The Frenzied SLPs for January!

Hi! I'm Laura, and I'm honored to be part of The Frenzied SLPs! If you don't know about it yet, The Frenzied SLPs is a Facebook page dedicated to making your own frenzied SLP life easier! This month, you'll meet each participant and get a tip from each one. So… here's me!
I'm a native Texan. I try not to be an obnoxious Texan who thinks that everything revolves around Texas, but I can't help it. I'm guilty of this kind of thinking. Yes, we really believe here that everything is bigger in Texas!
In fact, when my sister, cousin and I were trying to decide on a store name for TpT, we thought of our initials - Amy, Laura, Lisa. ALL. All You Need was our next thought, but Amy Texan-ized it perfectly to All Y'all Need. So I'm the first L in the ALL of our name. Sometimes, it's just me and Amy together, so we are AL. Or just Amy and Lisa, AL again. It's rarely LL. Amy doesn't like to miss out!
 All Y'all Need on TpT
When I married my husband, I told him I never wanted to leave Texas and live somewhere else. But in 2006, we took a family trip to Disney World. A few trips later (okay, 5-6 trips later), Jim and I decided we want to live in Florida part of the year when we retire. Our plan is to buy an RV and spend 4 months in Florida and 4 months each with our son and daughter. They are just thrilled…
 All Y'all Need Disney Trip at Christmas
Jim and I took a Disney trip by ourselves in April 2013. It was a celebration trip. In early fall of 2012, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through the journey of a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation, and the April trip celebrated the end of those treatments. My breast cancer journey changed me in several ways, including having my "bossy firstborn" side come out more. Just ask "baby club" members Amy and Lisa!

So the "bossy firstborn" hat is what I'm wearing now. My tip is something I just discovered this year. After 21 years of being an SLP. It's so embarrassing that I didn't think of it before. (Or uhm-BEAR-uh-suhn. I'll stop with the Texas thing now). Therapy time is precious. There isn't time to be wasted on making all students happy with what they want - the color of a marker, the part in a game, line leader, etc.

I've tried several things. I did years of "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit". I didn't love doing things this way. After all, I'm trying to facilitate communication, and don't choices, self-advocacy, and acceptance come with that? Also, I had several groups who bargained - "Do you really want that? Wanna trade?" And that wasted time. So here's my tip, what I now say when starting out with a group:
It's very easy to do in therapy, but it's a little harder to explain in writing. Here's my attempt.

Set out dry-erase markers, Reader's Theater parts, game pieces, or anything you are using that day that involves a choice. Each student gets to indicate their first preference by touching - not grabbing - the item. For Earth Day Ask Away, I put the sheet into a sheet protector, and students use dry-erase markers to eliminate choices, like Guess Who? If everyone is touching different markers for their first choice, they get that marker, and we move on to therapy. It takes 30 seconds tops. (The hands belong to me, Jim, and my daughter. Just pay attention to the choices, not our ratchet hands. They were reluctant hand models). Here, we all get our first choice.
But I know there are going to be groups where two students want the same first choice, so I'll walk you through that. Let's say there's a group of 3 students and six markers. For the first choice, Student #1 touches blue, and Students #2-3 touch yellow. Student #1 gets the blue marker.
There's the coveted yellow marker left, plus orange, red, green and black. I take the yellow marker out. Now, Students #2-3 get to touch their second choice. If they choose the same second choice, like this picture where the second choice for both is black, here's what happens:
I take the yellow and black markers, mix them up behind my back, and hand them out. The students can see I haven't shown favoritism, so there's no cry of "Not fair!" when one gets the yellow marker and one gets the black. They've still gotten a choice. They know the other student won't trade. We move on.

If #2-3 choose two different second choices, that's okay, too. So I've taken out the yellow marker, #2 chooses black, and #3 chooses green.
I mix up all 3 markers behind my back and pass two out. And sometimes, neither #2 nor #3 gets the first choice. Sometimes, they get each other's second choices. There might be a quick trade, but it takes no longer than a few seconds.

Here's what I've noticed:
* Increased cooperation through communication. 
If students choose the same first choice, one often changes. I hear comments such as "#1 wants green more than I do - I'll take the red." And then in a future session, comments like this one from #1: "#2 let me have my first choice last time, so I'll change this time." Okay, that's mostly from the artic-only groups. But it's wonderful to hear the problem-solving and communication going on!
* No more "Not fair!" complaints.
Typically, if two students want the same first choice and we work through the steps above, there is NO grumbling, whining, or complaining. Not even from my student with AU who has to have the green marker every single time. No need for me to take out precious therapy time to referee.
* Acceptance. 
We don't always get everything in life we want. But I've given my students a choice. They know they might get their first choice in a future session.
* Students know the routine now. 
I have one group with two artic-only students who are friends. When we were using colored pencils one day, I set out the 20 pencils and didn't say anything. I thought they would just start writing their homework words. Instead, they both looked at me and asked, "Do you want us to touch our first choice?"
* Increased efficiency and more time for therapy.  
Really, it took you longer to read the how-to than it will be to carry it out. It now takes a very short time to introduce the lesson, get set up, and start communicating!

Thanks for reading, and I hope this help you out with your therapy! Be sure to follow The Frenzied SLPs  for more great tips!

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