Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Goodbye 2015

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Our modern celebration of New Year's Day stems from an ancient Roman custom- the feast of the god Janus, the pagan god of gates, doors and beginnings. The month of January also comes from Janus, who was depicted as having two faces. One face of Janus looked back into the past, and the other peered toward the future. 

As the month of December comes to a close, I feel like Janus: wanting to look back and reflect upon all that 2015 had to offer, but eager and looking forward to 2016.

Just days away, New Year's Eve gives us a wonderful opportunity to review the past year. Earlier this week,  I found this  New Year's Eve Reflection Game. It is the perfect way to remember your best moments, your greatest accomplishments and your favorite things.

Created by the Dating Divas, this game was originally intended for couples but is also ideal for a family. Even better, if you're an SLP, this game is perfect for targeting verbal expression, speech production, voice, memory, pragmatics, etc. during individual and group therapy sessions.

It's super simple:  print and cut out the cards, toss them in a bowl and mix them up, take turns pulling out the cards, reading the questions and sharing your answers. Easily modifiable for a variety of skill levels, it's like having a day's worth of therapy sessions planned for you. You're welcome. 

Of course, you will want to click the link above to see the entire game. In the meantime, here are are few of the thought provoking questions that are included.  If you were playing with me, this is how I might respond...

How Was Your Year?
10 Questions to Ask as You Contemplate 2015

1.  What new skills did you learn?

  • ABA techniques to use with dementia patients
  • Feeding techniques to use with preemie patients

2.  What is something you did this year you are proud of?

  • Treated a total of 41 patients and provided a total of exactly 500 visits
  • Created a new business:  Spontaneous Speech, Inc.
  • Developed, designed and launched Pictures for Progress, an awesome new line of therapy tools
  • Was the featured Success Story on the cover of Small Business 360 magazine
  • Received recognition as a  Small Business Leader in the areas of job expansion and business development

3.  What are you most excited for in the upcoming year?

  • Business development and expansion:  
    • Spanish translations
    • Products featured in catalogs (US and UK)
    • Production of Pictures for Progress #2 and #3
    • Apps and digital flashcards

4.  What is a New Year's resolution you have?

  • To implement the concept of addition by subtraction...because sometimes, less is more

5.  If you could relive one day from this past year which day would it be and why?
  • I want to go back to the ASHA convention in Denver.  I would make sure my Square, U Swipe and Pay Pal card readers were working properly...each one of them. (In case you missed it, none of them were working properly. It was a nightmare, but at least I managed to keep my cool.)

6.  What is something hard you did this year?

  • Grieved the passing of an infant patient

7.  What is something nice you did for someone this year?

  • Spent extra time with a lonely patients, overwhelmed spouses and exhausted parents whenever possible. It is just a part of what we do as SLPs every day, but it does feel really nice, if you ask me.

8.  What three words would sum up this year for you?

  • Exciting
  • Changing
  • Growing

9.  What was the best conversation you had this year?

  • Talking with Bill,  a WWII veteran, about amphibious landings on a Higgins Boat. It was a priceless memory shared by a man of the Greatest Generation. 

10.  What was the best advice you received this year?

  • Be consistent.

Because contemplation brings clarity, I encourage you to take a look back at your year as a means for gaining perspective on the good, the bad and the ugly. Record your answers to these questions on the back of the game cards and save them as a keepsake for 2015. This is a tradition you can do year after year and collect your memories over time. It will be fun to see how things have changed over the years.   Enjoy!

As the year winds down, we say goodbye to 2015. Now, it's time to set our sights on the future. I encourage you to  make resolutions, set goals and create your vision for an incredible 2016. Good luck and have fun!

To make an end is to make a new beginning.
T. S. Eliot

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Get More Done With These Holiday Time Saving Tips

Andy Williams says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year," but for many, holidays are stressful! 

Just listen to the long list of things going on in his classic Christmas song:

holiday greetings, gay happy meetings, friends coming to call, parties for hosting, marshmallows for roasting, caroling out in the snow, telling scary ghost stores and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.   

All of this AND our loved ones are wonder our hearts are glowing and everyone is  telling you to "be of good cheer."

What our friend Andy forgot to mention about this wonderful time of the year, is that, in addition to all of those great things, most of us are also:

holding down a full time job, managing kids, pets and/or significant others, shopping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, baking, doing laundry, attending recitals, school performances and company parties, wrapping gifts, and packing for vacation.  Funny, no one wants to sing about that.  

So, what are we to do? 

Keep the spirit of Christmas in your heart... and think of every possible way to cut corners from now until January. Here's a little help from me to you.

15 Ways Your Computer Can Help You Cope This Holiday Season

1.  Have the kids make a gift registry online: use Target Kids' Wish List or  Toys R Us Wish List; share the lists with anyone who may be looking to purchase a present for the little darlings this holiday season; you can even access the lists from your mobile device- just download the app

2.  In a pinch? Instead of sending Christmas cards, post a family photo on Facebook: this will save you time and money- no rummaging for addresses, no writers' cramp and no postage necessary

3. Use online banking services to skip the trip to the bank: monitor your spending, check your accounts, make your next Visa payment, even deposit your holiday bonus check- at larger financial institutions, like Bank of America, you can do that by just snapping a photo of the front and back of the check...voila!

4. Look up recipes: yummy appetizers like Pioneer Woman's bacon wrapped crackers, Emril Lagasse's  seafood gumbo, directions on how to make a perfect prime rib, instructions for baking a sweet potato casserole, and, in case you haven't already memorized it, a step by step guide for making sticky buns- it's all there!

5. Make travel plans:  book hotels, flights and rental bookings are simple with sites like TrivagoExpedia and Kayak; you can even print your boarding pass and skip to the front of the line when checking in at the airport- now that's smart!

6.  Purchase tickets for performances or events online: in most cases, you can print them on the spot; even the worst of holiday procrastinators can pull this off!

7.  Look for ways to save money:  there are numerous online coupons, Internet discount codes and Groupons; sign up to receive coupons from your favorite retailers- you can get Bed Bath and Beyond coupons sent right to your phone...that's 20% off your next purchase- what a deal!

8.  Things getting a little hectic? Find an online meditation and chill out- one of my personal favorites is Depak Chopra- Living Carefree- a quick, 15 minute meditation could prevent a 2 hour meltdown...and we don't have time for that

9.  Learn to do anything by watching a YouTube video: I watched a 7 minute video on how to decorate a Christmas tree with deco meshmy tree is gorgeous, if I do say so myself

10.  Watch a movie:  steam a video from Netflix (it's free for the first month) and watch as you wrap presents; I did that years ago with my mom- we watched Little Miss Sunshine- it's become a holiday tradition ever since

11.  Reserve items online:  retailers like Gap, Kohl's and Barnes and Noble will let you select and reserve your items online then them pick up at the store- they will be there waiting for you when you're ready to retrieve them

12.  Pinterest:  find inspiration on how to plan a perfect party, make  your own gifts, whip up nice treats for coworkers or neighbors or create cute crafts for kids- all good things come from Pinterest!

13.  Pandora:  it's just not the holidays without great music; choose your favorite genre of music and that's it- so simple! when it's time to eat, I love the play list called Dinner Party- it's a much more reliable mix of music than might be found on your husband's iPod...sorry, Fred- I'm in charge of music this year

14. Upload photos for personalized gift giving:  you turn a funny picture of the kids into a mouse pad using the photo department at Sam's Club, or you can create a 2015 "All in One Year" photo book from Snapfish

15.  Don't just put your elf on the shelf:  use this link to see clever ways to  pose and position your elf- kids young and old have fun seeing where Santa's little spy will turn up next 

Whether it's a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone, your devices (and these links) can help you save time and energy this holiday season.  Cutting a few corners by using these tips will keep you holly jolly and ready to enjoy all of the experiences that come during this most wonderful time of the year. 

Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
Calvin Coolidge

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Making the Perfect Purchase: 6 Things to Consider When Choosing Toys and Books for Toddlers

All I Want for Christmas Is...

A few weeks ago, I was asked by my patient's parents if I could make recommendations for toys that could be given to their daughter for Christmas.  At 20 months old, this little girl's toy repertoire was limited to a Star Lilly Unicorn (with very creepy eyelashes), a few stuffed animals, a doll and a book with lots of words.

Recognizing that Star Lilly was definitely a big ticket item, I knew that this family's money could go a lot further if different choices were being made. I mean, for that price of that flashy unicorn, they could have bought enough toys to fill a toy chest. I also decided she would probably have more fun playing with more developmentally appropriate toys.

"Yes, I would be glad to offer some suggestions!"

I started talking:  "Choosing toys is a very big responsibility. They need to be safe but fun. Interesting, but not overwhelming." I continued, "Toys are the tools children use when playing and learning. Having the right tools is important because they help kids understand and make sense of the world."

I glanced over to see that they had a glazed look in their eyes. I stopped in my tracks and said, "Let me give this some more thought. I'll have some good ideas when I come back next week."

That night, I did some shopping...I mean research. I figured, since these were going to be professional recommendations for a speech and language delayed child, I might want to do a little more than come up with a quick list off the top of my head. I looked to the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families for information. There are five important things to keep in mind when selecting toys for toddlers:

Find toys to put together, take apart and stack

Recommended toys include blocks, interlocking blocks, nesting cups and toys for sand or water play. These toys and activities spark imagination, help develop motor skills and problem solving, and promote logical thinking skills.

Choose toys that grow with your child

Recommended toys include plastic animals, action figures, trains, toddler friendly dollhouses, trucks and cars. These toys are appropriate for various ages and stages of development so they can be used during play for many years to come. What a great investment!

Select toys that encourage exploration and problem solving

Recommended toys include puzzles, shape sorters, nesting toys and art materials such as crayons and play dough. These toys build logical thinking skills, help little ones to become persistent problem solvers, increase eye to hand coordination and develop fine motor skills.

Give children the chance to play with real stuff

Recommended toys include plastic dishes, pretend food, pretend tools, musical instruments, pretend keys or phones, and child sized brooms, mops, dustpans, shopping carts or lawn mowers. Toys like these help children problem solve, learn how things fit together and develop fine motor skills. Pretend play with "real stuff" builds language and literacy skills and the ability to sequence. 

Seek toys that encourage activity

Recommended toys include balls of different shapes and sizes, pull toys, wagons, and crawl through tunnels.  These toys help children practice current physical skills and develop new ones.  

A great gift that will last for life:  the love of books

Sharing books together is a great way to bond with children and it promotes development of speech and language at the same time. When you read to a child, you are helping their brain grow. Without a doubt, it is important to read to a child every day.

Since younger children have short attention spans, try reading for a few minutes, then build up the time you read together. Your child will soon see reading time as fun time! 

Best books for toddlers are:
  • sturdy board books with rounded pages
  • activity books that allow touch and fee or lift and find
  • vivid pictures and colorful illustrations
  • simple concepts
  • repeating and rhyming text

If you're shopping for an infant or older child, be sure to check out what the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has to say about selecting Good Toys for Young Children

In the meantime, following these recommendations will enable you to purchase toys and books that have been Lopez/Montalvo kid tested, mom recommended and SLP approved. 

Play is the highest form of research.
Albert Einstein

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Speech Therapy + Pinterest= Great Things

All Great Things Come From Pinterest!

One morning, while chatting in the driveway, my neighbor, Kristen, told me about Pinterest. I was intrigued, and I had a few minutes before I had to leave for work, so I thought I would check it out. 

Talk about mind blowing!  I was an hour late for work that day. My life will never be the same.

Ever since then, I use Pinterest browsing as a source of entertainment. I can position myself on the sofa and appear to be watching Monday Night Football with the guys, but really I'm searching for recipes, thinking about wardrobe ideas, and learning new techniques for makeup application. I thought they had no idea I wasn't paying attention, but eventually, my husband caught on.

At first, he complained about the time I was spending on Pinterest. He thought of this type of browsing as a "waste of time,"  but it wasn't long before he began to enjoy the results of my searches: a pretty wreath for the front door, a delicious recipe, a yummy dessert, a home improvement project, a cute haircut and well styled outfits...just to name a few.

Before long, he was telling his friends, "Make sure your wife is on Pinterest!" 

With his nod of approval, I continued to search Pinterest for new pins. It's been about four years (I think) since I first discovered this amazing thing, and, at last count, my personal Pinterest account had 25 different boards with 3.9K pins. 

When my friends and family ask, "Where did you get this recipe/idea/hairdo/etc.?", it's almost certain you'll hear me say, "Everything good comes from Pinterest!"

Flash forward to this spring...I realized Pintest is a great source of inspiration for SLPs! Let me tell you about it.

For years, I've used a two page printed information sheet when discussing diet textures with patients and their families, but one day, I found myself without it. I reached for my iPad and tapped to open the Pinterest app. I wanted to show this granddaughter that there were many more options for a mechanical soft breakfast than oatmeal. I remembered seeing a pin that featured a recipe for bacon covered in pancake batter. I encouraged her to get creative, and she was interested in hearing more.

Remembering my written list of foods, I did one search after the other and was able to show a wonderful variety of colorful photos depicting soft, easy to chew food options. The granddaughter loved it! I promised I would look for more pins and assured her I would keep her up to date on my latest finds.

That night, I opened a new Pinterest account for the professional me and added new boards:  soft mech breakfast, soft mech lunch and dinner, soft mech snacks and, since grandma was having trouble manipulating utensils, I added a board for finger foods.  I realized, I'm really on to something here!  Before long, I was suggesting patients and families follow me on Pinterest, letting them know that I had many pertinent and informative boards available for viewing. 

Over the summer, I ran into a little snafu with my professional account when it was renamed...all my pins were left behind. Ugh! Very slowly, I have begun to create similar boards with new pins, and all is good again.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a wild hair and decided to taking pinning to the next level:  I added the Pinterest browser button to my desktop computer. Whoa!  Following just a few simple steps, I'm not just re pinning, I am able to make my own pins!

I've included the link to the directions for adding the browser button if you're interested...just click here.

These days, when I'm doing research on a topic or looking for suggestions for family members on how to solve a particular problem, I can pin an article to one of my boards. This allows me to save the information for my future reference. Then, during a session, we can discuss the main points, and patients and caregivers are able to dig deeper by reading the article in entirety from my Pinterest board: Articles of Interest.

Here is a link to my Spontaneous Speech Pinterest account. Feel free to follow along as I add interesting new tid bits, and as always...happy pinning!

Pinterest...because I would rather learn how to crochet a flower than spy on somebody I barely know.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Questioning Techniques: Four Ways to Find the Answer You're Looking For

Making Choices and Answering Questions

When it comes to making choices, I need help!

Just today I was shopping for cloth napkins at Pier One. The napkin display spread from one wall to the next and featured three shelves full of perfectly folded, perfectly stacked napkins. There were so many choices, I could hardly believe my eyes: solids, stripes, prints, fringes, beads. Oh my!

I was overwhelmed. 

Actually, all of Pier One is overwhelming to me, but today, all I needed to do was pick out 10 napkins appropriate for Thanksgiving dinner. That should be easy, but there were too many options. I decided it would be much easier if there weren't so many choices. 

I took a deep breath and began choosing what I thought were the prettiest napkins. Whew! That was more difficult than you might imagine.  I had narrowed it down from 150 to 5.  My decision making should be easier from here. I again narrowed the choices down from 5 to 2. It was at that point that I called my husband over. "Which one do you like best?"

He pointed to the left, and that was that. The great Thanksgiving napkin search was over....and it only took 20 minutes. I'm sure he was wondering, "Why does it take so long for her to do something so simple?" Instead, he just smiled and paid for the napkins. 

I think I'll nominate him for Husband of the Year.

Driving home, my mind drifted back to a conversation I had with a family member earlier that same morning. She complained to me about her husband with dementia saying, "He can't remember how to feed the dog."

I asked, "What's involved with feeding the dog?' She began to describe the process. I will spare you the details, but it was 7 part process that included the precise measurement of 4 different ingredients: dry dog food, wet dog food, pumpkin and ham. It would be difficult for nearly anyone to follow all of those steps with the type of precision that is required. It's no wonder he doesn't want to feed the dog anymore. 

Without stopping, she continued to gripe, saying "He's getting worse every day. Yesterday, he couldn't even tell me what he wanted to eat!" Even though I wasn't immediately sure how I was going to approach the dog feeding situation , I knew I could easily explain why it can be so difficult to express a preference or make a choice. I began explaining the different types of questioning techniques. Here were the highlights from the discussion...

1.  Open ended questions:  What do you want to eat?

  • usually begin with a wh- question word such as who, what, where, when or why
  • possibilities for responding are almost endless
  • full cognitive function is necessary as formulating a response requires processing, recalling, categorizing, sorting, eliminating, choosing, reasoning, decision making, etc.
  • responding appropriately requires strong communication skills since sentence length productions are typically expected
  • the most broad type of question to answer, making it the most difficult type of question to answer

2.  Multiple choice questions: Which one sounds best to you- Mexican, Chinese or Italian?

  • typically begin with a wh- question word such as which
  • possibilities for responding have been narrowed to 3 or more
  • acceptable choices are provided by the speaker so that a possible answer to the question is provided
  • moderate cognitive  function is needed as the listener must be able to process and recall the choices provided in the question asked in order to respond appropriately
  • fair communication skills are needed in that mostly word or phrase length productions are used when responding

3.  Binary choice questions:  Do you want enchiladas or tacos?

  • also known as forced choice questions
  • possibilities for responding have been narrowed to only 2
  • acceptable choices are given by the speaker so  that the answer to the question is already provided
  • minimal cognitive skills are required for processing and responding to questions asked
  • minimal communication skills are needed since responses usually have only words or simple phrases
  • nonverbal responses may be possible if using gestures/ pointing

4. Yes/ No questions:  Tacos?
  • questions include few words, maybe only a single word
  • possibilities for responding are limited to yes or no
  • minimal cognitive skills are required since most of the decision making steps have already been taken care of
  • minimal communication skills are needed because a response requires only a single word 
  • nonverbal responses such as nodding are acceptable 

With just a little bit of explaining, this woman had a change of perspective. She quickly realized that her questioning techniques were preventing her husband from being able to do something as simple as think of what he wanted to eat. This wife understood that she could eliminate most of the difficulties her husband was experiencing when making choices and answering questions just by asking the right kind of questions.

As a therapist, wife, mom and friend, I ask a lot of questions throughout the course of the day. Perhaps you do too? Learning to ask the right kinds of questions can make it easier to get good quality responses that spark conversation. However, not everyone understands that questions may need to be modified as the result of communication or cognitive deficits.

Be sure to educate spouses and caregivers on the importance of asking the right types of questions. Whether a person has dementia or is recovering from a stroke, methods for asking questions may need to be modified. Please share this information with someone you know who may benefit.

Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, get better answers.
Anthony Robbins

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

ASHA 2015: A Journey in Photos

 Spontaneous Speech Therapy Tools: 
On The Road Again

We loaded the car and hit the road...
Denver here we come!
We saw miles and miles of Texas
A rest area for horses?
Yes, a rest area for horses.

Welcome to Colorado

The landscapes were gorgeous

The beautiful Colorado Convention Center
Peek a Boo!

Ready for Day One

14,000 people attended the conference

Technical difficulties with the cash register.
 What a nightmare! 

Pizza...the breakfast of champions!

The Spontaneous Speech Therapy Tools
Sales and Marketing team

So long Denver...
may the speech be with you

Head 'em up, move 'em out.
Another successful event!

On the way home, a pit stop in
Cripple Creek, Colorado
at Bronco Billy's Casino and Hotel
A big win on a penny slot:  $25. 65!

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Garden of the Gods

Incredible rock formations

To be continued....