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Parts of Speech Wall Decor

Parts of Speech Wall Decor

This is the perfect addition to any speech room! What is better than having cute, functional decor hanging in your speech room? Use this parts of speech wall to complete a bulletin board or fill up a blank space in your therapy room. Included is three different color options: Pink and blue, pink/teal stripes and teal, and rainbow! 

This wall is perfect for incorporating speech and language concepts into any activity. Have your students choose a verb, antonym, or adjective and use it in a sentence. Ask them to give you the past tense form of the verb or answer a WH question about a noun! The possibilities are endless!

You can grab it HERE!
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Lacee Johnson
How To Push Through The Mid-Year Slump

How To Push Through The Mid-Year Slump

If you’re anything like me, the Springtime is the hardest part of the school year. The newness of the year as worn off, and frankly, so has my enthusiasm. I think the months of February-April are super tough to get through. But, this year I have taken a new perspective in hopes to try to make the best of it. In case you’re in the same boat, I wanted to share some tips that have helped me this year.

Tip #1: Self-care. It is easy for us as caregivers to want to please or help everyone around us. This means we rarely put ourselves first. My advice to you is to be selfish at least once a day. Go grab that Starbucks you have been itching for or leave for lunch to grab the smoothie bowl you’ve been eyeing. Take time to really connect and unplug with the world. For me, I’ve been sitting out side with my dogs and leaving my phone inside. You will be surprised on how much you hear and see when you aren’t glued to your phone. This weekend, I had my husband drop me off at my favorite clothing store and I bought a dress that wasn’t on sale and I didn’t feel guilty about it. Every now and then, I deserve a pricey dress.

Tip #2: Make a list of things you are looking forward to. We are going to Europe this summer (Yay!) and I haven’t had time to plan our itinerary. I finally set down and listed things on my bucket list to do while we're there and suddenly, June doesn’t seem so far away!

Tip #3: Re-energize, even if it means taking a personal day. This may be unreasonable for some, but trust me, if you take an entire day to do as you please (which for me is loads of unstructured, unplanned time) you will feel ready to seize the day tomorrow.

Tip #4: Find new activities to do with your students. Try out a new sensory bin, or a fun craft to get them excited about therapy. If you are having fun, they will be too!

I hope these tips help you navigate through these long months of the school year. Thanks for reading!!
P.S. Here is the t-shirt dress I bought. It is from Madewell and I am obsessed. :)

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Lacee Johnson
Working with Students with Autism...What I've Learned

Working with Students with Autism...What I've Learned

So you’ve transitioned to a new setting or your caseload this year has a heavy autism population. What do you do? Don’t freak out and think about all the things that you are insecure about, or all the things that can (and probably will) go wrong. You are smarter than you think. You know more than you think. This population can be extremely rewarding to work with. Do not fret. You can do this.

When I think of what I’ve learned in the small but valuable time I’ve primarily worked with this population…I think of three things. I'll call them the Three P's.

Pairing. Patience. Perseverance.

You may be thinking, what does this lady mean? Pairing is a common term used by ABA therapists. In laymen terms, pairing is basically establishing and maintaining positive rapport with your child. You want them to see you as a positive reinforcement, someone they can trust, and someone who plays and rewards them. In the beginning, this may feel like wasted time, as much of your pairing will be child led, unstructured time where you are simply building a relationship. During the pairing process, you will find out valuable things such as, what the child is interested in and how to establish yourself as a reinforcement. This way, you can gain instructional control and create an environment where social engagement can happen! There is no set time for how long or how often you do this. From personal experience, I never stop pairing. I had a recent experience with a new client that was super hard to reach. I honestly felt like I was getting nowhere. We spent our sessions spinning in a chair, drinking chocolate milk, and playing games on the iPad. BUT, something amazing happened. Our last session, he immediately ran towards me upon arrival, greeted me with a hug, and I was able to increase my demands of requesting, “Spin Me” and “I want chocolate milk.” on his AAC device. I may or may not have cried. I try to pair at the beginning of every session, if the opportunity is there. It really is nothing more than having some FUN with your kiddos. This leads me to my next tip…

You may find that you do not see a lot of progress at a fast pace when working with children with autism or children with related disorders. If you are used to working with students who have mild articulation or language disorders, this may come as a shock when you spend weeks teaching ONE preposition word. If I’ve learned anything from working with students with autism, I’ve learned how to be patient. You may trial and error multiple different interventions from Discrete Trial Training (DET) to Natural Environmental Teaching (NET). Find what works with your student. Patience has made me a better clinician. I feel that, the longer the time it takes to teach a child a skill, the better the reward when it finally clicks. And last but not least…

The official definition is, “The steadfast in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Do not give up. The best reward comes when you finally reach the child on their level and they become successful. It is no easy feat to do what we do every day. You are a rock star therapist!

I would love to hear about how you manage your difficult caseload population. Feel free to share your tips with me!

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Lacee Johnson
Why and How I Use Interactive Notebooks for Social Groups

Why and How I Use Interactive Notebooks for Social Groups

I started using interactive notebooks for a social group when I was given the opportunity to teach a social skills class in a whole group setting. Typically, I like to keep my social groups under 5 students, max, in order to address every student individually. So this was a change and I had to figure out how to adapt to this new setting. I was unsure and terrified about teaching social skills to a whole classroom of 10-15 students until I implemented interactive notebooks. Interactive notebooks are great for SO many reasons and I have had a lot of success over this year using them!

First a couple tips…
Tip #1: Cut and prep the materials as much as possible. I know this may seem like a lot of work on the front end, but trust me when I say you don’t want to lose 15 minutes of instruction because your students are cutting out the activity. My goal is to make this less of an art activity and more of an interactive activity.

Tip #2: Don’t present this as busy work. The idea of each activity/worksheet is to complete it together, as a group. If the students see this as busy work in any way, it will be tough to get “buy in.”

Tip #3: Create a curriculum but be flexible. I like to have my months planned with an overarching theme such as, Whole Body Listening with 3 or 4 activities that teach that skill.

Tip #4: Use relatable social scenarios. If you’re teaching a high-functioning group of students who are tough to motivate, give them options on what they want to focus on. For example, I started teaching Whole Body Listening to a group of students who were already demonstrating Whole Body Listening. Needless to say, I saw a couple eye rolls. Get them involved by using age-appropriate topics and let them choose what they want to work on!

Tip #5: Switch it up. If you do a worksheet activity every day, they may not be as excited as if you switch it up and show a video model or ask for a volunteer to role play. You can always wrap up the session by having them journal in their notebook or add to their self-tracking sheet.

Why I have loved using an interactive notebook for social groups…
1) Interactive notebooks allow for students to keep track of their own progress with their individual social skills. It becomes a resource for them to refer back to when reflecting on social scenarios that they struggle with.

2) It is something tangible and comprehensive for the student and SLP to have when looking back at the year. This is great for carryover with parents, teachers, and support staff to refer to when they are teaching social skills.

3) Students really respond to taking control of their self-monitoring skills and progress. They enjoy seeing the progress they’ve made and become proud when they look at what they’ve learned and discussed in social group.

Don't forget to check out this interactive notebook resource for your therapy room. Let me know how you run your social groups!! I always enjoy hearing how other SLPs do it!
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Lacee Johnson
Why I Love Token Systems...

Why I Love Token Systems...

I have tried 12309 different ways to manage behavior and set clear visuals for my students over the past four years. I cannot express how much a simple token board has increased student participation and success in my therapy room. During my CF year, I remember a specific student whom I couldn't get to come into my room and sit down without rummaging through all the books on my bookshelf first. I had had enough so I requested that a para-professional from her classroom come and help me manage the impulsiveness and actually get some work done. It was like magic. As soon as the para-professional walked in and noticed the student demonstrating non-compliant behavior, she whipped out her favorite book "Frozen" and the student sat down. The customized blue token board was hers. She got to earn three Elsa tokens and then had 2 minutes to flip through her book. 
This might seem like a "DUH Mrs. Lacee" moment, but as a first year SLP, I hadn't yet realized how impactful a simple token board could be to a student. I truly believe customized token charts work wonders and the students enjoy having something "just for them." If you need a set of token boards or want to try them out, click here to see my bundle pack and click here for a FREE token board. 
I hope everyone has a great week!

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Lacee Johnson
Working with High Functioning Students with ASD

Working with High Functioning Students with ASD

Have you ever had a student that just didn’t seem to qualify on any standardized measure you gave him/her? When I was a brand new SLP, I stuck to those standardized scores like they were the end all be all. Learn from my mistake. Standardized measures do not always grasp or show the whole picture of a student and sometimes, they don’t even come close. For those students with what some call, “high-functioning autism” we have to dig a little deeper and our assessment looks a little different than what we usually do. According to the new DSM-5, there are three levels of severity when we are looking at ASD.

Level 1: In a nutshell, these are our students with severe communication deficits whom are typically non-verbal.
Level 2: These are our students whom posses substantial deficits in the area of communication. They make speak in simple phrases or sentences and have difficulty with basic language concepts.
Level 3: These are our students who need social language supports. They have trouble making friends, understanding conversation rules, and many other social pragmatic concepts.

I want to talk about our students that fall in that Level 3 area. These students typically had Asperger’s Syndrome. Now, we call it, Social Communication Disorder (SCD). Personally, I think that is a better reflection of the struggles they may face.

These students may have difficulty with:
-Eye referencing (moving their eyes for communicative purposes, joint attention skills)
-Reading and interpreting those non-verbal social cues
-Predicting what other will do next in a situation (vital skill in the classroom setting)
-Identifying what others might think or feel
-Knowing whose turn it is to talk
-Talking to much or too little (interrupting, off-topic comments, one-sided conversations)
-Understanding when to respond
-Lack of empathy
-Failing to demonstrate salient emotions

Where do we go from here? There really isn’t an objective standardized measure to assess these specific areas out there although, there are a few that are a great supplement during assessments. Here are a few suggestions when you are going through an evaluation period.

1) Social Competency Interviews: These interviews should be with a VARIETY of people including: parents or family members, teachers, friends, and the student. Check out my social competency questionnaire HERE. 
2) Observation: I typically try to observe in 2-3 different settings with different people. Check out this great observation rating form, HERE. Some things to consider while completing an observation are:
a. Who are they with? (Familiar or unfamiliar people)
b. What is the context? (class, P.E., lunch, small group, large group)
c. Preferred or non-preferred activity?
3) Collect a language sample. Observe a VERBAL interaction and attempt to take a language sample. Language samples can tell us SO much information about the student. Look for those unwritten rules of conversation.
If you are looking for an Informal SCD Measure, check out this resource!

Social Communication Interventions
You’ve collected all your data, made your decision, and believe that this student may benefit from skilled speech and language services in the areas of pragmatics. Some things to think about before you begin treatment…

1) Individual or group setting?
2) Contrived or naturalistic learning opportunities?
3) Incidental or direct treatment?
4) Setting? In the home or school?
5) Peers? Same-age? Typical or atypical?
6) Amount of time?
*No matter what you choose, it should be individualized for each student.

There are a huge variety of social skills curricula out there and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Some things that I have found effective when conducing social groups are…
1) Social Stories by Carol Grey
2) Counseling techniques
3) Social Behavior Mapping by Michelle Garcia-Winner
4) Video Modeling
5) Zones of Regulation by Leah Kuypers

An important item to consider when treating students with SCD is anxiety. It is not uncommon for our students to have co-existing anxiety disorders. These may decrease academic and social performance and if left untreated, we may never see their true potential.

I hope this post gives you some kind of idea on where to start when you are assessing and treating individuals with social communication disorders. Please comment below with some intervention techniques that have worked in your therapy room!
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Lacee Johnson
7 Behavior Strategies You Should be Implementing

7 Behavior Strategies You Should be Implementing

I wanted to share 7 general behavior strategies that are super helpful in my speech room. You are probably a rock star therapist and already implementing these on a daily basis BUT a good review never hurt anyone.

Tip #1 – Use a visual schedule.
Why you ask? It decreases anxiety about the unexpected. It shows what is expected of them. It shows when a preferred activity will occur.

Tip #2 – Give choices.
Why? If you choose two activities that will work towards the objective and let them chose, it gives them a sense of power. Share the power.

Tip #3 – Provide Assistance.
Why? Establish yourself as someone the student feels safe with and WANTS to be around.

Tip #4 – Take breaks.
Why? Multiple breaks are better than pushing until they break and not being able to return to the session.

Tip #5 – Slowly increase demands.
Why? If you don’t pair with your student and establish that rapport, they will not want to work for you.

Tip #6 – Use visuals.
Why? Because providing the quickest most effective response form allows our students to be more successful. Visuals can be symbols for “outs” like ‘break’ or assistance like ‘help’. You can also use visual timers so they students knows how long he/she as to work.

Tip #7 – Gain their trust.
Why? Build rapport. Have a couple sessions where you do not place any demands on them. It will pay off in the long run!

I hope these tips are helpful for you in your speech sessions this week!
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Lacee Johnson
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