College Roommates

Ultimately, they will get to know each other and appreciate each other even if they don’t become best friends. They will learn to communicate and talk about the hard stuff while laughing at what will seem silly to them in the end. They will become skilled at negotiating and compromising.

These are the thoughts that swirled in my head as I met my daughter’s college roommate. This freshman year is a big one. Each new acquaintance means a hundredfold what they might mean to the rest of us who have been around the block a time or two. However, on this drop off day, my sensors, like my daughter’s, were heightened. Since that day, Jess and I have had several conversations about how to navigate the roommate situation. Eventually, because of my experience working with children and groups, she asked me to give her some tips.

In case you are not aware, I work primarily with young children, ages 3 – 10, many of whom come to our clinic for help in developing skills in social interactions. What could I offer Jess from that experience that would help her with an 18 year-old roommate? First, let me tell you a little about her roommate. She is very talkative. In fact, she talks most of the time without leaving space for anyone else to talk. She doesn’t ask Jess any questions, and if Jess begins to talk, Roommate’s response has little or nothing to do with the topic. As my daughter stated, “She starts talking without introducing a topic or even saying my name to see if I’m even listening.” When Jess is talking with others, Roommate comes in, stands too close, and interjects comments uninvited.She slammed the door, not in anger but unaware of the impact on another person, while Jess was sleeping, and yelled, “Bye Jess!”

Hmmmm… what advice could I offer? Surprisingly, a LOT. I suggested that she talk withRoommate to give her the following tips: Say a name before beginning a conversation and wait until the person is looking before talking. Ask a question, and ask another after hearing the response before telling your story. Look for body clues. If another person is reading, writing, has  headphones on, or sleeping, they may not want to be bothered. First ask if it’s OK to talk. If you are going to change the topic, tell the listener you plan to do so before diving in. When someone is talking to you, acknowledge that you heard him or her. When you are entering a group of people,don’t stand too close and wait for a break in the conversation or an invitation to join in. Let your facial expression mirror the talker’s. If a person is telling a funny story, laugh with her. If someone is telling a sad story, show compassion on your face.

Guess what? These are the very things we teach our young children to help them navigate the waters of social interactions. These are lifelong skills that can be used… and taught…at every age. My daughter is a very compassionate person and Roommate is smart and brave and willing to learn. I wish she had been taught these straightforward concepts at a younger age but I truly believe it’s never too late and these simple tips can open a world of relationships.

In the end, we are all looking forward to a successful year in which Jess and her roommate will be able to grow and learn with each other and they are off to a fine start.

By:  Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

IMAGE:  Copyright : A. Singkham



Ellen DeGeneres’ App is Great for Social Skills and Language

Ellen Degeneres makes me happy. I’m pretty sure she makes everyone happy. Usually she entertains me at night after work when I watch her show that I DVR. But lately, I’ve been getting to enjoy her during the work day. She created an app called Heads Up that is a speech pathologist’s dream. It’s a lot like the popular traditional speech and language game Headbanz…but it’s on the iPhone/iPad which gives it lots of awesome features. Basically you place the phone, screen facing out, on your forehead. Whoever you are playing with then must describe the given word that is on the screen. If you guess correctly you quickly move the phone forward and back up to your head and a new word appears. If you need to pass because you don’t have a good guess, you move the phone backwards over your head. This is a great feature for many of my students.

There are various categories you can choose from for description, from animals to food. There is a new “kids” deck as well which is obviously filled with kid friendly words (including characters like Runaway Ralph and Zac Efron). The best part about the game is the video recording feature. While you are describing a word…the phone/ipad is recording you. You can watch the video after which is great for a good laugh, as well as an opportunity for some discussion around the child’s performance. (Ellen, can you provide a “pause” button for the video? That would be great for us therapists to breakdown the performance for some teachable moments!). 

I’ve used it with a number of kids for lots of different goals and objectives.

Here are some ideas:

Use in a social group.

  • Great for working together as a team. How many words can you describe and get your team to guess together?
  • It’s a game you CAN’T play alone (like our Bag Game App). Get kids interacting and laughing.
  • Great for body language. Make it more challenging by requiring no words – just body language to describe. This is awesome to watch back and point out on the recorded video. Can kids change their bodies if their friends aren’t getting it? Can they problem solve and think flexibly?
  • Great opportunity for perspective taking from positioning the iPhone/iPad so others can read it, to thinking about saliency (what’s the most important thing) for others to know about something to help them guess
  • Have kids watch the video and give feedback to their friends. Can they give a compliment for what was helpful and/or creative that helped them guess it correctly? What could they have done differently? Can they provide this feedback with appropriate tone of voice and word choices?

Use for individual therapy.

  • Use for description. Pair with the  EET and encourage thorough description. Discuss the importance of starting with the most important/salient information. Especially since this is a timed game
  • Use for generalization of speech production work. Can students use their targeted speech sounds under pressure? At the sentence and discourse levels?
  • Use as a “reward” for completing challenging work within a session. A great language based game to play for fun!

Thanks Ellen for finding another way to make us all happy, even while at work:) 

By Meghan G Graham, MS, CCC-SLP


Your Uniquely Quirky Child at Camp

Today, we are blogging over at  This is the 4th in a series of blog posts about children, temperament and summer camp.

Your child loves computers, video games, or anything mechanical.  He or she would love to stay in the house and play on the iPad or computer all day every day.  It is unnerving and a little (or maybe a lot) scary to see how absorbed your child becomes in these devices.  You plot and plan how to get him or her outside or engaged in physical activity during the school year.  How will you manage a whole summer????  I know…sign him or her up for camp; a nice out door camp with lots of kids who like to swim, do crafts, play sports, and essentially, like being with other kids.  What a great idea!  But then half way through the first week your child says he won’t go back to camp.  Nothing there is interesting.  The other kids are annoying.  Now what?  Of course, this may be an extreme example of what some uniquely quirky kids and families go through (or maybe not) but here are a few tips to help you and your child get through the camp experience.

Photo by: Tim Pierce

Read more here

Slider Bag Game Icon

“Who’s in the Bag?” Game

Meghan, Jill and I recently attended ASHA 2012.  We had an awesome time meeting lots of incredible and creative therapists.  We were really excited to talk with people who already had our Bag Game app and to hear that they were using it with clients of all ages.  One woman told us she loves to use it with her adult patients because it is a fun way for them to engage with their loved ones while still addressing such goals as improving short term memory, verbal description, and auditory comprehension.  Lots of people spoke of using it with young children as well.

A New Social Activity is Born

And then a therapist came along and wanted to know if we had any apps for middle school kids.  We told her about the Bag Game.  She looked at it for a bit and then she had such a great idea for a spin on the game that we just had to try it in our groups!  She suggested playing “Who’s in the bag?” and hiding pictures of friends.  The goal of the activity would then be to learn about friends and perhaps discover some new things they had in common.

Experimenting Leads to Success

So this week, we played the game with one of our 5th grade groups.  This group is rather small, so first we played a quick round of hiding each other in the Bag.  We encouraged the kids to ask questions like, “does this person like Minecraft?  Wii games?  space?”, etc.  Then more questions like,  “does this person have siblings?  live in a particular town? play a particular sport?”, etc.  Once the kids got the hang of it, they started generating their own questions and also commenting when they had a similar interest or trait.

Expansion Idea

Pretty soon we had exhausted all of the kids in group, but they still wanted to play, so we added a twist.  We had them hide celebrities in the Bag (we got the images from Google).  This new twist required some more sophisticated skills.  The kids had to think about someone that most kids know, but someone who would still be tricky to guess.

A Companion App

As we were playing, one of the kids mentioned that this game was “a lot like the Akinator (the Genie) App, but in our game, the kids get to be the akinators instead of the app”.  At one point the kids got stuck when trying to think of good questions to ask, so we paused our Bag game and played a quick round of Akinator.  This app asks questions in a “yes/no” format and gave the kids some good ideas for new questions.  We then returned to our “Who’s in the Bag?” Game and had an absolute blast.

Although we don’t remember her name, we want to thank the creative SLP who thought of this idea.  We love it and so do the kids!!

Now it’s your turn to play “Who’s in the Bag?” with the Bag Game app

By Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP


Chosen for Duty

Jury duty takes me back to my childhood…and not in a good way.   For the past 4 days, I have felt like a child in a grown up and somewhat foreign world.

I am required (not asked if I want to, nor excused for any reason that I deem important) to sit for 2 hours at a time in the back row in a jury box.  The air conditioner distracts me each time the fan starts.  One of the lawyers is so quiet and mumbles that I can’t hear him.  I get discouraged because I can’t follow the line of questioning so begin to fade out and miss whole chunks of testimony.  At the end of the first day, I manage to ask the court officer if something can be done about this situation.  But I missed a whole day!!

We are not allowed to have food in the courtroom.  This wouldn’t be too big a deal except that I overslept and neglected to eat breakfast before coming.  My stomach growled relentlessly which distracted me, and probably everyone around me.

I am expected to sit in the same seat next to the same people each day.  The woman directly next to me keeps trying to catch my eye.  When I finally gazed in her direction, she used facial expressions to communicate something to me about the lawyer.  I was mortified!  We are not supposed to talk at all about the trial but to do so in the middle of the courtroom terrified me!  I thought we would be humiliated and thrown out on the spot!  (We weren’t).

One of the lawyers talks too slowly, which drives me crazy.  Another one is quite aggressive, which makes me very uncomfortable.  The third is quite theatrical.  Each one discusses details about dates, e-mails, and contracts, interminably with every witness.  I am not a detail person and the actual business or content of this trial is not at all interesting to me.  Although I intensely attempt to follow the line of questioning, when I hear legal jargon, my brain begins to shut down.  I find myself watching the lawyers and witnesses with interest, letting go of the words.  Look how angry he got.  Wow, that lawyer’s hands are shaking. Hmmm, she looks different without her glasses.  I wonder if the judge is following all this or thinking about something else.

Finally, the sitting… I cannot sit for 2 hours at a time with nothing to do!  I shift in my seat, cross and re-cross my legs, bite my lip, look at the clock, play with the bracelet on my wrist, and yawn a lot.  I’ve even resorted to pinching myself to stay awake and sitting on my hands to keep from fidgeting!  I’ve almost sighed out loud at times and am working hard not to show emotion on my face.

Just when I think I understand kids, I have an experience like jury duty.   Our children may have trouble sitting still, don’t always understand what is being asked of them, aren’t particularly interested in the content, are distracted by background noises, are intimidated by adults around them, want to do the right thing but get side-tracked by other kids, or are distracted by their own physical hunger or discomfort.  In the grown up world, they are basically powerless.  I will head back to my job with gratitude that I am NOT a child and with greater respect of the challenges inherent in every day life for our children.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

Photo by j Jury Duty


The Power of Visualization

To visualize means to imagine something or to create a positive mental picture of something.  Visualization can be difficult for adults and I have always thought it to be particularly tricky for many of the kids I work with.  These children are in-the-moment kids.  They blurt out comments without thinking, switch the topic of conversation without realizing what they’ve done, and have an enormously difficult time taking the perspective of another person.  While these kids seem quite good at following the train of their own thoughts to imagine something or create an image; their difficulty following along with the thoughts or agendas of others left me thinking that visualization was not easy.  One day, with the help of Lori Lite’s Stress Free Kids Curriuculum, I decided to try visualization with a group of 2nd and 3rd graders.

After a particularly rousing group we asked the kids to lie down or sit with their heads on the desks.  They were instructed to make themselves comfortable, keep their bodies away from other children, keep their eyes closed, be a good friend by not distracting others, and listen.  We then played the 7 ½ minute CD story of A Boy and a Turtle.  Some kids became still instantly, some watched their friends for awhile and some tickled or poked others.  But when the CD ended, all 6 kids were able to get up, go to the door calmly and return to their classroom with much less support than they normally would have needed.

Here is the best part…our friend who tends to talk non-stop, who constantly interrupts, who expresses his own ideas in response to the sharing of others, who works incessantly to make his friends laugh at his silliness, who pokes and prods other children unceasingly…THIS is the friend who benefited the most from the visualization exercise!  He put 2 chairs together and draped his body across them, lying on his back with his arms hanging limply at his side.  He closed his eyes and didn’t move a muscle until the story ended.   He breathed in the colors deeply and released his breath slowly as described in the story.  Now, this child exists in a state of high arousal.   If he can use visualization to achieve a state of relaxation intermittently throughout his day, will his friendships improve?  Will he listen and learn with greater ease?  Will he feel and be more successful in all of life?  I hope so.  I have learned (once again) that it is important to try a variety of strategies even if conventional wisdom and experience tells me not to.  These little, and sometimes big surprises, keep us going and growing.

Check out all of Lori Lite’s CDs, books, lesson plans, and other resources at

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

photo by Rebecca L. Daily

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.


Ten important lessons my SLP colleagues taught me:

  1. Give direct, clear feedback when you don’t understand what a child is saying.  The honesty does not offend but helps the child know you WANT to understand.  It also serves as a role model to other children who may want to play and talk with that child but not know how to communicate and provide feedback.
  1. Use clear body language when conversing with children.  If the child is talking on and on and on, don’t be afraid to exhibit a “bored” expression.  Use the opportunity to illustrate the importance of listener feedback through facial expressions.
  1. Be exceeding patient with the child who has difficulty coming up with ideas and expressing herself.  Don’t try to fill in the blanks or hurry the child along.  Showing patience and explaining to other children that “Suzy is thinking and we can wait” is a lesson in civility and helps the anxious speaker to think and speak with greater ease.
  1. Help children organize their thoughts and comments with words such as “First… next… last…” It’s wonderful to see a child’s frustration turn to triumph when these three little words are presented as a guide.
  1. Don’t assume the quiet child who nods his head understands what you just said.  Provide opportunities for that child to repeat directions in a non-humiliating way.  Give him permission to say, “I didn’t hear you.  Can you say that again?”
  1. Behaviors that appear to exemplify motor planning deficits may, in fact, be language difficulties.  I continue to learn from my SLP colleagues about the impact of language challenges on movement, sequencing, and learning new skills.
  1. Teach voice volume control.  Just saying “Use an inside voice” is not enough for many kids.  Help them practice and don’t stop until they clearly understand the ways in which our voice volume and tone convey many different meanings.
  1. When a child achieves average scores on speech and language testing it does not necessarily mean that he has effective functional use of language in varying settings.
  1. Not all SLPs address pragmatic language… but I wish they did!
  2. All kids WANT to communicate and EVERY listener has a responsibility to help make that happen.

With love and thanks to all the fantastic SLPs with whom I have had the pleasure of working!

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

image  By Jarry1250  (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

let know

The Power of Social Catch Phrases

I have been coordinating the Social Adventures Group Program at Children’s Therapy Associates in Natick, MA for nearly 15 years.  As coordinator, I have spoken with hundreds of families looking for support for their children with social challenges.  While some of these children have ASD diagnoses, others have been diagnosed with ADHD, NLD, or social anxiety.  Most of the children we serve struggle socially in spite of relatively intact receptive and expressive language abilities.  These kids (ages 3-10) learn best by doing. When asked, they can usually tell you what they are supposed to do in a given situation, but they aren’t accessing that knowledge “in the moment.” In response, we have developed a strategy that we have found to be incredibly effective:  Social Catch Phrases.

Over the years, as I have talked to parents, several common areas of challenge have surfaced.  The areas that they feel are most disruptive to their child’s social success revolve around:

  • Poor initiation skills
  • Reduced reciprocity
  • Being inflexible / bossy
  • Difficulty managing change/ frustration
  • Not tuning into nonverbal cues
  • Poor body space awareness
  • Being too literal/ misinterpreting feedback from friends

For each of these areas of difficulty, we have developed Social Catch Phrases along with activities to introduce and practice them.   One of the catch phrases that we use in each and every group is Let Them Know.  We have found that many, many, many of the kids we see tend to only respond to peers if the topic somehow relates to them (and even that is iffy).  They either respond with “I … “ or they simply stare blankly (or are completely distracted by something else entirely).  As social interaction is built on reciprocity, we spend quite a bit of group time reinforcing the importance of letting friends know we are listening.  We role play what it looks like when kids don’t respond and when they do; we play games which give kids a chance to practice a variety of responses from a simple nod to an enthusiastic, “wow!” to asking a probing question; and then, we use the catch phrase as a prompt “in the moment” during less-structured activities to support generalization.  For our 9 most popular phrases, we have developed adorable cartoons, like this one:

Not only are these catch phrases and cartoons helpful within the context of group, but parents have consistently told us how helpful they are at home and in the community. They also tell us that they use them to facilitate a consistent approach among school staff and others in the child’s life.

As we, and the parents we work with, have found this approach to be so meaningful, we wanted to make the Catch Phrases  (as well as the activities we have found most successful for teaching them) available to other therapists, teachers and parents.  We have begun to do so with our Social Adventures app.  We chose to provide this information in the form of an app so that we could continually add new information to it.  The app currently includes more than 44 activities for improving social skills, many of which have accompanying Catch Phrases, as well as a Sample 8-week Program and easy access to our 9 cute cartoons.   For those of you who like to introduce new concepts through literature, we have also written short poetic stories to introduce each of the 9 cartoons.  You can read a sample here.

by Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.


Learning About Friends with Elmo

Recently, Heidi over at Pediastaff shared an adorable YouTube video on one of her many Pinterest boards.  If you don’t know about it already, it is the I’m Elmo and I Know it! Video.  She suggested using it for an “all about me” activity and that’s just what we did last week.  It was a hit!! First, enjoy this incredible video and then see how we used it…


We had a new boy joining our 4-year old group and we always like to do an activity to make introductions fun, so on this particular day we showed the kids this hilarious video. One of the concepts we frequently work on with our kids is the “just right” amount of information to share with friends.  Since some of our kids are reticent to share at all and others like to go on and on and on and on, we have introduced the notion of sharing 3 important details.  Elmo’s video provided a great frame for this.

Following the video, I modeled my own version of the song:

I’m Karen and I know it,

I like to eat pizza
I like to watch movies
And I like to dance

I’m Karen and I know it!

(OK, maybe not perfectly in sync with the rhythm, but you get the idea and the kids were very forgiving :))

Then we had the kids sing their own songs about themselves.  Because most of them were familiar with the pop song it is based on, they had the rhythm down and easily shared just three things.  As a follow up, we asked kids to remember what they learned about their friends and they did great!  The song format had also facilitated active listening, another concept we are always working on.

Thanks so much for the inspiration Heidi.  Needless to say, our newest group member had a wonderful first session!!  Oh… And thanks to the people who made the video… Brilliant!

Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.