Chapter 20—The art of doing one thing

We all strive to multitask.  As I sit here writing this summary I am typing, watching TV, helping my son study for a science test and cooking dinner.  I admit it.  My name is Michelle Hughes and I am a chronic multitasker.  So this chapter sums up to… multitasking is bad, but it feels so good!  It stimulates your limbic system. It makes me feel like so much is getting done (even though very few things ever truly get marked off my “to do” list!) Like the author, I am addicted to being over stimulated with my steady stream of distractions and “to dos”.  Multitasking is a habit that I need to break!

So let’s talk about habits. Habits are survival for all of us.  We would be unable to function if we had to think about so many aspects of our lives that are on autopilot.  Studies show 40-45% of what we do are habitual and not all are for the good. Sleeping late, binge watching Netflix, phone browsing… all habits that are counterproductive to being productive.  Habits have 3 simple parts: cue, routine reward.  I am so guilty of this one:  wake up (cue), look at my phone and look through various apps (routine), feeling connected to the world (reward). The more often you continue your habit, the more addicted neurologically you become.  Doing these multitasking habits releases dopamine to tell our brain and tells our body what we are doing feels good.  But when we multi task, we only get to the surface of our task because our attention is spread so thin.

Just do one thing!  Seems easy enough, but for this multitask addict mind it is really not.  I have to build up my attention muscle.  Here are some suggestions for how to do that:

– Work on Pomodoro Time:  Focus on one task for 25 minutes, break for 5,  after 4 rounds of working for 25 minutes take a 15 minute break.  This is a good strategy for beginner one taskers!

(Sounds like what the kids in my LBD class do on a shorter time frame!)

– Listen-  Stay focused on a conversation without thinking about what you are going to say when you chime in.  Listen.  Bring your attention to the conversation in front of you.  It is not always easy, especially when you have a talker on your hands.  This exercises your attention muscles.

– Reading— Devote your attention to what you are reading.  Since I am usually listening to audiobooks instead of reading, I often find my mind wandering.  Try to notice when your mind wanders with your reading and bring your thoughts back to the information presented.

– Eating:  Eat without doing anything else.  Focus on the flavors and textures of what you are eating.  Be mindful that your mind is not thinking about what is coming next.  Keep track of how often your mind wonders.  Imagine how delicious lunch could be when not mindlessly stuffing food in our faces while doing other things (such as writing service logs J)

The key to all of these exercises is to be mindful of where our minds are when we are doing a task and gently bring it back to the task.  Know that increasing attention will take time, but focusing on one activity will improve productivity and focus.

So due to my multitasking, my husband took over dinner so it wouldn’t burn, my son is playing with the puppy instead of studying, this review is probably full of errors and the TV is still on in the background.  I will start the “do one thing” challenge tomorrow

–Michelle Hughes

Chapters 18 and 19

18- Becoming More Deliberate

· “Takeaway: Research shows we only focus on what’s in front of us 53% of the time. Developing a strong “attention muscle” is what makes it possible to focus more the task on hand, which lets us lets us spend our time and attention more efficiently in the moment.”

This chapter focuses on being more deliberate with our time and making a true effort to focus what’s on hand. According to neuroscientists there are three parts that make up our attention: your central executive, focus and awareness.

I was amazed to hear that 47% of the time we are “daydreaming.” At the same time, I was not surprised because I do a lot of daydreaming or having my mind wonder about other things rather than my actual task. The author provided good information about being more deliberate, however this chapter didn’t give us a task to do. Do you have a suggestion on a way we can make our focus more deliberate and making our attention muscle strong?

19- Attention Hijackers

· “Takeaway: Dealing with distractions before they happen, like shutting off alerts on your phone for new messages, helps you avoid attention hijacking, interruptions. It can take as many as twenty-five minutes, to refocus on the task at hand after being interrupted.”

This chapter focuses on eliminating those outside distractions (such as your phone), which in turn will help with that “attention muscle” as well. The author mentioned that it takes the average person around 25 minutes to get back on task when they are interrupted. 25 minutes! That is a lot, especially thinking about how many times a day you get distracted. In addition, having so many distractions and stimulation affects your memory as well. I honestly feel that is true for me. When I’m trying to do too many things at once or getting distracted I forget what I was just doing! It’s crazy how your brain can get overloaded and then affect your memory. It’s not good because if there are important things you need to remember and you don’t write them down, you might be at a loss (sometimes happens to me!). What did you all think about this chapter? Do you agree that all the distractions and stimulation affects your memory as well?

Tech Tuesday

We are officially continuing with Tech Tuesday for 2019-2020! If you haven’t already submitted your post, please do ASAP!

Today, Kathy Mackenzie-Hensley shares:

I am just beginning to explore and find apps to use in speech therapy after receiving an Ipad at the end of May. All the previous “Tech Tuesday” blog posts have been so helpful. Thanks for the time you spent writing (and posting) those!

I found an app called “Question It,” which targets answering wh-questions. It has sorting, sentences, advanced sentences, and paragraph levels. In each of these levels there are multiple levels of cueing (full color cue, partial color cues, no color cue). There is a free version and a full version for less than $10. I am very excited about using this app with all age levels.






I also found an app called “Autism iHelp,” which is basically following directions and would work for anyone who is working on following directions. The free version only gives access to limited amounts, but it is definitely one I may look at buying.


         Comprehension 1

Comprehension 2

Thanks, Kathy!

Complex Communication Resources

Cindy Simpson shares:

Supporting students with complex communication needs can be overwhelming.  Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available within JCPS to help support SLPs as they work diligently to meet the communication needs of these students.  Supports include (but are not limited to) the ECE Assistive Technology (AT) Center, the Autism program, Occupational/Physical therapy, the Vision department, and the Hearing department.  Collaborating with staff in these programs can help problem solve through issues that may impact implementation of communication strategies such as having access to the appropriate technology, behavior concerns, sensory issues, physical barriers, positioning concerns, visual impairments, hearing impairments, etc.

Today’s blog will focus on the ECE AT Center.  The ECE AT Center offers a wide range of communication supports ranging from software to create low-tech pictures, bi-fold felt boards to mount/display pictures, low-tech picture communication books, low-tech eye gaze boards, tactile symbols/object kits for communication, single message speech generating devices, light tech static display speech generating devices, and high tech dynamic display communication devices.  The ECE AT Center’s website is a wonderful resource that provides access to AT forms, helpful AAC websites/articles/references, AAC questionnaires/screening tools/data sheets, AAC handouts for parents/school staff, AAC video tutorials, AAC webinars, and sample AAC boards.  Some samples are provided below.  You can access the ECE AT Center website at
Do you have and great resources that you love to share?

Chapter 16: Rising Up

We all create lists, whether they are in our head or written down. Usually these lists are made up of things to do or items to buy at a store. Less often do we create lists of things in the past. Creating a list of everything you’ve worked on from the previous week allows you to see what you accomplished (which can be even quite motivating), but it also allows you to plan for the week ahead. Its important to rise above daily tasks and look at things from a distanced perspective to realize what you have/have not accomplished and how to adjust your course, which helps us to work more deliberately. Creating this “weekly review” is a great way we can externalize our tasks.

A more systematic method of forming a weekly review is through the use of “hot spots”. Hot spots are 7 different areas that we invest our time/attention/energy into on a daily basis. Listed below are the seven areas (your names may vary). The author went as far as to say that hot spots “let me feel more in control of my work than ever before”. So, if you take anything from this post, it would be to group your life into hot spots by listing all your tasks, commitments and projects from each area.
7 Hot Spots
Creating an expanded list under each area and list all of your commitments allows you to think about how much time you spent in each area and what to prioritize for the week ahead, while ensuring that tasks aren’t ignored. Productive individuals make course corrections every week in order to gradually get better. Another key term to take from this chapter is the concept of tilting. Tilting means to focus on one area of life more than the others for a period of time. (ex: some people focus heavily on their careers early in their adult life to ensure more resources for down the road). Tilting is fine to do, as long as we are aware and are able to eventually steer back to a more balanced course. In summary, taking a step back to look at the big picture and looking at your life through organized hot spots allows you to adjust accordingly to make sure you are on the right path.
-Mary Gwen Walker, SLP at L:ayne Elem.

Chapter 17: Making Room

Our brains are constantly working; seesawing between two modes: wandering and central executive. An example of the wandering mode is when you take a shower, your mind starts to wander; you may have a new insight or eureka moment. The opposite takes place when you scroll through your cell phone; your mind is in central executive mode: focused, impatient, and analytic. Experts recommend spending time in both wandering and central executive modes.

According to the author, the average American spends around 7 hours on electronic devices daily. For most, this is 45% of their waking hours. When staring at a screen, your mind is in the central executive mode and unable to wander. Is this really how we want to spend our time? Is this really how we want our students to spend their time?

Also important to note: Wandering mode is the opposite of a brain dump. When your mind loops through all the things you need to do, then there’s no capacity to enter the wandering mode.

The author suggests some activities we can do to put our mind in the wandering mode: walking in nature, spending time with friends and family, going for a massage, praying, knitting, candlelit bath, listening to music, performing creative art, reading, meditating, visiting an art gallery, and exercising. What’s your favorite activity to get your mind in the wandering mode?

I love it when I am exercising and my mind wanders; afterward, my mind is clear and fresh with new ideas. I also love to catch my mind wandering on a tangent when I am trying to read a book – like right now! Does that happen to you? As an SLP, my mind stays mostly in the central executive mode during the workday. Therefore, its important to partake in self-care outside of work including activities to allow our minds to wander.

Side note: When I started reading this book, I never imagined the author would make a case that daydreaming makes someone more productive. But, I like daydreaming so it works for me!

-Katie Cohen


Lesson Pix

Erin Norton (SLP at Coleridge-Taylor Elementary) shares:
I’ve been using LessonPix for a couple of years now and it’s amazing! It does cost $36/year, but it is totally worth it. You can always share a log-in with a friend and split cost 🙂. It’s similar to Boardmaker, but does have differences. I think its a lot more user friendly. You can find ANY picture imaginable and you can upload your own pictures as well. There are pre-made visuals as well so you may not even need to make your own. Here are some things you can use it for:
  • Board games
  • Games such as Go Fish, Tic Tac Toe, Treasure Hunt, matching, find the picture
  • Overlays for AAC devices such as GoTalk, Ablenet, communication boards
  • Articulation materials such as minimal pairs
  • Picture cards/flash cards
  • Visual Schedules
  • “I am working for” layouts
I attached some examples of materials I’ve made from LessonPix: