Friday, May 22, 2015

Why We Play {BHSM Part 3}

Hello! Welcome to Part 3 of my Early Intervention series in honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month. 

You can find Part 1, Why Early Intervention? here, where you can enter to win a copy of Teach Me to Talk: The Therapy Manual. 

Part 2, Being a Bagless SLP, can be found here.

Play. When you think of the word play, what do you imagine? Do you see kids running around the park? Maybe you see them blowing bubbles in the backyard, or kicking a ball back and forth. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines play as follows: "To engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose." The first part of that definition makes sense, right? When we play, we are doing the activity for fun. We aren't forced to do it, we want to do it because we enjoy it. 

It's the second part of that definition that I have problems with- "rather than a serious or practical purpose." You see, as an Early Intervention therapist, play is both serious and practical. Not serious in the sense of stern and uptight, but rather in the sense of importance. 

Children not only have fun during play, but they learn during play. You aren't going to find many 2 or 3 year-olds that will sit at a table and work on flashcards or a worksheet. You will, however, find 2 and 3 year-olds engaging in play. 

Using a child's natural instincts to play, we can target all of our speech and language goals. From establishing eye contact, to joint attention, to that first word, there is no better way to learn than through actively participating. Children are also more likely to learn when they are doing something that they enjoy.  

Don't limit play to just the birth-three population, though. Children continue to play, and continue to learn, through their school age years. Work on past tense verbs by acting out a story that happened yesterday, practice organization and narrative skills while the ninja turtles are battling the bad guy, work on those s-blends while slithering your snakes around the speech room. The only thing holding us back is our own imaginations. Our kids already possess the tools to learn through play, so let's let them learn.

How do you target skills through play? What else would you like to know about learning through play?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Being a Bagless SLP {BHSM Part 2}

Hello there! If you're just tuning in, this is Part 2 of my series of posts on Early Intervention to celebrate this year's Better Hearing and Speech Month's theme: Early Intervention Counts. 

You can find Part 1 of my series, Why Early Intervention? here! While you're there be sure to enter my GIVEAWAY of Teach Me to Talk: The Therapy Manual

Now let's get down to business. I know what you're thinking- An EI therapist that doesn't have a toy bag? What does she do? I don't know when EI therapists became known for bringing a bag of toys into therapy, but it is still a common practice. In fact, in my very first visit to my first client's house, I walk in and the mom says, "Oh, you don't have any toys?" I looked around the room and politely said, "It looks like your child has plenty of toys to play with here!" and grabbed a toy and started playing. 

After that session, I began to explain why I didn't have a toy bag during my initial visit. To me, it makes perfect sense why I wouldn't bring in any toys: I am with a child for one hour. 1 hour out of the 168 hours in a week. Sure my toy would be new and exciting for a child, but what happens when I leave? The parents are left without the toy I brought in and no idea how to carry over what we did in our session throughout the rest of the week. By using the toys already present in the child's environment, I can show the parent or caregiver the best way to play with the toy with their child, give them examples of language to model, and give suggestions for more practice once I leave. 

But don't limit yourself to toys! To begin with, some of our houses might not have toys available to use. Here's where you can let your creative juices flow. Head outside and pick some dandelions, dig in dirt for worms, play hopscotch, climb on the jungle gym. Stay inside and use the couch cushions and a blanket to build a fort, search through the cabinets and make drums out of pots and a spoon, help with a load of laundry or the sink full of dishes, eat a snack or help cook lunch, get out the shaving cream and get messy. 

The possibilities are literally endless, you just have to be open to take a chance. Sure, you might fail. I would be lying if I said every one of my sessions went perfectly. However, I can honestly say that my kids are learning. Not just when I'm there, but when I'm gone. By incorporating our unique skill set and knowledge into a child's daily routine with things present in their natural environment, we are equipping them with the tools for success. 

Since I just started venturing into the EI world last fall, it was easy for me to go bagless; I just didn't bring one to my first sessions and I haven't regretted my decision since. But what if you've been doing EI for 10 years and have brought toys into every session? I'm not saying to completely abandon the toys, unless you are up for the challenge! Start small. Choose one client that you feel comfortable with and whose parents are on board for the change. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be keeping the toy bag in the car for all of your sessions. 

Now I don't want to fool you and say that I never bring toys into a child's home. There are certain circumstances when you need to bring something in. You might be working on feeding and bring in a puppet to play with. Or maybe the kid isn't interested in anything, so you decide to bring in a bottle of bubbles, because every kid loves bubbles, right? Or there's a goal on the IFSP that you know you can meet if you could only bring in this one toy. So bring it in, play with it, and show the parents the success their child is having. The last 15 minutes of the session, put your toy away and help the parents determine how they can work on something similar with what they have in their home. Make sure that they are able to have success with their own items before you leave. The next session, you might not have to bring that toy back in. 

I hope that if you are an Early Intervention SLP, you will consider ditching the bag for one session and seeing how it goes. You might decide that you hate it. At least you tried! Or, you might decide that you like not having to lug that heavy bag around. (Your shoulder might thank you as well!)

My friend over at Sublime Speech recently did a 3 part series about being a "Bagless SLP", so be sure to check out her posts as well! You can view a great parent testimonial video on their thoughts of the toy bag there too. 

Have you tried going bagless? What has been your biggest challenge or your best moment? I'd love to hear! 

Be sure to enter my giveaway of Teach Me to Talk: The Therapy Manual on Part 1 of this blog series. And check out Part 3, Why We Play, here!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Why Early Intervention? {BHSM Part 1}

Welcome to part one of my mini series on Better Hearing and Speech Month: Early Intervention! Like I said last week, this year's theme is Early Intervention Counts. The sooner therapy is started, the better the outcomes. So, why does it take as long as two years before a speech and/or language impairment is not only detected but acted on?

The simple answer- awareness!  45% of speech-language pathologists and audiologists believe that lack of awareness is the leading barrier to early detection. 57% of parents don't realize that without early detection, treatment takes longer and is more expensive. And as many as 64% of parents are unaware of the early signs to a speech and language disorder. 

Check out the info-graphic below to see how early intervention is transformative, efficient, necessary, and accessible

So what can we do? Spread the word! Help parents identify the signs of early speech and language disorders. Below are a few common signs of speech and language disorders. Find more at Identify the Signs
  • Doesn't smile or interact with others (birth +)
  • Doesn't babble (4-7 months)
  • Makes only a few sounds or gestures (7-12 months)
  • Says only a few words (12-18 months)
  • Words are not easily understood (18 months-2 years)
  • Doesn't put words together to make sentences (2-3 years)
  • Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2-3 years)
  • Repeats first sounds of words or stretches sounds out in words (2.5-3 years)
  • Uses a hoarse, breathy, or nasal-sounding voice

In honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month and their theme of Early Intervention Counts, I'm giving away a copy of Laura Mize's Teach Me to Talk: Therapy Manual. This manual provides info on WHY we do what we do in early intervention, as well as outlines therapy goals with many examples on how to target the goals in your sessions. A $54 value! The contest will be open until May 31st. A winner will be announced on June 1st! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out Part 2 of the series, Being a Bagless SLP, here
And you can find Part 3, Why We Play, here.

All information collected from ASHA's campaign: Identify the Signs.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is here-and in SLP land that means that Better Hearing and Speech Month has arrived! This year's theme is "Early Intervention Counts". After working in Early Intervention this year, I have never found this statement to be more true.

Join me each Friday in May as I highlight Early Intervention in informative blog posts. I will also be hosting a giveaway-you won't want to miss this! Check back next week for more details. And in the mean time, head to to find out more about ASHA's campaign to help us all identify the signs of communication disorders a little earlier.