Monday, September 1, 2014

Grandparents Day!

September 7th is Grandparents Day! Be sure to call or write a letter to your Grandparents letting them know just how much you love an appreciate them.

Above is a photograph of my Grandpa Richard Mahon and Grandma Helen Mahon with my adorable dad when he was a child. The second photograph is my Grandpa T.H. Fitzpatrick and Grandma Naomi Fitzpatrick celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. 

All of my grandparents have passed away with the exception of my Grandma Helen, who will be 91 this year! I personally feel it is important to recognize our Grandparents. I know that all of mine were incredibly influential in my life.  So in honor of my Grandparents and all Grandparents out there I created this material so that you can talk about Grandparents day with all of your kids!

This packet includes the following:
- A mix of “wh” questions + some how questions. (12 in total).
- Learning how to address an envelope.
- Guided letter writing (fill in the blank).
- Independent letter writing.
- Guided letter writing (via drawing pictures).
- Creative design - drawing a self portrait with their
grandma or grandpa. This can lead into great discussion
on attributes, actions, basic concepts, etc…

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Review of "Visual Attention TherAppy" app by Tactus Therapy

Recently, I have had a significant increase in my patients post stroke or TBI that have visual attention deficits. One app that I have enjoyed using and hope to purchase is the "Visual Attention TherAppy" app by Tactus Therapy. This is a visual scanning task where the patient has a specified target they must identify by scanning left to right through multiple lines.
This app offers two major features, an assessment feature and a practice/therapy feature. The task of the patient/student is to visually attend to one or two targets presented. The patient must scan from left to right and line-by-line. If a symbol is missed a tone will sound on the iPad to alert the patient that they must go back and re-scan. Below is a picture of a two trial task.

As you can all see I have the Lite version. The full version currently costs $9.99. The benefit of the Lite version includes: the option of 1 or two targets to attend to, a signal that can bring attention to either left or right side neglect, the settings options, and the ability to e-mail results with results already computed. You also have a variety of letters each time you re-open the app.

The benefits of the full version includes: the 10 different levels - Same Symbol, Same Letter, Symbol in Letters, Letter in Symbols, Symbol in Symbols & Letters, Dissimilar Symbols, Similar Symbols, Dissimilar Letters, and Similar Letters. You also have all of the aforementioned features in the Lite version.

Here are a few more pictures featuring the settings options, the signal bar, and a sample e-mail that can be sent.

I like to push my patients by adding in background noise, the task of attending to conversation as well, or performing a second task simultaneously. I very much enjoy using this app as apart of my therapy, when I free up more data on my iPad I hope to purchase it!

What apps or activities do you use for your patients with visual attention deficits?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tracheal-esophageal Prothesis!

About a month ago I had the opportunity to travel to Indiana for the Blom-Singer Tracheal-esophageal Prothesis course! First, I just have to say WOW! This was such a fantastic course, and to have the opportunity to learn from Dr. Blom and his colleagues was nothing short of awesome! I am amazed with the creativity and inginuity in the makings of the various prothesis.

When I first started in this field my knowledge base of a laryngectomy was limited. When I started working at my outpatient facility I was inspired to continue expanding my knowledge base due to our population. To understand the tracheal-esophageal prothesis (TEP) we first must ask, what is it? Why does a person need it? How is it used? 

Why would someone need a TEP?
After a person is diagnosed with a laryngeal cancer they are typically offered one, more or all of the following options:

1. Surgery to remove tumor
2. Radiation
3. Chemo
4. Partial laryngectomy
5. Full laryngectomy

When a person has a laryngectomy there larynx is removed. When the larynx is removed this means that the vocal folds are removed. A stoma is created into the enterance of the trachea so the patient now has a new airway.

Now without vocal folds it is pretty difficult to communicate but there are options such as...

1. Esophageal speech
2. Electrolarynx
3. Tracheal esophageal prothesis
4. Other AAC options

What is it?/How does it work?
A TEP is placed above the stoma site (see below). This in essence is a fistula created through the tracheal wall into the esophgeal wall (a shared wall). A prothesis is placed that has a valve. The patient now can take a breath, digitally occlude (finger occlude) their stoma and the air will now be directed through the prothesis in order to then create a voice through the new vibratory source, the esophagus.

Stoma with no TEP

Stoma with TEP

Lateral view of tracheal-esophageal shared wall.

Now you might be thinking, why the need for a valve? You need the valve in order to eat. If you do not have a prothesis in (or a prothesis that is just open - no valve) and a patient drinks or eats the food/drink will then fall through the fistula and then into the airway. Food into the airway equals an increased chance of choking and pneumonia. The above image is fantastic for the new airway flow when the stoma is covered.

Learning how to correctly place a TEP.
There are several important factors in placing a TEP but the two I wanted to share is in regards to size and are so very critical for appropriate placement. First you will hear the terms "16 French" "20 French" and possibily even a "23.5 French." This is in regards to the diameter of the prothesis. A concept that was emphasized at the conference was "bigger is not always better." You must respect the fistula that has been placed. This is tissue that has been through trauma and the least amount of bother one is to the tissue the better. Many place a larger TEP - 20 French and up thinking that the receiver will then have a better vocal quality. This is not always the case. I was so fortunate to meet a woman at this conference who volunteered for us to practice TEP placements with. She had a 16 French placement and had a very clear AND feminine voice! 

The next size concern is the depth of tracheal-esophageal wall tissue. How long does the TEP need to be? It is important not to have it too tight and especially not too lose (leakage). You use a measuring tool/dialator (below) in order to determine the correct size.

The dilator looks something like this...

Keep in mind that patient's that are just post laryngectomy and TEP/fistula placement, they will be sore and swollen. It will take time for this tissue heal.  Dr. Blom recommends for a secondary TEP patient (a patient that had a laryngectomy and then decided they wanted a TEP and when back later for their surgery) could be placed with the TEP 2-3 days post surgery. They would then be able to start vocalizing as soon as the TEP was placed. They may need to come back in 2-3 weeks for a new prothesis due to recovery of tissue. 

There are also two major types of TEP's - indwelling and non-indwelling. An indwelling must be replaced by a medical professional, a non-indwelling can be replaced by the patient. Just because a patient has a non-indwelling that doesn't mean they do not need to continue to work with a medical professional. The TEP site can change and so does the needs of the patient.

Problem solving is a big part of placing TEP's. I highly recommend going to a TEP course and that being said this blog post should not be considered enough education to go and do a TEP placement - going to a course first is recommended.

What is your experience with TEP's? What courses do you recommend?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Therapy Gone Wrong for a "Type A" SLP

Every Speech-Language Pathologist dreams of the day when they will have back-to-back perfect treatment sessions. Imagine finding that perfect game, having all three of your patient’s brothers and sisters sitting quietly off to the side as you and your patient work without interruption; or imagine zero behavioral outbursts, despite challenging your patient with more difficult tasks.
More often than not, this “perfect” treatment session is not what my treatment session looks like! 

During a treatment session or an assessment my telephone will ring or a colleague will knock on the door.  Shoes and socks are not just slipped off, but are thrown into the air for an unknown reason. The special reinforcement snack (that I bought especially for my patient) is now considered “yucky” and inevitably the bubbles, which are my back up for when all goes wrong, are spilled everywhere. The toy or game that I imagined the patient requesting, describing, or problem solving with, just goes awry!
As a Speech-Language Pathologist who admittedly has a Type A personality, these scenarios left me frustrated, overwhelmed and exhausted. Frustrated, because I couldn’t get this treatment right.  Overwhelmed, because I personally felt embarrassed that my therapy plan was not playing out the way I wanted in front my of patient’s parents. Exhausted, because I spent countless hours revisiting the treatment session in my mind, trying to pin point the moment where I lost control of the appointment, thinking of reasons why the toy wasn’t the right fit, and contemplating the possibility of having the wrong room. In reality the problem wasn’t any of that. It was myself, and dare I say it was my very own Type A personality traits, getting in the way!

When I took a step back, and pushed my Type A personality traits aside, I realized all of the amazing therapy opportunities that I was letting just slip through my fingers! The telephone ringing, people knocking on my door, toys breaking, shoes flying, yucky snacks… yes all of it could be used in treatment with benefit! I started to ask myself questions such as: “Did my patient attend to the telephone ringing? Could they localize the sound? Did they label the telephone or imitate the sound? Did they ask a “wh” question? Did they relate a personal experience regarding the phone? For my older patients, were they able to return to task? Was the ringing a distraction? Could my patient continue to attend to their first given task despite the background noise?” I found that a plethora of analysis and treatment options just opened up all in a natural opportunity!

You may be thinking, alright the telephone rang, I can overcome that, what about a toy breaking, shoes flying, a yucky snack, or bubbles dumped over my head? All of these seemingly problematic scenarios present with equal and unique opportunities for treatment. Broken toy or a toy with missing pieces? Go on a scavenger hunt! Model asking to fix the toy, “mommy fix please?” Talk about the disaster, “Oh no, toy broken!” Take the opportunity to teach how to trade it in for a new toy! Yucky snack? One-by-one throw pieces of it away telling each piece goodbye or emphasize the appropriate pragmatics of “no thank you!” Bubbles spilled everywhere? Let’s practice learning how to take turns, practice saying “sorry,” model cleaning up with the clean up song, or teach new vocabulary such as, “oh no!” “gross!” or “sticky bubbles!”

Learning to let go of “the plan” can sometimes be the most beneficial and fun part of your treatment or assessment. So push those Type A tendencies aside and let the creative juices flow. Look for the hidden speech and language treasures that can come out of a “therapy gone wrong” session!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stars in Her Eyes by Dr. Linda Barboa with Elizabeth Obrey

In graduate school, I always enjoyed going to Dr. Linda Barboa's class. I enjoyed her classes because she provided theory/evidence within her teachings and she provided real life experiences. When I found out that Dr. Barboa and Elizabeth Obrey were writing a book about Autism, I was thrilled!

Stars in Her Eyes provides an informative look into Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This book gives a unique perspective from a Speech-Language Pathologist, an educator, and a mother of two children with ASD. This collaboration may have been my favorite part of this book! To have the opportunity to not only hear what an SLP would say about a topic but also see the perspective of a mother and an educator was incredibly helpful. It serves as a reminder that a multitude of perspectives can add value to treating a child with Autism.

Though I am not a mother, I imagined myself as a parent who discovered her child has Autism. From this view, I felt validated that my child is not the only one, that the sleep issues my child had been experiencing are common, and that there is hope! This book is a great place to start, with all of the literature and different treatment options available it is nice to have a book where you can review it all and then make a decision. Another benefit of this book is that the language is easy to understand. You are not reading a journal article where you have to look up what Pearson R Coefficient means! You are able to get the information you need, reflect on it and move on to what you feel you need to do for your family.

As a Speech-Language Pathologist all I can say is "I want more!" The wide variety of challenges and interventions that can help with those challenges for children with Autism are extensive! In order to dive deeper into communication, sensory issues or social skills this would warrant an entire text book dedicated to any of the aforementioned skills. Dr. Barboa, how about those additional text books? :-)

Since I am an Outpatient Speech-Language Pathologist and I do not work within the school system I appreciated the overview of the school system guidelines and how to advocate for a child with ASD. I also appreciated insight into sensory issues, various interventions and resources provided in the book.

I feel confident in recommending this book to several of the parents that I work with as well as fellow Speech-Language Pathologists who work with our plan to work with children with Autism. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Stranger Danger

Stranger Danger Material
Recently in Springfield, Missouri a horrific crime was committed against a ten year old girl Hailey Owens. I created this free Stranger Danger material in her memory. In this activity there is a board game provided where each student has the change to race home to win. Depending on the color they land on will determine if they do one of the following:
    1. Tell you if the scenario read aloud is a Safe Idea or a Stranger Danger situation. Cards are also provided to hold up for the answer.

    2. Explain what they would do in a given situation.

    3. Sort a given character into the stranger, familiar person, or friend/family section.
With this game all you will need to provide are token pieces for each player and a set of dice. I encourage all of you to download, make copies and share. Talk about methods to ward off strangers or to help identify if the person is a stranger such as having a buddy system or creating a family password.

This activity provides opportunity for several language goals to be addressed such as: reasoning, problem solving, sentence formulation, pragmatic language skills, etc. This activity can be found on my teachers pay teachers store at 


Friday, January 17, 2014

The Flu Won't Get Me Down!

For the past couple of days I have been home with the flu. Yuck.  Below is me in a nutshell...

But I won't let the flu get me down! The past couple of days I have been working diligently on getting this project done. I started this project probably a year ago! Crazy it took me that long to finish it but it is great quality!

The two links below will lead you to my teachers pay teachers store. There I have added two confrontation naming materials, a lite version and a full version. In the lite version there are 10 confrontation naming tasks that include a hierarchy of cues for the patient. In the full version there are over 90 confrontation naming tasks, a hierarchy of cues for each task and a way to track progress for the patient! I hope you enjoy it, I know that I am super excited to use it personally in acute care, long term acute care and my outpatient facility!