Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wrapping Up 2015! Thanks For Your Support!

Another year is quickly coming to a close! I truly appreciate the support of my fellow speech-language pathologists, educators, and parents who have read my blog this year. I share my ideas so that others will have strategies and activities to use in speech-language therapy, in the classroom, and at home to improve communication skills of children with special needs. 

It has been almost three years since I started this Building Successful Lives blog! I can't wait for all the things that are in store in 2016! I would love for those who purchased curriculum material to leave feedback in my TPT store. I am going to give away some complimentary resources to a few lucky winners! The amount of prizes are TBD! :) I am committed to making quality informal assessments, speech-language therapy activities, and E/LA common core aligned instructional materials. 

Enjoy the rest of 2015 and I wish you all the best in 2016! 

Tamara Anderson

Friday, December 18, 2015

Five Ways to Practice Speech-Language Skills Over Winter Break

Hey there everyone! Today is the last day of school for 2015 in my district and I am beyond excited about being on winter break for 2 weeks! I am sure that all the students are as well. Although the students will be on break from school, there are so many ways that they can practice their communication skills in their daily routines. I know that some of you will have private practice clients or a few days of work next week as school-based speech language pathologists. Make sure that you share these tips with parents.

5 Ways to Practice Speech-Language Skills Over Winter Break: 

1) Retell events and experiences
*Children should practice describing specific family outings, activities, and experiences with as much detail as possible. They should try their best to recall and retell information in the correct sequence of events whether it is going to the ice skating rink or to grandma's house. 

2) Answer questions after listening to fiction or non-fiction story read by parents
*Children and families can visit the public library and check out books appropriate for their age. Parents should read aloud to their kids and ask them who, what, where, when, and why questions about the text. 

3) Play speech-language games on interactive websites
*There are many websites that children can enjoy practicing their speech-language skills. Some of my top recommendations are,,,, and

You can access a more comprehensive list in Parent Handouts for Communication Disorders in my TPT store.

4) Play speech-language games on iPad
*Many children have either an iPad or android tablet. They can practice a variety of skills such as speech articulation, following directions, vocabulary, grammar, sequencing, and overall comprehension on apps. Parents can search for related apps in the app store by companies such as Speech with Milo, Super Duper, PocketSLP, Hamaguchi, I Can Do Apps, Smarty Ears and so many more! Many companies have free trial versions that enable kids to practice many skills while others will need to be purchased. 

5) Use speech articulation and fluency strategies 
*At home and in the community, children should practice using their best pronunciation of the sounds they are working on in speech-language therapy. Parents can remind their children to use the correct placement of speech muscles when asking questions, answering questions, and speaking to family and friends.

Overall, children can practice their speech-language skills in everyday routines! I hope you found these 5 tips beneficial. Have a great rest of 2015!

Tamara Anderson

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pete the Cat Holiday Freebie

My speech language students LOVE when I read Pete the Cat stories to them. The holiday themed book, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas is no exception! This book is great to read aloud with preschool and elementary school aged kids on your speech language caseload. I created a quick "wh" questions comprehension check that has a field of 4 choices.  You can access it in my TPT curriculum store.

Many of my students have IEP objectives that require them to answer literal questions from fiction text so this FREEBIE will be a great practice and work sample for that! I know many SLPs like having fun book companions with numerous activities, but I have found that sometimes it's best to KISS.  With this complimentary worksheet, you can keep it simple by having a quick and functional activity after your read aloud in a 30 minute session.  I even used it with success in my moderate intellectual disability speech-language therapy groups! 

I appreciate you reading my blog today. When you download this resource, kindly leave feedback in my TPT curriculum store. Thanks in advance! 

Tamara Anderson

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cyber Sale 2015

Hey everyone! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with your family. I certainly enjoyed my week long break here in Atlanta and my family visiting from Florida. 

There is just one month left of 2015 so it's a great time to stock up on speech-language therapy and educator resources for December and 2016! I have 2 winter themed products that target Tier I and Tier III English/Language Arts vocabulary. 

I also highly recommend my progress monitoring tools and bundles available in my TPT store. 

I also recently revised my FREE Parent Handouts for Communication Disorders. I also suggest you download my FREE Communication Success Tips for Colleagues to make sure that you maintain effective relationships at work. 

Have a great week! 

Tamara Anderson
Building Successful Lives

Building the communication, literacy, & life success of children

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Parent Information for Communication Disorders {Free Resource Guide}

There are many times when parents ask me about communication disorders. They want to know if their child's speech-language skills are where they should be developmentally. Recently, a friend of mind told me that her daughter received a speech language screening at her preschool. The results indicated that she needed further evaluation. I was concerned when she shared with me that the therapist expressed concern that a 3 year old was not pronouncing sounds such as /l/ and /r/. I immediately saw red flags because it is developmentally appropriate that not all kids will correctly pronounce these sounds at age 3. In fact, there are research based age ranges of typical speech sound development. Yes, some children may correctly pronounce sounds earlier and that's great. However, the following are developmentally acceptable ages of sound acquisition.

Age 3- w, b, p, h, m, n       

Age 4-  k, g, t, d, y, f         

Age 5- all 3 & 4 year old sounds

Age 7- l

Age 8- j, ch, sh, r, th, s, z, v

Please note that different school districts also implement different eligibility criteria for providing speech therapy for speech sounds in error. If you have questions about if your child needs an evaluation, I suggest that you consult directly with a licensed speech-language pathologist in your area. 

I also often get questions about what language skills are expected of children at certain ages. You can access more information about my recommendations from a previous blog post about developmental milestones. Click here.

I created a few complimentary parent handouts that explain the difference between speech sound disorders and language disorders. In this resource you will also receive helpful hints for improving receptive and expressive language disorders. These tips are geared towards children in kindergarten-5th grade. This packet also has a list of interactive websites that kids can use to practice improving their language skills. 

I strongly encourage parents to give their children opportunities to practice their communication and language skills at home. I may add to this resource in the future so make sure that you subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the right hand column of this page. You can access this FREE digital download in my TPT curriculum store.

Have a great week! I hope you have an excellent Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends this Thursday!

Tamara Anderson
Building Successful Lives

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Product Feature: Wh Questions Progress Monitoring Tool

In May of this year, I realized that I needed to create a WH Questions Progress Monitoring Tool because so many children on my caseload were working on improving their language processing skills in this area. I provide therapy services for many children who have receptive/expressive language disorder with co-occurring autism, specific learning disability, and/or intellectual disability and struggle immensely with this skill. 

This tool has really enabled me to improve my ability to take data prior to beginning intervention with kids and after several speech-language therapy sessions.  

Last month, I expanded this tool from 6 progress monitoring forms with 75 question probes to 12 progress monitoring forms with 165 question probes to evaluate children's ability to answer who, what, where, when, and why questions about everyday events. This informal assessment is ideal for use in therapy sessions with kids identified with a communication disorder and for children in the Response to Intervention (RTI) process. 

This WH Questions Progress Monitoring Tool includes:

1) 25 Who Questions- 10 questions for baseline data elicitation and post intervention progress check; 5 questions for 2 week interval checks (3 of these) *same for what, where, when, and why Q's
2) 25 What Questions 
3) 25 Where Questions
4) 25 When Questions
5) 25 Why Questions
6) 40 Mixed Wh Questions- 25 questions for baseline data elicitation and post intervention progress check; 5 questions for 2    
week interval checks (3 of these)

It is recommended that this tool is used prior to beginning language therapy or RTI instruction with a child on a targeted comprehension skill. Then, the SLP or teacher should give the included 5 question data check every 2 weeks to monitor progress. Next, the SLP or teacher should repeat the longer wh questions data check after 8 weeks or more to assess a child's comprehension and oral expression skills in the targeted areas. Last, I have included a data summary form to record all data for easy review. 

This essential informal assessment product is available in my TPT store.  Here is what some buyers had to say about it:

"Great product! I am an SLP at an elementary school and we do a lot of "Wh" questions. This is going to be a great way to progress monitor!"

Incredibly helpful assessment tool! :)

Great resource to use in the RTI process!

Thanks for reading the blog today. Make sure you purchase this essential tool to enhance your ability to take data. Click here to access a complimentary digital download of my one page WH questions freebie.

Tamara Anderson

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Falling into Good Habits as a School SLP

I don't know about you, but there are days when I certainly need a reminder to deliberately work on building good habits at work. We all know the saying that your thoughts become actions and then habits. However, how often do you really evaluate the impact that your thoughts, habits, and actions have on your work relationships and performance?

I decided to share my three tips that will keep you falling into good habits as a school based SLP. These are the tips that I shared at the beginning of the school year, but I know that we can benefit from a refresher so that we are continuously building successful lives of all our wonderful children with special needs.  

Tip # 1

By now I am sure that you have found your rhythm as far as providing group speech-language therapy sessions. There is always plenty to juggle along with typical direct intervention sessions. Evaluations. Therapy Sessions. Progress Notes. RTI. Progress Monitoring. IEP Meetings. Staff Meetings. SLP Department Meetings. Data Entry. Medicaid Billing. PTA Meetings. Etc. Etc.

I think that is critical to remember that each day as a speech-language pathologist you are called to provide the best therapy services to children and adolescents. Regardless of how many staff meetings you need to attend, bus duty days or extra hours you work, it is important to focus on the purpose that you serve. I believe wholeheartedly that we are all building successful lives of the children that we serve. Communication and language skills are in fact foundations for social, academic, and life success. What an awesome opportunity we have as SLPs to improve the communication and language skills of children with communication disorders! So on those days that seem so overwhelming, please remember to especially focus on the success of children.

Tip # 2 

Colleagues will be more productive collectively when a school culture of positivity is cultivated. You can help create and maintain this culture by your words, actions, and habits. Be mindful about the conversations you have in the staff lounge, email, hallways and in meetings. Yes, I understand that you will have days when something or someone really irks you. However, I recommend making an effort to understand another person's perspective and help find solutions when challenges arise. Do your words build others up or tear them down? I also believe that you will feel refreshed when you refresh others. Everyone can use a little encouragement from time to time whether they think they need it or not. Make having an attitude of gratitude a part of your daily routine. Try it out and you'll see how positivity and kindness can be contagious!  

Tip # 3 

You may help sponsor an extracurricular club, participate in a school fundraiser such as Relay for Life, attend PTA meetings, or school chorus concerts. Your speech-language therapy students and families will be so happy to see you outside of your usually role in the speech-language therapy room or classroom. I believe that doing so not only helps you further build rapport with children and families but also with your school community as a team player. As a speech-language pathologist, we need to educate colleagues and families about our job description but also demonstrate that we care about the success of all children in various avenues of their lives.  

I have some freebies in my TPT curriculum store that will remind you of these tips. Click here to access my 7 Keys for a Successful School Year and Communication Tips for Colleagues.  

I'd love for you to stay connected to me throughout the year. You may subscribe to my blog, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and/or follow me on Facebook. I look forward to keeping in touch via social media world! :)

Tamara Anderson

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall Speech Language Activities

Hey everyone. I am excited to tell you that I created a new bundle of my Fall Speech Language Activities. I use these activities frequently in therapy sessions to increase my students' receptive and expressive language skills. 

First, there is a fall themed word associations activity that will help kids practice Tier I basic level vocabulary. I have 2 sets of learning cards to elicit naming word associations. One set has text on fall photographed scenes and the other has text with smarty symbol pictures to help kids recall related words.

My Fall Themed Multiple Meanings: Homographs packet has 3 activities included for you to further differentiate instruction. Kids can match words to definitions on learning mats from a field of 6 choices, answer multiple choices questions when given cloze sentences to identify the correct homograph meanings, practice orally defining the vocabulary, or stating 2 sentences for each term.

My students love using the dry erase marker on laminated sheets to answer the multiple choice questions. They often play the included fall themed game board with this activity as well. 

Next, there is an activity to practice identifying fall words when given attributes or verbally defining words with attributes. Kids also have an opportunity to practice identifying English/Language Arts vocabulary by attributes (definitions) and orally defining them as well. I recommend that kids may earn bingo chips to cover up words on their vocabulary mat when they get a question right. The kid that answers the most questions correctly is the winner! I have included SLP question prompts so you can easily read the attributes/definitions.

In addition to this new Fall Speech Language Activities Bundle, I created a FREEBIE wh questions check for one of my favorite autumn stories, Amelia Bedelia's First Apple Pie. Enjoy this complimentary digital download available in my TPT store!

Thanks for reading the blog today!

Tamara :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

4 Keys for a Successful Week

Hey there! :) We've reached the middle of the work week! Yeah! I want to share with you 4 of my keys that help me have a successful week. Here they are:


I truly believe that if you implement these 4 strategies that your week will be more productive and you will feel more energetic and content! I'm sure we all rather feel like our BEST self rather than wanting to hit rewind to redo our day.

Here's my take on these 4 keys.

Each day you should word hard at using your gifts, talents, and professional skills to serve others. Make sure you have a list or a mental note at least of the tasks you NEED to accomplish today. Then, press forward to getting those tasks done. Make sure you add a smile as you execute those tasks! :) I highly recommend that you consistently use your calendar to keep up with all work meetings and deadlines. Staying organized at work is also a key to staying on top of all your tasks!

Success is doing what you LOVE! Spend some time participating in an activity you really enjoy. It may be going for a run after work, going to the gym, attending mid week church service, spending some mindless time watching tv, cooking, or catching up on the latest social media happenings.

You have got to get enough sleep! Plain and simple. Stop saying you're a night owl if it negatively impacts your productivity the next day. If you can benefit from a quick 15-30 minute nap in the afternoon or early evening,  do it! Now if you have other responsibilities like helping your kids with homework or making dinner, I understand. However,  I suggest rearranging the home schedule to allow time for REST even if it's sitting on the sofa for 20 minutes.

This is simply talking with God. Tell him how thankful you are for him loving, guiding, and protecting you and your family each day. I start every day with a morning devotional reading and prayer. Check out for a FREE monthly booklet of daily readings. Throughout the day, I encourage you to check in with God. I truly believe prayer is a conversation with God. Over time, you will learn to "hear" his voice as you make various decisions throughout the day.

I hope that you find these 4 strategies for a successful week beneficial! I'd love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below and keep in touch with me by subscribing to this Building Successful Lives blog.


Tamara Anderson

Thursday, September 17, 2015

September Book Review {Pirate Theme}

Hey everyone. I hope you are enjoying pirate themed activities in your speech-language therapy lessons this week in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day on Saturday. 

This year, I read aloud a new story that I heard about to my speech-language kiddos. The media specialist at my school and I are good friends and she is always recommending great books to me. It helps that my speech language room is across the hall from her office. :)

My students and I now LOVE the fiction book: No Pirates Allowed Said Library Lou!  The story line is awesome and so are the illustrations!

The main characters are Pirate Pete, his parrot Igor, and the librarian Library Lou. The story opens with Pirate Pete loudly bolting into Seabreezy Library looking for treasure. The folks in the library are quite alarmed and down right scared of his intimidating demeanor. Ms. Library Lou is definitely not impressed by his lack of manners and strong smell of the outdoors. Ughh!

This story has a great twist as Library Lou looks at the treasure map and declares that she knows how to find the treasure. Pirate Pete reluctantly listens to her as she guides him through finding the treasure. 

I definitely recommend this book to elementary school aged kids because I know that they'll love it. Plus so many of them need practice with answering wh questions, story retell, and understanding the meanings of tier 2 vocabulary words from the story. Speech-language pathologists can also pick out articulation words from the story as an extension activity for kids who need to practice pronouncing specific sounds. 

Here is a freebie WH questions worksheet with a field of 4 choices for each question. Feel free to carry your pirate theme on to next week if you'd like. I'm sure your students won't mind! Argggh Matey! Thanks for reading my blog today.

Tamara Anderson

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Quick & Easy Back to School Tips {Guest Blogger}

Hey everyone! I hope you had a great Wednesday at work today. Today I am the guest blogger at Allison's Speech Peeps. Head on over to her blog and read my three tips for Back to School! I've included  a link to freebies from my TPT curriculum store to keep you motivated this school year!

Tamara Anderson
Building Successful Lives
BSL Speech & Language

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Back to School Baseline Data

Hey everyone. I know that many school based speech-language pathologists have already returned to work and many will start back soon. Tomorrow will be the beginning of my 4th week back at work and 3rd week for students. After the initial excitement and sleepiness of going back to school and work has worn of, speech-language pathologists need to make sure that they take baseline data on their students' IEP objectives. For many kids there will be some variability in their scores from the end of the school year to their beginning of the school year data. However, with a quick re-teaching of the skill they are back to where they were previously. 

Some of you may be thinking, so what really is baseline data? This is the data, percentages, or measurable information that you collect to informally assess specific skills outlined in a child's IEP objectives. ASHA's Evidence Based Practice Glossary states that baseline is "a benchmark, measurement, or calculation used as a basis for comparison." 

Many SLPs consider the first data point gathered on a skill an accurate measure for baseline while I have heard others say that they consider 3 data points as baseline data. I have created several quick informal assessment and/or progress monitoring tools that will make it easy for you to gather this data. Just click here to access these digital downloads to help simplify your SLP life.  

I have assessment tools for oral story retell, basic concepts, vocabulary (Tier I semantic processing- object function, similarities, differences, etc), associations, wh questions, irregular plurals, irregular past tense verbs, speech fluency, speech intelligibility, synonyms, antonyms, multiple meaning words, and English/Language Arts Tier III curriculum vocabulary.  I have personally used these tools frequently in my speech language sessions with students on my caseload. 

I suggest making several copies of the forms that you need to record baseline data and keep them in a binder. I typically select the forms that I need for each student and place them in my daily student therapy files. Using informal assessments/progress monitoring forms have truly improved my ability to quantify the skills of my speech-language students. This also helps as I record progress check data throughout the school year.  

I hope you have a great school year! Make sure you subscribe to 
my blog: Building Successful Lives by entering your email in the right hand column above. This way you will get my blog articles sent directly to your inbox. I look forward to you reading what I have to share :)

Tamara Anderson

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Speech-Language Curriculum Assessments

I am absolutely thrilled about my newest product, Speech-Language Curriculum Assessments that is available in my TPT store!!! It is designed for use by speech-language pathologists who support teaching the language underpinnings of the 3rd grade English/Language Arts Common Core State Standards. Other grade levels will be available in the future. 


I provide educationally relevant speech-language therapy frequently and this product is a great way to assess students knowledge of the language underpinnings of the Common Core Standards related to skills that SLPs instruct. This is a must have if you work as a school based SLP. SLPs have the clinical skills needed to provide direct vocabulary instruction that will improve students' ability to learn the standards. Here are some examples of terms assessed in red below.


This product contains 13 curriculum assessments that are informal standards based evaluation tools in a cloze sentence format with a word bank.  They can be used to collect baseline or pre-assessment data and for post-assessments after the vocabulary words are taught in speech-language therapy sessions. 

The assessments provided will evaluate students' understanding of the vocabulary skills that are needed to master 3rd grade standards. As a bonus, I have also included English/Language Arts vocabulary assessments according to categories such as types of nouns, types of sentences, parts of speech, story vocabulary, types of literature, types of writing, figurative language, and prefixes.

I hope that this product will assist you in providing educationally relevant speech-language therapy services!  

This product pairs well with my language interventions Guess What? Curriculum Bundle and English/Language Arts Common Core Vocabulary Bundle. 

Thanks for reading my Building Successful Lives blog today. Make sure that you subscribe by entering your email in the box in the right hand column of this page. Stay connected and remember that SLPs are building speech, language, academic, and social skills of kids everyday! Keep up the great work! :) I'm back to work full-time tomorrow. Summer break is officially over. 

Tamara Anderson

Friday, July 24, 2015

Tell Me About Summer Stories

I love hearing great stories! Lately it's been from friends over dinner or a juicy summer story with a friend on the phone! No gossip...just sharing some interesting life happenings. I have also been reading some great books. 

Well, in speech-language therapy, it is critical that children are taught how to retell fiction stories. They need to understand the sequence of events and key story elements such as character, character trait, setting, introduction, problem, solution, conclusion, etc. They need practice with verbally communicating narratives. It's a good thing that most speech-language pathologists and educators know how to read with expression to really grab the attention of children. This helps keep children engaged during literacy lessons.

Summer is a great time to read new stories to children and have them practice retelling the story in the correct sequence with key details. Here are some great summer stories for young kids:



Now for those of you working with private practice kiddos this summer you definitely need my best selling Oral Story Retelling Rubric. School-based SLPs this is a must have for you as well. Many of you will be back to your regular SLP awesome life in the schools very soon! :)

Here are what some buyers have said about this product:

"I am very happy about this rubric. It is a great resource for me to figure out what I need to focus on more with students. I like the grading system as well."

"The rubric addresses areas that I focus on in therapy. I do not have to generate my own, which saves me time in the planning process as well as when writing IEP goals."

"This is a great visual to use to show the students as well! Love it! Thanks!"

There are still a few weeks left of official summer. So keep reading summer stories and have speech-language kiddos tell you about them! What are some children's books that you think young kiddos love in the summer? I'd love to hear your favorites! :)


Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Sale in my Curriculum Store!!

In case you missed the announcement on my Instagram page, I am having a 20 % off Summer Sale today and tomorrow in my TPT Curriculum Store. This is your chance to purchase informal assessment tools, speech-language therapy materials, and educational products to use with students and clients at discounted prices. 

I absolutely LOVE designing products for you!  I use them as well during my pediatric speech-language therapy sessions. I am committed to equipping speech-language pathologists and educators with tools of excellence to excel at their craft of igniting student's communication and learning. 

Make sure that you stay connected with Building Successful Lives blog aka BSL Speech & Language to receive all the latest scoop for working with children with special learning needs and learn about my latest products and complimentary resource guides. You can subscribe to the blog by entering your email in the box on the right hand column of this page. 

Until next time, 

Tamara Anderson

Communication Success Tips

Hey everyone! I hope you all are having a wonderful July so far! I am truly enjoying my summer. I try to do something productive and fun each day. That's why I have 2 new resources to tell you about in my Building Successful Lives curriculum store. 

I created Communication Success Tips (for children ages 12-36 month) so that speech-language pathologists, educators, and parents can use this guide to foster communication development in children's everyday routines. I thought of this idea last Sunday afternoon as I was reflecting about the fact that my sweet little niece would be 18 months the next day. I couldn't believe it! I am blessed that I am able to visit her regularly. It is such a joy to watch her as she grows and learns! As an SLP, I of course am all about those developmental milestones and thinking about all the things she can do now and what she needs to learn next. 

Here's a picture of her last Monday when she turned 18 months old! 

Isn't she adorable?! :) 

You can access this COMPLIMENTARY digital download here

My next resource guide in this series that I specially designed is Communication Success Tips for Colleagues. 

My idea behind creating this was to remind SLPs and educators including myself of tips needed to build and maintain healthy relationships at work. I believe that effective communication skills are the foundation for healthy relationships. Colleagues are more productive when communication is clear and they feel valued by others.  

I hope that you love this new resource guide as much as I do! You can access this COMPLIMENTARY digital download here

Have an excellent week! 

Tamara Anderson

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

Hey everyone. Today is a start of another week. For those of you that follow me on social media, you most likely saw last week's motto: Change Your Mind, Change Your Life. One of my desires through this #buildingsuccessfullives blog and social media is to encourage others. I realize that EVERYONE can use some inspiration.  

I really do believe that if you deliberately change your perspective about life's circumstances your life will change too! Most of the time, your outlook WILL drastically improve your day. Although your circumstances may not automatically change, you control your response. 

One of my passions is definitely building successful lives of children with special needs that I work with during the school year and equipping speech-language pathologists and educators with the tools to do the same. However, it's much bigger than that. 

SAY WHAT? I desire for young adults to know that they too can build a successful, balanced, and fulfilled life for themselves. Yes, work is important. But what about your relationships with others, are they healthy? Do you think positively? Are you a glass half full person?

Stay tuned...more to come and remember. Change your mind, change your life! Use #inspireBSL and #inspireSLP to share your weekly inspirations on Instagram and Twitter. 

Make sure that you subscribe to this blog by entering your email on the right side of this page where it says "subscribe by email."  That way you won't miss an article! 

Thanks for reading! :)

Tamara Anderson

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Honoring Lives Well Lived

It has been one week since the senseless shooting and killing of 9 people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AMC) church in Charleston, SC on June 17, 2015. The news was absolutely devastating to hear that someone did not value the lives of others and chose to murder them. 

Today, I make a deliberate choice to honor their lives. The 9 victims are: Susie Jackson- 87, Daniel Simmons Sr.- 74, Ethel Lance- 70, Myra Thompson- 59, Cynthia Hurd- 54, DePayne Middleton Doctor- 49, Sharonda Coleman Singleton-45, Clementa Pinckney- 41, Tywanza Sanders, 26.  

No, I didn't know them personally, but my heart aches for their families and American society at large. I felt these feelings last Thursday when I heard the news and on Friday as well. With the passage of time, sadness gradually turns to action for me. 

Even in this scenario, when I never met any of these individuals, I desire to do something. I share their stories. I'm connected.

Therefore, I choose to honor the lives of the victims. I choose to play a part in helping to make a positive influence in telling their stories. 

One of those stories is that of Sharonda Coleman Singleton. She was a 45 year old mother of 3 children. She was an associate pastor, speech-language pathologist, track coach, sister, daughter, friend, and woman of God. 

I connect with her not only because I am saddened by the tragedy but also because I share somethings with her. I am a black woman who is also a woman of God, sister, daughter, friend, and speech-language pathologist. I'm not yet a mother, but I'm an aunt to my precious 18 month old niece and other friends' kids in my village. 

I connect with her even more so because I learned last Thursday night that she previously worked as a speech-language pathologist in metro-Atlanta prior to moving to South Carolina in 2007. I read an online article today from People magazine that reported  how she left a voice message for a college friend 2 weeks prior to her death. In it she said, "No matter what happens, all shall be well." She was truly of woman of great faith in God, no matter what.

Do you know what else?

I connect with her because I learned late last Thursday night that she not only worked in metro-Atlanta, but at my same school, in my same office. Her eldest child, who is now in college, attended the elementary school where I work prior to them moving to South Carolina. My co-workers remember Sharonda and her son, Christopher fondly.

When I found that out my heart sank even more, an eerie feeling came over me and I cried. It gave me the chills to know that a woman who loved working with special needs kids like I did, provided speech-language therapy in the same office I do now, and walked in the same elementary school halls, died at the hands of someone demonstrating hate.

I empathize greatly with the pain that Sharonda's kids and loved ones feel in the aftermath of her horrific killing. 

But, guess what? Even though the occurrence of last week is still sad, I am now filled with comfort and peace knowing that Sharonda Coleman Singleton's life was one of hard work, devotion, kindness, and service to others. For that reason, I honor her. May her legacy continue to live on so that others can be positively influenced by the life of service that she lived. May her children continue to grow into young adults with values that their mother, a fellow speech-language pathologist imparted in them. 

I also pray for comfort, strength, and peace for the other families. Myra Thompson was another servant of God, killed last Wednesday night. She devoted her life to church service and was the wife of a minister. I had dinner with her daughter a few weeks ago. Her daughter is a childhood friend of a friend of mine. I read an article from ABC news online in which her son said "What I'm going to miss most about my mom is her enthusiasm and her undeniable faith in the world to succeed." 

I honor Myra Thompson today and pray that God wraps his arms around her family and strengths them each day. May they experience his peace.

I pray for the family of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the pastor and U.S. Senator from South Carolina. I honor him today.

I pray for the family of Susie Jackson. I honor her today. 

I pray for the family of Daniel Simmons Sr. I honor him today.

I pray for the family of Ethel Lance. I honor her today. 

I pray for the family of Cynthia Hurd. I honor her today. 

I pray for the family of Reverend DePayne Middleton Doctor. I honor her today. 

I pray for the family of Tywanza Sanders. I honor him today. 

So, why do I write this on my speech-language pathology blog? Simple. God's calling on my life is much bigger than serving in my role as a speech-language pathologist although I love my profession. 

I choose to be obedient to God's instructions and direction in my life. So, I write. I tell this story. I write: Honoring Lives Well Lived. 

Tamara Anderson

Monday, June 8, 2015

Why There are Specific Times for Everything in Life

We spend so much of our day multi-tasking or quickly moving from one task to another.  At the end of the day you either feel exhausted or accomplished when reflecting on all the tasks you completed in a day. When we are in work mode, we need to be productive and accomplish daily tasks. Trust me, I get it because I am definitely the list making queen! 

However, how often do you think about the fact that there are specific times for everything in life? You may have heard people say that there are different seasons in life. Regardless of the season, I know that we all need to achieve a WORK LIFE BALANCE! Ahhhh...It's so refreshing just saying that. I am truly all about that. 

After eating my breakfast on the patio and completing my morning devotional today, I enjoyed laying back in my favorite chair. I looked around and could feel the peace of God surround me as I listened to the birds chirping and admired all the tropical plants in my midst. No, really I did! :) I then ventured outside the patio area as I noticed my mother's plant was now in full bloom. 

I looked at my watch and it was about 10:30 am. My thoughts quickly reminded me that my mother calls this plant 10 o'clock. That's usually when its in full bloom and then the flower goes to "sleep" and closes it's beauty by 4:00 pm. 

This flowering plant, scientifically known as Portulaca grandiflora, has a specific time to bloom each day and it opens its beauty for about 6 hours each day. You have to WAIT until the next day to catch another look at the natural beauty. 


It reminds me of life because there is a specific time for so many things. We do not have to do it ALL in one day, one week, one month or even one year. There are five main reasons why I believe there are specific times for everything in life. 

1) God's timing is perfect. Don't rush God's process.

2) You need time to rest. Master the art of relaxation.

3) You need time for relationships. Nurture friendships, family time,      and your marriage. 

4) You need time to work. Commit yourself to a life of service. 

5) You need time for fun. Do what you love. Go where you love.

Likewise, everyone has their own journey and purpose in life. Don't compare what you have or do not have in life to others. Instead express GRATITUDE daily! Happiness is a deliberate choice and it's contagious too!

If you feel like there is always so much to do in one day, just BREATHE! Remember, there are specific times for everything in life. You don't have to do it ALL in one day contrary to what society, your boss, or even spouse may think. 

Instead, remember the 5 main reasons why there are specific times in life and you will be AMAZED at how fulfilled and productive you can be! 

Thanks for reading the blog today. Have a beautiful day! :) 

Tamara Anderson

"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Building Successful Lives™- End of School Year Recap

I'm now in my 2nd week of summer break from work as a school based speech-language pathologist in the metro Atlanta area. It was a great and busy school year!  

I am enjoying my time in Florida since the memorial day weekend. It is always so refreshing to spend time in my beautiful sunshine and home state of Florida. Here's a picture of me at a new spot my family and I discovered named Ponce Inlet that is located a little south of Ormond Beach. 

As I reflect on the past school year, I am so grateful that I got to contribute to building successful lives in my students every day. It truly is rewarding to see their growth that is evident when I observe their communication skills and review my DATA! I think I am certainly the queen of progress monitoring as I have a form for just about everything I need! You can check some of those out here.

Each year, I look forward to attending 5th grade graduation for my students and this year was no different.  I wrote personalized letters for each child that recognized the gains they made in speech-language therapy and encouraged them to continue to succeed in MIDDLE school. I loved handing them out after the ceremony and snapping photos.  I felt like such a proud MAMA not just their SLP! Ha! I still can't believe some of my kiddos are moving on from elementary.  I have worked with some of them for the past four years. 

When I chatted with parents, they shared their appreciation for me working with their child over the years. I know that I made a difference in enriching their child's life from the conversations we had and their desire to snap keepsake photos! It makes me smile just thinking about it. :)

This year, I not only provided direct speech-language therapy for children with communication disorders, learning disabilities, Autism, intellectual disabilities, and behavioral challenges but also provided consultative/direct services to children in the Response to Intervention process. 

I enjoyed seeing the progress students made receiving listening comprehension and oral language interventions. I also liked collecting background information like a sleuth to determine whether kids needed a referral for special education evaluation, then assessing them and analyzing evaluation results to determine whether they would qualify for a speech-language impairment eligibility and subsequent therapy services. I had several tricky cases this year including determining whether there was a language difference due to English Language Learner needs or a true language disorder. 

I also served on the SLP leadership team for my district, facilitated local team meetings, and supervised 2 new hires for their Georgia state license. It was a great opportunity to contribute to the professional growth of these young women. 

When it was all said and done, it was a rewarding school year. The smiles of my students, the hugs,  and the multiple "I'll miss you this summer" confirm that I was certainly building successful lives one day at a time this school year. 

I am glad for the summer break from my school SLP role, yet I am excited for all that is in store for Building Successful Lives Speech & Language Services. Stay connected by subscribing to the blog by email so that you receive blog articles directly into your email account. Have a great rest of the school year for those still at work this month. Keep up the great work for those working in pediatric private practice or early intervention as well! You can do it! :)

Tamara Anderson

Monday, May 4, 2015

Technology and Response to Intervention {RTI Blog Hop}

I am excited to be a part of this School Based Innovation and RTI Blog Hop hosted by Jennifer Preschern at Speech, Language, and Literacy Lab, LLC! Thanks for the opportunity to share my ideas about RTI during ASHA's Better Hearing and Speech Month!

Speech-language pathologists definitely play a role in Response to Intervention or RTI as early identification of children at risk for speech-language challenges is essential to our scope of practice. RTI is a tiered system that requires quality evidence based instruction, universal screening, and progress monitoring of specific learning targets. In my school district, I have observed that many teachers have a good understanding of implementing research based instruction for students according to the curriculum. However, they need assistance with providing different strategies and educational opportunities for students that are not learning as expected. They often need assistance with progress monitoring identified weak speech, language, and academic skills. 

This is where the use of technology can help provide research based intervention while also recording the accuracy of students' performance. There has been an increase in the use of technology in speech-language therapy, education, and in homes throughout the world. Many kids are very knowledgeable about using computers and iPads. Although technology should never replace social interactions and oral communication, it can be a valuable tool. When implemented correctly, technology can support direct instruction and provided practice for kids working on different speech-language therapy and academic skills. 

I recommend HearBuilder Educational Software Program by Super Duper Publications because it provides interventions to address phonological/phonemic awareness skills, auditory memory, following directions, and listening comprehension (sequencing). The program is research based and provides mini instructional lessons as well as independent practice opportunities to address previously identified areas of need. This year, my speech language pathology department purchased the internet subscription for SLPs to use in the ENTIRE district! How awesome is that! I have seen success using the program for students receiving RTI as well as those receiving speech-language therapy. 

For example, many kindergarten and 1st grade teachers have reported that their students have difficulty learning early reading skills such as rhyming, blending sounds to make words, segmenting words into sounds, etc. This program has a specific module to address these phonemic awareness skills that a speech-language pathologist can assign as a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention. The SLP can select from the following specific early reading skills for each student to practice and the program will track the percentage of accuracy as well: 

Phoneme Addition, Phoneme Blending, Phoneme Deletion, Phoneme Manipulation, Phoneme Segmentation & Identification, Rhyming, Sentence Segmentation, Syllable Blending, Syllable Segmentation

I recommend periodically watching students as they complete learning tasks, reviewing and printing data. Doing so, will enable the SLP to best make adjustments as needed to settings of the selected computer based intervention based on students' performance.

I have also observed that many children at risk for language disorders and learning disabilities struggle with auditory memory. The HearBuilder program has an excellent component that addresses memory for numbers, words, WH questions, details, and auditory closure. I suggest selecting 1 or 2 sections of the auditory memory program to provide intensive intervention in the students' weak areas. As they progress through the different levels within each section, you can give them access to complete another memory module (e.g. memory for WH questions). 

Similarly, the following directions intervention section of this program has a systematic hierarchy that builds from: basic concepts (qualitative, spatial), quantitative, sequential, temporal, conditional. I recommend that the SLP change the settings of the program so each student only has access to practice 1 or 2 sections. Many regular education teachers often report that students do not following directions in the classroom. It may be because they do not understand basic vocabulary concepts that are addressed in the HearBuilder program. 

The sequencing intervention provides practice with listening to information to put instructions and stories in order. Sequencing is a critical skill that is essential for successful verbal and written narrative development. Many kids at risk for a speech-language disorder or learning disability struggle in this area. 

In addition to using the data tracking in HearBuilder, you may also use other informal assessment tools to monitor students progress in RTI. For example, I have a FREEBIE for you that can be used to record baseline and progress check data for "Wh" questions in my TPT store here.

I have other progress monitoring tools in my TPT store for basic concepts (qualitative, spatial) and vocabulary (hierarchy of semantic processing). Just click on the progress monitoring custom category to review the resources available for speech-language pathologists, educators, or RTI specialists to use. 

Thanks for reading the blog today. Make sure you read Starfish Therapies' RTI blog article tomorrow and other posts the rest of the month. You can learn more about Starfish Therapies here if you need direct speech-language, physical, or occupational therapy services and you live in San Francisco, California. Thanks for joining the celebration today for Better Hearing and Speech Month!  

Tamara Anderson, M.S., Ed.S., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Education Specialist

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring into Literacy: Teaching Phonological Awareness

Recently I have been working on phonological awareness skills with a 1st grade speech fluency student who also has difficulty with reading decoding and reading fluency. I provide services for an older elementary school student as well with language impairment that struggles immensely with basic literacy skills. From my observation, this is not an area that all speech-language therapists address. However, literacy is a part of our scope of practice according to ASHA.  

These literacy areas are considered appropriate roles and responsibilities for SLPs: 1) preventing written language problems by fostering language acquisition and emergent literacy 2) identifying children at risk for reading and writing problems 3) assessing reading and writing 4) providing intervention and documenting outcomes for reading and writing 5) providing consultation to teachers, parents, students about effective literacy practices

Woah! Did you realize how in depth our responsibilities can extend in the area of literacy?  SLPs can assist with reading & written expression. Say what? I know we have a lot on our plates working with the listening and speaking components of literacy so to think about helping with reading and written expression may be a bit daunting.  After all, the resource special education teachers directly teach that for our IEP kiddos.

Nevertheless, a few years ago, I decided to get additionally training in the area of reading. I quickly observed that many of my students with speech-language impairment had a language based learning disability in the areas of reading and writing. Therefore, I completed a Georgia State University reading endorsement certification program. I learned valuable reading assessment and instruction best practices in this program that I can use when I provide consultation for students in the RTI process. It also helps me know what to do as I directly address phonological awareness with students from time to time. 

So, what is phonological awareness? This is the term used to describe essential literacy skills that require a child to manipulate syllables, words, and sounds. These are auditory skills that generally begin at age three and are typically mastered by ages 6-7 if a child does not have a reading disability. 

Here is what an SLP can do to teach this skill:
1) create word lists of rhyming and non-rhyming words
*Tell the child 2-3 words. Then ask, "do these words rhyme?"
*Give a child a target word and ask "What rhymes with ____?"

2) create word lists for syllable counting (segmentation) activities
*Tell and show a child a word and ask "How many syllables are in these words?"

3) create word lists with compound words and other multi-syllabic words * Have kids combine syllables to express words. For example, say "What word do you hear when I say

What is phonemic awareness? This is a component of phonological awareness and involves skills such as phoneme blending, phoneme segmenting, phoneme deletion, phoneme substitution. 

Here are tips on how to work on these 4 skills:
*Use letters that you can manipulate such as these foam letters from Dollar Tree.

1) blend or combine sounds to say words
c-a-r, w-a-t-ch, b-o-o-k, p-e-n-c-i-l, p-l-a-y

2) verbally segment or separate sounds when given words
mom, dad, crayon, water, bear

3) verbally delete or omit a sound from a word to say a new word
say plate without /p/, say mat without the /m/

4) verbally change a sound to another sound
say /hat/, now take away /h/ and  add /b/  or change /h/ to /b/
say /sun/, now take away /s/ and  add /f/ or change /s/ to /f/

I highly recommend Hearbuilder Phonological Awareness program. It is available as an iPad or iPhone app or as paid subscription for use on the internet.  

I hope you learned some new information or refreshed your memory about how to teach phonological awareness skills. These can be used in speech-language therapy sessions or shared while consulting with general education teachers as they deliver RTI interventions in the classroom. 

Thanks for reading the blog today!

Tamara Anderson

Reference: Lanza, Janet; Flahive, L. (2012) Guide to Communication Milestones. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems, Inc.