Thursday, March 24, 2016

Resources for Insight and Strategic Thinking

Much of our work is about teaching strategies- a key element in generalization into situations across the day. However, we work with kids who, for a variety of reasons, may not be that "meta." As a result they can struggle to explain why they are even "at speech," let alone their exact goals or strategies to achieve them.

I recently read a very interesting article on infusing video game principles into therapy, "Enhancing the Therapy Experience Using Principles of Video Game Design" (Folkins, Brackenbury, Krause, and Haviland, 2016). The authors' focus was not on including actual video games in therapy but rather incorporating features of games such as "risky challenges" and "generalization" into therapy activities. The article describes how risk-taking in video games is similar to the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development and immersing oneself in "pleasant frustration," and that generalization from therapy can be promoted, as it is in video games, by using learned skills in different contexts. This article can be found on the ASHA website.

These ideas were on my mind when working with a client who a) could use a dose of engagement and b) needs support around the idea of using strategies in the classroom. An area we are working on is comprehension, including that of discourse, but also in following directions. I encountered a review of research on this by Nicole Allison (great summary, Nicole!) particularly supporting the use of a combined rehearsal and visualization strategy for following directions (Gill, Klecan-Aker, Roberts, & Fredenburg, 2003) and have been using these strategies in therapy. The authors define rehearsal as repeating/paraphrasing key elements of the direction and visualization as ‘seeing it happen,’’ or ‘‘imagining the task finished.’’ The authors indicated this strategy use was demonstrated as students repeated directions and looked at relevant objects as directions about them were given, though the visualization principle can be applied in other ways.

I don't often feature "dedicated" speech and language apps on this website, as the theme of the blog is the diverse range of contextual technologies that can be looked at "through a language lens," but a unique dedicated resource I have found helpful is School of Multistep Directions. This app has leveled contexts for students to listen to directions of varied length and complexity (many which are challenging even for me) and "follow" directions through various interactions on the screen--tapping, underlining, highlighting, etc. I especially like the contextual "Chemistry" class, which requires stirring, shaking, and addition of items to containers.

For this particular client, I have sought to build engagement and insight by including the "risky challenge" principle; I simply ask him to guess how many trials he can do accurately (and am glad he generally exceeds his guess).

Regarding the strategy use, I had initially emphasized rehearsal but the study on following directions helped me to tweak this. Though I had used a sketch (word balloons, etc) to demonstrate how rehearsal is done, I wanted to make the visualization element more clear. Enter apps. Two features of apps that make strategy use more explicit--visualizing the meta, so to speak-- are app-smashing (see the work of Greg Kulowiec) or combining apps, and use of word and thought balloons, available in any comic-making app.

So, I made this visual to support my client, who had already started to show use of the particular strategies:

It's pretty easy to app-smash and show strategic thinking in this way:
1. I screenshot one example from the School of Following Directions app.
2. I opened Doodle Buddy and made the screenshot image the background, quickly sketched the circles and arrows that represented the "visualizing", and saved that image to the photo library.
3. Then in Comics Head, I created the comic. This app has characters you can add to a single or multiple frame comic, and also allows you to add photos (I had also saved an image of an iPad so the context of following a direction in the app was clear), pinch to resize photos, layer photos, and put photos, along with text, in word and thought balloons.

Later, I will be able to duplicate and edit this comic to promote generalization to other levels in the app as well as, of course, more importantly, classroom contexts.

Folkins, J. W., Brackenbury, T., Krause, M., & Haviland, A. (2016). Enhancing the therapy experience using principles of video game design. American Journal Of Speech-Language Pathology, 25(1), 111-121. doi:10.1044/2015_AJSLP-14-0059

Gill, C. B., Klecan-Aker, J., Roberts, T., & Fredenburg, K. A. (2003). Following directions: Rehearsal and visualization strategies for children with specific language impairment. Child Language Teaching & Therapy, 19(1), 85.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Read Works Provides Access to Handy Text Passages

Expository text passages are handy for language intervention. There's a lot you can teach with a passage as a context!

I attended (well, watched from an "overflow theater") a great presentation at ASHA Convention in Denver, Practical Strategies for Middle School and High School Language Learning Disorders (Wallach, Bartholomew & Charlton), that covered a number of strategies that can be practiced in the context of expository (or narrative) text:
-Recognizing and interpreting subordinate clauses
-Sentence Combining (see the work and resources of Killagon)
-Teaching Self-Monitoring and Metacognition (I've recently been putting the TWA Strategy on a Bookmark for students:

-Within the above, supporting comprehension and expression (summarizing) is analysis of text structure and use of graphic organizers; Mindwing's Thememaker® and the Thinking Maps programs are both approaches to understanding expository text structure.

So, where to get the contexts? I recently discovered ReadWorks- this website provides free access to reading passages and much more, with skill and strategy units on many topics in comprehension. The passages are searchable or organized by various categories--they are also Lexile-leveled. The website recently released a collection geared toward expository text structures as mentioned above.

Check out Readworks and sign up for a free account. The website is iPad-friendly, so you can activate Speak Screen while using a passage to have it read aloud, or download and "Open In..." an app such as Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to use highlighting and other annotation tools. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

EdCamp Access- Near to MA? Register!

I am happy to be helping to organize the EdCamp Access unconference this year. Hope to see some of you there. Information is below!

EdCampAccess, in the tradition of EdCamps that have taken place around the world, is an unconference devoted to K -12 educators who work with struggling learners. It is not limited to special educators, but anyone who wants to reach students who struggle with reading, writing, organization, behaviors, executive function skills, etc. It will start with a student panel and then evolve into a "collaborative conference" where the conference attendees help to build and create the experience. As is the format for unconferences, we do not schedule any sessions; instead, we do so together as a group at the start of the day. Attendees may choose to facilitate a session, lead discussions or attend sessions of interest to further their professional learning.
Where: Marshall Simonds Middle School 114 Winn Street Burlington, MA
When: April 30, 2016
Registration begins at 8:30
App Smackdown and prizes at 2:30
Closing remarks - 3:15
Cost: FREE

Patric Barbieri - @PatricBarbieri
Karen Janowski - @karenjan
Beth Lloyd - @lloydcrew
Sean Sweeney - @speechtechie


Friday, March 4, 2016

A Simple Idea: Helping technology work for you, not against you

I recently started individual therapy with a little friend who I also see in a group. In this group, we have used social pictures to build situational awareness with strategies such as Ward & Jacobsen's STOP acronym (Space, Time, Objects, People). I continue to find my iPad very useful for this as one can find and save pictures easily, and when displaying from the Photos app, it also serves as an engagement tool.

However, kiddo has a cute little habit of sweeping the picture to the next or previous one when the group is discussing pictures. This seems to be hysterical for some reason, and it can result in a "Silly Tornado (per Social Thinking®) for the rest of the group, and a Yellow Zone for me.

In individual therapy, we are working on comprehension and starting out the Visualizing and Verbalizing® program, and I saved a simple kid-oriented picture of a child on a bike to work on introducing the structure words for describing a gestalt. The past behavior occurred to me and I wondered if Guided Access would allow me to disable sweeping to another picture. It does- simply toggle the Touch switch off at the bottom of the screen and, no sweeping!

I admit to a little self-satisfaction when there was in fact an attempt to "follow one's own plan" and sweep the picture, but it also allowed for a quick teachable moment about why that restriction needed to be put in place, and what to do in the future to earn more trust from others. And we focused on the activity with no power struggles.

For instructions on how to use Guided Access, click here.