Chapters 30-33

Because of some confusion, we have 2 posts for chapters 30 and 31. 🙂

Chapter 30

Wow! Melody awoke to a rainy, stormy day. Dad’s arm was in a sling after he punched the wall following Melody’s mistreatment, and he was taking off. Mom had a migraine and had to go in to work, although she had planned to be off. Penny was sick and the dog had thrown up on the carpet. Mom tried to entice Melody to stay home but Melody was determined to go to school. Because the whole family operation was running late, Mom had to drive Melody. A tired, emotionally- drained mom backed out of the drive. Soon, Melody was kicking and screaming ,trying to pull the keys out of the ignition, and grabbing Mom’s arm. And it was only when the car hit something with a soft thud that Mom became aware that Penny had run out of the house. Mom “screamed for a long, long time.”.

Obviously, Melody’s journey has taken its toll on the whole family. Here are parents who are trying so hard to support their daughter. It’s a reminder that we only see part of the student’s life. We don’t know the trials and the level of exhaustion a family experiences. Another note, Melody did not have access to Elvira, her communication device, during her time in the car. If only she had had an effective way to communicate . . .  We can’t plan on when we need communication.

Chapter 31

Melody feels responsible for the accident and she is extremely scared. She talks this out with Ms V, using Elvira, and Ms V is very supportive. She is worried that Penny could have brain damage or have to use a wheel chair. “Two broken kids,” Melody types. She communicates that she would rather be left at the airport than see her sister hurt this way. Dad calls with good news about Penny.

What strikes me is that with all the beautiful words that seem to flow through Melody’s head at times, her communication using Elvira is pretty “to the point.” Like she asks Ms V, “Is she dead?” Melody is not beating around the bush, and there is probably a lot of effort in typing novel utterances in this unplanned conversation. She NEEDS to be a writer in my opinion, because her thoughts are wonderful.

 

Chapter 32

Melody goes to school on Monday and confronts her peers in Mr Dimming’s class. She breaks their silence by asking “WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME?” And to Claire, “YOU THREW UP! NOBODY LEFT YOU.” I was proud to her boldness in talking with them. They offer to give her their ugly, cheap little 9th place trophy, and her jerky hands makes it fall to the floor and break. And Melody giggles. “I DON”T WANT IT. YOU DESERVE IT,” she tells them. (Yeah, Melody!!)

Chapter 33

I love Melody’s description of herself. It’s like somebody gave her a puzzle with no picture on the box. And she’s not even sure if she has all the pieces. Her sister is home from the hospital. Melody is at Ms V’s house working on a school project. And we get a little more information. She has just one thumb to communicate with!!   And the ending of the story goes back and repeats the beautiful first chapter. She is surrounded by words, having been blanketed with words by her family. Deep within her are “mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas. Clever expressions. Jokes. Love songs.” How could I have taken my ability to speak and joke and sing for granted for so long?

–Pam Schmit

And take 2 for chapters 30 and 31…

Chapter 30

The next day after Melody had been left out of the quiz team trip, she was determined to go to school. She was angry and didn’t want anyone to think that she could be defeated that easily. The weather was horrific and everything was going wrong. Dad was injured, mom had a migraine, and Penny was sick. Melody’s mom and dad all but begged her to stay home, but she refused. After a series of unfortunate events including spilling orange juice, having to change her shirt, and missing the bus, Melody’s mom had managed to get her in the car in the pouring rain. Then, Melody realized she did not have her book bag. As her dad opened the door to give her mom the book bag, Penny slipped outside, unseen by all except Melody. Melody kicked, screamed, hit her mom, and did anything and everything to try and get her message across. She was going out of her mind and never wanted words more. Backing out of the driveway, they hear a soft thud, and realize the worst has happened and Penny had been hit by the car. I cannot imagine not being to communicate in an emergency. What are some ways that SLPs can provide our non-verbal students to communicate in ALL situations, even when they do not have their devices readily available?

Chapter 31

Mrs. V looked after Melody as her parents went to the hospital with Penny. She brought Melody her device, but in that moment Melody had nothing more to say. Mrs. V said that Melody was not at fault and that she had tried to warn her mother. Melody responded that she had been mad at Penny and had made her mom take her to school. Melody was so worried that Penny was hurt or dead, and then she also wondered if her cognition would be impacted, like her classmate, Jill. She could not imagine that happening to Penny, and then her parents would have “two broken kids”. Mrs. V talked Melody through the accident and through the incident with the quiz team. Melody confided that she just wished she could be normal, and Mrs. V responded that normal sucks and the kids who left her on the quiz team trip were “normal” and why would she want to be like them? They received the news that Penny had made it through surgery and would live. What would be some good activities to do with students to help them realize that “normal” does not exist and everyone is unique in their way?

–Rachel Lacap

Tech Tuesday

Megan Zeman shares:

One of my professional goals this year has been to expand my knowledge and implementation of AAC. I work in a middle school and a significant portion of my caseload uses AAC in some form and with a broad variety of ability. I find that I often get into a rut with using the same materials and targeting the same core words. It can be difficult to motivate my students to branch out and become engaged in new tasks. However, with the iPads the speech department received through a grant from the WHAS Crusade for Children, I’ve been able to find a variety of apps that are both highly engaging for my students (especially my students with a diagnosis of Autism who can be difficult to motivate to communicate) and that also allow me to target multiple core words.

1. Toca Boca and Peekaboo

Admittedly, these apps are a little juvenile for the middle school population. However, they’re still a big hit with some of my students in the MSD classrooms that I serve. Both Toca Boca and Peekaboo have multiple apps with different themes making them great to switch up according to seasons or holidays. These specific apps, Toca Boo and Peekaboo Barn were my favorite price, free! Other apps from these companies are fairly cost effective and range anywhere from $1.99 – $2.99 for individual apps. Both companies offer bundles of their apps for $4.99 and up.

Both of these apps are highly engaging for students and offer lots of repetition for multiple opportunities to use core words. In the picture below I was able to target core words using the following phrases: “What’s in the barn?”, “Can you get the animal out?”, “Open the doors.”, “Close the doors.”, “We’re all done with this animal.”, “Is the animal up in the loft or down in the barn.”, etc.

  1. GoTalk Now LiteThis is another free to download app. I have several students that are working on using real photographs to communicate. They’re just not ready for line drawings like the ones that you would find on Boardmaker. This app allows you to create communication boards by taking pictures directly on your iPad and adding them into buttons. You can create displays from 4 buttons up to 36. This app also features a picture library from GoTalk. The pictures aren’t the greatest but would do in a pinch. Examples of communication boards featuring the stock GoTalk images and photographs are below. As I don’t have ready access to a color printer at my school this has been an excellent solution for those times when I need just a few fringe words for choice boards or when working on language expansion. Note that on the bottom right hand side of the screen there is an icon with an exclamation mark that when pushed displays a set of core words. These are the same across all pages just like at the top of the GoTalk devices. However, they’re easy to change if you need a different one or a different set for a specific session.

  2. Epic!

This app has been so handy to use with my students that are working on higher-level language skills such as inferencing, vocabulary, ‘wh’-questions, main idea, and detail. When you create an account through Epic! using your school e-mail address you have access to 25,000 ebooks, audiobooks, educational videos, and quizzes. I have been finding that my students are much more engaged in reading the material when they get to read and ‘turn pages’ on the iPad. If they come across a word that they’re struggling with they can hold the word down and a definition will pop up. I love using this app for defining words using the context from the stories. The students enjoy using the definition feature to check their answers in real time. The best part of the app is the ability to create quizzes for every story that you read or video that you watch. I’ve made quizzes targeting one skill such as vocabulary (see below) and other quizzes targeting multiple skills for my mixed groups. High interest and “weird” non-fiction articles such as Bigfoot by Jamie Kallio have been great in keeping my older boys that aren’t always thrilled with coming to speech engaged. I haven’t used fiction stories with this app as much but I’ve noticed that the selection seems to be decent. For example, there are a ton of books from the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine featured in the app.

Book opportunity!

DO YOU WANT A COPY OF THIS BOOK??

Playing with Words 365 shares one cute activity to use with this book here. What other activities would you do with this book? If you would be willing to share some of your fun activities via a blog post, let me know (email me at Kinsey.chambers@jefferson.kyschools.us or comment below) and I will send one person this book to use and blog about!!

Slime Time!

I know that (fingers crossed) the slime craze is winding down a little, but it could still be a great activity for therapy! You could practice following directions. Here is a recipe with picture supports that I created using Symbolstix. This is where I found the recipe, originally (I didn’t include measurements on the picture directions because I couldn’t make it fit!) Other fun ideas include:

  •  Use your EET prompts to describe the slime
  • You could also incorporate EET into your slime activity would by mixing beads of corresponding colors into the slime. Kiddos could be prompted to find the beads in the slime and give that information related to the item or topic of your choosing (For example, if the student pulled the blue bead, he or she would tell what that items does.)
  • Similarly, you could hide lettered beads like any of these in the slime to use with artic. kiddos!
  • Work a slime themed fiction book like Once Upon a Slime or Crunch Crackle Pop Slime Shop
  • Or a nonfiction book like The Slime Workshop: 20 DIY Projects to Make Awesome Slimes―All Borax Free! or The Slime Book
  • This would be a great activity to use for push-in or collaboration with the OT!

Have you used slime in therapy? What fun activities have you used?

***Disclaimer- I would recommend having students wash their hands prior to this session :)***

 

 

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

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