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Tips for a New Pushed In Preschool SLP: Part One

This is the time of year where many Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) start to change jobs. As a result, SLPs are soliciting advice about how to be successful in their new positions.  Here are my tips for an SLP who is new to pushed in Preschool Special Education preschool (SPED) classrooms.

1. Establish a good working relationship with the classroom staff.  When classroom teams work well together, it goes really well, but when there are issues between team members, it can make for a very loooong and challenging year. This is especially true with pushed in therapy because you are going to be spending more time with the other classroom staff than if you are doing pull out therapy.  These can be long conversations, but they are essential to have before everyone is feeling frustrated and/or stressed. At the beginning of the year, here are some critical questions to ask or topics to discuss:
  • What are the views on dealing with behaviours? 
  • What is talking with parents in the classroom going to look like?
  • What is your general philosophy towards therapy and what is their experience in the past?
  • How do you like staff to share information with you and vice versa?
  • What are your duties going to be in the classroom? 
  • If you are not in the classroom the whole time, when will you be there and what will that look like.  

2. Establish a routine.  Whether you are working with the rest of the classroom staff to establish a routine for the whole class or not, when you are in the classroom, you need to develop a routine.  If you are leading circle or part of circle, make sure that you have a routine.  If you are doing adult-directed activities, make sure that you have a routine.  This will allow the children to be able to follow the activity and to know when it is over.  This will make your time with the students more productive and it will reduce any anxiety a preschooler may be feeling.

3. Make visuals your new best friend.  You all know how important visuals are.  While visuals are important in the older grades, they are imperative in a preschool classroom.  For many students, this is their first time away from home which is scary.  On top of a language delay, they may not speak English at home or speak it sparingly. This makes it even more imperative to have pictures ready to start treating the language delays and introduce students to English.   Visuals will help with children's fears (they will learn faster what to expect),  increase familiarity with routines, and help students to learn how to be in a group.  The faster you can make them used to establish the routine and the classroom expectations, the faster and better the classroom will run. One of the first steps is to have your visuals ready.

Make sure you have a variety of visuals. It is important to have visuals prepared for all transitions that occur in the classroom. First/then boards, choice boards, schedules, self-help sequences are just a few types of visuals I make sure that I have ready for the beginning of the year. I typically have smaller ones to show individual students and larger visuals to show the whole group.  It's a lot I know, but it is better to be over prepared than under prepared.

4. Make sure that you have a general AAC strategy ready for the classroom.  Over the years, the number of children who start preschool not talking in my school has increased dramatically. These students may not have any AAC in place.  If you are lucky, they may have been working on using PECS.  My philosophy is that PECS is not enough to teach children to communicate.  Having a general strategy for the whole class is very valuable to help introduce AAC to the children and their parents.  It also starts the expectation of using aided language strategies on the first day which establishes good habits for the staff and the students.  

5. Become familiar with the toys/centres in the classroom. I work at a play-based centre and so I tend to use the equipment in the classroom especially for the young ones who have short attention spans and still learning to sit for adult-directed activities.  What figurines do they have?  Do they have a water or sand table?  Do they have cars?  Think about what goals/vocabulary you can use in the different areas or with the different toys.  Especially at the start of the year, you will have better engagement and longer direct therapy time with preschoolers who are having fun at a centre than trying to have the students run on your agenda.

These are just five times, to make your preschool experience a positive one.  Next week, I will share five more tips.   

Reviewing the "Something to Say" Book Series

I typically don't do reviews on this blog, but I am today. I am going to review the books in the series "Something to Say" written by Eden Molineux.  Now I don't have any financial interest in these books. I purchased these books from Amazon. However, she is a Speech-Language Pathologist from Alberta, and we do have friends/former colleagues in common.  The speech world can be a tiny community.  

Overall these books are well written with simple language that children in preschool, kindergarten and through grade one would readily understand. They read like social stories in that they talk about their communication difficulties and some strategies that the listeners/children can use.  They are also about children who typically are not represented in books, especially for that age group. As a result, they would also be good to read in classrooms even if there are no children who stutter, mispronounce their words, or use a talker to communicate.

These books also point out interests that the children may have which shows that children are not just their "communication disorder" which I think is an important point to raise not only for the children hearing the story but also for the adults reading it.  

If you looking to expand your collection of books for the preschool/kindergarten age range, I would recommend picking these books up.  Here is a link to the Something to Say website if you are interested: 

Using Woven Books in Speech and Language Therapy

I wish that I could take credit inventing this little gem, but I can't.  An Educational Assistant/Speech-Language Pathology Assistant showed me how to make these about ten years ago when I was just starting my journey as an SLP.  I thought I would pass this along to you by showing how to make them and how I use them.

 This has been an invaluable tool not only for speech therapy but for language therapy as well. I have used these books in preschool; however, they are best for kindergarteners and older.  

How to Use a Woven Book:

1. As a craftivity:  I will have the children make them on their own.  They have to follow directions on how to fold, cut and weave the books.  Then in one or maybe two sessions, they will decorate the book with images related to their goals.  For example,  If they are working on the "ch" sound, then they would either draw pictures of "ch" words, write them out or glue pictures onto the book, all the while having them practicing their sounds.

2.  As a homework book:  If the children are working on pronunciation goals, after each session, have students add one word to the book at the end of the session.  I typically allow them to pick from a few words that they have been using successfully.  At home, they practice all the words in their book.  Sometimes I don't send them home.  I have students take them back to class and have their teacher or another staff member go through the book with them and practice their sounds/words/sentences throughout the week. I have done the same with vocabulary and grammar goals.

3.  Vocabulary Dictionary: I have the children add the vocabulary words they have been working on to their book.  If they have are able to, I have them add the definition of the word.  This can be helpful if you are working on classroom vocabulary.  The students can then refer back to the meaning of the word while in class. If they are working on language processing type goals,  say similarities and differences, they put the words down and then write down they the are the same or different.  

4. Grammar book:  This is great for pronouns and verbing/tense type goals. If you are working on "he" and "she," have the children draw or write out the pronouns at the top of the woven pages.  Then have objects, verbs, etc... on the remainder of the pages.  When practicing they will pick a word/picture and make a sentence using the correct pronoun.  

5. Demonstration of progress:  I will date the words, sentences, etc... that they add to the book.  This way if they were working on artic goals, you could show them, parents, or school staff how they have progressed during therapy.  

6. Help the children understand their goals:  I have the children write out, or I will transcribe what they are working on the book.  This allows us to talk about their goals.  

How to Make the Woven Books:

1.  Print off the template.  You can find it here. You will need both pages to make a book. The second page will make enough strips for two books. I like to print them off in two different colours.  It makes the book pop.  

2.  Fold the first page in half with the writing on the outside.

3.  Fold along the dotted lines inwards towards the middle.

4.  Unfold the page and then fold it in half again.

5.  Cut along the solid lines.  The middle of your book should look like piano keys 

6. Cut out the strips from the second page.  You will need only two pieces to make a book.

7.  Weave the strips from the second page into the middle of the book.  You will need to weave each side of the book in opposite directions (i.e., one side of the book is woven out then in, and the other side of the book is woven in then out).  This will allow the book to bend and split. 

8. Refold all the book.  Fold the middle seam both ways.  This will allow the book to bend and split more easily. Do not glue the strips of paper together, you will not be able to fold the book correctly.

9. Have the children write out their goals and start adding to the book.  For children who are older, have them write it out.  For younger children, I will have them glue on pictures.  I have used picture lists from Speech Therapy Plans.   If you have students who like stickers, you can print these off on sticker paper and cut them out.  That way they have functional stickers. 

Would you make this and what goals would you target?