Stroke Warning Signs: Be Prepared!

What is a stroke?

  • Brain Disruption caused by “vascular disruptions”
  • Loss of blood or bleeding
  • “sudden and severe attack” Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA)

Incidence of Stroke

  • 3rd Leading cause of death and disability behind heart disease and cancer
  • Annual incidence 2 per every 1,000
  • 5 million survivors of stroke in any given year
  • 65 and over increases with age

Causes of Stroke

  • Vascular Disease
  • Disruption in blood circulation

Did you know? Hypertension, cigarette smoking, diabetes, frequent alcohol consumption, obesity, lack of physical activity, and a history of transient ischemic attacks (mini strokes) or CVA’s are all potential factors that may heighten an individual’s risk for stroke.

The Stroke Association uses the acronym F.A.S.T. to help people remember the sudden signs of a stroke. Warning signs are listed below:

  • Facial drooping: Is the person weak or numb on one side of the face? Ask the person to smile and see if one side of their face is drooping or uneven.
  • Arm Weakness: Is one arm or side of the body weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms- Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty:  Is the individual having difficulty speaking or understanding speech? Have the person repeat a simple phrase, such as “Hello, my name is ___.” Is the sentence imitated correctly? How is the quality of the speech? Is
    it slurred?  Other warning signs or sympstroke-warning-signs-and-symptoms-and-what-to-dotoms may include: impairment of vision, episodes of dizziness or falls, and/or severe headaches.
  • Time to call 9-1-1: If you or a loved one is displaying any of the aforementioned symptoms, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Also, try and remember the time when first symptoms appeared.

Visit the link below to learn more about strokes, how to prevent them, and moving forward after one has occurred. Remember, good health choices made today can prevent stroke later.

American Stroke Association

Amanda Weiner MS CF-SLP TSSLD


All About Fluency!

What goes into coordinating fluent speech?

  • Respiration- the process of using breath to create speech sounds.
  • Phonation- the process by which the vocal folds produce certain sounds
  • Articulation- the adjustments and movements of speech organs involved in pronouncing particular sound, taken as a whole.
  • Resonation The buzz created by the vocal folds resonates (vibrates) the air column and this in turn causes the structures above and around the larynx to vibrate/resonate as well.

If only one is “off,” there will be a breakdown in fluency.

What is Disfluency?

  • Various surface interruptions that occur in on-going speech, whole word/part word repetitions, irregular rhythm, sound prolongation, cessation of speech
  • “Normal nonfluencies,” occur is everyone’s speech- word finding, sentence formulation, distractions, interjections (like, um, you know)

Dimensions of normal speech fluency

  • rate (appropriate timing)
  • continuity (smooth connections)
  • tension effort (appropriate force)

The Major Components of Stuttering:

Core Behavior-what a Person Who Stutters does WHEN they stutter

  1. Repetition- When a sound, syllable, or word is repeated several times: b b b-aby or ba ba ba baby
  2. Prolongation- when a sound is held for a long time or just keeps coming: baaaaaaby
  3. Complete block- when the sound and airflow are completely stopped: b—–aby

Secondary Behavior– what a Person Who Stutters does BECAUSE they stutter

  1. eye blinking
  2. foot stomping
  3. head nodding
  4. face movements
  5. avoid talking
  6. add words
  7. change what was going to be said

Feelings and attitudes about stuttering: (anxiety, nervousness, fear)

Two Approaches For Treatment

Fluency Shaping: speak more fluently, which includes factors such as: speak with a slower rate, easy onsets, airflow management, intonation and phrasing management, continuous forward moving speech

Stuttering Modification: helps the person monitor the stuttered speech more fluently (stutter more fluently)- the Moment of stuttering is changed. Some techniques include:

  • Identification: understand core/avoidance behaviors understands feelings associated with stuttering learn about stuttering
  • Desensitization: address emotions toward stuttering, relax, teach person who stutters to tolerate moment of stuttering and reduce anxiety
  • Modification: Cancellation-finish stutter, make adjustments, and re-utter word
  • Pull-outs: examine, plan, change, finish word in an easier way
  • Preparatory set: before saying the word plan change, and produce the word more easily

Treatment Goals

Acceptable Fluency

  • Noticeable stuttering of less severity.
  • Comfort in role of communicator, despite stuttering.
  • Speaker makes adjustments to maintain an acceptable level of stuttering.

Controlled Fluency

  • Must monitor and adjust speech to maintain natural or normal sounding speech.
  • Speaker must pay attention to how he is speaking.

Spontaneous Fluency

  • Characteristic of the normal speaker.
  • Effortless.
  • Speaker more concerned with what is said than how it is said.

Thanks for reading! Contact one of our seven facilities if you suspect that you or a loved one may have a fluency concern. Happy Fall!

Amanda Weiner, MS CF-SLP TSSLD

Five Levels of Attention

Did you know? Individuals with cognitive-communication disorders (e.g., TBI, aphasia, and dementia) show marked difficulty with attention, memory, and executive functions. One frequent aspect of TBI secondary impairment is disordered attention.

Five Levels of Attention: 

Focused, Sustained, Selective, Alternating, and Divided

  1. Focused Attention: The ability to respond discretely to a particular visual, auditory, or tactile stimuli. Sometimes called “orienting” to stimuli. It is the lowest level of attention or alertness.
  2. Sustained Attention: The ability to sustain a steady response during continuous attention. On average, adults have an attention span of about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Selective Attention: The ability to maintain attention in the face of distracting or competing stimuli.
  4. Alternating Attention: The capacity for mental flexibility that allows the shift of focus between tasks. People with alternating attention deficits are slow to shift their attention from one task to another. This can also affect conversations. The person will have difficulty with switching conversational topics quickly.
  5. Divided Attention: The ability to respond simultaneously to multiple tasks or to do more than one activity at a time. People with divided attention deficits might have difficulty driving and holding a conversation or cooking and listening to the news.

Strategies for Maintaining Attention

  • Avoid areas near doors, windows, and traffic patterns
  • Provide opportunities to take breaks.
  • Use a written or picture schedule and check off progress
  • Schedule most important work for times of greatest concentration
  • Break assignments into smaller and shorter segments
  • Limit the amount of information you put into your brain
  • Repeat the information in your mind
  • Create and maintain a quiet and non-distracting environment
  • Break larger tasks into smaller ones & redirect your attention back to talook-a-squirrelsk when needed
  • Allow breaks during or between tasks to reduce fatigue from extended attending

Try the sustained/selective attention tasks below by scanning through the stimuli to find the number 2 (first link), and the word “sun” (second link).  These handouts are great resources for individuals with cognitive-communication deficits, and even may be used with our young ones with attention deficits! To make these exercises more challenging, add some background distractions (e.g., music, white noise) to increase the level of difficulty for which the individual needs to attend to. Thanks for reading! 🙂



Amanda Weiner MS CF-SLP, TSSLD

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

The Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS approach was developed by Andrew Bondy and Lori Frost in 1985 and is a modified applied behavior analysis program designed for early nonverbal symbolic communication training. It is not a program designed to teach speech, although the latter is encouraged indirectly and some children begin to spontaneously use speech while enrolled in the PECS program.

PECS has been successful with a variety of populations including children with autism, those who have social-communicative and/or behavioral disorders, are non-verbal, and/or for those who are visual learners. It is important that from whatever target population the child belongs to, he or she can sit and attend to a two-dimensional stimulus and be able to physically hand each picture to his or her communication partner and establish joint attention.

The procedure for PECS intervention follows in a hierarchy of phases. PECS begins by teaching the child to give a picture of a desired item to a communication partner, who immediately honors the exchange as a request. The system goes on to teach discrimination of pictures and how to put them together to form phrases and sentences. In the more advanced phases, children are taught to respond to questions and spontaneously comment.

An outline of the phases are as follows:

pecs-2Phase I: How to Communicate- Students learn how to exchange single pictures for items or activities that they really want. It is important that the communication partner finds out what the child has interest in so that he or she isn’t prompted into asking for something they don’t like. We should never make PECS aversive.

Phase II: Distance and Persistence- Still using single pictures, students learn to generalize this new skill by using it in different places, with different people and across distances. This phase is also utilized for the purpose of expanding spontaneity from the child.

Phase III: Picture Discrimination- Students learn to select from two or more pictures to ask for their favorite things. These favorite things are placed in a communication book- a three ring binder with Velcro strips where pictures are stored and easily removed for communication.

Phase IV: Sentence Structure- Students seek out their PECS board, and learn to construct simple sentences on a detachable sentence strip using an “I want” picture followed by a picture of the item being requested. Students then seek out a communicative partner, and give him or her the sentence strip. Listeners read the strip back to the child, inserting a fixed time delay between the words “I want” and the item label. Additional social praise is added if a child independently provides the label during the delay.

*Attributes and Language Expansion* At this point, students begin to learn to expand their sentences by adding adjectives, verbs, and prepositions.

Phase V: Answering a direct question- Students learn to use PECS to answer the question, “What do you want?”pecs-1

Phase VI: Commenting- Now students are taught to comment in response to questions such as, “What do you see?”, “What do you hear?” and “What is it?” They learn to make up sentences starting with “I see,” “I hear,” “I feel,” “It is a,”etc.

Support provided by the clinician is included within each description of each phase; however, additional support and prompts may include:pecs-phase-4
Question Cues
: “What do you want?”

Hand Over Hand Cues: Helping to initiate the movement of putting the pictures from the communication board onto the sentence strip or by helping rip off the pictures.

Visual Cues: Pointing to the pictures on the communication board.

PECS is supported by evidenced based practice, and has demonstrated enhanced communication skills in a variety of populations. It is important to note that a therapist should be PECS trained before implementing the approach.

Clink the link below to watch how Phase 1 of PECS is used. Thanks for reading!

PECS Phase 1


Ali, E., MacFarland, S. Z., & Umbreit, J. (2011). Effectiveness of combining tangible symbols with the picture exchange communication system to teach requesting skills to children with multiple disabilities including visual impairment. Education & Training in Autism      & Developmental Disabilities, 46(3), 425-35.

Ganz, J., Lund, E., Simpson, R. The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): A Promising Method for Improving Communication Skills of Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 2012, 47(2), 176-186.

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2015, from

Amanda Weiner M.S. CF-SLP, TSSLD

Back To School

With “back to school” right around the corner, everyone can benefit from strategies for increasing memory and retention of learned information. All of us, especially students, forget important information at times. This occurs when we do not transfer information from our short-term memory to our long-term memory. There are a variety of strategies that students, and adults, can use to improve their retention of important information.


The strategies include:

  1. Chunking- breaking up large amounts of information into small chunks that are easily remembered
  2. Understanding- relate what you are learning to things you have already experienced to facilitate understanding.
  3. Graphic Organizers- organize information by using Venn diagrams, webs, cause and effect diagrams, or cycle organizers
  4. Visualization-see an image of what your learning in your head so it becomes more meaningful
  5. Association- connect each word or event with a person, place, thing, feeling, or situation
  6. Rhyming- make rhymes to help you remember key information
  7. Talking- talking about information promotes learning that information
  8. Storytelling- arrange learned information into a logical sequence so that each event in the story triggers the next event in your memory
  9. Writing Sentences/Acronyms- write sentences or words where the first letter of each word represents information you need to learn (e.g. the planets: “My Very Excellent Mom Just Served Us Nine Pizzas”)
  10. Rehearsing- practices it or it will fade by saying it, writing, it, drawing it, or singing it.  Rehearse the information in a variety of modalities.


Jessica Eberhardt M.S. CF-SLP, TSSLD


Melodic Intonation Therapy

During graduate school, I had the pleasure of working with an individual with severe non-fluent aphasia post stroke. My patient’s expressive output was limited to a few words, and he was outwardly frustrated by his limitations. One day, I decided to introduce music therapy into our sessions, and it was a success! By using the techniques from Melodic Intonation Therapy, my patient was able to spontaneously produce lyrics from some of his favorite tunes, including “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Tears of pure joy fell from his face when he was able to so effortlessly produce speech again. It was so rewarding.

Singing, Is It Therapeutic? “Some patients can sing familiar songs, sometimes only the tune without intelligible words, but sometimes with the approximation of the lyrics, even when they cannot vocalize under other conditions.”

Music As Therapy: Music therapy has been used in rehabilitation to stimulate brain functions involved in speech. Musical structures and language structures have many similar features, which generates continuous research interest.

music-notes-clip-art-png-139835101453Developed in 1973 by Albert, Sparks, and Helm, Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT) is a formal treatment program originally intended for patients with severe non-fluent aphasia. MIT uses the musical elements of speech (melody and rhythm) to improve expressive language by capitalizing on preserved function (singing) and engaging language-capable regions in the undamaged right hemisphere. Since the original publication, this technique has been researched and used by SLPs, music therapists, and music neuroscientists. Improvements of speech abilities in adults with non-fluent aphasia has led to new development of research aiming towards evidence of MIT on other individuals with communication disorders, such as apraxia of speech.

The Technique: MIT was designed to elicit speech from severely aphasic patients with little or no volitional speech. It places the patient in structured drills in which phrases are produced with exaggerated stress, rhythm, and pitch. The patient taps out the rhythm of each phrase while producing the phrase. The patient is trained to utter prepositional phrases and sentences using sung intonation patterns that are similar to the natural intonation patterns of the spoken phrases or sentences.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 12.32.18 PM

Melodic Intonation Therapy continues to be a primary mode of treatment to facilitate production of communicative words and phrases. Click the links below to watch real-life examples of the effectiveness of MIT. Have a great Labor Day weekend and thanks for reading!

Link 1

Link 2

Amanda Weiner M.S. CF-SLP, TSSLD