Gone to Ghana 2012

Editor’s note: I know we said that we were taking a week off, but I did want to share the following brief post from Catherine Crowley before she and her students take off for Ghana tomorrow.

For the fifth year, masters’ students in speech-language pathology from Teachers College Columbia University travel to Ghana to provide services and collaborate with our Ghanaian colleagues. I am the program director, Miriam Baigorri is clinical director, and Pamela Andres is clinical supervisor of the Ghana program. This year’s 18 students will work at the two major teaching hospitals with the ENT Departments, cleft palate and teams, and with the Division of Special Education of Ghana’s Ministry of Education. This year we will participate in a professional development retreat focusing on AAC for 54 special education teachers from throughout Ghana. In addition, Skye McLeod, a documentary film maker, is accompanying us to record the work.

We leave December 30th and return January 14, 2012. We invite you to join by following our 2012 blog.

Catherine (Cate) Crowley, J.D., Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a distinguished senior lecturer in the program of SLP at Teachers College Columbia University where she coordinates the bilingual/multicultural program focus and directs the Bilingual Extension Institute. In addition to the Ghana trip, Cate has led TC students to Bolivia for six years. Cate is a member of ASHA’s SIG 17 Global Issues in Communication Disorders.

Winter Break

winter landscape

Photo by David Blackwell

‘Tis the season to be busy, and hopefully to spend some time offline with family and friends–or maybe just relaxing. To give you one less thing to cross off your to-do list during this holiday season, ASHAsphere will be taking a winter break next week.

Thank you all for reading along this year, and to all the great ASHAsphere bloggers–thank you for making this blog the success that it is.

In the coming year, we’d love to feature more audiology bloggers in addition to the awesome SLP bloggers who already contribute to ASHAsphere. If you’re interested, please fill out and submit the blogger application.

Thanks so much for reading, commenting on and sharing ASHAsphere, and we’ll see you next year!

A Note of Reality From the Trenches

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Photo by Cali4beach

I’m definitely a glass half-full type. And while I certainly believe in the value of conducting thorough research before making big decisions, I also believe that optimism is an integral component of any business plan. Because no matter how well organized your plan is, you are taking risks and self confidence can help see you through.

This summer I wrote a series of posts about my experience with starting a private practice. I’ve compiled and expanded these as “Forge Your Own Path,” which currently appears in the online edition of The ASHA Leader. I truly believe the autonomy and flexibility of working for yourself is feasible for many SLPs and if you have the inclination, you should seriously consider pursuing it.

This November, I attended the ASHA convention in San Diego and decided to pop in on a few private practice sessions to refresh my spirit and give me some new ideas for marketing and referrals. This fall, I did a large number of screenings for both preschool and elementary-aged children.  While the percentage of referrals for full speech/language evaluations was typical, I found that fewer families chose to pursue one with either myself or another SLP. If, a full evaluation was completed and therapy recommended, more families were opting for a “wait and see” approach or periodic monitoring, especially if it wasn’t covered by health insurance.  This issue of “not covered by insurance” or at percentage rates too high for many families, looks to be a chronic issue for an on-going service such as speech services.

The number of SLPs looking for contract work has increased dramatically in my suburb. This summer the private school I contract with had four or five SLPs inquire about providing services. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of private practitioners needing to “widen the net” to build a caseload or, perhaps, some are trying to escape the massive caseloads in the public schools or unrealistic productivity requirements in clinics or hospitals. Whatever the reason, there are more of us out there.

So I was surprised the presenters gave such a rosy outlook on an economic climate I would approach with caution. Perhaps the name recognition of a well-established practice helps to offset the impact of a softer market, but for a solo practitioner, the effects are very real and hard to ignore.

This doesn’t mean your dreams need to be put on hold, just that you need to be prepared. You may want to build slowly while maintaining a full or part-time position elsewhere. Having enough savings to support yourself for several months is a wise course of action, especially if you decide to commit solely to your own practice.

For myself, I’m planning another screening at a different preschool sometime in January. I’ll provide another talk at a moms group or school on language development.  I may advertise in a local parent magazine. And I’ll continue to provide exemplary customer service because the best referral source always is previous and current clients.

So if you’re jumping in, proceed with caution and be prepared. Our services are valuable and there are many ways to let people know. Sometimes it just takes a while. Stay inspired—2012 awaits!

Are you currently practicing on your own? Please share an idea for building a caseload or establishing a new practice.


Kim Lewis M.Ed, CCC-SLP has a private practice for pediatrics in Greensboro, NC. She is the blogger at www.activitytailor.com, providing creative ideas for speech therapy, and the author of the Artic Attack workbook series.

Types of Picture Books to Improve Your Toddler’s Language

Scratch and Sniff Book from Gran

Photo by bryan anthony

You’re at the book store wondering what books to buy your darling two year-old. You think to yourself:

“Well, last time Hannah really liked the Dr. Seuss book, but she tore the pages within seconds.”

“As a child, I really liked Mr. Pine’s Purple House, but when I read it to little Danny he kept moving about and wouldn’t stay still.”

“All Suzy wants me to read is that predictable and redundant Eric Carle book, there’s gotta be other books out there!”

“Oh, I’ll just buy some books on sale. What does it really matter anyway?”

“Hmmm…Jake doesn’t seem to like books at all. Maybe he’s just too young?”

As we all know, sometimes toddlers can be unpredictable and somewhat perplexing (“Why does he do that?”). If you’re unsure about the type of book to buy or how to read to your toddler, allow me to help.

First off, you must know what types of books are age-appropriate. Simply stated:

Anything they can touch or pull!

Technically, such books are called moveable books and tactile books. Moveable books consist of lift the flap, pop up, and pull the tab books. Tactile books, also known as touch and feel books, are books that engage the tactile senses by allowing children to touch various types of textures (e.g. soft, bumpy, rough).

If you’re interested in getting a book that tells a short story or explains a concept like potty training or manners make sure it’s a board book.  As an experienced speech and language pathologist, I’ve met very few toddlers who can read paper picture books without tearing pages.  For this reason, I highly recommend board books, whose pages are thick paperboards as opposed to paper sheets.

Now let’s move onto the content. Toddlers aren’t known for having amazing attention spans (nor are they expected to!). For this reason, stay away from books that have multiple sentences on each page. Or, if they do, don’t read EVERY word on the page. Doing so, can be BORING and they can become easily distracted. You can tell your child’s losing interest if he or she keeps trying to turn the page (They’re hoping that the book gets more interesting!). Choose a book that has about one sentence or less on each page. One word per page is even sufficient depending on the book. The writing should be simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. The words should also describe and complement the pictures. If the story talks about a happy cat, then there should be a picture of a happy cat. Avoid complicated, superfluous language and abstract concepts. Toddlers like to read about what they know (animals, toys, cars, babies, trucks, feelings, mommy and daddy) or something that is part of their routine (driving in the car, saying hi and bye, eating a meal, going potty!). They get very excited when they can relate to content and make connections between their lives and the book.

In my opinion, colorful, clean and somewhat basic illustrations are usually best received by toddlers. Identifying the part from the whole is sometimes challenging for this age group. Therefore, really complex illustrations may be overlooked or even confusing to some. Also, there are some books out there that make sounds and light up. I haven’t had too much luck with these books. Many times “the bells and the whistles” can be distracting to toddlers. They may become more interested in watching something light up or make a sound that they no longer pay attention to the content or follow along with the story. Of course, this defeats the whole purpose.

Lastly, Eric Carle is a bestselling author for many reasons. Most children I know LOVE his books! His books are delightful and smart, yet simple, repetitive and predictable.  His book Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See  repeats the same phrase throughout the book. Toddlers particularly love redundancy demonstrated in a fun and rhythmic manner because it gives them a chance to anticipate what comes next. And, when they know what comes next, they’re more likely to participate !

Summary of Tips:

  • Moveable books – lift the flap or pop-up books
  • Tactile books  – touch and feel books
  • Board books – thick pages
  • Text should be limited to a few words for each page
  • Language should be simple and easy to understand
  • Simple and straightforward illustrations
  • Not too overwhelming or over stimulating
  • Words, phrases, or sentences that repeat throughout the book

Kimberly Scanlon, M.A. CCC-SLP, is a speech language pathologist practicing in Bergen County, NJ. She provides home based speech therapy for children and adults through her private practice Scanlon Speech Therapy, LLC.  To learn more about Kimberly visit www.scanlonspeech.com

SLPs Shortlisted for 2011 Edublog Awards–Voting Ends Tomorrow Night

Edublog logo

Last year, several SLP and SLP-related blogs were nominated for the Edublog awards. According to The Edublog Awards website, the awards are “a community based incentive started in 2005 in response to community concerns relating to how schools, districts and educational institutions were blocking access of learner and teacher blog sites for educational purposes. The purpose of the Edublog awards is promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media.”

This year, SLPs again made a strong showing among shortlisted nominees. Here’s a listing of the SLP and SLP-related nominees (hat-tip to Sean Sweeney for compiling these):

Best Individual Blog- iLearn Technology

Best Group Blog- TherapyApp411

Best New Blog- All4mychild and Speech Room News

Best EdTech/Resource Sharing Blog- Cindy L Meester’s Blog and SpeechTechie

Best Twitter Hashtag- #slpeeps

Best Free Webtool- GlogsterEDU

Best Educational Media/Podcast-The Compendium Blog of The A.T.TIPSCAST

Best Educational Use of a Wiki- UDLTechToolkit

Best Open PD- Edcamps

Lifetime Achievement- Special Education Teacher and Mac Genius Meg Wilson

Voting for the 2011 Edublog awards is open until 11:59 pm EST on Tuesday, December 13–that’s TOMORROW– and the winners will be announced during a live online awards ceremony on Wednesday, December 14 at 7 pm EST. You can vote once per day per category through tomorrow at 11:59 pm.

To vote, visit the Vote Here page, then select the category from the pull-down menu. Once you select the category, the list of nominees in that category will appear in another pull-down menu. Christopher Bugaj has a short video tutorial of the voting process on his blog if you’d like more direction.


Share Your Thoughts on Innovation

Innovation—technological, organizational, and whatnot—is seen increasingly by professional associations as essential to research and clinical work, as a key indicator of a healthy profession.

The staff at the National Office are keenly interested in better understanding and promoting innovation in our association and professions. And so, we turn to you. What do you think? How has innovation improved your practice and/or research? In which ways have you been innovative in your work, particularly during these challenging economic times? We’re interested in hearing from you, either through a text or video post!


Gary Dunham, PhD, is the director of publications at the ASHA national office. Before working for ASHA, he served as the executive director of the State University of New York Press and the director of the University of Nebraska Press.

If I Could Do it all Again

Looking back

Photo by Bernt Rostad

I was recently asked to answer a couple of thought-provoking questions sent in by a
graduate student in the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “Do you have
any suggestions for students on how to start our careers off right? Looking back over
your career, is there anything you would do differently if you could do it all again?”
For the “veterans” out there (as Oprah would refer to us), we actually do have much to
offer in the way of offering advice to those about to enter the field, so I thought I would
give this a try. After getting over the initial shock that I was old enough to be considered
veteran of anything, and then dealing promptly with the hot flash that soon followed, I
began to write, knowing that many “youngins” (another Oprahism) could probably
benefit from my 32 years in the field. Now, let me be clear. You still qualify as a
“youngin” if you are new to the profession, even if you are not a twenty-two year-old
recent college graduate. Age is not a factor here. For any who would like to benefit from
my experience, I have a few suggestions.

While under the stress of the academic demands in graduate school, I would continually
repeat the following words to myself: “This is temporary.” This saying is one of my
favorites whenever I find myself overwhelmed in a particular situation. Try it… it works!
My partner, and sister, Penny Castagnozzi shared this insight with me and I use it both in
my professional life and my personal life. “Woah! My caseload numbers just went up
again.” (This is temporary.) “I’m overwhelmed with all these reports.” (This is
temporary.) “Where did these extra ten pounds come from?” (Again, temporary.) It’s
been two days and he/she hasn’t called or texted (Temporary.)

When sitting in class, or listening to your clinical supervisor’s feedback, instead of
focusing solely on how you will retain all of this information for the test next Thursday,
shift your thinking to include an awareness that this is the information you will soon be
using to change lives, one client at a time, out in the real world. Know that you are
becoming a true “agent of change.”

During the process of seeking your first job (or making any job change), go out and do
informational interviews and shadow professionals who work within the clinical work
environments you may not have had a chance to experience while in school. When being
interviewed for a position, ask many questions, and also ask for the name of someone
who already works in this facility, so that you can interview him or her. He or she might
be able to give you information from within “the trenches” of that job, offering the real
scoop, such as the exact caseload numbers and the flexibility of the administrators.
When you do land that first job, become fast friends with the clerical or administrative
assistants in your building. They will help you learn the ropes, such as where to find the
complete list of students in a school for quick access to the contact information you need.
Bring them a cup of coffee or a treat once in a while. Let them know how appreciated
they are for helping you do your job. Suddenly, because of these relationships, you will
find your job getting easier and more enjoyable.

Finally, although you will walk into that new job setting as an ASHA certified and
licensed expert in speech pathology or audiology, remain humble. Let others, especially
those not in your profession, see you as someone who is there to help, and not intimidate,
them. Hold your head up high and demand respect, but do it in a way that is tactful and

So, “youngins,” have fun and enjoy the ride! As rides go, it will be filled with spins,
turns, slow upward climbs, smooth sailing plateaus, and exciting downhill runs. At the
difficult turns in your journey, remember to say to yourself, “This is temporary.”

Nancy Telian, M.S., CCC-SLP, is co-director of Reading with
TLC with Penny Castagnozzi. Nancy and Penny are the authors of Lively Letters and
Sight Words You Can See, programs that develop phonemic awareness, phonics, and
sight word skills. They are nationally recognized speakers and can be contacted for
inspiring keynote addresses or presentations on their own programs at 781-331-7412 or
penny@readingwithtlc.com. For more information on Nancy and Penny or the programs
they’ve created, visit www.readingwithTLC.com.

iPhone 4S & Siri Personal Assistant : What’s in it for Speech Therapists and People with disabilities?

Siri for disability

Have you ever had trouble enjoying a day away from the house? The date was October 14th; my heart raced in agony and longing of home and this time it wasn’t because I missed my husband or dogs, it was because I was far away in California while my new brand new iPhone 4S sat patiently awaiting it’s techie mother back in Texas.

When the grueling heartache of the 14th was finally over, and the promise of finally seeing my new iPhone on the 15th, was a tangible dream, I rushed home from the airport to find my beautiful seek elegant iPhone 4S sitting on my table begging me to try out all of it’s new functions.

Some critics have been leery of the new iPhone being called the iPhone 4S, as opposed to the speculated “iPhone 5”, but the reality is that I do not care about what name it was given because it is definitely a huge upgrade from my previous phone iPhone 4; it is faster and it comes with a personal assistant! To paraphrase Shakespeare, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. I won’t be crying about nomenclature decisions when I have a handful of awesomeness at my fingertips, and that awesomeness starts with Siri.

Siri, is the name given by Apple to its voice activated personal assistant on the iPhone 4S; I named mine Jane. For those of you who do not own an iPhone 4S yet, Siri allows you to dictate almost anything and it will do its own research to get you the answers. You can speak what you want and Siri will transform your speech into text. Siri is quite impressive and I can only imagine where this technology is going and all of the future possibilities.

You can watch Apple’s video ( in which they show a person with visual impairment using Siri).

I was, however, wondering how “Jane”(AKA Siri) would respond to people with speech disabilities such as individuals who stutter, who have cerebral palsy or articulation delays.  I decided to test out Siri and here are my results:

Siri and foreign accents:

I am Brazilian, and I learned English 6 years ago, so my Portuguese accent is still here and I don’t think it is going anywhere. So, testing out Siri + Foreign accents was not an obstacle to me! ;-) I have to say I am quite impressed with Siri’s ability to understand my speech (almost as good as my husband’s speech). Siri had an accuracy rate of about 97% with my speech! Impressive! I noticed it had the biggest trouble when I tried to speak specific proper nouns such as street names and people’s names.

Faking accents:  I am also really good with trying to imitate other accents, especially accents that are much more marked than mine. Again, I am impressed! I dictated a complex sentence and Siri was about 80% accurate. I can see that the major issues can be recognizing the vowel, which often leads to transforming the word into something completely different.

The possibilities: I wonder if Siri could be implemented for accent reduction by alerting the user when specific vowels/ consonants are not pronounced as the standard English accent just like Rosetta Stone Language learning software. This would open up the possibilities for several apps that can give instant speech feedback.


Siri for people with speech impairments:


I tested Siri using a variety of different types of stuttering moments. Here are the results I got from it:

Syllable repetitions: I tried “wh-wh-wh where are you?” ; Siri interestingly completed the syllables “Wh” and made it into a “what”: here is what was typed on my text: “What what what where are you.”

Word repetitions: Siri types everything you say, so if a person repeats the word three times Siri will just accept that as a meaningful repetition.

Prolongations: Siri does much better with prolongations than with syllable repetitions. I prolonged the “I” in “I love you” for 3 seconds and Siri was great! It understood the message “ I love you”.

Blocks: Siri respond to blocks just as pauses, which is great; it does not account for any of my attempts to imitate a block.

Interjections:  I used the interject “hum” three times in a sentence; out of those three times Siri ignored two times and substituted the third by “him”.

Articulation delays/Phonology:

Siri and the “r”: Siri does NOT like the substitution of “w” for “r”; it interprets as a completely different word. I said the following phrase “ The red/wed rabbit/wabbit went to play”, here is what I got typed: The wed web it went to play”.

I tested Siri at the word level for several specific articulation/phonological errors:


Street/stweet: sweet

Final consonant deletion:

Hai(hair): head

Helme(helmet) : helmet

Ketchu(ketchup): cat

Siri does much better at the phrase level than at the word level; because I believe it tries to get information from the following word to make sense of a phrase. For example:

I spoke “haven’t” without the “t” and I got the word “ Hey” ; then I said “haven’t seen” without the “ t” and Siri was able to compensate for my final consonant deletion well.

Fun with Siri: I wondered how Siri would respond to my dogs’ bark. Well, it interpreted my dogs barking to “where where where where”. I wonder is that is what they are really saying. Maybe Siri is the new dog translator!?? I can only wish and hope for that in a future iOS update.


(This post originally appeared on GeekSLP)


Barbara Fernandes is a trilingual Speech- Language pathologist, a geek  and an app developer. She is the founder and CEO of Smarty Ears Apps , a company that creates apps for speech therapy. Barbara is also 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. Barbara has created over 21 applications for the mobile devices for speech therapists.