Treating Autism With Marijuana—Good or Bad?

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An article posted today on Forbes offers anecdotal and scientific—what little exists—pros and cons of using marijuana to treat people with autism as well as schizophrenia.

The lack of scientific research might change thanks to the Obama administration’s removal of bureaucratic hoops in studying various chemical found in the plant. In addition, the proposed CARERS Act promoting new applications of medical marijuana enjoys bipartisan support. As noted in the piece, numerous chemicals exist within a marijuana plant, so one could potentially be helpful while another harmful. One example says that heart patients don’t take foxglove, they take digoxin–a chemical found in the foxglove plant.

The article also shares personal success stories and grassroots organizations convinced of the drug’s benefits in treating autism.

Summer Postcards for Social and Language Skills

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As the school year winds down, parents often ask me for easy summer activities to support goals we’ve been addressing all year. Some of my favorite tips involve postcards.

Dear Me

Writing a daily postcard each night of vacation builds sequencing skills (or grammar or vocab or any expressive language skill). I ask families to come up with three to four activities they did that day or three to four elements from a big event. Parents may take (verbatim) dictation, but I always ask that the child sign off. I often suggest doing this in a restaurant while waiting for food to arrive, because family meals are a typical time to discuss what happened that day.

If it’s feasible, I ask parents to mail the postcard home each day. If not, they act as postmaster once home by mailing one a day.

This mail generates a lot of post-vacation excitement. The little one gets mail several days in a row and hears or reads activity sequences again. Kiddos love stories they star in! They are also a great keepsake and less arduous than keeping a travel journal.

I ask parents to bring the postcards in for a couple of sessions once school starts again. They give me and my students something tangible to review and I have a reference point for topics and questioning. They also provide a great starting point for class projects on “what I did on my summer vacation.” Our students appreciate the memory boost for generating detailed, sequential information about events that happened several weeks earlier.

Goal Nudging

I also use postcards to push goals along during the break from our sessions, which is especially important for fluency students.

My student and I come up with five to seven summer goals (with a variety of difficulty). Each goal gets written individually on a postcard (hometown or generic), stamped and addressed to me. As the student completes the goal, they simply sign their name and drop it in the mail. I encourage a sentence or two of feedback, particularly from older students, but I don’t insist. If I don’t receive a postcard within the first month or so of summer break, I send a postcard reminder of my own!

I use these activities with K-12 students, but I think they would adapt easily to adult populations as well.

Kimberly Swon Lewis, ME, CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the author of the ActivityTailor.com blog. kim.lewis@activity.tailor.com

 

 

Am I an SLP With a Social Communication Problem?

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Have you ever pondered your social relevance, like an iPhone 5 right after the iPhone 6 comes out? Sure, you still look pretty good and have barely been used, so why is everyone already lining up to trade you in for a newer model? As a 28-year-old SLP working with junior high kids, I think about this a lot. I’m not that old and, therefore, relatively “cool” and in tune with what kids like … right?

The other day, during one of my many social skills groups, it hit me. I just might be an SLP with a social communication problem. My second realization was that I hadn’t been using the same advice I give my students. Like a broken record, I instruct my students on the rules of making and keeping friends. Week after week I serve up the same social strategies, such as find common topics of interest, initiate small talk and add relevant information.

However, the awkward social elephant in the room was me! I knew relatively little about the topics my students enjoyed.

Kids communicate in ways that we, as SLPs, and most adults don’t even understand. Surely it’s not for us to keep up with the five-second attention spans of adolescents and their never-ending pop culture nonsense. But, on the other hand, how can we teach social communication skills if we don’t know how kids are communicating or what’s important to them?

If a student asks me for help on inviting other kids over for a party, I advise to shoot a quick text. Email is considered far too formal and they’d laugh at the idea of a thoughtful handwritten note on engraved cardstock. So I do need to keep up with the times. I help kids talk and socialize for a living. But I need to do that using things from their world, not mine. Also, many of my students already struggle to know what’s socially important or appropriate, so it’s up to me to fill in the blanks.

I had some homework to do. That evening, I spent a hot second on Google and ended up learning way more about One Direction, Ariana Grande and CW series than I ever cared to. Talk about an unnecessary wake-up call!

As an SLP, however, I use the socially relevant information to relate to my students. The difference between good and great treatment comes down to preparation and knowledge. The more I learned, the better my sessions and conversations with my kids became. It will for you as well.

On a side note, did you know that there’s a Wikipedia knockoff site called Wookieepedia? As the name might imply, the information covers all things Star Wars. Trust me, your kids with autism spectrum disorder sure know about it.

Since making it a priority to spend a few minutes here and there searching celebrity gossip or other trends, my social groups changed for the better. My kids find it incredibly cool that I actively participate in conversations about the newest apps, superhero movies and hot video games.

I’m not suggesting anyone run out to buy the newest gaming system. I’m just saying that as we teach students to communicate in the world, let’s participate in the conversation ourselves.

#foodforthought #pragmatics #speechtherapy

 

Ken Anderson, MS, CCC-SLP, is a school-based SLP in Los Angeles. Follow him on Instagram @slpken or email kenwanderson87@gmail.com.

10 Low-Cost, Low-Tech Tools for SLPs Treating Teens and Adults

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With summer—and client travel—around the corner, I’m sharing ideas for non-electronic treatment activities that are low-cost, portable and ideal for adults with developmental disabilities. Use these activities in the treatment room and for families who want to work on speech, language and communication goals between sessions. Encourage clients to take these materials along during summer travel, on the beach or on a short trip in the community.

Whenever I work with older teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities, I focus on finding age-appropriate activities. An older client might feel disempowered by a childlike activity.

Most people also already own these materials!

  1. Newspapers. A newspaper—which may cost less than $5, depending on the paper—serves as a multipurpose treatment tool. Even better—some papers are free! Target literacy, answering and asking questions about current events, searching for a movie time and location, and social skills or abstract language in the comics section. Check out how to use comics to meet speech and language goals.
  2. Magazines. I love using magazines as a treatment tool with adults. Age-appropriate and interesting, magazines contain a variety of articles, pictures, advertisements and more. Also, the magazines your clients choose may give you insights into their interests and motivations. I recently asked one of my clients to choose a magazine at the local convenience store. I expected him to choose a food or car magazine, but he gleefully went straight for the gossip rag. We had a productive session afterward discussing various sections in the magazine via his communication device.
  3. Grocery circulars. Use free circulars to learn money management, categories (such as food groups) and new food vocabulary. Other goals include facilitating commenting and describing. Circulars also act as conversation starters: “What would you buy at the grocery store?” “I want to make steak and eggs for breakfast. What do I need to buy?”
  4. Brochures/catalogs. Brochures and catalogs—another free option—motivate and engage clients depending on their interests. If your client likes electronics, bring an electronics catalog, for example. Discuss prices, various types of equipment and what they like versus dislike. The same approach works for clothing, gardening or home décor catalogs.
  5. Subway/bus maps. Also free and functional! Work on travel training, literacy and map reading with these resources. Language concepts include problem-solving, sequencing and answering “wh” questions.
  6. Menus. I’m sticking with the free theme, here! And what’s more functional than being able to read a menu and make a choice? Check out my previous article on using menus as a treatment tool.
  7. Employment applications. Stop into any fast-food establishment, restaurant, movie theater or retail store and ask for an application. Filling out an application facilitates improved literacy, answering “wh” questions, recalling information, expanding vocabulary, and sequencing by writing the order of educational or work history.
  8. Dominoes. A set of dominoes offers an inexpensive, portable, age-appropriate and fun developmental activity for adults. Practice matching, taking turns, solving problems and following directions.
  9. Playing cards. Ideas for card games include Uno, Go Fish and War. Again, thiese low-cost games double as age-appropriate, accessible, portable and functional treatments. Examples of targeted goals include matching, solving problems, taking turns and prediction.
  10. Board games/bingo. How about a game of Sorry or Connect Four? These games are less than $10 each and teach taking turns, learning colors, following directions and solving problems. A generic bingo game or a customized bingo set also works well. If you have clients who need work on specific vocabulary related to actions, send them home with an action bingo board. Instruct them to use it with family or friends to build vocabulary, practice taking turns and forming complete sentences.

 

Rebecca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor and parent of two young children. She began her website, www.gravitybread.com, to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience. She has worked for many years with children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings, including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. Contact her at becca@gravitybread.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter or Pinterest.

Five Easy Activities to Prevent Summer Brain Drain

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Over the summer, children lose months of reading and math skills, according to several studies. When they return to school in the fall, teachers dedicate five or six weeks to review, rather than pushing students to explore new challenges. Luckily, we can encourage parents to help! In addition to reading, exploring museums and just playing at the park, check out five easy activities to help parents and clients prevent summertime brain drain.

Going on a picnic

  • How to play: The starting player sets up a pattern of what can or can’t be brought on a picnic and doesn’t tell the other players. For example, if only food starting with the letter “s” can be brought, the starting player would say: “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing sandwiches.” Then the other players try to figure out the pattern by guessing words or items that might match the starting word and then listening to what other items are approved.
  • Why it works: This classic game targets memory, word retrieval and vocabulary. Additionally, this is a great game for listening skills!
  • Extra language twist: Work in categories. For example, you must bring fruits, vegetables, clothing items or words that start with a certain letter or sound.

Alphabet game

  • How to play: Start by looking for a word on a sign or billboard that starts with “A”… Once you find a word that starts with “A,” look for one that starts with “B”—go through the entire alphabet! Warning: This game can become quite competitive if you have a “race” to the end of the alphabet.
  • Extra challenge: To make it even harder, make a rule that all players must use an original word—no repeats!
  • Why it works: It’s not an overwhelming amount to read and it still targets articulation sounds and letter identification. It really is so much fun!

I spy

  • How to play: Players describe an item they see.
  • Why it works: Through this game you can work on describing, word-retrieval strategies and listening skills while still having a stress-free, enjoyable time!
  • Extra language twist: Work on “wh-questions” by encouraging players to ask questions to get more information about the object. Also, you may want to limit the objects to certain categories to target categorical thinking. For added structure, remind your child to describe by category, how you use it, what it looks like and where you find it.

Heads up

  • How to play: This is both an app and a board game. In this game, a player has a word on his or her head, and other players describe it. The players continue to describe the word until it is guessed correctly.
  • Why it works: This game targets describing, which helps children express their ideas in a specific, clear and effective way. Additionally, this is a great game for listening skills and gathering information!

Twister

  • How to play: This classic board game has a large “game board” with different colored spots. A player spins the spinner and depending on the color it lands on, each player has to put a hand or foot on the designated color.
  • Why it works – You can help your child work on sounds by writing letters on the Twister board, or work on sight words by writing words on the Twister board. Additionally, this is a great game for listening skills and following directions!
  • Extra language twist: If you use a marker to write words instead on the colored dots, you can work on identifying sight words. You can also use words with target sounds for articulation!

 
Emily Jupiter, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist at Alphabet Aerobics Speech and Language Education (www.alphabetaerobicsspeech.com) in Manhattan and Southampton, New York. She works primarily with children ages 6 to 14 who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, and expressive and receptive language disorders. emily@alphabetaerobicsspeech.com.