Chapters 25, 26 and 27

Chapter 25 begins with the continuation of the championship round of the quiz competition. Melody’s team wins and gets to go to Washington DC. She is very excited. Her biggest thought at the time is that maybe by proving how smart she is, more kids at school will talk to her. It makes me think about the “special ed” students at my school. Do they think that they need to prove themselves to be recognized? While Melody can’t blend in due to her obvious physical differences, she often must feel like she’s invisible. How often in our own lives, do we turn the other way when someone looks different than the “norm” ? Do we write them off as not intelligent due to the way they look or talk?

                In chapter 26, the team decides to go to a restaurant to celebrate. The first obstacle that Melody and her mom run into is that the restaurant is not wheelchair accessible (except for broken elevator). Then came the food. Melody did not know how the other students would react when they saw her being fed by her mom. Even though Melody had been fed her whole life, she was embarrassed now because it singled her out.

                Chapter 27 opens with Melody’s mom showing the picture of her in the newspaper following the competition. Instead of being excited, Melody is not happy. The article does talk about her being an outstanding member of the team, but also mentions her cerebral palsy. Melody thinks that her teammates will hate her because the article focuses on her. Melody is probably wondering if she is specifically mentioned and photographed because of her disabilities and not her abilities. This is a stark reminder that we should focus on what a person can do and not what they can’t.

–Kathleen Russell

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Chapters 28 and 29

Chapter 28

 

Melody finds out that she makes the final quiz team that gets to go to Washington! Claire does not make the team. Melody gets to go shopping and get some new outfits for the trip- no practical sweats! Her mom, Mrs. V, and Melody pack to make sure they are completely prepared for this exciting trip. Then the unthinkable happens. Melody’s flight is cancelled due to weather, but somehow the rest of the team was able to get out on an earlier flight. There are no other flights that will get her to Washington before the competition, and it is too far to drive and get there on time. Melody will miss the competition.

 

Chapter 29

Melody returns home and lies in her bed. She can’t sleep. The events of the day are running through her head with endless questions about why and how this could have happened. Did they leave her on purpose? She is frustrated that she can’t even hit something or stomp her feet to show her frustration. Penny comes to snuggle with her, which calms Melody down a little. Mr. Dimming calls to apologize and promises to make it up to her. Melody’s mom does not accept the apology.

 

These were such heartbreaking chapters. To go from such joy and anticipation to such sadness and rejection, is so hard to process and accept. This child has worked so hard and overcame so many obstacles! Her family has sacrificed and supported her. They just can’t seem to catch a break. As I was reading I could feel the rejection, taking me back to my middle school and high school years, when I had felt left out and rejected. It is a pain that you never truly forget. But as a parent, I have learned that there is no pain greater than to see your child suffer and know that you can’t do anything to make it better. I keep thinking (hoping) that there must have been a good explanation for why no one called to tell Melody to come early. Why was she not invited out to breakfast with the rest of the team? It is so hard for me to imagine that a teacher would not make every effort to make sure she was included, but so far this particular teacher seems to be struggling with the idea of truly accepting Melody into the group… and if he can’t show acceptance, then how can he expect the students to accept Melody as a part of the team?

–Michelle Hughes

Tech Tuesday

Candra Grether shares:

How fun is Tech Tuesday?! I love getting new ideas for my iPad and hope you find something useful in this post as well.

First, I love my iPad for AAC purposes. I have downloaded the free (lighter) versions of costly AAC apps (Sono Flex Lite, Avaz, and Snap + Core First) to trial for short periods of time with a couple of students prior to requesting Cindy come out for an AT Consult. Of course, this short trial period is only when the student is with me since the iPad stays with me but these free versions of the apps can still be useful for this purpose. I haven’t done this for all AT Consults, only when it makes sense to me depending on the student.

A ton of great speech-language specific iPad apps have already been mentioned in previous Tech Tuesday posts. Others that fall in this category that I have used with positive reactions from students include:

Silly Sentence Articulation (sentence level for S, Z, R, L, SH, CH, and TH)

Speech Tutor (great visual for articulator placement with side and front views as well as in-app video recording for comparison purposes)

Social Quest. With consideration to the concept of role release, I have used this app myself less and less as my caseload changes but I’m including it in this post because it is still a good one to suggest to teachers in Social Communication Programs or Autism units. In the past, I have found it more appropriate for students who have a good foundation of language skills with primarily just pragmatic weaknesses as some of the questions/answers are wordy and/or target higher-level language skills including figurative language. Students can practice skills, receptively or expressively, in the context of scenarios for a variety of settings: neighborhood, doctor, supermarket, mall, movies, restaurant, bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, garage/yard, and living room. Each student can practice in a different setting during the same game (see picture below).

Splingo’s Language Universe (great for following directions (you select 1, 2, 3, or 4-step)). A professor introduced this app to me in grad school for a young student I worked with. Younger students love Splingo the orange alien and watching him blast off into space with their help. I do wish the black arrows (see picture below) were optional for some students but still like the app. After a few rounds of trials and helping Splingo with his rocket ship, he blasts off to another planet for more trials. Cute! I like cute!

And finally, my FAVORITE apps! Because I work with middle and high schoolers right now, my most used apps are honestly the ones not specific to speech-language skills at all as many of those often look/feel “young”, you know? I know we all have varying opinions on using games in therapy but I have found that easy to play games like Dots and Boxes, Tic Tac Toe, and Four In A Row (all made by OutOfTheBit Ltd) can be highly motivating for my older students, sometimes even more than their original versions since everything is neater on an iPad. Ha!

Other highly motivating apps include the My PlayHome series (there is also My PlayHome School, Store, and Hospital). Originally intended for me for younger students, I have had students in middle school MSD classrooms discover these on my iPad and who will practice their very best speech and language skills with the first/then promise of a minute of free time with these apps. Screen shots below of a backyard in My PlayHome and a grocery store in My PlayHome Store do not do these apps justice – great movements and sounds within the apps and you can interact with the characters in SO MANY WAYS that even I think these apps are enjoyable. While I can’t remember how many of the apps in this post I’ve mentioned were free or not, I do know that these were roughly $2-4/each. Well worth the price in my opinion, especially if you have younger students (basic concepts, following directions, and more, oh my!). I used these apps as a much needed motivator during an assessment for an elementary-aged student recently and I’m pretty sure I’m the coolest SLP (human?) on the planet because of it. J If you buy more than one of these apps, they all link to work within each other.

The girls are jumping, swinging, turning, and watering. Verbs! You can also pick some of the flowers as well as the carrots in this scene plus touch the sun/moon for daytime or nighttime effects.

 

Chapters 19, 20, and 21

Chapter 19

In this chapter Melody discusses the time that she spends thinking of new things to say with her device. This certainly made me think of how often we speak without thinking and how Melody does not have this ability – or is THAT a disability that WE have? Melody does mention not appreciating when people talk “about” her. This is so important that we include our students  in conversations about their abilities and progress – who knows what they might like to contribute. Melody spends much of this chapter focusing on the love and support of Mrs. V and her family. She knows her family loves her and believes in her, it’s the rest of the world she is worried about. This statement at the end of the chapter made me think of all the ways our students feel they must “prove” themselves to others when at school, this includes proving themselves to us as teachers. May we give them opportunities to show us what they know rather than challenging what they don’t.

Chapter 20

The interactions with Mr. D really stuck out in my mind from this chapter. These highlighted the ways in which so many people make assumptions about Melody’s abilities, as well as the way people who don’t believe in her abilities make her feel. I certainly hope that my students feel that I have confidence in their ability to learn and communicate. At the end of the Quiz Team tryouts I felt like Mr. D tried to be nice to Melody and maybe even redeem himself for initially suggesting she didn’t belong. Unfortunately, his comment about “you might want to wipe your mouth” showed a lack of compassion. I can think of so many ways that this situation could have been approached to preserve her dignity – would I have approached it that way? Do I encourage? Do I believe in the abilities of my students instead of the disabilities?

Chapter 21

Yay! Melody Made the Quiz Team – and… that is the only happy thing about this chapter. The kids are mean and say “what will people think of us?” and they mock Melody. A time when Melody should be so proud of her accomplishment becomes so sad. She does discuss some dignity issues in this chapter and the dependence on others to use the bathroom throughout the day. These care needs are described as if they are at the front of her mind throughout the day and trips to the bathroom at school are dreaded experiences for Melody.  At the end of the chapter when the other students in the inclusion classroom are being unkind, she simply says “go” to communicate that she wants to leave. As much as I want Melody to “have the last word” per say – sometimes words are just not enough. This does leave me thinking about how I make others feel. Do my actions suggest I think less of someone’s abilities because of the way they look or a physical disability?

–Dala Sparks

Chapters 22, 23 and 24

Chapter 22

Poor Melody. All she wants to do is be “normal.” Even after making the team, she still feels like-and gets treated like-an outsider. The medi-talker does help her communicate, but when her peers engage in conversation, she’s not able to produce utterances quickly enough to keep up with their pace. I can only imagine how incredibly frustrating that must be. As an SLP, I have experienced this when I am having some of my AAC users participate in groups with their devices. The delays can seem excruciating sometimes. My hope is, that as the children age, they become quicker and more proficient at participating in conversation, but we all know there are limitations for many students, whether they be physical, cognitive or otherwise. I do love how Melody pre-programs comebacks for Claire’s snarky comments. As an educator, I can’t say that I would directly encourage a child to do this, however, I probably wouldn’t discourage a student from using them either, if I saw an interaction where it was justified. What do you all think?

Chapter 23

This Chapter opens on the day of the local competition and Melody is experiencing all the emotions that any student would in this situation…nerves, excitement and fear. When Paul, the stage manager, goes out of his way to accommodate Melody’s special needs, I had to think that as great as it made Melody feel, it was probably just as wonderful an experience for him to see a child similar to his own achieving such great things. Maybe it’ll impact him past that initial interaction to push his own child a little bit more than he has in the past. Just before the context starts, Melody hears another interaction between Claire and Molly that is disparaging toward her. These mean girls are a prime example of how I want my students and own children NOT to act, but I must applaud Melody for her ability to tune them out and not let their words and actions affect her performance or attitude.

Chapter 24

During this Chapter, the competition starts and the moderator makes a point of mentioning that Melody is a “special participant.” I have conflicted feelings about this. While I understand that she is perceived as “different,” I don’t think calling attention to this is at all necessary. Obviously, she felt embarrassed for being singled out, but again, being a rock star, she didn’t let it throw her off her game. Melody performs just as well-if not better-than her peers, and their team wins this round of the competition. I was happy to see glimpses of Mr. Dimming, Rose and Connor having positive and encouraging interactions with Melody as they waited for their next round of competition. She’s so witty and bright and I’m sure that if any of them got the time to truly know her, she’d be loved and cherished the same way that she is by Mrs. V and her family. It seems like Rose and Melody want to be friends, but each one has different factors that prevent them from fully engaging with one another-Rose is worried about what her typical peers may think, and Melody is afraid that Rose will judge her for her physical limitations and differences. I can only hope that as Melody matures, she will worry less about this and let her personality shine through. I love the lessons this book teaches and think it should be required reading in upper elementary and middle school grades. We have taught for years about cultural inclusivity, and have begun to embrace LGBT inclusivity in recent years. I think it’s time we start being more intentional about inclusion for people with disabilities. What are your thoughts?

–Lindsey Ludwig

Tech Tuesday

Dana Shanton shares:

Articulation Station:

I really like this app. I only purchased the most widely targeted sounds for my current caseload.  The /s/ sound, for example costs $5.99 and it includes /s/ blends. 

When you tap the sound card you  want to target, it will flip the card over to give you options for ways to practice production the sound (words/phrases/sentences/stories).

The app uses a wide range of vocabulary so that a therapist could target categorical naming, object functions, and much more if working with language/articulation combined groups.  

There are even comprehension questions at the end of each story.

If the student is still working on producing the sound in isolation, there is a light bulb icon in the top right corner of the card. When you tap the icon it will list the age of mastery for that sound as well as give tips on how to teach the sound.     

 There is also a voice recording feature that allows the student to record their response and play it back. This helps teach self monitoring, which aids in carryover.

 

 

Pre-teaching Vocabulary

I love using books in therapy!  Vocabulary is great to target with children’s books. I highly recommend the texts by Linguisystems: Speech & Language Activities for Young Learners by Janet R. Lanza and Lynn K. Flahive and Speech & Language Activities for Grades 1-3 by Kristin Becker.  These books are stock full of activities to use along with children’s books to target phonology, vocabulary (expressive/receptive), grammar, WH questions, basic concepts, following directions, and many other skills. Each book includes vocabulary cards that go along with 10 must-read children books (books not included). The “young learners” book has preprinted picture vocabulary cards and the “grades 1-3” book is equipped with picture cards and matching definition cards.  The first thing I did was laminate all the cards.  They are nice, color printed cards on cardstock.  The authors did a great job at selecting the best target words from each book.  Funny story, a 4th grade articulation student working on all sounds in oral reading, decided to practice using one of the books.  Nevertheless, she got stuck on the exact words that were selected as target vocabulary words in the Linguisystem text. I like to pre-teach the vocabulary.  This way students can be prepared to comprehend the text as it is read, therefore not to get stuck on new words. I also use the vocabulary to incentivize students to pay extra attention during the oral reading by making it a competition.  One idea I use has the students push a buzzer every time they hear a vocabulary word, if they can define it they get a sticker.

The method I use to pre-teach target vocabulary goes like this: 1. Auditory bombardment. Read aloud the list of vocabulary and show the picture vocabulary cards. If a student group has a difficult time listening and staying engaged, I have them “raise your hand if you have heard the word before”.  This also helps me to gauge how many words are brand new. 2. Using PowerPoint, I make 1 slide per word.  Do a google image search and add 3-5 pictures that are relevant to my students. I use the “snipping tool” on my laptop to easily cut and paste the images without saving them individually. I input a definition using Merriam Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary http://www.learnersdictionary.com/  I find this site to have more kid friendly definitions.  I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it’s worth it!  The kids love to comment on the pictures and answer questions to make
connections to life.  i.e., for the term “supper” I put several images of different meals.  Each student shared which meal he/she would rather eat for supper.  The pictures are good to spark conversation, especially if you know your kids well, then you can easily select the pictures that will get them talking. PowerPoint is also nice because we can swipe back to compare words and make further connections.  At Roosevelt Perry, which is a technology magnet school, I have a really nice TV Smartboard in my room to show the PowerPoint and allow the kiddos to interact with the technology.  At Maupin, I use the Crusade IPad. Both work great and have their advantages. 3. Depending on the group of students, immediately following the PowerPoint I will either do a receptive vocabulary task i.e., verbally give a definition to the student with field of 4 vocabulary picture card choices, or make the task more challenging with the entire field of cards.  Sometimes, I will do a sentence production task for students who need to increase MLU.  You could also do a card sort activity with identifying nouns vs. verbs vs. adjectives.  4. The next session, I will typically review the vocabulary cards at the beginning of the session – students like acting out the verb cards – and then begin orally reading the book.

Post-test: I have used quizlet.com to create vocabulary quizzes with the same target words.  I like this site because it is easy to use and free.  Also, you can choose the level of difficulty you wish to use; anything from picture cues, multiple choice, matching, all the way up to student typing in the definition.

– Katie Cohen (kathleen.cohen@jefferson.kyschools.us)