Four Lessons for Helping Children With Big Worries (Part 1)

Are you a parent or speech-language pathologist helping a child with big worries? This post – aimed at helping children with big worries – is targeted for parents and professionals working with children. Children with a wide variety of diagnoses and needs can have big worries. What can adults do to help? I’ll outline four easy lessons in this post. In posts to come, I’ll dig deeper into this topic.

5 Useful Social Skills Goals

5 useful social skills goals for speech therapy

Are you an SLP who writes social skills goals? These goals can be some of the trickiest goals to write! In an effort to help you out a bit, here are the goals I use. I hope these suggestions are helpful and useful!

Social skills goals aren’t easy to write. I remember starting out as an SLP and being stumped by social skills goals. Making goals specific, measurable, and big enough to track across a year…well, it wasn’t easy! Because of this, I’m sharing the goals I now use in this post.

Are my goals perfect? Not in the least. In fact, everyone writes social skills differently. Even so, I hope that by sharing the goals I use, you are able to more easily write your own social skills goals. I’m sharing the ones that work for me in this post. Take what you can use, and leave the rest. Please feel free to edit them as liberally as needed to suit your own lessons and style!

For each goal, I’ve used a fictional student name and suggested accuracy/cues, which you will need to update to your own liking.

5 Useful Social Skills Goals

Goal One: Improving Topic Maintenance

Audrey will improve her pragmatic language by accomplishing the following: a) demonstrating understanding of expected versus unexpected behaviors/topics by choosing expected behaviors/topics in 3 school settings or locations, b) initiating a conversation topic of her choice/another person’s choice c) taking 5 social turns on a topic of her choice and a topic of another person’s choice with 4 of 5 accuracy in structured activities, independently.

Goal Two: Identifying Expected Versus Unexpected Behaviors

Baker will identify expected versus unexpected behaviors and topics with 4 out of 5 accuracy in structured activities with 2-3 clinician prompts (visual/verbal).

These terms are taught by the Social Thinking camp, you can find more information here.

You Tube is one of my favorite resources for examples for this goal. Make you you preview whatever videos you choose. There are plenty of comedy videos of people having huge reactions to small problems. In addition, Mr Bean is a great example of some pretty hilarious behaviors, and since there isn’t dialogue, it can be easier for some of our learners to understand. You can also find some big toddler meltdowns and talk about the behaviors mentioned. Take your time discussing the videos and what the characters could have done differently.

Have fun with this! These videos are hilarious, so enjoy watching them. When you make learning fun, your learners will be more engaged.
Once you do examples for others (YouTube), then move to school scenarios and other real-life scenarios. For example I might ask a learner, “would be expected or unexpected for a student to go to the cafeteria and wait in line patiently for lunch?” or I could ask the client “would it be expected or unexpected for a student to go to the library and sing at the top of their lungs?”

I would also demonstrate both types of behaviors. When my learners can tell me what I’m doing wrong or differently, they get to be in charge. This is highly motivating for my students!

Goal Three: Learning How Our Behaviors Impact Others

Camille will use a visual map to determine how behaviors impact other people, and explain how this may happen in 5 everyday situations, with 4 out of 5 accuracy in structured activities with 2-3 clinician visual/verbal prompts.

Using a visual can help students learn how their behavior impacts other people. You can draw a simple flow chart to highlight the following:

  • An action (like yelling at the library)

  • How that action impacts the thoughts of others (teachers, peers)

  • What will the action/thoughts make others think about you?

After doing this, it’s helpful to take the opposite action, and complete the map again. In this case, it would be a discussion of what would happen if you came into the library quietly. How would that impact the thoughts of others? They’d be able to continue what they were doing. What would others think of YOU if you demonstrated that action? That you were respectful and on task.

Goal Four: Non Literal Language

Darcy will identify and interpret the meaning of idioms, metaphors, similes, or proverbs during structured activity with 80% accuracy independently over three consecutive sessions as measured by clinician data.

Figurative language, idioms and other non-literal tasks can be difficult to problem solve for some learners. This pragmatic language goal can help students better understand the language of their classroom and peers.

The book series Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish is a fun and hilarious way to focus on these. These books present a protagonist who repeatedly misunderstands context because she takes everything people say literally. This book is good for students in elementary and middle school to get introduced to the topic.

Goal Five: Ideas for Early Learners

These are several goals I’d use for early learners who are using total communication to increase play and receptive/expressive language skills:

Erin will select at least 4 pictures/words from a dynamic display AAC communication device (i.e. want, more, help, give me) in +5 daily routines in 3 of 4 opportunities, independently.

Fatima will functionally play in 3 new routines increasing start to finish time from 1-2 minutes to 4 minute functional play routine with 2-3 visual/verbal prompts.

Gregory will demonstrate joint attention (look/eye contact, reach or point, gesture, word/word approximation) during greetings (1-2 exchanges), and picking out toys (2 exchanges) as well as structured play (5 exchanges) with 3 visual/verbal prompts in structured activities.

Social Skills Goals – Now Make These Your Own!

I hope this post was helpful as you begin brainstorming your own social skills goals. As SLPs, we are all so different. What works for me may not work for you in your sessions. However, I hope this gives you a helpful starting place to begin thinking about your own goals.

As your students build their skills, you’ll be able to change these goals from structured settings to unstructured settings. They will also build more independence to use these skills in their daily life. For example, you may want to see your student use these skills at recess, lunch and on the bus or during group work time in class.

In order to make these goals your own, please feel free to change the accuracy and prompts to what works best for your learners.

What is your favorite social skills goal? I’d love to know more! You can find me on Instagram to connect!

Are you an SLP looking for some new social skills goals? Want to mix up your social skills sessions and make it measurable?

Sarah Lockhart is a private practice owner in Ashland, Oregon.

3 Ways Parents Can Make Virtual Speech Therapy Successful

Are you considering online speech therapy for your child?  If so, read on for 3 ways parents can make virtual speech therapy successful. My hope is you’ll learn more about the process and make the most of your speech therapy time.

Recently, a client of mine began completing his speech therapy sessions virtually. John (not his real name), lives quite a ways away from my speech therapy clinic. He was working on finishing up with some articulation sounds. He was motivated to graduate, and his parents were motivated to get him to speech because they wanted others to be able to understand him. John was already using his speech sounds in words and phrases, and just needed some extra practice to get those sounds into conversation.

The Challenge: Busy Families, Busy Schedules

A few sessions in, his parents and I talked about switching up how we provided services. I didn’t want John’s family to get burned out on travel (which could mean they might eventually stop coming). John arrived tired (and sometimes late, since you can’t predict traffic with a commute like that) and really wasn’t always at his best. At that point, we all decided we’d need a change. John’s schedule was packed full. His family’s schedule was packed full. We needed to hit the easy button. Where was it?

A New Idea

While there is no easy way through speech therapy (it requires lots of consistency and hard work), there was an easier way to get through our scheduling challenges. One week later, we started providing services through videochat (also known as telepractice). This means John’s parents didn’t have another long drive to add to their list, and John could be involved in more extracurricular activities, because his schedule opened up without the drive. A week after our conversation, John and I started sessions via telepractice.

What is Telepractice?

Telepractice is using videochat to provide speech therapy service. SLPs often use this term, but health professionals who use it in other settings (or health care companies) might call it telehealth, telemedicine, or many more terms that I don’t even know. I’ve been seeing clients via telepractice since 2013. When I first started doing this, and shared this new job with colleagues, they didn’t even know what it was.

Telepractice: Benefits

3 ways parents can make virtual speech therapy successful

There are certainly some benefits that come with attending speech therapy virtually. It can mean that there is less time driving, and children are less tired. Freeing up this time and saving the child some energy can mean more involvement in activities and family life. It can also translate into less stress on the entire family and more possibilities to drive siblings to their activities.

3 Ways Parents Can Make Virtual Speech Therapy Successful

Providing speech therapy this way certainly can feel within the comfort zone of some families and not so much for others. I typically will provide this service for families who feel comfortable with technology and who I’ve already established a rapport with – they understand what it looks like and trust me to deliver service this way.

I send an invitation link to a meeting room the day before our session (via email), and clients can click on the link on a phone, tablet, laptop or computer. That’s it! I try to make the process as easy as possible so there aren’t too many technology challenges. That said, this service delivery model works best for families who are flexible. After all, we are working with technology. There are sometimes glitches we need to problem solve.

Telepractice Tip # 1: Using a Headset

One of the most important aspects for virtual speech therapy is being able to hear one another clearly. To do so, I recommend using a headset. Most gaming headsets do not work for speech therapy because they lack a microphone piece. What does work are corded headsets that people use with their cell phones, which means there is no need to buy anything new. Also, over the ear headsets are great for minimizing outside noise so your child can really hear. The bottom line is to make sure it has a microphone.

Telepractice – Tip # 2: A Strong Internet Connection

Videochat requires a lot of bandwidth. If you are out and about, 4G isn’t usually enough, and neither are most wifi connections you’ll find outside of your home. Try to be close to the modem or in a place in your house you know gets good internet strength.

Telepractice Tip # 3: Good Lighting

Lighting is important because I’ll need to see what your child is doing with his or her mouth. This is especially true if we are working on speech sounds. In general, lighting on two sides (i.e. a window and a lamp) works best. Make sure the room isn’t dark! If you want to test the lighting, open something you are more familiar with (i.e. a facetime window) and look at how dark you are or aren’t.

Telepractice Success

I hope this has been helpful in broadening your understanding of how telepractice works and what can help make it successful. I’ve seen kids really grow through this service delivery method. It feels good for me to provide service in a way that’s a lot easier for some families, and doing videochat means that many families have another errand taken off their plates.

If you are interested in receiving speech therapy, you can read more about me on this website. I am currently working with children in Oregon and California, and am licensed in both states. If you’d like to know if telepractice might work for your family, please contact me.

Three of the Most Common Private Practice Myths

three private practice myths for speech therapy

Are you an SLP interested in private practice? Would you like to know what owning your own clinic is really like? This article shares three of the most common private practice myths! Keep reading to find out if you’ve heard these myths, and if private practice is right for you.

There are some great things about owning a private practice. First, I love treating a variety of disorders. For example, I now treat adult voice clients as a part of my practice, and that is something I never saw when working in other settings. Second, I love working closely with families in the clinic environment. Because parents watch sessions, they often carry over our activities at home.

However, there are downsides to clinic work. As I explore the great parts about owning a practice, I want to make sure to share the reality as well. In fact, I often hear touted benefits to working in this setting that are totally inaccurate. Hearing these myths heralded as the truth is one of my pet peeves. Full disclosure? I, too, believed these myths when I originally heard them. Now that I’m years into my own clinic, I know better. Because of this, I wanted to dispel some of these myths today.

Three of the Most Common Private Practice Myths

You work your own hours

Yes…and no.

Ultimately, you work when your clients are available.

In general, most clients want appointments 4pm and later. Preschool and toddler clients are great to have during the daytime, but not all families have a stay-at-home parent. This means many families (including preschool families) want to schedule evening appointments, when parents are off work.

Although I’d love to work earlier in the day and wrap up in the early afternoon, I work almost exclusively late morning to late evening hours, because that is when clients (and their families) are available.

Is this the case for everyone? No. For SLPs who don’t need to work full time, you can likely be a bit more choosy about your schedule and turn some clients away to see clients when you’d like. However if you want daytime hours, be ready to turn clients away who only want 4pm and 5pm slots.

You work fewer hours

My first year of business, I worked 50-60 hours a week. I worked weekends, evenings, and brought work home.

I’ve had SLPs email me who want more work-life balance, and who’ve heard that private practice is a good fit. For me (at least 2.5+ years in), this wouldn’t be my recommendation to improve work-life balance. That said, I’m sure there are SLPs who have been doing this for much longer and have better systems in place – and therefore fewer working hours.

When people ask me about private practice and work-life balance, I usually steer them towards telepractice, which I’ve found (for me) offers fewer extra working hours and more time at home.

You make bank

Although you make a significantly higher “hourly” wage for time spent with clients (I make about 3x as much), that doesn’t mean it’s money you take home. Costs associated with running a business will eat up a lot of that margin, and overall I make (slightly) more doing private practice than working other SLP jobs. Although I make a little bit more doing private practice than other jobs I’ve worked, the increase is minimal.

Even if you don’t have a physical location (which does eat up quite a bit of your profit), you’ll have a variety of business expenses, which could include: electronic medical billing software, HIPPA-compliant email, an upgrade to faster internet, a new phone line or business cell phone, increased printing/materials costs, standardized tests and protocols, liability insurance, and of course…taxes.

You will earn more money, but also have more expenses and a higher tax burden. If you are anything like me, chances are it’ll (mostly) be a wash in the end.

In general I’ve found that clinics who hire SLPs to work under them do make a higher income, but solo practices like mine don’t generally earn much more than you’d make elsewhere.

So why do private practice?

Running your own practice means you get to make the rules. In a world of micromanaging and paperwork pushing, you really do get to run things your own way when you do private practice. If a client isn’t happy with their service, they can choose to go to another clinic. This means the clients I see really, truly appreciate the work I do. I also find it incredibly rewarding to have more time to research how to do certain therapy techniques as I work with new disorders and in new areas. I also enjoy working with a variety of clients and families.

I hope this article on three of the most common private practice myths helps you determine if private practice might be right for you. Although running a clinic isn’t easy, it’s extremely rewarding!


Sarah is a private practice speech language pathologist in Ashland, Oregon. Her clinic in the Rogue Valley specializes in working with late talkers and toddlers/preschoolers with significant speech sound disorders. You can find Sarah’s day-to-day clinic life on Instagram, if you’d like to follow along.