Chapters 181 & 191

Chapter 181 starts with the sentence, “I see everything”. In his opinion, other people just glance, they don’t really look. Christopher explains this by giving an example of his thoughts as he stands in a countryside versus what most people see. Christopher counts the cows and memorizes their patterns, counts the houses in a village, notices the highest and lowest points of the field and the direction the cows are facing. In the hedge, he notices a plastic bag, a soda can with a snail on it and a long piece of orange string. He listed 7 details that he noticed, but mentioned there were an additional 31 things that he could have listed. Again, it’s all about the details and sticking with the facts! Most people take in the ‘big picture’ noticing the simple things like green grass, cows, flowers, a village in the distance, the fence and the sunny weather with some clouds. Christopher says that then people stop noticing and think, “Oh, it is beautiful here,” or “I’m worried that I left the gas cooker on”. Christopher knows these things because he asked Siobhan. Christopher clearly has a different way of seeing the countryside than perhaps, you or I would see it! What a way to take in all that the world has to offer. This serves as a glimpse inside his brain and how he processes new places. How exhausting, right? Asking Siobhan about what other people think does point towards some theory of mind and perspective taking. How can we apply this to our interactions with our students?

At the end of the chapter, Christopher compares his brain to a computer. When in a new place, his brain has to make account for EVERYTHING he sees. When people are added to the new place, he states that it is like a computer crashing. “People do things you don’t expect”. He has to close his eyes, place his hands over his ears and groan. This is equivalent to hitting CTRL+ALT+DEL on a computer to shut down and reboot. I’m sure most of us have experienced a student “rebooting”. I found this comparison most interesting!


Chapter 191 begins with Christopher remembering his toy train set to make sense of his surroundings. He recounts his journey for a train ticket to London to see his mother in this chapter. Christopher was scared, it was a new place! We understanding how overwhelmed he must be feeling based on his descriptions in the previous chapter. His first obstacle was entering the tunnel full of people and weird smells. He convinced himself to make it through the tunnel by using self-talk so he could sit down, think and make a plan. His brain was in overdrive with all the new things in his path. At last, he finds a chair and sits to think and reboot. He had trouble thinking clearly, so he starts doing maths in his head. He had been there for 2 ½ hours in a trance when a police officer approaches him to ask questions and offer help. The police officer walks Christopher to the cashpoint machine and shows him the ticket office. Unfortunately, this required another trip through the tunnel. Christopher felt safe with the police officer around, but when he got to the ticket window and no longer saw the officer, he became scared again and started pretending he was playing a game where you had to solve lots of problems to get to the next level. He successfully buys the ticket and it was back through the tunnel again with all the people, noises and smells. Christopher says it was like the signs around him where shouting inside his head. Once again, he uses self-talk to venture back through the tunnel visualizing the game he was pretending to play. Before he knew it, he was on Platform 1, pushed open the doors to the train and stepped inside. He did it! He was on his way to London to see his mother! Christopher should be proud of his ability to handle all of the uncomfortable situations he encountered along his journey. He was able to apply many strategies that Siobhan had taught him. It left me with an appreciation for Siobhan and the impact she has had on Christopher’s ability to navigate his world. She must have felt rewarded reading these words. I wonder what her role is at school. Is she a general education teacher, a teacher assistant, a special education teacher or perhaps a speech-language pathologist like us? Regardless of her position, she clearly has made a difference in the life of her student, Christopher.


Holly Hamill


Tech Tuesday

Lauren Wempe shares:

Describe it to Me

This app is related closely to the EET Kit. It is a good tool to use in conjunction with the program. It also offers the ability to select receptive language- by selecting from a field of four options or expressive language- by responding to the question prompt.

The top bar indicates the types of descriptors: (Category, Function, Parts, Location, Visuals, Extra).

I like the visuals tab with the question prompt (What do you see?) This category is often prompt dependent in my groups with a verbal prompts for (color, size, shape). I like that making a choice offers some movement towards independence.

I think the homework sheets section is a great resource. Lots of good sheets for at home practice or intervention practice.

You tell me stories, foundation

This is a free app! It offers several stories with the option to have a narrator or self-read. This app reminds me of the program shared story book reading. The narrator comments on the text and offers language expansion and thinking aloud skills.

At the end of the story, there is a 4 scene sequencing activity.

Once this is correct, the prompt at the bottom is available to voice record the story sequence (1-4) and to play back. This directly relates to many IEP goals for (story sequencing and re-tell). Also great for oral expression skills.

I think this app can be a great resource for parents. We know many young kids are on tablets and are going to be- we can advocate for better language exposure apps. I think this app could be used as a tool for parents to understand shared story book reading and how to use stories to expand and improve language skills. There are also several stories in Spanish. This could be a tool for students to practice language skills in their native language.


Building Partnerships with Parents: Improving Developmental Assessments Through Cooperation

The audience of this book is intended to be early intervention agencies serving children age birth-3, service providers and early childhood childcare professionals.  It describes various aspects of the early intervention process (known as 1st Steps here in KY but by various other names by state) and how to make them more parent/family friendly.  The family friendly philosophy is based in the belief that:

-Families are capable of providing valuable information

-Families are “experts” on their child

-Families are competent to make decisions. (page 17)


Why this book?

I chose this book for my book study because of the work I (and many others) do at the diagnostic center.  I am always looking for ways to improve my assessment procedures.   Clinicians in preschool will also find this information relevant.  At the diagnostic center and occasionally in preschool, speech language pathologists are faced with challenging assessment situations where the involvement of the parent is highly valuable and necessary to arrive at the proper diagnostic decisions.

Scenario 1:  A very young child (often 2 years 10 months- 3 years 10 months) is being evaluated at the diagnostic center in the area of language.  This child has no previous school or daycare experience and parents completed the interventions at home.  The child is “shy” and refuses to speak to the SLP.  The SLP employs all of her tricks (extended warm up time, enticing play options, etc) but the child will not participate in any of the standardized or non-standardized assessment tasks.


Scenario 2:  A young child’s performance during the assessment completed by JCPS does not match the performance reported in an outside provider’s recent report.  The parent requested screening and assessment because of that outside provider’s report.


Scenario 3:  A young child is evaluated and receives scores well within the average range on standardized testing.  The SLP is left wondering….why are we here?


I have faced all 3 of these scenarios while completing assessments at the diagnostic center.  According to this book, the answer to all of these issues is the parent interview AND parent involvement.  The parent interview is a valuable tool when is it is comprehensive and understood by the parent.  However, it should not stand alone.   The book also suggests that parents should be actively involved in the assessment (non-standardized portions).  It specifically recommends observing the child doing “something he or she enjoys with someone he or she trusts.  An examiner can learn a great deal by observing what a child and parent do on their own.  The examiner can also coach parents to try a certain game or interaction in order to give the child a chance to show a specific ability.” (page 7)

Other tips and reminders:

Gather more information about factors that can influence our perceptions:  student’s health, temperament, experiences outside the home, daily family life, family’s values, beliefs, traditions, etc

Do not ask “what is your biggest concern” but rather “what would you like to see improve the most? or “What communication skills does he/she need the most?”  Use responses when appropriate and possible in drafting the IEP.

Don’t be afraid to refer a family to one of the district’s social workers when there is a need for assistance outside of school time that impacts the students school performance such as housing, food, transportation, medical, mental health, substance abuse treatment, etc.


Things we do well that this book recommended:

* Gather medical and other provider information before the assessment.

* Use of an interpreter in the family’s native language (when available)

* Arena assessments where all involved disciplines are present.  This reduces the number of duplicate questions a family answers and times they recount developmental history and concerns.  It allows cross-discipline collaboration and collective decision making.

* Use of parent interview

* Use of more than one source of information or  avoiding over-reliance on the standardized test due to the young age of the children we are evaluating.

Possible Areas of Growth:

o Translation of our written reports into the family’s native language.

o Make a family feel welcome at school (or whatever JCPS location they are visiting).  This book often describes making centers family accessible.  Parents are encouraged to visit the school and observe their child the classroom or during therapies.  Libraries with parent information, references and net-working space are available and advertised to parents.  What can we do to make families feel welcomed and a part of the school community?

o Do more parent education and conversation about the transition from 1st steps to school based services including differences in eligibility, purpose of service and differences in the documents.   o   A PDF that outlines the differences in the IFSP and the IEP in narrative and chart form.


In summary, it is important to remember that many of our families at the diagnostic center and in our preschool classrooms are transitioning from 1st steps.  The different models of service, the assessment process and the transition process can be intimidating and confusing.   We are in an excellent position to help answer questions, offer resources and be a positive 1st impression of JCPS and school based services.

–Kristin Kelly

Chapters 173 and 179

This chapter begins with Christopher hiding behind the shed in his backyard. He has just found out that his mother is still alive. He is looking up at the stars and explaining how the constellations (like Orion) are silly because they are just stars and you could join up the dots in any way you wanted. I really agree with Christopher on this. I can never find constellations when I look up to the sky. Christopher loves looking up at the sky and the stars. They make him feel small and his problems feel “negligible” in the grand scheme of things. I can imagine looking up at the stars helped him cope with finding out about his mother.

After hiding all night, Christopher’s father comes outside to look for him. Christopher covers himself and toby’s cage with a fertilizer bag and gets out his Swiss army knife. Christopher’s father does not find him and drives away. Christopher has decided that he can’t live with his father anymore because he is dangerous. He decides he is going to go live with Ms. Shears because she is not a stranger and she will understand. He goes to Ms. Shears’s house, but she is not home. Christopher decides against living with Siobhan, Uncle Terry, and Mrs. Alexander. Christopher makes a diagram in his head to help with his decision. He ultimately decides that he has to go to London to live with his mother. All of the stress and fear is upsetting to Christopher. He is afraid to go far from home by himself. This makes Christopher realize that he can never be an astronaut because he will be thousands and thousands of miles away from home. This realization makes his whole body hurt.

Christopher formulates a plan. Christopher tries to leave Toby with Mrs., Alexander, but she wants to call his father. Christopher runs home, breaks a window, backs a bag, and takes his father’s bank card. Christopher walks to school, but he sees his father’s van outside the school. This makes him get sick again. Christopher asks a woman with a baby for help finding the train station. He holds his Swiss army knife ready in his pocket for protection (which is very scary). Christopher finally finds the train station by moving in a spiral and making a map in his head.

In reflection on this chapter, I am very worried about Christopher. His whole world his falling apart. He does not even trust his father anymore because he lied and is afraid he will kill him like he killed Wellington. Christopher’s literal thinking and difficulty understating what is going on his making him act rashly and his fear is making him physically ill.

-Allison Wahl


Chapters 163 and 167 (spoiled alert!)

Chapter 163

Immediately after finding out that his mother is not dead, getting sick and being discovered by his father; Christopher digresses into a lengthy explanation of the brain. He gives an explanation of theory of mind and how the human brain is like a computer. He does not mention the current state of events in this chapter at all. This could be a defense mechanism as he objectively tries to process what has happened. At the end of the chapter, he even tries to explain how “feelings are just having a picture on the screen in your head.”

Chapter 167 (Spoiler Alert!)

After being given a bath, time and offers of food, Christopher’s father attempts to engage him in conversation. His father admits to lying and says that he will be honest with him from now on. The truth is… Christopher’s father killed the dog!! After a fight with Mrs. Shears, he killed the dog in anger. Christopher does not speak. His father eventually leaves the room. Christopher is frightened and thinks that if his father can murder a dog that he could murder him as well. Christopher decides to leave the house after his father is asleep. He takes Toby (his pet rat), his food box and warm clothing outside. He squeezes between the shed and the fence to sit, eat and contemplate what to do next. Wow! I’m still reeling from the admission of guilt from his father. For all the patience and understanding that his father typically shows, his moments of loss of control now make more sense because they were all about the dog/book/investigation. I couldn’t stop reading after this chapter out of concern for Christopher’s welfare. How will his father react to him being “gone”? What will happen during the night? Will he go to school the next day and how will school staff respond?

–Kristin Kelly

Visual Strategies for Improving Communication

By:  Linda A. Hodgdon

“I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand.”


A recurring theme throughout this book is that visual strategies are not just important for non-verbal students or students with a speech-language impairment.  Visual strategies are good tools to utilize to increase comprehension across topics.


Visual supports include:

  • Body language
  • Natural environmental cues
  • Traditional tools for organization and giving information
  • Specially designed tools to meet specific needs


“How would you educate someone who was 90% visual and 10% auditory?”

  1. Teach skills
  2. Teach compensatory strategies
  3. Modify environments for maximum learning


Presenting information in visual form:

  • Helps establish and maintain attention
  • Gives information in a form that the student can quickly and easily interpret
  • Clarifies verbal information
  • Provides concrete way to teach concepts
  • Gives the structure to understand and accept change
  • Supports transitions between activities and locations


Types of visual supports:

  1. Visual Schedules:  help clarify information between staff and students.
    1. What is happening today (regular activities)
    2. What is happening today (something new, different, unusual)
    3. What is not happening today
    4. What is the sequence of events
    5. What is changing that i normally expect
    6. When is it time to stop one activity and move on to another one
  2. Mini-schedules:  provide structure to increase independent work habits.
    1. Do not have to replicate the form and format of the daily schedule
    2. Geared more towards individuals while classroom schedules are geared more for the larger group
    3. The format of mini-schedules can be designed to target more specific individual learning goals
  3. Calendars:  organize lives, understand sequence and time concepts, and give other valuable information
    1. Which days are school days/are not school days
    2. When special events/activities will occur
    3. Field trips/training trips
    4. When someone is coming/going
    5. How long someone will be here/gone
    6. Appointments
    7. Who will be home after school
    8. When a babysitter will be coming
    9. Which days a student will be leaving school early or coming in late
    10. The lunch menu/when to bring or buy
    11. When to bring things to school or take them home
    12. When to bring money/how much to bring

-The point of the calendar is to give students information in a form that they understand, be a tool to transmit information, answer student questions, teach strategies to become more independent, give students organizational strategies to manage themselves, teach students sequence (before/after), reduce behavior problems for students that resist change.


  1.  Choice boards and menus:  provides immediate reinforcement and effective way of teaching pointing and requesting.  Could be used when choosing –
  1. Leisure activities
  2. Who to work or play with
  3. Which store to go to
  4. Which job you want to do
  5. Which song to sing
  6. Which game or activity to do
  7. Who gets a turn
  8. Which work area to go to
  9. Places to visit
  10. What to eat for snack or meal
  11. To participate or not participate in an activity


  1.  Prepare students for transition:
  1. Show it on the schedule
  2. Refer to a clock or watch to indicate
  3. Set a timer to signal how long a student has
  4. Put a card on the student’s desk that tells he/she needs to stop in 5 minutes
  5. Create a natural ending by establishing a certain quantity


  1.   Structure the environment with labeling:  adding labels and markers to a student’s environment provides an opportunity for more independence.
  1. Teach the student to recognize labels that are already there
  2. Label the student’s personal space and belongings
  3. Label where things belong
  4. Label the environment


Critical Elements for Success:

  1. Place the educational focus on communication development FIRST.
  2. Design the level of communication in the classroom to match the student’s functioning level.
  3. Allow time for communication.
  4. Capture the moment.
  5. Teach communication skills in natural settings.
  6. Integrate communication training into the context of ongoing activities.
  7. Develop visual tools as a rich part of the environment to support communication.
  8. View behavior challenges in the context of communication.
  9. Specifically teach pragmatic skills.
  10. Include language activities that place a heavy emphasis on rhythm and rhyme.
  11. Ensure a strong relationship between the academic skills taught and the child’s experience.
  12. Make sure communication is integrated….not separate.

–Erin Williams