Friday, April 27, 2018

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 pathologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, intervention specialist, job coach, parent and behavior analyst. SLPs and behavior analysts share several areas of expertise, so they might find handling this overlap to be a challenge! When SLPs and BCBAs are able to unite efforts and provide collaborative services, our students can make such wonderful progress!! There are many barriers to collaboration but I have outlined some strategies to help you get started in the process.

1. Take time to introduce yourself and talk with one another. This one may seem basic - but we are all so busy these days!  If you are the behavior analyst you may be working as a consultant in a school district. It can be hard to come in and be the new person. Often times a consultant may only be called in when things are not going so well. This brings with it a whole other dynamic and plethora of emotions!!

2. Share current progress regarding communication goals. It is good for the treating speech language pathologist to share what is currently going on in therapy. Even if a BCBA may be reading over the student's current progress reports, it is a good idea to convey this face to face when possible. This is a good time to have a dialogue about what is going well and areas that may be a challenge.

3. If a behavior plan is put into place that is new. Make sure that the entire team understands, is trained on and feels comfortable with the suggested strategies. Sometimes new plans can seem overwhelming, it is a process to make sure that it is implemented with fidelity. If you have a question about the plan - ask!

4. If time allows, watch each other work with the student! We each have our individual areas of expertise and it is a great time to collaborate and learn from each other. I rarely get to see anyone else doing therapy - so I always welcome this opportunity to learn and share.

5. Share any approaches you think will work better for the student. Collect research and daily data to support your idea. This information will set the foundation for a professional discussion about the best way to target goals for your student. Sometimes it’s fine to agree to disagree. Just discuss progress frequently.

I know that collaboration is not as easy as the above steps but these can help you get started in the right direction! I am both a speech language pathologist and a board certified behavior analyst. I specialize in helping both professions work together side by side. When we are able to provide collaborative services- the sky is the limit for our clients!

If you want to learn more about my services to help with collaboration, please feel free to contact me through my website or at

Speech Therapy Review For Students

As the school year draws to a close, it is a good time to review with our students. I like to take time to fill out an end of the year review form with each student who can do so. This information helps me get a better understanding of the student's thoughts and feelings about therapy. 

Can the student define at least one of their therapy goals? Can the student tell me one thing they can do to help maintain progress over the summer? 

A year in review sheet is a great way to gauge the student's favorite and least favorite part of therapy. We cannot always change things that students don't like, but at least we can have this information and try to make things more positive for all involved. 

I hope you enjoy this year in review form! I will be using it with my students soon!! To grab your copy just fill out the form below. 

Get the year in review form

Send it my way!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Modified Leisure Upper Elementary to High School

As speech-language pathologists, we treat students with complex communication needs, as well as conversational and social skill issues. Using play and leisure skills to enhance language instruction can be a fun and functional way to address a variety of skills. 
I work in a middle school, so hosting a weekly leisure and social skills group is a must! In the first part of this group, we practice conversation skills. Most students work on using appropriate comments and asking follow-up questions during conversation. After our conversation, we may work on a variety of other skills. I always try to end each session with a modified leisure activity! Here are some activities that are fun and lend themselves to working on social language skills. 

Here are some modified games that students seem to really like:
·      Uno—Most kids love to play Uno, but can get confused by the special cards. Based on the student’s skill level, there are two ways to modify the game. One way involves taking out all of the special cards (reverse, skip, draw two, wild)  The other way includes putting one card from each color set face up in a row ( green, blue, red, yellow). The students pick a card from the main pile and match it to the correct card. 
·      Scrabble—I let students create words anywhere on the game board. The words don’t have to intersect or even touch. If the student is having a hard time coming up with a word on their own, I write a word on a dry erase board. They gather the letters and create that word anywhere on the board. 

·      Yahtzee—We modify this game by rolling in numerical sequence per round. During round one, everyone rolls for ones, and so on. We roll until we all complete the top section of our scorecards—one through six.

·      The Grocery Store Game—This game lets students practice coming up with words. I write the alphabet on the board, and we take turns saying a grocery item matching the letter. For example, “I went to the store, and I bought apples, I went to the store, and I bought a banana,” and so on. If a student struggles to think of a word, I give them a visual clue. So if they are on the letter s and can not think of a word, I may have a picture of a strawberry. This visual will act as a prompt to help them play the game with ease. 

Working on leisure is fun and functional for our students. Students can generalize these skills to the home environment and play with siblings and family members. What a joy!! 

I have put together a modified leisure packet for you to print out. This is great to keep in your therapy room to act as a guide. Let's make leisure fun for all! 

Download the leisure guide

Upper Elementary - High School Leisure Guide

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Increasing verbal speech

Working with early learners who are struggling to find their voice is important work! One aspect of communication that you may work on is verbal speech. In the behavioral field you may hear the term echoic. An echoic is one of the verbal operants that B.F. Skinner addressed in his book Verbal Behavior (1957). An echoic can be defined as repeating what is heard, usually immediately. Work on echoics can help a learner say many different functional words. Echoics can also be worked on to systematically address saying different sounds and syllable shapes. SLP "Say cookie" Student "cookie" SLP "Say up" Student "Up" SLP "Say okay" Student "okay"

There are many ways to assess a student’s ability to verbalize when they are limited verbally. One of my favorite assessments is the Early Echoic Skills Assessment ( EESA) from the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program ( Sundberg 2008) . This was created by Barbara E. Esch PhD CCC-SLP/ BCBA. It helps to give a basis for a student’s current echoic repertoire. Once we have a repertoire of sounds a learner can say, we need to develop functional and motivating targets to address in therapy.

 I work on new echoic targets in therapy sessions and once mastered put them in a maintenance folder for all of the educational team to practice. I have a folder for each day of the week. Once a target has met criterion it is moved to the maintenance folder. I train the team on how to work on the maintenance echoic targets. This system has proved to be very helpful for my students! It gives them embedded practice with speech sounds, words and phrases.

 I know that at times it can be difficult to think of one and two syllable words that might be functional targets for students. It is important to note that targets should be chosen after analyzing student need, skill and motivation. To help you provide systematic language instruction with ease, I have created a list of one and two syllable words to use as a guide. Enjoy!

Echoic Word Guide

Download to get the guide

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  • Skinner B.F. Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts; 1957.
  • Sundberg, Mark. (2008) VB-MAPP. Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program: a language and social skills assessment program for children with autism or other developmental disabilities. Concord, CA; AVB Press

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Free Autism Mini Course

Working with students with autism and other complex communication disorders can be overwhelming and rewarding all at once. It can be difficult to know where to start with students who may be hard to engage. Every student deserves a way to communicate with the world. I have created this course to help you get on the right path in doing so. Check it out by signing up below and let me know what you think! 

Take the free autism mini course

Help your students find their voice

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Free E Book Communicate With Me

I remember when I first started in the field how overwhelmed I felt when I worked with a student who was pre-verbal or who was struggling to find a way to communicate with the world. I have chosen this career path to help people find their voice. I think that at times this can feel like a difficult task. To help you get started in helping all students develop a functional response form, I have created an E book. Communicate With Me will help you develop a framework for getting started when working with students who are struggling to find their voice.

Whether you want to read it on your computer or ipad or print it out- it is a great resource for many. If you are working with students who are limited verbally, this information will be helpful. Just fill out the form below and the book will be sent your way!

Get your free e book!

Yes I want the e book - Communicate With Me

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Monday, April 9, 2018

He won't play with anything- this may help!

Have you worked with a student before who was hard to engage? Have you worked with a student who you presented a variety of toys or activities and they did not show any interest? This can be overwhelming for a professional and frustrating for a student.

Knowing what our students enjoy engaging with, allows us to incorporate these items or activities within our therapy sessions. But how do we find out what our students enjoy when our students interests are so very limited. Welcome to the preference assessment!

A simple preference assessment can be described as a list of items and activities that could potentially be enjoyed by a student. They help us identify an individuals favorite or preferred items or activities. The idea is to present the student with a variety of items and activities and gauge their motivation to engage with what is presented.

There are many available for free and I have included my favorite preference assessment at the end of this blog post.

So we may present our student with a fire truck and gauge their motivation to engage with it.

We may present our student with jumping on the trampoline and gauge their motivation to engage with this activity.

Some of our students may not be communicating verbally, so we will have to put our detective hats on and observe their behavior closely. We need to document if the student enjoys the item/activity or if they are not interested.

When we have identified items/ activities that are preferred by the student, we can use these items to directly address requesting. Work on requesting if your student is preverbal may help them develop a way to communicate with the world. So if we identify that a student really enjoys playing ball, we can incorporate this into our therapy sessions.

If we have identified that our student loves listening to music, we can work on this as a requesting target or use it during our sessions as reinforcement for staying engaged with therapeutic tasks.

Preference assessments can be so very helpful! Fill out the form below to gain access to my favorite preference assessment.

Get your preference assessment here

A great tool to use!

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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...