Saturday, June 13, 2015

You are a Social Detective Beginner App Review

I am always on the look out for some decent social skill materials to use when working with students. So, when I was asked to review the "You Are a Social Detective Beginner App" by the same people who make the Think Social! curriculum (which I love and use all the time) I had to give it a try.

Of course, I agreed to do this review at the beginning of the IEP season. I'm afraid I am way late in making my review. However, its now summer, and even though I'm at a year round school, I have more time on my hands than I did back in May.

So, I have been fairly disenfranchised by speech therapy apps as of late. I feel like there is a lot of apps thrown together real quick to make a quick buck. The last few app purchases I've made I've been disappointed with. To be honest, at first I thought that was what I was getting into when I started to look at this app. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

The app was meant to go with the You are a Social Detective Book by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke. It emphasizes the use of social "smarts" at home, in school and everywhere else. If you are already familiar with the Think Social curriculum then you'll already be very familiar with the concepts that this app teaches.

This app has quizzes to test your students social skill "smarts". I especially like the videos of real kids. There has been a lot of research done on using video modeling to teach social skills to students on the Autism Spectrum. I been to several training's where they have emphasized this. Students with Autism and Asperger's respond well to watching social skill videos. The short little videos during the quizzes are fantastic. 

Now, I tried to use this during therapy with some kids with social skill goals on their IEPs. One problem is that you can't access all the sections unless you have unlocked it with a your "Avatar". It doesn't lend itself well to group therapy in my opinion. It would be great if you were working one-on-one with a student or as supplement practice for home. This is something that parents can do with their kids at home to further generalize the information from the "You Are a Social Detective" book. 

However, the app costs $24.99, which might be a difficult sale for parents. For therapists, it would be well worth the price at least for the video quizzes. 

These guys have also created the Social Skill Builder app which I haven't had a chance to look at yet, but would love to hear from any of you if you like it or not. 

So, how are you using technology for social skills? Have you found something helpful in assisting students or at least augmenting your lessons?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Review of new product- the Forbrain

I got the opportunity to try a product from Europe called Forbrain. 

First of all the company has been so great to work with and so dedicated to their product.  They were also patient with me as I took an ETERNITY to write this review! 
The Fobrain offers auditory feedback via bone conduction!  They call it an "enhanced audio vocal loop."  It's supposed to increase your sound encoding skills.  They say it can improve your comprehension of the info you read aloud, it can help your attention to the task, your encoding it into memory, and your improved speech and voice as you listen to yourself, among other things.  Basically, while you're speaking, you can hear what you're saying more loudly and intensely as it comes back to you.  The "speaker" part of the device rests in front of your ears right on your bones and the sound is vibrated through to your ears.  The company suggested I try it out with patients working on voice, motor speech, and cognition. 

I tried the device on myself first, and did some reading out loud. I could definitely hear my speech coming back to me loud and clear, and I could feel the vibrations in my bones. I immediately thought this would be great for those patients with voice issues or dysarthria who are less aware of their speech problems, or who have a hard time hearing the subtle things we are asking them to listen for. Even artic problems could benefit I'm guessing.

Of course, after wearing it myself and doing some reading, it's very hard for me to judged accurately whether or not it improved my attention and memory, etc.  There are some clinical trials going on in Europe right now to test those things.  It will be interesting to see the results.  If the company can still stand to work with me after me being so slow and annoying, I'll keep you posted.  :)

I then tried the device with several of my patients, since it is obviously not harmful, and since any additional potential help to my dysarthria and voice therapy skills is welcome. My patients have all commented that the device is comfortable, seems to be helping.  I did notice with two particularly quiet and dysarthiric patients, their speech did seem to improve mildly after placement of the device.  I think I will hang onto it and continue to use it with patients who need a little something more than traditional tx, or who are not responding to my cues well.  I tried it with a couple of patients working on memory and attention, and again, they said the device seemed helpful in staying on task and remembering what they were reading. Again, I don't see why this couldn't be used by me experimentally to help give patients a "boost."

Several of my colleagues are considering using the device experimentally, and we even considered doing a simple research project and presenting a poster at ASHA.  This could be a future research project! 

In conclusion, I think the deice has some great potential.  I love to try to things, and will continue to use it with dysarthria and voice patients who need more help with listening, perceptual skills, changing subtle thinks in their speech, resonance, voice, etc.  And I'll be watching for the results of these trials in Europe.  If you are interested in the device, you can leave a comment below and I'll ask my contact person if they would like to contact you for beta testing, reviewing, research, or purchasing. I don't know if they are currently available for purchase in the US. 

Let me know what you think!!



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Orientation and calendar task

Ohhh my goodness, I have not blogged in an eternity!!  Sorry.  I had a baby and life got too crazy.  She is an adorable baby!!!  I'll post pictures.  In the mean time, here's a little orientation task I just created since working on orientation can feel kinda...repetitive and boring.  :)

Orientation and calendaring exercise for Inpatient Rehab
  • Number each day in this month
  • Place a small post-it on today’s square.
  • Write the word “today” on the post-it. 
  • Are there any holidays (or family birthdays) this month- fill them out.
  • What events or appointments are coming this week?  Point to them or fill them in.
  • Which is the first day of the week this month?
  • Count how many days from today to the end of the month.
  • How many Sundays are there in this month?
  • On which day of the week does the 14th fall?
  • Which day did you arrive in Rehab?
  • How many days have you been here?
  • Which day will you be leaving?
  • How many days until you discharge?
  • How many days (total) will you have been in Rehab by the time of your discharge?
  • What season(s) is/are this month? (summer, fall, winter, spring)

For home

Each day:
  • Ask a family member or caregiver to join you in doing your orientation exercise. 
  • Try to say the date without looking at the calendar.
  • Move the “Today” post it forward one day.
  • Say the date now, looking at the calendar. 
  • Cross of the previous day (all days that have passed should be crossed off).
  • Look at upcoming appointments/events.
  • Write any to-dos, appointments, events that you learn about today.
  • Make any preparations you need to make for those events (e.g., if there is a family birthday tomorrow, do you need to get a gift or card?  If there is a therapy appointment this morning, do you need to shower, dress, etc.?)
  • Say the date without looking at the calendar.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Personal update!

Hey all,

Just for fun I thought I would let you know how things are going.  I'm still pregnant- 23.5 weeks along.  Get my first kick this week!  Had a nasty lower back injury a couple weeks ago.  Oh, and I am only 2 days apart with my sister!

That's her on the left, and me on the right a couple weeks ago.  We are excited!  I'm having a girl and she's having a boy.

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday!  Hope you get some time off.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Therapy task ideas for working on impulsivity and other pragmatic deficit areas

Dear fellow SLPs,

To me, this is the hardest area to target.  When a patient is impulsive, they are often both unaware of it, and not receptive to education and training in this area.  

Common patient reactions to pragmatic therapy:

Yes, it's easy to want to shy away from taking the bull by the horns and addressing these things, but...

 I have a few commonly used phrases when talking to patients about these potentially sensitive areas.  I often say something like this:

          "One of the things I watch for closely during my evaluation are subtle social changes in patients' behavior which can be very common after [an injury like yours].  Many times these are things that can go unnoticed, or even ignored.  I would like to be very frank with you when and if I ever notice these things in you- if you are open to my feedback."

          At this point the patient usually says they are very open to any feedback and frankness.
I then say something along these lines:

         "Let's talk about the most common social and behavioral changes that go along with [this type of 'injury"] and some of the things I have noticed during our evaluation/interactions.  And any time in therapy when I notice these things, I will very frankly point them out.  I don't want to make you feel embarrassed- in fact you shouldn't!  This is why we are here.  And I always say, 'No one is going to be honest with you like you speech therapist is," at least with regard to these subtle social things.  Actually, people will often feel uncomfortable bringing them up with you, so I would rather we discuss it all openly while you're here so you are aware and you can start using strategies and techniques to help you when you interact with others, go back to work, etc."

This tends to create more openness and at least provides a way for me to point out behaviors as they occur.  

Can you add anything to this list below?  Does anyone else have any great materials for working on this area?  Leave your comments below- I would love to hear from you!

Here are all the ideas I could think of today, plus a couple from my fellow SLPs.  What else can you add?

Tasks for pragmatic/social skill areas such as:  Self-Awareness, Self-Monitoring, Self-Regulation, Impulse Control, Disinhibition:

·  Video the patient and have him analyze his behavior/performance
·  Have the patient list his deficits/goals
·  Have the patient predict how they WILL perform on a given task, and then assess how they DID perform afterward (scale of 1-10 or percentage).  
·  Have the pt. take data for themselves
·  Practice social role-plays
·  Give scenarios of “wrong” behavior and have them identify it and propose a solution
·  Descriptions of self (“What motivates me?”, “What do I imagine myself doing in a year from now?”, “What are things I like to do?”)
·  Social interaction role-plays including discussion of compensatory strategies and behaviors
·  Role play job interview questions (i.e., “What is your greatest strength?”) (There are good example is this workbook-- Focus on Function p. 299)
·  Develop tactile cue system for patients with tangential conversation to let them know they have been talking too long/off topic
·  Before starting any task, ask the patient how they think they will perform.  Discuss any differences in expected vs. real performance

·  Moron Test (if you're too impulsive, you'll mess up!)
·  Doodle Pro

What else, SLPs?  Add your ideas in the comments below!

Monday, November 18, 2013

On the Flip Side

So, the other day I got a little nudge.

Kristin got her cousin to send me a hint. Where's the educational SLP? Isn't he suppose to post things as well? His he permanently stuck writing progress reports and IEPs?

Well, yes. He is.

So, I am going to blame the same things I always blame... parenthood and netflix. What can you do?

Anyway, I wanted to talk briefly about my experience on the flip side. What is it like to be a parent with a child who has special needs, at least from my perspective.

My son, Logan has always been a bit rambunctious and a little behind his sisters when it comes to many developmental milestones. Yet we didn't right away recognize that he might have special needs. Many people had told us that boys are more difficult than girls. We just assumed that they were very right. Once our little boy became mobile then he learned real quick how to get into just about everything. He also demonstrated many characteristics that were similar to students with ASD. At the time he was very echolalic, he wouldn't socialize with others, he couldn't handle any changes to his routine, and he got hyper-focused (obsessed) on particular items or topics.

Sometimes parents get a blindside to their own children which was definitely the case for us. It wasn't till our child was old enough to go to the children's class at our church when we began to realize that our child wasn't like the other children his age. He was the only kid who couldn't sit still during class. We had the "problem child", the kid that people tend to question what the parents are doing. Were the parents doing any discipline in the home at all? Don't get me wrong, most of the people at my church were very nice about it, trying their best to help Logan participate in primary
. Yet, we knew that something was wrong, or at least suspected.

I called up my sister-in-law and point blank asked her, "Do you think my son has a disability?"

She replied, "I would never say anything negative about your son. You know we all love him, but to be honest, none of my kids were ever that hard."

I felt like I was kicked in the stomach. What did I do wrong? I was suppose to know how to fix children who had problems. I was suppose to be a better father. Did we not give him enough attention? Were we not consistent enough in our disciple? What did we do wrong? My wife took it equally hard. She felt that everybody hated our son. She felt that people thought we were bad parents when he was melting down in public over one thing or another. My wife also has Special Education background. So, she also felt the double guilt that I was feeling. Not only were we bad parents in our minds, we were also bad professionals.

Its easy to tell parents that it isn't their fault that their child has special needs, but its difficult as parents to listen and believe that simple truth. That nagging feeling of "what if I just did this differently?" clings to our minds. It's difficult to shake off.

We had Logan tested. The local elementary school's preschool team gave him a variety of assessments including developmental, cognitive, expressive and receptive language, social, etc. We had to wait even longer for special Autism testing.

Several labels were thrown around willy nilly. I started to realize why first person speech was so important. We could tell who saw our son as a disability first and who saw him as a little boy first. It was a huge difference to us. Parents are a lot more perceptive than you might think. They can tell if you really care about their child or not. It makes a big difference to have people working who want the absolute best for your child, people who will look at their strengths as well as their weaknesses. I found also that I didn't care about the label; it seemed much more important to other people.

This experience has completely changed how I see my profession and how I interact with students and with parents.

There is much more I could write about this, but frankly I need to get back to my family.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Convergent Thinking Speech Therapy Task Ideas

Here's my next cognitive area in this series of posts adapted from my old student Janelle Barret's  "student project." Convergent thinking tasks! 

First of all, to better understand Convergent Thinking (CT), read my previous post HERE on the differences between CT and DT (Divergent Thinking).  It can be a tricky topic to understand in some ways.

Still having trouble understanding the differences?  Here are a couple of simple posts and quizzes I found on a blog about teaching children.
  • Linear thinkingor convergent thinking, is about learning facts, follow instructions, and solving problems with one right answer.
  • Divergent thinking is generating unique solutions and seeing various possibilities in response to questions and problems.
  • - See more at:
  • A Test of DT: Break Point and Beyond

And without further ado:

Convergent Thinking Therapy Task Ideas:
  • Identifying the “best” solution to a problem
  • Given 4-5 examples, have patient name the category they belong to
  • Basically any task with a SINGLE correct target answer.  General information questions, naming a target word based on a description.
  • Name similarities between 2 items (this is an interesting cross between CT and DT!)
  • Elimination tasks (which of these is not like the other?). WALC 2 has some good ones.
  • List several foods with one ingredient in common- have the patient name the common ingredient (e.g., eggs, sugar, meat, etc.)
  • Games and Apps:
    • 20 Questions
    • Riddles
    • Crossword puzzle apps
    • Analogies for Kids app
  • Giving clues for figuring out the described object
  • Taking several pieces of information and then making the best educated decision
  • Following Directions tasks of all kinds (verbal, written, etc.).  Yes- this is convergent thinking too!
  • Category and first letter grids (animal that beings with "O")
  • Crossword puzzles
What do you do to target convergent thinking? 
Leave us a comment below!