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 BlogiLearn Technology

Best Group Blog TherapyApp411

Best New BlogAll4mychild and Speech Room News

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

Best Twitter Hashtag#slpeeps

Best Free WebtoolGlogsterEDU

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

Best Educational Use of a WikiUDLTechToolkit

Best Open PDEdcamps

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.