better than starting the year off with some new stuff! Happy Shopping!!

Did I miss one of your favorites? Drop me a line at

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What I am thankful for this year!

Wow what a whirlwind year it has been for me. I am sure that many of you feel the same way. Working and being a mom to three little ones makes the days whip right on by. I am so very thankful for a loving family and for a career where every day my goal is to help others.

I am thankful this year for so many things, but wanted to share the top 5 things I am thankful for.

1.  I am thankful for my loving family. I have three little ones and seeing them grow everyday has been such a blessing and joy. One highlight was taking them to the beach this summer on an airplane. It was quite the experience. Stressful for us but something they still talk about often, even after the sun has faded away. Going to every soccer game, basketball game and gymnastics class is a joy!
2.  I am thankful for the opportunity to live close to family and see them often. We lived for 3 years in Austin, Texas. While that was a wonderful experience and I made many friends while being there, I missed being close to my family. Watching my kids bond with my parents, brothers, sister, nieces, nephew and other family has been so wonderful!
3.  I am thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals, some from very far away. I have been working with groups of speech language pathologists here in the United States and some in countries far from Ohio. Being able to talk with and discuss effective communication services for students with autism has been very rewarding. We all want to help our students become more independent communicators and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to help in this way. Learn more about these services here.
4.  I am thankful for the journey I have been on with creating the action builder cards. Having an idea that would help other professionals provide systematic language instruction with ease has been a dream of mine for the past year. Sticking with the process and developing this product has been a dream come true! I have learned so much in the process. Thinking of that first promo video I made and the first samples I created makes me cringe!! I have come a long way in a year- but know that I have much more to learn. Knowing that other professionals are using this product to help their students is beyond words!! Learn more about the cards here.

5.   I am thankful for the support of my husband. For he knows a lot more about webinars, product development, blogs, Facebook live and TPT then he ever really wanted to learn!! I love sharing what is going on in my therapy room with all of you. Collaboration is key to life long learning! Thanks so much for being on this journey with me. You are appreciated!!

What are you thankful for this year? Pop on over to subscribe to my email at and leave me a message J

Sunday, November 12, 2017

First ASHA Conference In The Books

Wow I just got back on the red eye from the city of angels early this morning. Exhausted but filled with enthusiasm from the weekend. I just got home from my first trip to ASHA. After being in the field for 14 years, this was my first visit to this colossal conference and I can say for sure that it won’t be my last.

Getting there was quite the adventure and took about 1 whole day – yikes!! I made my hotel reservation the day that the hotels opened up, so I ended up staying at the JW Marriott – which was super close and so lovely! I got in on Thursday evening, just enough time to check into my hotel and head over to the conference to check in and go to a little reception at the ASHA leader booth for people who have contributed this past year. I wrote an article called “ It Can Be Fun And Games” in the school matters section of the September 2017 ASHA Leader. Check it out here
It was so nice to meet some of the editors that I had worked with virtually this past year. I had also contributed a piece to the blog about collaboration strategies for SLPs and BCBAs. Check that out here. 

After saying hi at the leader booth, I took some of the action builder cards (the product that I have created) to the Dynamic Resources boothHow exhilarating to see my product on display for other therapists to learn more about. With that, I was spent and that made day one a wrap.

On day two, I was up by 5 am – darn that 3 hour time difference! I had to put up my poster at 6:30 am anyway – so I was all ready when the time came. I walked over to the exhibit hall and what was a blank slate became my poster session about collaborative services for a student with autism – a case study.

I came back to the exhibition hall and visited distributors who are currently selling the action builder cards- dynamic resources and the speech corner. I also visited with some fellow bloggers! It was so wonderful to meet SLP TOOLKIT, SLP NOW, RACHEL MADE and SPEECH PANDA in person. Oh and Sharon Weber was there – so a selfie was a must! J

Later that afternoon I presented my poster. It was so fun to talk about my project with other therapists. Posters are such a great time to discuss projects you are passionate about with other professionals in a smaller group format. There were a little fewer than 2,000 poster presentations as ASHA 2017 – wow!!! I capped off the night with a wonderful talk about collaborative services with an SLP and Psychologist describing the service model that they use.

On Saturday I was feeling a bit fatigued but there was still so much to do. I talked with 3 new potential distributors for the action builder cards – hope to release this information soon! On this day I went to the SIG 16 School based issues meeting. I love contributing to this online community- so it was so nice to put faces with names from our online discussions. This was followed by sessions about language samples, coaching with students with autism and using wordless picture books to work on narrative development. I really enjoyed learning new information from presenters who were so well versed and passionate about their topics.

Along the way I made some new friends and ran into former colleagues- so fun to catch up! This wrapped up the conference for me and now I was on my way back to LAX to catch my first ever-red eye back to Ohio. I bought the obligatory neck pillow in hopes that slumber would ensue on the flight home. I would be coming back to 3 little ones under the age of 8 that would want to hear all about my big adventure. Besides sitting next to someone who was listening to music the whole 4 hours home – I did get some rest. This whole red eye thing- is great!!

So to sum it up. ASHA is an amazing conference!! Whether you are a student who is just getting his or her feet wet or a seasoned professional – there really is something for everyone. I left feeling very inspired! See ya next year ASHA! J

Were you at ASHA? Contact me over at and let me know what you liked best!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

First Trip To ASHA Prep

The ASHA conference, where thousands of SLPs and other professionals gather once a year to hear information from experts in the field. I created a product recently called the action builder cards. With the creation of this product, came the dream of discussing this product with others and doing so at the ASHA conference. I have been practicing 14 years and have not attended thus far. Having 3 kids under the age of 8 probably has a little something to do with that! It is hard to be away from the house for an hour, let alone a couple of days. But this year I knew something was different. When the ASHA leader announced that it would be in California this year, I was excited. Getting out of Ohio in November to go to the sunny west coast was something that sounded exciting.

So anytime I go to a conference, I try to participate in some way, shape or form. Whether that is introducing a speaker, doing a presentation or poster presentation, I like to feel involved.  I submitted my proposal to do a poster presentation. I have been working with a student, who has made such wonderful gains, that I just had to share our methods with others. Presenting at ASHA solo seemed a little extreme, with this being my first time and all. So I was just easing myself into this colossal event with a poster presentation. Chatting with other professionals about my work is something I love.

I found out in July that my proposal had been accepted- hooray!! I watched for the ASHA leader to put out the dates for when housing and registration opened up and did those 2 things right away. If I am going across the entire United States- I want to stay close to the convention center! I am all about convenience and paying for that when needed – sheesh so expensive!!

I had a trusted friend help me out with the poster template. I had done a template for TSHA when I lived down in Austin Texas, but that was 8 years ago! So I was a little rusty at all of that. I worked on gathering all of the information I wanted to include on the poster and the handout. After some dedicated time in front of the computer, it was complete. I uploaded my PowerPoint and went to Office Max to pick up my poster. I was so nervous- what if I spelled a word wrong and spell check did not get it, what if it wasn't aligned correctly- so many worries! When I picked it up, I was pleasantly surprised. It looked great! Now I just have to put it in this paper holder and find space for it in the overhead bin on my cross-country flight-eek!! I hate putting stuff in the overhead bin and never do – but hopefully there will be room.

In preparation for the conference, I also had some shirts made by a friend, with my logo for ABA SPEECH. I am new to this entire social media, website, blogging world- but have a mission to share strategies for systematic language instruction for students with autism. So I thought showcasing this new little brand of mine – would be fun at such a huge event!!

I am looking forward to presenting my poster, catching up with old friends, making new ones and learning from the best in our field! I am also so excited for professionals to learn more about ABA SPEECH and The Action Builder Cards
They will be at the Dynamic Resources and Speech Corner booths- hooray! I will check in from the conference on my Facebook page and Instagram, so make sure to like my pages. See ya soon LA! 

Speech Therapist and Behavior Analyst Collaboration

Many students with autism work with a team of professionals on a regular basis. Those teams might include a speech-language pathologis...