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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Key Tips for Health and Success in School

July 24th, 2015

As an occupational therapist, you play a key role in helping your students to stay healthy and successful throughout the school year. As the next one gets under way, here are some tips:

Help Them Get Organized

Guide and assist students in organizing their learning space, their time and their resources. Consider how each individual child’s tasks and settings will best work together. This applies to their:

  • Physical environment: Desks, lockers and backpacks should be kept neat and organized, so students can easily locate assignments, supplies and other items. Less time spent searching means more time spent studying and completing productive work.
  • Time management: Planning time for homework, sports, social activities and relaxation helps youngsters to stay focused. In addition, it minimizes stress over fitting everything into a day or a week.
  • Eating and sleeping schedules: Adequate rest is essential for students to learn, grow and stay well. It also improves concentration and their general feeling of well-being. The same applies to healthy eating. For starters, every school day should begin with a balanced breakfast.
  • Testing skills: If children have trouble completing tests on time, collaborate with their teacher to identify the reason and build their test-taking success skills.

Help Them Make Friends

Observe and study what makes your students happy, including how they can better get to know and understand one another.

  • Encourage children to introduce themselves to new classmates.
  • Plan projects and assignments where students team up and work together. This usually is more enjoyable for everyone and promotes higher socialization and engagement.

Promote and Practice Ergonomics

Occupational therapy is a science-driven profession, based largely on how the mind and body work together. When physically setting up your students for success, be sure that:

  • Their heads are level with their computer monitors. The top of their screen should be at eye level.
  • Their forearms are parallel to their keyboard and held only slightly above it.
  • Their lower backs are supported.
  • Their feet rest flat on the floor or on a footrest.
  • They take frequent stretch breaks, away from the computer. A good rule of thumb is to take a two-minute break every half hour.

If you need additional tips and resources as you plan for the upcoming school year – or are using summer break to research your next OT career move – contact the experienced team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. We’re school therapists ourselves, and we have the market intelligence and contacts to build your future in the Atlanta market and beyond.

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Speech Therapy Apps: Conversation Therapy

July 17th, 2015

If you need to target expressive language skills and similar challenges in students aged nine and above, the Tactus Therapy Solutions app Conversation Therapy would be an excellent addition to your therapy toolkit.

Priced at $24.99, the latest (1.04) version can be used on your iPod, iPod mini, iPhone or iPod touch. It also is available bundled in the Tactus Complete Therapy, Aphasia Therapy and School Therapy Toolkits.

Conversation Therapy uses 10 questions relating to thought-provoking questions to stimulate conversation between couples or groups of people. It encourages dialogue to unfold naturally, without pressure, thus offering opportunities to improve language skills, pragmatics, speech and thinking.

Skill-Building Features

Conversation Therapy helps students who have difficulty expressing their ideas to work on these skills and address cognitive-linguistic and speech goals. Its features include:

  • More than 300 vivid, full-color photos. Of these, 225 are in child mode and 275 are in teen mode.
  • Open-ended questions that have no right or wrong answers; for instance, “What does it mean to have good manners?” and “What are you allergic to?”
  • User profiles for both individual and group scoring.

The app targets the following goal areas: verbal expression, verbal reasoning, describing, inferencing, predicting, generative naming, defining, discussing opinions, oral and written narrative, decision making, comparison, fluency, apraxia, conversation level articulation and eye contact. In addition to English, you can work in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Filipino and Zulu.

Conversation Therapy is helpful when working with youngsters with cognitive-communication disorders, autism and Asperger Syndrome and ADHD, as well as ESL students and those who stutter.

Using this app, you can readily:

  • Target goals with open-ended questions: The mature topics also can be used for students with aphasia, cognitive impairments and motor speech disorders. You score only goal behavior, not correct or incorrect content.
  • Track data and customize with the User Hub: Conversation Therapy saves each user’s data and profile with charts and reports. You can set up goals for each of your students and customize the types of questions they see.

Paving the Way for the Digital Age

Experts who have piloted Conversation Therapy are highly enthused about its possibilities as speech therapy moves advances in tune with current and future technology. As noted by Ryan Knoblauch, SLP, of The Speech Knob, “Tactus Therapy Solutions has created one of the most thorough therapy apps yet … The pictures are awesome. The topics are relevant … If you really want someone to talk, this app will provide you with detailed scenarios and lots of questions … This is the app that is going to pave the way for converting speech therapists to the digital age.”

As you prepare for the upcoming school year, read our related posts or contact the Cobb Pediatric Therapy team for additional tips, tools and resources to build your career or find your next great job in the greater Atlanta market. We can help you make it happen!

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Sharpen Your Pencils: Preparing for the Upcoming School Year

July 13th, 2015

Getting a new school year off to a good start will set the right tone for the nine or 10 months to follow. As a school psychologist, it’s important to collaborate with teachers and other faculty members, as well as parents, so all of you can work together on behalf of your students.

The back-to-school transition can be stressful even for the most eager and confident children. For others, the pressure can be overwhelming. You can help your students – and their entire support team – to make this a great school year by planning ahead, being prepared and realistic, and maintaining a positive attitude.

Cooperation is Key

Collaborate with teachers and find out the directions they will be taking and themes and topics they will be using during the year. Then you can tailor your plans accordingly. Arrange an informal get-together or two with the entire team. Even if everyone doesn’t show up, you can brainstorm, plan and share ideas.

Learn how you can best handle:

  • The set-up of your room or therapy area.
  • Effective communication with parents via newsletters, school websites and other means.
  • Discipline.

Recommended on your summer reading list is First Day of School by Harry Wong. Continue to read professionally. This helps you to stay current and keep the big picture in your head.

Reflect on the Past

Whether you’re a relatively new school psychologist or an experienced veteran, you may want to revamp your approach this year, based on your experience.

  • Never be afraid to try something new. Understand that sometimes it will work, sometimes it will need to be tweaked, and sometimes you’ll wind up throwing it out altogether. Let your experience, both good and bad, help guide your overall approach.
  • Never pass along information on how a particular student has behaved or performed in the past. It’s a brand new year. Every child, school psychologist and teacher deserves the chance to come in with a clean slate. A different educator may get other results. Preconceived notions can be detrimental to the overall development and progress of a student.

At Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services, we understand the unique challenges faced by school-based therapists and school psychologists at any career stage. For additional resources to enhance your school year experience – or access to our network of career path opportunities – contact us today. And be sure to relax and enjoy the rest of your summer!

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The Importance of Knowing When to Intervene in Classroom Disputes

June 30th, 2015

How children treat each other in the classroom is equally as important as what they learn. Skills such as cooperation, assertion, responsibility and self-control are essential to their academic and social success. As you plan ahead for the 2015/16 school year, be aware that you may need to teach or reinforce these skills, along with your therapy plans and materials, during the course of the school day.

When children learn to resolve their own conflicts, the academic atmosphere becomes far more pleasant and productive for everyone. You can spend more time teaching and making progress with therapy – and your students can spend more time learning.

Steps to Take

Conflict resolution is generally best introduced around the fourth or fifth week of school, once children are familiar with their basic routines and with one another. Teach them these basic steps to address the disputes that will inevitably arise:

  • Calming down and bringing emotions into balance.
  • Explaining the nature of the upset.
  • Discussion and resolution.
  • Acknowledgement, such as a handshake or a high five.

An effective approach involves children composing an “I Statement” to help them deliver high-emotion information. The basic format reads as follows: “When you _______________________, I feel _________ because _____________________________, so what I would like is __________________.”

For example, “When you say my backpack looks weird, I feel sad because I just got it and I really like it, so I’d like you to talk about something else when I see you at school.”

It helps to generate a list of “feeling words” to help students expand their vocabulary and get their message across. A typical list would include words like “scared, sorry, sad, frustrated” and “nervous.” Display the list on a flip chart or whiteboard so children can easily refer to it.

The Dispute Resolution Meeting

Using the I Statements as the basis, your role is to facilitate a conflict resolution meeting for your students when needed. As a preview, listen to a child’s I Statement to make sure it is legitimate and that they are ready to present it.

  • The first child starts the meeting by making their I Statement.
  • The second child listens and repeats back their understanding of what was said.
  • Once the first child agrees that the second child has heard correctly, the second child may make their own I Statement.
  • This back-and-forth routine continues until both students are satisfied that an understanding has been reached and peace has been made. The meeting concludes with an acknowledgement.
  • While often a child will apologize at some point during a conflict resolution meeting, never require it.
  • As facilitator, you are there to ensure safety and protocol, but you should speak as little as possible.

Learning when to intervene in classroom disputes and how to deal with conflict is an essential life skill and as a school-based therapist, you may play a significant role in helping your students to master it.

For additional tools and resources to enhance your work, as well as current therapy career opportunities in your specialty field, read our related posts or contact the team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.

Noteworthy OT Tips for Homework Success

June 19th, 2015

Children and homework often don’t mix – and the challenges may be even greater with occupational therapy challenges are involved.  As you begin to think ahead to the next academic year, set your sights on work and study habits for your students that will promote academic success. These will include tactics and approaches to homework that will result in enhanced motivation, learning and confidence versus tears and frustration.

Help Students Establish Good Habits

Like virtually every aspect of a child’s education, homework success is based on a strong partnership between teachers, therapists, parents and students. Suggest these tips to eliminate homework-related stress and put regular, firm habits in place:

Set up a homework station.

It should be free of clutter and noise and away from distractions, such as TV, phones and video games. Keep it organized and supplied with pens, pencils, paper and other needed supplies – maybe even a healthy snack or two!

It’s never too early for good ergonomics.

Children should do homework while sitting in firm chairs with their feet planted on the floor or a foot rest. An office chair is a great option, as it can be adjusted to exactly the right height. A child’s back should be supported against a backrest. Good posture prevents back or neck stress and makes it easier to comfortably complete assignment.

Build in break times.

Encourage children to take a stretch break every 20 minutes. Promote active play and physical activities alternated with homework time. This reduces fatigue and boredom and enhances concentration.

Develop a plan and a schedule.

Consider your students’ sensory needs and any potential distractions, such as hunger or fatigue. Determine their preferences for the best time to complete homework assignments. Some children work best before dinner, for instance, or right afterwards. Students should be encouraged to manage their schedules using a planner. This gives them more ownership and control, which further builds motivation.

Optimize the environment.

Be sure children are working in areas with proper lighting. Limit eye strain by following the 20/20/20 rule: Take a break every 20 minutes, stop for 20 seconds, and look at least 20 feet away from the homework or computer monitor.

What other plans, resources or career advice do you need as you take a breather, enjoy the summer and at the same time, think ahead to your upcoming plans and future steps? This is a great time to reach out to a professional recruiter who specializes in school-based therapy. To learn more, read our related posts or contact the Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services team today.

Understanding Phonological Processes in Speech Therapy

June 12th, 2015

Most children make some mistakes as they begin pronouncing new words. Phonological processes are patterns of sound errors that typically developing children use to simplify speech as they learn to talk.

Articulation and speech sound disorders occur when these errors continue past a certain age. For instance:

  • If a four-year-old still uses the phonological process of reduplication (for example, saying “wawa” for “water”), this would be considered delayed, since most children stop using this phonological process by age three.
  • By age two, a child should be 50 percent intelligible to an unfamiliar listener. By age four to five, this should increase to 75 percent.
  • By age eight, children should be able to pronounce all sounds in English correctly.

When Processes Become Disorders

Since phonological and articulation disorders are both speech sound issues, it can be tricky to tell the difference. Here are tips on how to distinguish between the two:

  • An articulation disorder occurs when sound errors persist beyond what is developmentally appropriate. Generally, a child with an articulation disorder is mildly to moderately unintelligible. These children typically respond well to a traditional articulation therapy approach in which one sound at a time is targeted.
  • A speech sound issue is considered a phonological disorder when phonological processes persist beyond the typical age of development. Children are highly unintelligible as a result. Children with phonological disorders may reduce consonant clutters to a single letter; for example, saying “pane” for “plane,” or they may delete the weak syllable in a word, such as saying “nana” for “banana.” They also may substitute sounds made in the back of the mouth, such as “k” and “g,” for sounds made in the front of the mouth, like “t” and “d.” “Cup” may be pronounced “tup” or “gas” may be pronounced “das.”

What Causes Speech Sound Disorders?

Many speech sound disorders occur without a known cause. Others can result from physical problems, such as:

  • Developmental issues, including autism.
  • Genetic issues, including Down’s syndrome.
  • Hearing loss
  • Illness, including frequent ear infections when young.
  • Neurological issues, including cerebral palsy.

Treatment Options

Remediation for phonological disorders usually involves targeting the processes in error. This generally improves speech intelligibility at a faster rate.

  • You can listen to a child and use a formal articulation test to record sound errors.
  • An oral mechanism exam can determine whether the muscles of a child’s mouth are working correctly.

The Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services team of experienced speech pathologists can help you build your school-based therapy toolbox for continued growth and success in your career – or help you find your next great job. To learn more, read our related posts or contact our expert recruiters today.

4 Ways to Rejuvenate and Refocus Your Teaching Strategies Over the Summer

June 11th, 2015

School’s out – or about to be out – for the summer. Who’s more excited, you or your students? It’s probably too close to call. For you as well as the kids, summer is your time to relax, recharge and make the best of your long-awaited free time.

Use the weeks ahead to recapture your love of what you do. Choose a summer strategy that speaks to you and will have you eagerly awaiting the first day of school when the time comes.

Make the Most of It

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel or take on too much during your summer break. Choose one or two priorities that you’d like to implement or improve upon, prior to the start of the 2015/16 school year. Here are four ideas:

  1. Prepare to transform your therapy area into an active learning center. Find new ways to involve students in your plans and curriculum. Then, it will be easier to further engage them.
  2. Enhance your professional development. Take home the materials from that in-service, conference or workshop you attended this past year, but never found time to implement. Figure out how to tailor it to your needs and incorporate it into your 2015/16 therapy plans.
  3. Master a new technological tool. Explore an app or program that you’ve heard good things about, but haven’t previewed or used with your students. See related Cobb Pediatric Therapy posts for numerous speech and OT apps.
  4. Reassess your therapy management style. Be ready to set the tone the very first time you meet your students in the fall. Find innovative strategies so you can create a safer, more supportive and educationally challenging environment. Devise a clear plan and be prepared to use it consistently.

Look Out for Number One

Even if you plan to stay very busy this summer, make time for much needed rest and relaxation. For instance:

  • Plan a trip. Go somewhere outside your usual orbit. Keep it slow paced and not too ambitious. It can even be a “staycation.” You don’t have to travel far to have fun. Check out sites like Groupon, Google Offers and Living Social for deep discounts right in your area.
  • Read, purely for pleasure. This gets you out of your “real world” so you can completely de-stress.
  • Balance work and play. If you have to work, take classes, or attend conferences for professional development, schedule time for fun along with them. Maybe you can take a class with a friend and meet up beforehand or afterwards for a meal or recreational activity. If you travel for a conference, save extra time for sightseeing and fun things to do.
  • Do something you enjoy while helping others. Find a volunteer opportunity that matches your interests.
  • Practice daily self-care activities. It’s still important to do all the things you normally do to stay healthy and happy – whether it’s yoga, running, swimming, knitting or meditation. And if you don’t already have a self-care strategy, summer is a great time to start one.

Take Your Career to the Next Step

Summer is a great time to partner with a recruiter and begin building a relationship. Whether you make a job change or not, this will be a lifelong source of resources, contacts and networking opportunities. Contact Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today for more information.

How to Understand and Support Tic Disorders in the School Setting

May 29th, 2015

Children with tics or Tourette syndrome (TS) don’t want to be ticcing – especially at school, in front of their peers, teachers, coaches, and others who matter so much in the social picture of their lives.

A tic is a no-fault neurological symptom. Students with tics can’t help it and may not even be aware that they’re doing it. Yet it can be frustrating at best, and the source of teasing and/or physical pain in worst cases. Your most powerful tool in helping your students to live with tics is understanding. From there, you can help ease their suffering and enhance their academic experience.

Transient Tics versus TS

A tic is an abrupt, uncontrollable movement or sound that does not relate to a person’s normal gestures. Examples include rapid, repeated blinking, shoulder shrugging, and knee slapping or clearing of the throat. Often confused with nervous behavior, tics affect about 10 percent of school-aged children, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Children with transient tic disorder have noticeable physical or vocal tics. In youngsters with TS, they occur at the same time, making the disorder all the more noticeable and challenging to manage.

How to Help Your Students Cope

Here are some tips as you work with students who suffer from tic disorders, to help them optimize their learning potential:

  • Help relieve stress. Research has shown that keeping stress at a minimum can help alleviate tic triggers.
  • Develop alternatives to tic behaviors. Help your students to master more socially appropriate actions when their tics kick in. For instance, if a child feels the urge to punch, have them clinch their fist in their pocket. If they feel the urge to whistle out loud, work with them to take deep breaths. Afterwards, reward their efforts.
  • Listen carefully to what your students tell you about their tics. If the tics aren’t bothering them, it’s probably best to leave them alone instead of asking questions or drawing more attention to the situation. However, if students are experiencing embarrassment, frustration, or even pain as a result of their tics, let them know that there are ways to help them gain control.

Having a tic disorder should not prevent a child from doing what they want to in their lives – including functioning normally and succeeding in school. Living with tics is a complex challenge, but it would be so much easier if there were greater understanding and acceptance of this reality.

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

How Can a Weighted Pen Help Students Master Writing?

May 22nd, 2015

Handwriting – a skill that most people take for granted – can be an overwhelming struggle for students who lack the right fine motor skills.

Children with autism, certain learning disabilities and related challenges are among those who have the greatest difficulty mastering the process of handwriting. Adapted writing utensils such as weighted pens and pencils can help alleviate this barrier to their academic success and overall well-being.

How a Weighted Pen Helps

A weighted writing utensil is a simple and effective solution to numerous challenges that stand in the way of students making progress on a day-to-day basis. The related advantages include:

  • Relief from fatigue, as children don’t have to use as much strength when writing. For those with poor sensory feedback, a weighted pen can actually help to build this strength.
  • Steadiness for hand tremors. The heavy weight helps to steady the hand so students can write properly and legibly.

Extra weight in a writing utensil provides added proprioceptive input, which alerts students to the fact that they are holding something and gives them extra input about where the pen or pencil is in their hand.

An Easy Fix

Occupational therapists who have successfully worked with weighted pens and pencils note that they can be easy and inexpensive to make. They suggest using colorful gummy grips in students’ favorite colors, along with metal nuts or plumbers’ O rings, which are an inexpensive purchase at local dollar and hardware stores, respectively.

Are you looking for additional tools, ideas and resources to enhance your school-based therapy career – or seeking your next job move?

Consider partnering with the Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services team. We’re not just recruiters and career coaches; we’re therapists ourselves. Read our related posts or contact us today for more information.