Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reflections on Summer Travel: What do Social Thinking® and Executive Functioning have to do with Speech-Language Pathology?

In a word: everything!

I was thinking of all I have learned, and still need to learn, about executive function and social behavior as I prepared to head from the conference center where this year’s Social Thinking Providers’ Conference was held. It had occurred to me recently what an enormous task it really is to get even my (probably) neurotypical self to the airplane gate on time and without major self-imposed calamities. What must this task be like for people with diagnosed challenges in these cognitive areas? After a weekend of hearing discussions of context, self-regulation and planning, my self-talk was pretty conscious and quite loud. I thought I’d give you an earful of that to pull into focus the importance of our role as language experts in helping clients with deficits in these areas, not just to get to the airport on time but also to manage general life. 

On itineraries: “Hmmm I notice my TripIt itinerary never updated after I changed my flight from Monday to Sunday, so it’s not in the app, and I need to check (6 times) what time my flight is. Remember your temporal concepts problem (problem solving/referencing previous experiences). Ok, if (conditional language there) it’s not in TripIt, I can search and find it in the Mail app and oh, yeah, better text this info to Chris so I can get a ride home (prospective memory/forethought). 

On rental cars: “Remember I chose the self-refilling option as opposed to the Hertz “plans” after thinking about the minimal amount of driving I’d be doing (sequences, comparing). BUT (adversatives) this means I’ll need to get some gas maybe before the conference so I won’t have to do it later (prioritizing). While I am there I can get my trusty Trenta iced coffee (sensory planning) as well, at the sorta-fake gas station Starbucks. AND don’t forget this time to check which side of the car the annoying gas door is on, so I can position the car correctly and not P anyone off who is trying to navigate the gas station (perspective taking, visualizing).  

On departure time: “Ugggggh I would really like to stay and see more of Jessica Minahan’s talk but my flight is at 1 pm, which means I have to find my way to the airport which I don’t really know how to do (Maps app should help), return the rental car, take the skytrain to the terminal (What terminal is it? Oh, there was the sign on the train, I see it in my nonverbal memory), print my boarding pass from the kiosk, deal with the security line, and find my gate (sequencing/estimating time). It’s now 10:35, I better go. *5 minutes goes by* Why aren’t I initiating? *joke about this with friend* (referencing common experience/commenting). Gotta go.” 

On the Security Line: “This is really the Grand Daddy of executive function tasks, in which we (according to Sarah Ward’s paradigm of situational awareness) really have to be aware of reading the Space, Time, Objects and People involved (STOP)*
Space- hmmm where’s the entrance to the rope maze? That guy just ducked under a rope, should I do that? No, could get in trouble (evaluating expected behaviors and consequences). 
Time- Jeez, this line is long, how long will it take to get through? Probably about 15 minutes...s’ok.
Objects- “Oh, so many objects. Did I arrange my bag well? Pretty categorically, thinking of keeping the ziplock toiletry bag in a different compartment from the 2 iPads and MacBook Pro (avoiding problems). Gotta get my license out and WHOA- George Costanza wallet strikes again when I try to extract my license, like 10 cards fly out all over the ground scattering about the feet of the people in line! Better get ‘em quick, apologize and say thanks especially to that rather advanced-in-age man who stooped to pick up my AMEX (expected behaviors again).” 
People- “Better smile and think about the TSA person with my eyes so she doesn’t think I am terroristy. Does that person think he’s ahead of me? As the lines merge, he’s stepping ahead (“people tracking”/nonverbal awareness/inferencing). Whatever. You know, these TSA people work really hard (empathy) and I should give them an enthusiastic thanks for keeping me safe but...let’s not (awareness of my own aloof Bostonian communication style)."
*This is a concept created by Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen- want to learn more? Go see them sometime!

This whole process leaves me so exhausted that sometimes I fall asleep at the gate and wake up with carry-on-face, which friends have gleefully photographed in the past.

So, luckily my self talk eventually shut up a bit, and you get the idea. Social and Executive Functioning skills are really all about language and (fun, actually) interventions (and a little bit of technology) that SLPs are in a unique position to implement, given our training on brain functioning and strategies. I hope this post may have peaked your interest in these areas, especially given that with the DSM-5 changes, SLPs could be seeing a spike in referrals due to the newly created Social Communication Disorder diagnosis. For more information, SocialThinking.com is a great place to start, and see more resources on the Cognitive Connections site from Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen here.

I'm going to be heading on vacation for a few weeks, so see you sometime in July!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Social Thinking® Providers' Conference- Day 3

Wow, what a great conference! My head is honestly still spinning from the geographic and temporal confusion of being back in Boston, but also from all the new ideas I haven't quite "learned" yet. I have to say also how proud I am of my state, not only to "represent" personally by presenting at this conference, but also to be in the amazing company of fellow Massachusetts educators Jessica Minahan (can you believe we have taught in the same district for many years, but never met?) co-author of The Behavior Code, the incredible Sarah Ward, executive function guru, and Katy Shamitz, who did a wonderful presentation on student mentors and whom I never knew lived right over a small bridge from me.

With pals Sarah Ward and Jessica Minahan
Yesterday I mentioned that one of the takeaways of the conference was the importance of context, of teaching about the contingencies of life that require our social "scripts" to adapt and change.  Additionally, a related idea running through many of the presentations was the role of sentence complexity. If students can't do "because/so/when/if/then" in their sentences (and narrative language), they are unlikely to be able to grapple with the complexities of the social world, including executive functioning.  So, this is yet another underscoring of the role of the SLP in treating the population of students with social learning deficits. There are not an abundance of tools available to us to treat sentence complexity, but I wanted to again recommend Conversations with Conjunctions, by Catherine Harkins May.  Her approach to teaching use of complex conjunctions through ASL signs is multisensory, strategic, and fun.

I'm still processing, of course, and have another post on this conference, but for now, please check out the tweets from Sunday  (you do not need to be on twitter to see them).  Thanks again to @speechykeenslp for doing the bulk of the tweeting, especially since I left at about 10:45 to catch my plane!

With #slpeeps @hts_slp and @speechykeenslp

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Social Thinking® Providers' Conference- Day 2

I wanted to follow up on yesterday's post and share the link to a compilation of today's notes/tweets from a variety of attendees at the conference. Dr. Peter Vermeulen gave a great talk on the key element of context in teaching people with ASD. You can read more about that in his book Context Blindness. Michelle Garcia Winner and Dr. Peter Gerhardt also conducted a discussion on the continuum of treatment involving ABA, and there was a panel discussion on the recent changes to DSM-5 affecting diagnoses of individuals with ASD and Asperger's. Overall a great day of learning and connections.

You can check out the day's tweets here  (you do not need to be on twitter to see them). Currently I am above NY and happy to be almost home!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Social Thinking® Provider's Conference- Day1

Hi Folks, having a great time across the country from my usual locale, here in San Francisco at the Social Thinking ®  Provider's Conference. I made a hour-long presentation yesterday on using apps in ways that align with Social Thinking concepts, and it went very well.  I will be repeating this in a little bit longer form at the STPC in Minneapolis and Boston.

Some time ago I learned that it helps me to pay attention at conferences when I don't exactly take notes traditionally, but when I tweet them instead. Something about knowing at least one other person is reading what you are writing, I guess? So, @speechykeenslp and I, among a number of others, used twitter to share our notes of main points.  This may or may not be something you are interested in reading through, but I thought I would share them here anyway. More to come...hopefully these notes serve as a teaser to look more into these great presenters, their books and ideas.  From Day 1 in particular, you might be interested in learning more about the Movie Time Social Learning approach (sign up for a notification of when Anna Vagin's book will be published), the Social Express app, and the Social Thinking website for all their free articles, blogs etc, as well as their other great materials.

Click here to the link to the tweets from the day (you do not need to be on twitter to see them).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

EdCampBLC- Free "Unconference" on July 16

Hey folks, just want to let you know about this event I am helping to organize (barely! haha).  EdCampBLC is a FREE "unconference" taking place in July.  If you are in the Boston area or vicinity, it makes for a fun day of learning! See below...

EdCampBLC at Building Learning Communities
Monday, July 16, 2012

Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Tower, Boston, MA
9am - 4:30pm: Come all day, or any part of it!
If you want to help organize the day, you can show up at 8am.

Plan on coming? Please register here [ http://edcampblc.wikispaces.com/Registration ].

EdcampBLC is formerly known as EduBloggerCon "East"- the name was changed to reflect the diverse participation of participants in education and social media. At the first annual EduBloggerCon in Atlanta on June 23, 2007 it was suggested that regional EduBloggerCon events be held to expand participation. In that spirit, and in conjunction with the traditions of regional Edcamp events "promoting organic, participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators worldwide" this 4th annual FREE "unconference" is being planned (thanks to the generosity of Alan November) just prior to, the Building Learning Communities Conference (BLC12). You do not need to be attending BLC12 to attend this free unconference.

In 2012, the BLC conference runs from Wednesday, July 18th through Friday, July 20th in Boston, MA, again at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.

EdcampBLC is based on the idea of an "unconference," and is being organized by the participants in real time on the EdCampBLC wiki. Another way to describe this event is as a "collaborative conference," where the conference attendees help to build and create the experience. As is the format for unconferences, we have not actually scheduled any sessions yet, and we're going to do so together as a group at the start of the day--based on the submissions of sessions that attendees have indicated they are willing to facilitate or would like to learn about.

Last year's unconference was a wonderful learning experience attended by educators from all over the country. Here is the link to last year's wiki.

Add your session ideas to the Wallwisher below (don't worry, you can change your mind)
Add your name, photo or avatar, Twitter name, interests, or anything you like to the who's coming page.
Learn a little bit about who is organizing EdCampBLC on the Organizers page.
Learn more about what an EdCamp is.

Questions? Contact the organizers via Twitter or email.
Follow and use Twitter hashtag #EdCampBLC to join the conference before it begins!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What's new with Apple and what does it mean for SLPs?

As you might have heard inklings of (I myself was glued to Engadget's live blog), Apple is having its Worldwide Developer's Conference in San Francisco this week. Traditionally, the keynote address from this conference brings important product development announcements, and today's conference was no different.  As many people come to this site for information about iPad, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the key points that can affect our work and use of Apple products.

First of all, you MUST MUST MUST click through to see the wonderful video that was shown as part of the keynote address, focusing on how Apple products change lives. It features not only an app that helps people with visual impairments navigate the world in new ways, but also a terrific segment on how Toca Boca apps on iPad (one of my favorite lines) can be used as a tool in speech-language pathology.  Isn't that AMAZING? So few people even know what we do, and to be highlighted in this broad way on an international stage...just wonderful.   It's even better that my colleague and fellow editor of TherapyApp411 Renena Joy is the SLP featured in the film.  Click here for the video, and the segment about speech and language is at 12:45. The video really embodies the exact message and mission of this blog- to paraphrase Renena, what many kids think of as a toy can be to us a powerful tool for shaping speech and language development.  Thank you so much, Renena, for spreading this important message.

OK, so (*wiping tears of verclemptness*), what do you need to know about:

Mountain Lion- the new operating system for Mac (not iPad) will allow you to stream your Mac directly to an Apple TV (opportunities to use a Mac at home and during presentations in new ways) and also integrates with iCloud in more automatic ways. For instance, if you create materials with applications such as Keynote and Pages (Apple's presentation creator and word processor) they will simply show up in the corresponding iPad apps. Mountain Lion will also have Voice Dictation built in, which can be a helpful productivity tool and will also be useful for kids with language and learning disabilities.  They will be able to dictate any text into a Mac running Mountain Lion.  These features will be available in July, when you will be able to purchase Mountain Lion from the Mac App Store for $19.99. A bargain for a new operating system!

iOS 6- iOS 6 is the new operating system for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, and it will be available in the fall. Sadness at having to wait so long, but this is a free update that will be available through Settings if you are currently running iOS5, except...(here's a quick roundup of features):

1. These new features are not going to be available on iPad 1. Here's where you might want to start thinking about whether having this advanced operating system is important to you, and consider selling or handing down your iPad 1 and upgrading. 'Cause Apple is upgrading and leaving it behind, sorry.  I realize this is more than a little frustrating, but it goes with the territory.

2. Siri comes to iPad 3rd generation (only). Apple's voice assistant, Siri, will be coming to "New" iPads with iOS6.  This feature will allow you (and your students) to control the iPad in limited ways with your voice, for purposes of search, adding calendar items and reminders, launching apps, and all sorts of other things. Keep in mind that Siri and other dictation tools don't work well if the student has articulation difficulties.

3. Guided access. In iOS 6, you will be able to put your iPad in "single-app mode." This will allow you to prevent a child from exiting an app by tapping the home button. A great feature for those of us that work with children with special needs, who will benefit from this additional structuring of their iPad use. I imagine this will be very helpful for students running AAC apps on iPad.

4. New 3D Maps- As has long been rumored, Apple is ditching Google Maps and using their own data and programming within the Maps app.  This app will feature 3D buildings, which will be a great way to expose students to visuals about cities and elicit language related to the curriculum.  It will also feature turn-by-turn directions, which can be played as a "virtual field trip" and target sequential language.

5. Sharing- Facebook sharing will be integrated into the operating system for easy sharing of photos and other materials.  I think this is relevant to SLPs as many of us are using Facebook as a professional development and networking tool through our interaction with various speech and language related pages.  You'll also want to be careful about Photostream, itself a little dodgy because if you have it turned on under Settings>iCloud, your photos are automatically shared between devices.  i.e. That cocktail party picture of you on your iPhone would show up on your iPad as well, perhaps providing an unintentional language stimulus during a session.  Anyway, Photostream will now allow you to share photos to friends as you customize it (carefully)

There are a number of additional news-bits, so check out this post if you'd like to hear it all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

iPad Essentials: Working around the Barriers to YouTube Access

YouTube scares a lot of people, who rightfully worry about its Wild West of content and the often pragmatically inappropriate and soul-crushingly rude comments left in response to videos.  It is not a resource that kids should really be allowed to explore without boundaries.

At the same time, I do think it is a shame that so many school districts have chosen to block this and other resources rather than teaching kids to use them responsibly, and holding them accountable for when they don't. Doing so prevents educators from accessing many videos that have educational and language-enhancing purposes (see a previous post on this here, if you want specifics). YouTube also has a "channel" just for teachers, and blogs such as The Kid Should See This provide great examples of videos you can use to elicit language.

Unfortunately, if your building blocks access to YouTube or does not allow you access to wifi on your iDevice, your YouTube app is pretty much useless while in that zone. However, there is a way to access those particularly choice videos for therapeutic use, it just takes a few steps and some forethought. Here's what you do.

1. Identify a video of interest and while on a computer (not your iPad), copy the video's URL:

2. Go to KeepVid in your computer's browser and paste in the copied URL and hit Download at the end of the blue bar (not the giant red download, that's a ubiquitous ad, LOL):

3. Wait for the potential video files to pop up and download the MP4 by clicking on it. Again, ignore the giant Download button:

4. This will download the YouTube clip as a video file to your computer, usually to the Downloads folder. Now to get it onto your iPad. Open an email account that is accessible on your iPad (added to your Mail app. Accounts can be added to the Mail app using the Settings app under Mail, Contacts, Calendars). Gmail accounts work well for this process. Attach the video file to an email and send it to that account that you can access on the iPad. This may take a minute.

5. On your iPad, while connected to wifi, check the email account and locate the email. Tap the video icon in the email to download the video to the iPad. Then, tap and hold to bring up the option to save the video:

6. Now, go to your Photos app.  The video will be saved there (not in the Videos app, which is for iTunes content), and you can play it whenever you need to, regardless of YouTube blockage or wifi connection.

[Edit: You can also import/drag your video file into iTunes on a computer, plug in your iPad (you don't need to sync), and drag that video as displayed in iTunes onto the iPad icon in the left sidebar.  The video will then appear in the Videos app.]

A couple of caveats:
-Videos take up space. You'll want to be aware of this, and delete from your iPad if necessary, as well as from your email account and computer.
-KeepVid is Java-based. If you run into trouble with it, try running a Java update (through Software update on Mac or by Googling "Java Update" on PC). Also make sure your browser is updated or KeepVid might not function correctly (see part B here).
-This process will not work if the YouTube user has disabled embedding and downloading.  

Happy Work-arounding!

Friday, June 1, 2012

iPad Essentials: Using Images

The iPad is naturally a wonderful visual tool, with its bright, colorful screen. There are so many ways we can leverage its capability to provide clients with visual stimuli to elicit speech and language, but one of the simplest is using Google's Image Search.

In the past, SLPs have spent tons of money and/or time to obtain stimuli pictures from commercial publishers or magazines, but now countless images are literally at your fingertips using your iPad.  I have written about this topic before, but thought it was worth revisiting for this series.

So, in a few brief steps (and an important hidden function), let's look at Google Images on the iPad.

Using your Safari app and the field in the upper right hand corner, you can Google any search term.  Tap Images on the Google screen after searching to view the array of resulting images, as below:

An important "hidden" function of Image Search, SafeSearch, is available by tapping the wrench icon.  This reveals a small settings menu you can use to set SafeSearch to Off/Moderate/Strict.  This provides a filter that prevents embarrassing pictures from coming up during search.  It is not perfect, but can save you from an unexpected picture of, say, a fireman who would be better suited (no pun intended) for a bachelorette party than exploration of the category of community helpers.

Note that the wrench menu also allows you to look for more recent images (under Time), find more high-resolution/larger photos (under Size), and look for a particular type of Image (Face-helpful for teaching feelings/expressions, Photo, Clip art, or Line Drawing).

Tapping on any image in the array will bring up a "Cover Flow" view.  This allows you not only to sweep through larger views of each picture in the search results, giving a better visual to describe/compare and contrast images with your clients, but also a means to save the image to the iPad.

The saving step can be a bit tricky.  You have to tap solidly on the central image and not move your finger side to side, which of course brings you to the next image.  It takes a few tries to get it right! 

Here's a nice tutorial from Scott Ligon if you would like to see the gesture used for saving (note that Google works a bit differently now and the "tap full size image step" shown in the video has been replaced by the cover flow look as seen above.

Being able to save images opens so many possibilities and contexts in the use of your iPad as a creation tool.  The amount of apps that allow you to create something using photos from your camera roll grows every day, but includes digital storytelling apps such as Puppet Pals and Photobabble, comic creation apps such as Strip Designer, and book creators like Scribble Press and My Story.

What can you do with Google Images, looking through a Language Lens?
-Find examples aligning with classroom vocabulary, either tier 2 words (e.g. intense) or content words (e.g. plateau), especially as you discover gaps in student understanding that would benefit from a quick visual.
-Use for category building, teaching features, description, similarities and differences.
-Easily locate images to go along with articulation word lists.
-Using a program such as Visualizing and Verbalizing? Look up an action word (e.g. swimming) and instantly you have a lesson for the Picture by Picture level.  Such images can also serve as great story starters.

What other ways have you used images in therapy? Let us know in the comments!