Autism Awareness Month

As April- Autism Awareness Month- draws to a close, I wanted to share a presentation I made this weekend in Florida at NOVA Southeastern University, sponsored by the Florida DOE and the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD). The focus of the presentation was technology resources (web-based and iOS) that are dedicated to or can be “re-purposed” for use with the population of students with autism at various levels of functioning.  One goal of the presentation was to place technology resources in context of intervention programs helpful for this population. Along with Dr. Robin Parker and Dr. Marlene Sotelo, we also ran an informal “App Smackdown” in which participants shared apps that they have found helpful for students with autism.  The presentation is embedded below, and a link to a supporting weblist is here, and the apps shared during the smackdown here.  I hope you find it helpful!

(Google Reader and Email subscribers, please click through on the link to the post in order to see the presentation on the blog):


(This post originally appeared on SpeechTechie)

Sean J. Sweeney, M.S., M.Ed., CCC-SLP, an SLP, instructional technology specialist and consultant, works in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He is the author of the blog SpeechTechie, a contributor to the ASHA Leader, and recently took on a role as Product Development Manager for Smarty Ears Apps.

ASHA/NSSLHA Student Hill Day 2012

ASHA/NSSLHA Student Hill Day 2012 was a success!  On April 2nd 2012, the NSSLHA Board, along with over 100 fellow speech-language pathology and audiology students had the opportunity to meet with our state representatives and senators on Capitol Hill to discuss legislature important for the future of our profession.  With the help of the ASHA Federal Advocacy team, over 250 visits were conducted to bring audiology and speech-language pathology issues to the offices of those who represent us.  This means that students are impacting how these offices think about our services.  We were able to talk about what we do, the individuals who makes our jobs so special, and what legislation would truly allow us to help others more efficiently and effectively.  Even as students, we can impact federal legislation, which affects the future of our profession.

ASHA provides an abundance of information regarding current legislation and how each of us can get involved at the state and federal level. Even if a visit to Capitol Hill is not an option, a letter, email, or phone call is a great opportunity to let your Members of Congress know what’s important to his/her constituents.  You can visit the ASHA Take Action Center for more information.  It is never too early to begin advocating for our chosen professions.  Even as students, we are also voting members and we can have an impact on how services are rendered.  If you are interested in participating in future Student Hill Day visits, please contact Caroline Goncalves with the Federal Advocacy Team at ASHA at .

Imagine the impact we can have if the Student Hill Day gets bigger and bigger each year?  Speak out and be heard by those who represent you and take charge of our professional future!


Ellen Crowell Poland, AuD/PhD Student, East Carolina University NSSLHA Executive Board Member-at-Large and Caleb McNiece, AuD Student, University of Memphis NSSLHA Executive Board Region 3 Councilor, wrote this piece for ASHAsphere. 


Shooting for Good Speech!

This activity is one I pull out from time to time as a special treat and is a particular hit with the boys.  A year or so ago, my son and his grandfather put together a fabulous catapult.  The lid/target combos are the perfect ammo for launching.  (See my post, “Lots of Pros” from April 10, 2012 for instructions on making articulation target lids).

We run through our first set of words which I’ve inserted into the lids.  Then, I have them say the target a couple more times before we launch it from the catapult.  Sometimes we see which word goes the furthest, sometimes we set up a basket and see if we can get any in it.

Click to Play

The building instructions for my catapult came from “The Art of the Catapult” by Gurstelle.  I did a quick search online and there are several kits for catapults that would probably work, as well as instructions for a plastic spoon/popsicle stick version that goes together fairly easily (I’ve seen these put together….many times!).

Give it a try and launch something new!

(This post originally appeared on Activity Tailor)


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

Tips for Clinical Fellows: More Than Surviving Your First Year

an organized craft room

Photo by bluishorange

Get Organized

  • Weed through all of the papers, manuals, and orientation/training materials you received and make a list of all important deadlines in progressive order. This will ensure you stay on top of them!
  • Make a spreadsheet schedule of when you see clients/students, laminate it, and follow it!
  • Print a list of your clients/students in order of when annual reviews and reevaluations are due.
  • If you’re overloaded with initial evaluations to complete, pick a feasible number of evaluations to be completed weekly. Schedule those and pat yourself on the back when you accomplish the number you set, even if it’s just one or two weekly.
  • When first getting to know your clients/students, place simple abbreviations of their goals on the data sheets you’re utilizing to quickly jog your memory about their challenge areas. Even if your main target for the therapy session is X, you can be indirectly addressing Y or Z as well.
  • Be prepared for meetings. If you know certain topics, disorders, or clients/students will be discussed, if you are unfamiliar with that subject, do your homework. You don’t have to know it all, but aim to gain the trust of those around you by adding to the discussion.
  • Maintain open and frequent communications with your CFY supervisor.

Get Creative

  • As you build your “tool box” of therapy materials, think functional, relevant, and motivational. Invest in materials that will motivate your clients/students to invest themselves in their own progress.
  • Don’t merely make plans for great therapy sessions…carry them out!

Get Involved

  • Make yourself readily available to family members, parents, teachers, administrators, and coworkers. Be an approachable point of contact for questions or concerns. If you don’t know the answer, there’s always opportunity to look it up!
  • Know your clients’/students’ birthdays and other important information. We all like to know that we’re more than just a name (or number on a caseload).
  •  Take part in your clients’/students’ special activities or life events when possible.

Get Noticed

  • Develop a simple monthly or quarterly newsletter for family members, parents, teachers, administrators and/or coworkers. Let the first one be an introduction to yourself and market yourself as a resource on speech and language issues. Because we’re all inundated with things to read and little time to read them, make each newsletter short, concise, and interesting.
  • Prepare a bulletin board accentuating your services or an area of interest or benefit to your clients/students. Don’t wait until May when Better Speech and Hearing Month comes around!

 (This post originally appeared on The Speech Stop)


Ana Paula G. Mumy, MS, CCC-SLP,  is a trilingual speech-language pathologist and the author of various continuing education eCourses, leveled storybooks, and instructional therapy materials for speech/language intervention, as well as the co-author of her latest eSongbook which features songs for speech, language and hearing goals.  She has provided school-based and pediatric home health care services for nearly 12 years and thoroughly enjoys providing resources for SLPs, educators and parents on her website The Speech Stop.

Early Intervention: How Questions Can Guide Your Practice

Question mark made of puzzle pieces

Photo by Horia Varlan

In my article “A Therapist’s Mantras for Early Intervention” on Pediastaff’s Blog, I mention the importance of asking questions in early intervention. We all ask a series of questions when we are completing an evaluation, then during treatment we often ask families how things are going to check in on a child’s progress, but there are so many more questions to ask that can help build a healthy parent-therapist relationship. These questions get to the heart of what’s going on and can truly impact the success of intervention.

By asking the right questions you can get to know a family for who they really are and allow them to see your genuine interest in their opinions and their child’s success. With appropriate questioning you can also establish communication with even the most shutdown of families, repair misunderstandings, and most importantly, encourage families to own the early intervention process as their own.

The following are the categories and sequence of questions I have found to be most useful in my own practice, to first build a foundation of trust and then allow for open and honest conversations as the therapeutic relationship grows. The first few categories may seem obvious, but if you stick with me, hopefully by the end you will have found an idea that you hadn’t thought of or tried before. Here goes…

1.  Ask questions that establish roles.

When first working with a family, it’s important to find out what ideas they have about how the intervention will work, what you will do when you come for a visit, and what their part as parents will be. I like to ask questions like these:

  • How would you like my help?
  • What do you hope to get out of working with me?
  • How would you like to take part in your child’s therapy?

The answers to these questions then provide an opportunity for you to discuss things like the importance of attendance, how your sessions will be set up to include them as the parents, and what therapy is and isn’t.

2. Ask questions that set goals.

The next category of questions gets more specific about what a family wants to see their child accomplish. You may have discussed some of this when completing the evaluation or other paperwork with the family, but due to time that has likely lapsed and changes that can happen quickly in a child’s development, it’s important at the beginning of therapy to re-establish those goals. I also like to focus parents very specifically on one thing we can start with that their child can likely accomplish right away so that parents are motivated to continue to work hard and set new goals. Questions to help set goals may sound like this:

  • What time of the day is particularly difficult for your child?
  • When do you get frustrated with your child’s difficulty communicating?
  • What’s one thing you think your child could do with a little help that would make a huge difference in his life?

Keep in mind that answers to the last question may still be broad behaviors like, “pay attention”, “talk more”, “listen better”, or “have better behavior”. It helps to take those answers and explain how a specific behavior, like taking a turn during an interaction, attending to an activity, pointing to make a request, imitating gross motor movements, or looking at an adult to ask for help can be the first steps to helping their child get to the overall goal. Once parents know what specific behavior they are looking for, they know when their child’s accomplished it, and they can see progress happening. Establishing those successes early on goes a long way in earning a parent’s trust for the long-term.

3. Questions that build routines.

Questions that build routines help parents figure out how they are going to implement these new behaviors and strategies you have introduced. Without a plan, a set day, time of day, activity, and specific behavior, it is unlikely that a parent will follow-through on your interventions for the simple fact that change is hard. With a specific plan, established by the family itself, it makes it much more possible to integrate these new behaviors into daily life. Examples of these questions include:

  • What times of the day do you think would be good to help your child practice taking turns?
  • Out of the toys here in this room, what toy do you think you’d like to use this week to help your child practice pointing?
  • What kind of activity would you enjoy doing with your child where he can imitate your movements?
  • Can you think of several times during the day you can make sure your child hears you saying the word “up”?

4. Questions that gather feedback.

This one is easy. To gather feedback you can simply ask, “How’d it go?”

5. Questions that spark action.

The questions that spark action are where the real relationship building happens. This is where you can encourage parents in their successes and help them to solve problems and overcome obstacles. It’s easy enough to guide parents through what therapy is all about, help them set goals, plan activities and then drop the ball. And, yes, just asking, “So, how’d it go?” with no follow-up questions still counts as dropping the ball. We’ve all done it because we’re frustrated that a parent didn’t follow through and we can’t seem to politely muster another question, or we can sense the parent is shutdown and we don’t want to push too hard. BUT the question after the “How’d it go?” is where you get the 411. Those questions are tricky, take special care, and go something like this:

  • So _________ pointed to what he wanted when you were working with him on the puzzle. Wow! How did that feel when he did that for the first time?
  • I know you said you didn’t have a chance to work on the word “up” this past week. Do you think you’ll have a chance this week or would it be easier to work on something different?
  • I know we had a difficult conversation last week after you got the diagnosis from your doctor. How are you feeling about all of that now?
  • I know _______ didn’t want to imitate your movements when you sang “Old McDonald”. What do you think made it difficult for him to participate?
  • Since _______ didn’t want to take a turn with stacking the blocks, would you like to practice it together today so that we can see if we can find a way to make it easier for him to participate?

Depending on the answers to these last questions, you may also need to go back to the previous questions to make sure you and the family are still on the same page as far as setting goals and building routines.

To sum it up…

And now I would love to hear what you think. What questions have you found to be helpful? How do you feel asking the tough questions? Other than asking questions, how do you keep the lines of communication open?



Kim Rowe, MA, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist working in early intervention in Savannah, GA. She is Hanen certified and passionate about family-centered services. When she’s not working, Kim enjoys writing at Little Stories, spending time with her husband, volunteering with her therapy dog Charlie, and listening to her daughter’s story unfold as she develops language.

Why do we Love Loudness?

Joul's scream

Photo by L.Bö

Why do we humans enjoy doing things that might be harmful?  Some people are crazy about dangerous activities like skydiving, extreme skiing and jumping off high cliffs wearing wingsuits.  In comparison, listening to loud music seems tame!  But the hearing loss and tinnitus that can result from too much loud music can be truly devastating, so we all need to turn it down or put in those earplugs, to protect the hearing that allows us to enjoy the music in the first place.

Interestingly, it seems that humans have always found ways to make loud sound and loud music. An early type of drum consisted of a pit dug in the ground, covered with heavy bark; dancing on the top of the pit produced a hollow, resonant sound.  Stone Age people also blew into hollowed-out animal horns to produce shrill, piercing tones.  And my favorite example is the bull-roarer–a thin piece of bone attached to a leather thong, which makes a roaring sound that is audible for miles when whirled in the air.  Such early noise-makers are thought to have been used mainly in warfare and for religious rites: to terrify and control, or to create a sense of wonder and mystery.

During the 19th century, people began to use principles of electromagnetism and novel ways to transform one type of energy to another.  These discoveries opened the door to new and louder musical sounds.  Since the advent of amplified music, there has been an increased demand for louder and louder instruments.  The sound pressure at concerts today often reaches levels that can damage fans’ hearing within minutes, but many enjoy it and come back for more.

I have collected survey data and anecdotal comments from people who enjoy loud music since 1995.  When asked to describe the feeling, common themes come up, such as a sense of power, strong connection to the music, and physical responses.  Here are a few examples

  • “Loud music allows me to completely ignore the outside world.”
  • “When you hear something that just grabs you, you want the volume cranked up so that you can feel it throughout your whole body, and let it pour into your soul.”
  • “Listening to loud music helps me to relieve stress.”

And it’s not just music!  Motorcycles, skimobiles, jet skiing, car racing, boom cars and shooting are other examples of dangerously loud activities with enthusiastic followings for whom the high sound pressure level is part of the pleasure.

As speech and hearing professionals, we are often in the position to counsel our clients, friends and family members to protect their hearing from loud activities they consider enjoyable.  How do you find the right words and the right tone of voice to reach someone who is hooked on listening to their favorite tunes through earphones while dodging rush hour traffic?  If you have an anecdote, suggestion, strategy, or even a simple phrase about promoting healthy listening in your community, please share it by posting a comment.


Ann Dix, CCC-A, grew up in a musical family and became interested in speech and hearing through her background playing and singing in rock and roll bands.   She has been a clinical faculty member of Boston University’s Speech Language and Hearing Sciences department since 1997.  Ann blogs at Now Hear This, a Boston University blog about sound and hearing. 


Can Even “Cut the Rope” be Used for Promoting Language Skills?


This post is a follow up post on a very popular write up I did a few months back called ” Can even Angry Birds be used to promote language skills?“. If you are curious about the answer I would say about the popular game Angry birds and its relation to language skills, you can access the link and read it. For now, the task at hand is to introduce some of you to a new game I have caught myself playing many times throughout the week called “Cut the Rope”.

If you are not yet familiar with the game, cut the rope reminds me very much of Angry birds, as they are both apps that have a specific goal and a user can have many different strategies to reach the same goal. In Angry Birds, the goal is to remove all “pigs” from the scene with the least amount of birds; the goal on Cut the Rope is to use elements of physics to move a candy ball to a green monster’s mouth. Do not worry, this is a cute monster. Here is a video that shows what cut the rope is all about.

I am a big fan of utilizing fun, engaging activities to target any skills, of course as a speech therapist, I like it even more to use them to promote language skills. The best is that as kids are playing games, they won’t even necessarily need to know they are educational in any way. Cut the rope currently offers nine levels, each with 25 different activities that increase in complexity as you go. Since each new level, ads new tools you have new language, vocabulary and skills you can target with each new level. You can do all that by planning your sessions, envisioning all the great possibilities for learning, and just by being an professional who knows how to promote language learning.

As I played with the game I tried to identify potential goals and activities that can be implemented with cut the rope. Some are similar to what I have discussed on my post about Angry Birds, others are new and directly related to the items on the game.

Possible Activities/ Goals

1. Goal: use vocabulary to clearly describe  ideas, feelings, and experiences.

The vocabulary found on cut the rope increases with the levels. Here are some of the vocabulary that I was able to collect as I went through the different levels:

Verbs: cut, pull, drag, shoot, eat, release, move, point, wait, circling,

Nouns: candy, monster, rope, stars,length, level, strategy, air, circle, wheel, plunger.

Adjective: Long, short, hungry,  wrapped

The list of vocabulary is just a sample of possible words that can clearly be found on each level. You will be using the words often throughout reveal scenes, as your students also would as they play each level.

As for the activities… oh, this is my favorite part! You could have students describe each scene before completing them. Here is an example of all the language that could be used by your student to describe one of the scenes and steps to complete it:

 As the candy is moving up the screen wrapped in a bubble and it passes through the wheels I can tap on the wheel to shoot the plunger. When the plunger attaches to the candy and it can pop the bubble and let it fall to catch the stars on the way to the monster’s mouth.

Here the student was able to use vocabulary to clearly describe the level and you, a successful SLP!

2. Goal: Give, restate, and follow simple two-step directions.

There are several ways to work on this goal. The therapist can give students steps to complete the levels and the student has to follow the directions given orally to complete the level. It would be fun if sometimes you give wrong directions to double check that the student is really following your directions, not the intuitive  way to complete the level. If you have a group of students they can take turns giving each other one or two step directions, so while one student is working on following directions the other is working on giving directions.

3. Goal: Tell experiences in a logical order (chronological order, order of importance, spatial order).

This is one of the best app styles to work on telling experiences in a logical order as it offers several ways to reach the same end, and students can even talk about the different strategies they used to reach the same goal.

These are just three possible goals (also state standards) that can be targeted with Cut the Rope. I hope you enjoyed!

(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.

Moving Into the 21st Century with CF Supervision and Record-Keeping

Photo by Ruth Morgan

Becoming a certified speech-language pathologist is a complicated and time-consuming process!  It should be–this is a very complex and broad field covering speech, language, and swallowing disorders from birth to the end of life; therefore, for recent speech graduates, there is a major step to go through before becoming a holder of the national certificate (Certificate of Clinical Competence or CCC-SLP).   All graduates must complete a Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY) supervised by a certified speech-language pathologist.

I personally am such a holder of the CCC-SLP credentials.  Yeah!!!!  I got this piece of paper in 1987 and have loved it ever since.  This year, I have had the privilege of supervising a CF in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Ashley Robinson, who is a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina.  We both work in the same school system–she is at a middle and high school, and is also the sole speech pathologist on the Assistive Technology Team.  I work in an nearby elementary school.  Not only do we have to keep up with the CFY paperwork, but there is additional North Carolina Board of Examiners (for state license) paperwork and observation requirements.  The Chapel Hill school system also requires new teacher observations and weekly check-ins by a mentor (me) .

Both Ashley and I are very busy with our actual speech jobs, so when given the task of arranging CF observations and consultations, I needed to set up a system that was efficient in terms of recording observation hours, and sharing notes.  I chose to keep track of this all using Google forms and spreadsheets. (Ashley has given me permission to write about all of this, and will be previewing this before publishing.)

I’ve created a Google Form for observations, which throws all of my observation data into a spreadsheet that I’ve shared with her online.   This transparent online record-keeping has been helpful for both of us!  Here is a step-by-step on how to do this.


CFY form


1.  Create a Google form  A tutorial for doing this is here.  I ended up with a form that looked like the one to the left.  Depending on your CF’s setting, you may want different questions; however, these are very easy to customize and make depending on your needs. If you have an iPad, you can send the form right to your iPad screen for easy access. Here is how. The form is then connected automatically to a Google spreadsheet that has the same name as the form.


CFY spreadsheet


2.  Share your Google spreadsheet with your Clinical Fellow  If you have Gmail, this should be easy for you.  By sharing, if you as the supervisor should unfortunately be unable to finish out your year, your CF will have documentation of observations and supervision thus far. The transition to a new supervisor will then be easier.

3.  Take notes of observations and share/email instantly  If you have an iPad, you can use the ‘Notes’ app that all iPads have and email notes straight from there to your CF. You can also take notes right into your Google form or set up a shared document just for your quick consultations or observations.   Laptops, desktops, or iPads all work for sharing.  All operate within the Google environment, and are wonderful to have for an instant open line of communication.

Unfortunately, ASHA, NC State Board of Examiners, and the school mentor teacher program have not yet jumped on the technology bandwagon for CF record-keeping (or at least I haven’t found the e-versions yet), so once my Google forms and spreadsheets are filled out, Ashley and I have still have needed to go to back to paper every few months and fill out the SLPCF Report and Rating Form. along with other paper forms for the other agencies (school and state board), but with our digital documentation and notes, this has not been a difficult task.  The paper documentation just seems like it belongs in the previous century—necessary to complete to get to the goal, but antiquated.

In summary, supervising a young, talented, and enthusiastic CF has been the highlight of my year!  Adding 21st century record-keeping has made the job less tedious and has kept the lines of communication open between us, even though we work in separate schools.  Hopefully in the near future, the large organizations of ASHA, and the state licensure board will follow suit, and allow for more online record-keeping.

To my fellow SLPs, if you have the opportunity to supervise, take it!   Watching sessions and consulting with recent graduates has rejuvenated my therapy sessions like nothing else has.

(This post originally appeared on Chapel Hill Snippets)


Ruth Morgan is a speech-language pathologist who works for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools at Ephesus Elementary School.  She loves her job and enjoys writing about innovative ways to use the iPad in therapy, gluten-free cooking, and geocaching adventures.  Visit her blog at Chapel Hill Snippets.