Top Apps for Speech Therapists: Describe with Art

September 19th, 2014

Children who struggle with describing items or following directions containing descriptive vocabulary can face serious stumbling blocks in their academic progress. The Virtual Speech Center app Describe with Art was created by a certified speech and language pathologist to help therapists address these issues in preschool and elementary aged children. It can be downloaded for $9.99 on the iTunes app store.

Visiting an Art Gallery
Children and art class tend to meld together well. Describe with Art is built around an art gallery theme and students are welcomed by a jaunty artist with a friendly smile, an easel and a colorful palette of paints. As they make progress, children earn their own palettes for correct responses. When they accumulate enough points, they can paint the own picture.

  • Describing is a common objective in academics. For instance, younger students are typically asked to describe objects and experiences, while older children are charged with describing procedures, characters or story lines.
  • In addition, students need to consistently follow directions containing multiple descriptors. Youngsters with language disorders or delays may have difficulty formulating accurate descriptions or keeping up with multi-step directions. For instance, they may be able to name an object but struggle to elaborate on it or effectively organize their thought process.
  • Describe with Art addresses this two-pronged challenge. Its purpose is to teach children how to describe the things around them and help them follow directions with descriptors in a fun and motivating way.

“You Definitely Get Your Money’s Worth”
Describe with Art is simple to navigate and enables users to:

  • Enter multiple students.
  • Change settings and use randomization.
  • Select auto-scoring.
  • Track correct and incorrect responses.
  • Email results.

Also featured are excellent graphics and animation and professional voiceovers.

The app includes:

  • Receptive tasks: Children learn to follow directions using multiple sets with pre-recorded instructions. Students also can give direction to others using a descriptive vocabulary with the audio feature turned off.
  • Expressive tasks: Youngsters are asked to describe people, animals, objects, food, clothes, places and transportation. A cueing system guides them along: They can use up to five questions or prompts to help them determine what to say.

Among the “pros” of Describe with Art, as noted by therapists who tried it out and reviewed it, were the use of photographs, which were described as “more easily relatable than drawings or symbols” and the app’s built-in reinforcement and data collection features.

“Describe with Art is a great app for targeting understanding and using descriptions, building descriptive vocabulary, and following directions,” said one expert. “You could also use this app to target articulation/voice/fluency carryover, syntax/grammar and WH questions. You definitely get your money’s worth with this app … It has proven to be both engaging and motivating for my students!”

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

Welcome Back! How to Ace the Beginning of the School Year

September 12th, 2014

The new school year is under way. Now is the time to set the tone, finalize your initial plans, and line up everything you need for the coming months with your students.

Build Relationships
Introduce – or reintroduce – yourself and get involved. Become interwoven in the fabric of your school right from the start.

  • Get to know key personnel. In addition to the obvious ones, like your principal and classroom teachers, meet secretaries, custodians and others who know the building, the neighborhood, the people and the culture.
  • Get involved. Participate not only in required activities, but also in extracurricular functions like the PTA, holiday concerts, fund raisers and after-school programs.
  • Have a “get to know each other” session with your students. Post your photo and a brief bio. Talk with them about your personal interests and see what you have in common. This can lead to highly productive future sessions.
  • Communicate with parents. Get them involved in their children’s school therapy so it carries over into the home environment. Let them know when you’re available and how to get in touch with you.

Rules and Regulations
Check and adhere to school policies – and set your own regulations as well.

  • Be sure you stay within parameters. If you intend to use subject matter, books or materials that may border on controversy, check them out with the district first. Be careful never to interject your personal views on religion, politics or other sensitive areas.
  • If you want discipline to stick, establish your rules early on. Let students help develop them, within reason. They’ll be more likely to follow them if they feel some ownership. Try to stick to no more than five rules and post them so they’re clearly visible.

Spread Your Positive Attitude
You’re the driving force in whether your students perceive their therapy as a challenging, rewarding and even fun undertaking – or drudgery.

  • Make the right impression. If you make students feel like being here is a burden for you, they’ll quickly adopt the same negative outlook. Encourage curiosity. Send positive notes home. Catch children being good or going the extra mile and reward them for it.
  • Start off slowly. During the first grading period, move slowly enough so that most students can find some level of success.

Get Organized
When it comes to having a productive year, it’s all about planning ahead and remaining flexible in your thinking and strategies.

  • Develop your resources. These are your information sources for the year. Know where to get help when you need it. For instance, how will you deal with a lack of instructional materials? One way could be to keep an eye open for free or inexpensive apps and other tools.
  • Get your paperwork in order. You never know when you may be asked to produce documents related to your education or job. Also, keep good records of expenditures that you may later use for tax purposes.
  • Set your self-improvement goals. Are there areas where you want to hone your skills or increase your professional capabilities? Plan accordingly when it comes to time, cost and related factors so these goals are manageable, realistic and achievable.

Contact the specialized school therapy team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services for additional resources as you set the stage for success in the academic year ahead. Here’s to the best year ever!

Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services Earns Inc. 5000 Honor for Seventh Consecutive Year

September 4th, 2014

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

ATLANTA, GA – For the seventh consecutive year, 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.

According to Inc. 5000, 2014 had the most competitive field of companies ever recorded. The aggregated revenue for Inc. 5000 members topped $211 billion, generating 505,000 jobs over the past three years. Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services attained a three year growth rate of 61% and almost doubled the amount of jobs added in the previous three years.

“We are extremely proud of our achievement to have maintained a place on this distinguished list for seven consecutive years,” said June Whitehead, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, Owner and CEO of Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. “Our growth is a result of successful recruiting and business development efforts in new and existing markets. Our continued emphasis on supporting our employee therapists and our school district customers has led to high rates of employee and customer retention.”

Founded in 1989, Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services has been providing a range of therapy services for children, including speech language pathology, occupational therapy and physical therapy to school systems across the United States for 25 years. The firm has expanded into new West Coast markets and currently serves Alabama, Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. For more information on Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services, please visit www.cobbpediatric.com.

Top Apps for Speech Pathologists: Auditory Processing Studio

August 29th, 2014

Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) is the inability or decreased ability to interpret sounds, words or sentences. Individuals with CAPD can hear, but their auditory nervous system fails to process what is heard and as a result, they may:

  • Have difficulty remembering what was said, following directions, learning new information, building their vocabulary or listening in noisy environments.
  • Be easily distracted.
  • Answer questions inappropriately or have a delayed response.
  • Experience poor academic performance, behavioral issues or low self-esteem.

Virtual Speech Center’s app Auditory Processing Studio, available for download on the App Store for $29.99, was created by a certified speech and language pathologist for adults and children aged 7 and above who exhibit CAPD or related disorders. This research-based app implements a bottom-top approach, a modality highly recommended by treatment experts.

Auditory Processing Studio is easy to navigate and provides helpful tools that enable the user to:

  • Enter multiple students.
  • Change settings.
  • Select various levels of difficulty.
  • Select auto scoring.
  • Enable or disable child-oriented reward system, as well as feedback sounds.
  • Track correct and incorrect responses.
  • Email results.

More Than 2,400 Stimuli
Auditory Processing Studio features colorful, engaging graphics – for starters, it looks like a music recording studio. Children are welcomed by a friend named Andrew who encourages them to work hard. They earn an instrument for each correct response and when they accumulate enough, they’re rewarded with a studio of their own.

The app includes 2,450 stimuli in the following activities:

  • Auditory discrimination: 16 levels of difficulty.
  • Auditory closure: 17 levels of difficulty.
  • Phonological awareness: 16 levels of difficulty.

Each activity level contains 50 trials and all can be practiced in the presence of competing noise.

Using the App
When you open Auditory Processing Studio, there are four buttons on the Home screen:

  • Reports: This is where you can access data, which the app automatically collects from your sessions. You have the options of printing or emailing this information.
  • Settings: You can customize settings to your needs. This includes everything from alternating between multiple users and randomizing items rather than using predictable sequences to selecting or adjusting the volume of background noise.
  • Start: Here’s where you add and/or select students. Then, you select your preferred activity.
  • Game Play: Now that you’ve configured your settings, entered your students and chosen targeted activities, it’s time to play. You can record responses, play them back and repeat instructions, as well as track accuracy.

Praise from the Pros
Numerous experts agree that if you have students with auditory processing disorders, Auditory Processing Studio will be a valuable addition to your therapy toolkit. Here’s what some recent reviewers had to say:

  • “Want to get down making some beats with Andrew from Virtual Speech Center? Then the reward game of this application is something that you and your students will enjoy … I found it to be perfect for students who have difficulty following directions, remembering what people said, have delayed responses and difficulty listening in noisy environments.”
  • “The inclusion of phonological awareness activities make this app appealing to not only SLPs, but also reading specialists and special education teachers.”

To learn more about this and other resources to enhance your school-based therapy career, contact the expert team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.

 

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10 Activities to Help Develop Pre-Scissor Skills

August 22nd, 2014

Learning to cut with scissors is not as simple as it seems. As children master this skill, it’s a full-body task to get the hands and fingers working with precision. The back, shoulders and arms must be stable, feet must be on the floor, and hips must be in neutral. The eyes need to focus on and the brain needs to process what both hands are doing – one cutting and the other holding the paper. And the finger muscles themselves need to work in isolation.

Phew! Fortunately, you can make the development of pre-scissor skills fun and successful using these activities:

  1. Crawling over and under objects, doing animal walks or walking on the hands. These help require upper-extremity weight bearing.
  2. Also good for strengthening upper-extremity muscles are playing on monkey bars, climbing rocks and playing tug of war.
  3. Paper activities including tearing paper into small pieces and scrunching tissue into small balls.
  4. Lacing activities.
  5. Playing with clay.
  6. Using hole or paper punchers.
  7. Using tweezers and tongs to pick up small objects like cotton balls or dried macaroni.
  8. Stringing beads or macaroni.
  9. Completing puzzles.
  10. Using clothes pins to strengthen the small muscles of the hand.

Visit www.YourTherapySource.com for inexpensive therapy tools to help you develop engaging activities as you work on pre-scissor skills. Start with card stock or light cardboard and progress to paper.

Lacing Cards
An EBook priced at $5.99 includes 22 lacing card pictures and 26 letter lacing cards to cut, color, hole punch and lace. Lacing card activities promote the development of fine motor and visual skills. Large, child-friendly cards are available in a wide range of themes including a snowman, teddy bear, Valentine card, shamrock, sunflower, flag picture, beach scene, chalkboard, pumpkin, 26 capital letters and more.

Creative Clay Activities
This EBook is priced at $4.99. It features activities that encourage tactile and proprioceptive input, fine motor skills, finger and hand muscle strengthening, visual motor skills, math skills and letter formation. Use clay or play dough to play games including charades, snake in the woods or four in a row. Have a clay scavenger hunt or use the 26 alphabet sheets to promote tactile kinesthetic awareness of letters.

Clay Play Mats
Priced at $2.99, this collection of six mats encourage hand muscle strengthening, fine motor skills, visual memory, and counting and number identification. Activities include lollipop counting; a clay bakery where you roll balls of clay with a rolling pin; hammer clay, which involves making clay balls and using a hammer to insert clay nails; a pancake breakfast, where you flatten balls into the correct number of pancakes, and a clay memory game.

Make Your Own Mobiles
This Ebook is priced at $4.99. With contains patterns for 20 mobiles, it encourages scissor use, motor and visual skills and visual perceptual skills. Once the mobiles are printed, children can cut, hole punch, lace and tie them. Included are a wide variety of seasonal, holiday and color patterns.

Clothes Pin Collection
You can purchase this in an electronic version for $2.99 or a print version for $4.99. Each page features a large circle with various themes and small squares for children to attach clothes pins. The alphabet, number and multiple-choice options are great for use with tactile learners, as well as students with ADHD or dysgraphia.

For additional resources to assist in your school-based therapy practice, read our related posts or contact Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today. And here’s to a great school year!

How to Prepare for Your Best School Year Ever

August 15th, 2014

The stress of a new school year is felt more acutely by some professionals than others, but it’s a perfectly natural occurrence. In fact, you can turn it into positive energy with the right preparation – starting with yourself and your own routine.

Here’s how to lay the groundwork for making this school year your best ever:

Lay the Groundwork
Complete a few simple steps ahead of time so you can hit the ground running when the bell rings on Day One:

  • Start a daily stress-busting routine. Allow time in the morning for 10 or 15 minutes of stretching, walking, yoga or meditation. This goes a long way toward keeping your thoughts organized and your mind and heart centered.
  • Get into your school-year sleep routine. Do it gradually by going to bed and rising a few minutes earlier, day by day. That’s right, it’s not just for the kids! Getting enough rest is critical to your health, well-being and successful performance.
  • Organize your room or work area and your materials. If possible, this includes a list of students so you can begin learning their names. Find out if any school policies or procedures have changed, even such seemingly minor processes as making copies or contacting the administrative staff. Seating arrangements, posters, supplies, the works … have it all lined up and ready to go.
  • Create lesson plans for the first few weeks. There’s no such thing as over-planning. Prepare, re-read and know what your early-days’ schedule and activities will look like. “Winging it the first week” may seem flexible and reasonable, but it’s not practically advisable,

Deepen Your Connections
Plan to broaden and strengthen your connections with students, their parents, and your colleagues this school year. This will help you through times of challenge and make your work more enriching, sociable and enjoyable.

  • Ask yourself: Who would I like to know better? Identify a few people, then find a way to spend time with them – and listen. Ask questions that incite a conversation about who they are, what their passions involve, and areas where your interests and theirs might intersect.
  • When you connect with students and families, you’re more effective at meeting their needs. And when you connect with coworkers, you can better collaborate with them to serve students, as well as get their personal and professional support.

Enhance Your Professional Learning
Make it your goal to find truly fulfilling professional development opportunities. Seek them out and immerse yourself in your own learning about therapy and instruction, a new specialty area or whatever you’re drawn to within your field.

  • Take a course. Online courses offer myriad ways to develop content knowledge or refine skills. Local colleges also may offer relevant educational options.
  • Start a professional journal. Use it to identify new areas of your field to explore, including therapy tips and practices.

Enjoy Your Work
Of all the plans you make, this one is the most important. As noted by author Rick Hanson in his book Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, your brain is wired to cling to negative experiences and remember them above others. You need to train it to focus on the positive, what’s working, and what you enjoy most about your career.

Read our related posts or contact Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services for additional tips as the new school year kicks off. And here’s to your best one ever!

Why Choose a Career in School-Based Therapy

August 8th, 2014

As special education programs grow and evolve, school-based occupational, physical and speech-language therapists are in growing demand – and the rewards and benefits are numerous. Are you considering this career path? As plans get under way for the 2014 school year, it’s a great time to turn your thoughts into action.

The Role of a School-Based Therapist
As a school-based therapist, you collaborate with teachers, nurses, psychologists and parents to provide children from preschool through high school with the optimal educational experience. Using your specialty skills, you play a key role in ensuring that students can fully participate in life activities both inside and outside the classroom. Removing barriers to success and enabling children to move forward and enjoy satisfying lives … for motivated, enthusiastic, compassionate therapists, it’s a road worth traveling!

A Wide Variety of Opportunities
Unlocking students’ potential and contributing to their personal and academic growth can be a rewarding lifelong career. You develop strong relationships not only with students and families, but also with myriad professionals who can help further advance your career goals.

  • There are diverse choices. You can practice in an urban, rural or suburban district and provide services to students with a variety of disorders. You utilize one-on-one or small group sessions or you may work right in the classroom. Services may be provided directly or indirectly to students, families and/or school staff.
  • Career development is ongoing. You continuously advance your professional knowledge, learn about school-related topics and have opportunities to share your expertise with others. School-based therapy can be an excellent springboard to developing specialization, advancing into administrative work or participating in research.
  • You bolster your creativity. As you create unique programs to meet student needs, you develop new approaches, techniques and materials. In addition, you work with new and innovative models and initiatives.

A High-Demand Career Option
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts steady job growth in school-based therapy in the coming years. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), passed in 1975 and improved to expand student therapy availability in 2004, has been one impetus for this progress. In 2001, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, another legislative plus for students and school staff.

  • Enjoy a family-friendly work schedule. Your basic workday aligns with school schedules, but opportunities are ample if you want to pick up extra hours via after-school or summer programs.
  • Depending on the job, additional perks are offered. These may include signing bonuses, tuition reimbursement, loan forgiveness or relocation costs.

To learn more about pursuing a career as a school-based therapist, read our related posts or contact the team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.

Top Speech Pathology Apps: Auditory Memory Ride

July 31st, 2014

Auditory memory is a person’s ability to recall what they’ve heard. It’s fundamental for following increasingly complex directions, building vocabulary and knowledge, and becoming literate. Students with auditory processing and related disorders struggle with memory tasks and have difficulty retaining information or verbal instructions.

Auditory Memory Ride is Virtual Speech Center’s latest mobile app for targeting these challenges. It joins the company’s arsenal of apps geared toward CAPD therapy: Auditory Workout, Auditory Processing Studio and School of Multi-Step Directions. Auditory Memory Ride sells for $17.99 at the iTunes store.

Taking Flight with Fun Rewards
Auditory Memory Ride is a comprehensive, fun app for students aged six through 13. It offers more than 1,000 stimuli with pre-recorded audio and the ability to introduce a variety of background noises. Students practice recognition and recall tasks using details, paragraphs, numbers and digits, and words and sentences.

  • Speech pathologists have praised numerous features of the app including the background noises, which include birds chirping, traffic sounds, white noise and classroom sounds.
  • When targets are presented, students hear them first. Then they’re required to either tap the correct picture, repeat what they’ve heard or answer questions. When they have completed their session, they earn time to be a pilot and fly through a course collecting points.
  • You can see all relevant student data and have the option to print or send it. You also can drill down and review data based on date or specific goals. You also can take notes in real time, a feature praised by yet another user who noted that it was “especially helpful if you find a strategy that works for a student mid-session so you can get it down right away.”

Additional Features
Among Auditory Memory Ride’s additional innovative features are:

  • Four modes of delay ranging from zero to 15 seconds.
  • The ability to show and hide text.
  • Use of a calculator as a real-time method of developing number recall.

“I loved this app! It really fit a need I had when it came to targeting auditory memory and recall,” said a reviewer from The Speech Bubble. “The different areas to target worked in a nice hierarchy of difficulty and the included levels were great. My kids really liked the flying challenge; it was a great motivator!”

The industry experts at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services offer myriad resources and tools to help you advance in your school-based therapy career. Contact us today to learn more.

Back to School Tips to Start the School Year Strong

July 28th, 2014

It’s that time of year. When the calendar says August or early September, it’s time to kick off a new beginning for teachers, students – and school-based therapists.

How can you best prepare for the new school year ahead? Sharpen your brand-new number-two pencil and take note of these tips, prepared with the expert assistance of Cobb Pediatric’s very own school-based therapists:

Get Organized

  • Get your materials in order. One suggestion is to buy a small cart to organize student folders that contain lessons and related information. Include copies of IEP goals, identifying information, and data sheets with goals, objectives and ongoing activities.

Consider New Learning Tools

  • Decide on a theme – and carry it throughout the year. Use it to decorate your classroom or work area, in parent welcome letters and other communications, and when you plan learning activities. Whether its sports, pets, hobbies or another area of common interest, it can be fertile ground for ideas and teaching techniques, even on the bleakest of Monday mornings.
  • Try out some new apps. Check out our related blogs on iPhone and other apps now available to add innovative new tactics to your day-to-day teaching plans. They are inexpensive and user-friendly, and they can be used in students’ homes as well as in the classroom.

Network with Other Professionals

  • Get to know your colleagues. They can be a wealth of information and guidance. Make time to interact with them at lunch and at school-related social events.
  • Get to know key support staff. This includes school secretaries and custodians. They will, at some point, become your best friends!
  • Ask questions. Especially if you’re a new faculty member, remember that everyone else was once there, too. Generally, veteran team members are happy to lend a hand or lend an ear, and they know the ins and outs of your new work environment.

Remember the Basic, Practical Stuff

  • Make a list and check it twice. Include the names of all students on your caseload, separated by grade. Include teachers’ names, room numbers, and therapy time slots for each pupil.
  • Find the closest bathrooms to your office. Seriously. Know where the rest rooms are, for both children and adults. You do not want to find out the hard way!
  • Calendars are a must. Buy a big calendar for your main desk and a smaller one to carry with you between schools and between home and school.

Go Easy on Yourself

  • Don’t expect perfection during the first few weeks. The school year is just getting under way, students are being switched from class to class, and it takes a while for a routine to develop. That list we just talked about? Write it in pencil, at least at first!
  • Get a good night’s sleep. This will help you stay alert during initial orientation sessions, in-service programs, and throughout the year.

Above all else, when the going gets tough – and even when it doesn’t – remember the reason you took this job: the students! Smile, embrace each day’s challenges, and enjoy each and every one of them!

For additional back to school guidance on your school-based therapy assignment, turn to the professionals at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. And here’s to a great year ahead!

Tips on Pencil Grasp Development

July 25th, 2014

A child’s ability to color within the lines, trace a shape or draw simple pictures are the building blocks for handwriting skills to be used throughout their lives. They need to move progressively through different stages of pencil grasp mastery as an important aspect of their early development.

Each stage depends on the strength and stability of the shoulder and arm muscles. As children develop physically, they participate in more and more gross and fine motor activities. These are the building blocks to pencil grasp maturity.

Big to Small
The “big to small” and “proximal to distal” principles note that children develop the larger muscles of the trunk and arms before the smaller muscles of the hands. Likewise, muscles that are closer to the center of the body, known as proximal muscles, mature before distal muscles such as the hands, which are further away.

  • Young children should never be forced to hold a pencil the “right” way. If their shoulder and arm muscles aren’t yet ready to support this action, the result may be serious fine motor problems such as messy work or even avoidance of coloring, drawing and later, writing activities.
  • Encourage motor skills development first. Gross motor skills activities help develop the shoulder girdle and core muscles. Fine motor skills activities build hand and finger strength and dexterity.

Pencil Grasp Stages
The typical progression of pencil grasp development stages looks like this:

  1. Fisted: This is first grasp you’ll likely see when a toddler begins using crayons. The child uses movement from their shoulders to get the crayon to move.
  2. Palmar: The crayon or pencil lies across the palm of the hand and the elbow is held out to the side a bit. This happens as a child gains more control over their arm and hand muscles. At this stage, their proximal muscles are sturdier and they’re beginning to coordinate shoulder and arm control.
  3. Five finger: This is sometimes inaccurately referred to as an “immature” grasp because it is not the three-finger grasp used in school-aged children. But it’s a perfectly mature grip for a pre-school child. The wrist tends to be held off the table, with its movements used for coloring. At first, the crayon is held very tightly. As hand muscles mature, the grip relaxes and finger movements emerge.
  4. Tripod: By about the age of five or six, most children should be comfortable using this mature, three-finger grasp. At first, their fingers will be held somewhat stiffly and they may continue to use wrist movements for control.

It’s normal for children to switch back and forth between pencil grasps as their shoulder and arm muscles develop. This will gradually occur less. It’s comparable to an infant learning to walk: When their legs tire, they revert back to crawling. But as their skills and endurance improve, they walk more and more.

There are numerous therapy activities you can use to foster pencil grasp development. Cutting with scissors is an excellent exercise for getting the tripod fingers to work together. Other pre-writing activities include using squirt bottles, playing with a slinky, stringing beads, popping bubble wrap, playing with play dough or silly putty, putting coins in piggy banks, and completing floor puzzles.

For additional resources to enhance your therapy career – and job opportunities in your specialty field – read our related posts or contact the team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.