The Vocabulary of Reading

No one can ever prepare a parent for the confusion that comes when their child appears to learn in a different way from other children. And sometimes, we forget that parents of our students may also be struggling to understand how to help their child. Read more and download a helpful worksheet for parents: The Vocabulary of Reading.

Unlike many skills such as motor development (sitting, crawling, walking) that we are primed to learn via genetic code, reading is a skill we are not born with. Reading is a complex skill that entails understanding symbol-sound relationships, segmenting sounds, using visual-spatial skills to decode,  and attaching meaning to symbols, sounds and words. Last but not least, we have to comprehend the words as they are strung together.

Consider all that can get in the way as we need to see, hear, write, comprehend and speak in order to “learn to read.”

A lot of parents that have children struggling to read wonder, “why is this so hard for my child?”

No one can ever prepare a parent for the confusion that comes when their child appears to learn in a different way from other children. And sometimes, we forget that parents of our students may also be struggling to understand how to help their child.

One way to help engage parents in their child’s educational journey is to make sure they understand the everyday lingo we use in our offices. Words such as phonemes, graphemes, and phonics may be a part of our daily vocabulary, but for many parents these words are foreign.

To help parents understand the components of reading, here’s a worksheet you can provide them. It defines common words in speech language pathology and can help them feel more at ease when talking about their child’s progress.


Download the worksheet: The Vocabulary of Reading


This blog was contributed by PESI speaker Lynne Kenney, PsyD.

Lynne Kenney, PsyD, is a mom, pediatric psychologist, international educator and co-author with Wendy Young of BLOOM: 50 Things to Say, Think and Do with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-Top Kids. Lynne integrates neuroscience, nutrition, exercise and music research to enhance brain function and learning in children. For more “Think it Out” “Walk it Out” and “Play it Out” ideas visit www.lynnekenney.com.


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5 Tips for Public Speaking with a Stutter

If you were to ask someone what they’re afraid of, you’re likely to hear some common answers: spiders, snakes, heights, and public speaking. But for those who stutter, the fear of public speaking can be amplified by their anxiety about stuttering. Get 5 tips for helping your client get more comfortable with public speaking.

If you were to ask someone what they’re afraid of, you’re likely to hear some common answers: spiders, snakes, heights, and public speaking. But for those who stutter, the fear of public speaking can be amplified by their anxiety about stuttering. I have a unique perspective about this fear. Not only do I teach public speaking at the college level, present across the country, and work as a speech pathologist in my own private practice, but I stutter.

Here are my 5 tips for helping your clients who stutter become more comfortable with public speaking.

1. Encourage your client to pick a topic they are passionate about
When I first began public speaking, I was addressing Mothers’ Groups about language development in children. I would become so passionate about my topic that I would sometimes forget about my stuttering. Having clients pick topics that are meaningful and enjoyable for them doesn’t mean they won’t stutter, but they will have greater enjoyment in the experience of communication.

In addition, if you are working with students, you may want to encourage them to pick the topic of stuttering. One high school student told me he didn’t have to hide his stuttering anymore, and it was easier to talk because his class better understood his communication disorder after he did his class presentation on stuttering.

2. Have your client acknowledge their stuttering in the presentation
I begin presentations by saying, “I want to let you know I stutter, and I may need a minute from time to time to say certain words.” Your client can provide more details about their stuttering, depending on their comfort level.

3. Practice in the actual room where the presentation will be given
I have used this technique many times especially when doing big presentations. The most challenging and gratifying speech that I ever had to give was my father’s eulogy. The night before, I practiced in the empty church. It enabled me to face my fears of going up to the podium, check the sound of the microphone, and know where I would place my notes. On the actual day of the funeral, I felt empowered and confident because I had already been there.
Going up to the podium or in front of the classroom can be nerve-wracking, but if clients have already been there, they will feel more confident when they have to do it for “real.”

4. Role-play worst case scenario with your client
When your client shows you what they are afraid of happening on the day of the presentation, it can help you prepare by knowing what to do if the situation happens. If having a significant moment of stuttering is the fear, then have your client stutter on purpose, and show 30 seconds of the presentation in that way. If they are afraid of being laughed at, then you may role-play this situation. If they have already experienced worst case scenario, the actual presentation will feel less intimidating.

5. Have your client practice basic communication skills in addition to speech strategies for stuttering
In addition to working on speech strategies for stuttering, you should also address basic communication skills such as eye contact with the audience, vocal volume and proper inflection in the voice to emphasize key points. Practicing these skills can instill confidence and enable your clients to be a more engaging speaker.


This post has been brought to life by PESI speaker Marilee Fini, MA, CCC-SLP.


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Overcoming the Impossible with the Phone

For a person who stutters, talking on the phone can be a particularly challenging situation. Get tips, and download the free worksheet to use with your clients who stutter and struggle with the phone.

For a person who stutters, talking on the phone can be a particularly challenging situation. There’s a classic scenario of being hung up on because the listener doesn’t realize there is someone on the other end. If this continues to happen, a person who stutters loses confidence and will have others make their phone calls.
As a speech and language pathologist, I have heard countless stories from my clients about the frustration of talking on the phone. I recognize these feelings of frustration not just as a professional empathizing with my clients, but as someone who also stutters and knows first-hand the challenges of communicating on the phone.
When addressing the phone with clients, we first do practice calls where we call each other. Then we move to “real” calls where they may call a store or a restaurant. As challenging as making calls can be, answering a ringing phone may be even more challenging because it requires speaking on demand, and we can’t control or prepare for when the phone will ring.
Answering the phone has been a personal challenge of mine. I always wanted to answer my business phone with the greeting, “MLF Speech Therapy, can I help you?” But I would often struggle when saying this greeting, and I feared that potential clients would hear my stutter and not take my practice seriously. Feeling apprehensive, I submitted to my insecurities and instead answered my business phone with the greeting, “Marilee Fini.”
Throughout the years, there were brief periods where I attempted to answer with “MLF Speech Therapy,” but quickly gave up when I had a moment of stuttering or someone hung up on me. A breakthrough occurred a few months ago when I was putting a panel presentation together for the National Stuttering Association Convention called “Making Feared Situations Possible.” I realized that in order to help others overcome feared speaking situations, I also had to do it myself! I made it my goal that when the phone rang I had to proudly say, “MLF Speech Therapy” rather than avoiding it.
It didn’t matter how it came out, it just mattered that I said the words. I was working on being an “authentic communicator,” and saying what I wanted to say when I wanted to say it.
Answering the phone with a business greeting was something that I had deemed as impossible. However, when I chose to see it as “possible” and was willing to take the steps necessary to work on it, I was able to succeed. As I tell my clients, we can talk about a feared speaking situation, but true change only occurs when action is taken.


Do you have a client who struggles to answer the phone?
We have a worksheet to help. Download your free copy here.


This post has been brought to life by PESI speaker Marilee Fini, MA, CCC-SLP.


Marilee Fini: Nurturing the Mind, Body and Soul of Those Who Stutter

Marilee Fini sheds a unique light on the subject of stuttering since she has spent most of her life dealing with her own stuttering. Throughout her journey, she has faced many situations which she deemed as “IMPOSSIBLE” but was able to overcome them through hard work, dedication and faith.

I began to stutter at 4 years old. As a child, it was something I hated and found deeply embarrassing. Throughout elementary school and high school, I had a lot of therapy focused on fluency. And while addressing the physical aspect of my stuttering was important, no one seemed to understand or recognize the need to also address the emotional aspect of my disorder.

While everyone was concerned about “my speech” and how it sounded, I felt like I was dying inside. I was so embarrassed and shameful about the way I talked that I avoided speaking at times, especially at school.

As an adult, I decided to pursue a career in speech pathology because I wanted to make a difference for others dealing with communication disorders. I wanted to help others find ways to feel “good” about communication—regardless of how their words came out. I wanted them to know their spoken words had value, because as a child who stuttered, I didn’t know this.

When pursuing my Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology, I joined the National Stuttering Association.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this decision would truly change the trajectory of my career. Being part of the NSA taught me that I was more than my stuttering, and it helped me to deal with feelings of shame and embarrassment related to my stuttering. I began realizing that anything was possible in terms of speaking. For the first time in my life, I had opportunities to practice public speaking, and I felt good about communicating with others!

When I started my private practice 15 years ago, I decided to do some public speaking to help educate my community about communication disorders. Even though I had presented through the NSA, in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “this is silly, I will stutter a lot, and no one will ever come to me for help.”

My first presentations were hard, and a lot of sweat and tears were involved. Then something happened; public speaking became my passion! As my confidence surrounding public speaking grew, so did the length of my presentations. Short presentations turned into half day workshops, and today I present whole day workshops and keynote addresses.

When I stand in front of others to do public speaking, something magical happens.  I let out that “voice” that was held back as a child, and I rejoice in my freedom to express myself!

If you work with clients who stutter, I encourage you to not only work on the physical symptoms, but to also take care of the emotional feelings and attitudes that are part of these disorders. It’s critical to remember that a person who stutters is more than just a mouth, they are a mind, body, and soul, and we have to nurture every aspect of their person in order for them to thrive.


This post has been brought to life by PESI speaker Marilee Fini, MA, CCC-SLP.