Five Tips to Help Students Review Skills Over Summer Break


According to the website of the National Summer Learning Association, “all young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer.” I want to help support my middle-schoolers’ language skills during this time. This year, I put together a handout with suggestions on what families can do over the break:

1. Visit a Museum

  • While at the museum, go on a scavenger hunt. There are plenty of pre-made hunts online. Some scavenger hunts ask simple “wh” questions and others may require critical thinking. The best part is that the students are learning without even realizing it!
  • Ask students to come home with three facts they learned. They can take pictures (if allowed) as a reminder and/or jot down details.
  • On the way to museum, review common museum terms such as exhibit, ancient, extinct, era, discovery and more.

2. Write a journal

For students who need to work on writing skills, suggest journaling. Ask them to create a summer writing journal and decorate it. Students can write what they do day-to-day, or print a list of pre-made writing prompts. I found a sample list of writing prompts online.

3. Play language games

SLPs often collect and hoard board games that we use to reinforce target goals. Why not share some of these with parents? Common games played in my room appropriate for middle school include:

  • Apples to Apples
  • You’ve Been Sentenced
  • Trigger
  • Baffle Gab

4. Read, read, read.

I know this seems obvious, but it’s so important for kids to continue reading over the summer. In my school, we charge kids with reading every day for at least an hour. Send home a list of books that kids in your caseload may enjoy reading. Also, encourage parents to ask their kids questions about characters, problems, solutions, settings and other story details.

5. Cook

Why not try a new hobby while home for the summer? Older students can make many yummy dishes and cooking offers another fun way for parents to engage with their kids. You can find plenty of no-bake recipes online for kids who stay home alone during the day. Reading a recipe teaches following directions, comprehension and vocabulary. It’s also a pretty important life skill (in my opinion).

These are just some ideas to help your kids get going and keep busy this summer! What summer activities do you suggest for your older kids?

Gabriella Schecter, MS, CCC-SLP, is a full-time SLP working in a grade 6-12 school. She posts regularly on Instagram (@middleschoolSLP), sharing ideas and activities for this age group. Check out her blog or contact her at

‘You are Lifting People’s Voices and Lives,’ StoryCorps Creator Tells Conference Attendees

family photos“Every life matters equally and infinitely.”

That lesson is one that Dave Isay has learned in the process of compiling more than 60,000 conversation through “StoryCorps,” the project that collects recordings of conversations between everyday people. The author, documentarian and StoryCorps founder opened the 2015 ASHA Schools Conference and Health Care Business Institute by sharing some of those stories in a joint plenary session.

The project began as a single recording booth in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and now includes mobile audio booths that travel throughout the country and a recently launched mobile app. Millions of listeners tune in weekly to hear them on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The premise is simple: Come into the booth with someone you care about and, with the assistance of a facilitator, conduct a 40-minute interview.

What often ensues, Isay says, is a discussion centered on “If I had 40 minutes to live, what would I tell the person I love?”

He shared recordings of an older couple, both before and after the husband was diagnosed with cancer. The story of a renowned surgeon, who reveres his late father—a janitor and chauffeur—and who says, “I hope I can be just half the man he was.” A conversation between a woman and the man who, at 16, murdered her son, about forgiveness and the deep relationship they have since forged. The actor who stutters and who concludes, “Who would I be if I didn’t stutter? I would be a completely different person.”

A man with Alzheimer’s disease is interviewed by his two daughters. “I have no regrets,” he says. “I have a family I love and they’re loving people. That’s the biggest thing you can leave.” And a daughter responds, “You created such love. We want to be around you.”

A mother who has developmental disabilities tells her interviewer—her teenage daughter—“I am thankful because you love me and understand me.” A mother asks her 10-year-old son—who at 4 asked Santa to allow his younger sister to hear—about growing up with a sister who is deaf. “Well, I get to meet a lot of hearing-impaired people I wouldn’t have gotten to know,” he responds. “And when kids make fun of her, I tell her they’re just jealous because she gets to do cool things like learn sign language and stuff.”

The recordings often evoke deep emotions, as evidenced by the number of session attendees reaching into pockets and purses for tissues.

This “collection of the wisdom of humanity,” as Isay describes it, is testament to the work of communication sciences and disorders professionals. “You work very hard,” he told the audience, “and you love your work. You are lifting people’s voices and lives. You help give them voice, love and hope.”

Speech-language pathologists are “so much about what we do at StoryCorps,” Isay said. “We shake people on the shoulder and say, ‘This is what’s important.’”

Isay concluded with a favorite quote of Mr. Rogers, the beloved children’s television host, but attributed to a Philadelphia nun: “It’s impossible not to love someone whose story you’ve heard.”

“We love you for the work you do,” Isay told the audience. “Keep loving and listening.”

Carol Polovoy is managing editor of The ASHA Leader.

‘Listen,’ Was a Main Message at ASHA’s Health Care/Business Institute

man listening


If speech-language pathologists at the Health Care/Business Institute took home just one lesson from the three days chock-full of advice about practice, leadership and business management, it would have to be that simple message.

Listen: to your clients and patients, to their family members, to potential clients, to colleagues. In session after session, presenters underscored the importance of nonjudgmental, focused listening.
Opening plenary speaker Dave Isay, creator of StoryCorps, didn’t have to tell conference attendees how important listening is—he showed them, playing audio tapes of a handful of StoryCorps’ 60,000-plus recorded conversations between everyday people.

But his message was clear: You discover the wisdom, poetry and grace of people when you listen to their stories. (Tomorrow’s blog post will further explore his presentation, “Connecting Through Stories: StoryCorps and You.”)

In a pre-conference workshop on Internet success for businesses, Ria Godoy of Online Internet Results also focused on listening when you build a website. She cautioned against loading a website with information you want prospective customers to know. Instead, she suggested writing information from the client’s point of view: What do prospective clients want to know? What are the 20 most common questions people have about your practice?

“When you know too much about your service, you can’t know what information users will find useful” unless you ask them and listen to their answers, she says.

Jacqueline Hinckley, of Choose Quality LLC, emphasized the client’s priorities in treatment for aphasia. “What does the person with aphasia want to do?” she asked. Clinicians can help clients gain the ability to carry out the activities most important to them. By listening to what the client wants—ordering food in a restaurant or talking about politics with friends, for example—the SLP can make the most of treatment time.

SLP Paula Leslie of the University of Pittsburgh and nurse Maria DePasquale of Community LIFE echoed the importance of listening to a client’s wishes in their session on ethical decision-making in feeding issues. Even though Leslie says the appropriate question to ask is simple—“How can we make your life better?”—listening to the answer can be hard. “Silence is difficult,” she said. “It can make us uncomfortable.” But care providers have a responsibility to “shut down their internal jabbering” and listen, and even to elicit more questions from patients and their families.

And Juan-Jose Beunza, a physician with the Universidad Europea in Spain, addressed the importance of listening in his plenary session, “Interprofessional Practice: Managing Emotions and Interpersonal Communication.” On successful interprofessional teams, he says, team members demonstrate their regard for one another by listening.

Listening involves giving silence, “not at your comfort level, but at the level of others,” Beunza said. It also includes internal silence, “shutting down your own prejudices,” and asking open questions that don’t involve solutions or carry judgment.

And when you find the value in others through listening, he said, be sure to express it.


Carol Polovoy is managing editor of The ASHA Leader.

HCBI: Where Passion and Knowledge Collide

Save life and knowledge concept
Save life and knowledge concept

Let’s just face it…I’m a conference geek! From my previous career in higher ed student affairs to now, I’ve thrived on attending conferences: the sessions, the networking, the energy… I could go on and on about what I LOVE about conferences!

So attending the ASHA Health Care and Business Institute was a no-brainer! Especially since it was in Phoenix, which meant no travel and hotel costs. I’ve attended ASHA’s national convention for four years now, but this was my first HCBI and as I write this blog on Sunday night, I’m 100 percent certain it won’t be my last.

As I reflect on the conference and the three days that flew by here are some things that left an impression:

1. No overflow rooms to worry about! While I love the hustle and bustle of the national convention, the smaller size and more focused topic tracks at HCBI left me feeling like I had soaked in a lot more knowledge, and with ideas I could implement come Monday morning. Sessions were the right size, allowing speakers to delve deep, cover research and practice, while still leaving time for questions. It also allowed for more personal interactions with names you probably only read in journals and textbooks before, and opportunities for new friendships because you sat with many of the same clinicians from one session to another. Many sessions were a two-part series which helped broaden the knowledge base, and you could really immerse yourself into a topic if you so wished. I’ve been talking about topic tracks for years and was so excited to finally experience it at HCBI. I wasn’t running around between sessions trying get a piece here and a piece there and oh look! Three sessions I want to go to are all the same time. Nope! Not at HCBI.

2. Take risks and know you’re supported! After waiting anxiously to hear if my submission was accepted, I was ecstatic to read the poster acceptance email. And just as quickly, I became nervous! I’m presenting a poster at a conference full of highly experienced researchers and clinicians! What if I mess up? The experience was quite the opposite. Clinicians of varied experience levels stopped by, asked questions, appreciated the work my colleague and I had done, and even discussed future collaborations. I was thrilled when a presenter stopped by and asked if she could use the information in her class! This was the experience of a lifetime! Presenting to a more focused audience wasn’t as intimidating after all – we were in this together, trying to make a difference in areas we were all passionate about. Having only 11 posters was a great way to spend quality time reading, assimilating and asking questions.

3. There’s more to the conference than meets the eye! Yes, there’s information to learn and CEUs to earn, but for me, no conference is complete without the behind-the-scenes activities. Since I was local, I reached out to the SIG 13 volunteer coordinator to see if there was anything I could help with. Through a series of events, I ended up introducing some speakers and writing this blog post! I’ve been meaning to rekindle my love for blogging and, let’s be honest … never made time for it. Thanks to HCBI I may actually achieve that goal after all! I’ve also been trying to initiate the Board Certified Specialist in Swallowing application process and was seeking out a mentor. Serendipitously, the speaker I introduced was the very same person I was hoping to connect with. Within moments the wheels were set into motion and my journey has begun. You never know what doors can open unless you knock, and conferences are the perfect opportunity to get more involved in our profession.

Special mentions: No conference blog would be complete without a shout-out to my #slpeeps family! From my first convention in San Diego till lunch this afternoon, there was never a moment when I felt like there wasn’t someone to talk to, someone to discuss successes and challenges with, enjoy a meal or happy hour with …. the value of social media and how small and connected it makes our world! Conferences like this are like family reunions. As much as I love everything I learned about exercise-based dysphagia treatments, pediatric gastroesophageal reflux, managing emotions and interpersonal relationships, and all the ideas that sparked this weekend, the conference would not be the same without these social connections that comfort, support and inspire!

Here’s to more bright ideas … more sparks of knowledge … more creative collaborations! See you in Minneapolis for #HCBI16. Until then, shine on!

Ramya Kumar, MS, CCC-SLP, is a hospital-based speech-language pathologist specializing in pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders. She also works in adult acute-care settings. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. Follow her on Twitter at @thatspeechy.