Electronic Incentive Chart (Points)!

incentive chart image squareHave you ever noticed how SLPs don’t have grades they can hold over students heads to motivate them to do their bests?

Of course you have!  My very first year, I allowed junior high kids to take a piece of candy with them when the left and smaller children to get a sticker if they had done a good job.  However, I soon found out that these systems were more headaches than they were worth for me.  Students can be so fussy when they haven’t “earned” candy or a sticker or couldn’t get the one that they wanted.

Some years ago, I started using paper incentive charts instead and it worked beautifully!  Initially, students only earned points for returning speech/language homework.  If they had a certain number of stickers on their incentive charts by the end of the year, they earned a party (popcorn party for the little ones and a pizza party for the older crowd).  I’m not sure which the students bought into more, the idea of an end-of-the-year reward party or being able to see their points accumulating and being in competition with their friends!  Either way, I found a system that worked.

But then, I thought: How can I make this even better?  2 years ago, I started incorporating other ways to earn points/stickers on the chart to reinforce behaviors I wanted to see repeated in the future, including:

  • 1 point = arriving on time
  • 1 point = for each of the required materials you bring to speech
  • 2 points = stating what you are working on
  • 2 points = explaining the concept you are working on
  • 5 points = identifying use of your goal in class
  • 10 points = homework

(Click here to get more info on the points system here).  The beautiful thing about this is that I give EXTRA points for anything I want to, including being encouraging of a peer, making a connection to something learned in a class, sharing a related experience that happened outside of school, etc.! Students were learning how to learn 😀

Students were also working harder than before!  I rewarded them for their efforts by letting them raid the prize box and choose an end of term prize every quarter when report cards were released (such as a full sized candy bar, nice school supplies, or a small trinket).

This was going great but after I made over my office last year (click here to see the “before” and watch the video below for the “after”), the paper chart just didn’t fit my decor!  (I know, so superficial).  However, necessity is the mother of invention and that gave me an idea.  To go with the sleek new clinical look of my office, I decided to make an electronic version of my points chart. Using Google Spreadsheets, I created a sheet and corresponding chart that work beautifully together.  When I add points on the spreadsheet, students see their bars on the chart fill up like magic!

My re-modeled (clinical style) office and the points chart on display:

Demonstration of the points chart:

Since making the above youtube video demonstrating this, I found that I could even just use one device instead of two (as mentioned in the video) to make this magic happen; my computer allows me to display a different screen on the computer than the one shown on the TV when they are connected.  Of course, if you don’t have access to a TV or projector (I know, I am very lucky in that regard), you can still use your computer and phone, or computer and tablet, or tablet and phone, etc. to make this magic happen.  🙂

Now, wouldn’t it be nice if you could just have the template without having to set it up?  Well, okay!

Do me a favor and follow my blog first though 😉

Then, CLICK HERE TO GET THE TEMPLATE and click “use template” in the upper right hand corner!  (Colors are completely customizable.  I just went with my school’s colors in the video but you can easily change that).


Why is there not an App for that? Speech and Language Test Scores should be at Our Fingertips!

I see so many posts in SLP facebook groups asking people to look up test scores for them because they didn’t bring the manuals home or left at at one of their schools. This is totally understandable because traveling SLPs have to carry so many items with them from day to day. Something is going to get left behind, either for necessity (we just can’t carry it all) or forgetfulness (we’ve got a lot to hold on to mentally as well as physically and our minds are taxed just as much as our backs and arms are from carrying these heavy loads).

Additionally, many of us that work for the same school district or practice share tests.  We may return them too hastily sometimes because we know others need to use them too or we may catch a mistake that requires re-scoring after the test has already been returned.

Wouldn’t it make so much sense to have the manuals (or at least the norms pages) posted on your websites? You could make them password protected or put them in a “subscribers-only” section to protect them from people who didn’t actually purchase the tests.   I think many of us SLPs in the trenches (and psychologists and other testers too for that matter) would really appreciate this service.

P.S. Test makers, it would be even better if it operated like a search engine, where you just input age and raw scores and it generates the scaled/standard scores and percentiles without us even having to visually scan a page looking for the right age and raw score combination.  You could even make this an app!!!  You have the technology…;)

Please share this post.  Let’s get the attention of the publishers so that they can help us make our work-lives just a little bit easier.

Update Speech and Language Homework for your Whole Caseload Online!

speech homeworkI just asked this question on social media, “Does anyone have an electronic system for sending homework to students? I’m thinking something where parents and students can log in and select the homework just for that student without seeing anyone else’s. If so, how does that work for confidentiality?”

Thirty minutes later, I came up with my own solution: I found a way through Google Drive.  It may be a bit tedious to set up for a whole caseload, but afterward you can update homework quickly and easily and have an ongoing record (we know how SLPs love those).


Step 1: Create a folder and name it (I chose “2015 Speech/Language Homework”).

Step 2: Share the folder under the setting “Anyone with the link can view” (don’t worry, we’ll make it so they can’t see other students’ info).

Step 3: Copy the “Sharable URL”

Step 4: Add Google Docs or Google Spreadsheets or even other sub-folders to your main folder (1 for each student) and name them accordingly. (I’m naming mine by each student’s name since no one else will see them and it will make them easier for me to find when updating homework).

Step 5: Go into the share settings for that individual document/sheet/folder and change the permissions to “OFF – only certain people.”

Step 6: Go to “Advanced Settings” and add JUST the student/parent that the document/sub-folder is for!!!

Step 7: Post the Sharable URL to your website or e-mail signature for easy access for parents and students (and for yourself when you want to update and assign new homework).  You will be able to see ALL of the students’ folders/docs form that link but each parent and student will only be able to see their own files since you removed all of the others from their permissions while leaving access for that one family on that one file.

(Further notes on the options: If you chose to do a Doc, you may want to do “Insert Comment” to leave info on new assignments, that way the student will receive an e-mail when something new is there. If you do a spreadsheet instead, you can show the students how to set up “notification rules” through the tools menu to get an e-mail when you update it. The reason I suggested doing a whole folder is in case you want to upload other files and practice materials for specific students and house them there. Otherwise, you could just upload all practice materials to the main homework folder for all to see. You can leave links to specific files in each student’s document).

Remember, Google for Education is FERPA compliant.  (I’ve already spoken to my district’s attorneys about it).  ASHA says that in the school system, we only need to worry about being FERPA compliant, not HIPAA compliant (click here for more details).  However, if you get your own Google for business account, you can easily become HIPAA compliant by signing a BAA with Google.

What’s the difference between an SLP and a teacher?

Le sigh…SLP heart word cloud on clear pink and green neon

If you’re not an SLP, you may not know that this issue is a perpetual thorn in our collective sides.

On the educational side of the field of speech-language pathology, SLPs are all too often confused for teachers.  On the medical side of the field, SLPs are oft mistaken for nurses.

Since I’ve been out of medical speech pathology since my hospital internship during graduate school over 7 years ago, I’m probably not the best person to expound upon the many many differences in that realm.  However, as a speech therapist in the educational sector, I can speak to the multitude of differences between SLPs and teachers.

Before I do though, I must issue a very important statement: SLPs respect teachers!  We respect them enough not to claim to be them or profess that we can do what they do and I’m sure they feel similarly.

We are a different field and we are proud of our field.  I feel that all too often, when I try to explain the differences to others or ask people to use the title I’ve actually earned, people take it as a dig against teachers.  Please know that it is not and I would never do something like that.

My English teachers and college professors were a huge factor in my decision to enter the field of speech-language pathology because they opened my eyes to the wonderful world of language, linguistics, and grammar.

However, my brothers, both born with developmental disabilities, were my true inspiration for becoming a speech and language pathologist.  As a child, I never attended the same school as my baby brothers; I’m nine years their senior.  However, I did accompany them to countless appointments for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and yes, speech and language therapy.

During our visits to the speech/language therapist’s office in a hospital in Chicago, I watched as the SLP facilitated communication through play; I counted and documented one of my brother’s words as his vocabulary grew; I model speech and language for the other through the use of a toy amplification device, and yet, I still wondered how I, at just 10 or 11 years old, could do more to foster communication for them.  As you can see, my predilection toward the field of communication began to bud early on in life.

My reasons for entering the field of speech-language pathology are tied to the heart of who I am as a person, so when someone prescribes the role of “teacher” to me, it feels like they are dismissing my true interests and what my day-to-day life actually looks like.  It seems like they’re saying, “You are not who you think you are.  We will tell you who you are.”  In reality, however, what they’re probably saying is more like, “We don’t really know what you do, but you work in a school and we think everyone who works in a school is a teacher in some capacity.”  In spite of that, it still feels the same to me.  It kind of hurts and it’s tiring.

Through the 7 years of collegiate training it took me to become a speech-language pathologist, not one single course in the field of education was required.  However, courses were required in Anatomy & Physiology, Neurology, Motor Speech Disorders, Voice Disorders, Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia), Stuttering/Fluency Disorders, Phonetics, Articulation, Phonology, Language Development, Speech Science, Audiology, and more.

Today, with 7 plus years of experience in my field, I’ve never once had a classroom.  I don’t stand in front of pupils and “teach.”  The people I work with could easily be called “students” but they could also be called “patients” or “clients.”  They are people that I treat for disorders behind a desk in my tiny office, while walking through the hallway, or while sitting on the floor anywhere in the building.  In the hospital setting, they were people that I worked with at their bedsides.  No matter the setting, I was using principles from the field of speech-language pathology and not education.

As a speech-language pathologist, I don’t have the credentials or the interest required to be a teacher, though I’m glad others do.  For a time after deciding to enter this field, I even thought I would work within the medical side of speech-language pathology in an out-patient hospital or clinical setting.  However, my squeamish nature and emotional sensitivity prompted me to re-consider (…and the idea of having summers off didn’t hurt either 😉 ).

Again, I must reiterate my profound respect for educators.  Teachers are remarkable people.  I think the best ones are those that felt a lifelong connection to the idea of helping and supporting children.  However, that’s just not me and I won’t feel ashamed to admit that.  I feel about communication the way that I think teachers feel about children.  However, my love of communication spans the lifetime and fortunately for me, so does my field.  SLPs work with everyone from newborns to super-centenarians.

Speech-language pathology is my passion.  It’s what I feel I was born to do and because I view my field as my purpose in life, I’d appreciate people not taking that away from me by trying to simplify my title or overgeneralize careers based on settings.

Not everyone who works in a hospital is a doctor or nurse just as not everyone who works in a school is a teacher or principal.

A plethora of people play a role in shaping and improving lives.  I’m happy with the role I worked hard to get.

SLPs are just as much health & medical professionals as they are education professionals, and to strip one aspect of the field from the other through terminology does a disservice to the community at large.  It leads to people not understanding the ways that an SLP could be used to improve lives and that leads to many missed opportunities for treatment.

Each of us SLPs, regardless of work-setting, must maintain our position of having one foot in healthcare and one foot in education.  Both medically-based and educationally-based SLPs must recognize disorders, decide on treatment methodologies to implement based on patients’ needs, and collaborate with team members including, doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, parents, students or patients, teachers, and others.

The role of the SLP is to diagnose and treat communication, swallowing, and feeding disorders across the lifespan, from 0 to 100+ years of age.

This important work allows patients/students/clients to improve quality of life.  Within the educational setting, improvement of quality of life is intrinsically linked to access to education and so we work hand-in-hand with school professionals.  However, we must never forget that the heart of what we do as members of the healthcare community is improving quality of life overall.

As I’m sure you’ll understand, the abilities to communicate and ingest food by mouth are paramount to that goal.  Because of that, I will continue to communicate the role of SLPs and clarify misconceptions about who we are and what we do.

For more information on the differences between SLPs and teachers, please see the chart below. You can also find information about speech-language pathologists by visiting our entry in the U.S. government’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.

What's the Difference between an SLP and a TeacherTo get PDF Version of this document to share, click here.

Griffin Speech Consulting – January 2015 Newsletter

Happy New Year, you fantastic people you!  What did you do on your first day of the new year?  I spent my morning (and the better part of the afternoon) consulting with my business partner to put the finishing touches on our first newsletter for our accent modification and personal development coaching business, Griffin Speech Consulting.

Check out out here and let me know what you think!  I can’t wait to hear from you.

Click Here to See Newsletter

Click Here to Sign Up to Receive Future Editions of the Newsletter

U.S. SLP Caseload Caps WIKI – By State

If you’re thinking about practicing in another state, you might want to know what caseload caps look like there before you go.  Check out this convenient list and help out other SLPs by updating it with your states most current information on caseload caps.  

For non-SLPs, a caseload cap is a maximum number of students that one SLP should service.  It is not a number to strive for, but rather a number not to exceed without jeopardizing the quality and frequency of therapy for each student.


(BUT PLEASE BE CAREFUL NOT TO ERASE ANY ENTRIES.  If you do happen to accidentally erase something, just hit CTRL+Z on a computer or COMMAND+Z on a Mac to undo it.)

How I got the name “Autumn Bryant – Speech Language Investigator”

Choosing a name for your online persona is no small feat.  It should be something that communicates both how you view yourself and what you feel is most important for others to know about you.

Given that, my original idea was to try to come up with a name that showcased my penchant for technology.  In my school district, I’m known as “The Techie SLP.”  However, my attempts to find a design or image to use as an avatar were a flop.  They looked like what people in the 70’s would have pictured for the future and I wasn’t happy with them.

I decided to go back to the drawing board and do some more reflecting.  Aside from liking technology, who am I as an SLP?  What part of the job do I like the best?

Pondering those questions, lead me right to what my online persona should be. Though I work in schools, believe it or not, working with children is not the part of the job I like best.  I enjoy working with adults just as much if not more.  For me, people are people, some are cool; some are not.  You get that in every age group so I’m not drawn to cutsie or kiddie stuff.  What part of the field then, am I drawn to?

Cracking the case!  My grandfather, grandmother, and aunt all did investigative work at the government level.  My uncle has a law degree from Northwestern.  My mother and our entire family has  the kind of investigative and inquisitive nature that made it hard for me to get away with shenanigans as a teen.  Fortunately for me though, I must have inherited some of that natural knack for asking the right questions, looking for clues, following up on leads, seeing the big picture, and connecting the dots.

When I get a new student from another state that comes in with word of an IEP but no records, I enjoy following the clues and the paper trail to find out where the student comes from, what happened to the missing records, and how I can get the file.

When a student just can’t seem to grasp a concept, I’m intrigued by the mystery of how their individual brain works, what part of the puzzle is missing for them, and figuring out the best ways to help them shade in the meanings that they were missing.

When I am overwhelmed with the logistics and paperwork of being an SLP, I am thrilled to come up with new ways to cut down on the time I spend doing tedious tasks so that I can increase my efficiency.  After all, necessity is the mother of invention and for me inventing and investigating are intrinsically linked.

Applying my detective skills to the field of communication makes me feel like I’m joining the family business.

Adding my actual name before the title, makes me feel like a James Bond-type spy.  That’s why my store is not just named “Autumn Bryant” or isn’t simply called by the title of “Speech Language Investigator.”  Putting them together gives them a ring that brings me joy every time I see it.

That’s how I got the name “Autumn Bryant – Speech Language Investigator.”

What does your online SLP name say about you?

What does your online SLP name say about you?

whats_in_a_nameThe bevy of SLP stores, blogs, and social media profiles out there these days, has brought us a bounty of resources and materials to use with our clients – just as they intended to do.

However, they’ve also brought an added benefit that was perhaps less intentional. A possibly unforeseen bonus of having such a diverse array of colleagues mingling online, though, is getting to see the cute, creative, and downright catchy names we have donned to represent ourselves.

Each SLP-selected name gives a glimpse into the personality of the man or woman behind the profile. Knowing that these names may attract (or repeal) potential followers, most SLP entrepreneurs and bloggers do not take the task of coming up with a name lightly. However, most blog-followers and material-buyers may never get to hear the story of how the name came to be and exactly what it represents to the SLP. Well, now’s our chance to hear it from the horses’ mouths.

Here’s how I got the name “Autumn Bryant – Speech Language Investigator” (click here)

If you are an SLP blogger or seller, please do tell….

How’d you get your online SLP name?

Vocabulary – HOW TO

kumquatI’ve been an SLP for 7 years and it has taken me nearly that entire time to find a systematic approach to vocabulary instruction that works for me and my students.  Incorporating elements of the vocabulary tier system and word-storage and retrieval strategies, here are the steps I use and that I give my students for learning new vocabulary words.
SLP Step 1: Select Tier 2 words for the student to learn.  Tier 2 vocabulary words are those that are beyond basic words (Tier 1) but not as complex or rare as field-specific vocabulary used almost exclusively for a particular subject area (Tier 3).  Tier 2 words occur frequently enough that students are likely to encounter them in multiple subject matters.  These include the language of directions, such as “Summarize,” “Correlate,” “Devise,” “Reiterate,” etc.  They also include words they will need in order to be informed consumers and independent, productive adults.  Tier 2 words can be selected from novels or text books that your students are already reading.  These do not have to be the words that the text book puts in bold.  Those are usually the Tier 3 words.  The words we want are those often found in the the instructions for assessments, homework, and activities.  Recently however, I decided to create a list of Tier 2 words by picking them from the commercials I watch on TV.  I chose words that you will need to know in order to make savvy purchasing decisions or even understand prescription instructions and labels.  (Get the list here).  This year, I’ve also been focusing on explicitly teaching the meaning of conjunction words used to form complex sentences.  (Get your complex sentence lesson plan here and your complex sentence wall posters here).
SLP Step 2: Once you have a list of words, conduct a baseline to gauge the student’s familiarity with the words receptively and expressively.

SLP Step 3: From your baseline, eliminate the words that the student already knows and focus on the remaining words.

Here are the strategies I give my students for how to learn these new words.

Student Step 1: Identify the word (Say it, write it, etc.)

Student Step 2: Break the word into syllables
Student Step 3Picture (either draw or imagine) what the word sounds like – in other words, what other words does it remind you of (ones that rhyme with it, ones that start with the same syllable, etc.).   It’s important to insist that the student think of his/her own idea of what the word sounds like to him/her.  This will help with later recall later.  Also, the skill of recognizing familiar patterns between words is what allows us to make educated guesses about the meanings of new or unfamiliar words, seeing connections between prefixes, suffixes, roots/stems, and varying grammatical forms of the same base word.   (When asking students to draw what a word sounds like, reassure them that the quality of the artwork doesn’t matter.  Some students get hung up on not being able to draw well.  Let them know that stick figures and basic forms are fine as long as they can tell what they have drawn).

SLP Step 4: Explain to the student what the word really means.  You can use a variety of tools and strategies to do this.  Including using the Expanding Expression Tool (EET) to guide your own definition.  (I don’t use dictionary definitions, because I find them often confusing for students.  Many of them do the very thing we tell kids not to do, they use a form of the word to define the word).  In your definition, bombard the student with grammatically correct use of the target word but stating the word at the beginning of each feature’s description.

SLP Step 5: Ask the student if they’ve ever seen anything like what you described for the word’s meaning. 
Student Step 4: Picture what the word really means (based on the SLP’s description).
Student Step 5: Merge the picture of what the word sounds like with the picture of what it really means.
Student Step 6: Rehearse the word by saying it at least 3 times.

Student Step 7: Use the word in a sentence.


SLP Step 6:
Correct the grammar of the sentence if necessary and give examples of how to use the word correctly.

SLP Step 7: Bombard the student with correct use of the word again by telling a story using the word.  I like to do this by incorporating into a tale about a personal experience if possible. 

SLP Step 8: Ask the student follow-up questions about related experiences.  Incorporate the target vocabulary word into your question.

I introduce this process to students using very basic, Tier I words.  I do this so that they can learn the strategy without focusing on a new word meaning.  Once students have the hang of the process, we move on to our targeted Tier 2 words.  We can usually get through 2 or 3 in a session.  After introducing a few words, we review the ones that we worked on that day.  Then at the start of the next session, we review last week’s words before introducing new ones.  Delightfully, following this process I have found that students usually have a deep understanding of the words and recall them for the next session.  When they don’t, they are usually able to retrieve the words from their memory with a cue about what the word sounded like (making a verbal reference to the picture they drew of what it reminded them of).

I have done this with a focus on words with the same prefix or suffix as well.
After introducing a couple of words each week for a few weeks, you can begin to incorporate them into other games and activities like “Jeopardy,” “Who has…?,” Hangman (with semantic clues), Cross-word puzzles, or writing your own stories.
This year, I have also given my junior high students strategy cards to keep in their wallets.  The cards include reminders of the steps that students should use to store new words in their memories at home and at school because after all, speech/language therapy should be about teaching strategies and not just content.

Get your speech/language wallet cards here!

EXAMPLE: kumquat
Here’s an example of how to use these steps to introduce a word.
Student identifies the word: kumquat
Student breaks the word into syllables: Kum Quat
Student pictures what the word sounds like: For Kum Quat, the student may draw a picture of someone coming in the door while doing squats because, Kum Quat sounds like “Come Squat.”
SLP: Explain to the student what the word really means:  A kumquat is a kind of fruit.  Kumquats can be peeled and eaten or made into jams and jellies.  A kumquat looks kind of like an orange but it’s smaller than an orange.  A kumquat can be more oval shaped than round.
SLP: Ask the student if they’ve ever seen anything like what you described for the word’s meaning:  Have you ever seen a fruit that looks like an orange but smaller?  Do you think you would like jelly made out of a kumquat?

Student pictures what the word really means: (Student draws a picture of a small orangish fruit).

Student merges the picture of what the word sounds like with the picture of what it really means: (The student may draw a picture of a fit person, coming in the door, doing squats, while taking a bite out of a small orange fruit/kumquat).
Student rehearses the word by saying it at least 3 times: “Kumquat, Kumquat, Kumquat”
Student uses the word in a sentence: “I eat kumquats when I work out.”

SLP: Correct the grammar of the sentence if necessary and give examples of how to use the word correctly if necessary. 

SLP: Bombard the student with correct use of the word again by telling a story using the word.  One time, I went to the grocery store specifically looking for kumquats.  I didn’t find any, so I asked the store clerk where the kumquats were.  He took me over to the produce section.  When I looked in the bin, there were just oranges though.  I told him that I didn’t see any kumquats in there.  He asked me “Aren’t those kumquats.”  I told him, “No, those are oranges.  Kumquats are smaller.”  Then he said, “Oh, in that case I don’t think we carry kumquats.”  That’s a shame because I really wanted some.  I asked the clerk to ask his manager to order kumquats in the future.  

SLP: Ask the student follow-up questions about related experiences:  Kumquats, oranges, lemons, and limes are all citrus fruits.  Have you ever had a kumquat or another citrus fruit? 


This approach is inspired by a combination of strategies by Diane German (Word-Finding) and Nanci Bell (Visualizing and Verbalizing).  Sara L. Smith’s techniques (Expanding Expression Tool) can also be incorporated into the SLP’s or teacher’s explanation of a word’s meaning.