Creativity in Children

I came across a post through my “Pediatric and School-Based Therapy Discussion Group” on LinkedIn today and it got me thinking about my experience with creativity.  I have always been a huge proponent of letting children be creative in their natural environments.  This was probably shaped by my parents who let us watch very little TV and were always admonishing us to “go play outside!”  which we did on most days.  There, outside, left to our own devices and very little store-bought material, we created worlds far away from our seemingly boring, humdrum, kind of middle-class “Leave it to Beaver” life.  We created “farms” in the woods, building rail fences from dead trees and branches, we cut trails through the woods and down hills, so we’d have a sliding “chute” when the snow came, we played “Army” with sticks and created personas to fit the scenario – and it didn’t matter if you were a girl or a boy – you could be “Joe” and no one thought anything of it.  We created “stores” and sold things that we created and did the usual lemonade/Kool-Aid stand thing (I was absolutely dismayed to see a “lemonade stand” in a box for sale in the window of a drugstore chain the other day), with no help from our parents, except for the purchase of the drink mixes.  We were fortunate to have art and craft materials at our disposal, and used them freely.  We drew elaborate drawings on the pavement with chalk.  We built tree houses with found materials.  We went off for a day on our bikes, “camping” in the woods for the day and pretending to be famous adventurers or lost travelers.

I wonder if this sort of childhood is still happening for most of our children and grandchildren – my children grew up just as personal computers and video games hit the scene, and I will say they did have a strong interest in these things and became adept at using them, so much so that I found myself relying on their expertise more than a few times while learning skills I needed for my job and for personal pursuits (e.g., how to use “Paint”).  But I also encouraged as much outside time as possible, too, as I realized the importance of pretend play and interacting with neighborhood friends, and now my children and their friends have happy memories of growing up together.  It’s funny – I never hear them reminiscing about that “awesome day of video gaming” – it’s always about how they made a fort in the woods, or made up a commercial, made costumes, or played with all the animals we had.  I see all the artwork my daughter created over her years of growing up and am glad I gave her what she needed to pursue this passion and am thankful for the teachers she had that encouraged and allowed her to express herself in this way.  My son – well, let’s just say his creativity took another road and he would make a great mechanical engineer – a logical, pragmatic kind of thinker, but still needing that creativity to think through a problem and create a solution.

That’s something else we have to remember – that “creativity” is not all about being an “artist” – creativity can be found and is essential in all talents and professions – it just takes different forms.  We, as speech-language pathologists, need to be creative out of necessity, and those who aren’t as “creative” as they’d like to be, can always find someone else who is and use their ideas.  The creativity in this is the ability to find what you need and apply it to your situation – something all of us do every day, no matter what the task.

Here is a link to an easy-to-read graphic presentation on creativity that includes statistics and quotes from famous people about their take on creativeness:


Let me know if this doesn’t work – it looks as though it’s my own personal “gateway” and is bypassing a sign-in.  I tried it, and it works, but it may be automatically signing me in when I click on it.


Goals tracking

I just got a request to share my tracking form I use to track my students’ progress on their speech-language goals.  I developed this on an Excel spreadsheet after getting the idea from a former classmate/friend/supervisor during a practicum I took with her.  It’s an easy (and fun for the student) way to track progress and see the progress at a glance.  It incorporates a grid of percentages 0-100 that when colored in, creates a bar graph.  There is a place for the student’s name, range of dates, the goal, dates, percents, and plenty of lines below for comments (SOAP kinds of info).  I print this off double-sided to save space in the file/binder and the students love to color in the boxes and see their progress.  You also have the option to “color” it in the computer and type your notes, but I find the pencil and pen method is quicker (and more fun for my students).

Credit to Susan Lanzara Fass, M.S., CCC-SLP (now working for Boothby Therapy Services in New Hampshire).

I’ll be sharing more later!



Yelling at people with ASD to stop their loud voices?!?

I belong to a group on LinkedIn begun by PediaStaff where (primarily) OTs and SLPs ask each other questions, pose dilemmas, share techniques, and recommend products – it’s a wonderful resource for getting help, giving help, and bouncing ideas off of your peers.  A recent post described a situation at work for one OT – she reported that staff were using “aversive yelling” in order to extinguish the loud volume of their students on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  When I first read this, I thought, “What?!? Is this a joke?”  But I soon found out it was not, and these people truly believe this is an effective treatment.  The OT disagrees and is offering alternative treatments, but they refuse, citing lack of evidence (the ol’ “evidence-based practice” dogma we are required to follow when choosing therapies for our clients/students/patients).  So she posted a plea for evidence-based research backing up other therapeutic approaches, such as visual (e.g., hand motion, cards with different icons depicting the volume level, the “5-Point Scale”) or audible cues.  I felt compelled to help this woman, as well as having the desire to find this answer myself.  I often have students on my caseload who are “loud-talkers” and have tried the “5-Point Scale” in the past with some success, but have found that it didn’t carry over into the natural environment.  I wondered if I wasn’t using the technique properly, or enough, or long enough to see results.  So I wrote to the author of the program/idea and she graciously wrote back to me within a day with some helpful information which I have copied below:

Self-Management is an EBP and the scale is a form of self-management (specifically increasing self-awareness, awareness of others, self-management and relationship awareness).  In this sense, the 5-point scale has been referred to as an ‘evidence based practice’.  I find it hard to believe that a program would, on one hand, worry about EBPs, and on the other, use an aversive approach to teaching an issue of self-regulation.  I am sure you are familiar with the national autism center’s word on EBP:

I don’t see aversive yelling mentioned anywhere in the EBP literature.  If the school is not comfortable with something that sounds too much like an “approach”, try to help them understand that self-management is the ticket and they can use many different teaching methods (including other scales) to teach self-regulation and voice volume recognition (self-awareness).  Aversive therapy is not a teaching tool, it is a behavior “control” tool and behavior “control” tools, to my knowledge, are not recommended in current educational literature.

Using the Scale:
It is important to remember that a scale is a teaching tool.  It is not simply another behavior management strategy nor is it a miracle that you can just post on the wall and hope things change.  We recommend you follow these steps when creating a scale:
1.   Determine the problem.  What is the person doing that you wish he wasn’t?  What is the social situation he seems to be confused by?
2.   What skill or social concept does he need to be taught in order to do this better?
3.   Break that concept into 5 parts.  Make #1 the smallest and #5 the biggest (avoid good and bad).
4.   Use a story or a simple memo or even a video to help the person understand how to use the scale.
5.   Practice using the scale prior to predictably difficult times or when needing to be in predictably difficult environments.
6.   Use the scale in real situations by prompting the person with a small portable scale.  Create a portable scale for the person to carry as a reminder.
Here are just a few examples of concepts or situations that have been successfully taught with a scale
-personal distance                           -perspective taking
-voice volume                                    -is it a problem?
-speed in the hallway                           -touching
-worry levels                                    -anger
-asking for help                                    -how other people think
-emotions                                             -words we use
-who is a friend                                    -breaking the law
-sexual behavior                           -classroom rules
-self-advocacy                                    -bus rides
-energy level                                   
The Ultimate Goal:
The primary goal of the scale is to teach social and emotional information that often eludes the person on the autism spectrum.  Initially the caregiver might need to gather information about the problem and create a scale.  This is often the case for very young children or nonverbal individuals.  As soon as possible, you want to prompt the person, regardless of age or ability, to interact with the scale.  Perhaps they are checking in regarding anxiety levels, or simply pointing to a #2 on a voice scale and modeling a whisper voice.  This can lead to another goal of the scale, teaching self-management.
Although a story, memo or video is often used to introduce the use of a scale, after the system is learned, scales can be developed as a way of “debriefing” after an unexpected problem.  Once learned, a scale can even be used in the moment to clarify information for the person in a functional, non-threatening and nonverbal way.
After one scale has been used successfully, you can use other scales in the same way.  For example, once you have made a worries scale, if the person has difficulty with voice volume you can show him how to use the scale for voice volume.  The scale then becomes a predictable system for teaching and learning difficult concepts.    
A big thanks to Kari Dunn Buron for replying to my query so quickly and sharing a section of the new, updated “5-Point Scale” with me.  I am eager to get this book and try it out in a more systematic manner to see if I get better results.  It surely has to be better than yelling at children who may not even realize how loud they are, AND are sensitive to loud stimuli!  The only time I would use a loud voice would be to model the student’s volume so they can hear how loud it is when it’s coming from another direction.
I’ll keep you posted at how this pans out…
A good day!

Addendum to the Action-Based Learning conference post…

The State of Maine’s Coordinated School Health Programs website finally posted the link to Jean Blaydes-Madison’s Action-Based Learning materials that were too lengthy to share on the day of the conference.  Warning – this is a long file, and if you have a pokey computer like mine, it will take awhile to download.  Be patient!  🙂

Breaking news!! Pam has begun a blog!!

Here is my first blog!!  I stumbled upon this after I wanted to comment on another SLP’s post about working in Zambia, Africa.

So I thought, why not?  This could be a great way to share the things I learn and collect as I travel my speech-language therapy path to and through my schools every day.

The first thing I want to share is a summary that I wrote up about the Action-Based Learning conference I went to last Wednesday in Hermon, Maine.  It was hosted by Jean Blaydes-Madigan and was a full day of learning how exercise and movement help the brain learn, among other things.  We SLPs already know a lot about the brain because we had to take Neurology in graduate school, but it was really neat to see those clinical facts put to use in musical routines, body movement sequences, and line dances (!) that we can use to help students learn in a fun and engaging way.

Now if I can just figure out to attach my document somewhere on here, I’ll be all set…


Action-Based Learning Summary 5.12