It's been a while since I've checked in on my little blogspace. A lot has changed, and I feel the need to share. I began this blog as a way to share ideas, lessons, and helpful tips about tele-therapy for speech and language therapy, but as my career has morphed again, I will need to re-think about the blog going forward.
I am not currently practicing tele-therapy with students, as of the beginning of this school year. I held two separate jobs last school year, one of which was my tele-therapy position, and the other was my full-time position with a school district. Because of personal reasons, I felt it was best to end the chapter with my online company and solely focus on face-to-face therapy. I will miss practicing "Cyber Speech," but it was the best choice for me at this time.
My current company had also told me they would support my expressed interest in beginning a tele-practice division for speech and language through them. As the school year is about to begin, though, this would be a project for next summer (Since I'm also amidst wedding planning).
My hope was to keep and transition this blog into a broader scope of "Cyber Speech," and focusing more on the cyber materials aspect of therapy. Digital data collection, online materials, etc. But ultimately, I want to write and create posts that are MEANINGFUL to other SLPs. If you're not going to read it, I'm not going to write for my own enjoyment. I hand-write journals for that.
So, if you'd like to continue reading my tiny corner of the blogosphere, let me know what topics interest you! Do you have particular topics or materials you'd like to see? Let me know!
The Cyber Speechie
...an adventure in attitudes. (I kid.)
Also, I seemed to have let half of the school year slip by. I decided to transition into a part-time position with teletherapy this year, rather than tackling the cyberworld full-time again. For me, I don't know that a position solely online is my best fit. I will say, however, that I miss all of my online students from last year.
Today's all about high schoolers. Over the past year and a half with teletherapy, I've worked with several high schoolers: freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, all of whom needed therapy for receptive/expressive language skills. While many of them are polite and respectful, I did have a handful of students who wanted nothing to do with me, which made therapy tough.
When you're in cyber school, no one is stopping you from watching TV instead of logging into your classes (including therapy), especially if mom or dad work outside of the home during the day. Couple that with students whose parents do not give out their cell phone or email, and I hit a wall. Calling mom or dad to let them know Johnny or Susie hasn't logged in only goes so far if mom or dad are too busy at work to answer the call. Last school year, I would attempt to switch therapy to a later morning or afternoon slot, but this year, I'm limited to evening hours.
Out of my evening students this year, one faithfully attends every week and is highly motivated to increase his social skills to make friends. The other student, I have not been able to get in contact with at all, and it's now March.
One of my favorite ways to motivate my language-impaired students to show up and work in therapy is to use their interests. It doesn't bother me at all if a student wants to read The Hunger Games or listen to Demi Lovato, because we can tie in language to ~literally~ anything. Isn't the point of language therapy to increase a student's functional skills?
One student that I had scheduled for Friday afternoons from 4:15-4:45, was never an attendance issue, but I decided that I needed motivation based on her late time slot. Every week, we chose a song for the following week and we targeted figurative language, inferencing, main idea, and supporting details. She chose a song, I chose a song. And we 100% danced and sang along during therapy. I truly felt sad when she was sick or cancelled therapy, because if you think therapy only needs to be motivating for your students, you're sorely mistaken. :)
Another high school student of mine is working on social skills. This student is well aware of his deficits, and reminds me a lot of a video that circled Facebook a while ago. He is on the spectrum, and he is frustrated that he has social deficits, because his long term goals include friends, marriage, a family, and a career. He is passionate about his faith, so we use our therapy sessions to tie in appropriateness of conversations he may have at youth group, and we practice mock-conversation after mock-conversation (our YTD tally is somewhere in the 30's, I believe). But!!! These very functional and predictable courses of conversation keep him engaged and responsive to cueing in therapy. He knows the expectation is for him to participate readily in conversations, and he'll get the feedback he wants regarding how to make friends.
Therapy can be tricky with older students, but I think adding functionality and explaining WHY you're drilling those "dumb idioms" can help students realize there is a point to my bugging them beyond Language Arts class.
Any tips or tricks you have about working with high schoolers?
The Cyber Speechie
As I mentioned in a previous post, I had been considering making the switch from "full-time" tele-therapy into a more part-time role. There are many reasons behind my choice, and I'd like to share a few of them with you. This being said, jumping into 100% working from home was something I thought I truly wanted. I'm going to list my reasons beneath each pro and con, too, for clarification. I have made the switch to full time in the schools and part time at home, but I wanted to explain my reasoning.
- spending the day at home with my dogs
During last school year, I had 2 (which has now grown to 3) dogs, who are heavily dependent on my presence. I barely left my house, and when I did, it was only for a short time. The puppies rarely leave my sight, except to get into trouble, and they are distressed when I'm gone. Working from home means that I don't have to hire a sitter or take them to puppy daycare, either. One or both of those would be a necessity, too, because they can't hold their bladders all day.
- no commute
Both a pro and a con. No commute means minimal separation from work. I bought a desktop in January for this very reason. I cannot separate and achieve a work/life balance. It's not in my Type A DNA. I dedicated our second guest room into a "home office" which helps a little, but not too much. No gas cost, though!
- flexible (somewhat) scheduling
For the most part, scheduling is in your hands. I did have a student whose family requested no morning sessions, which was a farewell to my half-hour lunch, but AH! what we do for our students. I did love that I could take a 15 minute break mid-day and spend my afternoons with my older students who didn't like to be up early anyways. It was nice not to worry about recess, lunch, or specials.
- you can't leave work
Anyone who knows me will agree: I can't leave work at work. Never have, maybe never will. I'm about as Type-A-ridden-with-generalized-anxiety as they come. Having my desktop sending me come on, Meg, you can do a little more work tonight vibes doesn't jive well with that hilarious work/life balance that everyone else seems to have (For the record, I don't believe in "work/life balance," because I cannot leave work at work no matter how hard I try, but at least my student files and materials are stuck an hour away when I'm at home).
- communicating only by phone/email
I know that I've made it clear that I prefer solitude, but communicating with coworkers solely by email with the occasional phone call, in a word, stinks. You can't "read" people the way you can read body language (I know, because pragmatics are so embedded in my caseload this year) in a face-to-face conversation. Also, if you don't have a phone number for a colleague, you essentially are waiting by your email endlessly, maybe to never receive a response.
- the monetary costs for additional licenses
Last year, I held 4 state licenses. Now that I'm part-time, I only hold 2. It doesn't seem like much, but that's an extra $500 in my pocket at license-expiration time (AKA the holiday season, when ASHA's $250 are also due).
- no coworkers
This one was big for me. Having no coworkers meant having no one to talk with about work. My boyfriend (love him!) listened to my complaints and worries for a while, but after a few months, he got sick of it. I knew he was getting more and more annoyed by the day, but I didn't have anyone I could just vent with about the frustrations of SLP.
- 8+ hours a day of "screen time"
I significantly try to limit my screen time (I say, as I'm typing this at my computer...), and I am a firm believer in keeping your phone in your pocket/purse at meals, though I do break that rule at times. Working remotely from my computer meant that I had to be accessible at all hours for anything, which doesn't go well with my limiting-technology philosophy.
Overall, I miss doing teletherapy and being at home, but for me, the cons outweighed the pros for a full-time, 30-40 hour workweek from home.
What do you think? What are your pros and cons about working from home?
The Cyber Speechie
It's been over a month since my last post, and I've been organizing and sorting out my home office for a few hours a week in preparation for the school year. I don't have much new info to report, as I work with school-aged students through their cyber schools, but I did want to pop in to let you know that the year (for one of my schools) starts back up in less than a month! There have been lots of changes for me this summer, including adding a third pup to our fur-clan, as well as a search for more of a part-time cyber role for me. Nothing is set in stone, and I want to maintain my cyber hours in some capacity. I am working on a post right now about my decisions and how they came to be.
Check back soon for more cyber speech info!
The Cyber Speechie
Hello there! It's wrapping up to be the end of the school year, and my body feels every ache of that. Just because I'm working from the luxury of my own home does not mean that I get to kick back and relax. It's just as draining as if I would be working in the school, because technically, I am.
IEP and progress notes have been sent out, but we hit a snag last week that my progress notes (30 of them) were mailed out to my brick-and-mortar schools, but were never received. Oh, and my March progress notes weren't, either. Luckily my virtually schools do not require a mailed progress note (for obvious reasons...).
Today I wanted to dive into more activities I may do in sessions with students. Last time, I went through some articulation and language activities for my students, but today I want to give some examples of early-language based activities. These are activities that I use with my kindergarten students all the way up through my high-schoolers and my cognitively-impaired students.
Spatial Concepts and Prepositions
I found this YouTube channel a few months ago and it was exactly what I needed! I had a lot of evaluations this year for students working on spatial concepts, and I loved targeting these through song. We started with Where is it? #1, then progressed through #2, and #3. When we practiced those songs several times, we would pause at the screens to identify "which is under?", "what is on the book?", etc. in the interest of mixing it up. We also enjoyed watching On In Under and In Front Of, Behind, Between.
One of the best ways to find new and interesting activities for my students is simply by asking! I have found that especially as a "school-based" therapist, you have to constantly be asking the students what is interesting to them, or what they like. Sometimes, your data is narrative because your session was unplanned, but I'm all about student-driven therapy (within reason). One of my students mentioned the website ABCYa.com that his virtual teacher used, and I love it! On the site, I love to use the creation games to target spatial concepts. My favorites, and my students favorites, are consistently Make a Robot, Make a Pizza, Make a Face, and Make a Cookie.
About halfway through the year, I started using a site called Education.com. I found the worksheets and games were perfect to implement in tele-therapy, and it held my students' attention much longer and better than using my paper-based materials with my document camera. The site blocks a user after so many free items are accessed, but I used them so frequently, I paid for a membership. I find the activities valuable and because they are sorted by grade-level, they are organized well. I have downloaded many of the worksheets so I don't have to find them again, but I am always finding new materials on the site.
Several of my students were working on categories and category sorting, which I wanted to reinforce using games. I found a sorting objects by materials game, sorting people and animals at the zoo game, cocoa color sorting game, and several "what don't belong games" here, and here.
Synonyms and Antonyms
I utilize lots of Teachers Pay Teachers stores for many of my language concepts, and I specifically like Antonyms Match-up and It's Raining Antonyms. The great thing about tele-therapy is no printing! You can either open up a blank screen in front of the answers, or make the window small enough to only see one of the pairs.
For antonyms, I enjoy using the Hopposite bunny game on PBS Kids, which also helps build vocabulary! For a shorter reinforcer, we use Match the Opposites on Education.com.
MLU and increasing utterances
One of my students was working on increasing her verbal utterances, specifically with automatic sequences and two-word phrases. We used everything from storybooks to games to stickers that she brought to the session one day. We targeted putting stickers ON her mom, ON her arm, ON her shirt, and ON her nose. She loved that I chose her favorite calming activity to address speech goals!
When using books, I like to choose ones with repetitive phrases and short sentences like Beach Day and Doggone Dogs. These are great to talk about vocabulary and repeat phrases.
Grammar and Figurative Language
I know I posted about using it here, but I can't say enough good things about The Language Intervention Survival Kit. It's on sale right now, so go pick up a copy if you think it would suit your needs!
For my middle- and high-schoolers working on figurative language, I use a lot of Education.com worksheets to start, but as a wrap-up and knowledge check, I found this quiz.
I also CONSTANTLY use the digital copy of No Glamour Grammar that I have. I don't think I've gone one day without it for my students this year. This book is so helpful to target those grammar goals when you're just learning a skill and as a "post-test" to check comprehension and mastery. Plus, I can type right on the copy and it erases when the session is over.
Always something I need to target! I love "find the evidence" packets that make my students use different colors for different readings. It keeps the lessons fun, but also gives them the visual cues they need. On sale now here.
I never get more than 3 students a time who are working on fluency, but I love using this Interactive Binder for those students. I saved the file my different students to type his answers and draw his pictures onto, which he loved.
For my early language learners, I love to use themes so they can be exposed to vocabulary grouped around a central idea. I got my mileage out of my library card, using my document camera to display the pages on our shared computer screen. It's super-expensive right now, but I got my for $99 around the Christmas holiday last year.
We also love online interactive books, like the one here. Also, songs are a great way to engage and share our silly singing voices while working on our goals. This counting song was great to pair beach vocabulary with familiar counting to answer my questions "how many shells?" and "how many crabs?" by expanding the number into "5 shells" and "7 crabs".
When targeting rhyming, I really like this activity, but it doesn't work well with tele-therapy... There's just something so rewarding to students about turning that flap on the paper strip! Luckily, I found this matching game to help me out.
What technology do you like to use with your language targets? Do you use technology at all, or do you prefer hard-copies of materials?
Good morning, reader!
Several months ago, I had the privilege to present for two classes at my alma mater (via our online platform!). The professor's focus of the class was having practicing therapists of differing backgrounds present on different aspects of our field, including CFY, specific settings, and a typical day at a setting.
While I'm not the most well-versed or the first tele-practicing therapist out there, I love to share my triumphs and troubles with anyone seeking advice. I enjoy staying active on the tele-therapy front because it is a new part of our field, and I want to encourage more therapists to give it a try!
For my presentation, I made a short handout, but I don't stick to a plan almost ever. Isn't that the life of an SLP? Make a beautiful, thorough lesson plan and watch it sail away in the wind because your client either hates it or tackles all 20 activities in 5 minutes.
Generally, though, I stuck to my talking points. We had a time for answering questions at the end, but the students weren't familiar enough with the field yet to know what specific teletherapy-related questions to ask. Needless to say, I talked for 50 minutes....in each class.
Because you're reading and not listening (I apologize for not recording the presentation), I'll do my best to translate the points into paragraphs, so bear with me! And without further ado, Tackling Tele-therapy:
There's a lot of points you may not consider when first beginning teletherapy. First, are you going to find and service clients on your own, or are you going to seek a company to hire you? If you go through a company, like I did, you may be told up-front that you need to purchase licenses for (several) other states to support the amount of hours you want to work. At the time, I had both an Ohio and a Florida SLP license, but there weren't any clients who contracted through my company in either state. I had to additionally purchase a Michigan, Oklahoma, and West Virginia license because I was looking for the maximum possible hours. And still, I was only given 31 hours a week, because that was all the students there was a need for last year. Keep in mind that you need a license for both your state of residence and your client's. If you're traveling a lot, you'll need licenses for each place where you provide therapy (for example, if I go home to visit my parents for the holidays and school is still in session, I could bring my computer and do therapy as long as I have an active license in Pennsylvania.). Consider also whether you need a teacher's certification, too, or if an SLP license will suffice. If you're working through a company, they should tell you this information. You can check out ASHA's information about state telepractice requirements here.
You also need to think about liability insurance and FBI clearances. Both are relatively inexpensive, but are still costs you have to consider. Plus, you need to make sure your liability insurance covers "self-employed." As an independent contractor, you are considered self-employed. Which means you don't get benefits or PTO, either.
Thirdly, consider your technology. I had to upgrade to the fastest internet money could buy so that my video streaming software (Go to Meeting) would run efficiently. I also had to buy a brand-new computer. And about computers- I use a Mac (I'm a loyal consumer of Apple), but PCs work well, too. I can't speak to their quality, but I have colleagues who tell me they work fine. Additionally, I use a document camera and Articulation Station through my iPad so I take the guesswork out of articulation therapy. Again, though, those were not cheap items. Luckily, I had an iPad, but I spent the $60-some to purchase Articulation Station Pro so I wouldn't need to scramble for materials. I also purchased a subscription to Education.com so that I could have access to endless language games and worksheets. Not to mention my Teachers pay Teachers purchases. I'm also extremely fortunate to have a mom who is an SLP, too. She's shared so many digital files with me that I had to buy a terrabyte of memory for my computer. Also, as an independent contractor, if I wanted to administer evaluations, I would have to purchase these myself. I don't know about you, but the cost of one test is a lot- factor in if you need an articuation, language, and fluency test. That's a giant cost you bear yourself.
You will have technology issues. Your computer will lose audio randomly. Your internet will cut out. You computer may restart mid-session. It happens! The most important thing, I've found, is to keep an open line of communication with your families. I always save my family's phone numbers in my phone so this is not a huge issue. One time, we had so much trouble, the student and I kept the video and screen-sharing features on the computer, and talked through the phone. You just do whatever you need to to make it work.
You can read my post about client internet connection here, but I will say this- if your student/client has a bad or slow internet connection, you're not having good therapy.
Most of the time, restarting your computer fixes a lot of the issues. If not, I've called the Geniuses at Apple I don't know how many times. They're extremely helpful and they have always followed up with my more complicated issues. I make a point to explain that I'm a speech language pathologist who does online therapy through a video streaming program, and I work from home. Knowing it's my livelihood has helped them better understand what I need and how quickly I need it to be completed. :)
If all else fails, I've rescheduled students who I simply couldn't get my computer working for. As long as the family is okay with it, it was never a problem.
The biggest factor to consider is time zones. A funny little scenario which was not so funny at the time:
I had a kindergarten student - who we'll call Marianne - in Oklahoma (which is in Central Standard Time). I live in Eastern Standard Time, so if our session started at 9:00 AM for me, they would be at 8:00 AM for her. Marianne's mom was always great at telling me if they needed to reschedule therapy for the following week if she had a doctor's appointment or if there was a tornado warning. One busy week, Marianne's mom forgot to call, so we rescheduled our therapy time to 10:00 AM for that Friday. When Friday came, I waited during our session and gave her a call when she didn't log in. I had forgotten the time zone difference! I asked if she was still attending therapy that day, and they said they would be there in an hour. Because my schedule was so loaded, I had another student from 11:00-11:30. Panicking, I tried to decide what to do, while keeping up with my other students that morning. When 11:00 came, Marianne and I had our session while I silently brooded over my mistake. A few minutes after we logged off, I got a phone call from the other student. He apologized that he had slept through his session that day.
Luckily, this worked out in my favor, but I've since began writing the student's therapy time (in his/her time zone) next to their therapy time. That way, I have that extra visual, and I don't have to remember who is in a different time zone and who isn't.
What does therapy look like?
If you're reading this blog, you've probably seen a few of my teletherapy posts already, but in case you haven't, I'll give a brief overview:
Your best bet is to find common-core linked websites (like ABCYa), because you don't get the opportunity to reach out to teachers about their classroom lessons. In addition to using my iPad, I really like Mommy Speech Therapy and Heather Speech Therapy for articulation pages of target words, and Home Speech Home for various materials. As always, Teachers Pay Teachers, too! And I love Education.com. For pragmatics (and language, too) I like YouTube. Here's a great channel to help with language concepts.
And that's a wrap! I also gave demonstrations about an articulation and a language therapy session, but I don't have a recording for you to post here. I hope this was helpful!
What other start-up questions do you have about teletherapy?
The Cyber Speechie
Happy Friday! I'm always posting on Fridays. The draining weeks always seem to do wonders for my writing, so lucky you, reader!
I'm working on a few summer posts at the moment, and I would love to hear input from any readers about topics you're interested in. I'm working on a blog-version of a "Tackling Tele-therapy" presentation I did for my Alma Mater back in March.
Anything you'd like to know? Any burning questions you have about the world of E-learning and tele-health?
If not, be on the lookout for posts coming in the next week!
The Cyber Speechie
Happy Friday, folks!
Today's post is brought to you by a question I've been asked as a tele-therapist. How do you conduct an IEP meeting online? Good question.
Because I work with two different school formats, I conduct IEPs in two different ways. Both are very different from how IEPs worked when I was working in the school system in Florida. We'll start with my brick-and-mortars, AKA my "regular" schools where I am the outlier.
Brick-and-Mortar IEP Meetings
If you are a practicing SLP who has "speech-only" students on your case, you're typically responsible for scheduling the meetings, contacting parents, and rounding up the team members for each meeting. Not for me!
I have a school liaison (IEP Coordinator) who does the contacting, scheduling, and printing. I simply accept or deny the invitation and attend. (Oh, and write the IEP ;) ) If I deny, the school has been asking me to call the parents ahead of time and explain my part, but this is not kosher. Alas, the bugs of working through a new service delivery model...
Virtual School IEP Meetings
My students in virtual school range from speech-only to moderately severe cognitive impairments, yet they all are assigned a special education teacher. Yes, even the speech-onlies. The teacher is responsible for emailing and organizing the meeting, and the SLP's responsibility is to write the IEP and accept or deny the invitation. Because it's an online meeting and we all attend via phone conference and Blackboard Connect, if I can't attend, it's my responsibility to round up another SLP and have them attend in my place.
And that's basically it! Pretty simple, but it's a little kinky communication-wise when you can only connect by phone or email.
Do you have any other burning questions? Let me know in the comments!
The Cyber Speechie
That student. We've all had them. If you're not an SLP and don't know what I mean, it's your toughest student. The one who you feel like you need to pull out every trick in the (not just the book, but the whole) library, and yet, nothing works.
Let me clarify: these are my favorite students. As frustrating as it may be to feel like you can't connect, the intrinsic reward of FINALLY being able to functionally communicate is inspiring and unlike any other feeling. I have cried tears of joy on more than one occasion about how meaningful it is to finally be able to understand what my student is saying or communicating, and I know the parents feel similarly, especially because they deal with the frustration daily.
Today, we had that moment. I saw a glimmer of it a few sessions back, and stupidly (stupid as in, pay more attention, Meghan!!!) missed it. My student signed "sheep" because the One Sheep, Blue Sheep is a favorite silly story of our's.
When I get a student to functionally use signs or verbalize words, there is this joy where I think "you GET it!" Language comes so naturally for most children, but I have the pleasure of helping those children who don't, and that makes me so happy.
The Cyber Speechie
...because I work for 5 separate "districts."
Bummer, right? There aren't many downsides to working for myself from home, but this is certainly one of them. One of my virtual charter schools had spring break two weeks ago, and the rest have spring break this week. In sum, I never really got a spring break.
That being said, I serve three students at the school in session this week, so that's two and a half hours out of my typical 35. Not too, too shabby. ;)
For being a tele-therapist, though, I've gotten super lazy about organizing my "office," because if it's out of the webcam's eye, my clients are none the wiser. (And I am none the cleaner.) So, my spring break has been a spring cleaning whirlwind of my house, office-included.
I'm sure you are no stranger to KonMari and her Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I, too, bought the book MONTHS ago (cough, August, cough-cough), but never got around to it. Half of my possessions were collecting dust in a storage unit, and I didn't want to half-heartedly clean what little pile I had outside of storage. When my other half and I moved into a rental house, I decided I would hop onto the Tidying Train...and yet another month went by.
But! To make a long-winded rant shorter, I will say that I have been KonMari-tidying my office this week, and so far, it's looking better! It's mostly saying "does this spark joy for my students?" and "does this spark joy for targeting a speech or language goal?" Because, let's be honest - I love my students and my job, but I don't necessarily think the mundane building-up-skills-before-we-figure-out-what-strategy-works-for-them is worthy of a joy spark. Maybe I'm wrong, but speech and language therapy is not all daisies and rainbows ALL the time. Just most.
I've retained most of my therapy belongings (I'm only two and a half years out of school and also a self-proclaimed minimalist), but I did get to rid myself of some materials I've collected (freebies = YAS when you're an SLP paying student loans. right!?). Surprisingly, these were mostly garage sale or thrift store finds that I was SURE I would use. It's really the freebies that have proven to be the most useful!
Also on the agenda this week? Digital tidying. I've been prepping for those long hours I'm going to need to log by listening to Note to Self while I'm sorting my office. I find this podcast super-relatable now that my livelihood is earned through technology. I hope you'll give Manoush a listen, because she holds my attention really well, and I find her topics interesting and engaging. Plus, I've got over 4,000 digital files solely dedicated to targeting speech and language goals. Yikes.
Are you a KonMari fan? Have you tried the spark joy method to tidying your office, or digital workspace?
The Cyber Speechie