5 Minute Fact Sheet on Mood Disorders

September 30th, 2015

Mood disorders in children and teens have been recognized for decades – though they can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint. This is especially true in young children or others who may have difficulty describing how they feel.

Generally caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, mood disorders also may be triggered by environmental factors, as in the case of seasonal affective disorder. Students with mood disorders often are either depressed, manic, or alternating between the two.

A Tough Diagnosis

Often, mood disorders go undiagnosed because their symptoms can mimic the normal emotional and behavior patterns associated with growing up. This is particularly true in adolescence, when hormonal changes, peer pressure and rapid physical and cognitive development occur. But left untreated, mood disorders can lead to serious academic and lifestyle problems including school failure, extreme irritability, substance abuse, risky or self-injurious behavior, or even suicide.

Recognize the Signs

It’s normal for everyone – including children and teens – to occasionally feel sad or depressed as the result of upsetting events. With the right love and support, these feelings generally resolve themselves. Symptoms of mood disorders occur or reoccur over an extended period of time and interfere with normal activities and relationships.

Look for these symptoms:

  • In preschoolers: A somber, almost ill appearance; frequent complaints of physical ailments for which no medical basis can be found; lack of enthusiasm or tearfulness for no justifiable reason; spontaneous and unexplained irritability; frequent negative self-statements; self-destructive behavior, or anhedonia.
  • In elementary, middle and high school students: Disruptive behavior; academic difficulty or declining school performance; frequent peer problems; increased irritability or aggression; suicidal threats; anhedonia; statements that they hate themselves and everything around them; excessive sleep; rapid, unpredictable emotional swings; racing thoughts; increased interest in problematic activities such as overspending or drug use; grandiosity and inflated self-esteem; greatly increased or decreased sex drive, or uncharacteristically poor judgment.

Mood Disorders are Treatable

The good news is: Mood disorders are treatable. You can help your affected students by knowing the signs of mood disorders and where and how to get appropriate care.

  • Schools that provide prevention and early intervention-focused services are better equipped to help students with mood disorders. This should include educational programs for students, parents and staff, as well as collaboration with community agencies for referral and follow-up purposes.

Specific treatment should be recommended, after thorough evaluation by child mental health specialists. This treatment should be based on:

  • A student’s age, overall health and medical history.
  • The extent and severity of the condition.
  • The specific type of disorder.
  • The students’ and parents’ tolerance for specific medications, procedures and therapists.
  • The prognosis or expectation for the course of the condition.
  • The opinions and preferences of parents and students, in collaboration with mental health professionals.

Treatment for mood disorders may include medications, psychotherapy or family therapy. Regardless of the specific treatment plan, communication between home and school is critical. Counseling, community referral information and collaborative support must be ongoing. Working together, an involved team of adults can help ensure the ongoing mental health and well-being of every student.


For more information on mood disorders in children and teens, resources include the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and the National Association of School Psychologists.

Cobb Pediatric Therapy offers additional resources in this and other areas to enhance your school psychology practice and career. Contact us today to learn more.

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Ending Impulsive Behavior in the Classroom

September 25th, 2015

A student who behaves impulsively can disrupt a whole class or throw an entire therapy plan off track.

Now that you’ve gotten to know this year’s students a bit, you’re probably beginning to sense those who may pose this challenge – so now is the time to take proactive steps and nip the situation in the bud.

Basic psychology dictates that behaviors that are rewarded tend to reoccur. The opposite also is true – so be sure to reward and promote self-control, not impulsivity.

It’s very simple in theory, but can be a huge hurdle to overcome in terms of practical application. Here are some helpful tips:

Identify problematic themes.

These may include difficulty taking turns, over-interpreting others’ remarks as hostile, personalizing actions excessively, or misreading social clues.

  • Role play hypothetical situations. If possible, involve supportive peers. Then, identify and practice positive alternative responses.
  • Encourage students to “think out loud.” This helps you to gain insight into their reasoning style, and the process will slow them down before they react. You’ll get a better grasp on how they see the world, which will enable you to restructure inaccurate perceptions. Teach your students’ teachers and other involved adults how to do this, in order to provide ongoing practice both in and outside the classroom.

“Stop. Think. Talk. Do”

This technique is central to many cognitive behavioral interventions. Its purpose is to slow down and minimize impulsive responses by teaching students to:

  • Stop before acting impulsively.
  • Think about the case and effect relationship of their intended behavior.
  • Talk – or verbalize to themselves or others what they are about to do.
  • Then do the chosen behavior. 

Keep classroom rules clear and simple.

In order to follow classroom rules, students must first understand them. Don’t take this simple fact for granted.

  • Define and review the rules on a regular, ongoing basis.
  • Implement a classroom behavior management system.
  • Actively reinforce desired behaviors.
  • Use self-monitoring and self-reinforcement during times when students are working independently. Start with brief periods of time and gradually increase them as your students demonstrate success.
  • If necessary, develop contracts with individual students and their parents to reinforce specific behaviors.
  • Set hourly, daily, weekly and monthly goals based on the needs of the specific student.
  • Provide frequent feedback, as well as a changing array of rewards and privileges. Students may “burn out” on one repetitive system, so be sure to change it up periodically. For instance, allow students to earn points toward a weekly raffle for the display of positive behavior.

Do you need assistance in establishing an effective system to monitor and control impulsive classroom behavior? The experts at Cobb Pediatric Therapy can assist with this and other challenges that you encounter on a day-to-day basis in your school therapy career. To learn more, read our related posts or contact us today.

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Speech Therapy Apps: Visual Attention Therapy

September 18th, 2015

Reasonably priced at $9.99, Tactus Therapy’s Visual Attention Therapy app helps students with visual neglect improve awareness of the neglected side of space. Users practice scanning from left to right across a page, which helps to retrain their brain to move the eyes correctly.

Visual Attention Therapy helps condition the eye and brains to cooperate to hold an idea in memory, find it quickly, and not miss a single one. This improves reading, concentration, memory, attention to detail, and speed of processing.


Available for download on the App Store, Visual Attention Therapy uses traditional cancellation exercises with the added benefit of not letting users make mistakes while in Practice mode. Additional features include:

  • The ability to use one or two targets scattered among similar or dissimilar letters and symbols.
  • A bright signal line at the edge of the screen, which draws attention to the neglected side.
  • Time exercises, which motivate students to work fast and compete against their own past times.
  • 12 settings for spacing and number of lines, providing for between 24 and 228 items on the screen.
  • The ability to see which quadrant is most often neglected, when in Test mode.

Benefits for Therapists

Your students will find Visual Attention Therapy captivating, and so will you. Its additional benefits geared toward speech-language professionals are:

  • Quick assessments with professional reports. You can test students at any level, with quadrants of neglect highlighted.
  • Therapy that trains users to scan. Audio and visual feedback with forced correct answers accelerates learning. Automation saves paper and time spent calculating errors.
  • The ability to target a variety of goals. Treat left neglect, right inattention, working memory, visual memory, or speed of processing.

Raising the Bar

Speech therapists who have piloted Visual Attention Therapy give it rave reviews, as this new school year gets under way.

“Did we find anything we didn’t love about the app? Nope!” said one professional from iSpeakApp.com. “The app is fast and lightweight and is highly specific in its roll in its app-life … The bar is raised even further in therapy app development. Visual Attention Therapy is guaranteed to be one of those beautiful apps that, when you see it and try it out, will make you exclaim, “Finally!’”

“Young children I have used this with seem to love practicing the scanning,” commented a recent user from Speechie Apps. “Since this concept is new to them, they see it as a fun challenge … I love how this app can just as easily be used with a three-year old who is just learning to read as it can be with an adult who is experiencing left neglect from a brain tumor. It takes a simple, familiar format and turns it into a dynamic interactive tool with the ability to be age appropriate for anyone from preschoolers to elderly adults.”

Is your school-based therapy practice on point for the year ahead? Is your career path on target as you realize your lifelong professional goals? To help you define your processes and set your strategy, contact the team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today. We have the answers you’re looking for.

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Here’s to Another Great School Year!

September 17th, 2015

Is your new school year starting off on the right foot? It’s early days … and the whole year is stretched out ahead of you, filled with possibilities as you get to know your students and finalize preparations.

Based on input from expert educators, these tips can help you ensure a successful 2015/2016 academic year:

Early finishers? Make the best use of everyone’s time.

Using task cards, you can keep students’ work meaningful, especially during time that might otherwise be wasted in the case of those who finish a practice or assignment early. It will keep them focused and avoid them having to interrupt you to ask what they should do next.

  • Give each of your students an Early Finisher and Incomplete Work folder. This includes Early Finisher Task Cards with lighter, more fun assignments. But the non-negotiable rule is: No working with Early Finisher Cards till the regular, assigned work is done. Have students keep a log, recording work completion dates. This way, if they turn in substandard work just to get to the “fun stuff,” you have a record of it. If you identify students who consistently finish work early and successfully, you may determine that they need extra enrichment. And, you can easily share all this information with parents and teachers.
  • Have students turn their folders in to you periodically. Don’t grade early finisher work, but comment on it in the margin or on student logs. Keep this information in their files or folders for the rest of the year. One expert uses an inexpensive, hanging flip flop holder to store their Early Finisher Cards.

Improve your planning system.

To plan your full year of successful therapy without things becoming overwhelming, break it down into easily manageable parts. These may include:

  • An overall plan for the year. Keep it general, yet incorporate firm goals and objectives.
  • Monthly overviews. Each month, plan to look at where you are. From there, you can map out what to do on a week-to-week basis.
  • Weekly agendas. Here, you can get into detail, right down to the daily nitty gritty. You may want to find or design a daily template using Microsoft Word or Excel.

Hold goal conferences.

Conferencing with your students will help you to do a better job of monitoring the mutual goals that have been set for the year.

  • Work with your students to write their goals on index cards, and help them choose a place to keep them, such as in a binder or taped to a work table. Keep a list of their goals for yourself, too. If you sense that a child is off task, ask them, “Is this helping you to reach a goal?”
  • Meet one-on-one to check progress. Refine or even set new goals if necessary. Keep records of these “pulse sessions.” Afterwards, have students bring their index cards home and discuss them, as well as material covered in your conference, with their parents. Have parents sign the cards. This process can be highly effective and low stress – and it holds students accountable.

For additional tips and resources to make this school year your best one yet – or to find your next great career opportunity – read our related posts or contact Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.

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Speech Therapy Apps: Category Therapy

August 31st, 2015

Students who have difficulty speaking often struggle with categories. They have trouble seeing how items are connected, making it more challenging to find the word they’re looking for. The Tactus Therapy app Category Therapy helps you to tackle these issues, using categorization exercises that range from simple to complex.

Category Therapy version 1.03 is priced at $14.99 and available for download on the App Store. It targets semantics, organization, reasoning, problem-solving, auditory comprehension, reading comprehension, attention, verbal fluency, and divergent and convergent naming. It can help you work with students whose conditions include:

  • Aphasia
  • Anomia
  • Word-finding difficulties.
  • Semantic impairment.
  • Cognitive impairment.
  • Brain injury.
  • Language delay.
  • Autism
  • Language learning disability.

It’s also helpful in working with English as a Second Language learners.

Benefits for the Speech-Language Professional

As noted by one speech-language pathologist who completed a pilot run of Category Therapy, “it will be a long time before you run out of content to use with one student, and the app’s fantastic settings options allow you to use it with a variety of individuals, regardless of their cognitive abilities.”

Among the additional benefits of the app are:

  • Quick access to semantic knowledge. You can run through exercises in four categories – find, classify, exclude and add on – and readily determine specific areas of deficit. This is ideal to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of minimally verbal or non-verbal students.
  • Capability to exercise target languages and cognitive goals. You can adjust difficulty levels and an activities for field size, and change stimuli to be just pictures to practice naming, just words to practice reading, or both for maximum effect.
  • Professional reports, which make data collection and charting simple. E-mailed reports track student progress from session to session.

Clean and Simple to Use

Additional Category Therapy trial users have noted that the app is “clean and simple to use” when working with students of all ages.

“What Category Therapy has managed to do is collate four kinds of activities into one tight, comprehensive app and spruced it up with customizable field sizes, filtered target categories, cue types, and difficulty levels that range from concrete to abstract categories,” said one therapist. “With 700 images in 70 categories, one can do so much with this app, with any student. By taking on the bulk of preparation from the clinician, more time can be devoted to helping a student process what is on the screen and providing ample feedback.”

To learn more about Category Therapy, visit the Tactus Therapy website.

For additional tools and resources to advance your school-based therapy career, read our related posts or contact Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today. Have a great school year!

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Tips For School Psychologists: Helping Parents Cope With Another School Year Beginning

August 25th, 2015

Where does the summer go?

For students, parents, teachers and school-based therapists, it’s time to hit the ground running with the start of another academic year. How can you help families cope with what can be a very stressful time, if not handled with preparation and care?

Ease the Transition
Before school starts, use your school website or other means to give parents tips on making the transition from summer vacation to structured school days as pain-free as possible:

  • Be sure children are in good physical and mental health. The start of a new school year is a good time for medical and dental checkups. Parents can use this opportunity to discuss any school-related concerns with their pediatricians. Primary care physicians are the first point of contact to determine if any issues are normal and age appropriate, or may require further assessment. As a school psychologist, you’ll want to be looped in to any treatment plans that may be recommended for the coming months.
  • Include pertinent information on school counseling services in materials being sent to parents as the year begins. Encourage parents to review all the material they receive from their children’s school so they can get organized and be aware of important dates, deadlines, and all the supplies students need for the first days and weeks in their new classroom.
  • Recommend the start of school year routines. These include mealtime and bedtime schedules, which ideally should be set in place about a week before school starts – but it’s never too late to get this on track. Remind parents to reinforce the message that these schedule adjustments are for their children’s benefit; they are not punishment.
  • Help parents familiarize their children with school. Especially if students are young or starting a new school, invite families to visit ahead of time. Meeting teachers and therapists, locating classrooms, lunch rooms, lockers and other important areas, and having their questions answered, will ease anxiety about their new environment.

The First Week of School
Parents should adjust their own schedules to accommodate the first week or two of their children’s year. Parental involvement in helping children acclimate to their school routine can be key in averting confusion or anxiety. Parents should be advised to:

  • Provide calm, reassuring messages to keep children’s stress manageable.
  • Leave plenty of extra time. Lunches can be made and clothing and supplies laid out the night before. Alarms can be set 15 minutes early to avoid rushing.
  • After-school structure is important, too. Parents should review with their children what to do if they get home and no one is there. These directions should be very specific, especially with younger students. They should put a note in their backpack with names and numbers of people they can contact, as well as their own numbers.

If Parents Need You
Some children may exhibit extreme signs of anxiety, stress of other learning or psychological difficulties. Make sure they know who and where you are, and how to reach you, as the 2015/16 school year is set in motion. You can be their most valuable resource and their children’s key to academic success.

For additional ideas to get the school year off to a strong start – and to formulate your successful school-based therapy career plan, contact the expert team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.

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Understanding Teachable Moments in the Classroom

August 24th, 2015

As described by elementary education expert Beth Lewis, a teachable moment is an unplanned opportunity that arises, where a teacher or therapist has an ideal chance to offer valuable insight to their students. Attuned, intentional teachers capture these moments and use them to their advantage, making every one of them count. You can be an intentional therapist by understanding teachable moments and integrating something from them into your student sessions.

Motivating Students with Teachable Moments

You don’t plan for teachable moments. In fact, the opposite often is true. A student may ask a question or comment on something relevant to their lives or current events, which can be linked to the lesson or skill you’re trying to teach. Capitalize on this window of opportunity, briefly let go of the structure and timing of your prepared session plan, and allow the student initiate the learning. Be the facilitator, as you motivate them and tap into their creativity.

  • An everyday occurrence can become a teachable moment. For example, if a student spills their drink, turn it into an opportunity to work on holding a cup with two hands or setting it down properly.
  • Taking these tangents is worthwhile. They are organically timed for maximum impact on students’ learning capabilities, and they can evolve into full-blown lesson plans or units. By helping students to link their current activities and interests into your current school content, you cultivate engaged, passionate learners.

Here are some additional tips to spot teachable moments and make them work for you:

  • Take it one step at a time. You don’t have to find teachable moments for all your content. But be alert for them and use them where they make sense. Start small – and think big!
  • Tap into your students’ interests. You’ll be more likely to get them to focus on and learn new concepts. They’ll participate more and better retain what they learn. Can you link their therapy to any of their personal hobbies or interests? Even a favorite story or song lyric can inspire a teachable moment.
  • Incorporate real-life experiences. Avoid too much busy work associated with long assignments and boring worksheets. Provide opportunities for open discussion and questions that help your students to develop new ways of thinking and approaching their therapy. In essence, you are creating – or at least, planting the seeds for – teachable moments.

For additional tips and resources to build your school-based practice, read our related posts or contact the specialized team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.


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Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services Recognized by Inc. 5000 for Eighth Consecutive Year

August 13th, 2015

Pediatric Therapy Staffing Firm is Named as One of the Nation’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America.

ATLANTA, GA – Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services, a leading pediatric therapy staffing firm, has made the Inc. 5000, an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies in America for the eighth consecutive year.

“We are thrilled to have maintained a place on this prestigious list for eight years in a row,” said June Whitehead, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, Owner and CEO of Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. “We believe in serving our kids, encouraging the personal and professional growth of our therapists and providing quality therapy services to our schools. Our three year growth rate of 89% is a result of high employee and client retention rates and successful recruiting and business development efforts. “

Founded in 1989, Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services has been providing a range of therapy services for children, including speech language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and school psychology services to school systems across the United States for 26 years. The firm currently serves Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. For more information on Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services, please visit www.cobbpediatric.com.

Celebrating National School Backpack Awareness Day

August 13th, 2015

September 16 is National School Backpack Awareness Day. It’s celebrated each year on the third Wednesday of September, to assist therapists, other educators, parents and students in getting the school year off to a healthy start. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase occupational therapy services throughout your community.

Symptoms and Tips

When it comes to backpack safety awareness – which, by the way, also applies to other types of bags including purses, briefcases and suitcases – the best rule of thumb is: Pack it light and wear it right. As noted by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), symptoms of backpack-related issues include:

  • Aching backs and/or shoulders.
  • Weakened muscles.
  • Tingling arms.
  • Stooped posture.

They can be avoided by properly loading and wearing backpacks. Proper loading tips for backpacks and other bags include:

  • Never carry more than 15 percent of your body weight. For instance, a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a loaded school backpack heavier than 15 pounds.
  • Arrange materials so they don’t slide around in a backpack. Check what children carry to and from school. Make sure the items are necessary. Load the heaviest items closest to the back.
  • If a backpack or bag is too loaded, hand carry some items. Consider using a bag on wheels if your school allows it.

Here’s how to safely wear a backpack:

  • Use both shoulder straps. Slinging a pack over one shoulder can cause leaning to one side. This curves the spine and causes pain or discomfort.
  • Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. The neck and shoulders have many blood vessels and nerves. If too much pressure is applied, the result can be pain and tingling in the neck, arms and hands.
  • Adjust the straps so a pack fits snugly to the back. A pack that hangs loosely can pull the body backwards and strain muscles. Waist belts are an excellent feature, as they help to distribute weight more evenly.
  • Be sure a child’s backpack is the right size for their age. It should fit their back, with the bottom of the pack resting in the curve of the lower back area. In addition, it should have enough room for all necessary school items.

Plan Your Celebration

For additional tips on celebrating National School Backpack Awareness Day, visit AOTA. Or, contact the OT team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. We offer industry and event tips, as well as strategies and resources to take your school-based therapy career to the next level.

Here’s to a safe and successful school year!


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Summer Speech Practice Tips for Parents

July 31st, 2015

As summer progresses, it’s important to keep speech skills sharp so as not to erase progress made during the previous school year. You may be able to recommend speech practice tips to parents and other caregivers via your school website or other vacation communication tools.

Speech practice can be easily incorporated into ongoing summertime activities such as playing, outdoor recreation and traveling. With just minimal preparation and creativity, they simply become part of the fun, yet provide a learning experience at the same time.

Here are some ideas to create these “win-win” scenarios:

An Alphabet Game for the Car

You’ve probably played the alphabet game where you go through the letters, thinking of an animal, a food or another category of items that start with each letter. Play a similar game, targeting speech sounds. For instance, the /k/ sound is used in “cat” and “cookie” as well as “kite” and “ketchup.” Take turns until someone is stumped and can’t think of another word.

Fun with Sidewalk Chalk

There are numerous speech-related activities that can be tied in with using sidewalk chalk. These include:

  • Hopscotch or life-size board games with speech words.
  • Drawing, coloring and then saying targeted words.

As an added bonus, kids can express their creativity, hone their drawing and coloring abilities, and get some fresh air and exercise while improving speech strengths.

Picture Scavenger Hunt

Go through your house or yard and take pictures of as many things as you can that start with a targeted speech sound. Organize a scavenger hunt so children can find and possibly photograph the objects themselves. In order to win a prize, they also must pronounce each word clearly. You can even make a book of all the pictures to use for review later on.

Playdough Words

Write down a series of speech sound words on small pieces of paper. Have each child pick one from a hat and then shape playdough into that word. Other players can then guess which object has been created. For extra points, have them say the use the word in a sentence.

Playground Sounds

Find a way for kids to practice speech sounds at the playground.

  • Practice the /p/ sound by giving a child a “push” on the swing.
  • Practice /b/ by making it a “big” push and /w/ and /m/ by saying “watch me push.”
  • Roll marbles down a slide into a bowl. Practice /m/ by asking for “more marbles.”
  • Have children practice /s/ by saying “sssss” all the way down the slide until they reach the bottom.

Treasures in the Sand

In your backyard sandbox or at the beach, bury objects or laminated picture cards for kids to find. When they do, have them say the word as they add them to their sand pail.

Right about now, parents are probably looking for ideas to keep children entertained until school starts again. What better way than through some fun and different activities that also target their speech skills?

For additional speech therapy resources, as well as career opportunities in speech therapy, read our related posts or contact the team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.

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