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Rapport Building with Children & Families, Family Education & Coaching

Rapport Building with Children & Families, Family Education & Coaching

Clinicians who establish authentic connections with children and families most likely will have greater opportunities to maximize client success with speech/language goals. Building trust is the leading foundation for a healthy therapeutic relationship with families and their children. Without trust, the families may become reluctant to take their children to speech therapy, and they may not practice therapy strategies at home. If a child does not trust the clinician, children may not participate in speech therapy activities. It is crucial to build trust with children and families from the very beginning, so that they know that they are in a safe environment.

When parents and speech language pathologists have better relationships, children feel more supported because they know their parents and speech language pathologist are communicating. As a result, children are more motivated in their therapy sessions. Building trust also helps parents feel involved in their child’s therapy process.

As clinicians, it is our responsibility to communicate clearly and effectively in a professional manner with all families about their children. Always start with the goals. Communicate the child’s goals for the parents to understand and implement. If a child is not making progress, the speech language pathologist must indicate what the parents must work on with their children to ease the process of communication for the child. Determine whether you should share data or percentages with parents; this may intimidate the parent. However, it is also important to highlight the strengths of the child from a professional standpoint. For example, a child may be struggling with expressive language, but the child has effective or higher language comprehension skills. It is important to explain information clearly to the family. Additionally, it is important for clinicians to incorporate the family’s cultural background in therapy sessions with children’s literature, games, toys, and learning activities.

In addition to communication, speech language pathologists are there to listen to the family’s concerns or worries about their child. Always take the parent’s suggestions and concerns into consideration. As speech language pathologists, we can carry their suggestions into therapy practice for their child. For example, if the parent reveals that an autistic child is getting bullied, take that into consideration. Develop a new goal with social problem scenarios related to the child to address functional pragmatic skills for the child. This will help the child to process his or her own feelings while allowing the child to express himself or herself in these scenarios.

Speech language pathologists must connect with children and families to maximize client success. Children who receive speech/language therapy are diverse learners, and intervention must be tailored to their needs.  It is noticeable if one does not clearly acknowledge or care about the concerns of children or families. As clinicians, empathy is another responsibility that we must practice. Without empathy or an authentic connection, a child may not feel motivated to continue putting forth effort in speech language therapy. In addition, empathy and a professional relationship will help build trust with families and the children whom you work with.

The following elements were found to be necessary to ensure effective outcomes in parent coaching:

  • Sharing information/ knowledge
  • Observing the parent-child interaction
  • Demonstrating a speech/language building strategy
  • Encouraging and supporting the parent to practice with feedback
  • Encouraging parent reflection, evaluation, and active problem solving
  • Joint planning with the parent

(Dunst & Trivette, 2009; Friedman, Woods & Salisbury, 2012)

Source: Dunst, C.J. & Trivette, C.M. (2009). Let’s be PALS: An evidence-based approach to professional development. Infants & Young Children, 22(3), 161-176. (https://depts.washington.edu/isei/iyc/22.3_Dunst.pdf)

Five Ways to Practice Speech-Language Skills Over Winter Break

Hey there everyone! Today is the last day of school for 2015 in my district and I am beyond excited about being on winter break for 2 weeks! I am sure that all the students are as well. Although the students will be on break from school, there are so many ways that they can practice their communication skills in their daily routines. I know that some of you will have private practice clients or a few days of work next week as school-based speech language pathologists. Make sure that you share these tips with parents.

5 Ways to Practice Speech-Language Skills Over Winter Break: 

1) Retell events and experiences
*Children should practice describing specific family outings, activities, and experiences with as much detail as possible. They should try their best to recall and retell information in the correct sequence of events whether it is going to the ice skating rink or to grandma’s house. 

2) Answer questions after listening to fiction or non-fiction story read by parents
*Children and families can visit the public library and check out books appropriate for their age. Parents should read aloud to their kids and ask them who, what, where, when, and why questions about the text. 

3) Play speech-language games on interactive websites
*There are many websites that children can enjoy practicing their speech-language skills. Some of my top recommendations are
spellingcity.com, jacobslessons.com, do2learn.com, learninggamesforkids.com, and pbskids.org

You can access a more comprehensive list in Parent Handouts for Communication Disorders in my TPT store.

4) Play speech-language games on iPad
*Many children have either an iPad or android tablet. They can practice a variety of skills such as speech articulation, following directions, vocabulary, grammar, sequencing, and overall comprehension on apps. Parents can search for related apps in the app store by companies such as Speech with Milo, Super Duper, PocketSLP, Hamaguchi, I Can Do Apps, Smarty Ears and so many more! Many companies have free trial versions that enable kids to practice many skills while others will need to be purchased. 

5) Use speech articulation and fluency strategies 
*At home and in the community, children should practice using their best pronunciation of the sounds they are working on in speech-language therapy. Parents can remind their children to use the correct placement of speech muscles when asking questions, answering questions, and speaking to family and friends.

Overall, children can practice their speech-language skills in everyday routines! I hope you found these 5 tips beneficial. Have a great rest of 2015!

Tamara Anderson

Parent Information for Communication Disorders {Free Resource Guide}

There are many times when parents ask me about communication disorders. They want to know if their child’s speech-language skills are where they should be developmentally. Recently, a friend of mind told me that her daughter received a speech language screening at her preschool. The results indicated that she needed further evaluation. I was concerned when she shared with me that the therapist expressed concern that a 3 year old was not pronouncing sounds such as /l/ and /r/. I immediately saw red flags because it is developmentally appropriate that not all kids will correctly pronounce these sounds at age 3. In fact, there are research based age ranges of typical speech sound development. Yes, some children may correctly pronounce sounds earlier and that’s great. However, the following are developmentally acceptable ages of sound acquisition.

Age 3- w, b, p, h, m, n

Age 4-  k, g, t, d, y, f

Age 5- all 3 & 4 year old sounds

Age 7- l

Age 8- j, ch, sh, r, th, s, z, v

Please note that different school districts also implement different eligibility criteria for providing speech therapy for speech sounds in error. If you have questions about if your child needs an evaluation, I suggest that you consult directly with a licensed speech-language pathologist in your area.

I also often get questions about what language skills are expected of children at certain ages. You can access more information about my recommendations from a previous blog post about developmental milestones. Click here

I created a few complimentary parent handouts that explain the difference between speech sound disorders and language disorders. In this resource you will also receive helpful hints for improving receptive and expressive language disorders. These tips are geared towards children in kindergarten-5th grade. This packet also has a list of interactive websites that kids can use to practice improving their language skills.

I strongly encourage parents to give their children opportunities to practice their communication and language skills at home. I may add to this resource in the future so make sure that you subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the right hand column of this page. You can access this FREE digital download in my TPT curriculum store.

Have a great week! I hope you have an excellent Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends this Thursday!

Tamara Anderson
Building Successful Lives


Communication Success Tips

Communication Success Tips

Hey everyone! I hope you all are having a wonderful July so far! I am truly enjoying my summer. I try to do something productive and fun each day. That’s why I have 2 new resources to tell you about in my Building Successful Lives curriculum store.

I created Communication Success Tips (for children ages 12-36 month) so that speech-language pathologists, educators, and parents can use this guide to foster communication development in children’s everyday routines. I thought of this idea last Sunday afternoon as I was reflecting about the fact that my sweet little niece would be 18 months the next day. I couldn’t believe it! I am blessed that I am able to visit her regularly. It is such a joy to watch her as she grows and learns! As an SLP, I of course am all about those developmental milestones and thinking about all the things she can do now and what she needs to learn next.

Here’s a picture of her last Monday when she turned 18 months old!

Isn’t she adorable?! 🙂

You can access this COMPLIMENTARY digital download here.

My next resource guide in this series that I specially designed is Communication Success Tips for Colleagues.


My idea behind creating this was to remind SLPs and educators including myself of tips needed to build and maintain healthy relationships at work. I believe that effective communication skills are the foundation for healthy relationships. Colleagues are more productive when communication is clear and they feel valued by others.

I hope that you love this new resource guide as much as I do! You can access this COMPLIMENTARY digital download here.

Have an excellent week!

Tamara Anderson

Speech-Language Success Stories # 6

Speech-Language Success Stories # 6

I am currently in the last 9 weeks of the school year in my district and spring break is 3 days away!! Speech-language therapy progress notes and report cards went home with kids last Friday. Naturally, SLPs review our students’ data and document speech-language objectives that they have mastered, made progress,  and areas that they may be struggling with learning a skill. 

My success story today is about having students celebrate their victories in the speech language therapy room. I have a poster that says “Super Speech Students- We Are Meeting Goals!!!” Students put a star sticker on the chart for each objective that they meet based on their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) mastery criteria. They really seem to enjoy looking at the incentive poster and counting their stars. 

I also have many of them graph their progress and take home their graph when they meet a goal! I can not count the times that I hear “What’s my score?”  or “Did I do good today?” They know that I take data regularly and that I desire for them to LEARN and improve their scores or percentages of accuracy. Many of them can’t wait to get their hands on my handy Super Duper clipboard that has a calculator at the top. Occasionally, I let a few of them enter the fraction to figure out their percentage of accuracy. I teach them how to convert the decimal to a percentage too! Math in the speech-language room! Say What?!

At the end of the 9 weeks, which usually coincides with a holiday too, I bring edible treats to reward their hard work towards meeting goals. Here are some goodies that I handed out today. 

I also gave out new stickers! Remember to celebrate students’ successes in your speech-language therapy sessions or classroom too!

Tamara Anderson
SLP on Spring Break Soon

Speech-Language Success Stories # 5

Speech-Language Success Stories # 5

It is important to remember to be patient and optimistic when providing pediatric speech-language therapy services. Often times, children will not immediately learn speech language strategies. It takes repetitive verbal modeling, visual cues, and tactile cues for kids to acquire new skills.

Many children with intellectual impairments struggle with learning how to correctly pronounce various consonant sounds. When they are speaking with their parents, teachers, SLPs, and peers their speech is not readily understood. It is our responsibility as SLPs to help improve the speech intelligibility of these kids.
I had a success story with teaching a child the correct tongue placement to pronounce her /l/ sound. This child struggled with elevating her tongue to accurately articulate this sound. Her speech was not easily understood when the context of conversation was not known.
She was successful with auditory discrimination exercises to identify her target /l/ sound vs. other sounds. However, she initially consistently pronounced a /y/ for /l/ in words and sentences. So, I pulled out my hand held mirror and bag of tricks to get her to lift her tongue up. We practiced putting different food/candy items (e.g. smarties, cheerios) on the tip of her tongue. She demonstrated a lot of groping behaviors and eventually the food items would melt in her mouth or she would chew them. Now I know it is usually best to pair with the actual sound production, but I was having difficulty getting this child to attempt any articulation drills. So I decided to try using food.
I also had her try to imitate lifting her tongue while saying the /l/ sound in isolation. She still said y/l or distorted the /l/ sound. I modeled for her how to practice the sound at the syllable level with vowels, but of course she was at 0 % with that because she did not have the correct tongue placement.
I read aloud fiction text and emphasized the target /l/ sound. She really benefited from hearing multiple productions of the sound in a natural way during oral reading of a story. She loved the story, The Three Snow Bears, by Jan Brett. I must have said the words Polar Bear and Alooki, a character’s name, a million times!
Guess what! I stopped during my read aloud a few times and used a tactile prompt and verbal modeling with this child and she accurately said Polar with the CORRECT /l/ sound! I cheered for her loudly!!! I had her repeat the word several times as I touched her chin with my index finger and pushed down. This immediately prompted her to lift her tongue up!
Auditory bombardment of target sounds is definitely an essential tool in articulation therapy. A tactile prompt was also key for this child to learn how to correctly elevate her tongue to say her /l/ sound.
This little girl also struggled with motivation to practice her speech sounds. She recognized how difficulty it was for her so I always had to pair her speech drill work with a high preference activity.
One day, I decided to follow her lead and told her that she would receive free time to play a computer learning game. She eagerly completed all her speech articulation drill work with me. She accurately imitated the /l/ sound in isolation and syllable levels when provided with verbal and tactile prompts!  I was so excited once again and another student in her group even told her great job! She was soooooo happy and had the biggest grin on her face! We were all pleased at her progress and success!
Now, I will continue to reinforce the strategies that were successful so she can produce her /l/ sound correctly in words. She is definitely more stimuable for pronouncing these sounds in words now!
Hooray!!!!!!! Thanks for visiting the blog today.
Speech-Language Success Stories # 4

Speech-Language Success Stories # 4

Thank you so much Tamara for letting me guest blog  today!  My name is Aersta Acerson and I have been given the wonderful opportunity of sharing a speech success story  with you today.  First, let me say Happy  Blogiversary to Building Successful Lives!  I love all the fun things happening here in this extended celebration!
Now a little about myself.  I have been working as an SLP (obviously!)  for 3 years now, and I LOVE IT!  I have  worked in both the schools and in private practice and I have loved both  settings.  I also enjoy creating  materials for speech therapy, and I own the TPT store Speaking Freely, SLP.  I am also a mom to two beautiful  little girls who are my heart and soul!
Now on to my success story.  It was during my CF year and I had a language group made up of 5th and 6th graders.  That year we focused heavily on learning curriculum vocabulary and understanding figurative  language, specifically idioms.  Lots and LOTS of idioms.  It was a Friday afternoon at the end of the month, and my group had earned a game day, so my  students chose to play Don’t Wake Daddy.
We had recently talked about the meaning of the idiom “You dodged  that bullet.”  One of my students took his turn and rolled a six.  The  Daddy hadn’t “woken” in awhile, so we all assumed the student was going  to get it!  When he didn’t wake Daddy,  another one of my students said, “Wow, you missed that bullet!”  SUCCESS!!!   Now, he didn’t get the idiom exactly correct, but we had been working on understanding idioms more than using them, and he had spontaneously  used the idiom in correct context.  I was  ecstatic!  It’s that kind of moment that  makes it all worth it, don’t you think?
🙂  Have a blessed day!
Aersta Acerson, CCC-SLP
Click above to check out products in my online TPT Store! Thanks!
Speech-Language Success Stories- # 3

Speech-Language Success Stories- # 3

Welcome Carly Fowler!

Today, I will share successful tips for providing speech-language services for adolescents.

Why Following a Child’s Lead Isn’t Just for Early Intervention

Hi I am Carly Fowler, a Speech Language Pathologist in  Nebraska. A big thanks to Tamara for letting me join in her blog celebration!  Now a little about myself: I live in Omaha, Nebraska with my husband and two  cats. I have been a SLP for three years and I love what I do. I especially  enjoy creating materials for my students.  I work with students elementary up through  high school. It is quite an unusual caseload as I stay at just one school, but  it also means I have to stay on schedule, plan ahead and know what I am up against.
Today, I want to share my tips when working with  teenagers. It is not an easy population, nor do I claim to have all the  answers. But I want to share with you what works for me.  Many times working with elementary students  they are thrilled to see you and are willing to work for a token or a sticker. It
is not that easy with high school students, trust me sometimes I feel like I am  pulling teeth in order to get any kind of data.
When working with my teens, I follow their lead. This is  probably making you think of early intervention kiddos but I recommend it with  any age. I find that following my high school students’ lead will allow me to gain  more effort from them.  Teens are searching  for more control of their lives. Many times their days are dictated for them; they  are told when to go to school, what they need to do and they are not often given the freedom to choose. By allowing your teens to run the session they  will give you more respect because you are treating them more like an adult.
When following the lead of a teen it is important to listen  to them. Often times, my students want to chat about life or sports. Let them! You  can target a lot of goals by doing this, plus it is functional. I am often able  to target grammar, sentence formation, pragmatics and articulation when talking about sports.
Another thing a student may lead you to is school work.  I see many students during their study hall and I encourage them to bring their homework. I also ask how classes are going  which may reveal their struggle with homework. School work and homework are  functional activities and a great therapy target. I know many of you may say “I  am not good at science” or “Math is like a foreign language”.  I encourage you to step outside of your  comfort zones and encourage students to bring homework or materials from classes they need help with. It is okay to learn with your student- in fact I  encourage it! By helping them with homework it shows you are a valuable resource and they will begin to see your time as more valuable.
Another way to follow your high school student’s lead is by  allowing them to play with some of your toys in your speech room. You may be  thinking that they would never be caught dead playing with toys but you are  wrong. They often need a fiddle such as a ball to concentrate or playdoh as  sensory stimulation. As long as it doesn’t become a distraction is a perfect outlet to the energy they may have.
These are tips that I have found successful when working with teens during their speech-language therapy sessions. Thanks for reading the blog today!
Speech Language Success Stories- # 2

Speech Language Success Stories- # 2

Welcome Susan Berkowitz from Kidz Learn Language!

I have been a speech-language pathologist for 35 years, before which I taught kids with autism.  I have been in the classroom, therapy room, and worked as an administrator. I have worked in public and nonpublic schools. I currently specialize in alternative-augmentative communication for nonverbal students and in training staff to implement aac in their classrooms. I provide local and national workshops on augmentative communication and on teaching literacy skills to students with complex communication needs.

This is an article that I wrote on my blog in November  of 2014. I am happy to be BSL Speech Language’s guest blogger this week.  Check out this aac success story!
More From the AAC Case Files – How Much Can We Expect?

One of my favorite student success stories is one I tell over and over again.  While you may have noticed I am a big fan of using and teaching core vocabulary, I am also a huge user of PODD communication books.  That is Pragmatic Organized Dynamic Display books, designed by Gayle Porter, a speech pathologist in Australia.  She has been using this system very successfully with children for decades.

I have been to trainings with Gayle, and with Linda Burkhart, when they have presented them here in the States.  A week with Gayle is mind-numbing – in a good way.  The first workshop I took with her was a week of 9 hour days and we learned so much it was amazing!  I don’t honestly think I could have absorbed one more idea by the end of Friday.  She is one of those rare people who are both a wealth of information and a master at transmitting it to others.  (Of course, you have to work your way around her accent).

I have been using PODD books with my nonverbal students with autism for the past several years, and with great results.  Teachers usually get that ‘deer in the headlights’ look in their eyes when I walk in with a 125 page communication book.  I’m very careful to talk about taking it slowly as they get familiar with it and begin using it with their student(s).

I’ve taken to using this story.  The story of Aaron.  Aaron was a 16 (then) year old student with autism in a classroom for students with severe disabilities.  When I first met him, Aaron had a single page PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) “system” by which he could request his favorite reinforcers.  He had no other appropriate mode of communication. What Aaron did have was a history of self-injurious behaviors.  He has done permanent neurological damage to himself.

On the day I arrived in the classroom with his new,  >100 page PODD communication book, both his teacher and aide regarded me with looks of …. outrage? amazement? overwhelming dismay?  I spent some time going over how the book was constructed and how it worked. I reviewed the navigation conventions and where and how vocabulary was stored.  I gave them examples and phrases to try.  We talked about Aided Language Stimulation and how it worked.  And I carefully explained how to begin with a single activity, gradually increasing use of the system as their comfort level increased.

Aaron was lucky.  His aide was extraordinary.  She did a wonderful job of learning and doing and being consistent. TWO weeks later the teacher called me.  I could hear her jumping up and down.  The excitement was palpable. The day before, Aaron had been upset because A.P.E. had been cancelled and he needed some time to run off some of his energy.  He had started out, she told me, by starting to engage in his SIB.  But he stopped himself.  He looked at the communication system.  He pointed to “More to say,” and then proceeded to move from the feelings page (“angry”) to the people page (“no APE teacher”) to the activity page (“run” and “outside”) to the places page (“baseball field”).  With a string of single word responses he told a perfect narrative, expressed his feelings, and told what he wanted – needed – to do.  The aide, of course, took him straight outside to the baseball field to run around.  I’m pretty sure she was crying most of the way.  I know I was when I heard the story.

Now of course, most students need more than 2 weeks of consistent teaching to learn to communicate so effectively.  But this certainly speaks to the power of appropriate aac intervention.

How are your students learning to use their aac systems?

Here is the direct link to my original post on my blog: http://kidzlearnlanguage.blogspot.com/2014/11/more-from-aac-case-files-how-much-can.html


Speech Language Success Stories

Speech Language Success Stories

I am very excited to tell you about a new series on the blog, Speech Language Success Stories. During the first quarter of this year, I will highlight success stories of children who improved their communication skills as a result of speech-language therapy. You will even read stories from guest bloggers as well. This is one of the missions of BSL Speech & Language Services to share the benefits of these services.

I love being a speech-language pathologist because I enjoy having the opportunity to identify a child’s challenges, develop a therapy plan to improve them, provide direct instruction, and watch how a child responds to the interventions.

SLPs are great at diagnosing children with communication disorders. This skill comes naturally to those who have been working with children for a while. It takes more time to perfect the craft of selecting, implementing, and tweaking interventions that will enable kids to learn speech-language skills. The true joy and success from speech-language therapy is when you, the child, and the family can hear the growth in communication.

The first success story goes back to my first love, early intervention. My first experiences working as a licensed SLP was providing individual speech-language therapy for toddlers and preschool aged children.  For many of the children, I was their first experience with any kind of structured learning as they were not yet attending day care or preschool.

I remember a sweet and active little girl that I evaluated when she was about 3 ½ years old. At that time, she would say “hmm” when I asked her a question. She had a very limited receptive/expressive vocabulary and definitely did not use the words she knew to make requests or comment. She would point to or grab whatever item she wanted. I recall getting case history information from her parent and completing my usual play based language assessment with The Rossetti Infant-Toddler Language Scale.  The results confirmed that she had a significant receptive and expressive language delay.

I worked with this little girl for the next 2 ½ years and gave her parent plenty of home program materials. I remember teaching her social greetings, basic concepts, verbs, object functions, how to categorize/sort basic items, and how to build phrases and then simple sentences. During therapy sessions, she began learning to name nouns during play, identify concepts from objects/pictures, ask questions such as “what’s this?”, and even made a few requests using the “I want” carrier phrase that I taught her. However, her overall spontaneous communication skills were not typical. She was very echolalic as she would repeat noises and phrases that she heard from others or television.

I also recall her challenges following directions, difficulty with some motor skills, short attention span, and sensory concerns. After a short time of working with her, I referred her for an occupational therapy evaluation that confirmed fine motor, low muscle tone, and sensory integration challenges. I think she had visual-perceptual difficulties too. Within 6 months of starting speech-language and occupational therapy, my co-worker and I documented our concerns and recommended to her referring pediatrician that our client receive a comprehensive developmental evaluation by a neurodevelopmental pediatrician and multidisciplinary team. Although there was a waiting list for the clinic that did those assessments in my area, my sweet and active little girl received the additional evaluation that she needed. The results confirmed that she had an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

It was not easy for her parent to understand what this diagnosis meant for her child, but she was happy that her daughter was getting all the help that she needed. During the course of me working with her, she started preschool and then a special needs kindergarten class. I think she had just turned six the summer that I last worked with her. She made lots of gains in her receptive language, expressive language, and social skills. Although she was still echolalic, she learned how to make requests and comments. A friend/co-worker of mine continued to provide speech-language therapy for her when I changed work settings.

One of my precious memories of her is the day she brought me a vanilla milkshake. She frequently had these before her sessions with me and one day she told her mom that Ms. Tamara needed one too! Of course, I couldn’t resist and had a big smile on my face. 🙂