November 30, 2013

Using Address Labels For Collecting Data

I have been meaning to write this post since starting this blog, but I am just now getting around to it. One of the aspects of being an SLP that is constantly evolving for me is the way I keep and collect my data. Since data collection is such an integral part of our jobs, it is important to develop an efficient way to do so. I think everyone has their own way that works for them and it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what that best way is. I wanted to devote a quick post to the evolution of my own data collection methods.

When I first started working in the schools, each of my students had an individual folder that held their data sheets and goals. The main reason I did it this way was because this was the system my master clinician used during my internship. Even though the folders were color coded (e.g., Yellow for all the Monday kids, Orange for all the Tuesday kids, Purple for all the kids who see me more than once a week, etc.) I found that this method didn't really work for me -- there was too much wasted time in having to find the right folders, getting the papers out, shuffling the progress sheets around trying to get data down onto the right page, and then getting the papers back into the right folders. After about one year of this process I abandoned the idea of individual folders and moved to a binder system.

I subsequently made two binders, one big one for all of my regular ed kids, and one smaller one for my SDC students. I bought tabs to divide the binders into sections for each student (alphabetically organized by the students' last names). Each tab then contained the data sheets for the student. 

My Speech Binder.
3 rows of tabs inside.
While I really liked having all of the sheets accessible in one single place, I found that I always seemed to scramble getting data down in the right section. Because of this, I eventually started taking data onto Post it notes. The major pitfall with this strategy was that I had to transfer the data from the post it notes into my binder at the end of the day, which in turn took forever -- resulting in wasted time I didn't have. This year I finally discovered my magic elixir to eliminate this problem : Avery address labels.

Now I simply stick a sheet of sticky labels onto my clipboard and record any data onto them (each label is marked with student initials so I know whose label belongs to whom).

Avery address label data collection.

This is what it looks like up close.
At the end of the day, I simply have to flip through my binder, record the date and what we did, and stick the label into the progress section and add a little note if needed.

Major time saver!
So far, this is the system that seems to work best for me. However, I would be surprised if my ways won't change again. Like I said, trial and error!

November 21, 2013

Using visual cues to work on play-based turn-taking

Phew, between progress reports, parent-teacher conferences, and frantic attempts to cram as many groups as possible into our shortened minimum days, I completely managed to neglect this blog over the last few days. Now that Thanksgiving break is around the corner, things are finally calming down a bit. Time for an update!

I thought I would write about a specific approach that I used with one of my lower functioning ASD students to teach play-based turn-taking skills. With the rise in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders we all have students working on social goals. This is an area that most of us do not feel super comfortable with since there seems to be a distinct lack of instruction on this topic in graduate school. In addition, often parents want to see playground/recess-based goals, which aren't always appropriate. I think parents don't understand that this type of outdoor play is extremely unstructured and overwhelming -- it is my belief that these kids need to master the skill in a highly structured environment first before we can take it outside. Also, I don't make it out on the playground as often as I want to, which makes it difficult to work on these goals with the necessary rigor.

Anyway, my student is a 3rd grade student attending our special day class. He has been diagnosed with ASD at an early age. Although he is verbal, his utterances are limited to delayed echolalia, refusal, and requesting desired items. His MLU is about 3-4. There is not much intrinsic motivation to engage in social activities or initiate conversations or other verbal exchanges. Of course, as with most parents of our ASD students, there was a push to include social goals in addition to language targets. During our sessions I noticed that although the student is able to adhere to rules of a simple game, he needed constant verbal prompting for each step in order to recognize when it was his turn, initiate, and then follow through with his turn. Because we often play games while working on our speech goals, I figured that this was something I could easily work on in the speech setting while practicing the rest of our targets. The goal I ended up drafting was as follows:

By (date), given an age-appropriate turn taking activity (i.e. a board game) with a peer or staff member, (student) will initiate his turn and follow through with it, with visual prompts only, 4/5 trials, in a structured setting, as measured by SLP observation and tally.
I selected three high interest target games and created three sets of visual prompts:

1. A choice board depicting the game selection and a sentence frame:

2. On the back of this card, I placed a visual reminder of "My turn":

3. I then continued to create visual rules for each of the three games:

It only took a few sessions for the student to learn to request a game appropriately and master the rules. If he did not initiate a turn, I briefly flashed or tapped the "My Turn" cue which sufficed to get him started. If he did not follow through with a turn, I tapped the specific rule. This approach really helped my little guy and by the end of the year he had gotten a lot better with turn-initiation (although we weren't able to completely fade out the "My Turn" visual). I think it is important though to see the growth and improvement with these students, even if it comes in small steps and minute increments...

November 10, 2013

TpT Freebie: Idiomatic Expressions Checklist

With the rise of Autism Spectrum Disorders I have more and more students each year who struggle with figurative language. My TpT Freebie for November is a checklist containing a large variety of common idiomatic expressions that our students may come across in different settings. I made this to help me assess which idioms my students are already familiar with and which ones they still need to master. Of course this list is not comprehensive, but it is a start. You can make checks in different colors (e.g., green for mastered, red for expressions that are not mastered) to help you visually organize your targets.
Idiomatic Expressions Checklist - get it here
I have also sent this list home with parents and asked for their input as to which expressions they would like me to work on. I hope you find this helpful!

November 7, 2013

Vocalic /r/ -- tURkey wORds

A lot of my /r/ students do well on their target sound until we hit vocalic /r/, so I decided to try and make a little fun activity for them. Using the theme of Thanksgiving and some clipart, I made a bunch of turkey visuals to work on that skill. Here is what one of them looks like:
Vocalic /r/ turkey.
Students are expected to blend a variety of onsets with particular vocalic /r/ word endings to create and record new words. What I like about this activity is that there is lots of repetition of the same type of vocalic /r/ and it works on phonological awareness skills, as well. (I quickly realized that this activity worked best with students who only had articulation deficits, those with language delays needed a lot more prompting and help.)

After generating and practicing a specific word, students then recorded the word on a worksheet. I told them that spelling didn't matter as long as they practiced it the right way. With some of my older students we talked about different spellings of the same word (e.g., pear vs. pair) and discussed the meaning of each. 

One of my hard-working 3rd graders.
When they were done with each word, students got to cross it out (using a re-usable dry erase pouch). Halfway through creating this activity I realized that Chipper Chat tokens fit perfectly onto the circles, too. This was not intended, just a really fortunate coincidence.
Crossing out words we found.
Happy coincidence!
I have made this activity available on TpT here. Hopefully my students will be able to say that they had "tURkey", not "tAWkey" for Thanksgiving dinner!

November 5, 2013

Using Story-Grammar-Marker to Teach Social Skills

Last week our district was fortunate enough to have a speaker from Social Thinking come to do a presentation for our staff. The title of our training was "Implementing Social Thinking Concepts and Vocabulary". I was already familiar with many of the ideas discussed since I own several of Michelle Garcia Winner's publications, but it was nice to hear someone talk about the concepts rather than reading about them. The one thing that I took away from the presentation was an idea that I thought was so clever that I wanted to share it on this blog.

The presenter spent some time talking about Story-Grammar-Marker and its value when teaching story comprehension. She then suggested that SGM can also be used for social problem solving to review good choices versus bad choices. I typed up an example in my homemade adapted SGM template (sadly I don't own the program, only the braid and some posters) to demonstrate this idea:

Click to enlarge.
I just thought it was a really novel spin on social stories! And if you are already using SGM with students to target story comprehension this might be an easily adaptable way to talk about social skills with them as well.