Jun 12

*Disclaimer for regular readers: This blog post departs from its usual farcical tone and is somewhat serious. Readers suffering from serious-induced shock are asked to immediately link to other posts for comic relief.

Dear Readers,

Yesterday, I got an awesome t-shirt. It says, “Luke’s Local Artist.” I felt like a fraud putting it on, because anybody within a mile of me can spot that I’m not an artist. The students I work with would have no problem sharing the depth of my visual-spatial impairments watching me attempt a basic stick figure sketch during a lesson. “Here Ms. Troi,” says my student with fine motor impairments who can’t yet use scissors to cut paper as he takes the pencil from me and draws an admittedly superior stick figure to my own, “This is how you draw a person.” So you might be wondering why I would don apparel emblazoned with the word “Artist.”

I donned this shirt last night because I was volunteering for an event called Luke’s Local Artists. This event, inspired by a ten-year old boy named Luke who lost his battle with cancer and actualized by his chemo pal* Ryan Foote, one of the creators of 2600 Strange Ave** (and creator of my awesome t-shirt), brought artists from the Portland area to the Disjecta event space and invited Portlanders to share in an evening of food, drinks, art and music to benefit three organizations who help support children with cancer: Children’s Cancer Association, Children’s Healing Art Project (CHAP), and Providence Cancer Research Center. 100% of the entrance fee ($20/person at the door, $15/person in advance) and the sale from drinks went toward these organizations.

When I offered to volunteer at the event, I didn’t know who Luke was, and when I left the event, I felt sad I’d never get the chance. From stories shared by those who knew him and a letter written in his own words, it was clear that In his three-year battle with cancer, Luke was a steadfast beacon of hope. The kind of hope that can be depleted for much less than the battle he fought. The kind of hope we forget to tap into when we’re tapped out by fear and loss.

People have sometimes asked me why I enjoy volunteering for organizations that matter to me, like the Children’s Cancer Association or American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). And I’ll often respond with the flippancy characteristic of the blog posts you’ve come to know (and love?), like the fun or the free t-shirts (my neon green oversized AFSP t-shirt is perfect for first dates, because nothing says “I’m fun!” like neon green and the topic of suicide). But if I were to give an honest answer, it would be, “Because I’m alive, so I can.” I wake up every single morning with the gift of life, which is really the gift of opportunity: opportunity to do more and become better. Luke’s story reminded me that the gift of life is fleeting, and if I embrace this life and catch its curve balls (That’s a metaphor. I’m as bad at catching baseballs as I am at sketching the aforementioned stick figures.) with half the courage and hope that Luke did, I will consider my time here a job well done.

–Troi out

*A chemo pal is an adult matched with a child undergoing chemotherapy, one of the many awesome programs through the Children’s Cancer Association. To learn more about volunteering with this organization, please go here.

**A percentage of t-shirt sales go toward select charities. Please see their website for details.

May 21

“Using apps in treatment is a win-win. The client engages with an exciting device, and the clinician is able to model and elicit the targeted skills more easily.” -Sean Sweeney, SLP

Apps: (plural noun) /ae ps’/ : software applications that have brainwashed society into believing in their necessity for human survival, without which mankind will cease to exist in the form of a rapture (alternative spelling rappture), taking place today. Any minute now.

Reading through my most recent ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) newsletter today, I found that my current speech therapy practice of engaging directly with clients using archaic forms of communication such as conversation and eye contact is obsolete, replaced by a much more effective conversational partner known as the mobile app, which is “the future of the profession and some clinicians are already there” (Jeremy Legaspi, pediatric speech-language pathologist).

According to the article, apps can be used as contextual tools to enhance clients’ engagement in therapy and willingness to practice at home to improve transfer of targeted skills to other environments. “For a majority of my clients, the iPad is the first thing they ask for in treatment,” says Legaspi.

And what can the iPad do that other therapy tools can’t? According to Jessica Gosnell, an SLP at Children’s Hospital Boston, there is a “whiteboard” mobile app on which she writes and lists the therapy session’s activities. The client uses the whiteboard app to check off each listed activity that is completed.

Seen at Portland Antiques Shop, this rare artifact is from 2011. Teachers and students wrote on it before the r-app-ture.

This is fantastic, because there is no such thing as a “whiteboard” app in the real world. There is, however, a real whiteboard, on which low-tech SLPs such as myself can write the session’s activities, and another invention called the eraser, that can be used by clients to erase each listed activity that is completed.

The truth is, I can acknowledge the relevance of mobile apps in certain settings. As the article notes, SLPs who travel from setting to setting lugging a suitcase loaded with therapy tools could benefit from the number of resources (books, articulation therapy cards, board games) that could be incorporated into a single device for quick and easy access.

But there are many potential downfalls as well. The article points out that the true purpose of the therapy session —- which is to enhance communicative success whether it be in the area of articulation of speech sounds, fluency, voice, or social communication —- could become peripheral to to using the mobile apps*. Being expected to adapt treatment to a mobile device brought in by a client is another concern noted in this article. And in a career field intended to improve our use of speech and language for human interaction, I remain wary of replacing the rich communicative opportunities of the speech-language therapy environment with a device that could depersonalize that connection.

–Troi out

*This caution as it relates to using mobile apps is not to be confused with the field of AAC—-augmentative and alternative communication—-which is a vital need for those clients who are nonverbal or produce limited verbal output and require the use of a communication device. For these clients a highly-trained professional matches them with an AAC device, and learning to communicate using this device should be a primary focus of treatment.

May 15

This is an actual photograph of the tree that fell on Troi

Dear Loyal Readers,

I am writing now to quiet fears of my disappearance. There have been whispers of my bloglessness around these parts, causing a generalized unrest amongst Portlanders. Nobody seems to know what’s going on in this city, because I haven’t blogged about it. In fact, one might argue, if I haven’t blogged about it, did it actually happen? And much like the popular philosophical riddle, “If a tree falls on Troi in the woods, and nobody sees her get pinned under it, did the tree actually fall, and what was Troi doing in the woods in this rainy weather?” the answer, of course, is that it doesn’t really matter, as long as Troi was wearing rain boots and can wriggle out from under tight spaces.

During my absence, I have received many an empassioned inquiry regarding my whereabouts. Here are just a few comments made by my dearest fans:

“The internet has been so peaceful without your constant, unsolicited perspective.”

–Anonymous Reader obviously not thinking clearly due to severe Trekkychick withdrawal symptoms

“Are you dating somebody? Come on, don’t try to hide it. The only time you stop blogging is when you’re dating somebody.”

–Church Brian

“Honey, where have you been? Will you call me?”

–My Mother

Nothing less than absolute candor is required in responding to your questions, and therefore allow me without further delay to tell you that I was under a tree in the woods for the past several months and, owing to the fact that I had no bars in the forest (not even the Laurelwood), I lacked the reception to notify you, my loyal readers, of my whereabouts.*

*For those coworkers who sense deceit in this explanation —- having seen me at work every day —- I ask that you be discreet in your observations of prevarication as I have a reputation of honesty to maintain amongst my community of readers.

I assure you that in the future I will not allow my personal life to eclipse my duties as a blogger and will be providing you with material of the high caliber you’ve come to expect from …. other bloggers. 🙂

–Troi out

Mar 1

Assotroiated Press

Have you recently found yourself sitting instead of standing? Walking instead of running? Yawning instead of brawning? If so, you may be suffering from a recently identified ailment known as “gym block,” which is characterized by a total inability to get one’s butt to the gym. According to a recent report by CNNNN, the incidence of gym block has risen significantly in recent months and is spreading like mayonnaise on a turkey sandwich. While researchers are scrambling like eggs to develop a vaccine to protect against this dangerous disease, Dr. Troi McTroiferson of Troi Emmanuel Hospital in Detroit warns the general public to watch vigilantly for the signs of gym block and rush like gold to the nearest medical facility if you begin to develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Thinking about going to the gym while eating Hostess cupcakes
  • Keeping your gym membership as a ruse to trick yourself into thinking you’re actually going to go to the gym
  • Walking past your gym to the store to buy another package of Hostess cupcakes
  • Conjuring elaborate excuses to avoid the gym, such as losing your gym clothes, misplacing your water bottle, smashing the lock to your gym locker and eating your gym bag

Dr. McTroiferson implores readers to stay out of harm’s way by going to the gym.

“People who have come down with a bad case of gym block will be anywhere BUT at the gym, so it’s basically the safest place to be,” she explains from her hideout at 24-Hour Fitness, where she’s been living since the outbreak was first reported by CNNNN.

In the meantime, the CFDC (Centers for Fake Disease Control) advises people to take general precautions, such as washing their hands before and after reading a magazine. Eating foods high in vitamin C, such as Hostess Cupcakes, can ward off gym block bacteria. And taking a child’s chewable multivitamin (any child will do) can’t hurt, and tastes great!

To receive updates on gym block, please go to www.trekkychick.com, which CNNNN reports is “your source—-and not mine—-for unreliable news.”

Feb 13

Dear Readers,

As an adoptive parent to a betta*, I find that being a good parent is in the little things, like maintaining the water level in my pet fish’s bowl to ensure he has enough oxygen to breathe. So when my dad came over the other night to fix my car brakes (thanks dad) and partake of the lovely meal I’d prepared for him (thanks Pizza Hut) and said “It appears you have not maintained the water level in your pet fish’s bowl, therefore, your fish hasn’t enough oxygen to breathe,” I reluctantly set down my slice of stuffed crust pizza (you know, the one I’d made from scratch) and brought Lieutenant Commander Betta’s bowl over to my kitchen sink for a quick cleaning and water refill.

*For those illiterate Readers (is that an oxy moron?) confusing betta with its homophonic relative beta, let me assure you that I in fact have a pet fish and not a pet isomeric compound. Isomeric compounds are so expensive to keep as pets these days.

Well as I poured the excess dirty water from LCB’s bowl prior to dumping him in the container of dechlorinated water that serves as his temporary residence as I clean and disinfect his bowl, LCB apparently misread the situation as an opportunity for freedom rather than certain death, and made a mad dash in the direction of the edge of the bowl. And before I could say, “No, Lieutenant Commander Betta, don’t go down there because that’s the garbage disposal,” LCB swam right out of the bowl and plummeted down the garbage disposal.

My father, champion of all living creatures great and small, heard my hysterically unhelpful cries of “No, Lieutenant Commander Betta, come back! The garbage disposal is a terribly unwise place to reside if you want to live!” and, tossing his pizza aside, hurried over to heroically fling his arm down the garbage disposal, grasping around desperately for his fallen comrade. Several times throughout the next 90 seconds he was certain he had found my fish only to bring up the remains of a meal I’d not quite finished the week before (“Troi, you realize the purpose of a garbage disposal is to use it to dispose of this food?” “Thanks, dad, I believe you’ve identified the source of the mysterious odor pervading my kitchen and dining area!”).

As my dad’s garbage disposal scavenger hunt lingered on, I had already moved through the five stages of grief and was pondering the greater post-mortem issues in life, such as where I should buy my next betta fish and what I should name him or her. Yet my dad, never one to give up on a lost fish, continued his heroic attempts and finally produced from the disposal my dear undeparted Lieutenant Commander Betta!

I was not optimistic at the likelihood Lieutenant Commander Betta would survive after his traumatic abduction by the garbage disposal, but remarkably he bounced back well from his extended stay in the disposal and, five days later, he is gliding gaily around his bowl as if nothing ever happened.

And my father the hero has recommended that from now on I use the other side of the kitchen sink and implement use of the handy stopper (that’s what that disc-shaped doodad sitting on my counter is for!) to plug the drain to prevent future mishaps.

Thanks, dad!

–Troi out

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