Inexpensive Ways to have Non-scary Fun this Halloween


Halloween fun doesn’t have to be expensive or scary! Try using felt when working with your younger students and get great results. The three engaging ideas featured here are easy to do and only require basic supplies, like felt, tape and markers. Give it a try!

Get great results using felt in play with your young language delayed students this HalloweenQ

Felt is such an inexpensive, versatile way to make your own therapy materials!  With every color available, you can make simple felt shapes to match every holiday and season. All it takes is the right color felt, a marker, a simple shape you can draw, and glue to keep it closed.








Find out how to make and use a pumpkin bag for emotions at Looks Like Language!
How to Make A Quick and Easy Bag

👻 Get a piece of felt that is double the size of the shape.
👻 Draw the shape on one side of the felt with the permanent marker, fold the felt in half and cut around it. Ghosts and pumpkins are easy to draw!
👻 Glue the sides together and voila! You have a cute little felt bag.
👻 In a hurry? Staple the sides together and put some tape over the staple backs if you have concerns about pricking little fingers.

Hide It!

Young students love to find hidden things! Try hiding small pumpkins with varied emotions faces inside a big pumpkin bag. Elicit a targeted speech or language production and then let students pick a pumpkin with feelings out of the bag. Find out what makes them feel that way!

A great thing about using felt is that students have something safe to hold onto and play with while waiting their turn!

Language you can model includes:
🎃 spatial concepts (in, out, on)
🎃 emotion vocabulary (happy, sad, scary)
🎃 descriptive words (scary, spooky, funny, silly, safe) 
🎃 colors
🎃 sizes

Young students will have fun just playing the game, but you can make duplicates of the emotion pumpkins to play and see who gets the most matches.

Sensory Issues

When there are no issues of tactile defensiveness, young students love to find whatever is hiding inside the bag. It’s kind of like getting a present!

But for kids with sensory issues, you may find it helpful to put the pieces you want to place inside the bag and the bag itself on the table. Felt is a soft, familiar material and many kids will explore it on their own when they are totally in charge of the pace.

For kids who still have issues, try these ideas after exploration time.
👻 Play a cleanup game where you name or describe one of the felt figures and see if they can find it.
👻 Let the child pick it up and put it inside.
👻 If this is still too much, place them far apart and see if the child will look at the one you named.
👻 Then make a mini version that you leave on the table in front of them. Just let them peek or participate in whatever way they can handle until the activity is familiar.
👻 Hide a few little pieces of a food reinforcer amidst the felt pieces to reinforce exploring.

Build language skills in how you play, not how much you spend!
Listening Activities

Use the bag for a fun listening activity that reinforces your work from that session:
     🎃 Describe one of the picture cards you used that session.
     🎃 See who can find the correct picture first to put in the bag.
     🎃 Therapy and clean up all in one!




Talk About It! Activities

👻 Place pictures of some work that needs review along with a Halloween photo in the bag. This is a great 5-minute warm-up to see what was retained from the previous sessions.
👻 Students take turns choosing a picture from the bag and telling about it.
👻 When the Halloween photo is chosen, discuss the picture, targeting each student’s current goal.
👻 Have copies of the picture already made to glue into the student’s communication book to talk about at home. Homework is taken care of!

Ideas for how to incorporate fun Halloween toys finds in your therapy sessions.
   Describe It! Play with it! Activities

    Place a few small Halloween toys inside the bag for your students to play with until their next turn. This is a great strategy for students who have transition problems or who have difficulty waiting, especially when you need a few minutes to concentrate on one of the other students in the group.

   The photo shows some examples of the types of toys that could be used.  Don’t put them all in at once.  Add a new toy, maybe every other session or so. You will see when your little ones get the language you’ve been modeling or start losing interest.

After they have explored the new toy, bring out some similar or familiar ones for a little describing and comparing/contrasting.  Did you notice there’s a variety of colors and textures there?

You’ll notice there are two felt ghosts there. One opens to be a puppet and the other is flat. One is small and one is big.  One is fuzzy (felt) and one is smooth (fabric.) One is happy and one is sad.

Fly the ghosts around in a fun way so your students want to request it.
Elicit some descriptive language by using sabotage, watching where the student is looking so that you are sure to give the unwanted one:
Oh, you didn’t want the little one? Maybe you wanted the BIG ghost. Tell me, which one do you want?” Just like that, you’ve set up a situation for describing!

Tips for fun, non-scary Halloween therapy sessions!
    Puppet Activities

      It’s easy to make felt into puppets. Just cut out a duplicate of the drawing you made for the bag, but close the top and leave an opening on the bottom that your hand will fit into!

      Puppets are a wonderful therapy tool for children! They let you adopt another voice, play games like giving and taking a toy, or interact in a way that feels less threatening to young children.


Sometimes young students who won’t talk to a speech therapist will speak to the puppet with no problems at all.  Puppets even give us the freedom to be a little silly in a way that might be uncomfortable otherwise (especially with a parent observing!)

Have fun working on facial expressions and vocabulary for emotions with a pumpkin theme!

     If crafting isn’t your thing, or you are looking for more detailed emotion images and problem-solving activities to support learning, click here. 

    This pumpkin-themed set can be used all fall to build social skills for emotions, facial expressions and problem-solving. The varied levels, with pictures, words and short scenarios, make working with mixed-level groups easier.



Enjoy!

9 Reasons to Consider Working in a School Setting

Where to work? A school setting, a hospital or a private practice? You are a lucky SLP if you have your choice of settings, but how to decide? Think about the reasons and goals you have for choosing this field.  I can weigh in on what I’ve learned from working in a school setting, although that was not my first choice.

I had always thought that I would work in a hospital setting since in the 80’s school SLPs were looked on as people who corrected lisps and /r/. After my clinical placement at Johns Hopkins Kennedy Krieger Institute, it was my dream to work there. But jobs weren’t available there and a school system wanted to hire me. Nothing like student loans and a need to eat to get you taking any job offered!

So, I started in the schools. Time for a disclaimer: An offer to write a blog post came to me from Therapy Travelers to receive money for writing about why to work in the school system. I usually don’t accept these offers, but the thought kept going through my mind- why did I stay in school systems all those years?

So, here are my reasons. 

Why work in a school setting? 9 reasons to consider it!

Why work in a school setting?


1. After working in 13 different schools, I can tell you that each school has its own culture.  If one building is not a good fit for you, that doesn’t mean that you won’t love working in a different one!

2. You get to work with a wide variety of problem areas and severity levels in a school system. It’s not just /l/, /s/and/r/ anymore!

3. It is a great way to solidify your skills at treating various speech/language disorders in children as a new clinician and possibly using pre-existing IEP paperwork.

4. You can learn a lot over the years by observing special educators and having a chance to talk over problem behaviors with the other members of your student’s related service team even if you are the only SLP in the school.

5. While people mistakenly think that working in a school is a 9 to 3 job, you often have the flexibility of putting in the extra hours for planning and paperwork from home, which is great if you have a family.

6. If you have children, it is very helpful to often have overlapping school day hours and vacations to help reduce the need for childcare.

7. Having a steady income and benefits from a school system is a plus, although changes in student population can affect your job even after working in a school for many years.

8. Working in a school broadens your horizons and increases your flexibility. You can make many decisions about your treatment plans, but a variety of factors are out of your control, so you learn to cope. You get exposed to a wider variety of cultures and socioeconomic levels than you would if you only work with private clients whose parents can afford therapy. It helps you learn what a diversified country we live in!


9. While working in 3 different school systems over the years was often hectic, it was never boring!


And if you try it and don’t like it, you can always change your mind later and step out into the world of private therapy, keeping your income steady as you build a client base. For me, working in school systems provided a much more interesting career than I ever imagined as a newly graduated therapist. 

What is your reason for working in the school setting?

3 Tips for Taking Care of Paperwork so Creative Fun Can Start!


Is the paperwork on your desk piling up higher and higher as you are trying to get the actual creative fun of therapy started? The joke goes, More paperwork, please!” said no SLP - EVER!”

Despite some differences, there is a flow to therapy routines over the course of a school year that can help you prioritize how to spend your time each month and get that dratted paperwork done to get you to the creative flow of therapy.

For example, have you ever received a student from another school system with IEP goals that make you wonder? Why does he have this goal? How is working on this going to help him this year? Is this really what he needs in his current classroom placement? My middle schooler, "C," made me wonder these things, yet I had all of the monthly business to take care of, too.


Tips for What To DO



Click on any of the topics if you’d like to read more information on it. You will be taken to another blog post specifically for that topic.

Business for the First Month


Every year, the first month is busy with organizing your materials and therapy space. If you’d like some tips (and horror stories) just click on the topics. Some school systems move SLPs around depending on caseload numbers, but almost every school has you packing up for cleaning over the summer. So each year, you get a chance to revamp your therapy space and get organized.

In some schools, therapists have the same caseloads each year, with changes occurring when new students start at the school and others move on. Other schools, with multiple therapists, give out new caseloads every year. Either way, there are lots of IEP reviews and material purchases (or creation) going on to meet new IEP goals and student needs.

Keeping that paperwork under control
Lots of paperwork! Updating student information, setting up log notes and data sheets, and of course, the dreaded scheduling!

Don’t forget, you also need to set up your room behavioral expectations and make sure that the students you have grouped together fit in some way.

Because of all this paperwork, and having new students and/or new IEP goals, having open-ended activities around can be very useful at this time of year. Other lifesavers include books, crafts, comic strips, wordless videos, and computer activities.


Business for the Second Month


By now you have probably gone through multiple scheduling changes. If you don’t use post-its for scheduling yet, you should definitely give it a try. SLPs usually need to make schedule changes all year long for a variety of reasons: classroom schedule changes, students coming and going, and IEP related service changes being a few.

Many schools have a back to school night sometime during the fall that SLPS are expected to attend. It is a good idea to think about these general topics ahead of time in case you get asked questions.

•  Do you give homework and how would you like parents to help?
•  Do you have a session make up policy in your school system?
•  How do you stay in touch with parents regarding student progress?
•  What are your room rules and incentives?
•  Have a general discussion of what speech/language therapy involves ready to educate parents. You may be surprised how many really don’t know why their children are coming to you. Excellent free handouts can be found on TpT.
•  Have a statement ready to let parents know that this is not an individual conference, but that you will be happy to talk to them another time regarding their child’s specific needs.
•  Parents always love to see work their students have done. Make a bulletin board in your room for this!


Informal Assessments

Now that you hopefully have some of the basics going steadily along during the school day, the second month is a good time to do some informal assessments to get a better idea of your students’ strengths and weaknesses, both in their IEP areas and general speech/language skills.

Options can include:

•  Language samples
•  Pre/post tests
•  Recordings of speech production
•  Using computer activities for skill assessments
•  Making videos where they explain something they have completed, retell a story or give a narrative about an event.

My verbal students loved recording themselves and knew more about using Quick Time than I did. If you haven’t used it yet, here are some links to get you started.



http://osxdaily.com/2016/12/04/record-video-mac/

CREATIVITY- the Magic


Planning month by month at the start of a school year
You know all of those additional assignments that SLPs tend to get? It is true, they take us away from that endless pile of paperwork we have to complete, but they also provide an opportunity we might as well take advantage of since we are stuck.

To me, the creative magic of therapy comes with a flow you get when students are really involved, interacting with each other, and getting a chance to improve skills that they really need. Not just what the IEP goal says.

"What?" You might be asking yourself this. Speech/language test results and IEP goals are based on concrete, measurable skills, but life isn't concrete and measurable.

Take "C," a sweet middle school boy who was floundering in a regular education class despite having a good auditory memory, great syntax and sentence structure, and comprehension of facts. He came to my caseload with a goal for following directions, but he could follow 4+ steps and most concepts. I felt the magic begin to happen when I started to figure out what he really needed.

"How?" you might ask.  

Observe. While you are walking to the photocopier, doing bus or lunch duty, or popping into the classroom, observe your students in their natural interactions of the school day.

Listen to what your fellow educators have to say about this student, especially the classroom teacher. They don't look at the student's problems from the same perspective as we have, obviously, but teachers spend a lot of time with your student in a group setting and are your best resource for real life observations. Respect your teachers for the skills they have in managing groups and understanding the larger picture of how your student functions in that group, all while teaching a curriculum and managing their own paperwork. Your therapy will be much more on target!

Act. When you co-ordinate the observations of your fellow educators regarding your student's needs, the observations you have made of how the student functions in the school environment, and your knowledge of communication needs, you can apply all of this information to how you address the IEP goals and the creative flow begins! You may not ever place a number value on it, or write it on a session note, but when you integrate the social, behavioral and communicative needs of your student into your therapy sessions, you will make noticeable changes that impact your student's whole school day.

And my student, "C"? After doing this, I realized that his real problem was being too literal! He didn't follow classroom directions well if they were ambiguous or could be interpreted too literally. So, we worked on following directions by figuring out different meanings of words and sentences, then reasoning out which one the teacher actually meant. Success!


So, don’t let the endless paperwork get you down! Once you have the basics outlined here under control, you can use your knowledge of your students’ needs to start getting creative in therapy! 

Enjoy!
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