“What goes on in that Speech Room?”

Kids are curious about that little room down the hall, next to the nurse’s office.  What is that room for?  Who goes there?  It looks like a fun place!  Why can’t I go, too?  Kids who WILL be going to speech/language therapy have different questions.  Why am I going to Speech?  What is therapy like?

To help SLPs and teachers explain speech/language therapy to newly identified students AND the rest of the class, I’ve written three children’s books that address three different aspects of what we do.

Matthew cover“The Mouth With a Mind of Its Own” is about a little boy with such significant articulation issues that he can’t even say his own name.  He is isolated from his classmates, who think he is speaking a foreign language, and he misses out on daily activities because he can’t make himself understood.  Fortunately, the speech/language pathologist comes to the rescue and leads him through the process from screening to articulate speech. At the end of the book, I’ve answered questions submitted by students from my own elementary school in a section called “Get to Know a Speech/Language Pathologist.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 12.06.24 PM“There Was a Speech Teacher Who Swallowed Some Dice” is a silly rhyming tale to introduce students to all of the items commonly used in therapy. Kids love this “speechie” twist on a familiar tale.  The book ends with a glossary of all of the therapy items and how we use them, and has a “Speech Room Scavenger Hunt” that you can photocopy for the students as they hunt for all of  the items in your room — a language lesson in itself!


Katie cover“How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname)”  acquaints students with assistive technology, including augmentative communication, and how it changes the way classmates view a fourth grade girl who has significant physical and communication disabilities.  This book ends with a section on disability etiquette.   Katie is also available in a German translation from Amazon in Germany.



Each book can be a stand-alone lesson, but you don’t have to stop there!  Here are additional resources that will extend each book into lessons in articulation, vocabulary, language, story mapping, and more. Click on the colored text below to get to the resources, the majority of which are FREE!

“How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname)”:  I’ve created a Reader’s Theater version of the book and PowerPoint “scenery” you can project, a free Discussion Guide which can also be used as writing prompts, and a Communication Word Search.  A Disability Etiquette video, “Making Everyone Feel Welcome,” told by the characters of the book, is on my YouTube channel. While on YouTube, check out the amazing video made by Polish students who have disabilities, inspired by Katie’s story, ideal for middle and high school students.  Clever SLP, Truvine Walker, offers a number of free artic and language activities related to this book at her TeachersPayTeachers store.

“The Mouth With a Mind of Its Own”:  Truvine Walker offers a free Speech/Language Companion Packet for this book on TPT that extends the story in many directions to meet a variety of s/l therapy goals.

“There Was a Speech Teacher Who Swallowed Some Dice”:   Truvine Walker created an amazing Speech/Language Companion Packet for this wacky story — again, it’s free!

These books are super gifts for student clinicians and SLPs in the school.  Autographed and personalized copies are available through Speaking of Speech.com.  Did you order your copy from Amazon but wish it was autographed?  Send me an email at pat@speakingofspeech.com, and I’ll send you a free signed bookplate!

Dear Newbie….

kittenHave you seen the string of clever videos on YouTube, “Dear Kitten?”  A world-weary older cat gives advice the new kitten in the house — hysterical!    I watched a few of the videos this evening, and that gave me an idea……

A new crop of SLPs will be graduating this month.  As a world-weary SLP, what advice would you give to a newbie in the field?  Post your “Dear Newbie” advice, serious or humorous, in the comments on this page, or on the Speaking of Speech .com Facebook page.


2stress_jokes_600x450Hats off to SLPs everywhere who manage to wear many hats and juggle many responsibilities with professionalism, grace, and good humor!

With less than 6 weeks left in my school year, I spent Friday afternoon hyperventilating at all that needed to be accomplished in May and the first two weeks of June:  28 IEPs (11 written, 17 to go), do 4 speech/language evals and that they entail (love late referrals!), facilitate 2 SETT meetings and write up report summaries and action plans, prepare 45 progress reports….oh, and still see the students on my caseload.

During two fitful nights this weekend, my tossing and turning led to the creation of the following poster and limerick.

SOS.com poster3


There once was a crazed SLP.
“I can’t wait for summer,” said she.
“With 28 IEPs
Due in 6 weeks…oh, please!
Wonder Woman has nothing on me!”

So, to all of you SLPs who are struggling mightily to meet end-of-the-year deadlines, I hope it helps to know that you are not alone.  You’ll get there, and summer will be all the sweeter for it.


S/L Therapy is Child’s Play….with LEGOS!

LegosThe majority of boys on my K-5 caseload are LEGO maniacs.  I couldn’t be more thrilled, as I am all in favor of any creative activity that doesn’t include a battery or video screen, so I have been searching for ways to use LEGOs in therapy.  Having had a son who had the same affliction years ago, I’m fortunate to have large plastic totes filled with LEGOs and DUPLOs that he left in the basement when he flew the nest.  Since possession is 9/10th of the law, I have declared them mine and now use them for therapy activities and motivation. The boys love them….and so do the girls!

Here are some of the FREE resources I discovered that can easily be adapted for all kinds of therapy goals, including artic, language, following directions, social skills, basic concepts, and more:

7 Skills Kids Can Develop Playing Legos — justification that might lead to therapy ideas and IEP goals

LEGO Foundation’s Six Bricks Booklet — your lesson planning is done for you!

75+ Fun LEGO Ideas from Kids Activity Blog

A Mom With a Lesson Plan’s free LEGO board game and directions

FriendshipCircle.org: How LEGO therapy can help children with special needs

The Speech Knob:  LEGOs + PECS (or AAC) = Great Idea!

Cooking Up Good Speech:  Barrier Game and others

Speech2You: Ideas for sentence building and morphology

LEGO Game Board on BoardmakerShare

Counting Syllables with LEGO Bricks

LEGO Learning with Fun Activities

Of course, Pinterest and TPT are loaded with other ideas, some that come with a price tag.  And there are many free and cheap LEGO and DUPLO apps that could be used in therapy, so check out the App Store if you want a virtual LEGO experience for your students.  How do you use LEGOs in your therapy room?

“Don’t Limit Me!” — Presume and Foster Competence in All Students

“Presume competence:” these two powerful words challenge educators to make a fundamental shift in their thinking.  Once a child with disabilities was viewed in terms of what he or she can’t do. We now are charged to assume and expect that the child can and will learn, communicate, participate, and develop, and it is our responsibility to facilitate this by finding ways to eliminate or reduce the barriers that would otherwise be limiting to the child.  This is absolutely right and essential, but it isn’t always easy.

The Internet abounds with references and resources, but for SLPs and special educators who are seeking information that they can immediately put into practice, I strongly recommend starting at PrAACticalAAC.org.  Here you will find an amazing amount of information on presuming competence and a gazillion other topics, delivered in bite-sized, highly readable posts.

Don't Limit Me!For IEP teams and individuals who would benefit from a pep talk on presuming competence, there can be no better speaker on the topic than Megan Bomgaars.  The “Don’t Limit Me!” video delivers a powerful message from a special young lady who refuses to be defined by her disability label.


A young man who also defies labels and has benefited from a rich, inclusive education is Tim Harris, owner of Tim’s Place Restaurant in Albuquerque, NM.  I had the delightful experience of meeting Tim twice and dining at “the World’s Friendliest Restaurant.”  You can read about my visit with Tim in my post “Take a Tip or Two From Tim.”  Then visit Tim’s website to see videos of Tim in action, learn about Tim’s Big Heart Foundation to help individuals with intellectual disabilities start their own businesses and achieve their dreams, and even book Tim for a guest speaker gig.

I’ve done a lot of team trainings over the years on presuming competence, maximizing participation, and facilitating independence in students who have multiple disabilities.  Some of what I share in my trainings involves changing well-intentioned but ultimately limiting behavior in educators and caregivers, and is mentioned in my post “How to Get to ‘I DID IT!'”

For a chilling account of what happens when caregivers only see profound disability and have no expectations of understanding or ability, I recommend the autobiography by Martin Pistorius, GHOST BOY, which I reviewed on this blog. Spoiler alert: you’ll also see the dramatic, life-changing results when someone does, finally, presume competence.

Here’s another spoiler alert:  If you and your school teams make every effort to presume and facilitate competence in your students who have disabilities, you’ll witness, first-hand, some pretty amazing results, too.