Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Guest Post: Communication Disorders and Social Security Disability Benefits

Hello everybody!

Occasionally we get requests from people who want to write guest posts. So, we are willing to post them if the content is good and it fits the spirit of the blog.

I recently was contacted by Molly Clarke who wrote a guest post that would be greatly helpful to parents who are looking into applying for Social Security. I hope this information is helpful, if you have any questions for Molly you can contact her at or you can go visit her blog:  Social Security Disability Help.


Childhood Communication Disorders and Disability Benefits

Human communication is a vital component of daily life.  Being able to communicate both verbally and non-verbally allows us to inform others of our wants and needs, it allows us to share our thoughts and ideas, and it allows us to enjoy basic human companionship. Unfortunately, for a significant number of children, communication disorders make it difficult—even impossible—to speak.

Communication disorders can cause issues that impact the affected child as well as his or her parents. While some communication disorders can be corrected with therapy, others are more permanent and require lifelong treatment.  Therapy, assistive devices, and specialty care can cause a significant financial burden.

If your child has been diagnosed with a communication disorder, he or she may be eligible for financial assistance in the form of Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Although the SSD application process is known for being lengthy and overly complicated, benefits often provide a necessary lifeline for parents of children with communication disorders.  Continue reading to find out if your family is eligible for assistance.

Childhood Disability

To qualify for any sort of financial assistance through the Social Security Administration (SSA), children must first meet the SSA’s definition of childhood disability. Taken from the SSA’s website, this definition is as follows,

A child under age 18 is disabled if he or she:

  • Is not working at a job that is considered to be substantial work; and
  • Has a physical or mental condition (or a combination of conditions) which results in “marked and severe functional limitations.”  This means that the condition(s) very seriously limits his or her activities; and
  • The condition(s) has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 1 year or is expected to result in death.

Medical Eligibility Requirements

In addition to meeting the SSA’s definition of childhood disability, your child will have to meet very specific medical regulations in order to qualify for SSD benefits. These regulations can be found in the SSA’s blue book. The blue book is an official manual of potentially disabling conditions and the medical criteria that qualifies each condition.

The SSA recognizes the following disorders as disabilities (Although some of these disorders are not traditionally considered to be communication disorders, many are characterized by issues with speech and communication):

  • Autism (112.10)
  • Personality disorders (112.08)
  • Psychotic disorders (112.03)
  • Organic mental disorders (112.02)
  • Mood disorders (112.04)
  • Hearing Impairment (102.10 or 102.11)

Children with communication disorders most commonly meet blue book listing 111.09- Communication Impairment Associated with a Documented Neurological Disorder. This listing requires that your child demonstrate the following symptoms:

  • A documented speech deficit which negatively impacts the content and clarity of his or her speech; or
  • A documented comprehension deficit that has resulted in ineffective verbal communication based on his or her age; or
  • A documented hearing impairment.

It is important to note that if your child does not meet a specific listing he or she may still be able to qualify for SSD benefits if you can prove, using medical documentation, that he or she is not able to perform daily activities due to his or her communication disorder. To access all blue book listings, visit the SSA’s website, here:

Disability Benefit Programs

Although the SSA offers SSD benefits through two separate programs, children typically only qualify for SSI benefits. SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income and offers benefits to elderly or disabled individuals who earn very little income. Eligibility for SSI is based on an applicant’s income and financial resources. Because children do not earn income, they will undergo something called parental deeming. Essentially, parental deeming is the process of allocating a parent or guardian’s income and resources to the child.

Learn what types of income are counted toward parental deeming, here:

Start the Application Process

Because, the application process can take months to complete, you should prepare and apply for SSI as soon as possible—this way, you will receive a decision sooner. Prior to submitting your application, be sure to have copies of all relevant medical records to support your child’s claim.  Without medical proof, the SSA will not approve your child’s claim. In addition to medical documentation, you should also be prepared to submit proof of income and citizenship.

Once you are thoroughly prepared, you can begin the process. This process will include two different forms— the “Application for SSI” and the “Child Disability Report”. Your child will also have to attend an in-person interview.  Although the SSA has made it possible to complete the child disability report online, many parents prefer to fill out both documents at the time of their interview.  Schedule your interview by calling the SSA’s main number: 1-800-772-1213.

After completing and submitting your child’s application, it may be months before you receive a decision and you should be prepared for the possibility of being denied. If your child’s claim is denied, this decision is not final. You can file an appeal within 60 days of receiving your notice of denial.

While this process is not simple, it is often necessary. Parents whose children qualify for SSI find that they can better provide for their children’s special needs with the assistance of Supplemental Security Income.

For more information about SSI, visit Social Security Disability Help or contact Molly Clarke at

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SLP jokes on tumblr - this made me laugh SO hard!

Can I be honest?  I don't really understand what tumblr is.  Or should I say what A tumblr is?  Not sure of the correct use of the word.  I am starting to learn today, thanks to my lovely graduate student intern.  :)  She showed me this:

It's a series of tumblrs (?) about being in SLP grad school.  And many of them apply to SLPs who are working!  What do you think?  (There are pages and pages of these.  I could watch them for weeks.)

Example #1:

My face when I go to do an assessment on a patient with aphasia and the family assures me they can talk just fine. 

  "I'll just double check anyways."

When a child is misbehaving in therapy, but the parents are watching, so you just have to be like:

Also, can you please explain to me about Tumblr or at least tell me how to use the word syntactically correctly?  I'm a Speech-Language Pathologist for Pete's sake!


PS:  By the way, I also learned today that there are different tumblrs like this for almost any subject.  Could this be a great therapy task?  My brother sent me this one about Accountants.  I don't get all their jokes, but I had some good laughs.  Google this: #howshouldweaccountforme?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

More Short-Term Memory Therapy Ideas

Thanks for your comments and requests.  Sounds like a couple of you would like another post about memory task ideas.

Memory is one of my favorite things to work on with patients. I love teaching compensatory strategies. Maybe it's because I need them so badly for myself?

Image courtesy of:

I usually start out each session with a quick memory quiz (What did you have for breakfast?  What was you first therapy session this morning?  Who is your nurse?  What was for dinner last night?  What time did your wife leave/arrive?)  We also use the O-log and the Cog-Log protocols around here quite a bit.

Here are a couple of books I use a lot:
  • WALC 10
  • HELP for Memory
  • The Source for Memory Exercises
  • One of my blog commentators recommended: "Memory Rehabilitation: Integrating Theory and Practice" by Barbara Wilson

Apps I like for short-term memory:
  • Calendar App
  • Flick Flag (I have the patient come up with a memory "trick" (association, elaboration, visualization, etc.) for each flag as we study them, then we play the game to see what they can remember.  It's great for learning how to come up with effective "tricks."
  • Simon (remember this memory game from the 80's??  Love it.
  • Brain Baseline has a couple of tasks for memory (and a lot of great tasks for improving processing speed!)

Much of the therapy focuses on compensatory strategy training.   
We practice using the tools they will use in their home: calendars, calendar apps, day planner, notebook, post-its, alarms, association "tricks"/mnemonics, elaboration, chinking, rehearsal, visualization...

Other fun tasks:
  • Index cards with faces on one side and names on the back.  Again, we focus on associations to help remember the names (e.g., Nyla never likes to smile-a).  I make sure they are effective (e.g., she looks like another Allison I know) vs ineffective (Tyler starts with T, tooth starts with T-- Tyler has big teeth!  There are too many names that start with T.)  I also like to try it the first time with no strategies so that they can see what a difference the strategies make.
  • Objects - I'll show a photo or drawing of several objects (or anything!  A magazine picture with a bunch of foods...).  I'll have them study it for 1-2 minutes and remember all they can.  Then we'll list them out.  Then I have them do it again with some strategies and associations (e.g., make up a story using the objects, or group them into meaningful categories).  THEN, I'll do yes no questions to see what they can remember (e.g., Was there a hammer?  Was there a beach ball?  Was there a shoe?).     
  • Sometimes I'll read a story/article/bit of information and have them answer questions afterward.
  • Prospective memory tasks:  Prospective memory involves remembering to do something at a certain time or in a certain situation.  Such as remembering to take a pill or feed your dog.  I will give the patient tasks to remember at a certain time.  This could be anything from remembering to hand my a paperclip every 5 minutes on the clock, to remembering to tell me the 3 facts I taught them about their favorite hobby (I pick facts they don't already know) at the beginning of our next therapy session.  Etc., etc.  There are a million ways to do this one.  I could go on and on but you get the idea.  They key here is that they try to initiate the task without my help.  If needed, we add compensatory strategies or reminders.
Image courtesy of

Well, I could say more.  But I would LOVE to hear your ideas!  Do you have any to add?  Post them, por favor, in the comments below.

Until next time,