Better Hearing & Speech Month Roundup–Week 5

Second place winner of the BHSM Drawing Contest--by Paul Gammaitoni, Age 7

Sadly, Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) has come to a close! So many great posts, articles, events, tweets and stories shared–the messages will undoubtedly resound well beyond this one month. Here are just a few of the many great posts we noticed from this last week of BHSM:

  •  The Kansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association produced five podcasts in honor of BHSM examining issues relevant to SLPs and audiologists.
  • Even the Department of Defense’s Hearing Center of Excellence got involved in highlighting the importance of BHSM, sharing plans to embark on a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of noise later this year.
  • The Technology in (Spl) Education blog featured many SLP guest posts throughout May in honor of BHSM.
  • The Standford School of Medicine blog Hearing Loss Cure posted a great summary of  more BHSM efforts undertaken by various organizations, and reminded us of the importance of keeping the spirit of BHSM alive throughout the year.

Thanks again to all who commented on the week 1 , week 2 week 3 and week 4 roundup posts–please share any last BHSM blog posts and other resources in the comments.


Maggie McGary is the online community & social media manager at ASHA, and manages ASHAsphere.

Hearing Aid Battery Precautions for Audiologists


Photo by James Bowe

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published an article in the June issue of Pediatrics on the significant increase in pediatric button battery ingestion and resulting serious complications.

The button batteries of greatest concern are the batteries containing lithium. Batteries with lithium can cause severe burns and even death if swallowed. Lithium batteries are often found in remote controls, cameras and other household electronic devices. Two studies highlighted in the article report devastating injuries such as destruction of the wall of the esophagus and trachea and vocal paralysis. Ingested batteries need to be removed within two hours to prevent these medical emergencies.

While hearing aid batteries do not contain lithium, precautions still need to be taken to prevent accidental ingestion. Audiologists should be educating patients and families on battery safety. I remember my grandmother telling me (before I was an audiologist) that she had lined up all her morning pills to take with breakfast and had also lined up a hearing aid battery to remind her to replace the one in her hearing aid. She popped the battery into her mouth along with her medications and swallowed! As an RN she was aware of possible irritation and danger and carefully monitored her digestive system over the next few days. Apparently the battery passed safely through her gastrointestinal tract with no negative effects! This is what happens most of the time when a hearing aid battery is accidentally ingested; however, even zinc-air batteries contain trace amounts of the heavy metal mercury. Poisoning is possible after ingestion if the battery disintegrates and the casing opens.

Beginning in July 2011, some states began requiring all hearing aid batteries to be mercury-free. Mercury is considered an environmental hazard and toxic to our environment when it ends up in a landfill. Check with your state for current regulations and look for batteries that have no mercury.

Along with your hearing aid orientation and battery instructions, here are some additional tips to share with your patients:

  • Seek medical attention right away if a battery has been ingested. Children and pets may exhibit these symptoms: anorexia, nausea, vomiting and very dark stools.
  • Do not dispose of batteries in a fire…they can explode and release toxins.
  • Recycle batteries (Do you as an audiologist have this value-added feature in your practice? If not, Radio Shack will recycle batteries.)
  • Make sure that hearing aids for children are fitted with locking battery doors and activate the locking mechanism at all times when the child is wearing the devices.
  • Alert other family members to secure batteries out of reach of small children.
  • Don’t mistake the battery for a pill!
  • National Battery Ingestion Hotline: 202-625-3333.
  • Batteries in the nose and ear must also be removed quickly and safely to avoid permanent damage.


Interested in Public Health Issues Related to Hearing and Balance? ASHA’s Special Interest Group on Public Health Issues Related to Hearing and Balance’s  mission is to address public health issues related to hearing and balance through a transdisciplinary approach. SIG 8 sponsors continuing education via Perspectives  and short course and panel presentations at the ASHA convention, and SIG members have access to a private group in the ASHA Community for professional discussion and resource sharing. Consider joining SIG 8 today!


Pamela Mason, M.Ed., CCC-A is the director of audiology professional practices at the ASHA national office. She is a member of ASHA’s SIG 8, Public Health Issues Related to Hearing and Balance.

Better Hearing & Speech Month Roundup–Week 4

2012 bhsm drawing winner

First place winner of the 2012 BHSM drawing contest--by Aiza Javaid, age 6

Closing in on the end of Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) and it’s been amazing to see all the online buzz focused on hearing and speech! There have been hundreds of tweets, many blog posts, and equally many Facebook posts highlighting facts about BHSM. Here are just a few  of the many great posts we noticed from this past week:

Also, congratulations to the 2012 BHSM Drawing Contest winners! The drawing above was the first place winner, done by Aiza Javaid, age 6, from Aldie, Virginia.

Thanks to all who commented on the week 1 , week 2  and week 3 roundup posts–please continue to share other BHSM blog posts and other resources in the comments.


Maggie McGary is the online community & social media manager at ASHA, and manages ASHAsphere.

Speech Therapy in Zambia


On Tuesday, May 15, 2012, I departed for Zambia, Africa, where I will work in an orphanage for 10 weeks. I have been to Zambia twice before with the six-week-long Harding University in Zambia speech-language pathology program (HIZ-Path). Through this program, students complete a multicultural study course and gain clinical practicum hours in pediatric speech, language, and dysphagia while working with children ages 0-5 in the three houses of the orphanage. This summer, I will work more closely with the caregivers at the orphanage and stay longer to continue teaching therapy strategies so the work of the HIZ-Path group can become more sustainable. My long-term goal is to begin a training program for speech-language pathologists in Zambia because there are currently no practicing SLPs or SLP training programs, but there is a great need for speech-language professionals. Please follow my trip blog for updates during my trip. I would love to hear your comments, and will be happy to answer any questions.

(The photo above was taken by Elizabeth Anderson, who also attended the HIZ-Path program last year and graduated in May 2012 with a Master’s degree in speech-language pathology.)


Ashley Dowler, M.S., is a recent graduate of the Harding University Master of Speech-Language Pathology program in Searcy, Arkansas, where she graduated with honors and received the Outstanding Graduate Clinician award for the 2010-2011 school year. She has attended the HIZ-Path program twice and completed a research project on the phonetic inventory of Zambian toddlers during the summer of 2011.

Better Hearing & Speech Month Roundup–Week 3

So many Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) posts and so little space to share them all! Thanks to all who commented on the week 1 and week 2 roundup posts–it’s great to see so many actively engaged in promoting BHSM in innovative, fun ways.
Here are just a few of the many posts we’ve seen this past week:
  • Carole Zangari, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is devoting this month’s strategy of the month posts to helping SLPs develop  PrAACtical Learning and Resource Networks.
  • Brenda Gorman, PH.D., CCC-SLP, reminds us that BHSM is a great time to spread the word about the CSD professions, on the Lingua Health blog.
  • The UHS-Pruitt Corporation website devoted this month’s Wellness Tips section to BHSM, focusing on hearing and hearing safety.
  • The National Initiative for Healthcare Quality highlights their infant hearing screening program in recognition and celebration of BHSM.
  • Not a blog post, but last week, Pat Ritter, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Executive Director, The Treatment & Learning Centers and Greg Weimann, MBA, ASHA  Manager of Public Relations, conducted a live online chat for ASHA members that focused on marketing one’s services as part BHSM.  The questions ran the gambit from inquiries about the best ways to reach physicians and other referral sources to questions about starting a new practice, hours of operations, and even how to market an open house. Here’s an except from the chat:

Q: How would you market an open house? What would you suggest having at an open house besides staff/brochures/possible videos?

Greg: For the open house, I would invite the local media. Take pictures if media doesn’t come and send the photos. I would have food, demonstrations, videos and perhaps have patients that you have helped tell their stories.

Pat: Make the open house personal. Have lunch and chat about your services. This is best. You can have the brochures etc. to take away. Think of what you like, conversation, interaction a good feel. Market through flyers, letter and personal calls. We do these and with everyone so busy it is hard to get people to come. Personal invites are best OR give value. Do a one hour workshop that would draw people in and then talk about your practice for 10 minutes.

ASHA members can access the full archive of the online chat here.

Share your blog posts or other resources in the comments and we’ll continue sharing them each Thursday throughout May.

(The poster pictured above was included in the March 13, 2012 issue of the ASHA Leader. For more free BHSM resources like coloring pages, book marks, door hangers and more, visit the BHSM section of the ASHA website.)


Maggie McGary is the online community & social media manager at ASHA, and manages ASHAsphere.



A Lesson Learned From a Preemie

Kaitlyn then and now

This week, my daughter, Kaitlyn, will graduate from high school. As I look at this vibrant 18 year-old young woman, I find myself thinking back to her birth. She was born at just 26 weeks gestation, weighing only 1 lb., 12 oz. A few days later, her weight dropped to 1 lb., 6 oz. The neonatologists were cautious; they spoke in hushed tones and could only muster a guarded prognosis. We didn’t know if she would survive.

Just before delivery, while my wife, Maria, was in preterm labor, we had a parade of physicians and residents who visited her hospital room to check her status. The hospital was affiliated with a medical school, so we became accustomed to a regular flow of medical students who were more than a bit curious about the possibility of delivering an infant so early. Each time two of them came into the hospital room to check on my wife (they seemed to travel in pairs), they would do a quick exam and then reach into their coat pockets to get the “card.” This seemingly magical card contained a set of statistics that detailed the survival rates of infants born at various birth weights and gestational ages. Each physician would then proceed to recite these statistics, which sounded something like this:

“Mrs. Houston, you’re at 26 weeks gestation, and according to our research, infants delivered at this gestational age have a 20% chance of survival. If you deliver at 27 weeks gestation, the survival rate improves slightly to 26.8%. Of course, if you deliver later, the percentage of children who survive continues to increase.”

Like clockwork, each physician and/or medical student would reach for his or her card after every visit to the room. The story was basically the same except for a few additional potential “complications” for a child born at each gestational age – such as blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, brain bleeds, and a variety of other medical conditions. After witnessing a few of these episodes, my wife and I could recite the statistics from memory!

At the time, repeatedly hearing what could happen to our daughter was difficult to absorb. The information could have been delivered in a more patient-friendly – and parent-friendly – manner. The statistics that were shared were grim, but knowing what could happen helped us to prepare. Those two days in the hospital trying to prevent and then waiting for Kaitlyn’s delivery allowed us to understand the worst possible scenario but, at the same time, hope and pray for the best outcome.

As I reflect on that experience, the statistics that the physicians cited were quite impressive. In fact, I’m a bit envious that we can’t say something similar for children born with hearing loss, which is the population that I work with most frequently. That is, I wish we had the ability to confidently state that: “…an infant identified at birth with a severe to profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and fitted with XYZ hearing aids and immediately enrolled in early intervention will have a 96% success rate in developing intelligible spoken language by the time s/he is five years old” or “an infant who fails to develop adequate listening, speech and language outcomes with hearing aids and then gets cochlear implants by one year of age will achieve age-appropriate developmental outcomes within 18 months if the parents are fully engaged in the intervention process and when services are delivered by a qualified provider.”
To accomplish something like this would require enormous resources and standard protocols for professionals across many disciplines, including but not limited to: Pediatric Medicine, Audiology, Speech-Language Pathology, Deaf Education, Special Education, and Early Childhood Education.

The myriad factors one would have to control to obtain similar outcome data for children with hearing loss truly boggles the mind. Some of those factors would include: cause of hearing loss, degree of hearing loss, age of diagnosis, type of hearing technology used, communication approach, type and frequency of early intervention, level of parent engagement in the intervention process, the skills of the service provider, the family’s socio-economic status, and additional medical conditions or disabilities beyond deafness –and that would be just to capture the most basic information.

Parents today who have a child with hearing loss deal with too many challenges to ensure their child is successful. Too often, they face obstacles securing appropriate audiological services and early intervention that supports their preferred mode of communication. Furthermore, the variability in services from community to community is alarming, and if the family lives in a rural area, there’s an even greater chance the child will be grossly underserved or not receive services at all.

Kaitlyn, my 1 lb., 12 oz. baby girl, is leaving high school and will be entering college this summer studying pediatric nursing. Aside from spinal surgery for scoliosis about six years ago, she is a rather typical teenager making the transition into adulthood. We owe her success to treatment and intervention that was well-defined, consistent, and delivered by practitioners who were highly-trained. Someday, I hope all parents who find themselves dealing with a premature infant or some other medical condition at birth – such as hearing loss – can receive the same level of support from the professionals surrounding them.

(Note: This blog was adapted from an original posting by the author on the Better Hearing Institute’s Pediatrics Blog.)


K. Todd Houston, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, is an Associate Professor in the School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at The University of Akron. His primary areas of research include spoken language acquisition in children with hearing loss, strategies for enhancing parent engagement in the intervention process, Auditory-Verbal Therapy, and telepractice. He directs the Telepractice and eLearning Laboratory (TeLL), an initiative to evaluate clinical practices in the area of distance service delivery in Speech-Language Pathology.

Better Hearing & Speech Month Roundup–Week 2


In addition to it being Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM), this week is also National Stuttering Awareness Week! ASHA partnered with the Stuttering Foundation to raise awareness among parents and other caregivers about the warning signs of stuttering and the need for early intervention. The Stuttering Foundation has information and resources about National Stuttering Awareness Week which you can use throughout the year to raise awareness about stuttering.

In addition to the hundreds of tweets this past week about BHSM, here are just a few of the many blog posts featuring BHSM ideas:

  • Consonantly Speaking cultivated a great list of free printables for BHSM.
  • The Pediastaff blog lists more great resources for BHSM.
  •  Heather Gehringer, CCC-SLP, created a calendar for BHSM planning, which is posted on her blog, Heather’s Speech Therapy.
  • The Apraxia Adventures blog has a great idea for raising awareness about apraxia during BHSM–31 facts about childhood apraxia of speech that you can share throughout the month and beyond.
  • Not a blog post but a terrific idea to promote BHSM on Facebook and Twitter, Beginnings of North Carolina is running a “Donate your status” campaign throughout the month. They make sharing BHSM facts as easy as retweeting/sharing their daily posts.
  • The image above is by Jakhai Ellerbe from New York City, who won first place in last year’s ASHA’s annual BHSM Drawing Contest.  You can download the screen saver [link is executable file], and also have your students enter the 2012 BHSM drawing contest–details and complete contest rules are available on the ASHA website.
Share your blog posts or other resources in the comments and we’ll continue sharing them each Thursday throughout May.


Maggie McGary is the online community & social media manager at ASHA, and manages ASHAsphere.




Spring Flowers: An Arts and Crafts Activity for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Spring has sprung! And, so have many beautiful flowers. Here’s an easy but fun arts and crafts activity to facilitate your child’s speech and language. I have included some tips and strategies to help stimulate vocabulary development.

Coloring Flowers with Bingo Markers


Bingo markers

Regular markers



Draw a flower. Include its pedals, stem, and leaves. Keep it simple and make the parts easy to identify. This is especially good for children who need help in identifying parts from a whole. As you are drawing the flower, narrate what you are drawing (TIP # 1). For instance, “I’m drawing a flower. Now, I’m drawing the leaves…the pedals…stems….etc.” This may seem obvious, but it’s amazing at how quiet some parents are when they are playing with their children. If you’re expecting a child to verbally communicate, it’s important to use language during these intimate experiences because it teaches them that communicating is fun and exciting! Be animated and add inflection to your voice (TIP #2) – especially when introducing new vocabulary. For instance, if you are drawing the stem, stress the new word to alert your child’s attention to it (e.g. “I’m drawing the stem”. Repetition is also important. Children need multiple repetitions (TIP #3) and various contexts (TIP #4) to fully understand the meaning of a new word. Enriching, hands-on experiences and multiple yet different interactions really help the child to fully understand. I’m not a huge fan of using flashcards for younger children, like toddlers, because they are one-dimensional and can be easily misunderstood. So, repeat new vocabulary many times during the activity (“I drew the stem.” “The stem is green”. “The stem is long.”). Then, after the activity, take the child on a stroll through your backyard or neighborhood and point out flowers and name their various parts. Lastly, avoid asking the child too many test-like questions (TIP #5) – “What’s this?” or “What’s that?” Children are usually pretty aware that you are “testing” them and it takes the joy out of learning new things.  Once you have drawn a flower (or two or three or more flowers) let the child “color” them with the bingo markers! It can look something like this:

Some Possible Target Words:


Summary of Tips:

1: Narrate your actions (Feel free to narrate your child’s actions too!)

2. Be animated and add inflection to your voice

3. Provide multiple repetitions

4. Expose the new word in various settings and contexts (see extension activities for examples)

5. Avoid asking too many “test-like questions”. Two words: NOT FUN!

Extension Activities:

Go on a nature walk

Arrange some flowers in a vase

Plant a flower in the yard or grow some seeds in a styrofoam cup

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



Better Hearing & Speech Month Roundup Week 1

Happy Better Hearing & Speech Month! This May marks the 85th anniversary of Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM), a month dedicated to raising awareness about communication disorders and to promoting treatment that can improve the quality of life for those who experience problems with speaking, understanding, or hearing. ASHA offers many resources for BHSM, and with each passing year, more and more SLPs, audiologists, and others interested in CSD are using social media to share ideas for celebrating BHSM.

Twitter is a great way to hear what others are doing to celebrate BHSM. You can follow the #BHSM hashtag on Twitter or just bookmark this link and check it throughout the month to follow the conversations about BHSM on Twitter. We’ve also started a Better Hearing & Speech Month Ideas board on Pinterest, where we’ll be pinning/re-pinning resources and ideas we see throughout the month.

Each week throughout May ASHAsphere will be highlighting some of the blog posts and other resources we’ve found using these social media sources. Here are just a few of the many posts we’ve seen this week:

  • Christopher Bugaj, MA CCC-SLP, did his annual A.T. TIPSCAST podcast and accompanying blog post about language-based curriculum, dedicated to BHSM.
  • Dan P McLellan, CCC-SLP, did a post about BHSM in his new blog, Speechguy.
  • Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP, lists some BHSM resources on the Advance  Early Intervention Speech Therapy blog.
  • Canadian SLP Skye Blue Angus has a great May Month (Canada’s Speech and Hearing Month) photo of the day challenge on her blog, CREE-ZY, CRAZY SPEECHIE.
  • Lisa M. Geary, MS, CCC-SLP created printable information pages SLPs can share with parents, teachers and other educators, along with some other BHSM resources, on Livespeaklove.

Share your blog posts or other resources in the comments and we’ll continue sharing them each Thursday throughout May.


Maggie McGary is the online community & social media manager at ASHA, and manages ASHAsphere.

Apps Targeting Language for Middle Schoolers

Visione e prospettiva divergente

Photo by mbeo

Far fewer middle school students need our services as compared to the number of preschool and elementary aged children who do. Those who still need therapy present with the unique challenges. After all, they still need our services. Finding apps for our middle school population can be challenging.  I have found a few apps that can be used with those students who have deficits in language.

Proverbidioms: After publishing this post, I downloaded this app. Rather than publish a new post, I decided to edit the post by adding my review of this app. T.E. Breitenbach produced an illustration, Proverbidioms, in 1975, that became a popular poster. It is now produced as an app. It approaches the understanding of 264 proverbs and cliches in two ways. The student is given a list of idioms. He selects one and then searches for it in a scene where a specific illustration demonstrates its literal meaning. The scene is busy but one can increase one’s specific area of focus by moving two fingers outward on the screen. This enlarges a specific illustration. This also allows one to scan the screen and see more detail. Once one matches the idiom and picture, a screen appears that defines the idiom and its derivation. If the child correctly makes the match on the first attempt, he is awarded a gold star, two attempts a silver star and three attempts a bronze star. I think middle school students will enjoy the pictures and the challenge of matching idiom and picture. A word of caution: some illustrations may be more explicit than one may consider appropriate for this age group.

Ages: 13 to adult
Ratings: ++++
Developer: Greenstone Games
Cost: Free for one illustration, $1.99 to $2.99 for additional illustrations

Word Stack Free: This app can be used to strengthen a student’s vocabulary and reasoning skills. It does so by presenting a stack of words. Each word is arranged in random order on eight blue stacked strips on the left side of the screen. The task for the student is to find relationships between words. Words can be synonyms, antonyms, or be made into compound words. To start the game, the student reads the starter word that is on a green strip on the bottom right hand side of the screen. The student looks to find a word on a blue strip that is a synonym, antonym or can combine with it to make a compound word. The student places the word selected on top of the first green strip. If the selection is correct, the strip turns green. There is now a two word green stack. Next, the student must find a word on the left for the new word on the stack. Again, it must be a synonym, antonym or combine with it to make a compound word. The task continues in this fashion until all blue strips have been correctly stacked and are green. If the word the student selects is incorrect, it cannot be stacked and returns to original position. I played a few rounds and found that, at times, finding the right word can be challenging. (A word of caution: words can be randomly placed until one is found that turns green.) To extend the task further, the child can be why the words are the same or opposite in meaning. If a pair of words forms a compound word, one can ask the student to use the new word in a sentence.

Ages: 12 to adult
Ratings: ++++
Developer: MochiBits
Cost: Free for 40 game stacks (one stack per game). One can purchase additional stack packs for $.99 each or all four stacks for $1.99.

Confusing Words: This is not the first time I have downloaded an app and then months later cannot find it in the app store. But I was able to find what looks to be a similar app, called “Which Word?” Both of these apps try to help untangle similar sounding words that tend to confuse such as affect and effect, passed and past or there and their. I have not downloaded Which Word? so cannot review it. However, it looks similar to Confusing Words but in a more pleasing format. Each word is defined and then used in a sentence. The confusion of similar sounds words can be most evident when students write. This app may help students better understand which word to use.

Ages: 10 to adult
Developer: Triad Interactive Media
Cost: $.99

Feel Electric: I reviewed this app a few months ago for my post on descriptive apps.  Feel Electric is animated, interactive and offers a variety of options for learning a range of 50 emotions. The student starts with What’s the Word to see faces of real people expressing each emotion. From there, the student can select her emotions at the moment, create a diary of emotions, manipulate the facial features of creature to show specific emotions and play a Mad Libs type game that, when completed, will create a zany story based on the words selected. There are three fun interactive games where the child needs to pair the facial expression with the written word. Each of these 3 games is scored. The app also allows one to add ones own pictures, music and videos. This is a great app to use with middle school students. It can be used to help tweens and teens identify and discuss a range of emotions they may be prone to feel. The app’s activities can be expanded to make this a fun language learning activity.

Ages: 5+
Rating: +++++
Developer: The Electric Company by Sesame Street
Cost: Free

(This post originally appeared on Apps for Speech Therapy)


Mirla Raz, CCC-SLP, is a speech pathologist in private practice (Communication Skills Center) and the author of the Help Me Talk Book: How to Teach a Child to Say the “R” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, How to Teach a Child to Say the “S” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, and How to Teach a Child to Say the “L” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons (also available in Kindle). Her latest endeavor is her blog Apps for Speech Therapy.