Blogging and podcasting for Speech Therapy

Geek SLP TV logo

Photo by Barbara Fernandes

Many of us were born before or when the Internet was just a luxury. I did not even put my hand on a computer until I was 11 years old. From that day forward, I often stayed awake at night just to learn how to create websites, play games or to surf the Internet. Today I still spend many hours daily in front of the computer– I love to blog and network with my fellow speech therapists online.

Imagine that each one of us now has the potential to share our knowledge with millions of people around the world, including with other speech therapists, parents and even individuals whom have a communication disorder. We all have something we can share; we can each be both creators and disseminators of information on a daily basis. I wish I could get paid just to blog, but so far it has been only a hobby.

On my blog called, “GeekSLP Blog”, I write mostly about the use of technology for speech therapy. I am an Apple fan and fan of all the gadgets that make my work easier and more entertaining for the children whom I give therapy. Blogging made it possible for common people like you and me to be the creators of information. We are no longer dependent on big corporations to “teach” us; we learn from one another and grow together. One of the greatest things about blogging is connecting with people that share the same passion (e.g I have several virtual SLP friends that share my passion for technology).

Podcasting has the same function as blogging just in a different format: video or audio only podcasts. I have named my video podcast “GeekSLP TV” (how creative!); people can watch it on YouTube or they can also download episodes on their iPhone, iPod or iPad. At first, it was kind of weird because you are putting your face out there; however, after my seventh episode things started getting a lot easier. I just hope people enjoy watching the podcasts as much as I enjoy recording it for my audience. The best aspect about podcasting is that you do not even have to be a geek to create a podcast; a voice recorder or a video camera is all you need to get started.

I hope you get inspired and start blogging or podcasting today. I would love to hear from you and your new way to share your knowledge with the world.

Barbara Fernandes is a trilingual speech and language pathologist. She is the director of Smarty Ears and the face behind GeekSLP TV, a blog and video podcast focusing on the use of technology in speech therapy. Barbara has also been a practicing speech therapist both in Brazil and in the United States. She is a an active participant of the Texas Speech and Hearing Association as a member of the TSHA Culturally and linguistically diverse issues task force. Barbara has created over 15 applications for speech therapists.

Playing Favorites

Lecture hall

Photo by English106

The first week of classes at Clarion University is pretty much in the books.  A mix of faces…some old, some new…staring at me in class.  The new ones looking somewhat apprehensive.  The old ones more relaxed…they know me, they know the drill, they know what to expect.  It’s a time of possibility as they embark on what I hope will be a semester of authentic learning.

Not only are the first weeks of class some of my most enjoyable for their accompanying sense of newness, but also because I get to deliver some of my favorite presentations.  Perhaps the presentation I enjoy most is based upon von Leden’s “A Cultural History of the Larynx and Voice” which appears in Robert Thayer Sataloff’s tome Professional Voice: The Science and Art of Clinical Care.  Having grown up in the Gettysburg-area, I suppose I come by my love of history naturally (that, plus the fact I’ve had many excellent teachers along the way).  Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Boone’s article “A Historical Perspective of Voice Management: 1940-1970” in the July 2010 issue of SID 3’s Perspectives so much.

It’s somewhat distressing to me when I sense students don’t know the history of their area of study and how it shapes current professional practice…this, then, is the driving force behind for “the von Leden lecture”.  It is von Leden’s premise that the study of the larynx and voice evolved across four stages.  The most recent stage (and the stage in which we currently find ourselves), called the Realistic, had its advent with the Renaissance and marks the time when consideration of the phonatory system became a science, based on experimentation and observation (as opposed to simply being a product of speculation).  To think, some of the information I provide and things I teach are based on da Vinci’s (the 15th-16th centuries) and Eustachius’s (16th century) work in the area of anatomy, Mueller’s studies which led to the Myoelastic-Aerodynamic of vocal fold vibration (1837), and Garcia’s work with a self-invented laryngoscope (1854) to cite just a few examples.  As I share such information with my students, what is old truly becomes what is new.

Let’s face it…we all have our favorite things.  It might seem odd, even nerdish, to some to have a favorite lecture.  But really, when you think about it, my craft, my art, is teaching.  And in this respect I am really no different than a woodworker with his favorite chair, a rock band with its favorite album, or an artist with her favorite sculpture.  (Ok…maybe that is all a little grand, but you get my point…lol.)

If you work in higher education is there a presentation you particularly enjoy giving…why?

If you are a former or current student is there a presentation you particularly enjoyed…why?

Kenneth Staub, M.S., CCC-SLP, is an Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He will be a regular contributor to ASHAsphere and welcomes questions or suggestions for posts.

Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and Keeping Our Brains Moving

Social networking icons

Photo by webtreats

I finished my Speech-Language Pathology master’s in 1999.  I don’t know about you, but I sometimes worry that all the content I learned at that time is being eradicated by less important clutter in my brain, such as reality TV show plots, others’ Facebook status updates, etc.  One very positive movement in educational circles aims to promote more useful brain-stuffing- I am speaking about the development of Personal Learning Networks or PLNs.  If you are reading this post on ASHAsphere, you have gotten started with a PLN, a set of interactive resources to follow and participate in, whether they be blogs, Twitter feeds, and even your Facebook news feed, depending on what you put in it!

We call these resources interactive because, unlike a journal (which of course has its own value), you can easily respond and receive responses when engaging in a blog, Twitter or Facebook feed, thus making you feel more networked.  PLNs can expose you to important news in your field, inspiring ideas, or simply be a resource to ask and answer questions about our day-to-day jobs.  For clinicians that operate mostly on a solo basis, such as in an itinerant situation or a public school, PLNs can be vital in keeping you going and preventing burnout! So, here are 5 tips for getting started with building a PLN:

Facebook isn’t just for finding out what your friends had for dinner– Facebook’s Pages feature puts you in touch with helpful professional content.  When you navigate to a page (you can look them up using the Search field in your top menu bar) and “Like” it, updates from that page will end up in your News Feed.  Try “Liking” ASHA’s page, and another one I recommend is Social Thinking.

Twitter is an even better forum– Many people think that Twitter is just for the mundane thoughts of celebrity, um, twits! However, it has evolved into another great way to share information and share with colleagues. Click here for a good starter guide and start building your network.  You can follow me at @SpeechTechie, and try searching for the “hashtag” #slpeeps to see what some of the SLPs on Twitter are saying.

Blogs (like this one) provide you with great information and resources– A blog is designed to be a sounding board for the author, but also as an interactive forum for you.  The problem is, sometimes you find good blogs and forget about them, or get tired of going to them for updates.  To find some blogs to follow (you’ll find some via steps 1 and 2 above, because people often tweet or post on Facebook about new blog entries) try using Google blog search- do a regular Google search, then click on Blogs in the left sidebar.  Try clicking on Homepages in the sidebar to get an even better sense of blogs that meet your interest.  Another key strategy to following blogs is using a tool like Google Reader to aggregate all your blogs, so that you know automatically when there is a new entry. Pop my blog SpeechTechie into your Reader, and a few of my other faves include Speech-Language Pathology Sharing, GeekSLP and Free Technology for Teachers.

Bookmark socially– If you are only using your web browser to bookmark web pages, you are missing out on opportunities to carry your bookmarks from place to place and also to see what other professionals are bookmarking.  Try using a social bookmarking service such as delicious or diigo to keep track of your bookmarks, find new resources based on what others like, and join groups or networks.

Don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to start your own blog.  You don’t even have to comment on anything to get started with a PLN. Like everything, it’s best taken one step at a time, and you’ll be surprised what you learn!

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

How I became the speech guy with an iPad

iPad Screenshot with Monkey Business App

Photo by Eric Sailers

(This post originally ran on

As a kindergartner in the mid 1980’s, I saw a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for speech delays. I don’t recall the experience with much detail, but I have been reminded by those closest to me. Once I became an SLP, my mom informed me that I said “Dada Da” for “Santa Claus,” and my SLP (who continues to work in the same district that I attended as a student and now work in) told me that I called myself “airwit.” Evidently I had errors of stopping, cluster reduction, vocalic r, and t/k substitution. I was also told that I did drill work with traditional flashcards to practice sounds. Although I graduated from speech-language therapy, I wonder how my experience would have been different with the wonderful technologies available today.

Back in the winter of 2008, I purchased my first iPhone and started beta testing for Proloquo2Go, an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app. I was so impressed with how a cool, mobile technology could be very sophisticated at a reasonable cost. I started looking at other applications that could be used in speech-language therapy. One of the first apps I discovered was Wheels on the Bus, an interactive music book that plays the song. My students loved the interactions like moving the bus and popping bubbles with the touch of their finger. I loved how my students were so engaged by the interactions that didn’t require a computer mouse (which is challenging for many of my students); plus, they sang to repetitive lyrics and heard their voice recording in the app.

In 2009, I thought about developing an app. I didn’t have a background in software engineering, so I began a conversation with my friend Jason Rinn who did. After several discussions and time spent learning the iPhone programming language, Jason was on board. Jason and I decided to create solutions that involved a strong component of tracking progress. We created a data collection app (Percentally) and an articulation app (ArtikPix) with integrated data collection. ArtikPix is an app that allowed me to include modern technology in a tool for speech articulation difficulties that I personally experienced some 25 years ago. It means a lot to me that I can share such a personalized solution with children who I now serve.

I currently use iOS devices (iPod touch and iPad) in speech-language therapy sessions. I have five iPods that are primarily for individual use, and one iPad I incorporate in group activities. There are apps my students use individually such as iColoringBook and Sentence Builder. For both apps, my students show their screen to the group as they produce sentences. Optimized iPad apps for my groups include a book app called Zoo You Later – Monkey Business and BrainPop Featured Movie. During Monkey Business and BrainPop, the students take turns listening, touching, and talking about the content. A book app like Monkey Business is very enjoyable and beneficial for children because of the features including interactive text and illustrations, painting, recorded audio, voice recording, and highlighted text. I imagine I would have enjoyed using apps like interactive books and games to practice my sounds.

My students are drawn to the iOS devices, and general education peers are interested in how they use the technologies for communication. My students favorite part about iOS devices is the touching aspect. Even if they are not skilled with a computer mouse, most of my students can tap, flick, and drag elements on the screen. I see this as a great source of initiating and maintaining their engagement during activities.
I think that apps offer great features for visual cues and auditory feedback that aid children with special needs in the learning process. I also am very pleased to have my students using mobile technologies that they might not otherwise use because of various factors. Finally, it brings me great joy to hear students asking, “Hey speech guy, can we use the iPad today?”

Eric Sailers, MA, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist who serves children Pre-K to 5th grade. He has co-created two iOS applications: Percentally and ArtikPix. He is also a blogger at

Autism Spectrum Disorders…Labels, Categories, and Confusion: Part 1

Organizational bins

(This post and this photo originally appeared on

Gabriel could be one of Raphael’s angels with his curly locks and sweet full-lipped smile. Sitting at his TEACCH station, Gabriel whizzes through his sorting task with otherworldly speed. His classmate Vera, on the other hand, throws her work on the floor in frustration and begins a perfect recitation of the opening narrative from “Beauty and the Beast” while twirling her long red hair around each finger on her right hand. This reciting and twirling will not end without a tantrum until the entire repertoire has been repeated exactly four times.

I often think about Gabriel and his sorting. There’s comfort in sorting a mess into convenient containers, whether that mess is an overturned drawer, an in-box spilling it’s contents onto a nearby file-cabinet, or a mental tornado of “to do” items whirling in one’s consciousness at 2:00 a.m.

Sorting implies categories which imply labels which are mental constructs of anything and everything “out there” and “in here.” Categories arise when there are too many labels to manage. It’s a whole lot easier to ask your kiddo to “fold the clothes” instead of listing each and every item in the laundry basket.

Let’s get back to Gabriel and Vera for a moment. Gabriel has not uttered a word since he was 19 months, even though he had babbled delightful syllables containing a variety of sounds as an infant and could even say “ma” “da” and “no” on his first birthday. Gabriel independently communicates his needs/wants using PECS. Vera is highly intelligible and started reading at 2 1/2 but does not use language to communicate her basic needs unless she is prompted. Gabriel has “moderate-severe autism.” So does Vera.

These are two kiddos who share the same category of “autistic spectrum disorder” and the same sub-category of “moderate-severe.” Gabriel is also considered “non-verbal,” while Vera is considered “verbal.” Both kiddos have “sensory integration dysfunction” (another category), but Gabriel is “sensory seeking” and Vera is “sensory avoiding.” Vera is considered to have “mental retardation” (I really hope this label soon lands in the great big dumpster of offensive words). Gabriel, on the other hand, WAS thought to have MR, but his IEP team isn’t so sure about that anymore. Both have “behaviors” that interfere with their adaptive functioning.

Are you confused? Overwhelmed even? Yeah, me too.

To bend your mind a bit further, consider that these two kiddos are not the most severe, nor are they “mildly autistic” or “high functioning.” What happens when we include labels such as “Aspergers Syndrome,” “Pervasive Developmental Disorder, NOS,” and “Non-Verbal Language Disorder” (which by the way is NOT an autistic spectrum disorder and does NOT mean that an individual is non-verbal)? Confusion, confusion, and more confusion.

And now the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is proposing to scrap several of these labels altogether in exchange for “Autistic Disorder/Autism Spectrum Disorder” in the DSM-5 (more on that in my next post).

It’s no wonder that individuals, parents, families, and professionals find understanding, explaining, and treating autism so difficult. This “spectrum” of neurodevelopmental disorders (more on this too in my next post) is anything BUT clear-cut and defies convenient labels and categories.

As the saying goes, “You’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” After working with at least 100 kiddos with an autism spectrum disorder and knowing at least 100 more, I have to wholeheartedly agree with this.

Debra L. Brunner, M.A., CCC-SLP works as a private speech-language
pathologist in Orange County, California and a part-time clinician at The
Prentice School, a non-profit day school for children with language
learning differences. Ms. Brunner’s blog, as well as information
regarding her private practice, can be found at