Beware of Scams Targeting Private Therapy Providers

Internet scams targeting Physical, Speech, Behavior, and Occupational Therapists are on the rise. Last year, I received 3 different scams via email. Initially, I was shocked that I, along with other Therapists across the United States and Canada, were being targeted for our specific services. After the shock subsided, I realized that it made perfect sense. We, as Therapists, are ideal targets. We have big hearts, want to see people improve, and we can be …well, there is no easy way to put this, a little on the verbose side. We do fit the perfect profile for a viral scamming nightmare. Typically these scams tug on our emotional heartstrings and appeal to our sense of altruism.

Shirley Kunkel, M.A., CCC-SLP, a Private Practice Owner in Escondido, CA and Speech Pathologist for 33 years, recalls a recent encounter with a scam artist.

I became mildly suspicious when they asked if I worked on receptive and expressive language, reading disorders and fluency disorders. I felt like their request was not specific enough. So I tried to ferret out what specifically they were trying re-mediate. Sounded like all the disorders I work on in listed in an Ad. Also, the person signed off as Mitchell one time and Michelle the next. I couldn’t understand why the mother who had used Dr. in her title would be coming to my town for 4 months. It is not a scientific research community at the local hospital where I live. They said they presently lived in London and sometimes visited Egypt. I did not lose any money, but I regret that I invested my time and energies into responding to this thief.

Unfortunately, many Therapists are being targeted and are unknowingly engaging in these traps. As a result, some Therapists are losing their hard-earned money by the thousands. Tom Jelen, Director of Online Communication with American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), has also noticed this growing problem within the Private Practice Community.

ASHA has received several reports from our members about a scam that is being attempted on members in private practice. The scammer is requesting to have his or her child visit a private practitioner while visiting the United States. The scammer requests to pre-pay for an evaluation and then sends a cashier’s check that is in an amount well above the evaluation charge. At this point, the scammer requests that the practitioner deposit the money in his or her bank and send back the overage (minus some money for the inconvenience). This scam has been reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

In the article, Fake Checks, the Federal Trade Commission describes normal banking activity.

Under federal law, banks generally must make funds available to you from U.S. Treasury checks, most other governmental checks, and official bank checks (cashier’s checks, certified checks, and teller’s checks), a business day after you deposit the check. For other checks, banks must make the first $200 available the day after you deposit the check, and the remaining funds must be made available on the second business day after the deposit.

However, just because funds are available on a check you’ve deposited doesn’t mean the check is good. It’s best not to rely on money from any type of check (cashier, business or personal check, or money order) unless you know and trust the person you’re dealing with or, better yet — until the bank confirms that the check has cleared. Forgeries can take weeks to be discovered and untangled. The bottom line is that until the bank confirms that the funds from the check have been deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check.

You Can Protect Yourself

The Federal Trade Commission offers some helpful ways to avoid being the latest victim of online scams in the article, “Giving the Bounce to Counterfeit Check Scams.”

  • Know who you’re dealing with, and never wire money to strangers.
  • If you’re selling something, don’t accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting the offer or how convincing the story. Ask the buyer to write the check for the correct amount. If the buyer refuses to send the correct amount, return the check. Don’t send the merchandise.
  • As a seller, you can suggest an alternative way for the buyer to pay, like an escrow service or online payment service. There may be a charge for an escrow service. If the buyer insists on using a particular escrow or online payment service you’ve never heard of, check it out. Visit its website, and read its terms of agreement and privacy policy. Call the customer service line. If there isn’t one — or if you call and can’t get answers about the service’s reliability — don’t use the service.
  • If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank, or a bank with a local branch. That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid. If that’s not possible, call the bank where the check was purchased, and ask if it is valid. Get the bank’s phone number from directory assistance or an Internet site that you know and trust, not from the check or from the person who gave you the check.
  • If the buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the transaction immediately. Legitimate buyers don’t pressure you to send money by wire transfer services. In addition, you have little recourse if there’s a problem with a wire transaction.
  • Resist any pressure to “act now.” If the buyer’s offer is good now, it should be good after the check clears.

Remember, if you think you’ve been targeted by a counterfeit check scam there is something you can do. Simply report it to the following agencies:

Sources

  1. Fake Checks, http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0159-fake-checks
  2. The Nigerian Email Scam, http://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0002l-nigerian-email-scam
  3. Giving the Bounce to Counterfeit Check Scams, http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/articles/naps29.pdf

A version of this post was originally published on The Independent Clinician.

Pamela Rowe, MA, CCC-SLP, is the Clinical Director of Pamela Rowe, MA, CCC-SLP, LLC in Longwood, FL. As a Speech Pathologist, Community Partner, Wife, and Mother of 3, Pamela enjoys mentoring the next generation of Speech Pathologists and hosting various community health events within Central Florida.

Website: www.speechorlando.com
Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/speechorlando

The Motherlode of Organization

I was talking recently to another SLP and of course we were exchanging ideas about how to get organized at the beginning of the year. So I thought I’d share my tried-and-true system with you. It has taken me several years to get to this point, and it will likely continue to evolve.

Data

I have a crazy system, but I find that it has worked well, especially since I revamped it last year. I group my students, and each group gets a two-pocket slash folder like these:

Once upon a time, I put the folders into binders, but the binders grow too large throughout the year, and become more cumbersome. So I ditched the binder, and opted for an accordion file with a handle to keep them in.

It is similar to this one from Walmart. They’re easy to grab and put back as I need them. I just put them in the order that I will see my groups, and voila!

Ok, so what’s in the folders?

First, the front pocket: For each individual student, I have a data page. This includes the student’s name and date of birth, and 5 sections of notes. Each section is identical and includes: the objective targeted, room for data and notes, an indication of group or individual therapy, start/stop time for group, and selections for student or clinician absence/meetings/special activities (assemblies and field trips).

In the back pocket is a copy of each individual student’s IEP goals and any other pertinent info I might need at a moment’s notice. I had a student with a seizure plan one year, so I kept that handy in his folder in case he had one during speech. Thankfully, I never had to refer to it. :-)

Attendance

I find it easiest to nab one of those beautiful teacher gradebooks to use for attendance. I photocopy the pages so I have a set for each quarter. The pages look similar to this:

I have come to love this system. I can easily know who I saw on what day and for how long with a code system I have developed. For each student, I denote G= group, I= individual, A= student absent, CA= clinician absent, CM= clinician in meeting, S=special activity (such as fire drill, field trip, or whatever). Most of my groups are the same duration, so I don’t denote that unless it’s different for some reason. So, I may denote “I” for individual therapy with my standard time frame, or “I45″ to indicate individual therapy for 45 minutes. For clarification, I can refer back to the daily data sheets (from above). At the end of the day, I just zip down the list, and presto, I’m done wth attendance!

Medicaid billing

From this attendance roster, I highlight students that I must bill Medicaid and can zip through my list pretty quick. And bonus, I can tell at a moment’s notice how long it is until I have the daunting task of quarterly IEP updates. I start those puppies two weeks out so I can chip away at them and finish in time.

Materials

I try to use the same activity for most of my groups all day, although sometimes, depending on what I need to target, I may have something different up my sleeve for a few groups. Then, I just gather the other materials I may need, such as articulation or vocabulary cards, books or other visuals, or any manipulatives necessary. I keep all of that within an arm’s reach of where I sit in my room. This year, I share my office, and don’t have the luxury of my nice big assessment cabinet by my side like I did last year, so I’ll have to use some real estate on my desk.

OK, that was a TON! Thanks for hanging in there till the end! If you have any questions, please comment below. Did I leave something out? Just ask! I’m also interested in your system. What do you do? Do you think it’s the best system ever? Let me know! I’m always looking for a way to make the day-to-day operations easier.

This post originally appeared on Adaptable, Flexible, & Versatile Speech-Language Therapy.

Karen Dickson, MA, CCC-SLP/L is in her fifth year as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Currently, she works for Valley View School District in Bolingbrook, Illinois. She provides speech-language services to students in pre-school through fifth grade. She has recently been inspired to start her own blog and invites you to visit her site at  http://afvslp.blogspot.com.

Speech Therapy and Aging: Implications for Our Approach to Communication Disorders

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This post is the beginning of a monthly series by Betty Schreiber, M.M.S. CCC-SLP, on Aging, Communication, Cognition, and Speech Therapy.

Thank you for allowing me to be a new blogger on ASHASphere. I currently supervise Graduate Students at the Ladge Speech and Hearing Clinic at LIU/Post in Brookville, New York. Along with my wonderful business partner, Gail Weissman MA. CCC-SLP, and amazing programmers at Objectgraph LLC, I am also creating Apps designed specifically for our older clients.

As I am at the younger end of what would be considered the “baby boomer” generation, and currently working with adults who have begun to age and suffer communication disorders, I am particularly sensitive to the effect of aging and the social impact of communication disorders amongst this population.

As people get older, it is a fact that health and physical mobility are crucial elements in their ability to function in daily life, interact, and participate normally in society. Even older people who have simply aged with no other issues experience increasing isolation. Their spouses and friends move or pass away, leaving fewer opportunities for social interaction.

The baby boomers are aging and will become a large part of the population in the next 20 years. The Center for Disease Control in collaboration with the Merke Company Foundation has developed information on aging in America with a state by state assessment.

They listed 15 key indicators of older adult health:

  • Physically Unhealthy Days
  • Frequent Mental Distress
  • Oral Health: Complete Tooth Loss
  • Disability
  • No Leisure-Time Physical Activity
  • Eating ≥ 5 Fruits and Vegetables Daily
  • Obesity
  • Current Smoking
  • Flu Vaccine in Past Year
  • Ever Had Pneumonia Vaccine
  • Mammogram Within Past 2 Years
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening
  • Up-to-date on Select Preventive Services
  • Cholesterol Checked in Past 5 Years
  • Hip Fracture Hospitalizations

These factors have an impact on our aging family members ability to attend the therapies they need, maintain cognitive function, communicate and be self-sufficient. The majority of our elderly prefer to stay in a familiar environment even if it means living alone or with some outside help.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Profile of Older Americans 2011, about 29% (11.3 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (8.1 million women, 3.2 million men), almost half of older women (47%) age 75+ live alone. The number of Americans aged 45-64, (I’m in that batch) who will reach 65 over the next two decades increased by 31% during this decade. Over one in every eight, or 13.1%, of the population is an older American. This demographic information along with changes in the federal budget and insurance reimbursement should be of concern to us, as professionals. Not only in terms of how we will make a living, but how will we be able to provide needed support and efficient services so that treatment approaches do not have to cost more money. Therapy can be more effective if we address communication and interaction within the framework of the aging living situation as a whole.

In one of the blogs on our website, I told a story of my own family experience. My grandmother, who was about 83 at the time, was placed in the middle of the livingroom while family and friends spoke to each other around her. (I was about 26 and a SLP for 3 years) She was able to hear well enough, and speak well enough, but the attitudes of the younger people were such that unless she made a ruckus, no one felt it was necessary to include her in the conversation! This isolation while surrounded by a bustling family, negatively affected her attention to her surroundings.

Part of my therapy approach with adult clients is to educate and include the families and caregivers in the therapeutic process as much as possible. Our family questionnaire includes questions such as: How many times do you talk to (our client) during the day. We also ask about the client’s speaking interactions at home or in a group of people. I have found that some family members want us to “fix” their husband or wife and want no additional responsibility. But we can talk to them to help them slowly understand that their situation will be better if they are aware of how they can help and use the adaptive tools we are giving them. We are not asking them to do the therapy or practice. We help them with resources in our community and teach them about paired communication and listening. The families, caregivers, even SNF staff should be encouraged to develop a communication routine that allows interaction not mere reaction.

There will be more on this topic in subsequent postings. Any of the Indicators of Older Adult Health frequency may impact our therapy attendance and reimbursement. What does this mean in terms of available services, advocacy, health care coverage, families and caregivers education/training? How can we, as Speech Language Pathologists recognize and support individuals and families in distress and facilitate communication awareness, not only with our clients who are coming for therapy, but for our aging population as a whole?

Betsy C. Schreiber, MMS, CCC-SLP, received a BA  in Psychology and MMS Master of Medical Science in Speech Pathology from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her CCC was earned during the 3 years she worked at Hitchcock Rehabilitation Center in Aiken, South Carolina where she had the opportunity to learn about NDT and Sensory Integration with the original, Jane Ayres, working with LD and CP children and neurologically impaired adults. She is currently a clinical supervisor at Ladge Speech and Hearing Clinic at LIU/Post on Long Island, and a partner at Hope 4 Speech Associates, P.C. She has also served as an ASHA Mentor and hopes to participate in ASHA’s  Political Action Committee in the coming year.

Tiffani Wallace’s 2012 Top CEU Courses, Books and Apps Related to Dysphagia

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2012 was full of a lot of new experiences for me.  I was approached at the beginning of the year to begin speaking on dysphagia for PESI.  My first speaking engagements were in North Carolina in December.  I absolutely loved it!  Granted, I still have some kinks to iron out in the professional speaking world, but all in all, I thought it went pretty well.  I can’t wait for my next speaking engagement in January down south again, then in Illinois in June. I continued work on my BRS-S and finally was accepted!  Not only accepted, I passed my test!  I can now officially put BRS-S after my name.  Such long-sought and hard-earned letters!

Soon after I earned my BRS-S, I was promoted to Rehab Director of our department.  I’m still learning the ropes and working on improving our department.  I love the new job duties though.

I went to ASHA and had the opportunity to visit old friends and meet new friends.  As always, I had such a fun time!  I again had the opportunity to present a poster session.  It had a great turnout.  I worked in the SmartyEars booth, which is so much fun.  It’s always great to meet people and show off SmartyEars apps.  I always feel a lot of pride when people want to see a demonstration of Dysphagia2Go.  I would love to say that I attend the ASHA convention for the CEU’s, but I attend for the socialization.  That is one week of the year I feel like I am in “SLP heaven”.

I decided to end this post with a list.  Everyone always wants to know my recommendations.  Here are my top CEU courses, books and apps related to dysphagia.

Top CEU courses:

The VitalStim course by CIAO seminars is invaluable.  It’s absolutely great information, with such a huge emphasis on anatomy and physiology.  It is definitely worth the price whether you use the device or not.

MBSImP course by Bonnie Martin-Harris, provided by Northern Speech Services is another outstanding course.  Again, this course is based on the anatomy and physiology of the swallow and using it in interpretation of Modified Barium Swallow Studies.

Of course, my Dysphagia course.  I like to think that it is full of invaluable information.  :)

Top Books on Dysphagia:

Dysphagia Following Stroke by Stephanie K. Daniels and Maggie Lee Huckabee is absolutely excellent.  I’m in the process of re-reading it.  It is a book I will keep.


Drugs and Dysphagia
.  Great reference.


The Source for Dysphagia
by Nancy Swigert is my bible.  I love that book.


Clinical Anatomy and Physiology of the Swallowing Mechanism
.  Absolutely must-read!!


My Top Apps for Dysphagia

Of course my top vote goes to Dysphagia2Go.  I use this app all the time when I do a clinical evaluation of swallowing.  It lets me input all my data and then allows me to print a report of my findings.  This app is available for $39.99 on iTunes.

Dysphagia by Northern Speech Services costs $9.99 and offers amazing pictures of swallowing and swallowing deficits to share with your patients.

Lab Tests is a $2.99 app that allows you to look up lab values, their meanings and why the tests are performed.  This app does not require wi-fi to run.

Micromedex is a free drug app that is amazing and gives you not only information about the drug, but possible side effects, warnings, etc.  You can look up virtually any drug.

Cranial nerves is a $2.99 app that gives you information on all 12 cranial apps.  Not only does it give you the in-app information, but also allows you to, with the push of a button, access further information on the app on Wikipedia and Google.

 

I hope everyone has an amazing 2013.  I so look forward to all the new and great things to come!

This post is based on a post that originally appeared on Dysphagia Ramblings.

Tiffani Wallace, CCC-SLP, has been an SLP specializing in Dysphagia for over 11 years.  Tiffani has been very active in the social media world, creating 2 Facebook groups, Dysphagia Therapy Group and Dysphagia Therapy Group-Professional Edition.  Tiffani is also the co-author of the app Dysphagia2Go, available on iTunes.  She is preparing to travel nationally and speak on the topic of Dysphagia.  Tiffani writes a blog called Dysphagia Ramblings and is the author of www.dysphagiaramblings.com.  She is a 5 time ACE awardee and recently obtained her BRS-S.

Collaboration Corner: Rethinking the IEP: Making Language the Foundation of Academics

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Collaboration Corner is a new monthly column written for ASHAsphere by Kerry J. Davis, E.d.D, CCC/SLP.  Kerry will focus on different themes that involve collaborating with colleagues and other disciplines. Thank you Kerry for sharing your ideas with the ASHA community!

We welcome guest bloggers and columnists; if you’d like to write for ASHAsphere, please fill out a blogger application here.

I work in a totally inclusive school district as an inclusion speech-language pathologist. My caseload consists of the neediest students in the district. Those kids are simply fascinating to me. I work with the soup-to-nuts kids; kids with severe learning challenges, kids with social-emotional disabilities, kids who are nonverbal. You know the kids where you try and crawl inside their neurology and figure out how they perceive the world? These students push me to be a better clinician. More importantly, they make me want to think creatively on how to make public school and inclusion work for them.

All of my students participate in a general education classroom. Students attend their neighborhood schools and access their day with a host of academic supports. All of my students have goals that allow meaningful access to math, language arts, science and social studies. And here’s the funny part, while all of my students have communication disorders, I am working to eliminate the designated “speech and language” section of many students’ IEPs.

Imagine taking the speech and language section off of the IEP! I can sense the collective raising of eyebrows….

But here’s the deal. I believe that one of the best parts of being a speech-language pathologist is that opportunities for learning are never-ending. Language is everywhere. Bruner (1996) discussed the need to connect learning through meaningful interaction. People learn when they can relate new information with old information. Semantic-connections allow for learning. Language is the vehicle for that connection.

So let’s back up to the IEP. Why do we tend to compartmentalize language and communication to a single goal area? It is unnecessary, and dare I say…inappropriate.

Collaborative goal-writing

So perhaps we should rethink our approach. A student’s IEP is based upon the team’s recommendations.

Integrating language-based goals throughout the IEP also encourages team ownership. Distributing language-based objectives throughout the IEP underscores the connection between language and academics. For students who need extra repetition and meaningful practice across contexts, these collaborative efforts foster skill generalization. So how does that look in an IEP? Here are some ideas my school-based teams have used (as a part of measurable objectives of course):

Math:

  • Develop the concepts of less, more, some
  • Answering wh-questions related to quantity
  • Following directions in a recipe, including gathering appropriate tools and materials

Science:

  • Provide similarities and differences(feature/function/class) between target vocabulary words
    • simple machines
    • animals and habitats
    • weather
    • states of matter
  • Using temporal markers, will demonstrate understanding of  a plant/animal life cycle
  • Answering wh-questions related to non-fiction text and picture books

Social studies/geography:

  • Matching clothing with seasons
  • Using attributes to describe the weather
  • Identifying and answering personal and biographical information (town, street, school)
  • From a book or activity, answer who, where, what doing, and when questions related to other countries and communities

English Language Arts:

  • Answering wh-questions related to character, setting and supporting events
  • Using temporal markers to create a personal narrative from a photograph
  • Use a home journal template to retell a two activities of the day
  • From a photo, use adjectives to describe an event or activity
  • Sequence pictures representing events from a picture book

Independence:

  • Communicating self-advocacy,
  • Asking clarifying questions,
  • Following checklists related to daily routines,
  • Following 2-step group directions

Some words of advice

I’ve used these ideas with children who have a variety of skill abilities. I use these ideas with children who have moderate to severe cognitive and communication challenges. Many use high-tech assistive technology tools, to accomplish these goals. Others use fill-in-the-blank cut and paste activities. The key is to scaffold the concepts in a way that will be meaningful. This does not mean lowering the bar for learning, these means thinking about how to embed naturalistically these ideas throughout the school day. Checklists can be used as part of getting ready in the morning. Narrative writing may include templates and photographs, or writing a letter home at the end of the day. Sequencing can be used in “how-to” books, or describing the life cycle of a frog. Comparisons can be drawn between a student’s home, and the Native American Wetu. All of these examples connect language concepts and learning in a meaningful way.

Gather the expertise in your team members and make the IEP work for those students that challenge you; you will be better practitioner for it. Not every team will be ready for this change. Through thoughtful discussion, creative planning and patience, the shift may not be as hard as you think.

References:

Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Dr. Kerry Davis is a city-wide speech-language pathologist in the Boston area. Her area of interest includes augmentative alternative communication, and working with children with multiple disabilities and learning challenges. I welcome various perspectives and lively dialogue. The views on this blog are my own and do not represent those of my employer. Dr. Davis can be followed on Twitter at @DrKDavisslp.