Friday, November 20, 2020


This is a good week to remind you of a simple resource to help you and your students. I have written about Calm before but it seems it is more important than ever. We all need to take moments each day to reset and breathe.

Calm can be used as an app on mobile devices or Apple TV but I find that the web interface offers more, and particularly like the Scenes feature which can be used for free. To do this:

-visit the website, linked above.
-login with Apple ID, Facebook or create an account with your email.
-in the left sidebar click Scenes and choose a scene. Some are more setting-based and some more ambient visuals. You can choose the volume of the audio that goes with the scene.

-click Calm in the upper left corner, then the scene itself (not the featured activities) to see it full screen.

Calm could be a great resource to help you meditate and breathe a few moments if you enjoy visuals for this kind of activity.

For students, same. Also consider a post activity for some of the more contextual visuals. What place you have visited did this scene remind you of (could then go there with Google Earth and get some more narrative/description from the students). What do you think you would experience with your 5 senses if you were actually in this location?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

ASHA Pandemic Pangs

Facebook's "Memories" feature is sometimes not so great during a pandemic. You look back with a bit of a pang, right? "I can't do that this year..." This is best channeled with some hope, particularly with good vaccine news this week, toward better days ahead. But still, seeing past ASHAs kind of hurt. I'd always be prepping to present and seeing friends and colleagues I'd only see there. One very packed room I presented to in 2013 did kind of make me go "Ew," given current contagion.

This year, I was invited by SIG 18 and was set to present "Play on Words: Thoughtful Uses of Game-Based Apps and Resources in Language-Based Interventions." That presentation doesn't really exist as of yet (maybe next year), but I thought it might be helpful to share my presentations, along with one on telepractice with Amy Reid and Nathan Curtis, from the last three years. Hopefully there might be some ideas in there that will help you in your work currently.

Here's the link.

Food for thought: a lot of what I have presented in the past has revolved around iPad apps and these have been less relevant in the emergency-telepractice era. However, Apple has just released new Macs with their own M1 Silicon chip (as opposed to previous Intel-made chips) and THEY WILL RUN IPAD APPS NATIVELY. Kind of a game-changer for teletherapy, methinks. I will be getting one soon as my Mac is circa 2013, anyway. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

A focus on gratitude

Gratitude is a Thanksgivingy theme...but actually much more than that. Much research has supported that practicing gratitude as a form of mindfulness can be self-regulating and cultivate positive neural connections. 

In addition, gratitude has a language lens as it:

-relates life experiences

-can/should be practiced as a "listing" activity

-expresses causality

-can be pushed to the abstract i.e. being grateful for intangible things.

Over this and coming weeks I will be using this and this video in discussion activities.


Both are accessible, short and visual. Videos from Headspace are very useful that way, and the second has a bit more of a near/practical hook that will help a lot of my boys access what could be perceived as a dismissible touchy feely message.

As a follow-up activity, Jamboard is a motivating visual way to have students journal, share, describe and discuss. Here's my model:

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Mindfulness "fails" for narrative and "thinking talk"

Metacognition is all wrapped up in our language, social and executive functioning. To read a great explanation of how, see this article from Singer and Bashir (1999), two of my faves in the field. 

Additionally, right now everyone, absolutely everyone, needs strategies for regulating ourselves. I have made it a focus in many of my sessions since March. 

Recently Chris Hemsworth of Thor fame, so familiar to most of your students, put out a number of humorous videos showing that mindfulness failure is all part of the process (note that there are 6 videos in the series/playlist).

These vids are useful in a number of ways in speech and language sessions:

-mindfulness exercises are a great entryway to metacognitive talk: "during that I was thinking about..."

-you can pair these with actual exercises, see MyLife, Stop, Breathe & Think Kids, Calm, Zen Den, or MindUp's Curriculum

-each video is actually a narrative snippet: character, setting, initiating event, plan, actions/attempts, conclusion, so is good for mapping

-I actually used these in some lessons about humor for a student struggling with humor use, teaching about types of humor including play (Ward/Jacobsen's "same but different" concept is related to that type of humor and these videos)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Google Earth's Spooky Spots Quiz

You know I am a Google Earth Geek. Always have been, but in this time it is nice to be able to use the context of "going someplace" to engage my students. Google Earth's quizzes (find in the Explorer captain wheel tab) provide very structured experiences with the interactive globe, posing questions, providing images that prompt observation and discussion, and popping you into an interactive window to "look around." With Halloween coming, you can use the Spooky Spots quiz through nine multiple choice questions (it doesn't matter if you or your students know the answers) bringing you to spots around the globe. The content is free of violence but mentions "The Shining" and "Rosemary's Baby" so probably best for 5th grade or above. As each question is posed, unlabeled placemarks would allow you to ask students to observe potential locations (e.g. "that one looks like its Colorado."). Once answered, you can use the interactive window on the left to navigate the space (oooh an abandoned amusement park near Chernobyl) and work on description and conversation. You may be interested in asking group members to get more information on one of the topics and report back to the group (Wikipedia is fine for general knowledge!). 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Genius and the metalinguistics of popular songs

Genius is a great website for looking more deeply at any song, and most you can think of are covered on the website. Just locate the song, and highlighted sections of it are annotated in the right sidebar. Songs are motivating "texts" (provided you find ones appropriate enough AND motivating) for higher-level language skills (e.g. identifying sentence structures, vocabulary, figurative language, multiple meaning, and narrative, particularly for older students).

I thought to feature Genius because, anecdotally, I do some consulting for a suburban high school (currently remotely AND in person, Thank God I get to leave my house sometimes) and a particular student who wants nothing to do with me nonetheless needs a consult. I heard that his small ELA class is tackling Hamilton, so I insinuated myself into this situation and offered his teacher some content in Google Slides. I was thinking of facial expression work from the Disney+ recording, but ended up starting to package this more as metalinguistic discussions (he needs that)! I first discovered Genius because of its Hamilton lyrics analysis, so I also talked to his teacher, who was thankfully very open, about the site. Yay for language underpinnings! You can view what I came up with so far below or here. As always, please don't request permission for this Google Apps item; if you want to save or edit it, File>Make a Copy.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Therapeutic Gaming Can Be Messy...

 ...and that's ok. Particularly in social intervention contexts, it's important to facilitate natural situations. That includes trying and failing with games- either because the group doesn't like the game and wants to try something else, the game itself sucks, or for other reasons. Isn't that what friends do when they get together-- evolve "group plans" and move on when something doesn't work for the group (see Social Thinking® Group Plan concept)? I like to use games within intervention sessions as a seeming reward near the end, but in themselves they have working teachable moments and lots of opportunities for my students to practice self-regulating. In teletherapy, with or without cursor control (have the students tell you what to click on), you can try a flash game like this (seasonal!) corn maze. Flash games come in a wide range of quality but this one is not bad at all!

While accepting that games like this might not go perfectly in a group, we can prepare to facilitate success. Notice that button that says "walkthrough?" In this case it leads to a video that shows you a sped-up view of game moves. For most other games, you can find a walkthrough with a Google. This arms you with information so you can provide cues like "Oh, what do you think that quarter will be for? What might you buy in a corn maze? Oh, nice smart guess!"

Friday, October 2, 2020

Full Moon

October has two full moons, including the current one! Full Moon is a good example of the kind of game adaptable to therapy given a task analysis.

In this game you navigate a bunny through various levels to get what he wants. In the above level, to get the apple, you have to infer that you need to click on the light bulbs, discover that the middle one turns all the bulbs off, illuminate the apple (in the right tree) and click the apple to drop it to the bunny.

This game prompts:

-use of remote cursor control, or perhaps not (might be better if students have to tell you what to do)

-spacial concepts

-cause and effect reasoning

-observation, collaborating and conversation

It is untimed so you can move at any pace you wish. Plus it has thought balloons which I love in any context as a social cognitive symbol! Here's a walkthrough (always useful if you are going to use games in therapy).

Friday, September 25, 2020

Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards Website

The 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards finalists were announced recently, a development I saw on the news (you never know where you will get therapy ideas). Based on the BBC story about the awards, I found 4 or 5 photos that made for great therapy activities. For example, I used this one...

via BBC

...with a high school group in Google Slides as a way to review the concept of thinking with the eyes (Social Thinking®) but also as a review of Zones of Regulation®, starting with the Blue Zone (well, going whole-part-whole as is often recommended for teaching schemes like this). Interestingly, the order of details written here is in order of how the group members processed the picture. Again, this serves as a reminder that Google Slides makes a damn good therapy tool as a multimedia flipchart. 

Following this, I discovered that the Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards website itself is a goldmine, containing past winners and years of finalists. As you likely know a right click on any image gets you a fair-use-copyable for educational activities, but don't republish any images, especially not for commercial use. Be aware also that you will want to screenshot or save images rather than free-exploring the site itself with students. Wildlife occasionally flips the bird or engages in other inappropriate behavior.

Friday, September 18, 2020


 Sharing simple visual materials in teletherapy serves a number of purposes:

-Providing a context for conversation building

-Building descriptive skills

-Practicing observational skills necessary for situational awareness and social functioning

-Tying in with curriculum (in this case, geography)

WindowSwap is a website I stumbled across because a friend shared it on Facebook. It's very "of the now" and the idea that it is safer to be at home, and provides glimpses of shared windows by people around the world. The entries are dynamic videos and very engaging, also somewhat relaxing for self-regulation purposes. Simply share your screen and help the conversation flow within a group. I also used the tactic of placing a shrunken new browser window over the geographic location so that students needed to make "smart guesses" about the location of the window. Sound is also optional so students can track environmental sounds.