Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm done!

Just got through finals week. I am so, so ready for a break. Then again, I saw a month-old wee one on Wednesday and was stroking her cheek and the bottom of her foot to check her reflexes, and I was really excited when she held my gaze, so while I am ready for a break the language nerd is strong within me. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this program, but I feel like this is where I am meant to be.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Psycholinguistic Field Day

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At first you might look at this and think, "What in the world...?"
In sign language class last night, BG wrote this up on the board as an example of an 8 1/2 year old deaf girl's written communication. It is very difficult to learn how to write when you cannot hear; you can't connect the letters with sounds and you can't sound out words. All words are sight words. Janey (name has been changed) is learning American Sign Language, which has a syntax very different from that of English. Meaning is conveyed through the location of the sign relative to the body and the face, the facial expression, and the position of the body, hands, and arms in space. Janey was trying to express meaning in writing, and all she had was ASL. She did not know the English words for what she was trying to say. Therefore, being a truly creative language learner, Janey took what she does know (ASL) and translated it into a written medium. The first line means that the girl scouts meet in the cafeteria. The "CVC" does not stand for consonant-vowel-consonant (as I originally thought; thanks Dr. Fallon! ;) ) but represents the sign for cafeteria. You cup your hand into a C, touch one side of your chin, and then touch the other. The "V" is representing the chin, and the "C" is representing the hand of the hand. The second line means "All the children settle down". If you go here:, click on Main Dictionary, "S", and then scroll down to "Settle", you can see how Janey made a graphic representation of the sign for "settle". The smiley face is meant to represent the children. Wouldn't it be interesting if ASL came up with its own written language in this manner? BG says that deaf children often come up with graphic representations of signs for words that they do not know. I think it shows a lot of resourcefulness on the part of these children, and their determination to get their meaning across. I don't think most people think like this. I found it fascinating.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Any student of any sort can tell you of the wonders of procrastination. You discover so many wonderful things! My favorite vehicles for putting off my work are,, and I also email my fiancee (because I am engaged now, which is crazy) incessantly. Lucky man. ;) This month I am also writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month ( 50,000 words of one story in 30 days! Madness! I'm at 19,939 at the moment, so I'm about 2,000 words behind where I should be, but I'm not too worried about it. I'm going to try to catch up today. It's been fantastic for keeping me in touch with my creative writing side, which apparently has NO PLACE in the SLP world. Fortunately I plan to write books for my kids. Take that, soap notes! (No, I don't know why they call your write-ups from a therapy session soap notes. I guess that's why I pay them the big bucks, so that they will reveal such mysteries to me.) I'm writing the novel online using Zoho writer, and if you want to read along shoot me an email at and I will give you read/write permission. If you create an account with them (it's free), then you can edit my story and leave me comments. Keep in mind that I'm going for quantity rather than quality at this point; the idea is to get it all down without worrying about how good it is, and then going back and editing it later.
So that is what I'm doing these days to procrastinate.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Compare and Contrast

I am so unevenly distributed in Language Development class. It's an online class, and I'm not good at keeping up with those, but an aspiring SLP's gotta do what an aspiring SLP's gotta do. I'm behind in the reading and the lectures, but I already got my language sample for the project that isn't due until November 13. Go figure.
I will call the 2 1/2 year old whose language I sampled J. I know, me and J names! He seemed to be right where he was supposed to be linguistically and cognitively. I had a tape recorder, but I was writing things down as well. I was amazed that when I took my attention off of him to write something down, I didn't lose him. He was perfectly willing to engage with me when I was done writing. The last time I did something like this was with Joey in his scattered phase, and if I took my attention off of him to write something down he was off on the other side of the room talking to himself like there was no tomorrow, bless him.
His sister (whose is maybe in 1st grade) was out there too, and was able to provide some translation services. I've noticed before that older siblings understand their younger siblings' early speech better than their parents do. I wonder if anyone has done research on that? At one point I was talking to J's mother while J and his sister played on the swingset. The sister, trying to be helpful (and I suspect get some attention ;) ), kept hollering across the yard, "J said 'swing'! J said, 'leaf'!" I made sure to say, "Thank you! I'll be sure to write that down!" and actually write it down, even though I hadn't heard it myself and I don't know if I could actually count it.
His well-meaning mother kept telling J to "talk to Miss. Katie" and bringing out books for him to look at, but I got the longer utterances from him when he was riding around on his bike. Child-directed play is a hard concept to grasp and I didn't quite know how to tell her that I was supposed to be getting as natural a sample as possible. She was so enthusiastic and seemed to want to show off her son's language abilities, so I let her. I assured her that he seemed right on track and even a little ahead to me. If I do much more of this, I need to find a better way to prep my parents.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bits and Bobs

I am so bad at anatomical diagrams. I expect them to be literal representations of the structure in question and to include all of the relevant parts to scale, and they never are and they never do. I cannot reconcile the various different views of a structure with each other, especially not if it is a brainstem with lots of wiggly little nerves sticking out that I need to label. I shake my fist at you, little wiggly nerves!
Whenever I leave sign language class it feels strange to be communicating without moving my hands. On Monday BG (my professor is BG to many of the deaf with whom she works, so she is BG to us as well) told us how she taught two little deaf ones how to trick-or-treat. They said "BOO!" instead of "Trick-or-Treat" because it is easier. In the past they had always sort of followed along with the other kids, but she taught them that people were giving the kids candy so that the kids would not trick or scare them. They took turns playing different roles, and when it was one of the deaf kids' turns to answer the door, they had to knock on the glass so the deaf kid could see that someone was there. BG pointed out that the deaf do not always realize that actions cause noises, so they might ring the doorbell until you come to the door because they think that is how it works. They don't realize that the doorbell is making a noise. I love sign language. There are no secrets, and it is very expressive and fun. I hope I can take the second part of it, although I seriously doubt I'll have room in my schedule. Ah, well.
I continue to chomp at the bit and want to work with the little hearing/speech/language impaired children of the world. They are such darlings, and they have so much to offer, they just don't know how to communicate it! My friend Samantha just got back from Mexico and she fell in love with 29 boys at an orphanage. She would tell them (in Spanish), "Tell me what you want! Use words!" and they would just yell and point. She told me that they were so bright, but they didn't know how to express it, and the nuns (God bless them) did everything they could for the boys but they were all so needy that it was hard to give all of them the attention they needed. Sam hopes to go back to Mexico next summer and visit the orphanage again, and I told her I would get her some behavior management resources in the meantime so she could build an effective Spanish vocabulary to help them. I think that people who fall for the hard cases should always be supported. There are so many hard cases and so few people who fall in love with them.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A somewhat humerous follow-up

I often stop and talk to small children in public places. It's a habit I got into a while ago, because I enjoy kids, and now I do it in hopes that I can practice my behavior management skillz. Thus far it hasn't really worked, but I did have a very animated conversation with the young man behind me in Applebee's last week about hunting. He had very good storytelling skills; he did sound effects and gestures and was reasonably clear for being an 8 year old guy. When I was ready to go I told said young man that it was nice speaking with him. He said, "Nice speaking to you too." I said, "Thank you, I really like your manners!" He smiled and looked down and said, "Thanks!" It was really cute.
Oh, the follow-up! Well, today I was trying to engage a small girl in conversation while her mom put away her younger brother's stroller. The girl finally looked at me and said, "Are you a girl?" which I took to mean, "Who the heck are you and why are you talking to me?" as opposed to previously when I blogged about "You woman?" which meant, "Does the term 'woman' apply to you?" Semantics is (are?) fun! XD
Oh, Linguistics. I miss you. I can't wait until I take some more language-centric classes. Right now the only such class I'm taking is Language Development, and thus far it's been a review of what I gleaned from Dr. Parker's Psycholinguistics, with a much drier textbook. Good call on "How Babies Talk", Dr. Parker! I need to reread that.
I am also actually missing Dr. Fallon's Phonology problems of doom. What is WRONG with me? One of those things literally took hours to puzzle out between two people. I have vaguely contemplated trying one or two of them on my own and emailing him what I come up with to see if I can still do it. It would probably make him really happy. I've emailed him twice this semester just geeking out and saying hi.
In conclusion, I should do my homework. Ta!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Smart disabled kids

Today I got to go play with Joshua for almost 3 whole hours! It was fantastic. I adore that boy. He just turned six and has severe cerebral palsy. I am one of many, many volunteers who goes to Joshua's house to pattern him, showing his body how to creep in a cross-pattern on his hands and knees by moving his limbs for him while he lies on a table. In between, he crawls on his stomach on the floor. I dumped 2 carts of blocks and some water on my head as a reward for him crawling X amount of feet, let him climb and drool on me. I have no dignity, which is a great asset. ;) We laughed and laughed, and he babbled up a storm! He's making so many new sounds these days. It's really exciting. I read him some books, and he liked that a lot too. He's very smart; he does all kinds of math problems on his facilitated communication board and he reads silently very well. Joey is also very academically advanced, but is still mastering this whole "communication" thing. Both boys have their own languages and their own ways, and it's so exciting to learn the meaning behind certain repeated utterances and gestures.
In conclusion, I really love smart disabled kids and I want to play with them all the time. I call it "play" because it really does not seem like "work" to me. I can't believe that people will pay me to do this. It is too weird. Bless the little ones who teach us how to slow down and pay attention and celebrate life's victories!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Some links
This is the family who changed my life in college and showed me my vocation. I am so proud of Joey and Andy! Joey is a 6 year old boy with high-functioning autism who still needs a lift over the hard places sometimes, and I tutored him for about 2 years. I watched him grow tremendously. When I first started working with him, he did not understand questions. If the question had a pre-determined answer, such as, "What color is the sky?" then he was fine with it. Think about the scene in the beginning of Star Trek IV when the computer is asking Spock all of these really hard math and science questions and Spock is answering them in a heartbeat, but when the computer asks, "How do you feel?", Spock says, "I do not understand the question." That is how Joey was the first two semesters I worked with him. When I came back for fall semester of my junior year, Joey had started speech therapy, and could now answer questions like, "Do you want to play blocks?" or "Are you hungry?" I don't know if he could attempt, "How do you feel?" right away, but by now I'm sure he could!
This is something to think about if you want to have children some day, especially for individuals like myself who are at high risk for having a disabled child.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Let's see how this works...

I'm going to attempt to start a blog-proper about my adventures as an aspiring speech-language pathologist (SLP). For more information about what I do, check out
Yesterday in sign language class my teacher told us about a little deaf girl who has only had language (American Sign Language, or ASL...we like abbreviations) for about a year and a half. This girl came up to my teacher and signed, "You woman?" My teacher said yes, she was a woman. The girl signed, "Cool." Then she signed, "Me woman?" My teacher signed, "No, you not woman, you girl." The girl signed, "Cool." After a year and a half, the label "woman" had just sunk in. Isn't language interesting?