• July 10, 2014

Let's Talk

Mary Mejia
  • Mary Mejia
  • Blogger
  • A speech therapist assistant relates what she has learned about communicating with people with disabilities.
Friday 02/21/2014
You are not alone

All of us have gone through an experience where we felt alone. Nobody understands. You feel isolated. What happens when you go through this stage? How do you overcome the loneliness?

Whenever I speak to friends, co-workers, students and parents about a discerning situation, I often remind them they are not the only ones going through whatever it is they are going through. I also advise them to read a book or to talk to other people going through similar situations.

This is something that is so easy to advise and say, but doing so is the hard part. It is so intimidating to talk to others about such personal and sensitive topics. I don't know about you, but I am a crier! I hate it, but I cry when I express my thoughts and feelings. I then feel vulnerable and I wish I could just speak without tears building up in my eyes. So speaking up about a situation and seeking help is one of the hardest things for me to do.

I think about my students going through this when they get older and become more self-conscious. Are they going to have the confidence to seek guidance? I think about the parents and family members working hard to help their loved one. Are they seeking guidance on how to care for their loved ones and most importantly, how to care for their own emotions and health?

There is so much knowledge out there, but locating specific knowledge can be difficult. As a new professional, I come across many concerns. I have tons of questions. Luckily I have an awesome licensed speech therapist who supervises me and offers tons of advice. I also have the opportunity to attend conventions, such as the Texas Speech and Hearing Association Convention in Houston next Wednesday through Saturday.

I enjoy attending conventions because that’s where you get to hear more concerns and solutions from other professionals. This is where I have to be vulnerable (and hold back my tears) to ask questions and let others know I don’t know everything. But I leave feeling like a better speech therapist!

What about you? Where do you go for guidance? How do you overcome that lonely feeling? Have you found an amazing group open to the community that you would like to share with others?

Posted in Lets talk on Friday, February 21, 2014 1:00 pm. | Tags: Speech-language Pathology , Speech Therapist , Communication Disorders , Texas Speech And Hearing Association Convention Comments (0)

Monday 02/10/2014
Empowering children with choices

“You have a lot of patience,” a parent told me after she watched a therapy session of her son and two boys.

It is true. I have a lot of patience with children. I have to possess the patient trait to be able to work with three boys younger than 5 years old who only care about one thing and that is to have fun. All they want to do is laugh and play. I remember those days of not having a stress in the world.

But how do you make them want to work on their speech goals?

I usually plan a set of three or four different activities to do in 30 minutes with each of my groups. Some days we get through all four activities, most days we get through two and one that was unplanned.

I worked with children as I completed my undergraduate studies at a licensed afterschool program, Extend-A-Care for Kids, in Austin and I learned a lot. The most important thing I learned that helps me out the most today is children love to make decisions.

That is why I always plan four different activities for them to choose from.

“Would you rather sing about the days and months or just review the calendar?”

“Do you want to sing along with the rapping dinosaur or sing the A is for apple song?”

“Do you want to read first or play a game?”

“Do you want to sit at the table or on the bean bags?”

By offering the children many opportunities to make various choices, they feel empowered and are more willing to participate. Plus, some students have speech goals to make a choice between two objects, so bam!

For the most part, I still have control over the group even if they made the decisions of what to do. I trained myself to be more flexible during the therapy sessions, so that the students can benefit from every session.

I may want the students to learn a certain way, but every student learns differently and I feel it is my responsibility to adapt to their learning style so they can ultimately learn.

Posted in Lets talk on Monday, February 10, 2014 4:46 pm. | Tags: Education , Speech-language Pathology , After-school Activity , Children , Choices Comments (0)

Wednesday 01/29/2014
Addicted to harming myself

When you hear the word addiction, what do you think of? The first word that comes to my mind is drugs. For some reason it has been instilled in my brain to think that only people who use drugs are susceptible to addiction. Therefore, I am not susceptible and do not have to worry about addiction.

But what if I told you that you and I are addicts? We are. What is addiction? According to Medical News Today, people with an addiction do not have control over what they are doing, taking or using. Their addiction may reach a point at which it is harmful.

Now, how are we addicts?

Take a moment to think about everything you ate and drank today. What did it contain? Look at the back of every item in your refrigerator and pantry. Do you know what all of those ingredients are? Do any of the products, that we so call food, contain monosodium glutamate?

The documentary "Hungry for a Change" quoted chemist Raymond Francis, M.Sc. MIT, who said, “Msg (monosodium glutamate) and free glutamates are used to enhance flavor in about 80 percent of all processed foods.”  

To make it more confusing on us consumers, monosodium glutamate is referred to as many different names, such as hydrolyzed vegetable or plant protein and sodium caseinate. Doesn’t plant protein sound like something healthy for you? It’s not! They’ve tricked us!

If you watch the entire documentary, like I did with a group of teachers I work with, you will learn that research studies induce mice with msg to make them obese and it excites the brain to want more.

I watched this video and told myself I was going to stop eating foods with msg. Wait! Eighty percent of all the foods in the grocery store contain msg! How do I do that? Can I even accomplish my thought? Do I want to go through the hassle?

We are addicted to this non-healthy form of eating. I feel like I’ve lost control over my eating habits because I am so accustomed to the commercial products. I am accustomed to stopping at a fast food restaurant for a burger or salad. Even my salad will have msg, because I add salad dressing. I have become accustomed to harming my own body.

All of these man-made foods that we eat off the counters of grocery stores and from restaurants have high amounts of calories that trick our minds to think we have satisfied our bodies’ hunger, but in actuality we are starving our body of the nutrients it is designed to intake and properly digest.

More than half of our country is overweight and diabetes is on the rise- every disease, cancer and disorder is on the rise. It seems like this issue is hopeless, but there are people in our world who have changed their lifestyle and eating habits to cure cancer, reduce the intake of medication and to simply live.  

We need to take back the responsibility of our own health and quit putting it in the hands of these doctors who prescribe pills to ease pain, rather than fix the problem.

The solution is in our own control and lies within our diet.

Posted in Lets talk on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 6:00 pm. | Tags: Monosodium Glutamate , Food And Drink , Glutamates , Chemistry , Glutamic Acid , Medical News Today , Food , Food Additives Comments (0)

Wednesday 01/22/2014
Stuttering - It just happens

Addressing students about their stuttering is one of the hardest tasks for me to do. Maybe it is because I am new to the field. I do not have the perfect words to say or a script to memorize. I’ve learned that you have to approach every student differently. That goes for any child – even those who do not stutter. Nobody is the same. I love that!

I came across this children’s book, "Sometimes I Just Stutter" by Eelco de Geus, on the Stuttering Foundation’s website and I decided to read this with my students who stutter. I began the session by asking if they knew why they came to speech. Some knew and some did not. Those who did not know put me in an awkward situation. I could not just say, “Well you see me because you stutter.” Or could I?

Instead, I asked, “Well, do you know what it means when someone stutters?” I’ve only had "yes" responses thus far. “Do you sometimes stutter?” That’s when I get mixed answers of "yes", "no", or "I used to." That’s what makes me uneasy about the subject of stuttering.

When a child tells me they do not stutter and they do stutter, I am unsure how to respond. Thankfully I came across this book which answers and explains questions about stuttering in simple terms. Instead of trying to find the most sensitive words to say to my students and sounding unsure or come across as unsympathetic, I decided to read this book and discuss it with my students.

They opened up about their own stuttering. They often say, “Oh yeah, I do that” or “That happens to me.”

“I used to get told I was ugly when I stuttered,” one of my students told me.

This book made my students and me comfortable to speak about stuttering. It allowed me to understand their thought process when speaking. It allowed them to realize that they do stutter sometimes and that it is OK.

Sometimes students will say they understand something and in actuality they have no clue. Some of my students said they knew what stuttering meant, but in actuality they didn’t. I remember I used to do the same thing when I was child. Actually, I’m still guilty of doing so. Luckily I have a smart phone and can Google things right away!

I enjoyed reading the personal stories that children wrote in the book. That lets the students know they are not the only ones who stutter and have concerns about their stuttering. Often times, children choose to stay silent because they are so ashamed of their stuttering.

If you know anybody who stutters, the best thing to do is make them feel comfortable when speaking to you. I recommend reading this book and sharing it with others. The book also has personal letters that you can give to brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and teachers.

Something else I learned from reading this book:

Myth: It helps to tell a person to “take a deep breath before talking,” or “think about what you want to say first.”

Reality: This advice only makes a person more self-conscious, making the stuttering worse. More helpful responses include listening patiently and modeling slow and clear speech yourself.

Posted in Lets talk on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 5:52 pm. | Tags: Stuttering , Education , Human Communication , Cultural References To Stuttering , Stuttering Therapy , Language And Speech Comments (0)

Friday 01/17/2014
More than just a game

I do not remember watching cartoons on weekends, nor watching TV after school. My husband, Antuan, says I didn’t have a childhood because I don’t know of any cartoons he speaks of.

Truth is, I was always outside running around, riding a bike, bouncing a basketball, throwing a football, hitting a volleyball or cheering for my older brother at his sporting events.

Playing a sport or participating in an extracurricular activity was my only option. I grew up in an athletic household and that was the rule set by my parents. I’m glad they forced my brother and me to be involved.

Being on a team taught me how to follow, lead, work with different personalities, communicate with others, be humble and, most importantly, learn from my failures.

I highly encourage all of my students to play a sport. When the weather permits, I usually take them outside to play a game or race.

It’s so easy to incorporate their speech goals into a game. If the students are working on producing the g sound, then everyone has to tell each other "good job" with a high-five and smile.

If the students are working on language skills, then they have to state what happened in complete sentences. For example, a student will say, “I threw the ball to Billy and he caught it.” In just this one sentence, the student used irregular past tense verbs, pronouns and a conjoiner.

The students do not even realize they are "working" because they are so caught up in the fun. They’re outside releasing energy, gaining sunlight, and speaking to each other.  They’re learning so much more than by reading a book, writing on worksheets or playing board games. I’m not saying those are all useless forms of teaching - that is definitely not the case - but a sport incorporates what a student learns into one fun activity.

I know most students with disabilities are discouraged from playing on their school team, but that should not be the case. We need to encourage these students to be involved someway, somehow. If the student does not make the team, encourage him or her to be the manager.

If the student refuses to be involved with the school team, then encourage the student to play with a team within the community at the recreational sports complexes.

On Thursday I attended an orientation for the Killeen ISD Special Olympics Track and Field. I also signed up to be a coach. If you know a child with special needs, I highly encourage you to get that child involved. Imagine all the fun the child will experience and all the knowledge the child will gain.

If you are interested in volunteering or becoming a Special Olympics coach, please check out the Special Olympics Texas website for more information.

Posted in Lets talk on Friday, January 17, 2014 3:00 pm. | Tags: Special Olympic , Sports , Education , Track And Field , Olympics Comments (0)

Saturday 01/11/2014
Can cell phones cause breast cancer?
Tiffany, 21, was a healthy young woman before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her doctor was unsure of what caused the breast cancer at such a young age without a family history of this disease. It's an uncommon situation. 
 
After asking many questions about her lifestyle, her parents made a conclusion that her cell phone may have caused the tumors in her left breast. They were convinced when other women repoted similar stories. 
 
Tiffany appeared on Dr. Oz last month and showed the audience how she used to place her cell phone in her bra to rest on her left breast with a bit of it sticking out of her shirt. Turns out that was the same exact spot they found the breast cancer tissues. 
 
Tiffany used to carry her cell phone in her bra to have easy access to it whenever it rang, but according to Dr. Oz, her breast tissues may have been absorbing the radiofrequency radiation the cell phone emits. 
 
There is not enough scientific research to prove Dr. Oz's conclusion as accurate, but some animal studies have shown that radiofrequency radiation causes DNA changes in animals cells. 
 
This may not be a proven case to show how carrying your cell phone in your bra can cause breast cancer, but I will and I hope everyone else will still be cautious of how long we let cell phones rest directly on our skin.
 
I've never carried my cell phone in my bra and I was never planning on it for one main reason- it's unclassy. But now I have another reason not to do such a thing. 
 
"My mom would warn me. She would tell me that my thing hanging out of my bra or shirt wasn't attractive and that it's probably not good." Tiffany said on the Dr. Oz show. 
 
There were other women on the show saying they placed their phones and other little items in their bras while they worked out or made errands so they won't miss a call. 
 
As I was reading up on research, I came across an invention of a bra with an actual pocket to place a cell phone. There was a statement saying that carrying your cell phone was convenient and was the new cool and hip thing to do. 
 
When did it become acceptable to dig in your bra in public? What happened to placing cell phones in your purse?
 
This brings me back to how we have become wired to rely on our technology more than we should. As technology progresses and improves, we still need to remember to relax and do without it once in awhile. 
 
We are able to work out at the gym, drive our cars, go to the grocery store, watch a movie, etc. without carrying our cell phones. 
 
Women: We do not need to be putting our health in danger just to answer every call or text. 
 
Everyone: We do not need to be texting and driving to answer everyone's questions at that moment. 
 
Let's all slow down a bit and remember there is a time and place for everything. You can always call or text back later. Nothing is more important than your health. 
 

Posted in Lets talk on Saturday, January 11, 2014 4:13 pm. | Tags: Brassieres , Mobile Telecommunications , Technology_internet , Breast Cancer , Mobile Phone , Cell Phones , Health , Cancer , Dr. Oz , Radiation Comments (1)

Monday 01/06/2014
New year, semester, goals

It’s a new year and it’s that time when people like to reflect, forget, and move on. Move on to greater things. Accept different responsibilities. Set bigger goals. Better yourself. Reinvent yourself.

Yay! Congratulations! Now let’s begin!

Uh oh…

Where to begin?

Well, let’s first think of our biggest goal to accomplish. (Remember our friend, Kosi Aneli, said a goal is a dream with a deadline.)

It’s OK to take your time. Think of a time limit for your dream. When should you accomplish or complete this dream?

Wow! What a huge step!

You just created a goal, which is a ______ with a ______.

That’s how I plan to start the new semester with my students. This allows them to recap what they already know. I get the opportunity to see what the students remember, and the students talk about what they’ve been dying to talk about - themselves.  

I am so excited to see my students after this two week break. I plan to review what we spoke about last semester, reintroduce the topic of goal setting, reintroduce old vocabulary, introduce new vocabulary and catch up on each other’s vacation.

That’s a lot to do, isn’t it? Yeah, but I like to set up my room as if we are all friends. Everyone in the room cares about each other and we are all genuinely interested in one another. We’re friends trying our hardest to communicate with one another. 

Some of these kids can come up with the funniest dreams and goals to accomplish. They can come up with silly ones like becoming a villain and taking over the world, or serious ones like becoming a villain and taking over the world. Haha! Kids and their imaginations…

Whatever dream or goal they decide to share the first week back at school, I will let them share. My whole goal is for all of them to speak up and get back in the groove of things while having fun.

This is my ideal room setting for the new year, new semester, new goals, new dreams, new deadlines. It’s all exciting!

How are you beginning your new year with your co-workers, friends, family members? What goals or new year resolutions have you set?

Posted in Lets talk on Monday, January 6, 2014 8:36 am. | Tags: New Year , New Year S Day , Goal Setting , Student , Holidays , Dreams Comments (0)

Tuesday 12/31/2013
Share your holiday experience

Members of the Jaramillo family- cousins, toddlers, aunts, uncles- sang to each other across the front glass door. Half of the group was inside the home and the other half was outside in the cold.

“En el nombre del cielo os pido posada (in the name of heaven we are asking you for a lodge),” sang the group outside.

“Aqui no es meson sigan adelante (this is not a lodge, keep on walking),” sang the group inside.

They alternated singing verses of “Las Posadas” to each other. Some knew the lyrics from heart, others used their smart phones for assistance.  

Posadas are celebrations that originated from Mexico when Roman Catholicism was introduced to Mexico in 1538. Everyone enjoying the Posada is celebrating the birth of Christ and the journey Mary experienced prior to giving birth.

I attended my first Posada at a friend’s house this Christmas Eve. It was such a great learning experience. I couldn’t believe I had never attended a Posada before. Everyone was laughing and getting to know each other. Women were carrying the babies, toddlers were hitting each other, younguns were carrying blue plastic cups and men were drinking their beverages of choice. It was all just fun with family and friends.

When you run into your friends, coworkers and family, take the time to listen to their experiences. Ask them questions and ask them for more details. Let them know you sincerely want to learn about their experiences. I’m sure they will open up to you, and I’m sure you will learn something, as well.

Sometimes I feel like everybody is stuck on this mindset of making things quick and straight to the point. But let’s remember that some of our friends willing to share their experiences need to take their time. How about you be that person or friend who allows them to share their thoughts?  

What did you do for the holidays or what are you still planning on doing?

Posted in Lets talk on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 10:00 am. | Tags: Christmas , La Posada , Mexico , Catholic Church , Holidays , Communication Comments (0)

Monday 12/16/2013
A special starry night

Santa signed using American Sign Language, “What would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas?”

I told him what I wanted, an interpreter signed for Santa and he signed, “I will make that happen soon.”

 I would tell you what I told Santa, but I want it to come true really bad. I am pretty superstitious. I was told to never say your wishes so they will come true. I still believe Santa will make my dream come true.

(I obviously work with children.)

Maybe it was the spirit that filled the Sul Ross Community Center with such hope and joy that made me believe Santa. I don’t know what it was, but I felt blessed after I attended A Special Starry Night in Waco, hosted by the Waco Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities.

Everyone in attendance enjoyed live music by a local band, Broken Element, a photo booth locally owned by The Party Guys Photo Booth, games, coloring books and a real Santa (at least in my eyes and heart.) Everyone was able to communicate with each other despite their disability. There was an interpreter at the event all night to translate conversations between the people who are deaf and the people who do not know ASL.

Kelly Yarbrough, chair and coordinator of the Waco Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities, said this was the first time they threw a Christmas celebration for every community member with a disability and she hopes it becomes an annual tradition.

I really hope so, too!

These types of events are the ones that make huge impacts on our lives, if you allow them to. They are the events that create memories and special experiences for everybody.

I met a young teenager diagnosed with Autism at the event. I saw him wearing a blue sweatshirt sitting by himself on a bench right outside the dance room. I sat next to him because I made eye contact with him. Yes! I made eye contact with him! I caught his eye gaze. To be honest, I was trying really hard to catch his eye gaze.

“I’m sorry,” he said to me.  

I asked why and sat next to him. He turned away and looked at the floor.

“I’m sorry I made you come here,” he said.

“You don’t have to say sorry. I’m glad I came and sat next to you. I wanted to come sit next to you,” I told the young boy, hoping he’d believe my honest words. He smiled, but kept saying sorry.

I asked him for his name, introduced myself and shook his hand for less than a second before he pulled his arm back.

He was a sweet kid, but I got the impression he felt a little uncomfortable. I smiled at him and wished him a great night.

Children with Autism like to be alone but somehow feel apart without really being a part of the action. I’m sure the loud music, number of people and unknown faces was a little overwhelming but not to the point where he did not want anything to do with the event. He still involved himself in his own way.

I knew the young teenager was happy to be there. I knew he felt the spirit within the room that gave him courage to speak to a stranger. That was my first encounter with him, but believe me, I was so proud of him. I hope he felt the same way.

Posted in Lets talk on Monday, December 16, 2013 4:36 pm. | Tags: Social Issues , Christmas , Santa Claus , American Sign Language , Autism , Interpreter , Sul Ross Community Center , Waco Mayor , Kelly Yarbrough Comments (0)

Wednesday 12/11/2013
Back to the basics

With technology improving at a rapid pace, I often find myself trying to be more and more innovative when it comes to using activities in speech therapy. I don’t think that is entirely a negative thing, but sometimes I have to remind myself that the simple and basic activities are also fun and exciting.

I often feel like I’m competing with machines. I wish I could draw, color and cut perfect shapes, pictures and games. I remember at the beginning of the school year, I made a poster for my wall that came out crooked. I was ready to throw it away, but Antuan said it made the kids use their imagination.

“You can say it’s a rhombus,” he told me.

The poster is still on my wall.

I search for new and cool games on iPads that are designed for speech therapy, but I have yet to use them with my students. I like doing simple activities with them. I like the interactions we have. We play games like Go Fish, Candy Land, or card games that they come up with using their bright little minds. To be honest, I am scared that once I introduce the iPad in therapy, I’m going to lose their interest.

I know all of these kids have iPads and video games at home that they play with. I see young children playing with them all the time. My niece just turned 2 and she knows how to get on Netflix and watch movies. I was fascinated when I saw that, but then nervous at the same time. I hope she does not stare at an iPad or television screen the majority of the day.

One of my coworkers told me her 4-year-old granddaughter wanted an iPad for Christmas, but she did not want to spend that much money on a gadget. I told her I oppose that as a gift. She laughed and conveniently agreed. I told her these little electronic gadgets do not allow the children to use their own imagination and they take away from a child’s social skills. They take away from my social skills.

Whatever happened to playing outside and making a tent out of your blankets so the bears won’t see you? Whatever happened to talking about your day at the park?

When I worked with older patients who survived strokes and were building their communication skills, they often got frustrated on the computers. We enjoyed talking to one another in groups, singing, playing games and reading. They also did not grow up with technology in their households.   

I am thankful for technology, but then I feel like it hinders our natural abilities. It takes away from communicating with one another face to face. It takes away from our alertness. But then it offers us a chance to see what’s happening on the other side of the world.

Can you tell I’m ambivalent toward technology? I guess just like everything else, technology needs to be used in moderation.

What about you? How do you feel about children using technology at such a young age? How do you think it affects our communication skills? How is this going to affect our future generations? 

Posted in Lets talk on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 5:51 pm. | Tags: Ipad , Candy Land , Christmas , Apple Inc. , Computer Hardware , Go Fish , Netflix , Technology , Ipads , Communication , Speech-language Pathology , Children Using Technology Comments (0)

Thursday 06/26/2014
Pesticides and human waste on fruits

“Reporting live from Killeen, Texas, I’m Safety Mary,” my husband jokingly mocks me using a Daffy Duck voice.

I laugh when he does this, but I hope he takes me seriously when I get on my health chats. He jokes because I drive the speed limit and am constantly paying attention to what I consume or put on my body. I’m a healthy person obsessed with a healthy lifestyle.

Needless to say, I was a huge risk-taker growing up and I’ve learned from my various consequences, such as automobile accidents and food-poisoning. Therefore, I’ve turned into Safety Mary.

Sometimes being Safety Mary is disturbing and scary. I read plenty of research and find out the truth of what I’m really doing to myself.

For example, I read an article published by NaturalOn discussing different foods that cause cancer. The most disturbing thing I came across was that my favorite fruits are contaminated with pesticides that harm the body, to keep insects away. The pesticides are not only killing the insects- they’re killing us.

Pesticide consumption causes developmental and behavioral abnormalities and can be passed to the fetus through the blood stream of a mother who has consumed pesticides or to an infant through the breast milk. The thought of ADHD and Autism pops into my head, which have been on an incredible rise.  

According to Autism Speaks, Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys. More than 1 in 10 US school-aged children received an ADHD diagnosis by a health care provider by 2011 according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Not only that, biosolids, aka human waste, aka human poop, is used as fertilizer in US farms! What?!

There were recent complaints about the “decaying flesh” odor coming from the farms in Milford, Texas- a small rural town less than two hours north of Killeen, according to Dallas-Ft. Worth Channel 8 news.  The city of Fort Worth is currently looking into a way to minimize the smell of the biosolids used in their farms.

How about just stop using human poop to fertilize the food we eat? But farmers like using biosolids because it’s cheap! What about our health?!

This entire time I thought I was eating healthy by cutting out fast food and sticking to "natural" foods such as fruits and vegetables. Little did I know that these so-thought "natural" foods were actually being genetically modified, poisoned and grown in human waste.

My next step to eating healthy is buying organic fruits. They may not last as long and they may be a bit more expensive, but at least they’re not killing me or infecting me with diseases.

One question: Is there a way to be an organic consumer on a budget?  

Posted in Lets talk on Thursday, June 26, 2014 9:13 am. | Tags: Organic Food , Education , Autism , Autism Speaks , Centers For Disease Control And Prevention , Food-poisoning , Cancer , Food , Centers For Disease Control , Milford Comments (0)

Tuesday 06/17/2014
5 To-Dos with Delilah

I spent a couple of hours alone with the newest addition to the Mejia family, my niece. She’s only 3 weeks old, but I can’t help but think about her future.

“Do you want to be a news anchor, Delilah? Or some type of therapist like your mom and auntie?” I asked her as we watched the local news.

I swear she smiled when I asked her about being a therapist!

Then it got quiet. Hmmm… I don’t know what to talk about. What does Delilah need to learn at a very young age?

I counted all of her 10 little toes and 10 long skinny fingers. I sang the Phonics Song 2 that I sing with my students to her, which goes over the alphabet and sounds. I pointed out her physical features, such as her eyes, arms, feet, etc.

“Make sure you're looking at my lips, too, Delilah. That’s very important for you to see now so you can learn how to produce sounds,” I told her as I pointed to my lips and exaggerated my speech.

I’m going to start charging my brother and sister-in-law for speech therapy lessons! There was still more time for me to solely take care of Delilah as my sister-in-law went grocery shopping and my brother went to work.

I decided to turn on my MareBear playlist, which my husband created for me. We’ve added a lot of love songs from Smokey Robinson, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston to the playlist, so Delilah and I were jamming out as I sang to her.

“I’m your auntie tonight!” I sang to her, as Whitney Houston sang “I’m Your Baby Tonight” in the background.

“Next time I come over to watch you, I’m going to be more prepared,” I told her as I laid her down to sleep.

I decided to refresh my memory on the developmental stages of speech growth in children during the infant stage to know what kind of fun activities I should be doing with Delilah. I want to ensure Delilah can communicate very well as she gets older. (I’m sure every speech therapist can relate). I went to the American Speech-Language Association as my resource, which is available to everyone.

I came up with 5 important activities to do with Delilah before she turns 6 months old. You may want to give them a tr:

Do- re- mi- fa- so- la- ti- do

I decided this would be a cool way to introduce vowel sounds. I get to practice on my vocals, too.

Softly say her name with a smile every time she cries

This is so she gets in the habit of always smiling when her name is spoken.

Rattle a baby toy or keys.

This to make sure she is looking at and acknowledging sounds.   

Play with sock puppets!!

This is my silly way of entertaining myself while I make funny voices, so she can begin acknowledging shifts in my voice.

Jam out to some baby nursery rhymes and THEN my favorite jams.

Hey, I have to make it fun for me, too! Nursery rhymes are a great way to introduce simple sounds made with your lips, such as P, B, M. We call these sounds bilabial sounds in the speech world. Music is an awesome tool to use for teaching, so always be careful to what you’re listening to around our children.

 

Posted in Lets talk on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 4:38 pm. | Tags: Whitney Houston , Janet Jackson , Smokey Robinson , Therapist , Speech Therapist , American Speech-language Association , Children , Health Comments (0)

Monday 06/09/2014
Instilling hope in students

I found myself feeling bored yesterday afternoon as I sat on the couch with no TV to watch. I had already spent a lot of time going through my newsfeed and scrolling through Instagram pics.

“This is not good,” I thought to myself. I hope this is not how my summer will be. So, I decided to PICK UP A BOOK!

Well, I didn’t actually pick up a hard copy of a book. I bought the digital copy of "Making Hope Happen" by Shane J. Lopez on my iPad.

Lopez is a Gallup Senior Scientist and a psychologist that studies the psychology of hope. I am barely on the third chapter of the book, but I have already taken away valuable lessons- how to begin my next year’s speech sessions.

This scientist/psychologist mentioned one of his experiences as a student finishing up his last year of clinical training when a patient changed his mind set on the importance of feeling hope. The experience with this patient made him want to instill hope within everyone he came across.

He started to begin his therapy sessions with, “If therapy is successful now, what will your life look like in five years?”

Wow! This got me thinking of how I discussed the importance of goal setting with my students. Throughout the year, I too set goals for myself. Some I accomplished, some I put to the side, and some I’m still working on.

I began questioning why I put the goals that I wish to really happen to the side. Did I lose hope in them? I hope not! I constantly dream about my future and some of my most lavish fantasies are still the ones I continue to work towards. I’m hopeful for the future. I’m hopeful that the visions in my mind will one day come true.

Kids are the same way. They are so hopeful for their dreams to come true. I think that’s why I love working them.

But some kids are sad or angry. These are the ones that occupy my mind so much because I want to figure out how to make them happy and now hopeful. I want them to work hard towards their speech goals and realize that they themselves can create their future and be great in school.

I’ve decided to begin my therapy sessions with asking them, “If therapy is successful, what will you sound like by the end of the year? By the end of fifth grade?”

Then I will review their goals and show them a map of success that I’ve created for them to reach their goals while they’re in speech therapy. They will then go home and draw out their own map of success to their speech goals so that way they can feel responsibility over their progress while at home or anytime they are out of my speech room.  

The goal is to make them realize that there is hope and hopefully begin to feel it and create a change.  

Posted in Lets talk on Monday, June 9, 2014 10:22 am. | Tags: Speech-language Pathology , Speech Therapy , Speech Technology , Student Comments (0)

Thursday 05/29/2014
Maybe it's me

I often remind my students that everything is not perfect, but I may be saying that to remind myself, as well. Everyone needs that reminder. The other day my mother, a general education high school counselor, was complaining about having to provide counseling services to students with mental health issues.

“I’m not a psychiatrist. I just want to talk to students about going to college,” she said. 

I remember feeling that way when I first walked into the lower functioning classrooms and the majority of the students receiving speech services were nonverbal. I remember thinking, "How am I supposed to help these kids? There’s no point in seeing them. I can’t use anything to vibrate their vocal cords.” I read online articles on how I can help these students, but I realized that I first needed to help myself.

I needed to change my own perception of my profession and confidence in my abilities. I realized that my lack of self confidence caused my negative thoughts and unwillingness to work with these students who ultimately benefited from my speech services.

During that bitter time of questioning my responsibilities, I still picked up my students and sang the alphabet with them, reviewed the calendar, read and asked them questions. I was not enjoying it, until I finally sat down and told myself to get over it and make the best out of it.

I am sure a lot of people can relate to my mother and I. We often look at things in a negative perspective, but I hope you can still relate, when I say I turned my thoughts around and started to look at things on the bright side.

I began asking myself, ‘how many people actually make sure this child is looking at their lips when they sing the ABC’s? How many people ask this child questions and then answer them as a way to model basic communication skills? How many people actually sing, smile, and laugh with this child?”

Then I realized that even though I am not using high tech tools and providing surgery, I am still helping these students by providing basic communication skills- which by the way is my job. I realized that what I wanted for these students takes time and there’s a process to build up a repertoire with them. I just had to be patient.

The same goes for my mother. Even though she is not a psychiatrist she is still helping her students.  I told her, "You are the one who has some background on how to speak with someone with mental health issues, so you should be responsible to talk to him one on one. If you do not talk to him about college, then who will?"

After consistently visiting with my students, I became a familiar face to them and they started showing me their abilities. I was then able to figure out what they were capable of doing and how I could improve their abilities.

I told my mom to do the same thing: “Look at things in a more positive light. So one of your students has schizophrenia and you do not know what to talk about. Then let your student do all the talking first. Get to know him, so you can then share how further education may help him.”

And now I tell you, those of you who care for our children and adults with special needs: be optimistic. Look at how you are helping your loved one and keep improving from there. The care you provide for them is definitely appreciated and even though they are unable to verbally express it, look in their eyes and see the joy the beams when they see you.

Posted in Lets talk on Thursday, May 29, 2014 4:27 pm. | Tags: Mental Health , Psychiatrist , Communication , Student , Counseling Services , General Education High School Counselor , Students Receiving Speech Services , Speech Services Comments (0)

Tuesday 05/20/2014
Summer for children with special needs

The school year is coming to an end, and I hope my students continue to read at least once a day and stay active. Some of them I worry about. I worry about my students who require one-on-one attention or special accommodations.

As I spoke to a teacher about some of her students in wheel chairs and dependent on others to care for them, I wondered if they will continue to get the great attention received at school over the summer. Are they going to be read to? Are they going to have someone sing the ABCs with them or count to 30?

Are the students going to be able to interact with other children and adults over the summer? The teacher I spoke to hasn’t heard of a day care specifically for children with special needs.

This reminded me of four years ago when I used to work with an after school and we were not going to provide services for the children with special needs. My heart broke when I found out this news. I loved working with my students that took so much joy in the simple things in life. Those students loved going on walks and speaking about what they saw.

“Biiird!” yelled one of those students as she ran after the birds causing them to scatter and chirp. She loved going on walks for that moment.  

She didn’t speak more than 10 words. She had Down syndrome, but I always knew how she was feeling or what she wanted and needed. She definitely expressed herself through her actions and grunts.  

Her mother appreciated our services. It offered some time for herself after a busy day at work, which is understandable and extremely beneficial for her. She trusted us to care for her daughter as she could have and should have.

She cried and other parents cried when we told them we weren’t going to provide services anymore. What were they going to do now? Who was going to watch their children? Could they afford it? Could they trust other caregivers?

The worries filled their thoughts and my heart sank.

Now as my students and I are preparing for summer break, I can’t help but hope they have someone to read and discuss stories with them, ask questions, laugh with them and just enjoy learning with them.

I trust most of my students will be active during the summer, but some I worry for many various reasons. Fortunately, I came across Peaceable Kingdom Retreat in Killeen that is sponsored by a few other organizations within the community and assist with fun activities for children with special needs.

One of the organizations they work with, Children’s Special Needs Network, offers more information concerning specific details about what organizations or summer programs your child can be a part of.

“They are gold mine for camps,” Samantha, from Peaceable Kingdom Retreat told me.

I checked out the CSNN website and I didn’t see much about summer opportunities. However, their contact information was online so I called and they were so helpful. They know of all the camps for children with special needs that are offered throughout Texas

Unfortunately, CSNN only knows of one place in Killeen that offers childcare for children with special needs and that is Education Connection. Central Texas Children’s Center in Temple also offers day care for children with special needs.

That is not a lot of help within our community, so I was wondering what do our parents within our community do during the summer with their children that have special needs. Do they take off from work to take care of their child? Do they hire a baby-sitter or does a family member help out? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Posted in Lets talk on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 2:51 pm. | Tags: Education , Teacher , Summer Vacation , Special Needs , Peaceable Kingdom , Peaceable Kingdom Retreat Comments (2)

Monday 05/05/2014
Resource for parents and speech therapists

The end of the school year is near, and I all I can think about is making sure my students practice their speech goals over the summer. They made tremendous progress over this year and the summer vacation is known to regress a child’s progress.

Most of my students seem excited to continue reading during the summer and that’s music to my ears. That’s weight lifted off my shoulders.

I still have to prepare packets for them to take home so their parents can monitor their child’s progress over the summer.

Fortunately, Speech Therapy Ideas, an online resource for speech therapists posted take-home activity packets on their blog site. This site has helped me tremendously throughout the year and has amazing ideas to enforce during speech therapy sessions.

It’s difficult to be a fun educator, but I have taken the responsibility to be just that. I’ve always wanted my students to enjoy attending speech therapy and for just $5 a month, I had unlimited access to all sorts of games, practice sheets and packets. They also have a couple of free materials to use.

Check out the website if you are a parent of a child with a speech disorder or a speech therapist. I’m sure you will be thankful for their service.

Don't let your child be apart of the achievement gap. Continue to work read and discuss books, newspapers, magazines, music, art, etc.

Posted in Lets talk on Monday, May 5, 2014 3:48 pm. | Tags: Speech-language Pathology , Education , Human Interest , Student , Parent , Online Resource , Speech Therapist Comments (0)

Monday 04/21/2014
Overcoming a gloomy day

My students are used to me being patient because I usually am. I encourage them to take their time and not feel rushed. That is probably why they enjoy seeing me. But there are those days where I wake up feeling anxious and impatient and I realized those are my roughest days.

It’s a personal issue, which is what can be frustrating. I wish I could wake up in the best mood every day, but let’s face it- I’m human. I finally accepted that the weather has an effect on my attitude. On gloomy days, I feel grumpy and irritable. But I don’t use that as an excuse to act such a way with my students. On these days I have to remind myself that I work with children who are naturally care-free, who have a hard time comprehending simple tasks, who wish they could have fun 24/7 and who are used to the fun Mrs. Mary.

Today’s gloomy and cold weather just blew my bright spirits away. It was a long day for me because I was constantly putting on an act of cheeriness and smiles. I’m sure my students appreciated it. They, too, were affected by the weather and wished they were cuddled in their blankets on this out of the blue cold day.

Even though it was a long day, it went by pretty smooth. I began every session by stating the order of activities planned for the day.

“First we will sing our favorite songs, then we will review the calendar and lastly we will read a short story,” I said.

I often got "boo-hoos" and "whys" after I said we will read a short story. I laughed it off because that’s just how kids are. I can’t take everything they say so seriously- even on my grumpy days.

Reviewing the activities of the day is something I usually forget to do, even though I have been advised plenty of times to do so. Today I made it a priority and oh my goodness! I am so glad I did! It kept my students and me on track on this rough day. I am so proud of us all!

Posted in Lets talk on Monday, April 21, 2014 3:00 am. | Tags: Harry Potter , Weather , Holidays Comments (0)

Friday 03/28/2014
Never cut yourself short

"So you're just gonna leave us?" Coach Smith asked Cody, one of the athletes at the Special Olympics training Monday.

“I’m tired,” he responded as he sluggishly walked toward the exit of the track and field.

Cody exited and stopped to rest on the school wall. One of the volunteers walked over to Cody and spoke to him.

He still had to run one more 100 meter dash to complete his track practice, but he was just not feeling it. He was ready to go home.

“You’re back. Are you going to run?” Coach Smith asked.

Cody nodded and raised his eyebrow at her. In his mind he was saying, "What did you expect?"

He walked to the 100 meter starting line, waited for the gunshot and took off. Everybody - parents, coaches and athletes - cheered for Cody as he ran his hardest. Once he crossed the line, he fell to the ground and caught his breath.

His teammates were proud of Cody for finishing practice. He was proud, too.

This is what sports and being a part of a team is about. You learn not to cut yourself short, and you learn how your actions affect others. Once this is learned, it is embedded into your lifestyle. You never cut yourself short with anything. You always try hard and never give up when you consider others.

I’m so glad Cody is challenging himself mentally and physically. He has the rest of his team to cheer him on and keep him going. All of the athletes get to go home feeling accomplished and look forward to doing better the following week.     

Posted in Lets talk on Friday, March 28, 2014 2:15 pm. | Tags: Sports , Special Olympics , Track And Field , Confidence , Athletes Comments (0)

Thursday 03/20/2014
Progress reports empower parents

I currently work at an elementary school, and at the end of every nine weeks I have to send progress reports home with report cards. As I am writing my progress reports for all of the students on my caseload, I am amazed at how much my students have grown and improved.

For some therapists, writing progress reports is dreadful, but as for me, I enjoy it. Even though I have to write a pretty high number of progress reports, I still look forward to typing personalized reports. (I am not going to mention the exact number because I do not want to discourage any speech therapists from working in the schools. We definitely need more speech therapists in the schools and if we had more, I would not have such a high caseload.)

Writing progress reports allows me to communicate with the parents. Unlike working in a clinic or hospital, I don’t get the opportunity to introduce myself to every parent. I take this time to let them know that I care about their child’s progress by stating the activities we do in speech therapy, the child’s progress and at-home activities to work on the child’s speech and/or language goals.

I also use progress reports as a way to thank the parents. One of my students introduced a really fun game that I like to call Slap R (very similar to Slap Jack) to her group members and now I play it with other students. Slap R (or Slap S, K, TH, etc.) is now the number one requested game in Mrs. Mary’s speech class. Well, I used this time to say, “Thanks to your daughter, a lot of my students are enjoying speech therapy even more. Thanks for finding a creative and fun way to help [child’s name] reach her goals.”

I am pretty animated in my progress reports home. When a child has met an objective, I usually say, “Yay!!! (Yes, I use three exclamation points). Congratulations!!! [child’s name] has mastered the /th/ sound in all position of words. Now we will move on to produce /th/ in phrases and sentences.” I want the parents to feel how excited I am about their child’s accomplishment because I truly am.

I usually end my progress reports by stating, “Practicing at home in a less structured environment is beneficial for [child’s name]. Please refer to this website for more fun at-home activities and resources.”  

Personalizing every progress report takes a lot of time, but I think it is worth every hour. I want my parents to read what I have to say, so I try to grab their attention anyway possible, whether it be with several exclamation points or resources.

 Just remember that parents need to feel empowered to help their child. By giving them resources, praise, and specific information about their child, we are doing just that, which leads to a more successful child.

Posted in Lets talk on Thursday, March 20, 2014 2:00 pm. | Tags: Education , Speech-language Pathology , Elementary School , Parent , Report Card Comments (0)

Tuesday 03/04/2014
Advice for speech therapists

I attended the 58th Annual Convention and Exhibition presented by the Texas Speech-language and Hearing Association in Houston this past weekend and had a blast. I highly recommend all speech therapists in Texas attend next year's convention in San Antonio.

There were various courses about working with children in the school setting that counted towards CEU credits. Texas speech therapists and assistants have to obtain 20 hours of CEUs every two years to renew their licenses.

I learned a lot more about how to incorporate music therapy into the speech sessions, which is something I already do. I just needed more ideas. Next week, I am bringing maracas into speech therapy. This should be fun!

I was also able to score a cool jumbo mouth model from Super Duper Inc. It’s so neat. It has the ridges of an alveolar ridge, so the students can see and feel what their tongue should be feeling when they produce D or T. It came with a toothbrush, so now my kids actually want to review the steps to brush your teeth using sequence vocabulary.

One piece of important advice that was given by most of the presenters was to seek help from classroom teachers for ideas. I find it odd that such advice was stressed in a lot of presentations. I thought that was a given, but I can see how a lot of speech therapists do not turn to the teachers in their schools for help. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to at least attempt to communicate with the classroom teachers. The more repetitions of the same vocabulary words, language concepts, songs, etc., the better.

This last nine weeks are the last weeks of the school year, and in order to really see how I should end my year with these students, I will definitely talk to my teachers to see how my students have progressed and if they can offer any recommendations to help the child.

Posted in Lets talk on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 12:45 am. | Tags: Music Therapy , Education , Speech-language Pathology , Texas Speech-language And Hearing Association In Houston , Super Duper Inc. , Teacher Comments (0)

Monday 12/09/2013
Relating to a child

I had an amazing learning experience when I attended the Christian House of Prayer to watch a play that was a part of the Women With a Purpose conference. I learned a lot about the women in the Bible and a lot about myself.

As I was watching the play at CHOP, I realized I did not know at least 80 percent of the stories written in the Bible. Antuan, my boyfriend, had heard of all the stories and joked that I was a heathen.

I did not go to church on a regular basis with my family as a child and when we did, we went to mass spoken in Spanish. Have I mentioned that I am not bilingual? I would just listen to the priest and let my own thoughts capture my mind. I remember trying to translate the priest’s words in my head but it was too complicated at the time.

I wonder how my mother ever expected me to follow the word of the Lord if I did not know the word of the Lord. I just knew to behave and to not do anything that would upset my parents.

I went even deeper with my thoughts. I started to wonder how we educators, parents, tutors, etc., expect a child to learn if we do not take the extra time to teach them the basics of the English language.

It is a difficult task, but it must be done for the child’s sake. We have to incorporate the vocabulary terms used in the classroom at home, in therapy sessions, at the playground, mall, anywhere. And we have to do this every day.

I sometimes catch myself getting carried away when I speak to my students. I know I tend to use big vocabulary words or I become overly passionate about the topic and go on and on with my thoughts.

“Do y’all understand?” I’ll ask my wide-eyed or maybe even sleepy-eyed students.

I then have to go back and find out where I lost them. I have to make sure what I’m saying is relatable to my young students. I have to make sure they understand the language that I’m using. I sometimes have to define a word within the definition to make sure they understand. But I will not move on until the topic is understood by every student.

 I use a lot of books during my speech therapy sessions, which allows for conversation, exposure to new words, and a better reading comprehension. I sometimes feel like I am a reading teacher, but I know discussing the readings in depth really does help with a child’s speech and language.

Peggy Modglin and Tom Parton, licensed speech-language pathologists, stated in a course for speech therapists, Reading Comprehension in Secondary Students: Intervention, “Reading comprehension requires the reader to make sense of the words based on their prior knowledge and linguistic development.”

We can continue to use books and passages to help students learn, but let’s not forget to ensure their understanding of the readings by knowing their vocabulary level and relating it to their young minds.

Posted in Lets talk on Monday, December 9, 2013 5:20 pm. Updated: 9:57 pm. | Tags: Education , Reading Comprehension , Religion_belief , Education In The United States , Vocabulary , Learning , Reading , Bible , Speech-language Pathology , Reading Teacher , Language , Tom Parton , Peggy Modglin Comments (0)

Friday 11/29/2013
Benefitting from a healthy self-esteem

On the wall outside my speech therapy room there are cartoons of children saying, "I can!"

I tell my students the word "can't" is not allowed in my room.

It's only natural to begin believing what you hear, so tell yourself you can do anything. We hate to be wrong, so if you tell yourself you can do something then you are more willing to do what it takes to achieve something so you can prove yourself right. If you believe you can't do something then you have given up and will stop trying.

Some of my students have a hard time understanding this concept. I think this is because they truly believe they can't produce a sound or remember the order of days.

"I just want them to believe in themselves and know that can be the best in whatever they want. They have a hard time receiving that positive reinforcement because of their confidence levels," said Desiree Tamez, a middle-school teacher, referring to her students with disabilities.

Self-confidence and esteem play big roles in everybody's life. I believe it's the biggest factor for success, which is why I stress its importance.

People with disabilities have to realize their disability is just one aspect of their life. It is not who they are.

"I have Lupus. Lupus doesn't have me," Evelina Solis said .

Evelina is the founder of SoltoSoul, co-founder of Power of Women workshop, a motivational speaker, mother and wife,

She is a strong woman and is determined to defeat Lupus. She may not be happy to undergo surgeries or therapy but she is optimistic about it all. And her optimistic outlook has kept her alive, strong and successful.

She advised me and other women to "stop our freaking thinking." This means to stop thinking all those negative thoughts because they are not doing anything for us but hindering our abilities.

Replace your negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Focus on how your strengths can gain success.

The article "Who Me? Self-Esteem for People with Disabilities," by Ryan J. Voigt, mentions several tips to improve your self-esteem.

One tip states to avoid "should" statements, such as, "I should be able to finish this exam in 50 minutes like everyone else in the class." Voigt mentions how accommodations are set to offer an equal opportunity for students to show what they know.

A healthy self-esteem gives you the strength to achieve personal success.

Do you have any advice to promote a healthy self-esteem?

Posted in Lets talk on Friday, November 29, 2013 11:37 pm. Updated: 7:05 pm. | Tags: Self-esteem , Social Psychology , Positive Psychology , Social Issues , Motivation , Self-confidence , Desiree Tamez , Ryan J. Voigt Comments (0)

Monday 11/25/2013
Building confidence is important

I remember as a child, my mother always made me speak up. She never allowed me to be shy or speak quietly.

“MaryLynn, go up to the cashier, look him in the eye and say, '10 on pump three.' Then hand him the $10,” my mom said.

I was about 6 years old when she started making me speak to cashiers. I hated it! But now I realize that was important to do for many reasons. It helped with my social skills, it helped me understand money, and it helped me be assertive and confident.  

A lot of the students and adults I have worked with lack confidence. They do not believe  they can achieve anything they want. That puts a huge toll on their learning experience.

I now begin therapy by introducing the concept of goal setting. Luckily, I met the mother of Kosi Eneli, author of "How to Set and Achieve Goals for Kids," and purchased Kosi’s book. Kosi is only a fourth-grader and she is teaching my students the importance of goal setting.

“Goals will make you stronger and more capable. Goals will build your self-confidence and self-esteem,” Kosi stated in her book.   

This easy and relatable book brings up many important conversations with my students about their own goals, especially their speech goals.

My students learn how to set goals for themselves and how to achieve them as well. We discuss their official speech goals and they decide for themselves which one they feel can be accomplished first. We then tackle those speech goals. My students are excited to begin working on specific activities to better themselves and ultimately reach their goal.

Once a student reaches a goal, I applaud them! I act like it’s the best thing in this world. To be honest, I feel that way at the moment. It’s not an act. Then they become excited, feel proud and better about themselves. That bit of confidence instilled in them makes them want to accomplish their next goal. Self-confidence goes a long way.

“The better you feel about yourself, the better you will feel about your ability to have a successful life.”- Kosi Eneli.

Posted in Lets talk on Monday, November 25, 2013 5:04 pm. Updated: 7:09 pm. | Tags: Goal Setting , Social Psychology , Motivation , Kosi , Human Interest , Self-esteem , Eneli , Confidence , Student , Health , Self-help Comments (0)

Wednesday 11/20/2013
Activities to take home
"Wow! I didn't know y'all did such fun things here," a parent told me. 
 
I invited my student's parents to join me and their child during the 30 minute speech therapy session, so similar activities, vocabulary and mannerisms are incorporated at home. I also wanted the parents to let me know of their concerns, so I could possibly incorporate home goals with their speech goals. 
 
We sing and watch educational videos, read and discuss short funny stories, go on bear hunts, talk about the days of the weeks, and much more. The parent did not realize therapy was so simple.
 
I think people automatically assume therapists, or anybody with a fancy title, do complicated or scientific tasks. 
 
That's not the case in a lot of instances. Everybody can do what a therapist does, but not everybody is an expert in the field like a therapist strives to be. Good thing is, you do not have to be an expert at home.
 
It is important to know what your sibling, friend, spouse, child, etc. are working on in school or during therapy. The teacher and therapist can offer creative ideas to help your loved one reach his or her goals while at home, such as YouTube videos, board games and sports.
 
My students enjoy watching and singing along to the Phonics 2 YouTube video to learn the alphabet and sounds of the English language. It's simple and catchy. 
 
Each of my students reviews the calendar in front of their group, which allows them to work on projecting their voice, speaking in front of others, and gaining confidence: "Today is Thursday, November 21, 2013. Yesterday was Wednesday, November 20, 2013. Tomorrow will be Friday, November 22, 2013." This activity works on basic language concepts, such as time, sequence and grammar. I also use it as a means to practice repeating th, r and consonant blends. 
 
The simplest things can make the greatest affects.  
 
Is there a routine or activity you enjoy doing that makes a huge difference in your loved one's life?
 
Please share by leaving a comment below!

Posted in Lets talk on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 9:37 pm. Updated: 6:31 pm. | Tags: Clinical Psychology , Mental Health , Psychotherapy , Speech-language Pathology , Youtube , Child Development , Therapist , Teacher And Therapist Comments (0)

Saturday 11/16/2013
Overcoming the fear

I remember my first day ever working with a child who was intellectually disabled. I was nervous and scared.

Why?

I was worried I would hurt the child. I was worried about the child's saliva getting on my face.

Well, if you notice, my worries were all about me. And I've noticed my personal attitude has a huge effect on therapy. If I'm nervous, so are my students. If I'm scared, so are my students. If I'm unfriendly, so are my students.

This realization goes beyond therapy and it goes beyond talking to people with a disability.

It's about making yourself comfortable to make others comfortable enough to speak or listen to you.

People are usually nervous to approach others because of their own feelings, but if you work with others, remember your actions and behavior do affect those around.

I learned not every child will love me on the first encounter for different reasons, but my everyday goal is to get a child to communicate with me. I have to put myself in their position and understand what each child needs me to do to in order to communicate.

For some, I have to go outside with my running shoes on and race around the playground. Or place infant toys that light up next to my eyes while I make silly faces and noises.

Once I see a smile or a gleam in a child's eye, I accomplished a goal and it can only improve from there.

Every day, I remind myself my students are my main priority at work, and they should not be affected by the thoughts in my head. They just want to have fun and express what they can or want.  

How do you overcome your fear when approaching others?

Posted in Lets talk on Saturday, November 16, 2013 4:23 pm. Updated: 5:28 pm. | Tags: Social Issues , Education , Mental Retardation , Student , Handicapped , Disabled , Disability , Speech Therapy , Fear , Overcoming Fear Comments (0)

Tuesday 11/12/2013
Speaking about people with disabilities

I recently read an online article published by Latina Magazine about Kat Von D. offending people with the name of her new lipstick, Celebutard. I have a hard time understanding why people would promote the use of that word - the "r-word" - when it is already known to be offensive. Do they know?

Who knows about this word or any other words being offensive? Maybe only those who work closely with people who have disabilities. But even some of our professionals who work in hospitals, schools, clinics, etc. do not use the proper terms when speaking of people with disabilities.

In August, I attended a training for speech therapists that mentioned putting people first. This basically means you mention the person first and then their disability. For example, instead of saying "the disabled," say"‘people with a disability.."

At this training, I realized many of the seasoned speech therapists were unaware of this new way to speak about people with disabilities. They were still referring to children with autism as autistic. I realized some people do not realize they are being offensive and possibly grew as a professional using the "old" dialect.

I recently graduated from college in 2012, so I learned the correct and new vocabulary before I entered the workforce and began my career working with people who have disabilities. I am very cautious about how I speak about people in general, whether they have a disability or not. Sometimes I catch myself not using the people first method and I feel guilty. I know better!

Now that more people are advocating rights for people with disabilities, the terms and vocabulary are changing and not every professional is aware. It is understandable for someone to make a mistake and not realize they are being offensive. Vocabulary concerning disabilities have changed and will keep changing.

What I cannot understand is professionals continuing to use offensive language after learning the facts. I’ll refer back to Kat Von D. According to Latina Magazine, once she found out about her lipstick name offending others, she tweeted and later deleted, “At the end of the day, it’s just a f— lipstick.”   

Well, if it’s just a lipstick, why give the lipstick such an offensive name?

Why continue to deny the fact that some words are offensive?

SPEAK UP: Do you think people should change the way they speak about people with disabilities? 

Posted in Lets talk on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 5:08 pm. Updated: 6:51 pm. | Tags: Kat Von D , Lipstick , Childhood Psychiatric Disorders , Handicapped , Mental Retardation , Disability , Celebutard Comments (0)

Friday 11/08/2013
Family time is necessary

The habits instilled as a child last forever. 

"Ester, you're breaking my heart; you're shaking my confidence, Ester," sang 5-year-old Antuan as he stood on the table and looked at his blushing mother, Ester. He was singing to the beat of "Cecilia" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. 
 
Antuan is my boyfriend and he used to stutter when he was child. He shares his brief memories of his speech therapist in elementary school and I usually bombard him with questions. 
 
"What type of activities would y'all do? Did you used to sing in therapy? Did you do this? Did she do that?" I always ask. 
 
She must have been an amazing speech therapist. I would have never known Antuan used to stutter if he had not told me. 
 
Once I found out the Aaron family sang together every night, I knew Antuan's fluency success was not solely credited to his speech therapist.  
 
Family time allows children to express themselves daily. It offers a form of relaxation. And in Antuan's case it offered a fun way to practice continuous-phonation.
 
"I didn't know I was helping Antuan," Ester said. "We were just having fun. Antuan always loved to sing."
 
Now, I get the pleasure of having my name sang to me by Antuan. 
 
How did you or do you spend quality family time? Would you say those were the most influential moments of your life?
 
 

Posted in Lets talk on Friday, November 8, 2013 9:08 am. Updated: 4:22 pm. Comments (1)

Monday 11/04/2013
Music an important tool in speech therapy

"Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, all dressed in black, black, black..." and this jump-rope, hand clap, nursery rhyme goes on. It stays in your head for minutes, maybe hours, depending on how many times you hear it.

As for me, I heard and sang this song hundreds of times last year with my students in Oak Cliff, a suburb of Dallas. We sang this song to practice continuous phonation, which is helpful for anyone who stutters. We also sang to practice sounds within the English language, such as s, k, bl, etc.

I enjoyed hearing my students with speech impediments sing. They laughed, yelled the lyrics, danced, and made the goofiest faces. They found pleasure in sharing this catchy song with their classmates. Soon, I had the physical education coach, principal, parents and other students singing Miss Mary Mack whenever they saw me. My students loved it, because they were the first ones in the school to learn the whole song.

Music was my favorite tool to make my students feel comfortable, speak up and practice on their own or with parents and siblings. It also allowed me to act like a kid, which I definitely miss!

Incorporating music into speech therapy is an evidence-based practice that can be used at home, in the car or anywhere.

According to "Use of Music in Speech-Language Therapy," an article by Mary B. Zoller, "Using music is a multisensory experience that enhances a number of other skills that impact on speech and language development."

Singing gave my students the confidence to let their voices be heard. Singing made us happy!

Resources:

Zoller, M. (1991). Use of music activities in speech-language therapy.  Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 22.

Asha.org - American Speech Hearing Association

Posted in Lets talk on Monday, November 4, 2013 12:10 pm. Updated: 3:02 pm. | Tags: Speech , Stuttering , Education , Mary Mack , Oak Cliff , Dallas , Human Communication , Speech And Language Pathology , Language , Human Behavior , Mary B. Zoller , American Speech Hearing Association Comments (0)